Word of the Week: Prepare

Another unexpected end to the week. On Friday we were officially informed that our contracts are unlikely to be renewed; mine expires end of October. And even worse, that there is the possibility that they may be terminated early.

The organization that I have been contracted to is under severe pressure from their stakeholders. Their share price has taken a big dive and they are looking to cut costs. The first to go are the contractors.

My contract with the consulting company that I work for says that my contract can be terminated early with them if the project with the client ends prematurely. They are also battling to bring in business and don’t have budget to pay people to bench. And while I was fully aware that my contract with the client was only until the end of October, all indications were that I was adding value and that my contract would be extended. But it seems that this is not to be.

I have said that I will not be disappointed if I were to find myself at home in November as I would then be able to support my daughter through her final exams. But I have only been working for ten weeks – not nearly enough to make enough of an impression on my resume. What can I say that I have achieved? Very little. And of course, the earliest opportunity to land another contract would be February. So I would have liked to have worked until the end of November, but perhaps there is a good reason that I need to be home. Only time will tell.

So this week I am preparing myself to receive bad news. The consulting company cannot give me notice until the client gives them notice. But it would be foolish of me to not prepare.

This past week was a short working week. Tuesday was a public holiday to celebrate Heritage Day and many people, including myself, took a day’s leave on Monday. Because South Africa has so many diverse cultures, with eleven official languages, the day is to celebrate our cultural wealth. With the day coinciding with warmer Spring weather, many South Africans take the opportunity to have a braai outside by the pool or by the side of our many dams.

A braai is a quintessential South African way to celebrate almost anything. It is very much like a barbecue, but we braai for our families and friends. And a braai would not be a braai without a unique South African beef sausage called boerewors. The meat is served with pap, a dish very similar to polenta, and a tomato and onion relish. For many, the best way to eat a braai is with their hands, scooping up some pap and relish to follow a mouthful of delicious meat. Sometimes there is a salad on the side, but this is not considered essential. And of course, South Africans love to wash their braai down with several ice cold beers! I love to braai as well. But this time we had both our elderly mothers over for lunch so we had a meal at home with some of our favorite Chinese dishes.

I was asked to help arrange Heritage Day celebrations at the office. Lunch will be provided and each person has been asked to bring a plate of sweets from their culture to share.

One of the activities that I organized was something I called ‘Know your neighbor’. Everyone brings an article from their culture to display. During welcome drinks, everyone selects an article and wanders around asking others if they know which culture the article represents and what the article would be used for. For example, the article that I will be taking in is a colorful rice pearl necklace. In the 1980s, large quantities of rice pearls were made in China. Rice pearls are cultured in river mussels instead of oysters, which can produce up to 40 little pearls at a time, so rice pearls are relatively inexpensive. At the end of drinks, the article is returned with guesses as to which culture the article belongs. Hopefully people would have learned about our neighboring countries in Africa as well as around the world. I came up with this activity as a way to acknowledge that we should treat everyone with respect and that Xenophobia has no place in our country.

Another activity is a team activity. Teams are provided with a pack of 20 brain teasers. Some of the teasers are difficult and carry a lot of points. Some are not too difficult but the answer can be long. Others are easier but the points are lower. Team size can be no larger than 5. The team that gets the most points within the shortest time wins. The time was chosen so that not all the teasers can be completed within the time limit by a team of 5 (at least I hope so!). So teams have no idea at which point others will stop, so it becomes a game of strategy as well as brain power.

The final activity is to get everyone to work not just within their own team but also with other teams. Teams are provided with 100 piece (childrens) puzzles, but ten of the pieces have been mixed in with the other teams puzzles. Teams have to use their negotiating powers to get their pieces from one another. We expect chaos!

Of course, no heritage day celebration can go ahead without people dressing up. South Africans have some beautiful traditional outfits, it’s always wonderful to see. I myself will be wearing a traditional Chinese jacket over a Chinese silk blouse that I bought in Hong Kong more than 20 years ago. They are both still very beautiful. And I will take in a plate of Bow ties to share – a popular Chinese sweet pastry that is sold in almost every Chinese take away.

Unfortunately the office celebration was postponed to mid-October. I hope that everyone will still be in a mood to celebrate given that the news of the restructure is due to be announced in the same time period.

Until next time ☕️

A pic from last year’s Heritage Day celebrations, representing India, China and Tswana
Chinese bow ties. A sweet pastry dessert.
Chinese dumplings in noodle soup. Always a winner!

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