My Eulogy Andrew Arries RIP 1926-2014

Andrew Arries RIP 2014For anybody who doesn’t know me I was raised by my mother in Uitenhage, South Africa – a small town near Port Elizabeth. Andrew Arries was friends with my grandparents, and later everyone just called him, Uncle. For as long as I can remember he lived with us, in the old house at the back of Sass Street.

As my grandparents died in early 1980s, I now see that Uncle was a surrogate father to my own mother and her sister Brenda, who passed away in 1995. He was the rock of ages because we could always depend on him. Even in his 80s he was more often looking after us than we did him. Always independent, he was the epitome of self reliance.

When I was about 10 years old he took me along to Sunday School at the Dutch Reformed Church. When there was no lift from Dominee Esterhuizen we walked about 6km to church without question. In 1996 I celebrated my 21st birthday and graduated from university on the same weekend. My own father could not be there, so Uncle stepped in.

The last time he visited me and my cousins in Johannesburg was in 2008 for almost three months. I remember booking his flight back to Port Elizabeth. He took time to visit and stay with everyone including my mother’s brother and sister who lived there for > 20 years. My group of cousins including Alberton and Bernice Murray  took him to the OR Tambo airport on a Sunday. At the boarding gate he almost refused to leave because he was unusually emotional. It was like he was saying goodbye to all his grandchildren for the last time.

Each of us was touched by Uncle in a big or small way that lived at Sass Street. I remember him mostly for this quality: integrity. He was truly a man who led by example. An example we can only imitate now that he’s passed away. RIP Andrew Arries 1926-2014, Uncle to many and oupa to a few who’s lives he directly impacted.


Yusuf Moses: Persistance To A Motivated Life

Mr Uitenhage Yusuf Moses ABET teacherThis is the story of my friend Yusuf Moses, one of the most motivated people I’ve ever met. After years of ups and downs, he is now a respected ABET teacher, happily married father of two daughters. When we first met he worked in a factory building components for Volkswagen South Africa:

Uitenhage, in the Eastern Cape not very far from Port Elizabeth, is a place I call home. My name is Yusuf Moses and I am the eldest of four children. My mother is a soft, understanding, and loving yet strong women. She has been a housewife for as long as I can remember. My dad is proud man, a bricklayer by profession. He was always motivated to improve our situation. So he sold items such as peanuts, oranges, sweets and anything he could get his hands on from age of 10 when his own father passed away.


Growing up we were not rich or wealthy in any way. Besides that we never went to bed hungry, we stuck together, worked hard, never begged and were always honest. My taught us the importance of books and religion as well as what was considered ethical and moral. My dad worked long hours and would come home very tired. He bought items and would force me to help him sell, “we are poor but we are not going to ask or except any handouts, we are not a charity case,” he used to say. God help those who help themselves and with those words without any further discussion he motivated me to also go out and sell for my family.


I wasn’t always motivated because I felt uncomfortable in the early days. It felt like begging to me, walking through town or any other place where I could find a crowd. The taxi rank was the best place, there were always interested and interesting people that made it worth it and I did not have to walk to far to get it all sold. So free weekends and playing after school was not part of my childhood. The only thing worse than selling was Monday morning at school because that was when all the kids that saw me and poked fun at me would start again. Most of the time there was nowhere to run or hide. I have been called so many different names, one could probably write a book on that. All this influenced my selling on weekends, but as I was selling.


Eventually I started seeing and realising things that I don’t think I would have noticed if I did not sell. I found that not everyone is what they would pretend to be or say who they are, people will in most instances try to bargain with you and pay less than what you were offering. In the end I learned the most valuable skill for anyone who lacks motivations i.e. persistence. My exploits on weekends were training wheels for adult life. Selling eventually became a passion and I’ve since read many books on sales that continue to motivate me.


Losing My Faith in being a Jehovah's Witness

Losing My Faith in Jehovah's Witnesses by Robin JacksonThe Jehovah’s Witness organisation, also know as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, has become known as a very secluded and insular organisation. It is one of the more controversial denominations of the Christian religion. From my earliest days in Uitenhage I have been aware of their existence. And for the most part they came across as a group of people who were sincerely spreading their information brochures to clarify their teachings. Its only in the last few years that it has come closer to home because a cousin of mine converted to this religion and married into a Jehovah’s Witness family.

What I admire most about him till today is that not once has he tried to convert me, or has he insisted on me attending any services. I have been with him once or twice to the Kingdom Hall and noted some differences in how the religious ceremonies take place compared to my own experiences in the Dutch Reformed Church and some other Evangelical churches. At the same time my own mother became a reborn Christian in about 1988 when my sister was born, and when I entered high school. She is a staunch advocate against the Witness organisation and all other belief systems like Islam, Hinduism, etc. This stance is something that is difficult for me to reconcile. I have always preferred to find the things we have in common with those from different cultures or belief systems because after all we are all human beings, and we are all created in the image of God.

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Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty

Last year I blogged about more efficient living in Johannesburg. This year I plan to blog about something my plan to solve poverty in Uitenhage over the next 20 years. All South African bloggers should get directly involved in Blog Action Day 2008 because poverty is the root cause of crime, health and all other social ills we face on the southern tip of Africa. Who needs politicians anyway? Stop voting while you are at it.

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.


Qhubeka moving South Africa forward with Nine Million Bicycles

The song Nine Million Bicycles by Katie Melua is perhaps not the most inspirational song in the world. However, it does make you feel good, if you are even just a little bit as nostalgic as I am. Recently the Facebook social networking website has moved from a boring distraction to a powerful communication tool for me in the last two months. I cannot say exactly what the trigger is; maybe it is simply connecting with like-minded people directly and just in time.

One of those people is Anthony Fitzhenry whom I first met in May 2007 at the now defunct Futurex event. Anthony is the founder of a non-profit organisation, Qhubeka Bikes for Life, which helps poor, previously disadvantaged communities across South Africa purchase bicycles to solve a serious transport and movement problem that exists, especially remote towns or villages. This has been my first exposure to this project and it hit my like a ton of bricks…here is a real solution.

It was starring me in the face all along. And its especially poignant for me because I’ve been talking about purchasing a bike to increase my fitness levels. I’ve always hated jogging and the machines in gyms are even more mechanical. The beautiful things about a bicycle is that I can do some sight seeing while working out as well. In this day and age I suppose the environmental concerns are valid when it comes to reducing car pollution.

Anyway I still have to get my own bike but maybe the Qhubeka movement I can get one for me, and for the Uitenhage community. Taxi fare from the Rosedale, Gamble suburbs into the Uitenhage town area is R7.50 and that makes a return trip R15. Now multiply that by 5 or rather 6 days a week and you’re spending R90 per week on travel and a whopping R378 per month. That monthly amount is particularly important because its about enough to purchase food for a week if you stretch it. The taxi drivers, in my view, do very little to give back to the communities. They monopolise transport, especially in Gauteng where trains and in general, the entire public transport system, is horrendously unsafe and unreliable for a multitude of reasons.

Back to bringing Qhubeka to Uitenhage and the Kwa-Nobuhle township…this is really something tangible for the community to work towards. Its just ironic that most of the people working at the Volkswagen factory in Uitenhage, the biggest employer in the town, will never, ever be able to own the vehicles they are building.

Here’s some more from the Qhubeka Facebook group:

In the Nguni languages of South Africa , of which Zulu is one, Qhubeka means “to carry on”, “to continue”, “to progress” or “to move forward”.

Transportation is a fundamental element of development. Most of Africa’s rural population have no access to any form of transport and people have to walk long distances to access economic opportunities, education, healthcare, shops and other community services.

Rural schoolchildren are particularly badly affected by this lack of mobility. Of the 16 million children in school in South Africa, 12 million walk to school. Of these, 500,000 walk more than two hours each way, spending four hours getting to school and back each day.

The bicycle is the most effective and economical method of quickly (and permanently) addressing some of the problems relating to lack of mobility in the disadvantaged communities of South Africa. Bicycles play a vital role in advancing sustainable socio-economic development in both rural and urban communities around the world.

Some of the potential benefits attached to bicycle transportation include:

  • Cost effective transport
  • Environmentally-friendly transport
  • Time savings
  • Healthy extra-curricular activity


Algoa Sun interview with Ramon Thomas

The following interview was published on page 8 of the 31 July 2008 issue of the Algoa Sun, a community newspaper in Port Elizabeth. The title for the article was fascinating choice by the editor, The Ethics of IT Dating. I will add a scanned copy of the interview with their own intro to this post later today…

Question: You say that children below the age of 13 should not have cell-phones for health reasons do you not think that in todays world all kids should have access to an adult in case something does go wrong?

Yes, kids should have access to adults. However, the access that is required has always been there. Before cellphones parents had a relationship and understanding with the schools they go to as to when and how they are dropped off and collected after school, from sporting events or when traveling with the school. When visiting friends, arrangements were made with the parents of the friends to look after your children as if they were your own. This is a fear-based myth that cellphones is the only or safest way to make kids safe. The more you buy into a fear mindset, the more you create a dependency on technology or anything outside yourself. So in a very warped way technology has made people more insecure than ever before.

Question: Do you have kids? If so, are they allowed MXit and Facebook?

No I do not have any children because I am not married. I would only allow my own children access for for a limited time per day or on weekends. I recently bumped into a guy who was at school with me, and he has one son in high school and one in primary school. He treats them like this: they only get access for 1 hour on Saturdays between 5-6pm. This is radical, yes, but he succeeded as father by setting the ground rules from day 1.

Question: Do you believe parents should be more “internet and cell-phone aware”?

Parents need to understand that the technology is growing and improving at a vast rate. The best way they can maintain some sense of confidence about the technology is to cultivate an open discussion on a regular (weekly) basis with their children about technology. This is much easier than you may think, simply because technology is so high on the values of children. What I mean is you cannot stop them talking about it when you ask the right questions.

Question: Do you believe the internet is a good way to meet people and start dating?

I have used Internet dating successfully because I have been so persistent and made a tremendous effort to educate myself about the best ways to write my online dating profile. After hundreds articles, books and interviews, and comparisons with other forms of dating and the psychology of attraction, I do not believe its the best way to meet people. You will always have some uncertainly about that elusive obvious called “chemistry” with the opposite sex. So overall your chances are very slim to find a compatible match and sustain the relationship. I consider my last relationship, which lasted about 18 months; as well as best friend of mine, who married a woman he met on, the exceptions.
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Fathers, Sons and questions from reading Manhood

Noel Murray and Raymond Thomas circa 1975Last weekend I spent some quality time with my best friend Bradley Minnaar. He’s mother passed away recently and now moved back in from a granny flat into the main house. All his sisters are married with kids and his one brother is married with kids, while the other became a missionary after his wife passed away only a few years after getting married. Sometimes while growing I envied to luxury, as I perceived it of having both your mother and father available to you.

One of the things we discussed was the missing father syndrome in so many families, including my own. One obvious thing for me is how strong the link is between poverty and missing fathers. I grew up primarily with my mother in Uitenhage, outside of Port Elizabeth, and probably one of the poorest towns in South Africa. The biggest employer is Volkswagen, Goodyear and some other factories, all which remove fathers from the household.

Anyway back to my own story. Until my father married his 2nd wife, when I was about 12 years old, I used to visit him for extended holidays in Johannesburg. I recall the feelings of trepidation I had when I realised my father was having another son i.e. my brother. The love that comes with a new born soon replaced whatever insecurity or anxiety I had about his arrival. Looking back, maybe the biggest disappointment for me was when my father could not make it for my 21st birthday in 1996. This was also the same weekend I graduated with a BSc degree, becoming the first person in my extended family to complete a university degree.

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