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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Rolling Blackouts and Starting a Weather Department...

This has been one of the more exciting/adventuresome days that I’ve had to date. I am sitting in the complete dark, at a new flat on the other side of Cape Town (Behind Table mountain). There, of course, is a reason why I am in the dark right now. As my mates say to me often, “Welcome to Africa, man.” This is certainly not America, nor Europe, nor New Zealand…this is Africa, and it serves the greatest learning curve known to man-kind. But, I thrive off it. It makes me feel alive. South Africa is in a serious energy crisis right now. They have scheduled “black out” times when certain areas have electricity, and other areas wont. I, of course, happen to be in the dark as we speak. Luckily I recharged my Apple before I got to my new Flat.
The other learning curve that took place today was remembering how to drive in the Southern Hemisphere. I have had plenty of practice in other countries, including South Africa. However, no matter how much you think you know, you still need to concentrate like crazy when traveling the roads. Not to mention, I am now using a station vehicle. YIKES!!! So I get in the Volkswagen, and figure out the alarm system…then I offer a prayer to God. I pray that he keeps me safe as I travel these uncharted territories, in a strange place, in a new car, with no directions to my final destination. I make it “home” and I find myself writing here, in the dark.
I want to fill you all in on the most spectacular opportunity that I have ever been offered in my life. Heading up the weather department at a major National television station, is likely the biggest challenge I have ever faced. I have been working since the first day I got here. It has been very hectic, but in a good way. I arrived and was picked up at the airport by a friend. After being majorly jet-lagged, I had a meeting with my station manager from Johannesburg. He is a very good guy that has worked hard to get me into South Africa, and for that I am appreciative.
Either way, we went out to breakfast with a woman that was a previous weather anchor at (she is now a reporter). It was a breakfast with a view of the Atlantic Ocean to the left and the Indian Ocean to the right. It was certainly one of those moments where you need to pinch yourself to make sure your not dreaming. It was at that time where I was “handed the keys” to the development of a 24-hour weather department. What a thrilling moment! I oversee every action that is decided upon when creating this department; what weather equipment to use, what satellite provider to work with, who to hire on my team, where to place the 103” plasma television screen and how to structure our daily weather forecasts. I have even created the shift schedules for our 24-hour crew (whom I have not hired yet). The next task is finding and ultimately hiring the appropriate people that have a meteorological background and are good broadcasters for on-air television.
Yesterday, I traveled with a fellow from Germany to The South African Weather Service (SAWS) located at Cape Town’s International airport. It was an urgent meeting because we needed to use the technical expertise of the German in order to speak with SAWS about the products we need. However, the Germans (our graphical provider) had an international flight to catch. So time was limited to say the least. We explained our proposal to the South Africans. It was received well. However, one thing that people need to understand (especially my friends and family from The United States) is that some things do not work the way you would expect them to. The government supports the National Weather Service in South Africa, but they do not get nearly the funding that NWS in the U.S. gets. Their radar system is nothing like the United States, however it will have to do.
So what to do, right? Well, you have to work around the difficulties and make the best of whats around. That’s what’s tended to happen, and its worked well so far. I will try to post some pictures when I get the chance. However, I have been very busy. Tonight I am going to “A Taste of Cape Town,” which is a festival that samples of food from the finest restaurants in Cape Town (and trust me, there are plenty). So I will leave it there and look forward to another entry as soon as I can. Take care everyone!


  1. Anonymous5:41 AM

    Greetings from Michigan Derek,
    Sounds like an amazing adventure. How often do the blackouts happen? Anyways you will do just fine. They saw something special in you when they hired you or the position and it is that same special thing that we all see. Your a great guy and that will never change. Take care and may God keep you safe and conitinue to bless you. Talk to you soon...

  2. Anonymous8:15 AM

    Hey little brother!
    It was great to hear your voice on our answering machine yesterday! THanks for leaving the message! I played it for the kids and you mentioned that you were calling from S. Africa and Kirsten says,"Duh! Like we don't know where he is!" Typical teenage girl stuff! Let's try and hook up on Scype next week. We are heading to the sunny Bahamas tomorrow. It will be a relaxing vacation for us. Wish i could take you with us because it sounds like you need a vacation already. They are going to work you hard and you are going to have so much fun doing it! What a wonderful experience for you! Can't wait to see you in June. I had lunch with Alex yesterday and he mentioned somehting about going bungee jumping with you? Maybe i will come too!
    We are praying for you everyday and think of you often.


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