At halfway through my stint in South Africa, it seems that time is simultaneously standing still and moving forward at an alarming rate. It feels like a lifetime ago that I wrote my last blog post, but perhaps it was yesterday. Time is relative.
It’s been a week of turnover and change. All the volunteers I started with bar one, who is currently in Botswana, have left and three new ones (two fresh faced newbies and a returner) have moved into the staff house. Rusty, the future Cycle Mashatu Manager, has also returned and I’ve been picking his brains about the most convenient formatting for the booking chart. Thus, it has been a rather hectic feeling week and it is nice finally sit down and relax, reply to correspondence, and maybe later, I will sneak in a nap.
On Monday I was contacted as a potential candidate for a fascinating sounding consultancy job (so sue me, researching tech is cool). Hence, Wednesday saw me escaping the pack (who are adorable and make excellent hot water bottles), to sit a preliminary skype interview. Apparently, the South African horse safari offices provide a unique background. However, I suspect the Shuttles Office was still a better choice than the alternative backdrop of dusty saddles and a free roaming parrot in search of toes to peck. Fortunately, hats hanging on walls or no, I met requirements and am through to the next stage (queue TV presenter voiceover).
I also sat an online test, this time in the presence of demon parrot. Whiskey, it turns out, is an excellent motivator as there is nothing like a parrot creeping closer and closer to encourage one to work at double time. Fortunately, I have yet to be attacked by him; more because I am very good at running away than any particular fondness for me on his part. For those foolish enough to try and befriend him, he is viscous, as the scratches Rusty is currently supporting go to show.
In other news, office life continues as per normal with the occasional benefit of joining a ride. My big projects at the moment are collating the data on agent bookings and producing revenue charts for Saddlebag Shuttles. This is in addition to being tech support, a role that ranges from providing the all-important Wi-Fi by plugging the router in, to prettying up Excel spreadsheets.
I also saw my first scorpion. Far more adorable than spiders, but I think I prefer to admire them from a distance, or may be through a computer screen. Two of them made an appearance at last night’s staff house braai (a better version of barbeque). Leoni, a freelance guide that occasionally works for Horizon, gave us a great talk about how tail thickness and pincer size are good indicators of sting nastiness. It is safe to say that the tapping out of my shoes each morning has increased in fervour.
One of the new volunteers is also an Eleanor of uncertain spelling which has prompted much confusion, especially when we talk about ourselves in third person. No doubt this will continue to annoy us, and everyone in the surrounding vicinity, so perhaps a battle of the nicknames shall have to be carried out (I’m vetoing “Marcus’s Sister” in advance). Until such time as appropriate names are decided on however, I will be known as Elanor 1 and look forward to Tuesday evening when Elanor 1 and Eleanor 2 (of uncertain spelling) will be hosting together. Oh, what fun we shall have *grins evilly*.
After a blissfully peaceful start to the week, I made the well-known, but eternally foolish, mistake of thinking to myself “I’m finally getting the hang of this”. Hence, it was only natural that my carefully colour-coded, neatly filed plans were thrown for a loop on Wednesday morning.
“So Elanor, are you happy to run Saddlebag Shuttles for the next few days?” (By which I mean you are are running Saddlebag Shuttles for the next few days).
WHAT!!!! Nope. Definitely not. Expect wildfires and stranded guests. Wait, how does managing a transfer company result in wildfires? I don’t know but it does.
Ah, the endless entertainment the voices in my head can provide.
Oh, wait. Wasn’t I supposed to be responding?
After the buffering symbol disappeared from over my head, I manage to stutter out something along the lines of okay but don’t blame me if I burn it to the ground.
This may seem like something of an overreaction, so let me clarify. Saddlebag Shuttles is an affiliate company to Horizon Horseback that books and runs transfers, normally for guests, at different lodges in the surrounding area and to and from O.R. Tambo Airport. It is run and managed by Rachel, whom I frankly aspire to be as awesome as. From her gloriously formatted spreadsheets to her embroidered blouses and the way that no matter how busy she is, she just floats around as cool as a cucumber, I have a huge amount of respect for her. Hence, attempting to even partially fill some of her role for a few days was an intimidating prospect.
One high intensity training session and a lot more jokes about fires (seriously you trust me with this???!!!) later and I was ready to go.
Needless to say, no fires were started in the course of my managerial stint. However, I am not sure my sanity has been left intact. From tasks I had no idea how to complete (I’m looking at you, car maintenance enquiries) to still being given Cycle Mashatu (back to being two words) and Horizon Horseback tasks to complete, saying the past few days have been a tad overwhelming would be an understatement. Heaped on top of this is the pressure of trying to find a job half a world away (if anyone needs a physics graduate, message me).
I am endeavouring to call it a learning experience and will no doubt regard it calmly once I’ve had a few days to recover from the icy cold shock of the deep end, but for now forgive my whining.
Besides, it hasn’t been all bad, I’ve finished the first stage of my pet project—developing a legible booking chart for Cycle Mashatu (#Excel #myonetruelove). There’s nothing like conditional formatting an entire spreadsheet to cheer oneself up in the morning. Now I just need to fill in a test month and circulate it amongst those who will be using the chart to garner a usability report.
I’ve also got to go out on a few more rides (we won’t talk about the disaster of me on Kalamazoo during polocrosse) which has been a lot of fun and good break from the office stress. I particularly enjoyed last night’s sundowners where all the rides, including the campers, met up (admittedly by accident, but shhh). It was a really lively crowd with lots of cross-group conversations and interactions happening and an activity I will definitely be suggesting happens more often in the future.