So. Ja. That Blog, Hey?

Well, well, well! After 17 weeks this Ogilvy blogging journey is slowly coming to an end.

smile frecklesWe were challenged to be interesting, to be different and to be authentic. Through many moments of ‘blogger’s block’ and indecisiveness about whether snowboards or camels were best for the particular week, I hope that I’ve managed to tick those boxes. But more than that, I hope that anyone who read anything on this blog – whether you read all my posts or just one – managed to identify with some of the moments, found something to crack a smile at, or even just found some distraction from life for a moment.

For myself, I have learnt, at long last, that blogging isn’t simply as breezy and trendy as it is perceived to be; it’s a challenge. Well, it is if you actually want people to read the content you’re putting out there. It’s been a roller coaster ride of anxiously watching my visitor and view count and wondering how on earth to bring people here. Maybe I should’ve offered them free stuff…

yikes, tub of yogurtBut it’s not just about the blogging and the skills. I loved having the chance to take some time to reflect on the experiences I’ve had, the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve encountered. Not everything made it up onto the blog, but reliving it all from a distance was great all the same. In a way this journey was like looking at a scrapbook of my own life; surreal if nothing else.

So, if you’re reading this, or if you’ve ever read anything here, I thank you. Thanks for coming this journey with me. And to the Ogilvy Graduate Programme, thank you for challenging me to go on this journey of self-reflection. See you all on the other side!

 

The Art of Flight

For those of you that don’t know, The Art of Flight centres around the more extreme side of snowboarding and was made by none other than Redbull Media House (check out the trailer below). It’s seriously cool, and makes me wish I could’ve kept practicing this art of flight. Or in my case, the art of staying upright at high speeds. And not breaking my neck.

When I moved to Switzerland, just about the only good thing about the move was the fact that I was going to learn how to snowboard. Not ski; skiing is lame. Skiing is also a lot easier to learn, so of course, being my stubborn self, I had to snowboard. And snowboard I did. About two years, many bruised knees and tailbones, two badly sprained wrists and a case of whiplash later, I was pretty alright. I mean I wasn’t doing any of the stuff in that video by a long shot, but I could hold my own. I’d also fallen on my head enough times to explain what was wrong with me.

burglar the simsI even got my dad in on it. Now THAT is something I think I could’ve charged people money to see. You’d think that a cyclist has pretty decent balance, but apparently the concepts are a bit different… Just when you thought you had a photo op, he was on his knees looking like he was praying for someone to save him from this torture. Also, he kind of looks like a burglar from The Sims with a beanie on.

Once you can remain upright and carve your way down the pistes (or off the pistes, if that’s your thing), snowboarding is one of the greatest things you can do in the snow. Actually it’s about the only thing snow is good for. But the feeling of floating along, taking in the amazing views, is about as peaceful as it gets. Until of course, you stop paying attention and face plant at the bottom of a hill. A hill you will now have to climb up with a board strapped to one foot. snowy mountains sports

Dancing in the Streets

Sounds like something you do on a really heavy night out, am I right? Probably. But dancing in the streets is also something you do at Street Parade. Once a year, somewhere towards the end of August, the streets of Zurich are taken over by hundreds of thousands of electronic music lovers. The streets are closed, various stages are set up and party trucks called “Love Mobiles” make their way through the streets. People dress up in the most insane costumes and party until the sun goes down (and comes back up again). Our favourite part? The parade itself is completely free.Street parade party

Street Parade is the event of the summer, and people fly in from all over Europe to attend the parade and Energy, the after party (which unfortunately, does cost you the ever escalating price of a ticket). Both of these events’ stages have been graced by the likes of Tiësto, Paul van Dyk, David Guetta (he had fire and strippers on stage the one year, I mean really) and so many more local and international acts.

street parade spartans greeksObviously, not everyone dresses up, but, for some reason, it’s just so much more fun if you do. I’ve seen everything from builders and playgirls (how predictable) to goths and skater girls. One guy I know even came as Scooby-Doo the one year. The last time I went, the guys dressed up as spartans from 300 and the girls dressed up as Greek goddesses. Yes, the boys did roam around shouting “HA-OOH! HA-OOH! HA-OOH!” We were a hit! Sadly it was raining that year, and wet ivy in your wet hair is probably not the most charming thing in the world. After a while the soldiers did get a bit tired as well, hence the faces…

Every year since I’ve been back in South Africa, I see the pictures from Street Parade go up on social media and my FOMO levels go through the roof. Street Parade is a day of fun in the sun (or rain) and always promises good stories. If you don’t know how to have fun, this will surely teach you. Even if you do know, you might learn a thing or two. Any one feel like making a trip?Inland - Streetparade 2012

Everybody Hates the New Guy [Girl]

Maybe, hate is a strong word. But the new girl is never the automatic favourite for anything. I know this because I’ve been the new girl a few times. Somehow, my (rather short) life’s journey has landed me in the new girl spot a few times. Sure, I probably could have avoided the label a few of those times, but where’s the fun in that?

judging youIn Grade 7, after being homeschooled for 4 years (yup, really), I decided to go back to public school. It’s pretty hard to land on your feet in the middle of the most awkward stage of your life, especially when trying to find a spot in established social groups where you know no one. But, by the end of the year, I’d found a pretty comfortable spot and was more than ready to move on the high school with my new friends.

If you're from Africa why are you whiteLife (and my parents) had different ideas though, because this is when our family moved to Switzerland. Needless to say, I was highly unimpressed with this new reality. Forget trying to enter established social groups; that was cake. I was now in a foreign country – where I didn’t speak the language – trying to figure out the public transport system and trying to keep up academically (since the difference in academic calendars resulted in me missing the first half of Grade 8). This adjustment took a lot longer, and needless to say, was a lot more difficult. In the end, I did find my place in all the crazy, after making many mistakes, becoming the new girl on the soccer team, and finally learning that I really should listen to my mom’s advice. And yes, I did get asked why I was white.

But somehow that just wasn’t enough for me. After matric, I decided to move back to South Africa all by myself (my family didn’t come back until later) and go study at Stellenbosch. I didn’t really know anyone when I came back. Sure, you recognise some people from primary school, but after five years of not speaking, there’s not much to say to each other. Luckily though, I was back on my own turf and first year is the time for making friends. Four years down that path and can honestly say life is pretty good.new girl giff

Whether you move schools or countries, being the new girl is tough for a while. Even when you start a new waitressing job, you’ll get the crappy shifts and the older waiters will somehow just expect you to cover for them. The company you do promotions for will send you to hell and gone for events because you’re new and you need to pay your dues.

Humans don’t like change and the entry of a new person is change. You have to prove yourself, show that you can do whatever it is that you’re there for and that you can do it well. Once you do that, well, you’re part of the crew and it becomes hard to remember that you ever were the new girl. Or guy.

One Day When I’m Big

As a kid, everything is “one day when I’m big.” Everything your mom says you can’t do, you’ll do when you’re big. Everything older people are doing you’ll do when your big. As a 6 year old, 12 year olds seem to be so grown up. But the 12 year olds all want to be 18. Because when you’re 18 you’re big. No one can tell you what to do anymore; you can do whatever you want, whenever you want.i'm-an-adult

We all know this cycle, we all wished to be big at some point or another. But the real question is, how do you know when you’re ‘big’? I can tell you with great confidence that it’s not when you’re 18 and it’s not when you’re 21. But is it when you pay your own rent or bills? Is it when you land a real life, grown up job? Is it when you finally, completely move out of your parents’ house? Is it when you stop calling them for advice every time you have to make a big decision?

Roll-with-the-Punches-to-Get-to-Whats-Real-Van-HalenI don’t know the answer. As I’ve said in a previous post, I think we’re all pretty much just winging it in that department. Most of the things I want (or think I want) in life are still set at “one day when I’m big.” Maybe we never really get to a point where we definitively know “this is it.” Maybe we adapt to our situations and circumstances and just keep adapting and do our best to look after ourselves. Maybe life is just a massive case of rolling with the punches.

plan-aBut maybe it doesn’t matter. It seems to me (in my great 22 year old wisdom) that life is one massive learning curve and you just have to keep on learning and keep on growing. I firmly believe that if you stop learning, you’re dead. And besides, there’s so much out there to learn about, there’s just no way you can just reach a point one day and be like “oh, that’s it, I’ve learned all I need to.” Life is a lucky packet, and maybe being ‘big’ simply means learning to work with what you have and make the absolute best you can out of it.

The Many Wisdoms of Seth Godin

tomorrow (noun) a mystical landToday, as I was procrastinating most of the important things I had to do, I decided to have a read over some of the marketing blogs I try my best to follow. I don’t stay as up to date as I’d like, but we won’t dwell on that fact. I was perusing Seth Godin’s blog and I found two posts that really stuck with me through the day. The reason I enjoy Mr. Godin’s blog so much is the fact that the posts are short and sweet and have a lot of meaning, not just for marketing as a whole, but also for life. Yes, I’ve quoted him on my Twitter. Also, I really love that you get to his sidebar by clicking on his head; it’s the little things, you know?

Anyway, the first post, Is authenticity authentic?, really made me stop sipping my tea (more procrastination) and think. I mean the fact of the matter is that we are not authentic. Nothing we think or do or say has never been said before. Which is a really big thought if you try and tackle it without tea. Or even with it. But the idea of consistency that the post puts forward as the alternative to ‘authenticity’ is something I personally see as key. Don’t say one thing and do another. Don’t act one way and believe another. People notice these things, and if no one can count on you to be consistent, you’re probably in trouble. The same, of course is true for companies and brands. Stand for something, and be consistent about that something and the message you send about it.

quote-Missi-Pyle-i-find-more-of-an-authenticity

The second post, Doing the hard things, is something I needed to be reminded of. It would be pretty great to always take the easy way out. You’d never have to think too hard about anything, work too hard at anything, and you’d probably never fail at anything either. But in my personal opinion, you’d also be so boring no one would be able to stand you. On the other hand, there things that seem so big and scary to you that you wouldn’t want to touch them with a ten foot pole. Choosing those things may seem impossible and crazy, but they’re also the things that give you an impossible high of accomplishment once you finish them or succeed at them. Sure, you’ll probably fail a few times, and you’ll probably want to curl into a ball and never go back, but if you can get past that, those big scary choices are probably going to be the ones that take you places. At least I’d very much like to think so.Work hard at what you love so you don't have to work hard at what you hate

My deep procrastinating musings aside, please do check out Seth Godin’s blog. His posts are seriously on point, whether you’re reading from a marketing perspective, or from a personal one.

Well Hello There

we travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape usSlowly but surely, the ‘real world’ is creeping up on all of us in our final years of studying. Most people are getting increasingly uncomfortable about the prospect while they try to make the most of their last few student months on dad’s payroll. Some people are already going for interviews and landing jobs. Some people are just refusing to engage with this anxiety by going travelling next year. No matter where we each end up next year, that definitive point in time where we cross into the ‘real world’ is coming closer and closer.

Gruezi y'allThe Swiss have a way of greeting everyone with a simple “Grüezi,” which is a shortening of a phrase that means ‘God greets you.’ They use it mostly in a more formal way, for people you don’t know or have only recently met. But, they greet everyone. Whether this is the person you walk past on the street, the cashier helping you in the shop, or the ticket controller in the train, you will be greeted with a “Grüezi.” Whether the person you are greeting is someone you actually want to actively engage with or not, you still acknowledge and greet them.

So, in the spirit of Grüezi and Namaste and all other such manners of greeting I say: Grüezi real world. I see you. I haven’t met you properly yet, and I don’t know you so well, but I acknowledge you. I am ready for you.everything the light touches is our kingdom

Tutus and Shin Guards

Like most little girls, I was a little wannabe ballerina for the greater part of my younger years. Between ages 6 and 13, my world (and by extension my mom’s world) revolved around ballet practice, ballet concerts and presents for my ballet teacher. Yup, I was that kid…

girl_soccer_kick_ballI stopped this madness when I moved to Switzerland, but I still did dance as a subject in school, mostly to prove that I could. But then, in Grade 9, I decided to try a new kind of madness; I joined a sports team. I’d never been a member of a sports team before, mostly because I always just did dance. But this wasn’t just any sports team either; it was the girls soccer team. And I’d never played before.

The international school I attended had a very limited sports curriculum to choose from at that stage, and since I was even worse at basketball than I was at soccer, I decided on the lesser of two evils. So there I went, from learning to balance on the tips of my toes, to learning exactly how to tackle someone without getting yellow carded. It was an interesting journey.

At first, the team and I, well, we were bad. Like really bad. I’m talking toe punting the ball and 0 – 8 defeats. The boys’ team used to come watch our “monkey tennis” games purely for entertainment value. Needless to say, they didn’t take us very seriously.

But what they didn’t count on was that very very slowly, we were getting better. We were getting good. It might have taken three years, a new coach and a lot of girls_soccer_team_winnew players, but we eventually became really good. We went from losing 8 – 0 to winning 8 – 0. We went from finishing last at every tournament to being the best team for international schools in Switzerland and third in the middle league for international schools in Europe. We even won the indoor tournament. You know you’ve improved when the teams who used to openly laugh at you start watching and analysing your games to try and find your weaknesses.

My favourite part about this story is that in the end, we were better than the boys team. Purely based on games won and goals scored of course…

It can be is really scary to start something new, especially when you have NO IDEA what you’re doing. But what’s super awesome is realising that you’re figuring it out, that you’re getting better. And the best is when you actually succeed, you actually win, and you’re like  “YES I DID IT.” I’m trying very hard to remind myself that if Riverside Girls Varsity Soccer and I could do it once, I can definitely do it again.

GOOO RIVERSIDE!girls_soccer_team_huddle

Nine Take Some Time

happy-trexThis week marks my ninth post for the Ogilvy Graduate Program! Woohoo, go me, pat on the back and all that. After a full two months of doing these weekly posts, I’d like to take some time out from past lessons and reflect on some of the more current ones this project has taught me.

Eight blog posts has by no means made me any kind of expert, but here are some of the things I’ve realised about my blog over the past two months:

  1. this-is-awesome-goatWhat you think is awesome is not necessarily awesome. Because the things I write about are personal experiences or opinions, I tend to get very excited about them. But, just because I’m excited about something doesn’t mean someone else will be. Sometimes the crowd goes wild and sometimes all I hear are crickets. You’ve got to know your target audience and know how to draw them in. Clearly I’m still learning.
  2. Visuals are important. Especially since links tend to appear with an image attached. Also, no one wants to read a solid block of text. But not all visuals were created equal in the eyes of the Internet. There truly seems to be something superior to pictures of me feeding camels from my mouth or scenes from Mean Girls, compared to say, kids on a playground. I’m still trying to figure that one out.
  3. Happy beats sad. In my limited experience of the blogosphere, people respond much better to a happy or funny story – like my sister and I being traded for a small herd of camels –  than a story that faces hardships or social issues head on. Emotion is such an hugely important aspect of the industry that us Ogilvy Grads hope to enter and, at least in the arena my little blog plays in, it seems to be a lot easier to inspire people to action by making them laugh than making them cry.window-horse-don't-forget-about-me
  4. Don’t let people forget that you exist. This one really is obvious, but when I first started sharing my posts, I didn’t want to be that annoying person flooding everyone’s feeds with my material. I would get a spike in activity when I first shared my new posts and then it would very quickly die out again. But then, after I started sharing my new posts just two or three times more, I’d still get that spike, but a much more gradual decline in views after that. Do I still worry about being annoying? All the time.
  5. The world is a tiny, tiny place. And the Internet makes it even tinier. People EVERYWHERE see what you do online. As an individual, that is scary enough; I don’t even want to imagine myself as a brand or a company. At first, I got views from South Africa, Switzerland, the US and the UK; the main countries where I know people. When I saw views from Uruguay, Ghana and Finland, I really started wracking my brains to figure out who I know there. But when Malaysia, Jamaica and Turkey popped up, I stopped trying to figure it out and just did a really ridiculous happy dance. Like really ridiculous. I’ve got views from 33 countries so far and the happy dance gets more ridiculous every time a new one appears.
It's-a-small-world-after-all

So that’s my two cents on the little bit of wisdom I’ve picked up so far. I hope I pick up a LOT more before this project ends, and hopefully I can make a few more people laugh before then too. And thanks to all the people who have read my little blog, whoever and wherever you are.

“Kei Ässe im Bus!”

Swiss-flagThat, my dear friends is Swiss German, and it roughly translates to “no food on the bus!” There are also probably various ways to write that phrase since Swiss German is not, officially, a written language.  Allow me to give you a glimpse into some of the trails and tribulations of learning a third language.

Switzerland is divided into three main language areas: Italian, French and German. There is also a very small area that speaks a language called Romansch, but we won’t go into that. Check out the handy, dandy map for specifics. I spent my time in Switzerland in the German provinces (or cantons), where Swiss German is the official language.swiss-languages

Swiss German is nothing like standard German (the German that people from Germany speak). Anyone who tries to convince you of that is either misinformed or a liar. Standard German is a “foreign” language that Swiss children have to learn to use when they start school. Children in the German cantons read and write standard German (or Hochdeutsch) in school, but speak Swiss German (or Schwyzerdytsch). If you’re trying to learn the language, you might as well view it as learning two languages at the same time and prepare to spend a lot of time toeing the line between the German you hear on the street and the German you read in your textbooks.

Being Afrikaans helped me pick up high German reasonably easily and, although I’m still by no means fluent, I can communicate. But nothing can prepare you for Swiss German. Allow me to provide you with some examples…

German for wine is ‘Wein.’ Swiss German? Simply ‘Wii.’ I mean really, are we talking about the gaming console or the glorious nectar of the gods here?!

Maybe you’re super proud of yourself for remembering that carrots are ‘Karotten’ in German (okay, not that hard) and then a Swiss person offers you a ‘Rüebli.’ Sorry what?

And red peppers, freaking red peppers. Red pepper is ‘Paprika’ in German but the Swiss call it ‘Pepperoni.’ I can’t even tell you how frustrating it is when you order a pepperoni pizza and you get this thing covered in red peppers. There are just no words. Maybe tears.

muusli-zum-z'morgaIf you can master all the differences in the words, there are the intricacies of pronunciation. ‘Müesli’ and ‘Müüsli’ are dangerously close to each other, but the first is breakfast and the other a small mouse. Asking your friend’s mom for a small mouse for breakfast, although very funny, is super awkward.

Then one day, you walk into a shop and the shop assistant asks how she can help you. You tell her, in Swiss German no less, with all the right üüs, ües, äs  and ös in all the right places exactly what you’re looking for. And she answers you in English. I MEAN REALLY. I think that probably brought me closer to tears than the ‘pepperoni’ pizza…

fertig

For anyone interested in a slightly more detailed explanation of the differences between German and Swiss German, check out this Quick Guide to the Swiss German Language by Eldrid Aas. The illustrations in this post also belong to her.