Category Archives: conference

Bring the Whiskey!

DSC_0072We spent last night at the Jameson’s Whiskey Distillery. Nothing happened. The end!

Just kidding! Where would the world be if a trip to whiskey Disneyland didn’t end in some crazy antics; especially when you add our more northerly colleagues, from the land of gold to the mix? We started off in this amazing bar, illuminated in green and whiskey bottles. We then went on a tour to learn how whiskey is made. Instead, we found the original cat that used to hunt for mice during the 1700s in the original distillery. Apparently, like the ancient Egyptians, the Irish have a thing for worshipping cats and decided to reward the little hunter by stuffing him for permenant display to honour his hard work (looked too skinny to have been a good hunter if you ask me, but hey, maybe the mice took some revenge on his carcass).

We then got shown some ancient torture device. Actually it was some machine that used to mix whiskey and those guys that were late for work were punished by having to clean this machine every so often. He got special tap shoes so the guys on the outside could hear him, and when they stopped hearing him, they knew he was probably dead. But not to worry, they had instructions on revival plastered all over the place.DSC_0078

Then we got to taste whiskey. I decided to have it the Irish way, with ginger ale and lime. If you’ve never tried it, DO IT! It’s the most yummy drink in the world. The doctor had one too, but also managed to con threaten convince the innocent one travelling with us to grab a shot for her as well. But as usually happens with doctors, her diagnosis for innocence is more whiskey, and a bit of wine thrown in.

That’s when our northerly friends took over and somehow, the dancing was taken over by South Africans, forming conga lines, ululating and speculating widely about the use of sports bras and jock straps by Irish dancers. What? More wine? Yes, please!

Apparently a glass should never be empty in Ireland. I think it’s a wonderful life philosophy. More cultures should honour this age old tradition. I’m convinced it would bring world peace. Just look at our conference. One night and we united China, Ireland, South Africa, South Korea, Australia, Mexico, Austria, America, Canada, Spain, Italy, Greece, Yemen, Lebanon and probably a whole lot more I can’t remember. But that’s an impressive achievement.

No politics, just whiskey!*

*If any whiskey label wants to use this slogan, I’ll be happy to sell the copyright for a lifetime supply of your best brand 🙂


And Round and Round We Go…

This trip is going badly. I got us lost… AGAIN! This time though we ended up at the bus depot near the airport, waiting for a new bus to take us back to town. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera, otherwise you’d be seeing photos of the super frollicking in the heather, picking wild flowers (which is illegal) and marvelling at the beautiful countryside. We eventually made it back to the conference venue and were greeted by the President of Ireland himself. Obviously, he heard we were coming, and we all know how important and influential I am in the world of supreme higher beings.

220px-Michael_d_higginsHe spoke about why media is important and referred to that guy Habermas (if you’re in the field you would think this is hilarious, I promise). But what impressed me so much was his complete lack of politicking. The whole time he spoke, we were waiting for him to use the stage as an opportunity to push one issue or another. He didn’t. It was refreshing, soothing, and overall, I wish I could go back in time to when he did work in academia so that he could have been my lecturer.

My favourite part came afterwards, free wine and food (although I didn’t see any – convinced I’ve aligned myself with the wine connoisseurs of academia, so food is always avoided in case it mars the robust flavours). Unfortunately, the wine didn’t flow as freely as we required, so we decided to find a good old fashioned pub. Our less worldly counterparts from the coast are rather scared of the working class vicinity of their hotel, so we (now experts in public transport) ventured off to take them from the dodgy end of town to the Brazen Head pub (we wanted old fashioned and this was the first pub in Dublin. Founded in the 10th century).

We only realised once we arrived that it was closer to 10pm than dinner, but using the power of the super and her fair maiden sidekick from the coast, they somehow flirted offered services convinced the very handsome barkeeper to serve us dinner. It was huge, it was amazing, it was starchy. Only in Ireland are you given two baked potatoes with mash and gravy on the side.

You know, this trip isn’t so bad. The diet when I get back will be though 😦


To Avoid Blackmail

guinness_181345tI’m always being told that I know far too much. It’s true, the more secrets people have and  the more you know about them, the harder it is for them to dispose of you, or hold too much over your head. So for sake of full disclosure, and to ensure that nothing can be lauded over me when we come back, I shall come clean on two things that have happened since arriving in Dublin (so wah-wah Doc, no blackmailing power for you).

After the bad flights and lack of sleep over the previous 26 hours, we really didn’t think we’d be doing much of anything on our first night in Dublin. Well, I didn’t at least. And then somehow, at dinner, an entire bottle of Chardonnay disappeared, and we felt the need to find some traditional Irish music to help everything digest. Lucky for us, there’s a pub right next door to our hotel; and they have traditional Irish music (actually, it was just an Irish guy singing songs from contemporary Irish bands, but I disgress).

Anyway, we decided that since we are in Ireland, and that neither of us have ever tasted Guinness we were going to order a couple of drinks and a pint of Guinness. Luckily, Guinness is really cheap because it is the most vile concoction I’ve ever put in my mouth (and I emphasise the coc here). The problem was, we couldn’t work out how to dispose of the ghastly black stuff without arousing suspicion, and possibly causing an international incident.

Being the sound-minded, brilliant and inventive person that she is, the doctor thought that if we headed outside with our drinks, have a quick chat, and leave forget the goo outside, that nobody would notice and we could avoid offending the locals. There was just one problem. His name was George. He was the bouncer. And he saw the offending message which we were sending back to South Africa, moaning about how awful Guinness is. He took the glass from us and said that if we’re going to be so rude about Ireland, he’ll bring us something better. He did. It was red. It was little. And it was good!

It’s how I ended up with the pin below. George said it was for the Children’s Hospital. The doctor said it was a con. I said okay George, you’re right (because postgrads never listen to their supers) and handed over five euros and a kiss on the cheek and he gave me his pin. The doctor now says I’ve been initiated into some underground IRA unit. I think she’s just jealous because no-one offered her a pin into a secret Irish society.


Unfortunately, she got her own back the next morning. We decided to do a tour of the city and then head to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells (if you don’t know what that is, click the link!). As per normal, I took the lead and started navigating through the streets of Dublin. All the while being told that I was going in the wrong direction. I pointed out that I had never gotten us lost before, I remembered were things were in an airport I’d only been to once, and that certain touring academics have tendencies to wander off and end up in dodgy bars. I knew where I was going.

And so we arrived, at Christchurch Catherdral. It wasn’t Trinity College, but I got us to the church; on time to hear the bells toll four 140px-The_Spire-doyler79o’clock. Actually, I had no idea where I was going and like a true academic, I just wandered aimlessly with a more slightly less aimless supervisor in tow. So yes, I got us lost. My supervisor knew the way and got us home.

But, we did amble for three hours through Dublin to get home and found that while we’d been out, somebody had erected a giant spike in the middle of the street in front of our hotel. Apparently, it’d actually been erected a few years ago, but we didn’t see it the day before. So either there really are leprechauns with mischief and magic, or the Irish have invented invisibility cloaking, because trust me, there is NO WAY that both of us would have missed a 120 metre high phallic light pole.

Toilet Paper Wars and the Missing PJs

6520499-leprechaun-with-beers-and-rainbow--color-illustrationIreland! Yay! We made it. And after more than 26 hours of travelling I probably have enough material for about four posts. But I’m sure I’ll get it all down; maybe not by the time we leave, but definitely while the experience is fresh in my mind. Everything started off normally. I made fun of the good doctor because like all academics, she often has greater issues on her mind than the frivolities of packing a suitcase so I made sure to text her son to check her bags so nothing was forgotten (I won’t mention what was forgotten the last time, but let’s just say that the unmentionable item was relatively important).

Anyway, this time, our colleague, who was manipulated kindly offered to drive the good doctor and myself to the airport, got to experience first-hand that OMG moment when the doctor realised that she’d forgotten to pack any pajamas. I just laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I stopped. Took a deep breath and laughed some more. Our colleague was a little more sympathetic and suggested popping into the Woolies at the airport. I chose a bright orange top with ‘party’ printed on the front. I said it was so her husband knew what to expect the next time he got into bed. She rolled her eyes, took something suitable and boring off the rack and bought that. By that stage I was bored of humiliating giving fashion advice, and started listening to the consistent warning over the PA system: “Any passengers caught making inappropriate remarks about terrorism, hijacking, explosives or violence will be prosecuted in terms of the Civil Aviation Act”.

I yelled, “BOMBS! SILENCE, I KILL YOU!” Well, not really, but that’s how I like to hear the story when I think back. It’s like putting a button in front of me and telling me not to push it. It’s just mean! Anyway, after that we boarded the plane for Dubai (without the terrorist in my head popping out) and left.

It was a bad flight. Freezing plane, tiny seats, no leg room, and the air hostesses had a massive public argument in the middle of dinner service about whose responsibility it was to re-fill the toilet paper dispenser in the bathrooms.

“Chicken or beef?  No! I can’t put toilet paper in there I’m trying to give this lady her dinner. I’m only halfway through.”

“Well do it! It’s your responsibility. Not mine.”

“But I’m only halfway through this. I’ll try to remember when I’m done with the food”.

“Do it now and then come back to food”.

Anyway, this went on for a while, interspersed with the occassional chicken or beef question to passengers as the two women worked down the aisle.

I thought the missing pajamas was pretty funny, then we got a fight about toilet paper during dinner service, which I’m sure ended in toilet paper being flung ninja style at the back of the plane. Nothing was going to top this, right? Wrong!

By now we’d landed in Dubai, and were waiting to board for Dublin. Both of us are grumpy, tired and sore (did I mention how small the seats were on our first flight?). I tried to lighten the mood with some bad Irish jokes and puns. The Irish are supposed to be a bit daft apparently, so I thought it would make a fun introductory phase to our journey . The doctor just sighed, closed her eyes and shook her head. I swear I heard some whisper about idiotic grad student, but I may have been the voice in my head again (he doesn’t like being told no).

They finally start boarding the plane. They called all the first class and business class passengers first, because airlines like to remind you that to them, you are a pleb who needs to know their place: last. Then anybody travelling with small children and they lined up. Then they called the ordinary cattle to waddle through the gates.

So there we all were, in line, importants at the front, mortals at the back. But the line didn’t move. Everyone is shuffling, shifting and groaning. Why won’t they open the damn gates? We can see the plane, they’ve called us all through. What the hell? Then we realised. Everyone had lined up at the wrong door. The right one was behind us. The entire contingent of passengers (made up mostly of Irish nationals) had lined up backwards. And as if transported into some bad Irish joke, Paddy says loudly, “only the Irish can be so backward”.

And then we left.

Conference Centre


Caught in the Middle…

Yesterday, and last night in particular, was an educational experience and a half. We learnt all sorts of clever things, like the arts are critical to the success of society and that more and more people are watching movies on their mobiles; but we also heard some incredibly moronic things. At one stage the good doctor had to be restrained from beating up the music man who said speaking is a technology. And then again when the book man started punting Mills and Boon as the novel for poor Africans. In among this, I started to get bored and pointed out that some tech geeks need more friends to stop living such empty lives. Took the Professor ten minutes to realise that my sparkling wit was canvassed all over the big screen. Was forced to behave after that.

However, there’s only so much behaving I can do, especially when an open bar’s involved.  It was obvious what would happen when three South Africans (one respectable and normal, the other two hooligans), two Poms (one hooligan and another beyond description) and a Canadian (very good) sat down by the side of a pool, wine in hands, in the heart of Africa.  Someone called for a sign to get all sociologists to come which led to the ‘beyond description’ Pom stripping to his underwear and bellyflopping into the pool. The good doctor observed that his tattoo would end up all saggy and wrinkly if he kept behaving badly. I recommended colonic irrigation for his shitty personality. Somewhere there was a snappy fish that landed in the Professor’s lap and the Pom informing me that wanking is key to a good night’s sleep.  Obviously I then tried to bribe the taxi driver to throw badly behaved delegates out onto the freeway. Apparently this is a more common request than you’d think. He just laughed at me and told me to drink more water. It’ll solve all my problems. Tomorrow I’m taking my own taxi… I’m too young to chaperone dodgy old people.

Day two

So I’m no longer dirty and worked out the shower. It took me a grand total of 2 minutes to figure out the buttons. Maybe I don’t need that PhD after all. But I reckon that the most memorable thing about this whole trip is going to be the curry… For breakfast, lunch and dinner… Lieterally. Apparently eggs don’t exist in East Africa and chillis are the staple dish. Luckily, I like hot food, but this is slightly insane, and even too hot at times. The poor chaperoning parental type people resigned themselves to baked beans and toast for breakfast. I had curry and chilli yoghurt. Thank goodness we are on the top floor and can keep our windows open while we sleep.

Anyway, supposed to be listening to a bit about mobile filmmaking in Africa, but got personally involved in the whole notion of telling the personal narrative. Better start behaving otherwise the doctor migt sell me.

Welcome to Africa

So we’ve arrived in Kenya after a very uncomfortable 4 hour flight, complete with kicking and screaming toddlers in the row behind us, and a two hour taxi drive into Nairobi. To be fair, the taxi ride was eye-opening; businesses in tin cans with wi-fi, being stopped by the police because they suspected our taxi had a dodgy tyre, and a sign that proclaimed that urinating in public is unethical.   But nothing could have prepared us for the hotel. The poor doctor is forced to climb four flights of stairs to get to our room (this is funny), there’s no wine (this is not funny), and our shower requires a PhD in space engineering to work.

Being someone of sound mind, I decided to wait until the morning, and a good night’s sleep, before attempting to tame the techno beast, but the good doctor was convinced that with a doctorate, she was all the more capable of dealing with our advanced plumbing.   Not sure if the words ‘hawu’ or ‘ow’ were echoed out the bathroom, but it took her a good 10 minutes to get the water running right. I know this because she emerged to fetch her book to wait for the temperature to come right. She now claims she figured it out and not to worry, once I have a PhD I too will know how to shower. Perhaps. But for now I’m happy to be dirty.   Can’t wait for tomorrow. Welcome to Africa!


The ramblings of an overworked underpaid grad student in South Africa



Nikolai Jericho

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