Core Skills 2 – Sports Evening

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to finish documenting the awesomeness that was CS II; oh well, better late than never :)

Four days into our amazing adventure and more people have started showing signs of a sore throat and a runny nose. I managed to procure some meds and was determined to tough it our despite the fact that my body desperately craved detox and rest. Lectures finished early and we were given the afternoon to ourselves. What a treat!

Seeing as it was a ‘sport’ themed day, two lovely ladies from the Cape Town office (Jess and Natalie) thought it would be rad to make us t-shirts. They ran the whole thing from start to finish; from buying and painting the shirts to handing them out at breakfast… Their efforts got them the Chairman’s Values award and it was absolutely well deserved. We got to piggy-back on their creativeness and looked dashing in our matching EY shirts ;)


After lunch, everyone made their way to Fields of Legend, where the organisers have set up various activities, from obstacle courses to human foosball. Oh, and the winning team from the previous two days’ games got to go on a much desired helicopter flip. I was a little green with envy :p


There was also a photobooth set up at the dinner venue. Being a sucker for poses, I just *had* to queue for the snap shots.

P.S. Did I mention I also went on a Big Five game drive? ;)

Core Skills 2 – African Night

Day three started with a sore throat and a slight feeling of nausea. The situation was worsened by the fact that training began at 7:30am and ran until 7pm! You see, at home, I’m the kind of person who adheres to a strict “10 pm bedtime” rule; when I deviate from it two days in a row, my body departs from its normal course and starts behaving irrationally. Still, I managed to soldier on. In fact, my group (which we aptly named “Buckwild”) did so well in the day’s activities that we came in third. :D

Gladiators… Are you ready???!!!

Probably the most hilarious activity of them all. There was this one dude (whom shall not be named) that:

1) took forever to get on the thing, and

2) when he eventually steadied himself and took the first shot, he immediately lost his balance and fell flat on his face, without his opponent having to do anything at all.

Major fail. (Imagine Neville Longbottom being hit with the Stupify curse.)

Ewwww, sorry, I’m lactose intolerant.

This one was called “Disgusting Dunking”. Why? Because we had to dunk our heads in a bucket of SOUR MILK, grab an apple with our teeth then race to the other side and drop the apple in a bucket of flour.

Some girl dropped more than just her apple. She (apparently) also chundered right into the flour bucket. Nice. Luckily the race only required four brave volunteers, so I was spared from having to do any disgusting dunking. Whew!

Brains over Braun

I couldn’t remember what this game was called, but it was a mix of Tic-Tac-Toe and Checkers (I think?). The important thing to know is that my group won against our opponents. :P

Other activities for that day included paintball shooting, 30 Seconds, and soccer (which I totally sucked). We managed to finish all six, so it was definitely an improvement on the previous day.

Beautiful Decor


By the time dinner rolled around, I was feeling quite ill. I didn’t even change into my traditional outfit which I brought especially for this occasion. I wasn’t even in the mood for face painting :(

Nevertheless, I tried to enjoy the sheer beauty of the venue. And just when I thought the food couldn’t get any better, it did. It was probably the best night in terms of deliciousness, and I sampled as much of everything as I could stomach.

On top of the fantastic table display, the array of multi-coloured wonders, and copious amounts of scrumptious food, there were performances by traditional Africans which were simply amazing.


:O ~








An authentic, artistic, alluring, African


Core Skills 2 – The Shabeen

Day two started with an early 6am wake up call. Bianca and I leisurely made our way to the breakfast tent. I immediately began piling my plate with food: eggs, bacon, sausages, STEAK, grilled tomatoes, croissant, fruits… It’s funny how I would rather shift into a state of disutility than forgo the free food.

Training commenced at 8am sharp. I won’t bore you with the details but I just need to highlight a couple of things:

1. They put Akon’s “Oh Africa” song on loop; which, in my opinion, was not something that withstood repetition.

2. We received cute little invitations to the night’s function. (Aww) It was a key ring with a squishy hat attached that could be used as a stress-ball. I thought it was pretty cool.

After lunch, we were tasked with some team building exercises. The prize for the winning team was a helicopter flip, so the stakes were veritably high. My team’s coordination and communication were dreadful, and so we only managed to do half the activities. We still had immense fun though.

Wes on the bike – riding blind-folded was NOT easy. In fact, one couple actually flipped on theirs… luckily they weren’t seriously injured.

George loading the air rifle gun for our facilitator, Simon

Harder than it looks. There were teams spinning around in circles.

We didn’t get time to do the archery because my team decided to split up and “book” our spot – apparently that wasn’t allowed so another team came and took our place :(

The bucket challenge

Dinner that night was at the Shabeen. The decor was, once again, spectacular. The events planning company really out-done themselves.

A night of splendour, spontaneity, and surprise.

Delicious, decadent, delightful. Once again, I ate like a pig :/

The best thing about the Shabeen is that they are fully stocked on quartzes. Of course, some bright spark just had to suggest drinking from a wellington. The boot went around a fair bit before being discarded ;)

Right before core skills, I accidentally emailed everyone on the mailing list. So, the Bloem folks decided to have a bet to see who could find me first. There were only 3 Asian girls there so finding the right “Amy” wasn’t hard. At some point during the night, they all came up to me and asked for photos :p

We left at about midnight, got back to our rooms, and carried on drinking. By the time I crawled into bed, I was so exhausted that I immediately fell into a deep sleep.

(To be continued)

If you want to read about Day 1, click here:

Here’s the music video of the song we all grew to hate by the end of the week ;)


Core Skills 2

Every year, Ernst & Young brings together all the first year trainees from sub-Saharan Africa for a week of learning, partying and the making of unforgettable memories. It is the most anticipated event of the year with over 350 participants and 40 facilitators from over 10 African countries. Rumour has it that it cost EY millions to host this event and judging by the glamour, glory and grandeur of the week, I am not surprised. I have had the most amazing experience; it would be a crime not to share :)

I got the short stick of flying out at 5:45am on a chilly Sunday morning (while some of my colleagues flew on Saturday evening and stayed in a fancy hotel) – I was far too excited to be bogged down by the dreary travel arrangement. We were greeted by the breath-taking gates of Legend Golf & Safari Resort and had welcome drinks and a buffet lunch.


How gorgeous is this view?

We were soon instructed to do a team building exercise where we had to find our group members and build a kaleidoscope. It was to help us “see the world differently” – a tad cheesy, but it was better than the clichéd: “Hi, my name is…”.

A picture is worth a thousand words. ’nuff said ;)

Dinner, Drinking, Dancing.

Supper for each evening was hosted at different locations. We were picked up by Mercedes Benz Vitos because the chalets were a good couple of kilometres away. Upon arrival, we were handed glasses of sherry to warm us up. We were lucky this year in that winter set in a week late and so we were able to dance in t-shirts. The decor was beyond expectation. The colours were rich and vibrant; the fires were warm and enchanting. The overall ambiance of the venues were superb.

There was an over abundance of delicious, tantalising food. I am ashamed to admit I porked out majorly. I literally stuffed myself with everything: chicken/lamb kebabs, potato wedges, assorted salads, prawn-thingies, mealies, and cheese-cake for dessert. I reckon I packed on 3 kgs this past week… oh well, c’est la vie.

I got back to my room at around 11pm – early, I know… but considering that I got up at 3:30am and had already danced for four hours, I was surprised I persevered that long. I shared a room with my friend Bianca, the coolest roomie ever! She managed to stuff a bottle of vodka and a bottle of wine in her luggage, and carried her 21 kg bag all by herself. ;) Our rooms are pretty luxurious. We missed out on the underfloor heating (only certain chalets had those) but we comforted ourselves with our electric blankies <3

(To be continued)

Week Two

I’ve been wanting to update my blog (really) – and I wish I have an excuse for not doing so… but in truth, I’ve just been a lazy bum spending my lonely nights vegetating in front of the TV. Even though work has been fairly chilled, I still feel exhausted when I get home – and I haven’t even clocked any over time yet!

I’m only starting on my first client next week so I’ve been “idling” at the office – which is a pretty bad reflection on my efficiency. They’ve been keeping me (and the rest of the idlers) busy with WBLs (web-based learning – pronounced “weebles”) and visits to the Beautiful Gates orphanage where we help the children with reading and homework (part of EY’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme).

I must admit, when I first found out about the orphanage, I immediately thought of Annie – the Musical. I’m not great with children so the idea of spending the afternoons at the orphanage was less than appealing, especially if there was going to be vomit and poop involvement. Getting there should have been fairly straight-forward if it wasn’t for the detour. We wanted to buy Fizzers for the kids but nobody knew where the supermarket was. We ended up driving on the narrow, windey streets of the townships, and painfully realized: people from townships cannot give directions – much like Asians. You’d think that being a township and all there would be very little traffic so we could stop and ask – But noooo. The minute we stopped, cars would come from all directions and even the donkeys looked less than happy to see the pile of congestion. We were tempted to buy 50 lollipops from one of many “Spaza Cash Shops” in the area but a hand-written receipt probably wouldn’t suffice.

The orphanage itself was surprisingly nice. The facilities were spacious and well run, with 24 children aged 3 upwards. Three of them were living with HIV and were given ARVs every day from the medicine dispensary. Some had TB and it was exceptionally sad to witness a little girl trying to read and having to stop after every few words due to going into a coughing fit. The following afternoon, they had a birthday celebration for two of the boys, one of whom was deaf. It truly was heart breaking because he couldn’t participate in any of the singing and dancing.

The two afternoons at the orphanage have given me a sense of appreciativeness that I never would have gotten if I were at a client. I wish I had my camera with me so I could take pictures of all the kids who were *beyond* adorable. I *know* I am lucky in a lot of ways but it’s nice to be reminded once in a while of just *how* lucky I am. Even though they’re being cared for by wonderful facilitators, their level of educational knowledge is still underpar. Those kids at the orphange will never have the same opportunities and luxuries that I got growing up. In a way, I’m glad I got to visit them before I start with client work, because now I’m more motivated to do the best I can and not let my circumstances bog me down.

I’ll give you a job if you’ll give me a job.


I started my articles this week. You might be wondering why I’m not buried waist deep in donkey work – the truth is, none has been assigned to me. I spent the morning doing admin related things. Being part of a global organisation meant a tonne of conformity. I had to complete online courses the values of which were unclear to me but hey, at least they count towards my learning hours.

I’m sure the slavery will start soon enough so it’s best to enjoy the idle time while I still have it. The firm is pretty neat and everyone seems friendly enough. The atmosphere isn’t too claustrophobic and there are surprisingly few “suits” here. Even though the dress code is not as strict as some of the other Big Four firms, I still struggle to string together an outfit. Today I’m wearing a shirt that is pretty low-cut, but no-one has said anything. Must be my lack of cleavage – I knew it would come in handy one day!

One of the great things about E&Y Cape Town is that we don’t have to choose a sector. We are not confined to one industry and thus, we get a lot more exposure in terms of variety and variability. I’ve been allocated to Engen (Oil & Gas), Truworths (Retail), and UCT (Education) – which are completely different to each other. I hope the provisional planning doesn’t change because I am really happy with my clients. *fingers crossed*

In unrelated news: I’ve been driving my car for a couple of weeks now and it has already accumulated a few scratches and bruises. Nothing major though! I still struggle with the gears sometimes (such as pulling off on an incline in second gear, or putting it in third instead of fifth). But I’m still alive, so all is well in noob-ville.


Break, etc.

Back in undergrad, I used to hear all sorts of horror stories about how atrocious postgrad was going to be. So horrible that it made me look forward to articles where I must spend weekends at dimly-lit warehouses counting boxes and bean-cans to earn my keep. I didn’t believe much of it as I figured most of it was hyperbole and they were just trying to scare us. Boy, was I wrong. Not only do they work us like donkeys, they assume we are donkeys on crack with never-ending bursts of energy. I’ve barely had time for meals, let alone blogging. After 10 weeks of learning and a series of unrelenting tests, I finally have a 10 day break where I can catch up on all the missed beauty sleeps and update my neglected blog.

Nothing of particular interest has happened since my last update. I’m still stalking random cute boys in my class and still being rejected point blank. Perhaps it was my (wrongful) approach; perhaps it was the lack of yellow fever in this region – whatever the reason, I have had no luck in the relationship department and I’m starting to despair a little. Maybe it’s a sign that I should focus on passing the year… It’s bad enough that I’m scraping through my tests with a 50, I can’t afford to waste time chasing after penises (and not get any) AND have my average drop to a 49.

In other news, I went to my first Ernst & Young get-together on Wednesday. The theme was 70s movies (or some such) – We were greeted with popcorn and drinks, and had to endure watching (on loop) John Travolta dancing on top of a car bonnet in his spandex and singing that Grease song. The food was well below par. I mistakenly took a vegetarian burger that was tasteless and bland. After a couple of bites, I switched to a hotdog which was basically just a vienna in a bun so it wasn’t that much better. We then had to make our own banana split ice-cream, and the ingredients were heavenly. I also met a boy named “St John”… … o_O … Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

As a parting gift, they handed each of us a bag and a mug, and they really match my skin tone:


They’re trying to expand their 2012 intake by 70 trainees and so they’ve recruited us as “ambassadors”. Normally, I’m all for showing off the freebies I got but I think this one is far too yellow for me to take to campus. They should go for “mustard” or “jaundiced” next time.

New York’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, has filed a lawsuit against Ernst & Young (one of the Big Four auditing firms) over the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The civil case is built on claims of professional negligence and it seeks damages equalling all the audit fees E&Y has earned from Lehman ($150m) plus an unspecified amount. While the penalty itself is of insignificant magnitude (it is less than one percent of E&Y’s global revenue and will most likely be covered by insurance), the action highlights a rather contentious issue – that of an auditor’s liability.

Deep-pocketed auditors often serve as scapegoats because there is little chance of wrangling money out of those who are truly responsible. Should the case go to trial, the jury’s behaviour will be (at best) unpredictable. Their lack of understanding of the technical nature of the case at hand, fuelled by the emotional baggage that still lingers in the aftermath of the financial crises, coupled with the outrage at having to serve jury duty in the first place does not bode well for the auditors.

Auditors are commonly perceived as the watch dogs of the financial world. They recount bricks and pennies, and are paid quite handsomely for doing so. However, they are not detectives. Their primary role is not to prevent or detect fraud. Auditors are paid to express an opinion – not a guarantee – that the financials are fairly presented in all material aspects. The International Standards on Auditing (S 240) require auditors to obtain reasonable assurance (as opposed to absolute assurance) that the financial statements are free from material misstatements. I think this is the part that most people fail to recognize and accept.

The Lehman Brothers used Repo 105 to temporarily undermine its liabilities and reduce leverage long enough to ensure that the balance sheet does not look out of place to its investors. This methodology is in line with the American Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and complies with America’s Financial Accounting Standards Board. Ernst & Young has since been criticized for approving the Repo 105 transactions without examining enough transactions. In retrospect, perhaps they should have paid closer attention. However, one must keep in mind the size of Lehman Brothers and the number of transactions it processes on a daily basis. Auditors are not super-humans. With limited manpower, it is impossible to examine every transaction and scrutinize every detail.

If there is anything to be learned, it is that the accounting standards must be revised to ensure creative accounting maneuvers are kept to a minimum. The last thing we need is another Enron* debacle and the fall of a Big Four.

*Enron was an American energy, commodities, and services company that used special purpose entities to “cook the books”. Its bankruptcy also saw the demise of its auditors, Arthur Andersen, who used to be one of the Big Five audit firms.

BEP Days 4 and 5

The last 2 days of BEP went by in a jiff. Thursday kicked off with a Q & A session with the auditing clerks, and in between numerous questions, we managed to gauge a salary bracket out of them… and boy, was it depressing! The starting net salary for a first year clerk is just below the R6 000 p.m mark, which barely covers rent, car and food; never mind the luxuries. However, they do get 2 increases in the first year, so at least there will be something to look forward to.

Next up, we had a lego building session – with a twist. Only one person in the group got to see a 2D picture of a model we were supposed to build. She must then direct the builders on how to fit all the pieces together without physically touching any of the blocks. The builders couldn’t talk so they could only rely on the information that was communicated to them. The remaining two members were the negotiators. Sounded like a cool title right? Well, it actually turned out to be the most boring role. I was the negotiator in my group because I had to rush to the WC while the rest decided on who must do what, so I didn’t have much choice. My job was basically to run to the other groups and negotiate the parts we were missing (we pretty much had everything already so that was a rather boring exercise). However, it was a great team building game and I think we all ended up learning something valuable.

The other fun activity for that day was the pub quiz. The categories varied quite nicely and the question were weird, wacky and wonderful. The quiz was then followed by drinks and those who stayed on had a nice chat with some of the clerks.

Friday was a relatively short day (we finished at 1 \o/). We had some time to prepare for our presentation and it was really entertaining to see everyone’s pitches. There were cross-dressers, wigs, funny videos and a whole lot of laughter that came with them.

The prize giving was next and I was just happy that I didn’t have to go home empty handed. I actually got some pretty cool stationery and a slab of chocolate.

All in all, it was an amazing week. I had such a wonderful experience that it made me not dread the upcoming years of slave labour and torture.

BEP Day 3

This is going to be a relatively short post because I am utterly exhausted – not so much by the day’s events, but rather by the 60 minutes I spent in traffic when the trip should have taken 15. Watching the numerous taxis speed past in the yellow lines didn’t help improve my mood either.

We drove all the way to Paarl today to tour the Tiger Brands factories. We were able to see the inside of their warehouses and production plants, as well as how their products (namely jam) were made from start to finish. It was an interesting process to observe and I was surprised at how clean and tidy everything was.

We then went to Paarl mall for lunch and got back to the office around mid afternoon. The rest of the day was covered by some talks and an impromptu public speaking session.

Right now, I’m busy working on a business proposal which I have to present on Friday. Will upload the presentation when I’m done.