South Africa’s Tummy

There are so many more word differences like the ones mentioned in yesterdays post that I definitely want to touch on some more of them in a later post. But as I rummaged about in my kitchen in search of something to eat, I started thinking about the foods in my country. I’ll mention some that are considered ‘traditional dishes’, but I will also mention some products that are ‘exclusively South African’ – although with the internet being what it is, I am sure you could find somewhere to purchase the products, if your stomach so desired 😉

Koeksisters – pronounced ‘cook-sisters’. (An Afrikaans word) These are truly sinfully delicious, if you have a sweet tooth. I can usually only manage one or two, but my daughter could eat a whole bag of ten in one sitting, if I allowed her to. They’re about 4 inches in length, and are made of dough, which is braided/twisted and then deep-fried. Once the deep-frying is done, they are dipped into a cold, sugary syrup, and are best served/eaten straight from the refrigerator. I know someone who makes the best ones I have ever tasted. They’re crisp on the outside, and soft and juicy on the inside. As you bite into it, the juice/syrup runs down your fingers and into your hands. If you eat another, you’re guaranteed the stickiness will find it’s way to your forearms. Eating them can be a messy job, but someone has to do it! 😉

Biltong – Similar to beef jerky, but not. I always use the beef jerky reference, simply because biltong is also a form of dried meat. But I have a feeling that that is where the similarity ends. I’m not sure though, since I have never had beef jerky.
There are different variations: Kudu, Beef, Venison….and recently I found bacon biltong. It’s not quite the same taste as the traditional biltong, but it was rather delicious – it is bacon, after all. Biltong is air dried for 3-7 days, and then doused in vinegar, before adding salt and various spices. The biltong is dehydrated as one large strip of meat, and you can either buy it as a whole, or ask to have it sliced. It is probably the most delicious ‘savory snack’ of our country – but can be on the expensive side for us…not so expensive for you, and you have the exchange rate to thank for that 😉

Ouma Rusks – (Ouma is pronounced ‘omar’, without the ‘r’; and is an Afrikaans word which translates into ‘Grandma’.)
Rusks, I think, may be the South African word for this treat. I did a google search and I think it’s similar to what Americans might call ‘Biscotti’.
This particular brand of rusk has been around since 1939, and it has yet to disappoint. There is nothing quite like a cup of coffee, and a buttermilk Ouma rusk.
It is essentially double baked bread dough, and comes in a wide variety of flavors – the most recent addition being ‘condensed milk’ flavor. A box of those lasted two days in my house – but then again, I don’t buy rusks very often, so when I do, my children just can’t get enough of them!

Amarula – Amarula is a cream liqueur with an alcohol content of 17% by volume. It’s made from the fruit of the African Marula Tree – which we also call the Elephant Tree…and sometimes is referred to as the Marriage Tree. Sugar and cream is added to the fruit, to create a delicious tasting alcoholic beverage.  It won a gold medal in 2006 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and I have read that they are trying to break into the American market, but I don’t know how long ago that was – so by now, it might be something my American friends could purchase in store? I am not a big drinker, but I have tasted a glass of Amarula, with crushed ice. It’s smooth, and definitely enjoyable when sipped slowly. At Christmas time, my friend gave me a box of Amarula chocolates, and I have to say, they were every bit as delicious as the drink itself – minus the alcoholic content. The best part was that my children didn’t care for the ‘fruity’ flavor, and so I could eat the whole box alone.

Mrs H.S. Balls Chutney – Although the name brand is slightly disturbing (and was selected way before my time, so my generation had nothing to do with it), there is nothing disturbing about this condiment, other than its addictive taste! What I love most about this particular brand is that it was a recipe that got shipwrecked…and survived. And the shipwreck? It happened right here, in the seas of the town where I live, in 1852! In doing some research, I was pleased to discover that there IS in fact a US range – so I won’t have to go without it when I visit 😉 I am still more inclined to go with the ‘Original Recipe’, but enjoy the Peach Chutney too. I don’t eat it a lot, but always keep a bottle in my refrigerator, because there are those times…oh yes, there are those times!

Bunny Chow – No, you will not be eating a rabbit. So if you ever see this and order one, in the hopes of some form of rabbit stew, then you will be disappointed. Originally created in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal here in South Africa, it’s a delicious meal that can be found all over South Africa. It consists of a hollowed out loaf of bread (although I buy the smaller version if I do get it, which is usually a quarter loaf of bread – and still never manage to finish it all)  filled with curry – the Indian kind, although not always too hot. A lot of places will let you choose your filling when it comes to the ‘burning your mouth’ possibility, and you can opt for a mild curry filling. I prefer to have it hot! 🙂

Afval  – another Afrikaans word, pronounced ‘uf- file’ (although I found it difficult to tell you how to pronounce that last part, and I still may be wrong. I know how to pronounce it, but trying to explain it is sometimes tough).  This word translates into ‘waste’.
I have to mention that I have no personal experience when it comes to the taste of this dish – I don’t eat livers, hearts, kidneys, or anything of that sort.
This particular dish is made from the stomach lining and trotters of lamb. It’s either served curried or stewed, and I have been told that if you are a person who enjoys oxtail, then you’ll enjoy this dish too because the meat is very tender and tasteful.
if you ever happen to visit South Africa, and taste it, please let me know if my information  on the tastiness of the dish is correct. I’m afraid that tasting it is not a sacrifice I am willing to make, even for the purposes of this blog!

Sheep’s Head – Yes, you read that right. And it’s popular. But again, it’s something I have never tasted and probably never will – not like this anyway. You get served the entire head of the sheep on your plate, after it’s been cooked for several hours in the oven. I am told that the meat is, once again, full of flavor and extremely tender. I’ll leave it to you to decide!

Frikkadel – pronounced ‘frick-a-dell’.  This is something I do eat, and my son says I make the best ones, but I think that’s just because he wishes I would make them more often. They’re basically just meatballs – deep fried balls of minced meat, combined with grated onions and carrots, bread crumbs, a little bit of whisked egg, and herbs and spices. They are sometimes served with a sauce, but not usually. Smaller balls are often found on what we call a ‘snack platter’, which is pretty much what it says it is. A platter with various ‘small’ versions of foods, for snacking purposes – and usually supplied for entertainment purposes. Sometimes, I will make a snack platter for my children for supper – I can hide the vegetables in the makings of the platter, and they get happily consumed 😉

Amasi – pronounced ‘uh-maas-i’. It’s basically fermented milk, and I am told it tastes a lot like cottage cheese or plain yoghurt. I have never tried it as a drink on its own because it has a tendency to have a lumpy texture, but it is very popular amongst black South Africans. I have, however, used it in a recipe for ‘traditional bread’, and it certainly didn’t affect the taste negatively in any way!

Umngqusho – this is one of my favorite ‘black South African’ dishes. I don’t have a clue how to tell you to pronounce this word, so I will just say that an English way to ask for it if you’re ever here is to request ‘samp and beans’.
There are so many different variations, but the base ingredients are stamp mielies/samp (which are dried corn kernels that have been stamped and chopped until broken into pieces) and sugar beans. The best way to make this particular dish is by soaking the samp and sugar beans overnight. The next day, you begin the cooking process, adding onions and butter and often times a ‘soup meat on the bone’, for added flavor. The cooking process usually takes about four hours, then it’s ready to be drained and consumed! I cook mine with the meat in it, but when I serve it up, I keep the meat out of it. I add extra butter and salt, and have been known to overindulge – in other words, it’s something I will always have a second helping of! It can be quite filling though, which sadly rules out a third 😉

There are so many other foods and branded products that I have yet to mention, but I hope you enjoyed the ‘taste’ of South Africa’s food variety for today!

Can you speak American?

A year ago, almost to this day, my daughter was watching yet another American movie that had some dancing in it. She again announced her hearts deepest desire: to attend a school like Juilliard and become a dancer. She currently has lessons in three styles of dance, and is very good. But I could never afford a school like that, or the costs involved with getting us there for her to try either. So all I can tell her is to keep practicing, keep dancing, and be dedicated – and maybe one day she will have her dream. She’s ten, and there’s time.

She has added a few other dance schools to her list, and our discussion prompted the retrieval of that list, and a request to google some of them. I didn’t have anything that needed my immediate attention, and my daughter usually trumps all anyway, so I agreed. We spent the next hour googling, reading and watching. And then the question came that horrified me, “But mom, do you think I could speak American?”

In that instant, my heart stopped and I wondered if I was so useless at being an educator to my children that my own daughter didn’t know that English was the language spoken in America, a country I love. Now, in my house, when my children ask questions that I don’t fully understand, I always say three little words.
“Please explain yourself.”
This time though, seeing the horrified expression on my face was enough, and she quickly added, “I know they speak English, mom. Most of them anyway. What I mean is, some words are different. Do you think I would be okay there?”
And then it made sense to me.

I’ve already explained the difference in spelling here, and in that post we also discussed that when you’re in South Africa, a ‘barbeque’ becomes a ‘braai’. We’ve watched enough American movies, and I’ve learnt so much from my American friends – knowledge which I take every opportunity to impart on my children – that I could, in confidence, reassure her that we would be okay. In fact, I often find myself ‘speaking American’ in small ways – but most especially when I speak to an American 😉 So here are some small differences, which you may or may not already know:

Petrol / Gas : I touched on this here, but will repeat – when we refer to gas, we’re talking about the stomach kind. We put petrol in our cars. And we go to the garage, or petrol station, in order to do this – not the gas station or filling station.

Robot / Traffic Light : I have the pleasure of knowing an American who lives around here. She finds this particular one very amusing. She says that when she first arrived, she kept looking around for Rosie the Maid – the robot from the cartoon ‘The Jetsons’ – on our street corners. She actually missed seeing a landmark upon her arrival, because on the drive in someone told her, ‘If you look to the right at the robot, you will see….’, and she spent all her time looking for ‘the robot’. So when we say robot, we actually mean traffic light!

Sweets / Candy : Around here, we all know that candy refers to things like M&M’s and jelly beans and all those sweet things. We also know the saying, “Like taking candy from a baby”, and of course we’ve heard of ‘Halloween candy’. But we still call it ‘sweets’, not candy. When we go to the shop (store) I’ll ask my daughter if she wants some sweets – and she’ll pick out jelly babies or something like that. To ask if she wants candy will take her a while to figure out what it is I am actually offering her.
By the same token, the word dessert is not used very often around here – although a restaurant will offer you a ‘dessert menu’. We refer to it as pudding – and by definition pudding can be either savory or sweet. But where I live, we are always referring to the sweet variety, and whether it be cooked, baked, chilled, served hot or cold, with or without ice cream or cream – it’s pudding 😉
A chocolate/candy ‘bar’ is simply a ‘chocolate’.

Tomato Sauce / Ketchup : The first time I heard the word Ketchup, I was about fourteen. I don’t remember what the exact scenario was, or who exactly said it, but someone at school used it in an oral speech for marks in our classroom, and it threw me. He said, ‘It wasn’t ketchup on his shirt, it was blood.’ It sounded like he said, ‘catch up’, and because I was so unfamiliar with the word it made absolutely no sense why his shirt would be trying to catch up, and have blood on it. This particular guy lost marks for using that word which made him rather angry, because as it turns out his wealthy family had just returned from a holiday in America, and he was very proud of his new word. I was a bit embarrassed to be approaching this ‘cool kid’ and asking what it meant, but I had to. When he explained to me, as if I was the least intelligent being in school, stating that it was the American word for tomato sauce, I was not only fascinated, but relieved that his little speech now made more sense. It helped me greatly when I watched an American movie a few months later, and didn’t need to be concerned about the hamburger and it’s need to have to ‘catch up’.

Costume / Bathing Suit : One morning, I phoned (called) my ‘local’ American friend and asked if she wanted to go to the beach. She did, so I told her to grab her costume too. There was silence on the other end of the phone, and then a big sigh. She told me, ‘I don’t have any fancy dress clothes yet, I have just arrived.’ I laughed and made the adjustment, ‘I meant your bathing suit’, to which she laughed and we hung up – and never did get to swim anyway because the water was too cold that day. We’re certainly weird, because we also use ‘costume’ when we’re talking about dressing up for a fancy dress, or the outfit worn for a part in a production of a show/theater. I guess you have to think about the situation to know which costume we’re referring to.

Washing Powder / Laundry Detergent : I do not do laundry. I do, however, do copious loads of washing. I also spend time hanging washing on the line, and taking it off again, because tumble dryers are not very popular around here. We had one growing up, but I have never had one in my home as an adult. The one we had when I was a child in my mothers house was seldom used, due to its large consumption of electricity and our ridiculous rates thereof – which are worse now. It goes without saying then that I purchase washing powder, not detergent.

Chips / French Fries : Again, we’re weird. If I tell you I ate a packet of chips, I am usually referring to eating a bag of potato crisps. However, I may also tell you that I made chips to go with the meat we had at supper time, and I am referring to something entirely different. In this case, I would be meaning French Fries. If you go to a take-away place around here, and ask for chips with your burger, you’ll get french fries. But if you ask at the local store where they keep their chips, they’ll lead you to the display of countless bags of crisps. Unless you say frozen chips…then you may just wind up in the frozen section where you can buy french fries to purchase for home and cook yourself.

Scones / Biscuits : My new friend was telling me the other day that he needed to eat something, but wasn’t sure he wanted to wait the twenty minutes or so it would take to bake the frozen biscuits he had. Wait, what? Frozen biscuits? Of course, Google is my best friend in cases like this. A quick search revealed to me that he was talking about something we call ‘scones’. Although we don’t buy them with a frozen option, I don’t think. If you go out to tea around here, and you ask for a biscuit, you will get a cookie. Because that is what we call cookies here. It’s a biscuit. Even an Oreo cookie – it’s referred to as either simply Oreo’s, or you may be asked if you’d like an Oreo biscuit with your coffee. So a cookie is a biscuit, and a biscuit is a scone 😉 Tea or coffee with fresh and warm scones, served with jam (jelly, see further down, please) and cream, or cheese, is usually a delightful option when out and about.

Cooldrink / Soda : When we ask if you’d like some cooldrink, we’re not referring to a drink that looks ‘cool’ (although you will be offered ice) and may be sporting an umbrella in a colorful sugar rimmed glass. We just mean soda. Plain and simple. I have to also mention here that if we ask if you would like some lemonade? You’re getting soda, and it’s usually Sprite. I have never tasted ‘proper lemonade’ of the lemonade stand variety – pink or yellow. I really should try and make some one day, just to be able to taste. I think I shall add that to my list of things to do this week.

Serviette / Napkin : There’s a South African comedian who does a very funny example of this – but he can be rather offensive, and so I am not going to link him in here. But I’ll do a brief explanation of the difference in these words, to us. Over here, a napkin is shortened to the word ‘nappy’, and this is what we call a baby’s ‘diaper’. You change a baby’s nappy, but wipe your mouth with a serviette. So you can imagine how this can become strange for us if we buy takeaway food and get offered a napkin to go with it. How bad is your food?

How’s it (Howzit) / Hello : This is a funny one, because many South African’s use it. Although we say it fast and it sounds like ‘howzit’, and it’s usually meant purely as a greeting, as opposed to being a question actually asking ‘how is it’.
We also have a tendency to use ‘is it’ a lot – but not as a question. It usually take the place of ‘really’, or ‘uh huh’, and comes out sounding like ‘izit’.

Jam / Jelly : Around here, jelly is what Americans would probably call ‘jello’, so you can imagine how confused I was the first time I heard about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Google once again came to the rescue, and since I happen to really like peanut butter and jam sandwiches, I was happy with its definition.

Just now / Later : I often confuse my American friends when I use this term. I’ll say it without thinking and mention that I am going to fetch my daughter from school just now. This does not mean now, or immediately. It actually means soon, or later, or in a short while. But never immediately. Yes, us South Africans are a confusing bunch.

There are many more little differences that you may (or may not) find interesting, and I am sure I will come back to addressing some of them in a future blog post. For now though, I am going to give you a break from all the reading, and hope that you didn’t find it too boring. I need to think about going to the ‘shop’ ‘just now’. 😉

South Africa and the Welshman

My father is Welsh. I was born and raised in South Africa, with a South African mother – but I am part Welsh. Some people tease and say I shouldn’t say that out loud, but I’m proud of the bit of Welsh blood in my veins. 😉

It posed a slight problem for me when Wales took on South Africa in the Rugby World Cup a few months back. Rugby is something similar to American Football, although there are some key differences, but I won’t mention them all here. When I asked ‘one of the guys’ what he thought the biggest difference was between the two, he said that Rugby is played by ‘real men’, because they wear no protection gear. I found that rather amusing!
I was invited to watch the Wales vs. South Africa game with some friends – and as is SA tradition, we accompanied the game with a braai. (Rugby is big in South Africa, and a braai is essential to the pleasure of the game.) If you’re unsure about what a braai is, then please see my post relating to that here.
I was in trouble with my friends the moment I walked through the door – I wore red, for Wales, as opposed to the green and gold of South Africa. I teased and said, ‘I wear my heart on my sleeve’. One of the couples told me, ‘I couldn’t lose’ because I am part Welsh and part South African – I think it’s the first time I have ever been in a win-win situation 😛 Wales did in fact lose that night. But the braai was good, and so was the company, so I had no real reason to complain.

But braaing, and rugby, and my blood are not what this post is about. This is about a visit I received from my father, accompanied by my Welsh cousin, and some things about SA that my cousin inadvertently brought to my attention to teach you something about my country.

My cousin, Dai, was the first member of my Welsh family that I had the pleasure of meeting. He’s a strange little man, with a great sense of humor, but he curses regularly, so I will omit that from this post.
I was most excited when I heard my dad was coming for a visit, and bringing along someone from his rather large extended family. (My dad has three brothers and three sisters.) So excited that I cooked a roast for their arrival. I’d like to say I have great culinary skills, confirmed by my cousin as he commented on the roast potatoes being ‘the best he’s ever had’. Unfortunately, as it turns out, my dad confirmed that our potatoes are in fact quite different to the ones they grow in the UK, and so it had nothing to do with my cooking. At this point in the conversation, I learned something new, because I didn’t know you got different types of potatoes. You’re never too old to learn, I guess.

The evening was spent discussing how things had changed since the last time my dad had been for a visit. Of course, the increase in crime had to be addressed – I needed to make my dad aware of certain factors that were now very different, so that he could take the necessary precautions when out and about with my cousin, if I wasn’t with them. Of course my dad can be a bit stubborn, and insisted he’d be fine.
Dai seemed to be taking special note, and had already commented (and been enlightened) about all the security bars and gates on the windows and doors. (Also in my previous post, along with the fact that we don’t have air-conditioning.)
Now is the time to mention that my dad and Dai visited us in one of the hottest months of Summer. That night, while preparing for bed, I went in to the spare room to check that Dai had everything he needed. I found him closing all the windows. To my amusement, when I told him he needed them open for the air to circulate in the heat, he replied, “And let someone stick their hand in and slit my throat. Not a chance. I’d rather overheat.”
Now while that may have been a very slim possibility because crime is bad, it definitely was not high in probability. But since I couldn’t convince him of this, and we had obviously scared him with what to us was ‘normal’, I left him to sleep in his hot box – but did give him a free standing fan for the night.

The next morning, as I struggled to wake up (it was, after all, 06:00) and was making myself a second cup of coffee, Dai came rushing out of his bedroom, muttering a string of expletives. When he saw me standing there, he apologized, and then asked, “But what is that?” At first, I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about. And then I heard it. I laughed out loud, at his expense of course, and received a well-deserved glare in return. When I could catch my breath, I took him over to the window and showed him. It was a bird, called a hadeda ibis – although we just call it a ‘har-di-dah’. And it’s possibly the most annoying bird ever – which says a lot coming from me, because I love birds and the different melodies they have. But this bird has no melody. It’s loud, and annoying. It’s a screeching “haa-haa-haa-de-dah” call, and we often joke that they’re afraid of heights, because they make the most noise when they’re up high, or flying. Their favorite time to ‘cry out’ is early in the morning, and it can be rather frightening on your first morning in this country, because you’ll be convinced someone is being murdered outside your window. You get used to it eventually, and so sleeping late does not pose a problem – but if you’re a visitor? Then it’s a different story! Not only is their sound alarming, but they’re rather ugly! They’re big birds, with a very long beak, and are mostly grey and black in color.
If you go here and listen to sound 1 and sound 2, you’ll get an idea of it’s screech. It’s great preparation for a planned trip, but the real thing is still much more frightening 😉

On a trip to town later that day, there were a few other things that fascinated Dai. I needed to stop for petrol for my car (same thing as gas, but when we use the word gas, it is never in reference to our cars, but rather to our stomachs). As I sat waiting patiently at the petrol pump, Dai looked a bit confused. He asked me, “Are you wanting me to fill your car?” I was the one who was then confused. A chuckle from my father, and a quick explanation made everything all right, and Dai spent the rest of the time at the petrol station in open mouthed awe. In South Africa, you don’t put in your own petrol (or pump your own gas). There are men (and the occasional woman) employed by the petrol station to assist you. You have to wait patiently for one of them to be available and approach you. You then pop your petrol cap and tell them how much you want them to put in, in currency, and off they go. When they’re finished at the pump, the petrol attendant will usually also offer, “Oil and water? Tyres?” I guess in some ways we’re spoiled – but it’s job creation, and I’d hate to think how our already rather shocking unemployment rate would rise if they were all suddenly put out of work!

Our economy leaves a lot to be desired. But it goes without saying that this is a huge advantage to overseas visitors. Everything seems cheap here, when you’re bringing in dollars and pounds and doing direct conversions. For us, it’s all expensive. But I’ll go into that another time, because it needs another post all of its own.
Needless to say, Dai was continuously surprised as we made our way from store to store, and was amazed when we got home to find how much he had bought ‘for so little’. This is also about the time where he took up chain smoking, and I don’t think we’ve braaied so much expensive meat in one sitting ever before, or since.

Dai became very interested in the vast amounts of bead work being sold on the side of the road by street vendors. This opened the door to explanations about the different types of African culture, and their beliefs. Bead work is one of the most important symbols in African culture. Beads are made from a variety of things, and their placement in a string is of great importance. Africans can tell if their fellow African recently lost a loved one, or are of wealthy importance, which tribe they are from etc. by the beads that are worn. Of course, I also had to tell him about the ‘witch doctors’ scattered all over our country. A witch doctor (traditional healer known for witchcraft) is a huge thing in African religion among the black people, and very real – except that around here they are known as ‘Sangoma’s’. They create lotions and potions and powders, (from things I don’t even want to begin to discuss) and can ‘cure any ailment, including love sickness’.
That night before dinner, I spotted a bottle of baby powder, and got a brilliant idea. I placed some in a piece of paper, and then folded it up carefully. At dinner time, I put it next to Dai’s place setting, and then called everyone to come and eat. Dai noticed it, and asked what it was. I told him,
“It’s a powder for you to drink.” Of course, I wouldn’t have let him actually put it in his mouth. He looked confused and asked why. I smiled mischievously and replied,
“In town today, an African lady noticed you. She asked me to give you this powder tonight, and by tomorrow you will be madly in love with her.”
The look on his face was priceless, and he flung the paper on the floor, jumped up, and looked like he might take flight at any moment. We all burst into fits of laughter, and even my dad had to wipe the tears from his eyes.
My cousin Dai now calls me ‘Miss Love Potion’. 😉

I am sure there were a few more things that happened, but I can’t recall them now. I enjoyed my little trip down memory lane though, and hope you did too. And maybe you learnt something new?

One-of-a-kind

South Africa is where I hail from. You probably know this already.

What you may not know is that my country has 11 (yes, eleven) official languages, and quite a few unofficial ones. I am fluent in two of them, mainly because they were the two that were taught to me at school. We take English as a first language, and Afrikaans as a second language. Depending on which region/province you live in, you have the option of changing that second language to the African language of your location. When I started high school – Grade 8 – we took an extra subject which was the African language of Xhosa, which is the African language of my region. Admittedly, I don’t remember too much of this year of language studies, but do remember the basic words and so am at least able to greet someone and ask how they are in their native language around here. The problem comes in after this, because they assume I can speak the language and rattle off a sentence to me of which I have little to no understanding. This always results in laughter on both parts when I admit, in English, that what I said is about the extent of my abilities to speak their language.

I find it amusing typing blog posts on here, because I think the ‘spell check’ is set to American spelling. Yes, we spell differently. My friend in Kansas often teases me that we’re just wrong – I often think we are 😉 I do know that we spell the British way – and since I have some British blood in me as well, I guess I can’t be too upset about that.
We apparently like the letter ‘u’. It makes its appearance everywhere that it doesn’t belong! 😛 Honour, neighbour, labour, behaviour etc. And yes, these are now underlined in red in my editing 😉
We also prefer ‘re’ to ‘er’ – perhaps the ‘er’ makes us think of medical tragedies?
Litre, metre, meagre. Of course we ‘get it right’ when it comes to words like monster, disaster, sober, etc.
There also appears to be an interesting problem with Sammy Snake – the letter ‘s’.
We say defence, as opposed to defense; pretence as opposed to pretense.
There are many more differences, these are but a few examples. Isn’t it strange that we all speak English, and yet spell it differently?

The reason I addressed the languages (and then got a bit off topic with the spelling) is because I wanted to share an advertisement that is currently running on our television networks. I don’t usually like television advertisements – they annoy me and most times I am left wondering what the product had to do with anything I have just watched. This particular advertisement has me smiling every time it comes on though. I will post the link to it later, but will go into a bit of detail first. It’s an advertisement about foreigners who visit our country, and gives great insight into the quirky things about South Africa – mostly good, but also some bad, in a delightful and pleasing way! It’s an advert by an insurance company, promoting that you need ‘one-of-a-kind’ insurance in a ‘one-of-kind’ country. So this blog post is pretty much based on Sanlam’s brilliance!

In South Africa, especially if you’re doing a tour of the country, you will likely come across a sign that says ‘Hippo’s Crossing for 3km’. If someone ever shows you a picture they have of this, it’s real! I need to stress though that there are no hippos, lions or elephants in my backyard. (Although apparently, when I was about five years old, I told my mother there was an elephant living in among the banana trees at the bottom of our yard.) They also don’t roam down the street where I live, or sleep in the shade of the trees that line our main road.
The above may just be possibilities in North Africa, but I live in the South – and there are some very big differences between the two, which I may address in a later blog post.
The hippo crossing signs are in a town practically built on top of a wetland park, with an estuary that is home to about 800 hippos. So a hippopotamus roaming the streets is not actually a common thing either.
We do have plenty of safari type parks that are home to many wild animals who are living in captivity, and yet in such a way that the animals probably don’t even realize they’ve been captured, or in some cases, rescued. In two different directions from my home, both about twenty minutes drive away, there are animal ‘parks’/game reserves. At the one, I can have an elephant interaction, or just sip a cup of coffee and watch as zebra, giraffe and buck play on the hills not too far away. At the other, I can stand two meters away from the lazy Tigers, as they cool off in their pool, on the other side of the fence of course; and if there have been any new cubs born before my visit, I can go into the ‘cub cage’, with a member of staff, and play with them.
Two years ago, I had a six week old white lion cub, weighing approximately 60 pounds, lying in my lap. She was one of four cubs in the ‘cage’, kept there till they get a bit bigger and were more able to hold their own, for protection purposes. A cubs hunting instinct kicks in around this time though, so they only allow children in who are of a specific height or above. My daughter qualified; and since the cubs aren’t too dangerous, while my son and I held lazy cubs in our laps, we watched my daughter with great amusement as she played with one, and was being hunted by another. Of course the staff member intervened before the cub sprang, just in case.
We don’t have shark cage diving here in my town, despite the fact that I live at the sea. But if you’re up for that, it’s an experience you can encounter in the Western parts – Cape Town area.

In South Africa, we don’t barbeque/barbecue – we ‘braai’. I cannot find a way to explain how to pronounce this word, so if you’re interested you can listen to it here. It’s the same sort of concept though where we grill/cook meat over an open fire. Most of these fires are wood-burning, and so if you visit here and someone asks you to come over and ‘burn wood’ it may have two meanings: it could mean to either just sit and watch the flames and drink beer or brandy; but most times it means they’re inviting you to a braai. It’s commonly known as a ‘chop and dop’ – although the Afrikaans spelling is mostly used in a written invite – tjop and dop. And this means pretty much what it says – bring a chop/meat to braai, and don’t forget to bring a drink, or ten, depending who you’re braaiing with 😉

In South Africa, we have what we call ‘load shedding’. It has not been so common of late, which is a great relief. It is a huge bone of contention among our people. Basically, it is an interruption in our electricity supply to prevent overloading on the power stations. South Africans are frustrated by this because our country supplies electricity to other parts of Africa, and yet we are the ones who suffer interruptions. These interruptions can sometimes happen twice a day, depending where you live – and are usually for a two hour period. This is made slightly more frustrating by the fact that it is often at mealtimes – and in rush hour traffic times it can have disastrous consequences because the traffic lights are not working.

In South Africa, “The multi-billion rand minibus taxi industry carries over 60% of South Africa’s commuters. Generally speaking, these commuters are all of the lower economic class. Wealthy individuals drive their own cars for safety and convenience. The industry is almost entirely made up of 16-seater commuter Toyota HiAce buses, which are sometimes unsafe or not roadworthy. Minibus taxi drivers are well known for their disregard for the road rules and their proclivity for dangerously overloading their vehicles with passengers.
I have to chuckle when I read that wealthy individuals drive their own cars – while I am very wealthy in many areas in my life, money and possessions are not one of them – and yet, I have a car. It’s an older model though, and only really gets us from point A to point B – but at least it’s roadworthy! 😉
This information was taken from Wikipedia and you can view the rest of it here, if you’re interested. I had a look at some news articles thinking I could post some more ‘factual’ links, but they were all just too negative. I have to add that taxi’s also come in the form of cars, and overloading is probably the biggest problem, next to the safety issues. Sometimes, you can see ten people being transported in a vehicle meant for five. It happens. Not all taxi’s are bad though, but it may not be a recommended form of transportation if you’re visiting.

In South Africa, there is a good chance you will encounter monkeys who will take your food. At my daughter’s school they are prohibited from eating food in a certain area of the school, because the trees that fence that area are filled with monkeys – and when they want your food they can be aggressive to the point of life-endangering. I have not had them in my own home, but a friend who lives not far from me often returns from work to find that they have ransacked her kitchen again – impolitely leaving banana peels all over her floor. She stopped buying banana’s, but they still go back time after time. They can be rather destructive, and she returned once to find cereal scattered all over the floor. She tried closing all her windows when she left in the morning, and came home to a hot box, because that’s what happens in Summer around here. She does find that there’s less ‘monkeying around’ in Winter though.

In South Africa, crime is ridiculous. That’s all I am going to say about that, for now. You are welcome to google news stories and crime statistics if you’d like to know more. I don’t think it would leave you feeling very happy though, so it may be best to just avoid that whole point of interest entirely. Won’t you most likely won’t find in South African homes (although if you’re visiting, the Bed and Breakfasts and Hotels usually do have) is central heating and air conditioning. What you will find, more often than not, is high walls or fencing (electric, or razor wire on top), alarm systems and burglar bars – lots of them, on every window; burglar gates on every door. (Probably better known in the states as security gates and bars.) I think the biggest thing I struggle to come to terms with is that there is no regard for human life, and you can actually get killed, just for a dollar.

In South Africa, cars get broken into and stolen at an alarming rate, like a new trend on Twitter. There are companies, and individuals, who act as ‘car guards’, and their function is pretty much what it says. They hang around, and watch your car while you’re in the store or at the movies. If your car is still there when you come out, and it hasn’t been broken in to, then they would like you to give them a ‘tip’ – in fact, it’s expected. This is usually some spare change, and doesn’t really amount to much. The thing to watch out for is the ones who are trying to fulfill this role while inebriated – obviously they’re not very alert, and can get quite abusive if you point this out to them, or refuse to tip them. And of course, there are the 2% who are actually the criminals!

One more thing I need to mention – what Americans call a ‘truck’, we call a ‘bakkie’. It’s pronounced something like ‘buck-ee’, and refers to ‘little trucks’ – pretty much any truck shaped vehicle below 2 tons. What Americans would call an 18-wheeler? Well, over here, that’s a truck!

All right. All of the above is just a little bit of background, and information, for all of you. It was based on the advertisement and pretty much ‘gives away’ most of its contents (although the clip doesn’t have all the added explanations, of course), but if you still want to watch it, you can do so by going here.

Politics and Religion

On Friday I received a surprise phone call from a friend who is a medical representative, saying that she was in my area and wanted to know if she could pop in for a quick coffee. I am always up for a cup of coffee, even more so when shared with good company, and so of course I shifted things around in my schedule to make time for her to come over and visit.

We haven’t seen each other in a few months. Four, to be exact. Where has the time gone? I don’t like the times that life gives me things to do when I’d rather be doing something else. But it happens. A lot. And I have come to accept it. It’s made ‘catch up’ time something that is that much more dear to my heart, and I treasure the times I get to do the things I want to be doing.

I greeted her with a giant bear hug, and the first thing she said to me was, ‘I’m so glad it’s finally Friday’. I laughed out loud, because of my recent post referring to naming my days. She hasn’t read it, because ‘who really has time for blogging and then still reading what everyone else has to say’? Um, like with everything else that might possibly be important to you, you make time. I can’t be offended by her opinion though, because it’s her opinion and I respect that – and I also accept that while blogging is somewhat important to me, not everyone needs to share in that feeling. I did tell her about my post though, while pouring our coffee, and she loved the thoughts and ideas.

We moved on to other topics, and as only women can, we jumped from one subject to another – returning back where we started when another reminder of the ‘more’ we had to say on that topic entered our minds. Thankfully, we think alike, and neither of us were out of breath from the exercise 😉

There is one topic that I always try and avoid with this particular friend though. Most times that we’re together, I am successful. Friday was not a ‘most’. I guess now would be a good time to mention that her husband is in politics. I happened to mention to her that I was thinking about doing a few blog posts on where I live, but was trying to find a way to do it without ‘focusing on all the negatives’. I explained to her that I don’t want to harp on our current political climate – and then realized my mistake, too late! I blame it on the fact that I had not had sufficient coffee yet that day to equip my brain in the topic of avoidance.

I won’t go into great detail regarding her reaction to this, but suffice to say that she was not impressed. Apparently I am ignorant when it comes to politics, and if people like me were more committed to getting ‘the truth’ out there, then we wouldn’t be in the place we currently are in our country.
By the time she left, we were still friends. I think this is largely due to the fact that I was willing to admit to my political ignorance, and apathy.

Here’s the thing though: I am not ignorant to what is happening in the political climate of my country (although I am confused by the weather climate, since we have experienced such strange weather lately). I think that when you have a social media account, it is difficult to be ignorant about things like politics, and religion. My Facebook news feed is constantly inundated with the ‘latest political shortfall or scandal’, and the same goes for religious problems and issues.
When I was 23, I shyly admitted to my father that I felt like I was finally growing up. He asked me why I felt that. To which I responded, “I now read the newspaper and watch the news, almost every day”.
So I don’t just have Facebook to rely on as my political source – but I definitely have facts from the news too. Although, admittedly, these days I don’t watch the news on TV and I don’t buy a newspaper. I visit a variety of news sites via my web browser, and when I get tired of reading about all the horrible things that are happening and my heart feels like it can handle no more of seeing what people are doing to each other, I just click close. I wish I could do that in real time too sometimes.

If I absolutely had to get involved in a political debate, I think I could hold my own – for a short while, at least. I’d be able to hold my own a little longer if the debate was centered around a religion – particularly if it was focused on mine.

But here’s where one of my favorite words comes into play: choice.
The second definition at Dictionary.com seems to suit my post better, and so that is the one I will quote: “the right, power, or opportunity to choose”.
(I love the example they use: ‘The child had no choice about going to school.’ I tell my children this regularly.)
I have a right to choose my battles, even when it comes to matters that are of great importance – like politics and religion. And that’s what it boils down to for me. I find in my daily life, with a preteen and a teen who is almost a man, that I am constantly having to choose my battles. I also choose my battles with minor things – like when something breaks in the house. Am I going to get upset and have to call someone in to fix it; or am I going to Google this little challenge and fix it myself?
(I successfully fixed the leak in my drain pipe the other day, and for me this was a major achievement, and I’m proud of it!)

I am not trying to avoid any truths, and I am certainly not trying to ‘hide them from the world’ either. I am not entirely apathetic. But the world has Google, and if they really want to know the terror of my country, then they can look it up. I do not need to be political, and immerse myself in every bit of negativity associated with our current political climate. I am not sticking my head in the sand, and refusing to do anything – I still vote, even though it appears that it makes no difference. I try and assist those who have been affected by the horrible things that are happening; I give of myself as much as possible to my local community.

But there’s a reason why I am not a politician. And I never want to be.
I will do my small part with everything I have – but don’t expect me to focus and dwell on the negativity. I will ‘tell it like it is’ when necessary, but apart from that, I choose to not get caught up in the hype and choose to not participate in those conversations.

I think it also comes down to respect – and this is where religion comes into it too.
(I didn’t always feel this way, but as I have grown and had more life experience, I think I may have matured in my thinking. Although if you do not agree with me, you’re probably finding the faults here and have written me off as apathetic and ignorant. And that is your right, and your choice.)
Not everyone is going to believe what I do when it comes to ‘religion’. And those who do may be either more passionate, or less passionate, than me. And that’s okay. Because we are all different.
I have the right to believe what I believe, and am fortunate enough to be able to have the opportunity to choose, and live out that belief – because in some countries, people are dying for their Christianity.
And I respect the fact that others may have very different beliefs. I don’t involve myself in religious debates, or try and prove my point, simply because as far as I am concerned, no one has the right to judge me, and by the same token, I do not have the right to judge them.
I could say a whole lot more about religion, but then I fear I would be swaying towards giving you my opinion – which I am happy to do in a more personal way, if you wanted to really discuss it – but harping on about religion in this setting is not my style.

In the same way, I believe in respecting political views. I know a couple who are American, and they keep abreast of politics there, and their Facebook wall reflects this, as they post links and statuses relating to political happenings, and failings, regularly. That is their right, and I respect it. Do I ever comment? No.
Another word comes to mind though : Passion. It’s all about where yours lies. I am not ‘passionate’ enough about politics and religion to constantly be pushing for others to be more aware and agree with me, and that is my choice. I don’t criticize your passions, so maybe you could just please leave my lack of them alone?
Each and every one us has the right to choose to either be politically minded, or not. We have the power and opportunity to try and make a difference – even if it is just by voting, but we are not ignorant and apathetic if we choose to not share constantly in things revolving around politics.

And I suppose, at the end of the day. all this applies to life too. I wish we could all try and respect each other enough to be careful with our words, and afford each other the right to make choices. I wish we could stop using social media to attack each others opinions on things. I wish we could just agree to disagree. Most of all, I wish we could all respect human life enough to not take it in the name of politics, religion or whatever other reason we may have. But then again, if we were all doing all these things, then life would be perfect – we would all be perfect, and although the world would be a better place, it may not be as interesting.
I guess we ‘need’ politicians to spice things up a bit 😛

Reading through this entry, I do wonder if perhaps ‘I’ am what is wrong with the world (which was something else my friend hinted at). Perhaps if we were all as passionate as ‘them’ things would be different? I don’t know. I suppose I am entitled to my opinion, as everyone else is to theirs.
am working on some posts about my country, because it’s always great to learn about a new place – especially if you’re considering travel – and I will do my best to keep both politics and religion out of it. I guess there are some truths that will need to be told as I go along…but I am taking some time, and trying to present them in a way that are more entertaining and informative, than just an endless stream of negativity.

I leave you with this funny little thought, “If women ruled the world we wouldn’t have any wars – we’d just have a bunch of countries that were not talking to each other”.

Just a little camera shy

Some blogging interactions of late have inspired me. The inspiration gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling somewhere deep inside – putting everything together in the form of a few blog posts that would make for entertaining, and in some cases informative, reading leaves me with thoughts and feelings that are a little less warm, and a little more fuzzy. I am trying to train my brain to ‘write better’, so there’s hope.

During one of these interactions, my brain was sent on a thought path involving my profile picture, and how this particular picture came to be. I have to mention that while I have been told that I am quite a photogenic person, I dislike having my picture taken. I think it has to do with the insecurities and relatively low self esteem that I have – both of which are better left to a post all on their own.

This is more of a ‘fun post’ than anything else. There are not really any deep words of wisdom and there’s nothing really informative from an educational point of view. I suppose you could call it more ‘light reading’.
I also have to mention that I am not superficial and in my opinion, inner beauty is what counts. I mention this because this post really has to do with outer beauty in a way.

My current profile picture (which I am considering changing in the next few days because while it suited me to upload it when I first started, I think I’ve outgrown it – there’s a lengthy explanation for my reasoning behind that statement, but suffice to say, it might be time for a change) was one of a few that I had taken in a modelling shoot three years ago. I know. A modelling shoot, but I dislike having my picture taken? There’s a great example of contradiction right there! But here’s the story that goes with the ‘modelling shoot’:

A couple of months prior to this modelling shoot, my self esteem had taken another somewhat large knock. I was living my life minute-by-minute, and hour-by-hour; placing check marks on the calendar for each day I got through. A friend sent me an email, with a link to an article, wherein a gentleman was requesting some ‘volunteers’ to be photographed as part of building his portfolio. Apparently he had retired from his career in insurance, and was now building a business that reflected his true passion- photography. He would even pay these volunteers for their time – it wasn’t the big bucks you hear about, but every bit counts when you’re a single mom. My friend had commented in her email regarding the link, “Maybe you should volunteer. We all know they edit the pictures etc. but it might show you yourself in a different light – help you see the beauty we all see – except we see it on the outside and the inside. Please consider giving it a try.”

It took me a week to finally call the man with my list of questions. Of course my first question was, “What size are you looking for?”
Because when I think of a model, I think of a Victoria’s Secret model – and there’s now a picture making its rounds on Facebook stating that ‘the Secret is that the Victoria’s Secret girls are always hungry’. Since I am never hungry, I had to ask him what he was looking for. Please don’t get me wrong. I have the perfect body – I just keep it hidden under layers of fat so that it doesn’t get scratched 😛  😉
According to him, he was looking for all kinds of body, and looks – he explained to me that his portfolio needed to reflect ordinary women too. Satisfied that I could meet that criteria, I moved along and bombarded him with loads of other questions.
I’m inclined to be a ‘safety first’ kind of girl, and when he indicated to me that the photo shoot would take place in the studio at his house, I very nearly just put the phone down – which wouldn’t have helped since I had called him from my landline on his cellphone, which meant he now had my number. (I said I was inclined to be….sometimes I can be stupid.) He assured me though that he had two other ladies who work for him, and would be in the reception area of the studio, and so we wouldn’t be alone – and actually called one of them to chat with me for a bit. (She also emailed me a sneak preview of the website she was busy building for him as proof of the legitimacy.) I still had my reservations, but agreed to meet with him.

I pulled up at a rather fancy-looking house, with an expensive car in the driveway. The insurance business must be good. Nothing creepy yet – so far, so good. The voice that answered the intercom was that of an older woman, who also waited at the door to greet me when I had made my way down the path. She was beautifully dressed, tall and slim. Her eyes were warm, and her smile was too, as she ushered me inside. Still good. The girl I had spoken with on the phone was waiting at her desk, and stood to greet me as I entered the small hallway that had been turned into a form of reception area. She was not tall, but she was slim, and I suddenly felt a little ‘too fleshy’. Her smile was also warm and I began to feel at ease. Great! She led the way to the studio, popped her head in the door to announce me, and then left me there – not before squeezing my arm and telling me I’d be fine though.

Taking a deep breath, I stepped into the small studio. Seated behind a small table was a man who stood when I entered and walked over to shake my hand. I am afraid I am not very good at judging age, but I’d say he was in his mid fifties. He was a medium sized man, with a bit of a beer belly and a balding head. It was the impression he gave off though that caused the thought to jump into my head, “Not good”. After some small talk, the thought was confirmed when he indicated a small door to the side and said, “That’s a small changing room. You can choose a bikini from the ones in the crate there, and get changed. I’ll be waiting.”

You’ll be waiting a long time.

I have been known to wear a bikini – but only for my own personal use – like at home, in my back garden, when the neighbors are all out (in other words, it doesn’t happen often). I do not wear one in public. Ever. My best friend has not even seen me in one. Why ruin a great friendship? As for my children? My son needs to be out too – I couldn’t do that to him. My daughter is still at the age where she’s forgiving – and still believes I am ‘thin and lovely’ (although recently when I had to attend the parent teacher meeting at school, she did ask me to at least re-apply my make up if I wasn’t going to change my clothes)!

My refusal was not taken very well, but it was taken. And so were photographs of me, fully clothed.  He did make a few comments along the lines of, “You’re beautiful, and if you could slip into a bikini and show me what I am really working with, you could have a future in modelling.” I let them slide, laughed them off, and continued being me. Because I’m nice like that. Ha!

He seemed happy enough when I left – maybe because I was leaving? Who knows!

I received the end result via email a few days later, and as I have mentioned the picture in my profile is one of them. And I know I am exposing myself here, but I cried when I saw the pictures. Tears of happiness, and tears from a sad place in a heavy heart. I was astonished at the ‘beauty’ staring back at me in each and every picture. I could not believe that they were pictures of me. I still look back at them occasionally, except now I don’t cry. I just sigh and say to myself, “Ah, I did look beautiful.”
I guess that these fancy editing programs of today truly can work wonders 😉
It’s more important to me to be beautiful on the inside than on the outside….but I also know that I have to accept my outer appearance too. When I am behaving with kindness and love, and speaking words of encouragement and inspiration – then I can look in the mirror and smile at the reflection looking back at me. When I have been moody or rude, or purposely said or done something out of hurt and anger – then I just see an ugly human being. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I don’t see myself as beautiful by any means (and I am not fishing for any compliments here, please) but I know that ‘it is well with my soul’ for now, and that’s enough for me.

I suppose that now this blog post is begging the question, “Well then what do you really look like?” While I admit to the fact that I have now chosen a ‘good’ picture of me to post below, this picture has not been professionally edited, and if you see me in the street, this is probably what I’ll look like – except my long hair is usually tied up in a style similar to my current profile. (And yes, I now wear glasses!)

Me

 

 

Discovering South Dakota

My new friend recently added a blog post centered around some random facts about himself. This is a great idea, and if he doesn’t mind me ‘borrowing’ it to a certain degree, then I may just let you all get to know me a bit better (adding to the info you can already obtain from my past posts) – be afraid, be very afraid 😉 Just kidding. I’m actually not very scary, and not all that interesting either!

*Side note* If you haven’t read any of his blog posts, then please give them a try. You’ll find him here. I thoroughly enjoy reading his posts – his honesty is refreshing, and there’s always something funny thrown in there to make you smile. 

But my blog today is a little unusual, because it’s a very brief review for a place I have never been. What happened was this: In sharing with my new friend the list of places the children and I would like to visit in the USA, the suggestion was made that perhaps I should also look at South Dakota. I am delighted (my bank account, not so much) to say that I have added it to our list. Without further ado, I give you the results of my ‘research’ – although mostly it’s the reasons I want to visit….and the things I want to see.

I’m a rivers and lakes and mountains and trees kind-of-girl. South Dakota has all of this, by the looks of it – and more.
Mountain Lions. There are mountain lions. I’m sold! How amazing to see one in real life – so long as I’m far enough away for there to be no casualties. (There are plenty of lions where I live, and two years ago I was holding a white lion cub in my arms – but there’s something strange and wonderful about a mountain lion, for me anyway.)

I read that along the rivers there are some beautiful trees. I would need to find those rivers – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Cottonwood Tree before, and it looks amazing in the Autumn from the pictures I found. Willows are just one of my very favorite kinds of trees, and they appear to be near rivers too. Rivers may require some hiking – but at least I could then work off (and have a fantastic excuse for over-consumption of) all the delicious ‘holiday’ foods I’d be eating!

Mount Rushmore is a big South Dakota attraction – hey, I’m a tourist, and I’d like my kids to get a little education too 😉 (I suppose I need to brush up on my American history knowledge, because I did not know that Mount Rushmore was in South Dakota *hangs head in shame*.)

Beaver Creek Bridge, and all the national parks, look so very wonderful to me – I reckon I could find my ‘relaxation’ again and just sit there all day!

Native American Indian culture has always been of interest to me – so it’s no wonder ‘Sioux Falls’ sounded familiar – in fact, I felt like an idiot when reading up about South Dakota because there are so many ‘names’ that I recognize. And for good reason too! Of course visiting Deadwood is a must – I have loved the ‘Wild West’ since I was a little girl.

My friend told me to have a look at Huron…
So, moving on to Huron specifically :

Pyle House Museum is a definite point of interest. That house is beautiful – there’s just something about it for me. And not just from the pictures I saw. In the description of it, I think it was the ‘original oak woodwork’ part that really got my attention and confirmed it’s place on the list of things I’d like to see.
Naturally, Splash Central would sell this visit to my daughter, and bring added delight to our travel list for the USA 😉
Godfather’s Pizza – it’s all in the name….it helps that I happen to love pizza too! With a name like that, I simply cannot resist!

There are just so many beautiful gardens, I could spend days there – the scent of flowers in the air, the peacefulness of possibly the buzzing of bees (so long as they don’t decide I smell like a flower or sting me 😛 ) and the distant song of a bird perhaps? Ah, the small pleasures in life!

I think I’ll give the Golf Course a skip, but if you can manage to hit a golf ball without busting up all the turf around it, unlike me, then it may be worth a look…for us, I think Toboggan Hill could be fun. It would be our first time though, so we’d need to be careful – a trip to the emergency room is not on my list!

I found a ‘calendar of events’, and I want to go to all of them, HA!!! I have also found that some of the things are Season specific. So I guess I’d need to visit for at least a year. That kind of messes up travel plans, unless I suddenly win a rather large amount of money, which would allow for a very much extended holiday – perhaps three years might do for all the places I want to visit and things I want to see 😛

And last but certainly not least: the library in Huron has a coffee bar???!!!??? Can you tell by the punctuation that I am not only astounded but extremely excited by this! 😉 I understand that it may be a ‘regular’ thing in the US, but it is non-existent here! A combination of two of my favorite things – coffee and books – can’t go wrong!

Yip. Added to the travel list! 😉

Naming My Days

I’m always looking for new ways to improve myself. Looking is great, and I find so many wonderful ways to improve upon parts of me, in order to make me a better person. The problem is that sometimes I am so busy looking, and appreciating what I’ve found, that I forget to actually apply all the things I am learning and know. It makes it all seem so futile….

But at least these vast amounts of knowledge seem to stick in my head, filed away under miscellaneous, and every now and then something will happen and I’ll remember what’s in that file. I usually need to dust it off, and revisit to a large degree (which means looking at it all over again), but by the time that happens I’ve managed to be concerned enough about it to ensure that I put it into action.

Three of these ‘somethings’ have happened so far this week, and as I lay in bed last night, I didn’t need to remember what was in that file, because the file popped itself out of my memory cabinet.
On Monday, everything seemed to get away from me – including the dog who had stolen the last teabag of my favorite kind of tea, and only surrendered it when he had successfully broken it open and eaten it’s contents (I guess he likes it too).
On Tuesday, my daughter was recounting something that had happened at school and I had been so shocked (although I probably shouldn’t have been that shocked) that I had tripped over my own feet while we were walking – but thankfully was saved by the wall, and managed to escape uninjured. Later that day, I was helping push a friend’s car after its battery ran flat, and found myself with loose sand beneath my feet. I almost fell. Almost.
I lay in bed last night, listing in my mind : Manic Monday, Treacherous Tuesday – and the file all but smacked me on the head (I guess it had grown impatient with holding this particular content).

About eight and a half years ago (yes, it’s been in that file for approximately eight and a half years!!!) I found myself completely deserted and alone, with my two beautiful children. It felt like it had happened overnight, but probably just because it was suddenly so overwhelming. Being a woman, and a rather emotional one at that, everything just seemed so terribly awful. (I guess in a way, it was.)
To suddenly be a ‘me’ (as opposed to an ‘us’), as well as Mommy and Daddy to my then 20-month-old daughter and almost nine-year-old son – well, it just felt like I was in the middle of a football field, with angry teams approaching from either side, and no protection of my own.
I decided I needed protection, because my children needed me, and joined a few online support groups and signed up for enough counselling programs to get me through the year, delivered to my inbox daily. Because I just didn’t want to talk to anyone face-to-face about any of it, and the only place I ever went for that year was to work, and my colleagues knew the topic was taboo. I even changed where I shopped, which was actually inconvenient, just to avoid any mention of anything.

One of these counselling programs spent a week focusing on not focusing. That week was dedicated to being an encouragement to others, listening to others, caring about their problems and offering words of motivation and comfort to them.
It was about not focusing on anything to do with you, but instead pulling into focus those around you. By the following week, I actually felt a little better. Which, of course, was revealed as the point of the week long exercise – and something I probably would have picked up on if I hadn’t been in the place I was emotionally.
At the conclusion of this particular course, they gave me a summary page of points that had been raised, as well as some actions that could be taken to help me cope with everyday life, which I read through and filed away. I was coping by that stage. But I knew I’d need it later.

One of those things was to choose a day, or a week, or a month – in each year – that you would make a commitment to make a difference in someone else’s life, either through inspiration, motivation or encouragement. It was also to make an effort on the days when you felt overwhelmed, to dedicate the next five minutes of your time to doing one of the above as well. I had made a mental note on these notes – how about naming your days?

So this morning, I have. The working/school days, that is, that are the most difficult to get through for me. And here they are:

Moody Monday – Monday is not considered the first day of the week, but it is usually the first working day of a new week, and the first school day for that week. Moody Monday does not mean that there is an excuse to be in a bad mood. All it means, for me, is that I need to make allowance for the fact that this day represents a return to work/school, after a weekend of fun and relaxation, and that the ‘moods’ in the house may not be exactly jovial (which includes my mood). So I need to be a little more tolerant of irritability in my children, or a general sense of impending gloom, and try and be a bit more sensitive with anyone who may cross my path – because I doubt the moodiness is isolated to only my home.  I need to also recognize that I may be irritable and feel gloomy, and so this is the day to making a special effort to check my attitude, and try and change it if it’s not what it should be.

Treat Tuesday – is exactly what it says. I don’t usually ‘treat’ on the weekends – it’s the weekend and you can spend most of the time relaxing and having fun, which in itself is a treat. But Tuesday? Well, we made it through Monday, and we’re all still alive, so we deserve a treat. This usually comes in the form of an ice-cream, or a special candy bar (one that we don’t usually purchase), or kids choice for supper. The treats are all kid-orientated, so for me Treat Tuesday means that I don’t do the dishes 😉

Wonderful Wednesday – It’s halfway through the ‘working’ week, and it’s either been good, bad, or mediocre so far. Whatever it’s been, it’s the day to be wonderful. Because if it’s been bad, there are only two more days left; and if it’s been good, then of course it’s wonderful. Mediocre? There’s hope for a change, and if it’s bad for the rest of the week, well then there’s always next week. And what better way to be wonderful than to make someone else feel wonderful. So this is the day of compliments, inspiration and motivation. (I try to be complimentary, inspirational and motivational all the time, but in particular on this day.)
Although I smile most of the time, this is the day you will be awarded with my best smile – and you won’t even have to earn it. In fact you can be grumpy and irritable, and bite my head off, but I will still smile. It’s Wonderful Wednesday, and I am making a very conscious effort.

Thrifty Thursday – has nothing to do with spending money, because I have none. And while time is also an issue for me, this is the day that I give away the short amount I get to have as ‘me time’. I can be rather selfish with my ‘me time’ and tend to only sacrifice what I would really rather be doing in that time when it is convenient for me. But on Thrifty Thursday, I do it, whether it suits me or not. That half hour that I have where I could be reading my book, or watching my series, or lying in my bath thinking of nothing? I pick up the phone and listen to a friend, or visit with someone – those types of things. I make an effort to give away that ‘time of mine’.

Finally Friday – By this time, I am usually thankful that the working/school week is almost over…and so my commitment is to thankfulness. A day where I utter out loud all the amazing things I have to be thankful for – the small ones and the big ones. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I spend the rest of the week in a state of ingratitude. Not. At. All. But I try a lot harder (although some times I fail) to keep my focus on an attitude of gratitude, and more importantly, try to hardly complain.

So my days have officially been named – it’s on paper now, more importantly, on a blog for the world to see (not that the ‘world’ will see it, but you know what I mean) – so now it’s even more of a commitment! So roll on Thrifty Thursday, as Wonderful Wednesday starts making its way to its end 🙂

Apron Strings and Daughter Things

I really don’t know why they make us go to these parent teacher meetings at the beginning of every new school year. They just repeat everything we were told the year before. This year, it was a combined thing so we were all together, and not in our individual teachers classrooms. At least last year it felt more personal, and the teacher was able to communicate to her parents her methods and what she wanted for that particular year. Last night we were one of 300 sheep, just being told the general rules and regulations that have been told to us for the past four years. It was annoying, and boring.

The only thing different came at the very end. They discussed the excursion for this year, and my brain stopped yawning.

This year, my soon-to-be eleven-year-old daughter will be flying the coop for two nights and three days as she joins the rest of her grade on an outing to the mountains. There, they will sleep in dormitories; go on hikes to nearby waterfalls and experience the icy cold of the waters beneath them; participate in abseiling and obstacle courses; and attempt climbing walls.

All of last year, my daughter kept saying that she didn’t want to go – which was surprising because she loves the outdoors and all those adventure activities are right up her alley. But the thing with her is this: she doesn’t like the dark (we sleep with the bathroom light on at night), she has been the victim of some bullying (and those kids will be going too), she doesn’t like being forced into doing something (and they pretty much make you take part) and she’s rather accident prone (if she hurts her leg/ankle, she can’t dance, and by her own admission, dancing is her life!).

Schools have been taking kids to this particular adventure camp for years. In fact, I went back in the day – except with us we did it as a Grade 7 excursion. My daughter is a lot like me – and my experience was only 70% great.

At night, I couldn’t sleep because some of the other girls in the dormitory were unsettling. I was also scared of the dark and there were NO lights on – and the teachers were sleeping in the room next door, not in the dormitory with us.
I was petrified of the climbing wall overhang for some strange reason (I loved abseiling) and wound up crying halfway through it, after being forced into participating…which meant I got teased by the other kids for the remainder of our time there.
I slipped on the rocks at one of the waterfalls on the last day, and twisted my ankle – which resulted in me having to be carried ALL the way back to ‘camp’, and more teasing.

In all of my daughter’s nervousness, I have been encouraging her, and keep telling her ‘it will all be fine, you must go’. (She knows nothing of my experiences, and I won’t tell her either!) The trip is compulsory, the school doesn’t give you a choice – in fact the only way they will allow that a pupil does not attend is in the case of the death of a family member. Upon returning from the meeting last night, I asked my daughter if her feelings had changed with regards to taking part in the excursion. Apparently, my little adventure queen now can’t wait and is ‘definitely going’.

Now I am the one with mixed feelings, leaning more towards locking her in her bedroom for the remainder of her life, let alone those three days.

It’s not just based on my experience years back, but also on my son’s experience when he went a few years ago – and came home to not sleep alone for six months, which is credited to all the ghost stories that were told, and some teasing and bullying that took place thereafter. My son has always been afraid of ghostly things – he’s improved as a teenager, although I think he knows each and every woven thread of the inside of his blanket from watching horror movies with his friends.

My daughter is tough though – so I am sure she’ll be fine. She’s a strange combination of Princess and Pirate. And I’ll have to lecture her beforehand because I am pretty sure SHE will be the one telling the ghost stories.
I think I’m more concerned for safety sake – because of where we live, and the fact that she is a girl. And deep down there is also that voice screaming, “And she’s my little girl!”

I just have to keep telling myself it will be okay. And somehow let go, just a little.
It’s difficult when she is with me all the time, and only sleeps out for a night maybe three times a year, and at a friends house down the road – not two hours drive away from me!

I can’t help wondering if she will in fact be all right.
But then again, I need to recognize in myself: this is mostly Mommy fear – more importantly, will I be okay?

I don’t think I should cut the apron strings just yet, but perhaps I’ll loosen the knot a little.

It’s in the little things of that moment when…

Today is a day where I find myself experiencing chronic fatigue, and an overwhelming urge to pull the duvet over my head and sleep till all the big things that are plaguing me and causing me undue stress have passed – because all things pass and come to an end sometime, right?

Unfortunately, when it comes to the big things, ignoring them or hiding from them does not make them go away – they just become bigger, and more overwhelming. They need to be dealt with, one step at a time. Giants need to be faced – even if you have to wear an adult diaper to do so.

It’s taken me a really long time (pretty much my whole life) to realize that when the big things threaten my peace of mind and leave me feeling lost in a sea of hopelessness, I should take a moment and remember some of the good ‘little’ things that make me happy. In doing so, I am usually able to draw a little extra strength for the tasks at hand.

So here are some ‘memories’ for my ‘little things’ today :

– That moment when you’re away from harsh lights and the big city, and look up at the night sky, and see a million stars looking back at you.

– That moment when you’ve reached the end of a long day, and are driving home in exhaustion, and are able to experience the glorious colors of a beautiful sunset.

– That moment when you wake with a start, see the time and realize you’re going to be so late, and then remember it’s Saturday and you can close your eyes again!

– That moment when your child spontaneously turns to you and says the magic words, “Thank you for all that you do for us, Mom”.

– That moment when you’ve tried a new recipe and it looks good, and tastes even better!

What are some of your ‘little things’?