Tales and Tails

Today’s blog post was inspired by an occurrence this morning – more of an encounter with a local creature. But I’ll get to that 😉

was going to post a picture of said creature… BUT, I am sensitive to the fact that there may be someone out there who is terribly afraid of this kind of animal. SO….

Here in SA we get lots of Gecko’s – I believe they are a worldwide creature, so they get around 😉
Geckos are lizards belonging to the infraorder, Gekkota, found in warm climates throughout the world. (I got that from the site I’ll link you to in a moment.)

My house sometimes seems overrun by them – I don’t mind, except that they make a mess! Because I am not afraid of them, as such. I welcome them, in actual fact. So long as they stay running along the walls and ceilings!
Mine are Albino. So they’re not as pink as the picture on the site I am going to link you to. In fact, they’re really a creamy colour, with a pink hue – and they’re pretty much see through. Yeah… they’re not very attractive at all! But I kinda like the little fella’s. And in my house they are affectionately known as ‘Geckies’.

I have had to rescue a few, that have dropped in the empty bath and can’t grip the smooth sides. Or the little ones that hang out in the shower and need to be caught and moved before we send them down the drain. Catching them is always quite stressful and usually ends up with an ‘ewwww’ moment – they lose their tails! And the tail still thrashes around for a while afterwards! Ugh!

So before I share my Geckie tales… here’s the link (which has a picture, please be warned) in case you want to check them out and read some interesting facts.

‘TAIL’ one :

That’s not the right spelling, but this mornings encounter was with a tail!
Outside my bedroom, I have an undercover patio area/veranda. There are about fifteen Geckie’s who reside there. It’s not surprising, because I leave the outside light on when I go to bed, and they congregate around it and have a feast! 😉 They usually hide out of sight during the day. This morning, my dogs woke me at 06:00, wanting to venture outside. It was still quite dark out, which meant the Geckie’s were still dining.
I always need to keep an eye on my little dog – she’s a Yorkshire Terrier cross, and loves hunting my poor Geckies. I climbed back into bed, to just be, after I’d opened up for the dogs.
And I heard the Geckie drop off the wall, with quite a thud. I quickly jumped up and cordoned off the area, so that little Miss couldn’t access him. And I watched him run off under the table and up the wall again. But he left his 7 centimetre (almost 3 inches) tail behind! It was thrashing about like there was no tomorrow! I needed to pick it up before little dog decided to try and eat it… so I grabbed a couple of tissues.
And I uttered my ‘Ewwwwwww’ and then picked it up… still feeling it moving around!
Down the toilet it went!
And then I desperately needed coffee!

Tale two :

This has happened to me a couple of times…
Turn off the lights to go to bed, seeing the Geckie on the ceiling near my bed. Telling it, ‘You better stay up there, buddy!’, and then getting myself comfortable for blissful sleep.
Hearing the plop, and feeling it at the same time, as it just drops off the ceiling, on to me!
This is usually followed by a mad scramble as I try and grab the little dog, and get out of bed to switch the light on, as quickly as I can. Then it’s Geckie location attempt time, and if I manage to find him, then I chase him to the nearest wall to climb for safety, before little dog gets released. All the while, she is struggling and whimpering in my arms, because she just wants at him so badly. Thank goodness it’s her in my arms (6kgs) as opposed to my big baby who is 24kgs.
The Geckie usually scrambles up the wall as if nothing has happened – I swear he drops off the ceiling just to try and scare me for fun! 😛

Tale three :

I’ll end with this one – it was the absolute worst! We’re all VERY careful now!
This was a triple ‘ewwwwww’ and had me ‘yuck-ing and gross-ing’ for hours afterwards!

About two years ago, in Winter time, on an unusually cold night for my area, I decided that I felt like a nice hot bubble bath. Someone had gifted me a bottle of Sweet Rosé Wine, so I even poured a glass to enjoy while I relaxed with my bubbles. I never drank it. I did drink a few after though 😛 Here’s why :

I added some Sandalwood scented foam bath to my running water, and went to the kitchen to pour my wine. Back to the bathroom to check the water level, and deposit my glass on the little shelf next to the bath. Off to my bedroom to fetch my warm fluffy pj’s, and make sure the back was locked up. Told both my kids that I was going to bath, and then returned to the bathroom. Satisfied with the water level, I switched off the taps, stuck my hand in to check the water temperature – and I felt like Goldilocks because it was juuuuuust right! Noticed I’d left the window above the bath open, so I closed it, and then quickly took off my clothes to disappear in my bubbles.
I like really hot water, so my skin was almost instantly pink. It took a few seconds to actually be able to lie back properly, which was when I let out a satisfied sigh and reached for my wine.

And that’s as far as I got. I felt something on my leg. Thinking one of my daughter’s sponges or something had fallen in (they’re always on the side of the bath) I sat up and dipped my hand in to get it. And felt something almost rubbery and squishy. I cleared away my bubble heaven….
And there he was, minus his tail. Which was floating elsewhere in my bath. He was about 12 centimetres without it! (approx. 4.8 inches)
And he was dead, either from being burnt or from drowning. 😦
No one has ever before, or ever since, seen me get out of a bath so fast! I pulled the plug, making my usual noises, and both kids came running to the other side of the door, wanting to know what was wrong. I wrapped myself in a towel and opened the door for them, telling them about the Geckie in my bath. Both screwed up their faces, announced ‘Ewww gross!’ and left me to it. I dressed, and had to wait half an hour for the bubbles to clear. His tail had gone down the drain, but there he was, stuck in the plughole. I had to try and dig him out with toilet paper – it was just awful!
He must have come in through the open window in the few minutes I wasn’t there, and lost his grip on the steamy tiles and fallen in!
I was very sad for him.
Nowadays… if I am adding bubbles to my bath… I sit and watch it from start to finish! I don’t like guests when I am bathing 😛

If you ever travel here, don’t worry about encountering them. Most guesthouses and hotels kill them off. Geckies really do make a mess, and they can’t have that!
I just don’t have the heart – they’re harmless, and as I mentioned before, I kinda like ’em.
So if you ever visit me, you’ll see lots  😉

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Thomas River

Eight years ago, I worked for a payroll software company. Instead of having a ‘Christmas party’  at the end of the year, our boss decided to instead have an ‘extended weekend away’. Our boss paid for us, but we had to contribute for partners and children – which was entirely fair. (and we had to supply our own alcohol – the really funny part was that a whole trailer – similar to the one in the picture –  was used for this purpose! – and there were only 11 of us adults on the trip!)

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Photo credit : gccaravans.co.za

We stayed on a large farm – 9 of us in the main house, and the rest in a smaller second house on the property. A swimming pool and entertainment area separated the two houses. We had the run of the lot.

The place we stayed at is called ‘Thomas River‘. It was a time of lots of walking/hiking, riding horses for those who rode, visiting neighbouring farmers who opened their homes for us to have drinks on their patios, or just to appreciat the beauty of their lands.
Early evenings were spent at the pool table, competing against each other. Later in the evening, we’d all sit around the fireplace with our wine, and just wind down.
No cellphone signal. No television. It’s still hard to believe that we were only there for three nights and four days – we packed so much fun into our time there, it was amazing.

My favourite was the morning we spent in the historical village. I am not a person who is particularly fond of history – but this place? It had an eeriness to it, almost deserted – so rich in history that I couldn’t help but be taken in by it all!

My reason for telling you this is that I found some old photo’s that I took of our time there. So I thought I’d share them 😉

The last one is a picture of me (my hair was dyed with a red tint those days) – it’s one of my favourite photo’s of me. We’d hiked to the neighbouring farm, where the children were given a chance to ride a pony. Everyone was sitting on the big porch and stone steps, sipping on Gin and Tonic’s. I don’t like gin, so I declined the offer. I propped myself up on the stone wall, and still took part in their conversations. I can even remember now how very relaxed and happy I was that day 😉 (despite not sharing in Gin time 😛 )

Enjoy the photo’s, (photo credits all me, but can’t remember who took the one of me) and stay well, my friends.

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Beach Sunrise

I’ve mentioned before that I am a ‘mountains and waterfalls, forest and lakes’ kind of person. I think this may be largely due to the fact that I grew up in a coastal town where the beach was never more than a 5 minute car drive away.
Because we’re a coastal town, people flock to the beach in droves – and not just in Summer. Our Winter’s are generally warm, and so even though the sea temperature is not of great encouragement for swimming purposes, many visit the beach in Winter for walks, and beach games (rugby, cricket, volleyball). Young families can be found on the beach in Winter, because the children can still run and build sand castles.

It’s not that I don’t like the beach. Please don’t get me wrong. I love the ocean – but have a deep respect for it too. I love watching the waves, and can sit for hours when dolphins come out to play, or whales decide to entertain me. My children and I had the opportunity a few years back to go on a small Catamaran sailing yacht, with some of the sailors from a local yacht club. We went quite far out, and even saw a shark! It was an amazing experience and we all discovered that we may just have sea legs 😉
I love long walks on the beach, just before sunset.

That said, I do not get excited about planned beach outings. Especially when the beach is busy, which it is, more often than not, here. I like it when it’s almost deserted – but the last seven years have not allowed for enjoying this time with the horrific rise in crime.
I don’t like lying around in the sand. And I still wear long pants or a long skirt to the beach! Ha ha ha ha! I just can’t bare to share, well, my bare legs.
My friend, who is now 63, assures me that in another ten years I really won’t care what people think anymore, and I’ll don my bathing suit and go for a dip in the ocean despite them. I’m waiting another ten years 😛 😉

At the moment, our beaches are closed. And law enforcement is prohibiting us from going for a drive, just to soak in the scenery. Our 21 day lock down is surprisingly strict for my country. They’re successfully pulling it off in my town – I suppose that’s the ‘bain’ of living in a small place. But I understand why the measures are in place, and I accept them.

I found this random picture on Facebook, to show you what my local beach looks like – it’s about a twenty minute walk from my house.

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What sparked me to look for this pic?

Because I actually want to share the pictures I am going to post below, that I saw this morning. They were taken by someone who lives along one of the beach roads… basically from the opposite side of the picture above. He shared them on our community group on Facebook this morning. They were of sunrise, today.

So I thought I’d share some sunrise beauty with all of you too! 😉

Trusting everyone is safe and well!

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risky business and travel

I was reading this blog post and there was a suggestion regarding blog content. The suggestion was to sometimes take a risk, be creative and fun, and present a blog post that is a little different to what you would normally post about. It was posed to me (the reader) that without the risk there can be no reward. So today I am going to be a little risky.

And when I think of today’s post, there just isn’t any way for me to shorten it. I promise to try and keep it entertaining, so as not to lose you – but I honestly will not be offended with the many parts you’ll choose to skip over…
I mean, how am I gonna know, right?!?! 😛 😉
BUT IF YOU’RE AMERICAN, you may want to read it all 😛 😉

Picture it. (No, not Sicily 1922 Golden Girls style) It’s 1983, actually – the place I am taking you to. We’d had television in our home since its introduction in South Africa in 1976. By 1983 I was five (and yes, now you know how old I am) and thanks to my lovely grandfolks I was constantly singing about hills being alive and the trouble with Maria. This would be because my grandfolks had a video machine, and had recorded The Sound of Music from one of the few channels our TV industry sported back then. It quickly became a firm favourite and was enjoyed a multitude of times. Naturally, I passed that down to my children 😉

But there were others that they recorded too. Mostly for the older grandsons – things my mother would not allow me to watch at home. But so long as I played a good game of scrabble with the grandfolks, there was always the opportunity of glancing at the screen in their house 😉 (Yes, I could read and write from an early age – but of course they always beat me. It’s how I learnt the bigger words!)

I was eight years old when I convinced my brothers to give me the pull out posters of my favourite actors – they were going to throw those parts of their silly teen magazines away anyway. (I did have Katherine Kelly Lang adorning my wall too though, even though I didn’t know who she was at the time. I had decided that when I grew up I was going to look like her. Boy, am I disappointed! 😛 )

My little girl love was spread out evenly for these guys :
David Hasselhoff – Knight Rider
Richard Dean Anderson – MacGyver
Tom Selleck – Magnum PI

And naturally my enquiring mind wanted to know all there was to know about them, within reason, because I was still a kid 😉

By age 10 my love for American TV shows and movies had grown. And actor obsessions changed from ”just the looks” to something a little more meaningful – I wanted to meet all these stars!

But more importantly, another obsession had begun to grow within me.

THE USA!

I ate up all I could find regarding the US in those days, and dreamed of being there – many hours locked in my head in a daydream of the US, many a morning waking with a smile because I had been there in my dreams. I didn’t know anyone there, and neither did I know of anyone who was travelling there. But the USA was still a part of me, I felt.

The internet created a whole new hunk of love. It was like I was there, and the information at my fingertips was a lot broader than what I’d had in the past. It was both wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time. Wonderful that I could ‘go there’ at any time, heartbreaking because I wanted it to be physical.

Shortly after my daughters birth, and a two year stint in another town, we moved back to my hometown. A broken computer became the biggest blessing of all! Enter the computer guy – and another whole new world, way better than anything Aladdin promised 😛  The day that he came to fix my computer was a day that changed a very large portion of my life, and my heart.

He introduced me to the world of blogging. He even went so far as to set up a blog for me on a platform he was using – Xanga. He didn’t charge me for the extra two hours it took to teach me the basics, and show me where I could develop my skills. Personally, I felt he just enjoyed the fact that while I was not completely technologically challenged, I was slightly stupid in some of the ways of the blogging world. 😛 He later told me that it was actually my excitement of being able to ‘be in touch’ with actual US citizens that amused him the most 😛

(There’s a standing joke that I am an American in my heart 😉 )

That was 13 years ago. And within a year I had American FRIENDS. Our contact had gone beyond simple blogging – we were emailing each other too. The bizarre thing about all those connections was that those ‘strangers’ knew me better than the people who had my physical presence. (I think it helped that we were all very honest about ourselves and our circumstances – instead of creating a false online persona we were very real with each other.) And when I just couldn’t put any more heart into blogging due to circumstances, we took another connective step and added each other on Facebook. 

Facebook is, and always has been, my private place. When I look at my profile pictures collection, I often laugh and say, ‘the many faces of Meg’. BUT, my appearance is the only thing that really seems to change. Some people keep ‘a place’ on social media completely private, because that is where they are ‘real’. That’s not my reason. I am not hiding parts of my character that I don’t want anyone to know about. What you see here is pretty much what you’ll see there – but in a LOT LESS words 😛
The difference between here and there is that there I share more pictures – including ones of my kids. And there I have family watching – yeah, it’s complicated. I’ve successfully managed (I think) to keep my blogging world separate from the haters 😛
ANYWAY…. I am not one of those people who accept random friend requests….and I also take my time to really know someone before I am prepared to take that sort of plunge, so this was a big step for me.

Soon our communications were Facebook, regular emails, and even telephone calls.

Of those fourteen new friends, who I have never met in person, I have lost two in the past four years – not due to termination of friendship,  but sadly due to their deaths. And I cried a lot, and felt real pain at losing them – as if they’d been right here, interacting with me in physical presence, daily. But in a way they were. They were with me, thanks to the internet, in my home for 9 years +. And they’ll forever be in my heart.

One of those 14 is my sister, L. No, not biological. (Her mom was one of my friends too – sadly, she now keeps an eye on us from up above instead) L and I used to tease her mom and say that she’s lucky we weren’t biological because she never would have coped with both of us 😛

L and I found our common ground in the fact that we had children almost the same age. Her oldest is a year older than my son, her youngest is a year older than my daughter. Once we’d established that, we discovered a whole lot of other common ground in our lives. And for 13 years, we have journeyed through our lives together. We have watched each others children grow, and shared in the moments of elation and devastation that that sometimes brings. We’ve shared the triumphs and disappointments of life and the circumstances we’ve found ourselves in. We’ve both had moments where we’ve lost our way, and we’ve kind of disappeared on each other – only to pick up a few months later as if no time has passed at all – and share the learning experiences with one another.

She is me, but different. I have my strengths, but she’s stronger. She’s the fit one (she runs), I’m the fat one 😛 (I don’t know if I could even run if something was chasing me these days!) She’s successful in all the ways that count, I still have moments where I’m waiting at the airport for my ship to come in 😛 She’s braver than me, and more assertive. I admire her so much, and often look to her for advice and opinions.  For Grey’s Anatomy fans – she is my person.

The bond that has formed is so strong that even my children ‘know her’. And they mention her often, just as if she really was their aunt.  I know it all sounds so crazy and unrealistic. But it’s true.
(And yes, I asked her permission to share all this.)

My American friendships have made me love the country even more. My passion for the USA has gone from being a glowing ember to a full blown fire. It’s no longer just the places and famous people though that fuel that fire. It’s the REAL people! While it would still be great to meet one or two of my now many favourite actors and actresses, and while there are still places I’d like to see; my heart yearns to meet my American friends, who are scattered all over the US.

And I cry every time I entertain the thought of the day I will get to hug my sister and tell her in person that I think she rocks, and I love her dearly!

This blog post is actually based on a blogging question I found :

IF MONEY WAS NO OBJECT, NAME ONE PLACE YOU WOULD TRAVEL TO?

I think I made my answer clear 😉

Of course, there are many beautiful places in this world and I have a list of destinations I’d like to visit, and things I’d like to explore.

But my heart lies with my faithful American friends who have been a big part of my life for a long time. So the USA would have to take precedence 😉  With money not being an object, I guess I could go everywhere. But first and foremost (even to the point of moving there) the USA would be my choice, time and time again.

And with all the different places within the US we’d have to go, I think we’d do them proud with tourism 😉 Yes, my kids have caught this passion of mine to a large degree – my daughter a little more so than my son, but I think it’s LA that calls to her most 😛
Kansas, Oregon, New York, Texas, West Virginia, South Dakota, Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and more!

Oh, how my heart longs for it, and I think I’d find a deep, booming voice inside me yelling out loud for all to hear if I could say :

I’M COMING TO AMERICA!

But. Sigh. Money IS an object.

I have not lost hope though – I still believe it will happen one day. And of course, when that day comes, EVERYONE will know about it 😉

Wonderful Words

In my last post I addressed some interesting South African foods. The one before we looked at the differences in the words we use here in South Africa, as opposed to words that are used in America.

There are just so many of these wonderful words, and silly differences, that I could probably write posts for a month and still not have them all covered. But I will make small efforts, and today’s post is one of those.

Takkies  – pronounced ‘tacky-s’
I sometimes forget myself when chatting with my friend in Kansas, and every now and then I revert to South African words. I sent her an email, saying I was taking the children shopping before the schools started up again, because they needed school shoes (they wear uniforms here) and takkies, for sport. Thankfully, the use of the word ‘sport’ helped her to identify what I meant. Takkies is the South African word for sneakers/trainers.

Sucker
If we’re talking slang, then this is most definitely the word for a gullible human being – but I don’t think our country is alone in that line of thinking.
When I offer my daughter a sucker for consumption, I am not offering her the opportunity to eat a gullible human being (yes, cannibalism is illegal here too), but instead I am offering her a lollipop.

Shebeen – pronounced ‘sha-been’
This is the name given to an illegal drinking establishment. If the bottle store (we call it that, you call it a liquor store) is closed, and you’re feeling mighty brave, then you can always find alcohol at a shebeen – although it’s almost double the price of what you’ll pay at the store. It is, after all, what has to be considered a ‘convenience outlet’. The brave part comes in because these are normally located in rural locations, in the middle of an informal settlement, and ‘the party’ is always more than a little rough.

Packet
When you go to the store and are paying for your purchases, they will ask if you’d like a packet. If you have too many items to carry out, this may be a good idea, because what they are offering you is a disposable plastic shopping bag to place said items in. We have to pay for our packets (it’s not a lot, but still), and so it’s always a good idea to store them up at home, and take a few with you the next time you visit the store. I also happen to think it’s better for the environment if we’re re-using as much as possible as opposed to purchasing them each time, just to throw them out. And while I’d like to say that I do this all the time, I am afraid that being human tends to show up in my life sometimes, and I forget!
You can purchase a rather costly canvas shopping bag at the store though, which will last a lot longer than the plastic packets do.

Now now
This is more of a South African expression than a ‘word’. When we say, ‘I’ll do it for you now now’, we mean, ‘I’ll do it for you soon’. We’ll be doing it sooner than ‘just now’ (see the end of this post for that expression’s explanation), but won’t be doing it immediately.
As mentioned before, us South Africans are a strange bunch when it comes to time.

Donga – pronounced ‘don-guh’
When I was still in junior school, we paid a visit to a local game park, and stayed the night. That night, armed with torches, we left the campsite for a night walk, to enable us to hear ‘the sounds of the bush after dark’. Halfway down the dirt road, we were all told to please keep to the right, as there was a huge donga on the left. The strange thing about this word is that it is a Zulu word (one of the African languages of our country) and it means ‘wall’; but when using the word ‘donga’ you are actually referring to a huge ditch / gully type hole. So if I ever blog about a huge donga in the road, or in my yard, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Lekker –  a slang word which has Afrikaans origin, pronounced ‘lack-er’
This has nothing to do with being in lack of anything, so if someone tells you your shirt is lekker, please don’t be offended. The English translation of the word is ‘sweet’, but when we use it in a sentence, or as an exclamation, we’re pretty much saying it’s ‘very nice’. When I was in high school, I used this word a lot – it was cool; I was young; slang was in. Thinking about it now, I am actually surprised at how little I have used it in the past decade. This does not mean I am no longer young and cool. 😛 A lot of South Africans still use it though, so you need to be made aware that it’s not insult, should you ever visit 😉

Stoep – I’m not quite sure about explaining how to pronounce this one, so you can listen to it here. The Afrikaans language is a lot like Dutch, and so the two are often ‘together’ when it comes to sounds and translations – but if you scroll down and listen to it in Afrikaans, you’ll hear that the ‘oe’ sound is a bit shorter.
The direct translation refers to a ‘sidewalk’, but in South Africa we actually use it to describe a front or back ‘porch’. So if someone invites you to come and have coffee with them on the stoep, they don’t mean you’ll be sitting on the sidewalk sipping coffee. They’re referring to their porch – although if they’re trying to be posh (or just prefer being purely English) they may invite you for ‘coffee on the patio/verandah’.

I think I’ll finish today with this:

You’ll hear a lot of Afrikaans being spoken in a lot of parts of South Africa. And there’s a phrase you’ll hear a lot, because us South Africans can be quite polite when we want to be.
It’s the Afrikaans way of saying ‘thank you’ – ‘baie dankie‘. It’s pronounced ‘buy-a dunkie’, but when said quickly to ears that are not accustomed to the words, it can often times sound something like ‘buy a donkey’. My step mother is British, and she says that when she first came to this country, she was confused as to why everyone always told everyone else to buy a donkey, when a simple thank you would have sufficed. Eventually a friend explained it to her, and her confusion disappeared, and has laughed about it ever since.

So I am explaining it to you, so that if you come and visit, you do not feel the need to seek out a farmer to purchase an animal 😉

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”.