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 😉

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’. 😉