Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Love Guaranteed!

February - The month of love and romance and Valentine's Day is an awful day to be without both. To remedy this, For the last 27 days I have been on an online course entitled, "Find Love in 27 Days". It was free or I would have asked for my money back as today is day 28 and guess what!
It was obviously put together by an oriental Feng Shui-ng Love Witch as it was a combination of Affirmations, Visualisations and the placing of weird symbols in various places in my house.
All very weird and even weirder were the comments of those who were taking all this seriously - like asking if plastic flowers were acceptable when being told to put two red flowers in a white vase in the bedroom or one devotee exclaimed it was only day four and her boyfriend had proposed.
Some things that I was asked to do if I wanted to find love were.....

  • Put a higher watt bulb in my bedside lamps - I was assured that this would turn the passion up in the bedroom (I now wear sunglasses in bed)
  • Place a monkey figurine on a mirror underneath the bed in the position of where my beloved would be resting his lovely self (I actually tried this but my monkey statue was a little tall and wouldn't fit underneath and I needed the mirror to do my eyebrows)
  • Burn a sage leaf and waft the smoke around my mattress (no way, I am not to be trusted with flaming vegetation) - I was then supposed to move my bed to the right or left of its original position and put pink sheets on it (I do not own pink sheets and couldn't risk putting my back out shoving my bed around)
  • My Daily affirmations had to be written in black at least once and no more than 9 times, in my own hand .....Hello! then 'activated' in red pen. I have used affirmations in the past while meditating and for motivation so I didn't feel quite so weird trying these although saying them out loud at least nine times during the day felt slightly odd .......Yes that was me chanting, "I am NOW flooded with love!" on day 5 in the public loo next to yours while flushing! 
  • I gave up with the Feng-shuing on Day 8 when I was instructed to make a preparation with kosher sea salt and uncooked rice which had to be stirred in a clockwise direction with the index finger of my left hand for the number of years I have been alive plus one - no shit - and sprinkle this in the corners of each room. I don't rest easy with rice sprinkled in my corners.
  • Half way through the course a secret symbol (its not a secret anymore) was revealed to me which is supposed to be VERY potent - I was to carry this symbol around with me. I made it a screen saver on  my phone - nothing happened except I couldn't see my apps clearly.
In addition to this -and there was a different weird instruction for 27 days - and together with my chanting affirmations - I was  instructed to write a piece about my perfect partner everyday for 2 minutes and forty seconds in my own hand with no distractions. What he looks like, what he would be wearing when I met him, about his occupation and our home and life together. I realised by day four that I was describing George Clooney and no Feng Shui was going to bring him to my door!

Each day following the instructions would be an enthusiastic paragraph by 'Ellen' the lady who promises love in 27 days - giving  you examples of how it has worked for her clients and friends and mentioning all the testimonials that have been given regarding her amazing course.

It is now over - The final instruction was to go outside with a bottle of bubble mixture and blow large bubbles and to imagine that my perfect partner and I were in one strolling hand in hand or kissing, ardently, and to watch us float away inside a big bubble towards the God of Marriage .......Did I mention that this was to happen when its a full moon?

Ellen - I think you need help and don't expect an invitation to our wedding any day soon! George is not long married and the father of twins. Plus I just couldn't find the two pink peonies and five red bats to put in that silver box you urged me to get and place in the 'Helpful People' area of my bedroom

If nothing else it was worth logging in everyday for entertainment purposes lol. Today I declined when asked to enter my name and download my Certificate of Completion. I just don't think it will look good on my CV.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A peek at my week ....or two

February! How did we get here already - a whole month gone! Granted I have been busy - I came back to a full month of work but I have managed to live a little this month.
I spent the last few days of my holiday setting some goals and making plans for the year and I am already making progress and making IT happen.

Back to work and finishing off projects that were started last year - my groups have made progress and almost at the end of this round of their learning journey and I am pleasantly surprised at their success! There were times that I doubted they would make it.
I am determined not to let work swamp me so early in the year so I have made an effort to get out too and I spent last week chasing Sunsets. They have been beautiful and especially beautiful over water.
Have also been to the doctors - I cut my thumb with one of Mark's new knives. The family seemed to think my distress was hilarious and told me it was nothing and I was making a fuss but on Sunday when it was still bleeding, I went off to the doc who said I should have had it stitched but it was too late now so my thumb has been glued together and is still throbbing!

Everyone I know just about! I celebrated my birthday with family and a couple of close friends courtesy of Mark and Helen and Little Walmer Golf Club - a very pleasant venue. I have also had a couple of meet-ups with friends enjoying cocktails and taking advantage of the Gin trend - I am LOVING this gin revival because I have always enjoyed a chilled G&T with ice and slice. Now the gin or tonic water comes in pretty pinks and peach hues and the ice is still there but the slice can now be cucumber or strawberries or this weekend rosemary and lemon or even nasturtiums! Wasn't sure whether to drink that one or plant it! A few catch-up lunches too and a movie. In fact this week I have pledged to a movie fest as there are three out that I want to see. I watched The Post last night - Meryl Streep never disappoints! I also want to see The Shape of Water and The Showman - I am sure Hugh Jackman will delight me too!

Very little - Despite all the lovely things in the shops I walk around muttering -I don't need anything - I have too much of everything already. I confess to buying some really comfy Phelan shoes on line as my tootsies were so puffy after that  L-O-N-G flight (despite me wearing flight socks). I bought a voucher late last year for three months at Curves Gym and I am back on those machines and quite enjoying the familiarity of the workout and the friendly staff there.A new tax disc for my car too as mine disappeared while I was away - it was surprisingly painless to replace and I am grateful for that.

..........and yes. I have started the year with the past, and the man in Natal, firmly behind me. I have enrolled in a couple of course - one involves teaching English and the other involves February and the month Love :-) I will report progress on both!

New York - New York!

I've been back a while now and have finally caught up with myself - but I can't let my trip to New York go undocumented. New York has never been on my bucket list as I had declared it too far away and too expensive for me to even dream about, but Sean and Nadine moving to the States made it possible and I was so lucky to be able to experience what I thought I would only see on the big screen or read about in books.  This is what I remembered the most about our visit!

 Brrrr! It was below freezing all the time we were there and the coldest its been for nearly a century so the news channels were giving weather advisories and tips on avoiding frost bite - like not leaving skin exposed for more than 30 minutes when the mercury dropped to - 27 in the evenings! Even the slightest breeze and those skyscrapers act like wind tunnels so the wind chill was immense and on a drafty corner the cold just sliced through you. We would not have survived without our three layers of thermal clothing, snow gloves and boots and the hand warming pads that Nadine had the foresight to pack. It had its advantages though as the crowds were less and how else would I ever get to see a fountain frozen solid!

The city's non stop sensory overload scrambles your frequencies. A 24/7 cacophony of sound - Cars, Traffic, Sirens, Hooters and the occasional thud of music escaping a club or a bar.
How valuable silence must be in a place that never stops making noise.

The lights - The colour - the busy-ness all created a fabulous party atmosphere for no particular occasion - I could imagine it packed as I have seen on the TV so many times as the New Year is celebrated. It was particularly cold when Sean and I ventured there to take photos at dusk. I can say I had a genuine American hot dog in Times Square surrounded by people of all nations and races at the start of 2018.

By contract this was a grey, emotional, somber and sobering experience. Standing under the remaining tower reading all the names of those murdered there - I looked up to see a plane approaching the tower - it is on a flight path - and could imaging the horror. I read so many of the names and thought who were these people. Who was Michael Breightwiser and Mandy Chang, and that single rose left for Pamela Lee Gaff. Who was she and who left the rose - still grieving and remembering after all these years. Hope is here too though, and we stood by The Survivor Tree which was incinerated in that carnage but refused to die - a green shoot appeared and it was rescued and nursed and now stands tall and healthy - a testimony to desire to live!

We also soared to the top of the ROCKERFELLER CENTRE to the observation deck at dusk to look down over the Empire State Building and the rest of city as the lights came on. Then 70 floors back down in the ear popping lift to see the skaters whizzing around under that huge Christmas tree. The streets buzzing with people despite the cold.

The STATUE OF LIBERTY - a symbol of hope and a new future for many as they escaped poverty, persecution and famine in their home countries.

Surprisingly I didn't do much shopping there but I did buy a two-pom-pommed hat - that made me stand out in the crowd in case the family even thought about losing me!
Like London, New York is great to visit but also great to leave. I would go insane if I lived there - I value my space, quiet and green spaces too much!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Motown Magic

Time is flying by ...... perhaps because its that time of year or perhaps I had forgotten how time consuming children are ..... or perhaps its just because I am enjoying myself immensely. It happens when you are on holiday - you want to put the brakes as the days just speed past.

Its cold here - really cold and hard not to succumb to the temptation of staying warm and cosy inside but we layer and boot up and put our frozen smiles on and head out. Yesterday we headed downtown again - it just happened to be the coldest day in Detroit in 92 years - there is a reason for this, the weathermen tell us that we have a push of  arctic air - in other words the North Pole has moved to Novi - Brrr! We are so comfortable in the car - everything is heated - my seat back, my headrest and there is hot coffee within arms reach - the roads are clear, the sky blue and we are wearing sunglasses - its deceiving. Our destination today is the Motown Museum.

Over fifty years ago as a teenager in the north of England, I bopped around to a 'new' sound sensation. The Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and my favourite Isley Brothers - I am talking about Tamla Motown. I would never have dreamed that I would have stood on the same ground as where that music was written and recorded.
 You can read about the Motown Museum here - I didn't realise the humble origins of the business brain and creative genius behind it all Berry Gordy. The studio in its heyday operated 22 hours a day churning out hit after hit - 180 number ones. - and putting African American youngsters on the path to stardom. The museum is the row of houses where all this happened and the tour is focused in one of the houses where the recording studios were - in the basement. Everything has been preserved as it was then - amazing!  I am so grateful that fate has brought me here to experience the origins of music that not only shaped the music scene in America and the UK - it shaped me too! Motown music broke down the barriers of racial prejudice and united people. When the person next to me at the video screening preceding the tour asked where I was from and I told him - he nearly fell off his chair! "to think we were dancing to the same music thousands of miles apart..."
There are plans to expand the museum - I am so glad I saw it as it is now - I reconnected with my soul music.

We headed for warmth in a tiny coffee shop -full of hipsters with interesting beards! Excellent coffee and business was brisk. Also on the 'things to do in Detroit' was to dine out on a 'Coney Dog'. There are two shops next door to one another and we wanted to do a comparison so we had one at each. A 'coney' dog is a local delicacy consisting of a hot dog sausage in a roll dripping with mince chilli sauce and topped with raw sweet onion. Delicious and I am sure Sean will be popping in for a 'Daawwg" regularly.

Then as we'd promised a certainly lady that there would be skating - we made our way to Campus Martinus park in the town centre expecting it to be closed because it was -20. It was buzzing with skaters - and spectators - gathered beneath a towering Christmas tree and some huddled around outdoor fires in between skating. Rosy cheeks and all very festive!

I headed to another coffee shop - this time the better known Starbucks and sat in the warm while Adam catnapped and Katherine enjoyed her first attempt at ice skating on the coldest day in Detroit in 92 years!  Gosh - we were glad to get back in the warm car and the journey home was very quiet with two sleepy children and me already replaying all those motown hits in my head. Magic.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bigger and Better

I have been here for a week and it is wonderful - you know the saying 'bigger and better' well the US is exactly that. Things that I am loving the most:-

  • It goes without saying that family time is the best and just hanging out with Sean, Nadine and the grandchildren is fantastic.
  • People are proud of their flag and their country. 
  • The snow has made everything into a white winter wonderland and everything looks so pretty.
  • The homes are all decorated beautifully for the season.
  • I haven't seen any poverty - no one has asked me for money! I know that there is poverty here but its not where I am and its in the minority.
  • People are so polite and helpful - no grumpy faces or snootiness either.
  • There is a real family vibe.
  • The school bus passes the house at around 8.15am and brings the kids home after school too. On time daily - all weathers!
  • Katherine's school is a lovely warm place full of happy children enjoying learning and discovery.
  • I have yet to encounter a taxi driving recklessly.
  • There is respect for the law. I have felt safe and secure and not checking if my alarm is on or my car door locked.
  • The water that comes out of the tap is safe to drink and ice cold.
  • There is free wi-fi everywhere.
  • There are some real bargains to be had - In all my travels I compare the cost of food in SA and overseas - Food is really expensive in South Africa - We are being ripped off by the big four supermarkets. 
  • The postal service is brilliant and with one click you can have anything on your doorstep the next day.
  • They collect your mail too - if its stamped and in your mail box - there is an indication system to let the postman know that you have a letter to go.
  • Katherine can play out in the street with her friends and so will Adam be able to when he is old enough.
  •  WOW -There are baby changing facilities in the men's bathroom!

                                                         ...........I could go on and on! First World living is .......first class!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Two sides of the coin.

I have been feeling a bit mean...Not easy to admit as I pride myself on being a generous and kind person but last week my empathy flew out of the window as at every turn there seemed to be a person with their hand out asking me for money. It started on a drive home from Summerstrand when at every traffic light - all six of them - a hand was put under my nose. The pleading look - that I am sure is practiced to perfection in the mirror - head slightly down and on one side, eyes raised accompanied my a tap on the belly - which doesn't look all that empty to me! Then there are those with dogs - just to appeal to my love of the furry kind,  and worst of all those who use children to dodge in and out of vehicles while I hold my breath!
All designed to make me feel guilty for having a car, a job, food and a home. All these things are perfectly normal for people to have in other countries but here they are a luxury and I must pay for having them!  I know that people are struggling - guess what most people I know are struggling! I have also had a week where some of my group of learners - who are all earning a salary and have the best of phones - have asked to lend money for lunch - bus fare - ect. They just about fainted with exasperation because I asked them to buy their own lined paper - for some reason they feel I must supply this and headache pills and pritt and pens, pencils and .....and!
And to top it all - SARS are now wanting more of my hard earned money so that they government can pay social grants to all the teenage mothers and people who they have failed to provide opportunities for work to.
YES... I think that I am over Africa....tired of those pleading eyes....and being harassed at traffic lights and in car parks - Lets be honest car guards are really just formalised beggars. I am perfectly capable of finding a space, parking my vehicle and un-parking it. I am just tired of people wanting me to give my hard earned money to them and making me feel bad for not wanting to.

On the other side of the coin - I volunteered to collect for Autism EC this Saturday. I asked Jessica if she wanted to help and the reply came back,"only if I can wear a tutu." When I went to fetch her there were two fairies in tutus waiting and all I had to do was supervise! This time I was surprised at those who gave. The most generous, I observed - the elderly and the infirm and also students and moms with  young children - those who perhaps with least money to spare. Jessica and her friend loved the interaction and listened  most politely while some of the older folk liked to chat. Their tin soon filled and they were amazed how it all added up. It was the longest that I have seen Jess without her phone in her hand for a long while too :-) Best of all they are keen to repeat the process soon.

I was raised to be kind - I was rewarded for being helpful - I know I am fortunate but its NOT normal when the needy outnumber the un-needy. When those who HAVE outnumber those who haven't and when the takers outnumber the givers. Lets get this in perspective!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Samara - A little piece of heaven on our doorstep!

My life has two modes at the moment – Work and Play. I came back from Namibia and worked like the clappers for three weeks so that I could take time out last week to connect with nature again. I just had to have my green fix!  I am a restless soul and right now I am treading water and being patient as another chapter of my life is unfolding - I am stuck between my circumstances and my future so I need to have milestones to peg my time on as I make progress and last week was one of them – a trip to a reserve not too far away that I have wanted to travel to for some time. My next milestone is my December trip and first time ever visit to the USA. I am literally counting the days and its 22 more sleeps. That’s another three weeks of working like the clappers! Don’t get me wrong I am so grateful for my work, it is a blessing, but it was great to get away last week.
Samara – I have been receiving a newsletter from them since I entered a competition  so had been following the development of this ten year old reserve for a while. It has been the dream of Sarah  and Mark Tomkins to return these plains of the Camdedoo  to their natural state, a time when animals roamed freely and were plentiful. They started to buy failed farms in the area and the property is now over 60,000 hectares. It is being stocked as funds and circumstances allow and is most famous for its cheetahs.  The owners live in the UK but visit often, and are passionate about the environment. It is beautiful – I felt at home from the moment I arrived and because it was mid-week I was the only guest on the first night so it was personalized service and my own private ranger!
Elephants are a new edition to the reserve – they have just adopted a small herd from Kwandiwe so there is a particular interest in tracking them and seeing how they are settling in ….and I can report very nicely thank you! 
We followed them for a while and then headed towards giraffe we had spotted in the distance. As we drew nearer, Thendui (my very own ranger) parked the vehicle and we approached them on foot. They were quite at ease with this but also curious to see who had come to visit! They are tall – we all know that – but when you are on the ground they are look really really tall. I spent almost an hour meandering with them – ensuring a reasonable space between us. It felt a little surreal. We stopped for snacks and sundowners and were joined by the elephants as they had their evening snack – again Thendui  anticipated where they would be emerging and we drove there and again on foot waited for them to emerge – we kept our distance but again to be on the ground as they came through the thicket was such a thrill. Back at the homestead a bowl of warm water and a fluffy towel was waiting as was a lovely warming and very welcome sherry!
Dinner for one that evening ….I got chatting to a chef who was using this quiet time to train staff on a new menu and yes – of course she identified me as the person who would eat anything and everything that they had prepared and I was a very willing guinea pig. Afterwards I rolled off to my room to find warm, fragrant bathwater waiting and chocolate truffles begging to be eaten! I was in heaven……..
Day 2 and up before the crack of dawn to catch the early morning game. Our first visit was to a mother and baby rhino and once again – we walked in perfect silence towards them from the vehicle. They grazed quite happily and allowed us to about 5 meters away. Unbelievable – I was taking a morning stroll with the rhino. Her little boy was most interested in us and mom had to keep nudging him to keep him from getting under our feet.
Then to top this we tracked the cheetahs to a rocky incline – hardly visible from the vehicle as we walked closer up popped mom cheetahs head and then her four cubs got interested and joined her for family photos!  Again we were very quiet and Thendui ensured that she was comfortable with us. He has been at the reserve for six years and has known the mother and cubs from birth so I felt quite safe. They are not tame by any means and had we tried to touch her or her cubs, we would have been their next meal. It was awesome standing there with them in that wild and beautiful place – no sound, no litter, wide skies and fresh clean air. I was in heaven…….
I was fed sweet potato pancakes with berry coulis on my return and just in case I was still hungry, a Karoo breakfast followed. It’s no wonder that I returned to my room and slept.
I awoke in time for afternoon tea and was joined by a Swiss couple – she a pharmacist and he in shipping – hmm Switzerland is land locked but it does not stop them having a fleet, I learned!
Our afternoon drive again consisted of close encounters with giraffe, although the cheetahs were elusive. We followed the elephant and while we were sat watching and discussing them in the vehicle, and the smallest one decided to chase us. Whether he was wanting to make friends or wanting us to leave him in peace – we will never know. As we pushed foot in the vehicle - I learned how fast elephants can run.
Another sumptuous meal awaited  but I ate quickly and left the young Swiss couple to a romantic tete-a-tete.  A warm bath awaited me and a night of sweet dreams.
I was sad to leave the following day – sad because I had such a great stay but also because I know that the next few weeks are going to be hard slog as 2017 careers to an end.  I want this year to be over as, despite my travels and envious proximity to nature, on a personal level it has been a challenging one for me. My life is going through a major overhaul – a very welcome one and I am excited for the changes to come.