Monday, July 30, 2007

Where does the time go?

Can you believe that it's been nearly 1o day since I last blogged?? That tells you how busy I am!

Each of us is making their own slow adjustment to life in SA. It seems we've left one lot of rain for another. While it's been flooding in the UK, it's been storming in Cape Town. The township dwellers are stuck because if they evacuate (which they should) then their homes are perfect targets for thieves. We've had the coldest winter I can remember (and that's not just me - most Capetonians say so too) for years. Being back here has brought home to me just how poverty stricken this country is. It really is a 3rd world country. But having said that, I've been so heartened to see how every one has rallied round to help their fellow citizen - blanket drives have brought in thousands of blankets and food parcels and money for shack repairs. I was expecting there to be an attitude of 'when will these people get themselves sorted; this happens every year', but there has been such a spirit of concern and genuine sympathy. I've been so proud to call myself a Capetonian again.

One of the other things I'm loving about being home again is all the old cultural cliches - using colloquial Afrikaans again, without having to worry about not being understood. Like talking to the pikkies, or talking about robots. I'm also loving rediscovering all the old SA adverts that have become part of the culture - Lofty; Ja Swaer; a can of the best; it's not inside... it's on top; it's hot today hey Hennie?!. And I'm really LOVING being able to get FANTASTIC quality biltong and SA Smarties (which taste different to every other type) at every shop I go to!!!!

But I digress... back to the rain. There are several rivers that run through Cape Town - the Liesbeeck, the Black, and Elsies River all run near to (or through) the suburb we're living in. In all my life, I have never seen the Liesbeeck overflow its banks as badly as it did a week ago. I wish I could show you the photos I took on my phone, but I don't have the necessary cables or software (we're still waiting for our stuff to arrive and it's in there...). It was truly incredible. I stood and watched a parking lot flood - with the water flowing in at a rate of 10cm crawl in about 1 minute. It was like standing on the beach and watching the tide come in. Scary! It was the second time in my life I've been truly worried about being unable to leave a building because of flooding.

I'm still very happy teaching - which is incredible. While it's taking me time to make friends on the staff (one of the drawbacks of teaching in a school with a long and distinguished history is that most of the staff have been there for over 10 years - some as long as 30 - so the cliques are well established), on the whole I can say that I'm loving my work. I can't really remember the last time I felt that way. However, the downside is leaving Nellie and not seeing her during the day. I hate that. I miss her terribly. She's starting at play school (daycare for the under 5's) soon - Graeme will be spending time with her over the next few weeks helping her to acclimatise to the new environment and children before she starts properly. I wish it were me helping her to settle in. I want to see what her routine will be like, what the other kids are like, what the teachers are like. I want to be sure that she's going to be happy. I also want to be there to say goodbye to her as she takes this next step of independence. I guess that's parenthood - constantly saying goodbye a little more. I know that this is what she needs - the stimulation, the friends, the independence - but it sucks for me.

Nellie's godparents are also expecting their first baby! We're absolutely thrilled for them. They're going to be such fab parents! A few hours after they shared this incredible news with us though, I sat and wept for Zoe. She would be 4 months now. She'd be holding up her head, babbling, grasping for things and playing with her toes, possibly even sitting supported. I miss her. There's a constant ache in my heart. I think about her at the drop of a hat, in the oddest of places - like walking to my classroom - and promptly want to burst into tears.

While I could never replace her, I do want another baby. But I can't even think about getting pregnant until I've found a gynae, midwife and medical aid, so that dream is temporarily on hold, which is frustrating. Thinking about Simon and Heather's baby being born in a few months was hard. It came at a time when I seem to be surrounded by other people's babies. My step-brother and his wife are scheduled for their c-section on Wednesday. My cousin is due with her 2nd in a few weeks. Other friends at church had a baby girl on Friday. A school friend is due in a few months. How I long to be part of that very blessed group! My time will come, I know; I just want it to be now.

Church - there's another thing that we seemed to have slipped into. We had planned to find look around at churches before settling on one. However, after visiting our old church, we decided that we may as well join there again - at least that would be one less 'new' thing to get used to. Going there though feels like being in a time warp though. Everything's the same, but everything's different. We're at the morning service now, which we never were before. We have very few friends still there, but the ones we do have are still doing the same old. same old. We feel like strangers (which we are), but everything is so familiar it doesn't feel strange to us at all. It's this odd dichotomy. We feel displaced in some way. We'll probably still look around, but in a few months' time. For the moment it is important to reconnect with old friends, especially for Graeme.

I think he's finding the transition from full time work to house husband difficult. I remember how hard it was for me to make that transition. It's lonely and can be very boring too, and he's very shy so is less likely to make the effort to get to know people in similar circumstances. I had the benefit of a day time small group and a regular play group to take Nellie to. He has nothing like that at the moment. When we move into our own place again in a few weeks I think it will be even harder for him - at least now he has my folks around to talk to during the day.

I miss our friends from London... it's amazing how often I catch myself thinking, "I must remember to tell so-and-so about this later...", only to remember that in order to do so will mean an expensive phone call, or a late night of emailing - neither of which is desirable at the moment. Like today - Nellie was up at 3am and I wanted to share the story about it with Sarah - only to remember that Sarah was miles away. As it happened, she emailed me later in the day, and I finished work early enough that I had time to send a proper reply. But I miss that daily contact with people... I nearly said 'back home'... ! with people back in London. Guys - please know that I'm not being silent because I couldn't be bothered or because I don't care. I really do miss you, and I want to keep in contact. But all this getting used to new routines (and working out new routines) and balancing work-life balance is proving harder than I anticipated.

Nellie is growing fast - but I'll put all her news on her site (the link is on the right). I realise this post is enormously long. Sorry. That's what you get for not blogging regularly. I will try hard to blog shorter bits more frequently. Really I will.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

In South Africa??

Returning to SA I've found myself doing my old thing of being super aware of people around me. It's a learnt response to the threat of theft or mugging or hijacking. That's not to say that there is a massive threat (I don't think it's much worse than in London, for example), but that by being aware you can prevent a lot of stuff from happening to you. Anyway, today, stopped at the traffic light (robot, to Saffas) I saw the most amazing thing!

At most traffic lights, there is a range of services available to you - hawkers selling everything under the sun, people washing your windscreen, etc. So as I pulled up, I saw the car in the adjacent lane was having its windscreen washed. And then... the driver asked the window washer to open his boot and pass him his sweat-shirt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As we say in SA - slaan my dood! Blow me down with a feather! I did a double-take. At first, I thought I was watching a robbery in action, then I realised that the driver had requested this action. I couldn't believe it! I couldn't believe that a) he'd been driving around with his boot open if there was stuff in it; b) that he'd asked someone to rummage in there for him; c) that the guy had done as asked without taking anything else out (pickpocketing is a major problem in SA)! I just couldn't believe it.

And then I found myself wondering at my own attitude. Isn't it sad that my attitude is one that expects the worst? Isn't it sad that crime in cities is so bad that my attitude is warranted?! As the lights changed, I drove off in a daze, and even now I'm not sure what to make of what I saw. I don't know whether to be pleased that there are still people in this city who trust others to that extent (and therefore be encouraged and hopeful for our future) or bemused at one very stupid and naive individual. I never thought I would see something like that in SA in this day and age!

Monday, July 16, 2007

One day down...

I survived!! Graeme survived! Nellie survived! One day down... hundreds to go.

Although I had to fluff some lessons, I got through the day fine. It all felt a bit shambolic, but I got through without too much hassle. The boys seem lovely on the whole, although there are always going to be the troublemakers. I think I've already sussed who 2 of them will be. We'll see how things progress. I'm not too worried about the obvious ones - I'm worried about the ones who will be more subtle about their shenanigans, and in a school like this, there are likely to be more of them.

The head announced in assembly this morning that I would be there till Christmas - so it seems he's going to make it difficult for me to leave. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand it's really nice to be wanted. On the other, I really don't know whether I want to stay in teaching.

My HoD was asking me this afternoon whether I'd had any thoughts about it. I just laughed and said something to the effect of 'you've got to be crazy!' I just don't know how to play this one. I asked him to give me some time to think it through. He apparently had a conversation with the head today, and it seems the head is very determined to make me a full time member of staff - however he can. Apparently the post I'm covering has been filled for next year, but the head is prepared to make space for me, combining with science and/ or maths/ or whatever, to ensure that I stay. I'm not quite sure how to say that I'll stay if they pay me decently.... not to my HoD anyway. I could probably say that to the head if he asked me outright....

.... but I really missed Nellie today. I don't know how I feel about being full time and missing out on her growing up as a permanent thing. I might ask about part-time options for next year. Ag, I don't know - so many things to consider! Maybe I need some food in my stomach to help me think - and some sleep. This getting up at 6am is for the birds!

One thing's for sure - I LOVE being surrounded by Cape Coloureds again (I have no idea now what the PC term for them is, so I just hope they'll forgive me if calling them that offends them!) - they just have such joy in their approach to life. They're fun to be around, and I've really missed that camaraderie with pupils.

Who knows - maybe teaching in the UK was so soul destroying that I need this school to make me fall in love with teaching again. I just don't know right now. And I'm not going to be pushed into making that decision just yet. Time for food!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Work and play

I went into work today, to meet my Department head and get books and stuff. I have to say, as much as I really don't want to be teaching anymore, I think that this is going to be a nice job. The HoD seems really great - laid back and informal. Just my kind of guy! My lab is atrocious, but I've been told that it will be refurbished and that I can design the refurbishment, so I guess that's ok. But best of all... the department is Powerpoint enabled! Woo hoo!!

I was dreading having to go back to the dark ages of chalk and talk. But I've got my own laptop and projector. The only down side is that I have to lug them with me every day because of the risk of theft from the classroom. But I'm willing to put up with that for the luxury of not having to get chalk on my hands (or not much anyway!). I've also been given carte blanche with practicals, which is fabulous. I've been told the kids are 'nice boys' and 'responsive to a well-prepared lesson'. We'll have to wait to see whether I agree.

So overall, I'm not dreading Monday the way I was earlier today. We'll see how it all works out, and for once I'm not going to be making any rash decisions. A job at this school is a good job. As long as Graeme isn't working (much) then I'm going to have to teach, and I'd rather be in a place that has the possibility of some job satisfaction for me. So we'll see how things go.

We met up with some friends for dinner the other night, and we had a very interesting discussion about the journey our churches have been on. Both churches have been following some teaching from a church in Tacoma, in the USA. It's called Jesus Ministry, and is about implementing repentance and sanctification by getting a better grasp of what sin is and how Satan likes to keep us in bondage. This similarity in journey is one very big reason why I have been questioning our desire to move to another part of Cape Town. I don't think it's a coincidence that we were at the Ascension. I don't think it's a coincidence that Christ Church was our home church before we left. I don't know what this means, and I don't see how it's all going to pan out, but for once, I'm not desperate to figure it out.

I think I'm finally learning that it's ok to go slow and figure things out along the way. There are so many things that I would love to be doing, so many things that I feel a calling to in some respect, and I know that God has a plan to weave them all together at some point. Right now, I'm just happy to focus on today, this week, and maybe this month. I'm going to leave God to navigate the path, and hope that at some point He will tell me where we're heading.

Partly, I think this freedom comes from finally accepting that ordained ministry is not for me, that God has other plans. It still hurts, but I know that the reasons for that pain all revolve around my pride, rather than a real desire to be in ordained ministry. So that's ok. I know God is dealing with my pride. I also think that this freedom comes from grieving Zoe. Because I know how grief messes with your mind, I made a decision not to make any big decisions, after she died, for several months. It would appear that I'm listening to my own advice! (And moving to SA was a decision that had been taken before she died, so it doesn't count!)

In response to my previous post about the meaning of 'better', I think the friends we went to dinner with last night hit the nail on the head. Craig said that 'better' means you have hope. No matter how bad things are, they are 'better' because of the hope we have in Jesus. Hope that things can be different in this life; hope that they will be perfect in the life to come. Sometimes, I admit, it's hard to hang on to that hope, but my hope has always been firmly in Jesus, even if it doesn't always feel like hope. I know that his words are the words of life, words of truth, and while that is sometimes very difficult to accept, they are also words of hope, ultimately.


Well, my business website is finally up and running! Hooray! It doesn't have the shop but yet, but everything else is there. One hurdle down, only a few 1000 to go. While I encourage you to go and have a look, please be aware that it is still only the final draft. I am doing final testing and comments from my amazing testing helpers, will then make final changes, and then will hopefully have a lovely website! The address is Enjoy browsing!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

One step at a time

Today was better. Thanks for all the emails and comments and prayers. They really have helped. (Now if you could do something about the temperature in this house... I'm sitting here typing with fingers I can't quite feel... that would be great!)

My phone is working again, which always makes me feel better. My daughter loves me - that definitely makes me feel better! And the sun shone! We even managed to get in a half hour walk before dinner this evening.

I feel I owe you guys a proper post with something thought provoking in it, something serious to mull over... but to be honest, I just haven't been thinking deeply. I've been too consumed with trying to get our lives sorted out.

Although I could comment on Cape Town drivers, the lack of road worthiness of many vehicles, the doggy doo on the pavements, the weather, the bureaucracy, and several other mundane things. But I won't bore you.

Anyway, I'm going to spend some time with my DH now... I promise I will blog properly soon. Love to you all, and sleep tight!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Where do I begin...?

I shouldn't be blogging right now. Really, I shouldn't. I'm feeling miserable. That's the worst time to blog because I just know I'm going to say stuff that's going to upset people. I should just delete this and sign off. Really, I should.

But I won't, because the very action of putting my feelings down on paper (as it were) makes them manageable and less intense. So if you don't want to worry, or feel frustrated, or be otherwise upset, I suggest that you stop reading this post right now.

Don't say I didn't warn you....

I'm miserable, miserable, miserable. Quite thoroughly depressed, in fact. I know it's just the stress of moving home, job and country all in one go. I know it's a phase. I know it will get better. But right now, I'm not coping. I just want everything to be the way it was before. I want my car. I want my phone to work. I want my own home and my own space. I want Graeme to have a proper job. I want Nellie to settle down. I want my friends around me. I want my hormones to stop raging. I want to stop wanting another baby. I want Zoe alive. I want all the admin stuff sorted (like GP, driver's licences, tenant stuff). I don't want to go to work next week. Not because I don't want to work, but because I don't ever want to teach in a school again. I want it to stop raining. I want to be warm again. I want pets. I want to have time to sort out my business. I want my computer so that I can have everything in its usual place (in my favourites and email and my business files...). I want Ashley to be here so that Nellie will be happy again (Ash, she was asking to go to you again today... broke my heart to have to tell her that she couldn't see you). And none of it in that order.

And I'm so ****ing tired.

And I can't get 'Witch' face products here. And my stupid phone isn't working. (We both have SA mobile numbers now... we'll email them around once we get my phone working.) And I can't get our hard drive to talk to my dad's computer so I can't get my website up and running...

And I really, really, really don't want to teach. Please God get Graeme a proper job. Please. I don't want to be in a foul mood for the next 3 to 6 months!

So there we are. I feel lousy. I just want to cry all the time. And I burnt the stupid pumpkin fritters tonight... and the rolls for the burgers. And I can't get my daughter to eat.

Sod this - I'm going to bed. Maybe I'll feel better in the morning.

PS - Please don't write me uplifting, encouraging comments or emails. I don't want to be uplifted or encouraged. I just want this horrid phase to be over, so life can be ... I don't know. Better? Is life ever better? What does that mean? Having more money would be nice, but will it make things 'better'? Having the rain stop would be nice, but would that make things 'better' (or would it just delay the drought)? Not having to work would be nice, but would that make things 'better', or would I just be more lonely? And why doesn't my gorgeous little girl want to cuddle with me anymore? Had she stopped loving me?

See - I really need to go to bed. Some sleep will help, I'm sure. Just ignore me. I'm just depressed and this too shall pass. Night.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A day to remember

Well, we survived seeing all the family today. We saw the Broster clan for lunch, and some of the Masureik clan for tea. Nellie was very well behaved, and as charming as always.

This evening I watched a recording of a programme from e-tv, from last week. It was the first episode of a new season of 'Let's Fix It', and the recipient was Bosom Buddies. Mel is a friend I've made through her sister's blog... it's a long story. Anyway, she's a Christian who is doing something for the disadvantaged new mothers who give birth in state hospitals. They have nothing (literally - not even clothes for the baby or maternity pads for themselves!). Mel gives them something. One of her team wrote to 'Let's Fix It' and asked for donations, and they got lots! I was in tears watching the programme. Here's someone living out her faith in a practical way, touching the lives of literally thousands of people, through such simple giving. I was humbled to think that she might call me her friend.

I urge you to check out her site, and if you are in Cape Town, to think about giving some time to BB. If you're elsewhere in the world, please think about how you might be able to support Mel. There are people all over the world collecting things for BB.

Anyway, I just had to say that today is a day I will remember for a long time to come. Today I got to see how Mel has been bringing the love of God into people's lives, ushering the Kingdom in. It was a privilege!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

First note on SA soil

We've arrived, safe and sound, but very, very tired. Our flight was OK - being right at the back of the plane meant that we had a bumpy ride (and I get motion sickness).

That would have been okay except that the other kids in our section were a nightmare, especially the one right behind us, who was up most of the night, and at one point was determined to engage me in conversation - patting me on the head, saying hello, etc. (For once, I was a rude adult. I completely ignored her and pretended to be asleep.) As a result, her parents had their reading lights on for most of the night and were talking to her (very loudly, but maybe it was just a relative thing... it being so quiet on the plane otherwise...).

The woman in front of me also had friends further back on the plane who came and stood and chatted for ages while I was trying to sleep, until eventually I asked them to relocate to the back of the plane. (One of the them had the gall to pretend she didn't realise that everyone around was asleep or trying to sleep. Yeah, right. That's why we've all been giving you dirty looks for the past hour!)

Nellie was gorgeous. She slept for most of the flight, only being awake for about two hours in the middle. Even then she was quiet and well behaved - just lay on her chair looking around her, or lay in our arms looking around. She didn't eat very well, but that was the least of my worries at that point. She did eat something, and she did graze throughout our trip (door-to-door it took us 24 hours!), so I determined not to fuss about it. She was a darling in the airports - charmed everyone around her (as usual).

So now we're home. It feels weird. It feels like we're just here on holiday and that we'll be going back to the UK in a few weeks' time. I haven't quite got my head around the fact that I start work in a week or so, or around all the things we need to do in this next week (bank accounts, phones, utilities bills, GP, daycare, blah, blah, blah...). I've realised that my business will probably have to be shelved for a little while until we find out feet a bit more. I'm just so tired already, and I have a 10 week term ahead of me. I need to rest or I'll burn out before October!

I have some cute pictures of Nellie, but I can't upload them till our stuff arrives because the cables were packed for shipping. Bummer! Anyway, thanks to everyone who has sent us messages of welcome or good luck - much appreciated!

And a MASSIVE congratulations to my dear friend Vicky!!! Hope you and Steve are very happy together!!!!!!

OK - time to get started on that list of things to sort out....

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Last note on English soil

Well, the end is here. The taxi arrives in 1 hour.... and I can hear Nellie saying 'Oh No!!!' repeatedly in the lounge. Seems rather appropriate somehow.

MASSIVE congratulations to Vicky and Steve... about time too guys! Vicky - I'm sure your folks are through the roof with joy for you. I really hope that God blesses you both richly and blesses us with the finances to be able to attend your big day!

On the one hand, I just want to be out of here now. On the other, I never want to leave. I can't bear the thought of leaving all my friends. I had a massive break-down and cry on Tuesday afternoon. After Nellie's nappy leaked all over the pram and I couldn't get the cover off to wash, following the horrendous day we'd had, it just all got too much. I sat and sobbed in the kitchen for a good half hour or more. Not just sobbed, more like waves of deep grief - I'm fairly sure that the grief of saying goodbye had tapped into my grief over Zoe, which explains why it was so deep and prolonged.

Still, I am looking forward to living in the same city as my parents again. I am looking forward to a proper summer (this British flash in the pan thing they call summer is really for the birds). I am looking forward to meeting some of the new friends I've made online in person. I'm looking forward to a new sense of purpose and direction. I am looking forward to getting back on track spiritually.

So... come on, taxi! Hurry up!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sleep, glorious sleep

Last night I sat desperately watching 'Vanished' till midnight, trying to cram in as many episodes as I could before we leave. It kills me that I won't be able to see the rest of the series. I'm definitely hooked... it's WAY better than '24', and almost as good as 'The West Wing'.... sigh! I guess I'm just going to have to fork out and buy the DVDs.

Anyway, then I thought I'd catch up on the news headlines before going to bed, and sat watching the latest on the terrorist attack on Glasgow airport. The terror status in the UK has been elevated to critical. All airports and some major train/ tube stations have increased security.

And then I had a panic attack. I'm not given to panic attacks. I tend to be too pragmatic and indifferent. But I had a panic attack. I was remembering the July 7th attacks in London, when the tube and buses were hit. And suddenly I found myself panicking about Graeme going to and from work on the tube. When July 7th happened, I gave G a lift part way into work so he could avoid using the tubes. This time around, I don't have a car. He has no option but to use public transport. And it scared me s***less. It was so bad I nearly went to wake him up to make him promise me he'd borrow S&D's car and drive in for the rest of the week, and sod it with the congestion charge or the extortionate amount the parking would cost. Nearly.

So of course, with all that adrenalin flooding through my body I couldn't go to bed. I had to wait for the attack to pass and my body to relax again. So I only got to bed around 1.30am. Then my darling little Nellie decided that 4.30am was a good time to wake up. I sat with her for a while (she's been having massive anxiety attacks too whenever she has to go to sleep and insisting that one of us sit with her until she's asleep), then Graeme sat with her for a while, then I took her into bed with us (oh the joy of having a big double bed!! our bed is very narrow) for another half hour or so, until at around 5.30am she started talking to us and wanting to get up. Graeme got up with her, and I managed to get another hour or so's sleep, until they came upstairs so Graeme could shower.

I'm tired.

And I don't sleep during the day unless Nellie is out of the house.

And tonight will probably be another late one as S&D return from their holiday in France...

Sigh! Tertia - I have NO idea how you managed this for weeks on end with Adam.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

And now, the end is here, and so I face the final curtain...

When I was a little girl, I used to listen to my parents' (LP) records (those that I hadn't mangled anyway). There was one of Sinatra's song 'My way'. I know that for Christians it's anathema because the focus is seemingly on self-reliance rather than trust in God, but I love that song. The sense of pragmatic joy gets me every time. Can you imagine getting to the end of your life and knowing that you've lived a good life, that you've done all you could, that you've achieved all you could, that you've lived life to the full, to overflowing? Can you imagine living a life in which you've wrung every lost drop of emotion and experience from it? What a life! With or without God, what a life!

Looking back on our time in London I can't say I've lived that kind of life. Sure, I've done some stuff, and I don't regret the things I've done. But I regret the times I didn't do - the times I could have done something and chose not to - I could have made more of an effort to go to the theatre, or see some shows, or travel to the continent. I know why I didn't, but I wish I'd made more of life while I had it.

The saddest thing of all though, is knowing that having these thoughts now won't make me make the most of life in Cape Town. I just know that, before too long, I'm going to be stuck in a nice comfortable rut. I know that, because I like being comfortable. I don't like having to do without, or making do, or pushing boundaries, or taking risks (so quite why I'm so determined to start my own business is really beyond me, except to say that I'm really excited about it!). I like my sleep, I like to laze around the house. I like to indulge myself. And none of those things are compatible with the kind of life that, at the end of it all, says - I've lived a life that I'm proud of.

If I want God to say 'well done', then I need to get off my butt and stop being so comfortable. I'm not advocating a life of 'doing stuff' - but a life of truly 'being': spending time with Nellie and Graeme, and my siblings and their families, doing a job that MAKES A DIFFERENCE, making time for those who need me (not just those who like me, or love me), most of all - making time to sit at God's feet.

Will those things happen when we move home? I don't know. I hope so. I fear not. Time to face the final curtain on this chapter of our lives...