Sunday, April 27, 2008

Radio silence

A colleague asked me a question on Friday: How do you manage it all? He was referring to the fact that, in between managing the various facets of my job (which are substantial) I also seem to manage a family life with a toddler, a blog, and other bits and pieces on top. Hmm... how DO I manage it all? Quite honestly, I don't. In order to give attention to all the things that I want to do, and all the things I have to do, different things have to be ignored at different times. There aren't enough hours in the day to do it all.

Which is why there has been radio silence for a few weeks. Too much else on the go. With Nellie being sick during the school holidays, there simply wasn't time to do the things that needed doing, which meant that the things I wanted to do (like blogging) were bumped off the list.

So here are the highlights and lowlights of the past 2.5 weeks...
  1. The car is STILL in the garage, and will be for the forseeable future. We are awaiting a new CPU from the UK. When that arrives, it will need to be programmed, installed and tested. THEN, if everything checks out, we will get it back. (I forsee LOTS of moolahs being spent here!) ARRRRGGGH! The plus-side of this is that I've been forced to cycle to work on days I might otherwise have chickened out.
  2. The owner of the house we bought has NOT gone into receivership after all - the selling agent was lying to us. I don't know why she would do that, but she did. But now I'm feeling very disenchanted with her and the whole buying a house business. Plus I'm feeling very nervous that we won't be able to see our house in time, or for the right price.... Sigh! Buying/ selling a house is definitely in the top 5 major stressors in life, right up there with death, divorce and getting a new job. Hmm... we've done 2 of those already. Let's hope this house stress won't lead us to a divorce.
  3. Holidays were lovely, but stressful, and too short. Thank God we have TWO (count them: one, two) long weekends in a row now.
  4. My school kids start writing exams in 7 school days... I have 3 exams to set (done 2 already, one more to go) and before then, have had a MASSIVE project to mark from both the Gd 9's and the Gd 11's (roughly equivalent to Gd 9 and AS level in the UK, or Std 7 and Std 9 for the old school Saffas). They are doing a Science Fair - all 200 in each grade. The marking involves not only looking at their write-up, but marking their interview/ oral presentation, plus marking their display up in the hall. The displays are open to the public, so trying to mark during the open days is like trying to walk upstream. PLUS, being HoD I'm responsible for doing some staff evaluations, which involve a pre-interview, classroom visit and post-interview - and all before the end of June... (as well as having my own one done)... for possibly 4 staff members. Hmm... Oh yes - and we're having 2.5 hour power cuts on 2 days of the week at the moment, which makes teaching fun. NOT. Plus I'm also trying to keep on top of my extra-mural stuff. Yup - there are lots of plates spinning... let's hope I don't drop too many of them. Thank God that exams themselves are nice and quiet times for teachers (apart from the marking).
  5. Power cuts are playing havoc with our lives. But we work around them - it forces you to either manage your time very well, or to become very creative, both of which are really good things. At least Eskom has finally agreed to a schedule for the cuts, so at least now you know when they're going to happen. (Interestingly, one my Gd 9 kids worked out that if everyone in Cape Town swapped their incandescent bulbs for fluorescent ones, the electricity saving would mean there would be no need for power cuts anywhere in the country! Food for thought. Of course, there would then be the problem of how to dispose of the fluorescent bulbs, as they contain mercury - although some websites claim that using them actually reduces the mercury pollution... quite how, I'm not sure.) In particular, power cuts meant that our router got scrambled, so I couldn't get access to blogger for a few days... very frustrating until we figured out what the problem was. So now I'm back!
  6. Nellie is gorgeous, and growing more so every day. She is a constant delight to us, and I fall more and more in love with her every day. I thank God for her because she is the greatest blessing in my life. If someone had been able to explain to me just what a blessing children are... well, I don't think I would have understood, because this is one of those things that has to be experienced to be truly believed. Check out her blog for an update on her life. We recently bought a trampoline for her - best investment we've made in months! Right up there with those black motorbikes that all the kids in SA have! Little and big cousins are welcome to come and play on it with her!

Well, I think that's all... Off to spend some more quality time with my family. Yay!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

'The poor will always be with you.' Jesus

Moving back to SA from the UK made me realise how much I had enjoyed not being accosted on every street corner by the extreme poverty that exists in this beautiful nation. The difference between the haves and have nots is stark. No doubt about it.

Like many Saffas, I've found it so difficult to deal with. I've tried the blinkers thing (ie choosing NOT to see it, ignoring it completely), but wound up being hard-hearted and arrogant. I've tried the Saviour thing (ie giving to everyone in need that I see), and wound up being broke and wondering whether I'd actually made a difference at all. I've done the Responsible thing (ie giving to a charity so that I know the money doesn't go on booze and drugs), but still wound up feeling guilty every time I drove past someone in need.

Then the other day it struck me. Even Jesus admitted that 'the poor will always be with you'. As long as this earth continues, there will be haves and have nots. That doesn't give us licence to just ignore the poor, or turn a blind eye, but it does release me a bit from the cloying guilt I feel of being one of the haves. I didn't ask to be born a have. As long as I'm trying to make a difference, I don't need to feel guilty about having.

Does that make sense, or am I just trying to delude myself again? Not sure. But it's made it easier for me to just accept that I have money, and others don't.

Kill the car!

So.. day 9 and counting... (day 11 if you count the weekend) ... our STUPID car is STILL in the garage and is STILL not fixed. Nor will it be for several more days....

AARRRGH!! I would KILL THE CAR if it wasn't an inanimate object!!!

God alone knows what the cost will be, and I'm shuddering thinking about it. I know it will be at least 4 figures, but quite probably with a large numeral at the front, possibly even 5 figures. Which is a lot. A hang of a lot. Especially when you don't have it.

I love technology, except when it fails to work. Then I could just about tear my hair out, stamp my feet, scream, throw things... you get the picture. Of course, I can't do that to the mechanic, because it's hardly his fault now is it? But SOMEONE is going to pay for this debacle... just as soon as I figure out who...

And while it's pouring... Janel is very sick with the cold of the century, and we've just heard that the owner of the house we've just bought is going into receivership. Joy. So things are not looking so good re buying this house after all. And now I'm starting to feel sick... headache, backache, tired.

Someone please remind me that this is all just STUFF, and not to get so worked up about it or money ... that we have each other (if not our health!) a roof over our heads, jobs, clothes and food, and that we're actually doing just fine. Someone please remind me!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

House update

Woo hoo! Our offer has been accepted.

Now the next mammoth task is to sell our house!

Napier, or Napeer?

Thanks to loving family, we were able to take a weekend off to celebrate our anniversary. We stayed in Napier (no longer Na-peer, apparently), at a lovely retreat house called Marilee, run by a family friend, and partially paid for by Graeme's aunt.

Oupa and Ouma had Nellie for the weekend, so we were really able to relax and enjoy each other's company for a while. We had some fabulous meals out - most notably at a little pub called The Fox. It's a real little piece of England in SA. In many respects, it felt like home to us!

We took a day trip to explore the area a bit, as both of us had only ever really been in the area to go to Cape Aghulus. We had a meal in Bredasdorp, visited the candle factory there (where we bought ourselves an anniversary present of a candelabra statue) and then went on to try to visit the wine farms in the area (mostly around Elim). Sadly, they were all shut (Mon-Fri operations only).

Elim is an interesting place - not only does it have a lot of the 'the oldest' stuff in South Africa, but every person who lives there is an official member of the church (Moravian/ German) there!While in Elim though, we saw this cute little sign on the channel that runs to the mill. (If you can't read it, it says 'Blessed are the lowly'.)

All round, we had a lovely weekend.

Homes and houses

I am a home body. Always have been, probably always will be. I'd much rather people came to visit at my house, than going to visit at theirs. I'd much rather be home than anywhere else. I love my home.

As a child, growing up, we used to move home every year or two. I've lived in about 17 different dwellings in my life! I'm sure you can appreciate, therefore, that I have the nesting syndrome pretty badly. I'm tired of living in rented accommodation. I'm tired of living in other people's spaces. I want my own place, my own space, somewhere to set down roots and create an environment that is mine and mine alone.

My dream has always been to buy a plot and build my own home. As we were planning to return to SA, I started investigating the costs and looking at plots. It didn't take long for me to realise that buying a plot and building would cost us twice what it would to buy an existing house and make minor renovation changes. I was gobsmacked to find that plot prices are often higher than plots with houses on them! That makes no sense to me whatsoever, but there you are.

Feeling more than a little disappointed, I took a reality check and (once Graeme had found a job) started looking at houses within our budget. I found my dream house (or rather, a house I love that I can renovate into my dream house). It's beyond our budget. Bang goes another dream.

Continuing the house search, I was beginning to get downhearted about ever finding something that would tick all the right boxes for us, in our price range. But I am happy to announce that today we made an offer on a house! Now the wait begins.... we should know by Friday whether or not the seller has accepted our offer. (If he does, then the next hurdle is to sell our house for the required amount, otherwise the sale could still fall through.)

(Note to Brits - thank God we don't have gazumping here! It's bad enough knowing that if we don't sell ours at the right price, we still might not get this house. I can't imagine being in the position that, even with the money in hand, and the seller having accepted our offer, we could still lose the house! Scary stuff.)

So let me tell you about this house. It's not my dream house, but it will become our home. It sits on a 1070 square metre plot (so - HUGE). It needs A LOT of work doing to it. I mean, A LOT. The garden has never been landscaped - it's one huge field (not even a lawn present!). At present, it is used as a scrap heap - rusting cars and trailers and bits and pieces of equipment... a scary sight indeed. The house is small, although it has 3 bedrooms, a small bathroom and kitchen, plus an open-plan living dining room. It has wooden floors and aluminium window frames (both of which are a major bonus to us), and a double garage. It's also in a cul-de-sac (YAY! seriously quiet road where my kids can ride their bikes without fear of getting run over!). The suburb is ok - it's not where I want to live, but it's a quiet suburb, where crime isn't as bad. It's a bit further to travel to shops and work, but it's not the end of the world - an extra 5 minutes (or 10-15 mins in rush hour).

It's a great bargain. No doubt about that. If the sale actually takes place, then the fun begins. We're planning to renovate before we move in. (My dad will be doing the renovation for us, so it will be cheaper than getting other commercial builders.) This means we can create the house of our dreams (well... maybe not, but pretty close - budget dependent!)

It's a very odd feeling knowing that in a few months we may own this property. Very weird indeed. The first time we bought a house it was sight unseen, while we were in London. That was very unreal for us, because it all happened at a distance. This time it's happening in the flesh, so it almost feels like the first time we're buying a house. Plus, we're taking on a big project, and that feels scary, but also very exciting! I get to build the house of my dreams (almost), and design my garden from scratch, and it all (hopefully) falls within our budget. Wow! Isn't that amazing?

If we do manage to acquire this house, it will be called 'Weltevreden' (Afrikaans for 'well contented'), which I think is a fair assessment of how we feel about it all.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Incredible crime defeating device

I know that some people take an innovative approach to dealing with crime in SA, but this one takes the cake!! I found these awesome pictures on a blog post via Amatomu (a blog feeder site for South African blogs - very cool), and now, do you think I can find them again? No. Dammit! I've searched on Google images for them, and can't find them there either. SO - I will try to describe it to you.

OK, so imagine you're sitting in your car looking down at your pedals. Look at the well-space in which the pedals are placed. Now imagine that that at the outer edge of that space, someone has welded in a safe. Yup. I kid you not. A safe.

I guess anyone trying to steal that car would have a bit of a problem trying to drive, seeing as how he (how's that for sexist?!) wouldn't have access to a single pedal. Certainly a novel approach to anti-theft devices.