Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Prostitution matters

I'm sure you've all heard the news, that there are renewed attempts to legalise prostitution in SA.


On the one hand, I understand why the powers that be want to do this:

  • Too little manpower on the ground, which could be redeployed more usefully to tackle "REAL" crime
  • It's impossible to get rid of this particular activity - the more force you use, the more you drive it "underground".
  • Having this horrible practice operating "underground" means that the women involved are more likely to be taken advantage of - abused by their pimps and clients alike.
  • Legalising it means these women can have access to better health care, which is vital in their line of work.
But I have serious misgivings about doing so:

  • Legalising prostitution gives it a measure of respectability - and I don't think it's a respectable profession at all. I think it's completely degrading to men and women alike, whether the client or the prostitute.
  • If it's "respectable" then one might assume that one cannot pick up STD's (or STIs) from a prostitute. (How wrong could you get? Even the nicest looking, smartest, highest end prostitute can pass on various STDs to you.)
  • Prostitution goes against God's law - sex is supposed to take place in the context of marriage, a monogamous relationship that lasts a life-time*.

If it were put to a referendum, I honestly don't know at this point which way I would vote. Do I vote according to God's law, or do I show compassion for the women and men caught in this vile practice and help to protect their lives. What would Jesus do? I'm not convinced that he would vote to keep it illegal.

As an aside, Blogger Ed Rybicki pointed me to a recent news item - about the peril of HIV infected hookers to England soccer fans.... While it's highly unlikely they will pass the HIV on if their clients are wearing condoms, it's still not entirely safe. I have heard of HIV positive people being selfish and vindictively having sex with others upon whom they want to take revenge for something, but this kind of selfish behaviour is something I never thought I would see. I get that these women are extremely poor. I get that the Ukraine has a very high unemployment rate. I get that this is an easy route out for some women. I don't get how they could put someone else's life at risk in this manner. It makes me sad to think that a) either they are really that heartless, or b) they really are that desperate. Either way, this world is in a very sorry state!

I'm not even going to add the phrase "between one man and one woman" as that would only open an ENTIRELY different argument, which I don't want to get into here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Local secret spot

Today we were introduced to a very special place. I didn't even know it existed! Of course, now that I know it's there, we will DEFINITELY be visiting again. This is a site along the Liesbeeck River. To the left of where N is standing, the hill rises up with beautifully planted indigenous vegetation, with lovely paths scattered between. To the right, is the river itself, just down a little bank. 

It's all maintained by the local residents, in conjunction with Friends of the Liesbeeck (and a few other patrons, apparently). What a fabulous project! If only more residents would be as concerned about their local area and do something about it. While there are still plenty mature, alien trees around, there are plenty of indigenous ones that have been planted and are slowly growing to maturity. No doubt, once they've grown enough to maintain the shade cover, the aliens will be removed.

This is a great hideaway from the city, and a beautiful picnic spot. We caught frogs and tadpoles and a crab today. Definitely a spot to consider for future parties and gatherings! 


Yesterday would have been Zoe's 5th birthday. Nellie asked that we make Zoe a cake, which we did (and it's probably one of the best cakes I've made in a while). She also decided we should have red (dark pink) icing, because we love Zoe.

We were incredibly busy yesterday - school fundraiser for #2's school in the morning, then home to have lunch and a nap, then baking the cake, then off to family for supper. In a way, it was a good thing. Too much time sitting around would have given me too much time to think. I did find myself dragging my feet through most of the day though. Heading off to be social in the morning was the last thing I wanted to do. I just didn't have the energy to be all bright and shiny. Later, in the afternoon, when #2 was being the biggest pain ever, I didn't have the energy to really deal with it properly either.

I feel I should have done more. Part of me wanted to erect a massive monument, to do something huge and ostentatious. Part of me just wanted a quiet little ceremony. Of course, it's not too late. I know that I can choose to commemorate her any day I want to. We can do something else during the holidays if we really want to.

I was wondering about scattering her ashes. We've scattered some at our family holiday home, and some into the roots of her tree here at home, but there's still some left. At the time, I couldn't bear to part with all of her. Now I think I might be ready. But where do we scatter them? I want to choose somewhere special, that won't later belong to someone else, somewhere public that we will always have access to. In this regard, I envy those who have a grave site to go to. Having somewhere physical to go to, to lay some flowers, to remember - there's power in that.

I think that's partly why we got her a tree - in a huge pot. At least we can take the tree with us wherever we live (within reason). I know that her flesh is becoming part of that tree, creating life out of death. But even trees die...

I don't know - this grieving process thing is so complicated when the death is that of a child. It's just not right. Not right at all.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My song is love unknown

Funny how life has a habit of creeping up on you when you least expect it.

March is always a tough month for me. As the days tick by, I keep a mental note of how many days there are until the 24th. I try really hard not to reflect on the events that took place during this month five years ago. I try hard to just keep busy.

Because I know that if I stop, if I pause, the walls will come crashing down again and I'll be useless to anyone for a while.

They say time is a healer. Since that fateful day, five years ago, I've maintained that's absolute trash. Time's not a healer - it just puts enough distance between you and the event that you can go on living and pretend it never happened.

God is the only healer, and what healing I've seen in myself as He has worked in me and with me! Yet the pain is still there. I still bear the scars, and like a physical wound when the weather changes, my metaphysical scars are aching. I can feel the dull ache, throbbing quietly, threatening to become full-blown, all-encompassing pain unless I do something.

But what can I do? Nothing will bring her back. There's no balm, or salve, or tonic, or potion, or pill one can take to heal this broken part of my heart. She's gone.

She would have been in Grade R this year. We'd have been teaching her Letterland, and how to hold a pen, how to ride a bike without training wheels....

Zoe, I miss you, my sweet darling. Your tree is flowering so beautifully this year - it's seemed so feeble in years gone by, but this year it seems to be pulling out all the stops. Maybe it's all the extra love and care I've been giving it; maybe it's a reminder to me that you are always with us. Your sister is so keen to celebrate your birthday - she wants to hold a party for you. How do I explain to her that others will see that as morbid? Your brother has at last learnt your name. I can't wait for him to be old enough to understand that you are his other big sister. He loves to take all our family photos and make me kiss them - kissing yours is always a little heart-sore moment for me. I hope, as Margie emailed me today, you'll be at the wedding on Sunday in some way. I hope your little ginger curls haven't turned too blonde. I know we'll be together again one day, but how I miss you now, sweetheart! How I miss you now. Happy birthday, my love!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Geocaching, baboons and a lost child - all in a day's fun

Today I had my first experience of geocaching. It was .... interesting. On the one hand, it was a lot of fun. On the other, having 2 kids and 2 dogs on my own, and trying to find something when I don't know exactly what I'm looking for was .... not so much fun.

This site - Kirsty's Keyser Kache (GC2M7YA), is near Tokai Forest. It's a very easy first experience, as you can park right near the site. The write-up on it warned that if you're taking small kids, you should bring extra clothes. Good thing too - as his lordship decided to fall into the river. He was COVERED in little green leaves from the water weed - up his nose, in his hair, in every crease, and stuck to his skin like glue. It took ages to get him clean, by which time he was FREEZING. In between all this, Dog #1 was SO badly behaved I eventually just tied him to a tree and left him there (you can just see him on the left) while I dealt with the kids and finding the cache.

Madam thought it was FUN FUN FUN and can't WAIT to do the next one. However, she finds the concept of leaving the "treasure" behind odd. She's also not too sure about how this whole thing works. She likes the idea that the clues are on my phone, but doesn't really understand why they don't just TELL us where the cache is. Still, she's prepared to go along with it.

From this site, we went on to Porter's market (a bit of a let down, really...) and managed to lose his lordship for a while. This is becoming a feature of any time we go out with him. I have learnt that I don't need to panic. He's actually quite sensible for a 2.5yr old and will eventually come back to us. Sigh! (Are all little boys like this? I now understand why father went grey....) Still, with all those people, I couldn't help allowing a measure of panic into my voice. All I could think was that some horrid person would steal him. But no, as usual, he had just decided to take himself off for a little bike ride (he had it with him - memo to self: when going out as single parent with 2 kids and 2 dogs, DO NOT bring bikes into a crowded public space) down the hill - WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

During our snack break (still at Porters) we were rudely interrupted by a a few baboons who thought it would be nice to steal some food - fortunately, not from us. A 'helpful' passerby asked why I didn't set my dogs on it. Ummm... let's think about that shall we? Hmmm..... Oh yes! Now I remember why not - because the baboon would KILL my dogs. Stupid woman! If a baboon can kill a cheetah, then trust me, my little mongrels are no match for it. (Apart from which, I seriously doubt that either of mine would WANT to chase it. They're much too afraid of wild creatures! I mean, #1 dog thinks that a rotting log is terrifying and needs to be barked at.....)

Then we attempted the 2nd geocaching site. We eventually found the suggested parking lot, but by that time, #2 child was tired and getting grumpy. He wanted to stand and throw stones down the hill (again - what is it with boys that they love throwing sticks and stones????), not walk up the hill to find the site. So after about 10 mins (and realising that the site was A LOT further than I had anticipated) I decided to call it quits and head home, after promising #1 that we would go back and find the site when we had Daddy with us to help. Needless to say, both kids fell asleep in the car on the way home.

All in all, it was a good morning, and definitely something I'll repeat. But lessons have been learnt - two adults are needed, only attempt one site per day, and carry more food and water than I took, in a proper backpack (not just Nathan's little nappy bag thingy), with more packets to pick up dog poo! Oh yes, and the co-ordinates should be written with a black pen (not pencil) on thicker paper (not that see-through rubbish I had). My eyes are not what they used to be, I discovered!

Friday, March 09, 2012

The ANC vs the DA

My family send me all kinds of jokes. Usually, I just read them and delete. (Note - no laughing...) Sometimes, I chuckle, then delete them. Occasionally, I laugh out loud, then reply to say thanks for the laugh, and then delete them. And then there's the one in a very large number that I pass on or share with others. This is one of those.

I recently asked my friend's little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President someday. 

Both of her parents, ANC supporters, were standing there, so I asked her, "If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?" 

She replied, "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people." Her parents smiled hugely. 

"Wow...what a worthy goal." I told her, "But you don't have to wait until you're President to do that. You can come over to my house for a morning and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I'll pay you R100. Then I'll take you over to the supermarket where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the R100 to use toward food and a new house." 

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked: "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the R100?" 

I said, "Welcome to the Democratic Alliance." 

Her parents still aren't speaking to me.'

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Science and religion can mix

So I'm sure by now you've all heard the news that a Cape Town science teacher at a private school has resigned because the school wouldn't let her teach Evolution, which is in the syllabus.....

And of course, there have been lots of posts about it already, some more sensible than others. I feel like I'm already treading over ground that overs have covered, but I feel the need to add my two cents. Especially as I'm a science teacher in Cape Town too.

I'm a Christian. I believe the Bible and I believe God. As far as I'm concerned, God made the world and everything in it.

I'm also a scientist. I use scientific principles every day (I would say procedures as well, but that would be lying as I don't actually practice science anymore...). As far as I'm concerned, there is a right and wrong way to go about establishing scientific truth - it involves scientific method and practices.

I see no conflict between the two.

HOW God made the world is still a mystery to me. I accept the principles of evolution, but I'll be the first to say that science still has much to explain on this one.

WHY God made the world is clear to me. He wanted a relationship with someone 'like' himself.

Science doesn't tell me why. Faith doesn't tell me how. To be a well-rounded individual, I believe that I need both science and faith. This is what I teach my kids.

(And before someone starts jumping up and down and saying how dare I teach Christianity in class.... I don't proselytize. I don't talk just about Jesus, because that would be an abuse of the power I have. I talk about faith in general, about believing in a set of moral values, about belief in a higher power who created the known universe (and whatever is beyond) for a purpose (or several).)

For me to NOT teach evolution would be a serious failing, I believe. For me to remain silent about the role that faith plays in life would be, I believe, an equally big blunder. Why this school can't see that, why they can't allow their teachers to show that science and faith can work hand in hand, that they are not necessarily mortal enemies of each other, I just don't know. It makes me really sad.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Nooit, bru!

I've just calculated that, since I started blogging back in 2005, I have (on average) posted one post every 3 days. That's rather a lot of writing for someone who doesn't consider herself much of a writer. Of course, my problem is not just that what I write is probably of little interest to the vast public out there, but that I go through patches where I write nothing for weeks, then suddenly write several posts in quick succesion. That is definitely not the way to build a following - not that I'm trying to. Sigh! I'll just stop now.

But I'm rather impressed with myself. I didn't realise just how much I do/ have been blog/ blogging. I think that's quite an achievement for me. Yay me!

Edmodo... giving it a whirl

I like to try new things - especially where technology is concerned. Thus, with one of my classes, I've decided to try Edmodo. It's a social site, with a Facebook feel, that is designed for teachers to use with their classes.

The comments I've loved from the kids are "now there's no excuse not to do homework" and "oh no! You're making me work with a computer again?!?!"

The second one highlights something that I think many would not suspect - our kids are NOT as IT literate as we think they are. There are many kids who only know how to use MXit, and nothing else. They can take photos and videos and bluetooth them to friends, but don't have the first clue how to put a proper video together. They don't know or use Twitter. They do use Facebook, but that's a 2nd choice for many.

At first, I was really surprised to see that, in many cases, in this area, I knew a hang of a lot more than the kids. Of course, I know the bare essentials about MXit, and have no intention of learning more, because I have WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, and would rather use them with the people I need to connect with.

It's going to be an interesting little experiment, to see how it works, and whether it delivers on the promises it makes. Having also used Obami (the SA version) with a different class, it's going to be interesting to see how the two compare. Although, Obami are due a massive upgrade sometime this month, so that probably won't be a fair comparison.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has used both, and made a decision for one, rather than the other. As a school we're looking at selecting one of them and then training all the staff in using it.

A feature I really like of Edmodo is that parents can sign up easily too (no email required), with a unique code, to see what their kids are doing. That's put the pressure on a bit, because now I feel like I have the parents' eyes on me all the time. That's not necessarily a bad thing - it's probably good to know that SOMEONE is watching what I do in class. It's just that now I am feeling the pressure more than before.

What to do...?

When I was a teenager, I went through a bit of a depression. Maybe all teenagers do. Maybe it's just the teen angst thing. In my case, I think it was a bit more than that. I can remember reading a book about someone who felt completely disconnected from life, and wanting to kill themselves (the book is called 'Please Love Me', and thinking - 'I get this person; they're writing the story of my life'. I felt such a connection to this person. It was so much deeper than anything I with for any of my friends at the time. It was so healing to know that I wasn't the first to have felt that way, or who had these screams bottled up inside, with no way of expressing them.

In looking back on my life, I understand that much of my pain was repressed emotion over my parents' divorce. It was probably compounded, or exacerbated, by teenage angst. At the time though, I was convinced that no-one understood me, that my life was worthless, that there was no point in going on. I contemplated suicide several times, and on the night in which I plucked up the courage to do something, found myself miraculously unable to. God stepped in and intervened in way that made it ABUNDANTLY clear to me that a) he cared, and b) he had a plan for my life. It was enough for me to hang on to at the time, to get me through.

Yet, looking back now, I really do wonder how much of it was just in my head and how much was real. I have a tendency to exaggerate things for effect. I also have a tendency to lie to myself, or I did - I think I'm much better at not fooling myself anymore, at being honest with myself, than I used to be. The older I get, the more I think that the majority of it was in my head, that it was just typical teenage angst, and that only a small part of it was linked to the events taking place in my life at the time.

As a result, my experiences have made me wary of the same emotion in the teenagers I teach. When I see them  deep in sorrow over whatever it is in their lives, a large part of me wonders whether it's just all in their heads, whether it's just part of being a teenager and whether they'll get over it eventually. If it is, then whether I intervene or not is immaterial. I know that people tried to help me, and I fobbed them off. I wanted my privacy. I wanted to wallow in my pain and suffering - Oh, WOE is me! - because I felt it gave meaning to my life, and made me unique. No-one could surely be suffering as I was!

But what if I'm wrong. What if my pain was not just typical teenage angst? What if the pain I see around me will only be healed if I step in and do something? And what if I fail to do so? I hate meddling. I hate people who meddle. In fact, DH will often comment how I have a knack for answering questions in a way that divulges nothing, but still manages to answer the question. I do that because there are some things that I just don't want to talk about. Like who I was just chatting to on the phone, or who I'm emailing. If I want you to know, I'll tell you. Now back away!

(Then again, there are times when I get mad because he doesn't ask.... Never can please a woman, eh?! Doomed if you do, doomed if you don't.)

Because I like my privacy when I choose to keep it, I am wary of making the first move when it comes to asking the awkward questions of others. Yet I recognise that not everyone is like me. For others, the only way they can express what's going on inside them is if I give them the words, or the opening. So, for some people, if I fail to enquire, they interpret that as unloving.

So all of that is background info.

This past week, I have been made aware of two girls who, unrelated to each other, and for different reasons, are cutting themselves. I don't know how to respond on a personal level. I've reported it, of course, because I am legally (and morally) obliged to do so. But how do I respond?

On the "do nothing" front:

  • I'm not a professional - I don't want to get into a counselling situation. 
  • I also don't want them tough tell me anything because I could get into serious (legal) trouble later, depending on what comes out and what I did/ did not do as a result. 
  • I don't want to meddle.
  • Teenagers often value their privacy and don't want to be treated any differently just "because" they have a problem.
On the "do something" front, I have the following points:

  • I care about these kids.
  • I want them to know I care and feel cared for.
  • Ignoring what I know, and doing/ saying NOTHING could send the message that I don't care, or that  they really aren't important enough to take action over.
  • If "meddling" potentially saves their lives, it's worth it.
Do I call them to come and see me? Do I try to have a quiet word before/ during/ after lesson one day? Do I just pray for them and nothing more? (As I said, I've already reported it, and they're getting some level of professional help, so it's not like they're not getting any help!) I just don't know.

Knowing me, I will ignore it completely during class, hoping and trusting that whatever is being done professionally will be enough, but will be more encouraging and supportive and caring in my general behaviour towards these kids. Is that enough though? I don't know. I just don't know.

Monday, March 05, 2012


Hash tags. If you don't know what they are, then you clearly move in small circles. Twitter has got to be one of the greatest tools ever. I use it all the time, both personally and professionally. On a personal level, I keep in touch with family, friends and acquaintances, and find out info about my community (like weather, traffic, voting stations, shopping queue lengths, etc). Professionally, I use it to connect to other teachers, to bounce ideas off, to 'steal' ideas from, and to grow my own boundaries.

Tonight was the FIRST EVER online education chat for teachers in SA - hashtag is #edchatsa. Although I was late to the chat (other urgent commitments kept me away for a while), it was great to chat to some like-minded folk about stuff I'm passionate about. It's got me all fired up again about really doing the stuff I love. Now if only it weren't so late, and I had some time to plan a few activities around the things that are floating in my head....

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Education online

For those with an interest in education in South Africa, have a quick read of this blog post by the principal at Elkanah Primary, Ant Preston. There's going to be an online chat on Monday, on Twitter, about education. He's got a poll going as to the topic for the discussion. If you can take part at all, do! They're fascinating times, and a great way to converse with a wide range of people, about something you're passionate about.

Birthday statistics

My DH, during one day of boredom, calculated that if you have 20-odd people in a room, there's a greater than 50:50 chance of two of them sharing a birthday. (He says you can work it out easily in Excel if you want to check it. Personally, I'm quite happy to take his word for it. He's a bright boy and my brain hurts just thinking about it!)

My immediate family (parents, siblings with their spouses and kids, and aunts, uncles and first cousins - not the cousins' spouses or kids) consists of 53 people. It struck me today, that this is significantly more than 20. So it doesn't come as a surprise then, that there Nathan shares a birthday with someone, or that two of my nieces share a birthday.

But still - it's pretty weird, right? I mean, out of 366 possible days, and only 50-odd people, you would think that we'd need a LOT more people before we have any who share a birthday. Yet, we have 2 pairs who have theirs on the same day.

Aren't stats wonderful? Not terribly helpful, but definitely wonderful.

Actually, what is more amazing to me is that in my entire life, with my penchant for meeting new people, I've only ever met ONE person who shares my birthday (thinking of you today, Dave! Wondering how you and Liz are doing....) but I have met hordes of people with the same first name. One would think that, with there being a lot more than 366 names for girls, I would be more likely to meet someone who shares my birthday than one who shares my name.