Saturday, 16 August 2014

#MySundayPhoto-Whale Watching in the Indian Ocean

Whale Watching from a beach launch and a landing at 75km, an amazing day, we followed these 2 hump back whales and their baby for 2 miles up the coast towards Mozambique.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Life is all about change

We know there will be changes to our lives, marriages, births, new job, new home and we plan with excitement, it also stresses us out a little, the fear of the unknown and the what ifs.

Sometimes changes can be small, others can be huge, some are done willingly, and some are forced upon us.

Change isn’t always positive, there could be a death in the family, loss of a job, a divorce.

Change doesn’t have to be negative or huge to cause a major impact on someone’s life, it can be as simple as an unexpected car repair or replacement of a stolen item, or even hidden costs that can cause a family to re think their budget for a few months and what seems like a major issue to you can be viewed as a minor one to others.

We all know people who have been through changes, we’ve all been through changes, it’s what life if all about, survival of the fittest. Some people appear to handle changes like a duck on water, all serene on top while paddling furiously underneath and we wonder how they manage it. Others just shut down, have a break down, ask for help or ignore the situation until it is forced upon them, such as house repossession or a court order and sometimes there is the element of surprise when someone dies and there are no set rules, other than maybe a will and a funeral.

For those who live their lives as expats there is always change on the horizon, for some they venture into an expat life excited with promises of a new life in a foreign country, a house to make into a home, schools, work, new salary. Some expats go with their eyes wide open, some go on a fixed contract, knowing the exact date they will leave, some will even know in advance where there next move will be. Others like us moved without knowing anything, other than where the children would be schooled and where hubby would work. We had no idea of how long we’d be expats for, where and when we would go next and for the past year we’ve lived with facing a new change of which we’ve had little control or say over.

We heard in January, there might be a move, it also coincided with another huge change in our lives and that was the last child leaving home and having to deal with empty nest syndrome. But we knew about that change, that’s what happens in life, you have kids, they grow up, and they leave home. We have 5 children between us; the hardest change was moving the eldest into residential care aged 12. We thought that as we dealt with that (some days we still feel the guilt) that the rest of the children leaving home we could deal with. But we didn’t anticipate that after the 2 oldest boys left home, that we would then be packing our bags and moving 6000 miles away from them, we didn’t anticipate the youngest, then aged 14, returning to the UK for boarding school and we didn’t anticipate how we would feel when the last child left home and also moved back to the UK.

We visit, they visit, but it’s not how we imagined it to be, wanted it to be or how we see our future relationships with our children living on different continents.

We are now in the planning stages of more change, we are moving, it looks like we’ll be gone by January 11th 2015, almost 4 years to the day that we moved here, our visas expire and due to new changes in the law, hubbies visa renewal to work here may not be granted, which means we have to leave, it is an enforced move, one of which we have little or no control over.

When the kids left home, I threw myself into life here fully, I took up opportunities to travel and explore further a field, to really become hands on with my volunteer work, starting to look for funding for projects and carrying on with sourcing and distributing donations.

Now I’m in limbo, I don’t know where we are going, when we are going. I don’t know the timescale therefore I can’t do anything, there is a requirement for moving the animals, but where and when? Removal companies to quote, utilities to sort, notice on the rented house to give, contracts to end, a car to be sold, bank accounts to close. Can I work in our new country? Can I have my own bank account? Can I take out contracts such a phone in my own name?

I’ve moved many times, the move isn’t daunting me, it’s the fact it isn’t my choice and that I have no say over where and when.

Then there are the non-practical issues, the stuff no one can really help you with. The change of moving to a new country, without a job to go to, without children to settle, what will I do? How will I feel? How to make new friends? It’s not an easy job when you don’t have kids or work. Without friends how will I know where to go? Who to ask? How to do things? What about buying a car? Insurance? How do you know what’s the best thing to do in a new and unfamiliar country, with little or no support?

We moved within the UK, we moved within South Africa, once you know how things work, it’s relatively straight forward, but with a South African government, one never knows how things will work today compared to yesterday and with so many changes in the law that no one seems to know how the new laws will work, this is not a good change for me.

The only thing I do know is, is that I coped, I succeeded, I sorted, I battled without help and support, but I remember it was hard, it was frustrating, it took up whole days, weeks even. I didn’t like it, I didn’t do it willingly, I did it or it just wouldn’t have been done.

I’m daunted by the upcoming change, I’m frightened and I feel isolated and alone.

I’m not just dealing with a change in our lives again; I’m dealing with another change in my personal life, my identity and the unknown. I don’t know how I’ll cope, right now I don’t think I will cope.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Teenagers on Holiday

My 15 year flew in from the UK last week for his school summer holidays, it was a 12 hour flight.

He arrived in winter and shivered for 3 days, although the positive side of this was he was in bed by 7pm watching his TV.

I then stuck him on a train to Cape Town for 28 hours.

On the second day after dragging him around Cape Town on the red bus, he got in his pjs and didn't leave the room till day 4.

I thought I'd entered the room of a Rock Star on my return to the hotel, No, just a teenager

Cape Town to Hermanus

Cape Town to Hermanus

First stop was a short walk to collect the car rental and then a long wait for the teenager to get ready and we set off in the direction of Hermanus, making numerous stops along the way for photographs, snacks and toilet stops. Hoping to see Penguins and Whales.

 Bettys Bay didn't disappoint us with the penguins on the rocks, there is a small R10 charge per person and wooden walkways to allow you to view the birds in their natural habitat. We got drenched in the rain and sleet. It was too windy for umbrellas.

 Ok Guys, I'll count, you hide.

OK don't panic, we did, this isn't an oil spill or contamination, it's river water. The staining occurs naturally due to humid acids and tannins found in the fynbos soils.

There was way too much to see at Hermanus to stop and focus cameras and stare through a lens out to see, there were Whales, sky hopping and breaching, bodies high out the water. one over here, another over there, tails waving, it was a  very busy and the bay was full. I did manage to take a couple of pics, but you need a good eye with the first one to spot the tail.

I'm thankful that the teenager is into photography, he spent the 1st 36 hours in the hotel. As he keeps reminding me, he had a 12 hour flight to reach South Africa then another 28 hours by train to get to Cape Town and he is supposed to be on his UK summer holidays.

 Rock Dassie
We finished off our last night in Cape Town with burgers on the waterfront.

Today we are driving to Table Mountain. The cable car is closed for annual maintenance, but there are still some fab views of the City to be seen, next will be over Chapman's Peak, before heading to the airport for a 2 hour flight home at 7pm.

We will beck in Pretoria till Sunday am, when we head north in the car for an 8 hour drive to St Lucia, on the coast, just below Mozambique, for a weeks stay. This trip hubby and Bob the dog will be joining us.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Signs your child is drinking and how to empower them to say NO.

Peer pressure is one of the biggest reasons kids drink. Adverts in the media show young adults, drinking alcohol and having fun, being grown up. TV adverts glamourize alcohol and the message of ‘enjoy responsibly’ is rarely taken in as a warning, more of a slogan.

There are many reasons as to why under 18s drink alcohol, they mimic behavior of others around them, their friends and family members, they may complain of being bored, stressed, unhappy, lack confidence, want to rebel or are angry. There could be death in the family, a change of school, not doing as well in their subjects as they wanted.

Many teenagers go though these stages and not all take to drinking alcohol, some may take drugs also, self harm or become reclusive, some have eating problems. But not all teenagers resort to the above, some will choose to talk to a parent, a teacher, a family member or a friend. From an early age we teach our children about the rights and wrongs, we teach them to say pleases and thank yous to say no to strangers if offered sweets or a lift. We can empower our children from an early age to say NO to anything they don’t want to do, teach them to walk away, ask them will these so called friends be there to help them in a difficult situation? Teach them the concesquences of their behavior, their actions, even the future implications on their working and family lives and future relationships. A lot of what you say may appear to go in one ear and out the other, but they tak in a lot more than you realize.

A lot of teenage angst is that, just angst, but you should talk with your teenager, support and guide them whatever the issues are and look for an alternative way to channel their issues.

Easier said than done most of the time and as a Mother to 4 boys aged 15-25 it is difficult to know when to intervene, are their mood swings due to hormones? Are they getting in trouble at school, struggling with concentration, mood swings etc? Is there a problem that you can help resolve? Visit their teacher at school to find out what is going on there? Ask a family member or a friend that you know they get on well with to intervene and have a chat? Or do you let them know you are there and give them space to works things out for themselves?

Grounding my children and banning them from activities never worked, neither did taking items away from them. It didn’t encourage them to talk to me about their problems it caused them to shut down. I don’t advocate treating your child as an adult or an equal, but I do advocate treating them as an individual and treating them with respect, letting them know you are there, letting them know there will be no consequences if they confide in you, unless of course they have broken the law.

I also told my children as teens and still do tell them now that I’m not here to tell them off, have a go, interfere, just that I am here to help and the sooner they ask for help from me or someone else, then the sooner they can resolve their issues and move on. It’s been hard work, it’s been challenging, but I am their mum and I certainly didn’t opt to have kids for an easy life.

Every child is different, every parent handles situations differently. With my 4 boys, what worked with one, didn’t with another, it’s just about finding a middle ground.

Visit South Africa Breweries for warning signs to look out for that your child is drinking alcohol here

There are also some good tips on how to empower your child to say no to alcohol which you can read here.

My top tips for visiting Cape Town

In my opinion it is essential to never leave your hotel with the following items. I've also added toilet roll and hand sanitiser to my ruck sack along with a couple of snacks and drinks.

Walking boots
Coin purse, keep this in your pocket as you will often require small change but don't want to keep getting your purse out your bag.
Cape Town Red Bus Ticket and Map

Take a photo of the departure times of the Red Bus when you get off so you know what time to return for the next bus. But make sure you are then looking at the right photo, unlike me who missed 2 buses until I realised my error.

I've been to Cape Town on previous occasions and never thought to check if all the attractions were open in the winter. The Table Mountain Cableway is closed due to annual maintenance, but with this weather I'm beginning to suspect they've actually taken the mountain away.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Kirstenbosch and World of Birds on the Hop on Hop Off City Sightseeing Bus – blue route.

An overpowering of the senses hits you on arrival at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. The smell of the misty air, the plants and the trees. The sounds of running water and birds and the sights of the misty mountains, the forest and a view over Cape Town and the ocean.

Despite the rain, it was definitely worth getting off the hop on hop off bus at this stop. I only stayed for 40 minutes but that was enough time for a gentle stroll and a walk through the treetops on the Boomslaang, Tree Canopy Walk. 

There are information signs along the route telling you about healing and medicinal properties of the plants, labels naming trees and a section of rare and endangered plants and what is happening to cause this effect and how their decline can be prevented further. 

Plenty of benches and lapas along the route for you to sit, relax and enjoy the views, when weather permits you’re welcome to picnic on the lawn. There is also a cafĂ© and a well stocked gift shop.

Next stop was the World of Birds and for me I wasn’t too impressed. Too many different varieties of birds were all mixed up.

The map didn’t match the actual layout and for me there were too many chickens, ducks, ha de dahs and common garden birds we have back home in Pretoria. 

It wasn’t particularly very clean and a sign said the penguins were fed at 11.30am but I sat there and waited for 20 minutes and no one came.

However this is a sanctuary for ill and rescued birds and relies 100% on public donations costing R500, 000 per month to run. Having read this my opinion changed, it is not an aviary with birds bred in captivity, it is the intention for these birds to be rehomed in their natural environment where possible.