Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What you consider waste is a meal for someone else

Last month my son and his girlfriend visited South Africa. We stopped for fuel whilst driving through the Kruger National Park. My son's girlfriend asked me to throw her half eaten cake in the bin. I told her to give it to the pump attendant. He ate it.

She said if she did that to a homeless person in the UK she'd have probably had it lobbed at the back of her head as she walked off.

Until you live in a country like South Africa, you have no idea what poor actually means. Poor doesn't always mean homeless, dirty or uneducated, poor means that everyday your priority is to earn money to feed your family. I wanted to write 'put food on the table' but a table for a lot of people would be an unnecessary item unless it was donated

Often when I stop at the lights, someone will ask me for food or drink, rarely money. I will always give them them my half bottle of water or coke, they always take it and drink it as if they've not drunk for several days.

Any waste food we have, we give to someone. If it's left overs from last nights meal, it will be given to the gardener for his lunch, if it's fruit or veg, or even that last slice of bread it is put out for the bin men on a tuesday morning, on top of the bin.

Not long after we moved to South Africa, I threw out a slice of stale bread, with some limp lettuce leaves in the bottom of the bread bag. I also scooped out the cat litter tray and put the contents in their before placing in the wheelie bin.

The bin man, opened the bag, took the stale bread, shook it off and ate it. I was almost sick. In fact I feel sick now relating the story.

A friend told me how her maid used to ask for the outer leaves off the cabbage to take home. My friend, also an expat, enquired as to whether she had a pet rabbit. This was met with silence and then my friend realised that her maid was taking what she called the waste, home to feed her family.

Nothing in South Africa is waste. A broken lawn mower, washing machine is valuable, either for the parts or to repair and re sell.

I always tell people when I donate if there is something wrong with an item. For example a stain or tear on clothing, it's up to them to repair it if they want it.

I read this post last week about 'lets stop giving our crap to the poor' Most of the readers agreed, however I say after spending 4 years working with the 'poor' Let the poor decide for themselves what is crap, when you have nothing, or your lost everything in a shack fire or in floods, including family members, nothing that one gives is 'crap' it is usually one thing more than they had before you gave it to them.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Internet Trolls

My interpretation of what an Internet Troll is, is a person who sets up false accounts to target a victim. I do not see someone who posts as themselves from a well established account, disagreeing with something you say as being a troll.

I'm so glad the internet never existed when I was a teenager, back in my day (1980's) it was snide notes passed round and comments scratched into school desks or graffiti on toilet doors. They were all anonymous comments also, but you had a fair idea who was writing it as your social network only extended to people who you could put a name to a face, knew where they lived, went to school, knew their parents, because you lived in the same area and went to the same school.

In the 'old days' if someone was saying things to your face or even behind your back, you had the option to walk away, spend your time with other people and do your best to avoid the verbal bullies. There were plenty of youth clubs, friday night disco's, plenty of space in the playground, lunch time clubs, after school clubs, you didn't have to interact and engage with the bullies, you simply had other options of places to go.

With todays social media explosion, it is harder to walk away, as when you're sat in front of computer screen or a phone, there's no where to walk to. You do however have the option to turn the device off, sign out of your account or even delete your account. You wouldn't stand there in the playground or the street and just listen to people slagging you off, you'd walk away, you'd report it, you may even argue back, but you wouldn't go and stand outside that persons house and spy on what they are saying about you, question their friends about what they are saying or listen in to their conversations, in case they were talking about you. What would be the point of that?

But you'll sit there in front of your computer screen or on your phone and scrawl through all their accounts, looking for proof that they're talking about you, slagging you off.

I've had many disagreements with people in the real world and on the internet. I know I've been in the wrong, in the right, or agreed to disagree. I've posted short, sharp comments in response to someone who is on the point of turning nasty, usually with a 2 word response beginning with an F. I also find that in real life that response works just as well. Where in real life I comment and turn on my heels to go, on the internet I just block.

In real life and online I stay clear now from issues of race. When I emphasised with someone once about being victimised based on my nationality and I was told I had no idea what it was like until the colour of my skin was used against me. This comment angered me as my experience was an face to face encounter I was told to 'eff off back to my own country and to shove my hockey stick up my c...' this was then followed by a block of ice being thrown at close range at my head, causing my head to bleed.

This was physical assault and there was evidence, it had been witnessed, it was immaterial what I'd said, which was 'please stop throwing food at our table' but it could be dealt with as their was physical evidence. it's not the same when it's online, the intonation can't be heard, the written word can be misinterpreted and I'm sure half the time when I've responded with 'eff off' it's because I've received the wrong message from 140 characters in a tweet.

But back to trolling. In 2010 I tweeted with @CalumBest, jeez I'm at least 20 years older than him, so not his usual audience. I responded to someone else's tweets about addiction and he replied. I then had loads of tweets from young women on twitter telling me to stay away from him. I made a mistake, I interacted and it became abusive, as quick as I was blocking new accounts more were being set up, with false names, the same profile picture.

It was annoying, I steered clear of it, kept blocking, stopped replying, then things changed. She was tweeting me that she was outside my house, watching through my kitchen window, she threatened to kill me if I ever tweeted Calum Best again, she said she had followed me to work.

I showed hubby, his suggestion was to close my twitter account and open a new one, but I had friends on there, genuine ones. I didn't want to give in to the bully. A 23 yo on twitter with an established account contacted me to say she was being bullied by the same person and receiving similar threats, she was in Edinburgh, where the false accounts had been set up according to their profiles but there was no evidence of the tweets and then I discovered she was following all the accounts that had targeted me, but they weren't following her back, like they'd done with me. I contacted her via DM, as a friend, said we should get together to report this to the police, told her I had hired an investigator to search and had found out who this person was making the threats, where they lived and workda y told her about a friend of mine, Emily, who's internet bully had been jailed for 3 months for making death threats on Facebook.

And then it stopped, all of it stopped, I blocked her, the troll. I went to my local police station to report it. I was told by the police exactly what my husband had told me.....'delete your account'.

Why? the bullies/trolls win that way. What I've learnt though is not to get involved, not to respond, not to advertise the trolling, just to block and walk away, just like I did back in the 'old days' when i was a teenager, before social media began.

I'm not sure how the courts are going to manage this new law of up to 2 years in jail for internet trolls surely a lot of the abuse is difficult to distinguish. Yes a direct threat of rape or murder whether written or spoken is a matter for police, but telling someone they are a vile human being in response to something they've said isn't a matter for the courts. It is still abuse, but how is this going to be policed?

Friday, 17 October 2014

You're moving to exciting

I do wish people would stop saying that. For the past 4 years it's been assumed that every minute of our lives in South Africa has been full of sunshine and laughter and opportunities and safaris on a daily basis.

Yes we've had some wonderful experiences and visited places we'd never even dreamed of visiting. But we had that when we lived in the UK, travel with the kids to the States, Turkey, Tunisia as well as most of France. We regally went to football matches at various grounds and to Wembley. Hubby travelled with work to places we'd probably have never visited and I tagged along on occasional weekends to extend his trip. The kids had unlimited experiences with us and their friends to do a lot of things that their peer groups weren't doing and life was very good.

We still had the drams, the hassles with schools, a 6 bed house to keep clean and tidy, the endless washing, ironing and trying to cook meals that all the boys and hubby would eat. Stress at work, extra pressure from study, but we had family near by and plenty of friends as did the kids. We plodded on in-between the dramas and excitement just about like everyone else does in life.

In South Africa we still plod on and we plod on ok, but we made huge sacrifices to just plod on and No, the sun, the pool etc does not make our lives anymore glamorous than it was before or any more exciting than yours is.

So why isn't moving to Dubai exciting for me then?

Because I know exactly what's going to happen, I'm already extremely stressed sorting out our visa applications and the paperwork for the cat and dog. So far the process to move to Dubai from South Africa is the same as the move from the UK. Short notice, little support, hours of phone calls, googling, appointments etc, .

But this time there are two added complications.

1. our visas to live here expire on January 11th 2015 so we're on a tight deadline that can't be extended

2. both applications had to be made from the UK, but this time we're living in South Africa

There are three differences this time.

1. I'm not working so I have the time to do all this stuff

2. The children have already left home since we've been in South Africa

3. I know what's coming

When we were leaving the UK for South Africa. I expected that once the stress of the move was over and we were in our new home that life would be wonderful and exciting, but it became clear as soon as we arrived that the promised help with finding somewhere to live wasn't going to happen. This time our move to Dubai will go smoother as a) I have a pre visit to the new country, which I didn't get when we came to South Africa and b) during my pre visit, house hunting trips have been lined up for us and we are getting assistance with the physical move.

So why have I been so stressed? so wound up? crying? shouting?

Because when we arrive in Dubai and we've unpacked our furniture and hubby starts his new job, I'm back to being on my own, friendless, lonely and have to reinvent my life, find work, go out there and meet people, learn new cultures, laws, rules.

It took 4 years for me to settle in South Africa, to feel I belonged, to understand how everything worked. I dealt with the last child leaving home and adapting to empty nest syndrome, sending the 14 yo back to the UK to complete his education, finding volunteer work so I felt I had a purpose as I couldn't work here, make friends and now it has all stopped, suddenly, overnight.

life is now on hold for me, I have 2 weeks before I fly to the UK then onto Dubai. December the 1st is booked for the packing, the dog and cat need their jabs etc within a tight timeframe, we need to find somewhere to live over Christmas with the pets. We have 2 kids to book flights for and time our move to Dubai with the kids, before sending them back to the UK in January. We have our goodbyes to say and a car to sell.

The 4 years in South Africa have just whizzed by and I know that the moment we arrive in Dubai, I will not be putting in the same level of effort again to settle in there as I know that as soon as I do, we'll be on the move again. I just can't invest all the time to have to change it all again.

Right now I can't see the future, the positives, yes I can get a job, but I haven't worked for 4 years. I'll meet new people, have opportunities for travel, but I've already done all that.

That's why for me the move to Dubai isn't exciting.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How to sell a car in South Africa

Email, Facebook, Tweet, Instagram, Whatsapp and SMS EVERYONE you know in Gauteng.

Wait till someone contacts you and then try to work out who they are as your friends have shared the details.

Arrange to meet in a public place, with security, in day light, in an area you know well.

Message a friend with the name of the person, cell number, where and when you are meeting.

Make sure your phone is fully charged and has credit.

On route to meeting this guy at his place of work which is a government office, I messaged my friend with a description of what I was wearing. Having driven round the one way system in Pretoria, road blocks and protests outside the Tshwane Postal Depot. I pulled up at a petrol station to check if there was someone else near by that was secure I could meet this guy at.

I found a secure car park, parked near the entrance and security booth. I phoned the guy, told him to meet me there, kept my key and parking ticket in my pocket and paid the security guy to stand with me while I waited.

Over the top? No, not in South Africa. I was very anxious, my friends BIL took a friend with him and met the potential buyer at a mall, they were both bundled into the boot of the car they were trying to sell and held hostage a couple of hours drive away, until one of them was taken ill and they were driven back to the outskirts of town.

No I haven't sold my car yet, but he said he'll get back to me this afternoon.

I do hope he buys it, I don't think I could go throughout that again.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Relocating from South Africa to Dubai

We received confirmation of our move to Dubai on the 10th October. Since then the stress levels have been sky high. The appointed relocation company has provided us with information of what, but not where and when or how? 3 weeks ago we knew nothing, I'm still not confident that I know everything I need to know until I know it.

To have birth and marriage certificates attested they must have a GRO number. I still don't know what a GRO number is but basically if a certificate is signed by hand or issued prior to 1991 it probably doesn't have a GRO, therefore at the cost of £9.50 each I've ordered new certificates online.

What we do have?

We have a date for the removal company to pack and for shipping.

We have ordered all the documents we need to relocate and taken photo copies.

We have an appointment in the UK to get the youngest sons passport.

We are taking the cat and the dog to the vets tomorrow for their injections.

My flight to the UK is booked, so is car hire and the return stop off in Dubai and hotel, to go house hunting.

I have 3 people interested in buying my car, one viewing tomorrow.

What don't we have?

Hubbies passport

What is left to do?

Complete Insurance documents for shipping and air freight.

Decide what's going in the air freight and pack suitcases.

Arrange a sitter for the cat and dog while we are in the UK.

Get the cat and dog wormed 2 weeks prior to moving.

Export and import permit for the cat and dog.

Measurements of cat and dog for the crates.

Book flights for cat and dog.

Book our flights to move to Dubai.

Book flight for the kids to come to South Africa one last time to say their goodbyes and move with us to Dubai.

Visit UK solicitor for copies of documents to be signed as originals.

Send all documents by recorded delivery to the Foreign Office and wait 4-5 days for their return.

Visit the UAE Embassy in London for documents to be attested.

Submit application for visas in Dubai.

Once we move to Dubai we have to have medical checks and activate the visas, within 30 days.

All of the above is running or will run concurrently. *pours another gin*

Monday, 13 October 2014

What do relocation experts offer?

From our experience of moving from the UK to South Africa 4 years ago and the current situation of moving to Dubai, I can honestly say that I am not impressed with relocation experts. I point blank refused to deal with the company in South Africa who allegedly assisted with our move here, so we've been appointed a new one in Dubai.

In regards to my husbands work contract and permit, I would be unable to to help him with the relevant work visa application and I'm more than happy for the relocation experts to do this on our behalf, however when it comes to relocating me, our son, the dog and the cat and our furniture, I'd rather we did this on our own, as to be honest, it's nothing but hassle to involve a 3rd party.

The biggest issue is that the move is due to hubbies job and getting his employers to deal with me directly is almost impossible. If I want to ask a question, I email hubby, who emails HR, who emails the relocation experts, who repeat the charade until I finally get a response. In the meantime it's a week later and with thanks to google and several phone calls, I've usually found out the answer myself.

My biggest hurdle is getting myself heard. It's my life that is being uprooted, it is me who has to wait for removal firms to be sent to quote, again appointments are made and it's expected I will just drop everything and be at home with less than 12 hours notice. Hubby is carrying on with his job, son is in boarding school in the UK, with the view to relocate to Dubai for his A levels next September.

The relocation company so far have told us we need birth and marriage certificates, driving licence and passports attested. But they haven't told us how or where. We keep telling them we are British living in South Africa, with a deadline of January 11th to leave SA when our visas expire. We have to make the application from our home country, despite them telling us we can have documents attested here, a quick call to the embassy in the UK, told us other wise. So additional stress and hassle and pressure and costs for both of us, however hubby still hasn't received his replacement passport after it was stolen in July, so it's down to me to get the ball rolling.

I'm the one who has to organise the move, sort out the donations, finish off my charity and volunteer work, say good bye to friends, arrange transit for the pets, liase with the landlord, close down utilities and bank accounts etc and sell the car. I'm also the one who has to fly to the UK on November 2nd to apply for son's new passport on fast track, submit documents and visit Dubai to find somewhere to live. I won't return to the UK until the end of November and I'm hoping the removal firm can be organised to pack and ship our furniture the following day, leaving me time to organise the pets and relocate to Dubai the middle of December.

Throw into all of this our landlord is selling the house now we've given notice and I'm entertaining the estate agent, who half of her clients are just coming for a nose around.

So once I get son's new passport and hubbies driving licence and passport arrive and he can join me in the UK here's what we have to do.

All the relocation experts have told us is what documents we need and that they have to be attested, but not how, when or where. Despite several emails being sent via 'Uncle Tom Cobley and all' we were still none the wiser, but after several calls and googling 'I have a job offer in Dubai what documents do I need for my wife and son to get a residency visa?' I discovered this website, which quite frankly has been more use to me than the relocation experts as it tells me everything I need to know.

  • Our documents must be verified with the Foreign Office. This can only be done by post and costs £30 per certificate.

  • They must check that our documents are legitimate. This service will cost £330 for 3 passports, 3 birth certificates, 2 driving licences, 1 marriage licence and both our degree certificates. It will take approximately 7 days for them to be returned.

  • We must then photo copy the certificates for which we'll need for the work, residency visas, plus copies to make applications for driving licences, alcohol permit, utilities, rental agreements etc, which must be attested with UAE embassy in London, that we must visit in person between 9am and 12pm and collect in the afternoon.

  • We also require several passport photo's and on entry to Dubai we must have medical checks, which is a whole other debate and you can read about here.

Our costs in regards to flights, car hire, fuel, hotel (although this is in dispute as I will need to be in the UK and Dubai for approximately 1 month) fees for attesting certificates, son's passport, passport photo's will be covered by expenses. But will not cover cost of food, pet sitting for Bob and Pushkins or compensate me for my time away from South Africa when I need to be sorting stuff for moving, finishing off my volunteer work and saying goodbye to my friends and don't forget I need to sort the dog and cat out with their injections and blood tests which also has to be done within a strict timeline.

When we moved to South Africa from the UK, we had a base, no additional accommodation fees and we had access to a company car right up until the day we flew out here.

So what do relocation experts offer?

A list of what you need, which you can easily obtain off the internet and submission of the documents, which isn't that difficult.

Cross boarder medical checks

To move from the UK to South Africa in 2011, prior to obtaining our visas we were required to have a chest X-ray to check we were free of TB, a form signed by our doctor to confirm we were sane and police checks.

To move to Dubai we are required upon entry to have a chest X-ray to check we are free of TB and blood tests to ensure we are free from HIV/AIDS and Leprosy. We are not however required to have police checks, but I will be having one done as I work in Child Protection and I teach so know I will be asked to provide evidence that I am safe to work in this field in both Dubai and for when we eventually return to the UK.

Two issues have arisen from this.

  • Since being in South Africa we have both tested negative for HIV/AIDS, so if we have contracted either HIV/AIDS or TB, we would have contracted it in South Africa, but where would the UAE return us to? As we've never been tested for Leprosy, that would be a harder question to answer. According to a report in the Guardian in June 2014, Leprosy is rare in the UK, however in South Africa, February 2014, there was an increase in diagnosed cases. And as far as I am aware, apart from the additional stress caused by yet another relocation, we are both still sane.
  • If we were returning to the UK where no visa's are required for us as we are British, no health tests are requested at all, however I would be asked for a police check/CRB when I applied for work, so it's only common sense that's telling me to get one done before we leave here. However for immigration purposes, depending on what country you arrive from to the UK there is screening for TB.
I'm sure it would be difficult to police returnees to their country of origin and I'm not sure what questions may arise when applying for work, utilities, bank accounts etc when asked for proof of address for the previous ? years.

No inoculations are required to enter South Africa on holiday, which concerns me with the current situation with Ebola and the spread of the disease by tourists, businesses travellers and health care workers treating the disease. There are no confirmed cases of Ebola in South Africa at the moment, unlike the UK and a Nigerian woman who was in transit died in Abu Dhabi this week. As we are relocating from Africa I'm making the assumption that further screening may take place.

I'd be interested to know if people relocating from anywhere in the world to another country, in particular the UK, have been required to have health checks and what is the strangest test you've been required to have?