Thursday 28 April 2011

But I'm English

'what do I need to get a mobile phone on contract?'
3 months of bank statements, proof of address, ID
*presents documents*
'I can't give you a wage slip, you never said I needed a wage slip, Im not allowed to work, FFS ok I'll get my husband to take contract out in his name'
*gets letter from husband giving permission to obtain bank statements, 3 months worth and stamped by bank*
'here you go, all documents present and correct, what do you mean proof of address is in the wrong name? Why can't you accept it?'
*trundles home to get proof of address*
'you're having a laugh, I can't what?....take out a 24 month contract as I've only got 21 months left on visa, you made ne wait 3 months to get the bank statements'

Wednesday 20 April 2011

and every time we think it cant get any worse....

Can't adopt a dog from the SPCA...our Visa is only for two years
Can't Visa says visitor only
Alex has been poorly all week, don't know what's wrong with him, but at least it's not Visa related, temp of 38.7c
It's nearly winter...OK the sun still shines and the temps are in the 20s
The internet is bloody useless, keeps cutting out
The power keeps going off
The post is very very slow in reaching us...feels like we've been forgotten
Salary keeps getting buggered up
Hubby has had a tax bill from the UK
Discovery are still make legal demands from Dans hospital visit the first week we here
The house we are renting has dodgy electrics
and then this happened:

a loose glass panel decided to smash on the patio below, thankfully Alex didn't go over the top with it...I am so bloody angry

Moving on.....

So the kids are settled in school, made friends, Dan is playing every sport under the sun (quite literally) Peter is busy with his work.....I’ve found us a house to rent, sorted out all the utility bills (see previous comments for the hassles there) unpacked all the furniture, made it ‘Home’...wrote 55 letters to family and friends, posted hundreds of photos on facebook and squillions of updates on now what?

I’m bored, I’m lonely......’it’ll be ok, lucky you not having to work, you’ve got the glorious sunshine, what more could you ask for?’

Oh I don’t know maybe a bit of understanding about what it’s like to go from full time working Mum of xx amount of children.....cook, cleaner and bottle washer, student, taxi driver, social what exactly?.....Peter takes the kids to school at 6.30am every morning and I collect at 4pm, then it’s off to soccer for Dan, dragging a protesting Alex what’s new there then?....It’s a long 9 and a half hours to be alone every day...I’ve written back to everyone that’s written to me...I’ve shopped and posted pressies...feeling a little guilty about moving so far away...the house is spotless, so come whenever you like, you won’t catch me out...well maybe there will be ironing but there’s plenty of places to hide it.

So as I’m not getting the sympathy I so crave (you know who you are) I’ve got 1 option which is to just bloody well get on with it...people aren’t going to come and find me if they don’t know I’m that leaves me 2 choices...and as I can’t play golf for toffee...I’m going to join the gym........

Thursday 14 April 2011

Life is so different for kids here

It was Alex's 12th Birthday today and he invited 5 friends round to do what boys do and make a mess between the hours of 2pm and 6pm. 7 friends arrived at 9am this morning. I've made breakfast, lunch and tea with snacks and drinks inbetween and they've entertained themselves all day with the X box, the pool, darts and badminton.
The boys that came called me Ma'am, despite my insitance they call me Suzanne and were very polite. They are all South African from birth and have lived here all their lives.....but there was one thing that drove me mad and in the end I sat them down and we talked about the differences between South Africa and see they all have Maids and while their Parents are at work during the school holidays, the maids look after them, they come and go during the day, she fixes them and all their friends lunch and she tidies up after them.....the boys were so messy, not toys etc but with their food, they spilt drinks and left it there, they dropped food on the stairs where they were walking around...they weren't rude, they weren't lazy they just didn't realise what they were when I explained I was the maid here and I'd looked after them all day would they mind helping me to tidy up? problem, they swept, they mopped and they picked up all the rubbish off the floor, they laughed and messed around and we actually had fun....loads of thank you Suzanne for having us, can we come back tomorrow?.....NO...I don't want to see you all till Monday..but I know they'll be back, as I heard them say to Alex, you're Mum is so cool, we need to come back and finish off the which Alex replied....she wouldn't be cool if she was your Mum..I let him's his birthday.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

WTF? You've obviously got issues.

I tweeted this last night....Spelling mistakes and all

'oh it got dark quick got to drive home now abd avoid the idiots #thisisafrica no such thing as MOTs abd working headlights'

How the fact is that offensive? and has caused one person to block me and another to have a right go at me on twitter

The #hashtag #thisisafrica was mentioned to me by a South African friend from Cape Town now living in Canada....they explained to me that everything you've ever experienced is different in Africa (South Africa) I've seen the hashtag used in many tweets and my use of it is to explain to people (manily people in the UK) that when something gets me down, or is difficult or is so very different from the UK, that I'm not judging the country for it's faults I'm letting the reader know that I understand it is different here..

Oh and the bit about the working headlights is annual vehicle checks like MOTs or equivalant here...and the reference to the idiots is aimed at the people who drive without headlights...not all people in South ner

Tuesday 12 April 2011

'Can I use your loo?'

So picture the scene, you have workmen, visitors, family etc in your house...

'May I just pop to the loo?'

'Of course, 2nd door on the left...or turn right at the top of the stairs'

Now me personally if it's family or friends, yes upstairs, if it's workmen then it's the downstairs option only.

What goes through your mind as they go off to the loo?

Is it clean, is there a towel, did the kids piss all over the floor again...panic, meant to check it before they came round didn't you?

So your visitor has a dump, you know this because they've been up there for ages....after they've gone you check the loo...OK maybe not...but the next time you use it there's a slight odour, but you can smell the air freshener used to mask it, the sink may or may not have been swilled through, the towel may have dropped on the floor and maybe they've used the bleach and the toilet brush after them...... well you know what you'd do when using someones elses house that's why you go to the trouble of putting all the stuff there, cos you use it and do that after you've had a dump in your own toilet, so why wouldn't anyone else.

Well if you live in a shed if your really lucky, or a badly constructed lean too with a corrugated roof or really unlucky a cardboard one....(just remember we've just finished the rainy season)'re going to have a total different set of standards and values aren't you?...and this is why the gardener will not be using my toilet again...I've spoken with the neighbours and their maid is going to open up their outside toilet for him to use.

The grass isn't greener.

You know it's easy to say...

'lucky cow, wish I had an opportunity like that, you wouldn't hear me moaning, it can't be THAT bad, you've got the sunshine, your family are healthy, why are you complaining so much'

go on I know that's what some of you are thinking

'how hard can it be to open a bank account and rent a house and buy a car? We've all done it, moved that is....had the trauma's of something getting broken, the chain falling through, it raining on removal day, an outstanding bill we forgot to pay, something we left behind, the kids playing up, having to settle them into a new school, coupled with your Partner starting a new job'

Well let me tell you it's very hard.....

There isn't a manual on moving to the other side of the world...there was endless help from family and friends in the UK prior to us leaving, you remember how stressful it was...but there was NOBODY here when we arrived...there are many of you that have done it and you have all been fantastic....seriously the advice I've had in a moment of crisis has been amazing, the phone calls, emails and tweets have kept me going....but even then each move abroad for each family is different, some of you are packed up and shipped out to a new home and life but your companies, some of you have done it all by yourselves, some of you have done it numerous times and there's nothing that you coould have told me that would have made it any easier.....

'So what's your biggest problem then, Suzanne?'

Well we're all speaking the same language...sometimes, but I really struggle with the accents, especially over the phone and it seems to be the way here that if you say you don't understand, they just raise their voice, which doesn't actually help....explaining that you're English and don't understand how things work here, isn't really helping either....the response of 'well you did these things in the UK didn't you?' doesn't actually mean anything, because unless you understand how things are done in the UK you can't understand how very, very different they are done here.

'So what can we do to help you?'

To be honest, nothing, you're not here, you don't have a clue any more than I do about how you sort things out, your impression of the country is one of sunshine, crime and violence, you don't really know it's still a 3rd world country, the poverty, yet the friendliness of the people, the racism directed at the English and the Domestic staff, (still called servants by many) the slow pace of the country and no you can't compare it to a sleepy English market town or Sunday afternoon have to live here to understand....

So come and visit, see this fantastic lifestyle we have, keep me company for two weeks, let me drive you around the Safari parks and the nature reserves and take you shopping in this safe and beautiful country....but you won't see the troubles, the fear we felt on arrival, experience the loneliness because we'll be together, having a laugh and a fun time.....

Monday 11 April 2011

If you don't want my comment don't post in my timeline

I don't just link this blog to twitter...I have a lot of family and friends that read our adventures in South Africa, the only comments I recieve are if they think I've mentioned them in a negative light or they don't agree with my opinion....but for those of you that tweet, you'll know I talk about all sort of stuff that doesn't make it onto the blog as it's usaully 'in reply' to comments on twitter or when a topic has really wound me up and I need more than 140 characters...well here's my latest rant....

I can't read your DM's, I can't see you emails and I'm not privvy to your text messages, phone calls or face to face meetings....If you post a comment on twitter or even facebook for that matter, you will recieve a reation, people will either agree with you in which case you'll gain new followers and friends and you'll gush at the responses, you'll thank people for their help and support and you'll blog 'I knew I was a good mummy' but if you get a negative response or an honest response or someone suggests a way to do something that you just don't'll unfollow, you'll get upset, you'll post 'revenge' comments, you'll gather support from the first lot, who without any investigation will take your side and join in with the 'oh, just ignore them' 'who do they think they are'

I saw a few tweets that caused me great concern, I was worried for the individuals safety and the welfare of their young children, I suspected Post Natal Depression and asked a few people on twitter via DM for some advice...I was a family support worker for many years and yes I am qualified not to make a diagnosis but when to know something just isn't right...well I made a suggestion...stop tweeting and go see your doctor, midwife, husband, parents...yoou need help and twitter isn't giving you what you's just telling you 'you're ok, carry on you're doing a marvellous job as a mummy'

they blocked me, told me to mind my own business... dont fucking put it on twitter then in the public timeline...but mission complete...they were away from twitter for a while, returned and announced they had PND and now in the process of trwatment and therapy and thanking everyone on twitter for their kind words...they haven't unblocked me, but I do wish those that said 'carry on' had said the right words instead of what they just thought the other person needed to hear.

oh and for those of you that do join in with the assination of someone who showed genuine concern, please read the whole conversation (in reply to ) before you jump on the bandwagon.

I'll not lie

3 months ago when we arrived in Jo'burg I was bloody petrified....and all for no reason at all.... not one person had anything positive to say about this beautiful country, granted most of the information we recieved was from South Africans now living in the UK, foolishly we believed they moved because it was too dangerous, and now we discover it isn't at all....
Ok so we live in a secure estate and we're half way between Jo'burg and Pretoria and not really in a tourist or dangerous area....but there are townships, nearby, the sat nav warns me as I approach a high crime area, basically every set of Robots, exit or entrance slip road....I drive at night, been out without a satnav and only a rough idea of where I'm going....I've walked from mall to mall and I've even stopped and given people a lift....but there are areas I won't go, there are routes I wouldn't pick anyone up on (usually give women a lift from the estate to the train station on the school run)....I keep my mobile in my front trouser pocket, I now carry a handbag which is secured under my seat when driving and crossed over my chest when I'm shopping. If I'm walking I carry the bare minimum in my pockets (no outward show of valuables to be robbed) I go into bars and cafes on my own and chat with people, I'm now more assertive in telling the gardener and the pool guy what I want doing and how....I'm embrassing the lifestyle here and loving it....

Who would've thought it?

Guess you know the story by now, but 6 months ago we were ticking along nicely in the UK, kids in school, Dan in his final year, Alex in his first at secondary, Jamie left home and moved to Reading, Andrew based in Germany waiting for his call up to Afghan and Steph settled over in Gloucester....fantastic support from family and very dear friends. Peter in his 25th year with the company and more and more opportunities to travel and I was at the start of a promising career in Child Welfare, some part time lecturing and nearing the end of my degree in Psychology and Criminology.

Then one day back in October, Peter and Alex came to pick me up from work one and blurted out 'We've just had a call, how do you fancy moving to South Africa?'

3 months later we left the UK and arrived at Jo'burg airport, now 3 months on, kids are settled in school, Peter still travelling, already been to Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and back to the UK via a conferance in Lisbon. We all went to Durban when Jamie came to visit, Andrew due out soon, my parents in June and Peter's mum and sister in July. I'm still studying for my degree and life in general couldn't get any better...there have been some low points (see previous blogs) but we've moved on now and ready and more prepared for the next challenge.

that's it we're here to stay

They came and collected all the boxes I guess that's it...we now live in South Africa, UK house rented for a year, so nowhere to return to now anyway...and we're loving it.

Is there anything you want?

PG Tips and Pork sausages

I'll let you know when I need more the moment I have 2 parcels in transit with thanks to facebook friends Suzi and Becks....and I've instructed my parents to bring some with them when they come out in June....please don't send sausages though.....

Just post, that's all, drop me a line and let me know how you're's my lifeline and I can't get enough of it...please excuse the delay in takes about 2 weeks for your letter to get here and aanother two weeks to recieve a reply

Go ahead unfollow if you want

So many more people are more open these days and with the advances in technology and social networking you are never more than a few tweets/status up dates/google searches away from the answer.

But please be careful..there is too much information out there and before you know it you've convinced yourself you've got cancer/your child is autistic/you're allergic to the 21st Century.

My reasons for writing this post are to ask some of you...and please don't ask if I mean you? STOP treating your children as mini adults, to STOP labelling them as talented/special needs/allergic/angels etc etc......let them be kids, let them grow up without Kumon lessons and ballet classes, let them be them and not little versions of what you wanted to be....give up the labels...they are self imposed, STOP comparing and competing...even if you don't think you are some of you really don't know how much upset you cause others with your comments....

You're children are beautiful, they are precious, of course you would die to protect them...just remember not everyone else will see them that way...and that is life

Geninue allergies (life threatening) and Special needs with Statements are excluded from all above comments.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Saying Sorry

I live in a house full of males, I enjoy sport and probably go to more football matches than anyone in my family...I worked in a male dominated environment (football) why can't I learn?

I'm not trying to rewrite the book...just have my say that's all....

If I bump into you, knock your arm while you're eating, take the wrong turn, break something etc...I apologise, automatically, I don't have to think why can't you?

Saying sorry is NOT an admission of guilt, you are not admitting that you did the said act on purpose, it wasn't deliberate...I know that...and I WON'T hold it against you...but I will keep on about it till you tell me you're sorry.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Nothing is EVER easy

We’ve been in the country 88 days, not long is it?...I’ve never even visited South Africa before arriving here and Peter came for 1 week November 2010 to see if he liked it here.
In the UK, you know what you’re doing.....this is usually based on information from your family environment, friends and colleagues and from experience.......Mortgage providers, solve a dispute with a gas bill, best mobile phone know what magazines to read for reviews, you have a preference for a type of car and knowledge of how much things cost and whether you’re being ripped off or not...and if you don’t google, you ask.....
Well we don’t have any of that.......
We had no idea what so ever about anything in South Africa.....prices of cars.....who the insurance firms we have a choice of provider for the electric....who operates the satellite TV...where to buy school uniform from?
We also had no internet, bank account or couldn’t google a thing.
What we did have was a good supportive network from the UK...mmmm we were wrong there...we opened up a bank account with the ‘World’s largest bank’ which would provide us with a credit history, off shore banking and a local bank account...they forgot to mention that off shore banking would cost more for each transaction as they don’t actually have a branch in SA, which means we can’t have local banking, which means we don’t have a credit history.
We couldn’t get a mobile phone or internet access as we didn’t have 3 months of bank statements (see above) so we couldn’t find out what we needed to do and how to do it.
We had to do everything at the same time...we needed a house to rent...but needed to phone agents...we needed a car to visit the houses to rent...but needed a bank account to finance a car...
I’m a resourceful person and although there was a HR person, who has since left the company (I for one won’t miss them), all they did was sort out Peter’s contract, rent an apartment for 6 weeks, in their we had no proof of address, put us in touch with an agency to sort the Visa’s and authorised our expenses in regards to getting here....(see previous blogs for Removal Company, Driving Licence and Visa hassles, you don’t need to go back too far...we only started the whole process in November 2011)
Peter is trying to settle into his new job, different cultures, languages, methods of doing business, thankfully the children were sorted in school within 48hrs so I wasn’t dragging them around...I took to the streets, quite literally, I had to walk and drive to places armed with a local map of the area, no sat nav....prior to coming out here the advice I was given was not to do this...I stood on street corners, panicking as I made telephone calls and arrived unannounced at the kids schools and pleaded to use the internet to contact house agents. I walked into chemists and asked for advice on how I use the med aid card? I get a dentists?...the local cafe owner drew me a map for the local library, so I could study.
So everywhere I go and everything I need to do this is how it goes.....
‘I’m from England.....I’ve only been in the country xxxx weeks, I don’t know how things works here, please will you help me?’
Then these are the additional questions we now know we need to ask.......
‘Does the copy have to be stamped? And who would you like me to stamp it?...the school, the bank...the police...’(utility bills, DSTV)
‘Does this form need a witness to sign? you supply the witness or shall I get one?...can it be a stranger off the street (Customs) can it be my husband? (permission to have my own bank account) can it be my son? (Library card)’
‘Do I need additional forms, to the ones you’ve just told me about?’...
Everywhere we go and for everything we do we carry the following...even if they have a certified stamp, you still have to show original.....
Contract of employment
Proof of residency
Driving Licence, paper and photo card and The AA International Driving Permit
Bank Statement – Current
...and that is just the bare minimum
There’s always something else they’ll ask for.
The reason I write this today is Peter is on his 3rd visit to the Vehicle Licensing Department to prove that he is allowed to buy a car...I can’t buy my own car as my visa is for a visiting, therefore I can’t get my own finance, Peter can...We already have the car, it has plates, I have Insurance in my own right...thanks to ‘OUTsurance’...and another thing we also found out is when someone says to you...’It’s OK don’t worry about anything, we will sort it all out for you’....means we’ll forget to tell you something and you’ll have to do it...usually within 72hours...’you don’t need any paperwork...just the copy of your passport........’

Sunday 3 April 2011

Do you have staff?

I had a cleaner in the UK, 3 hrs once a week, she cleaned bathrooms, dusted and hoovered, the things I struggled with, but I was working full time, with 3 active teenagers at home.

Now I'm here in South Africa I am expected to have a maid, I'm not working and there are now only 2 kids at home.

We have a gardener, he was sort of forced on us....he mows the lawn when I tell him to do so and sweeps up afterwards. He also uses the hose pipe to chase the leaves around the garden. He works from 7.30am til 2.30pm for R150 per day (about £12) He demanded I feed him and what at set times during the day and is constantly on his phone...after I've paid him and he goes home I spend at least an hour tidying up after him. He is constantly knocking on the door or window needing things. During the day I have to ask him to do or not to do certain things and personally I see it all as a waste of time..I enjoy gardening, but it's not the done thing to do it yourself.

Same with the pool guy he comes twice a week for R250 per week and he keeps telling me off as there are leaves in the filter...I explain it's autumn and I can't do anything about it, he mutters some more at me and I end up apologising.

I don't want a maid, I don't want someone in my house all day. I like things done a certain way, I'm not OCD, but don't see the point of redoing it afterwards. I also don't want to have to 'train' the maid and I don't want to have to tell her what to do.

I've heard and seen some funny/sad things with domestic staff.

Maid stood outside with brolley over washing in rain as she was told to put it out, but not bringing it in if it rained.

Gardener laying the paper out to dry, as it got wet in the rain and the maid ironing it.

Gardeners working in temps of high 30's and being told to drink from the hose pipe and not being allowed to use the outside toilet.

Maids being late by 5 minutes and without any come back, being sacked and gardeners not turning up for work as their grandmother has died (again) they seem to come from large families.

I think I'd rather just pay someone R150 per day to sit in the garden, out of my way while I just get on with the work.....I will end up employing someone to support the local economy

...but right now it's not my culture to have staff.

Too much hard work

I dread those words.....'do you fancy a Braai (BBQ)?'

me: er no not really
him: I'll cook
me: yeah I know you'll cook, but I don't want to be your skivvy
him: you sit down I'll do it all

and you know the rest.......

I haven't stopped

I made the salad
I got the trays out
I marinated the meat
I've held numerous plates, items of cutlery
I've fetched drinks, laid the table, found 'things'

Is it the same for you?

I'll see your pool and raise you a golf cart'

My 11yo has always been on the immature side, but then he is the youngest of 5, the eldest is profoundly disabled and we've have been fearful that as the children grow up they won't want to play with her anymore, shes loves rough and tumble just like a toddler. Peter and I haven't had any children together and that has always been a sad point in our relationship, but the kids are all ours despite regular contact with their dad and occasional interferance form their mum.

We have family words that we use, to our own embarrasment outside the family home..such as puter and saying duck instead of stuck and can you do this undone for me...all the little things the kids used to say that made us laugh...unfortunalty the youngest feels he should still use these for real and accompanies them with his best baby voice, I think he thinks that we like it.....

The youngest is 12 in less than 2 weeks, he has a large collection of Pandas on his bed and a fireman rug, he also has a blanket that if we move he goes mental about...yeah, yeah I can hear you all, it's my fault, wanting another baby so keeping him as one etc etc.....but meet me and my family and you'll see that's not the case.....

We've spent lots of time with the psychologist and self referred to psychiatrist for concerns in regards to youngest, his toilet habits and his lack of educational progress, spend time with him and you'll see what a difficult, yet, intelligent child he is, spend too much time and you'll see his issues.

But the light bulb came on this morning....we've worked it all out.

Since moving into the estate on the 1st of March the youngest child has changed, we no longer have the blanket, his teddies have been put in the cupboard and his rug removed from his room and dumped in the laundry, he's making a real effort in school, despite being on permenant catch up, he is officially dyslexic. So why the change?

My son has been in private school since the beginning, he boarded for 2 years (years 2 & 3) and continued to board as and when he wanted to, he spent all his weekends at his dad's house of with grandparents...he didn't have friends....despite the school only being 4 miles from where we lived, his friends travelled from so far away it wasn't convienent to play....his friends nearby had trust accounts, granparents paying fees, mummies and daddies that I couldn't bare to spend time with and so much competition for Alex he felt the underdog and out of place.....

Since we've been here, despite still being in a private school, his friends come from normal families or they are ex pats with the company paying the fees, they live on the same estate, they go and play on the tennis courts or football on the fairways, they wander in and out of everyones houses and they don't need to compete, but it is impossible to do so here.

'I'll see your pool and raise you a golf cart'

Me time

Despite it NOT being Mothers' Day in South Africa until May, my family have decided to have it today as they were aware that as I had sent flowers to both sets of parents in the UK, I should also be spoilt.

'Me time' today has been spent potting my tomato plants, listening to music, baking cakes and hand sewing some curtains.

I love 'Me time'..Peter on the golf course, Dan on his xbox and Alex out with his friends....can't get enough of it.......

But I've had too much 'Me time' recently and it has got me down.....

I used to have a full time job, which was demanding and often involved late night working and nights away, I was studying for my degree and screaming out for time to read and write an assignment...I used to crave 'Me time', scream and shout to get evening off a week to watch TV undisturbed, or a sunday afternoon, even if it was just to do the ironing.

Now I have 'Me time' all day every day and nothing to motivate me, keep me going, grab my attention, give me an idea for something.

And yet today, I'm enjoying my 'Me time' cos for the first time since we've been here...I feel normal, I feel I have a routine....Peter on the golf course, Dan on his xbox and Alex out with his friends...

So on Monday I'm going to get dressed the same time as everyone else, I'm going to work and study downstairs and come up for a drink and a snack when required, a change is as good as a rest and I'm going to make the most of it. It's half term on Friday (month off school) family are coming to visit in June and July. The two year restriction on my Visa to work will be over as quick as anything and I'll be craving my 'Me time' again.

Losing my Identity/Reinventing myself

'Hi, nice to meet you...yes I'm Peters wife, yes...yes the 2 boys are settling in well...they're 16 and 11...yes especially the eldest one hes loving his sport...yes it was a hard adjustment....the boys...oh loads of friends what with school and all that...oh I'm enjoying the "me" time,... no haven't employed a maid yet, need something to do with my day...yes...thank you and you...nice chatting'

and that's it.......

I used to be Suzanne, married to Peter, 3 boys and 2 step children, work for the Football Association in Child Welfare and teach at Worcester College of Technology....... can you imagine how many more questions used to arise from that I feel like I'm trying to prove something if I say WHAT I used to be....

Silent Sunday