Sunday, 30 October 2011

South African Halloween

This time last year I was in a meeting and I left Hubby and youngest son to decorate the fairy cakes for halloween

I love halloween, I love decorating the outside of the house, I love carving the pumpkin and getting the treats ready for when the children call.

Every year I sit in the kitchen with the front door ajar and listen to the kids walk up my drive, several times I hear 'it's the cake ladies house, I love her cakes'

I wonder how many people will call at our house as usual this year to discover we don't live their any longer.

This year, I'm decorating the inside of the house, I've made the cakes, but no one will come calling, it's not exactly safe to walk the streets here.

And there won't be a bonfire night either :-(

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Dear Mr Cameron

We moved to South Africa in January, leaving our 22 year old proundly disabled daughter in care in the UK. This WAS NOT an easy decision.
She cannot feed, wash, dress or toilet herself, she is a risk to herself and others.
We have been informed today her budget will be cut by 50% putting her at considerable risk.
Her care home have asked we raise our concerns.
To whom?
We were assured her funding was for life when she turned 18. this appears not to be the case.
We need your help to sort this matter out please and an explanation of how you can do this to her.
It has been hard enough moving to a new country, we left our 3 adult children in the UK, one in the army and the other working to fund his studies.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

What’s left to do?

Flights home to UK in December booked and I must remember to remove any codeine from my hand bag as I don’t want to be arrested at Dubai airport on my way through.
I now have a mobile phone contract with Vodacom, it’s a galaxy tab and I love it, please excuse the typos as the swipe is still getting used to what I may be going to type.
I’m not finished for Vodafone in the UK and I’m making a complaint to OFCOM, despite Vodafone cancelling the last 3 months of my two year contract as a gesture of good will for taking 9 months to sort out my online access and refusing to supply me with a reference for Vodacom and ignoring my many requests for assistance to fix a broken phone.
SAFA have finally agreed to sign foreign players, but it’s been 9 months now since we started the process and Dan has decided he doesn’t want to play football anymore and SAFA have ignored my complaint of Poor practice against the local officer for telling me ‘I don’t like you and I won’t sign your son as he’s English’
I’m also waiting for a reply from HSBC about a service we were miss sold. OK we were told from the off that they don’t actually have a branch in South Africa, but continued to open up an account for us, not once telling us that all the benefits such as someone opening an account for us on arrival and credit history would not apply to us. They even cancelled my bank card in our first week here due to ‘unusual activity’ I’m sure we mentioned we were moving here when we asked for ‘off shore’ banking.
There’s the matter of sorting out my visa, that or I’m going to have to find another way of getting an income and finding something to do with my time.
I complained to the rental agents in the UK, who messed us around when we moved here, no communication or response to emails, got back to me to say ‘sorry’ the person we were dealing with has since left the company for a variety of reasons.
I’m getting feed up of the agent we’re using here; the balcony doors have been broken since we moved in, in March. Would you believe it they were stuck open all winter when temps dropped at night to -5c and after being ‘fixed’ they are now stuck shut, it’s 30c in the day and I need the bloody things to open. I’d like to be able to water the tomato plants, sunflowers and herbs.
The garage Barloworld, Toyota owe me a tyre pressure gauge, after mine was faulty, been 3 months and caused a blown tyre.
The South African postal service continue to ‘misplace’ my mail from the UK and although there is now a new system in place for signing for collection of slips, it still doesn’t address the issue of token gifts, letters and cards from family and friends.
I’m still very angry with the local removal firm we used in the UK and the way they took our money nearly £4,000 then became unavailable when the agents here ‘lost’ our container for 2 days and customs forced us to pay a release fee, so I will be writing to Britannia Removal Company to inform them of the facts. Probably won’t do much but will make me feel better that I’ve said something.
And the very last thing? @london2012 will be emailing me by the end of November to let me know if I have been successful in my application to volunteer next year at the Olympics, what role, where and when. I’m hopeful as I’ve already had 2 call backs asking for further information.

Groenkloof – where I walk with the giraffes

This was the first nature reserve in Africa, founded in 1895 by Paul Kruger to protect a species of antelope. In 1998 Zebra were introduced to the reserve and Giraffes in 2002.
There’s the usual Braai areas and picnic sites, a camp site, mountain bike hire and horse riding. A wonderful restaurant and bar and a miniature steam train that runs in the summer on a Sunday.

This place is beautiful and with so little public outdoor spaces, other than malls and the golf course we live on, it’s wonderful to be able to go for a walk on marked footpaths, with a variety of terrains and be at one with the wildlife.
Ok I don’t like the snakes and there aren’t any dangerous animals there, other than Ostrich, Wildebeest, Giraffes and Zebras and it is up to you to exercise some common sense and not walk too closely to the animals.

What I don’t notice now

Everything is starting to merge. The TV jingles are so familiar now I sing or hum along with them and South Africans version of go compare really gets on my nerves. I listen to Highveld 94.7 on the radio and sing along, I listen to the traffic reports and don’t wonder anymore why the lights are always out at Bryanston and know where they are talking about when they say there’s been an accident near the Olifantsfontein Road.
I now know where I can buy everything I want/need, finances permitting of course. The local Spar shop sells Dr Pepper, Rowntrees fruit pastels and gums. And PicknPay sell Hula Hoops. In a Cadburys taste test between SA and UK the local chocolate won hands down.
I’m still finding the weather a little strange, it seems that Spring started on September 1st and summer the following day, its rained twice since June 2nd, the temperature is in the high 20s in the day and around 15c at night, the winter took us by surprise, never thought it got cold enough to burst the water pipes.
I’ve stopped pointing out large numbers of people shoved in the back of buckies, speeding along the N1, but was alarmed to see a small child sitting in the back of one the other day.

The crowded trains with people hanging off the side no longer draw my attention, but the sight of kids walking along the railway line on their way home from school was a little alarming.

I still smile when I see the Johannesburg sign on my way home from collecting the kids to school, and as I drive towards Johannesburg I still love seeing the skyline.

Say football, mobile, text and sat nav despite it being soccer, cell, sms and GPS, but I get by, it’s definitely Braai and not BBQ and I still get a bit confused at the ‘circles’ (roundabouts) as to whose right of way it is, no ones.

Rietvlei Nature Reserve, South Africa

Rietvlei Nature Reserve is managed by the City of Tshwane. It is located just off the R21 near Irene, which consists of a large security estate, several residential and business areas and a small mall, approximately 10kms from Centurion.
There are 30kms of Tarmac road and a further 10kms of dirt roads. These roads are suitable for all types of vehicles, however I suggest you have a vehicle with high clearance or a 4x4 for the dirt roads in the rainy season as the roads get waterlogged and when they dry out there are deep ridges that a smaller car may get stuck in.
My chosen route is to stay on the tarmac roads and follow the signs for the bird hide and picnic spot. It’s about 7kms into the reserve. Along the way you will spot zebra, many varieties of antelope and Ostrich. The mongoose are always a delight to see, more visible in the winter when the grass has been burnt.

At the picnic spot there is a bird hide, you are allowed out of your vehicle here but the sign reminds you, you are still in a dangerous place and to watch out for the wildlife. I saw the tail end of a crocodile here last week, you’d be surprised how fast I can run.

There are Braai facilities, picnic benches and shade, plus very, very clean toilets. I like to sit here for a while and unpack my camping stove, read a book and keep an eye open for the Hippos. I’ve been fortunate to see them twice and on one occasion the mother and its young were walking the edge of the lake, sunbathed for a while then disappeared into the bush.

There are turtles in the water, best viewed from the hide and a wonderful variety of birds to see.

I then move onto the coffee shop, which was once a Homestead dating back to the early 1900’s. They offer a full menu and do a wonderful Sunday lunch. Again there are toilets and showers here, which are very clean and there’s an overnight youth hut and a pool.

I’ve been fortunate to see a young rhino grazing, while I was having lunch and often the Red Hartebeest will wander down.

This route I prefer is 41kms round from door to door. Depending on the time, I will often drive the dirt roads where you’re more likely to see more animals, such as the Rhino and the African Buffalo, there are cheetahs and hyena’s but I’ve yet to see them.

As you can see you can get as close or stay as far away from the animals as you like, the Rhino were a little to close for Daniel’s liking.
There is a separate Lion Park, where for an additional charge you’ll be driven to see the two rescued lions, which were living in someone’s garden. The Lion enclosure is under development.
From experience the best time to see the animals is either first thing in the morning or towards the end of the day, when they congregate around the watering holes and first thing in the morning. In winter the water is limited, due to lack of rain and the animals are more concentrated due to the location of the water. I’ve been informed that the best game viewing takes place in November when they have their young; I’ll let you know when we reach that time of year.
I’ve had many wonderful trips out here, with family, visitors and just by myself it costs all of R40, less than £4, plus your fuel and a picnic or money for lunch, snacks and drinks in the cafe.

And don’t forget your camera.

I still feel a bit sad, but it’s getting better

I’ve been ill, which hasn’t helped and still had to do the school run, feed the gardener and cook tea, then hubby was ill over the weekend, took to his bed and that was that and yes I was bitter, jealous and angry. I found myself asking on twitter if there were power points and free wi fi in South African jails as the answer would play a large part in whether he recovered or not.
I had a tough week, back and forwards to the Doctors, the dentists aware all the time that our med aid account was running low and we’d soon have to be paying for treatment in the shortfall which is about £400, you submit your costs and once you pass through the barrier it becomes free again. We made a mistake without any guidance of taking Dan home after his accident 8 days after we arrived here, if he’d been admitted all his tests, medication, time in the emergency room would have come out of the hospital budget and not our personal account for dentists, doctors and opticians etc.
For every step I got a volunteer role at I fall straight back down, I wanted to apply for a study visa but they want my O level results, I don’t have them, it was 24 years ago, despite having a degree they still want to know my results, if I was 45 they wouldn’t need them and if I’d been through the matriculation system I’d be OK, except you can’t matric until you are 18 and A levels don’t count, they also hadn’t heard of The OU and wouldn’t accept my 240 credits until I stood my ground for 45 minutes and made them go off and find someone who had.
So it looks like I’m going to be a SAHM or a Home executive as they call me here, not there there’s anything wrong with that, but the finances won’t stretch past a cup of coffee and having gone from looking after 5 kids, two part time jobs, my degree and running a local football club I find this SAHM thing quite difficult to get used I’m making Christmas decorations, baking cakes for other peoples children’s birthdays and generally spending a lot of time on my own.
I’ve made a few friends but so far they are colleagues of hubbies and I find I can’t really be myself around them, especially when they ask how things are going and I have to reply ‘fine’ as I can’t tell them I feel the company has let us down after promising so much and delivering nothing.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

More on @santashoebox

A couple of people have asked if their shoe box for Africa ever actually reaches its destination and what happens if there aren't enough boxes for all the children.

I never really gave it much thought when we took part in operation Christmas child, the UK scheme. There are 5 children, 4 boys and 1 girl and the children made a box for a child the same age and sex as themselves and the boxes were dropped at school or the local library

About 6 weeks ago I tweeted to ask 'Do they do shoe boxes for Africa, in Africa?' and I was given a link for @santashoebox

I attended a training session last night to prepare for the drop off days next week that I've volunteered to assist with and found why this scheme came to being and what happens to the boxes.

I can't guarantee what happens to the boxes from the UK, but I can tell you what happens to the ones here.

@santashoebox is part of

Mission Statement
Kidz2Kidz Trust achieves it's Vision as a liason organization between the donors and the recipients by acting as a Facilitator between the various parties concerned ensuring that:

•Projects are initiated to benefit needy Children
•Children learn the"art of giving" through their involvement in the various projects run by the Kidz2Kidz organization
•Donations received are distributed to the needy communities
•An abundance of giving is created through the Kidz2Kidz Santa Shoebox Project
•Communities are built and empowered through fundraising and skills development.

@santashoebox has 70,000 boxes pledge to children in South Africa, these children are abused, abandoned and neglected. Various organisations are requested to submit the names, ages and sex of all children in their care, a child here is up to the age of 21. these children are in hospitals, interim care homes, foster care and from depriaved areas of society.

To ensure all children receive a box in an organisation, as names and numbers are collected in advance, generic shoe boxes are also requested. This ensures all children in an organisation receive a box and also caters for waifs and strays that turn up on the day from neighbouring areas, ensuring no one is left out.

So what about unsuitable items that are put in the box, these are either distributed to more appropriate facilities, ie bibles are donated to local church groups, battery operated toys, mobiles are sold and the funds ploughed back into the scheme to purchase clothing or toys more suitable to the child's age, and unsuitable food such as chocolates which melt and crisps, biscuits that get crushed are given out on 'Celebration Day' when the boxes are distributed.

So everything is used, every child gets a box within an organisation and the boxes go directly to where they are needed.

Don't worry about the boxes that have extra stuff in it, that child does has a little bit more.

If you are doing shoe boxes this year, here's a list of do's and don'ts and remember the older child too..there's a shortage of donations for boys aged 15+

Remember you don't have to spend a fortune, this scheme came about as a way for children to share and to give surplus and unwanted items to others less fortunate.

Face Cloth
Bar of soap
Cuddly toy
Educational equipment (colouring book, crayons)
Deodorant (not sprays, can trigger asthma)
Toy (age appropriate, ie marbles and 2 year olds don't mix, no symbols or war, toy soldiers, guns, knives)
Sweets (again age appropriate, no chocolate, biscuits, crisps, they melt and get crushed)
Item of clothing (remember it's Summer in Africa at Christmas time)
NO LIQUIDS (they leak they not only spoil the contents of one box, but the others around it)

To be honest, I'm struggling

I've been out again tonight to a meeting with Internations. Again, another busy, noisy venue with mainly women all employed and the next night out they want to go clubbing.

Now there's nothing wrong with that but it's not for me, before you start it's not age related its situational.

We've been here 9 months now and when meeting people for the first time the converstion starts with

'so where are you living?' that passes a few minutes
'why have you chosen to live there?' that would be because of the school
'oh so you have children, how many?' there's another gapped filled

and of course I always ask the return questions, but then comes the one question I dread, the one that kills a conversation

'so, what do you do for a living?' I don't 'do' anything, not anymore anyway, I used to work in child Protection but I may as well say I used to be a bloke when people then enquire 'how long you been here? 9 months' and moving on...

No one wants to really hear how you're finding things here, most people are here on a fixed term contract with company cars, company mobiles and company's a whole different ball game when you come here to stay and alone.

It's polite conversations only, these people are all working, they have chats/moans/gossips in the work place, they just want to socialise, drink and party when they get together in the evenings, I don't think I'll be going again.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Shoe box appeal, do you do it?

Shoe boxes for Africa


Tomorrow I've been invited to take part in the celebration day at the PACSEN facility in Pretoria. Parents of children with special needs.

I'm very privileged to be attending a celebration day, where the boxes will be handed out to the children.

October 2011

I always do a shoe box for Africa for Christmas from my children, in total I pack and wrap 5 every year and either drop them off at their school or the local library. And now we live in Africa I thought I should do them here as well. The 5 shoe boxes are in the process of being made up, a bit more shopping to do, drop off point located and we’re away.
This year I’ve also decided to get a little bit more involved and this evening I’ve been to Pretoria for a 90 minute training session to find out what I’ll be doing on ‘drop off’ day, next week. I met a lovely group of women and next Thursday, Friday and Saturday I’ll be at Crawford College where they are expecting nearly 2000 shoe boxes, which all have to be scanned, checked for *unsuitable items, sealed and put in cartons ready for collection.
I will be attending armed with selotape, scissors, string, marker pens, note pad, biros and as many cup cakes as I can bake for the volunteers and some good old reliable PG Tips
But that’s not the end of it, the boxes then have to be delivered and handed over to the various homes, hospitals and groups at a ‘Celebration Day’.
I shall keep you posted.

*unsuitable items
Toys that have political, racial or religious connotations, toy guns, knives (people often put pen knives in for older boys) and any symbols of war such as toy soldiers.
This year they are allowing liquids i.e. shampoos etc but these have to be put into a sealed plastic bag.
Unsuitable foods include chocolate, biscuits and crisps. It’s summer and these food items go off or get crushed as the boxes are moved.

Anything that is removed is replaced with a more suitable item, then the items collected are donated to other organisations. The food items are stored and used at the ‘Celebration Day’

It’s not too late to get involved check out @santashoebox for more information

my Groove is coming along nicely

Recovering my groove
I’m going out tonight and tomorrow and Friday. Wow you may say, but since relocating to South Africa in January I’ve not had a job or even sad is that?
There’s no hanging round the school gates, waiting for my kids any more, none of the automatic socialising that comes from having small children. No job to go to (on a 2 year visitor visa) so now general chit chat and invites out to the how do you make friends?
Oh it is sooooo hard and takes so long...if you’ve been reading my blog you’ll see I’ve made more than an effort, I’ve taken people up on their suggestions, I’ve gone along as billy no mates to social events at the club house on the estate.
I made my hubby introduce me to one of his colleagues at work and we’re getting on fine, the trouble is her being a single, full time working mum, I have to wait for her to be available and she also travel with her work an awful lot. She has invited me for breakfast with some of her colleagues and I really enjoyed their company, then meeting up with one of the women for lunch last week.
I made hubby accept work invites even though it’s not his thing and that is where we are going on Friday night, a leaving do.
Tonight and via Twitter I found the @santashoebox and have volunteered with the collection of some 52,701 shoe box pledges for African Children for Christmas. The training session is tonight and the drop off next week at Crawford College in Pretoria.
Tomorrow night is Internations night, a once a month expat meeting in Brooklyn, Pretoria. I met some lovely people last month and although no further contacts were made, the message board is busy with people confirming their attendance.
What with getting out more and finally securing a voluntary role with @thebabyhouse, my groove is coming along nicely.

Stolen? Mislaid? Why should we pay extra for our security?

Missing and disappearing things

It seems to be an accepted fact that things go missing in South Africa. I suppose really I should say stolen...but then I don’t have any proof of that, unless of course the one time my lap top and camera ‘disappeared’ from hubbies suit case as he left OR Tambo airport, Johannesburg or the monthly occurrences of envelopes arriving but open and contents missing, including the actual letter.

When I check in at OR Tambo airport I'm asked the usual security questions 'did you pack your own bag, etc?' and then no matter who I'm flying with the airline staff say ’we know stuff will be stolen from your bag, so we suggest you get your bag wrapped at the cost of 60 Rand per bag.

This really annoys me. The airlines know there is a chance items will be stolen for your suitcase as it travels to the plane, the airport must be aware this goes on or they wouldn't allow bag wrappers to operate inside the airport.

WTF? I’m already paying for a service, why should I have to then pay extra to stop my stuff being stolen? I don't have to pay more to leave the UK or Dubai (my frequent destinations)

There is only one solution and that's to employ better security, more CCTV and in the meantime I'd like to see the airlines increase the hand luggage allowance because as an expat, I fly frequently and have to carry documents, electronic equipment back and forth and as I can't put ANY of it in my checked in luggage, I have to carry it all on my person and I'd like to travel lighter, especially long haul flights.

Then there is the ‘lost’ arrives, a slip is sent you collect your parcels and packages...easy peasy, except the slips don’t arrive and the parcels are returned to sender.
Except the parcels never reach the sender and the t-shirt and cap I sent which I declared on the customs form and the three cards I wrote (probably looked like birthday cards with money in them) never reached their destination.

You can't just pay for a stamp you pay to have everything sent with a tracking order, which can add up to 50 Rand on a letter and at least double the value of the gift and then you try tracking your tracking order and if it goes missing good luck getting a reply from the post office.
It's the same for post coming into the country. Why aren’t family and friends told by the UK postal service when they send a gift to South Africa that I have to pay a customs fee if it ever arrives? Why doesn’t the UK Postal Service advise all customers that when sending post to South Africa they should do it by recorded delivery so there is a tracking number so if the slip never arrives I can at least still collect the parcel, once I’ve paid customs clearance?

And why should we all pay twice? Is there anywhere else in the world where so much stuff goes ‘missing’?

I personally think the post office and the airport should tackle the issue head on and stop taking my money twice.

The Baby House

I’ve got myself a voluntary job, 2 mornings a week with The Baby House, a new venture for children and babies under 4 who have been abandoned and/or abused.
My work in the UK was in child protection and teaching and although this is going to be very different from anything I’ve done before, I know I have a lot of knowledge and experience to give and it is going to be hard, emotional and challenging.
The statistics of abandoned and abused children in South Africa is unbelievable. I was informed that every child that is placed in interim care is more than likely to have HIV/AIDS and these children will probably be disfigured from the abuse and trauma they have suffered.
The Baby House’s aim is to provide a safe environment for the child to live where they are loved, cared for and educated. My role will be to work alongside the care workers and to use my experience to nurture their relationships with the children through play and social activities, guiding with activities and support for discipline and managing behaviour.
The Baby House relies on full time funding which the partners are working on full time and any donations of equipment and money will always be greatly received.

Twitter @thebabyhouse

Face book

Sunday, 16 October 2011

One whole day to myself

My day would have to start the night before so I didn't get woken at 6 am for the school run that hubby does on his way to work and he'd have to be able to finish by 1.30pm to collect the boys.

I'd lie in as these are rare occasions, then run a deep hot bubbly bath as there is rarely any hot water left after their 3 showers. If make a cup of tea and read my book.

After dressing I'd drive to Pilanesburg Game reserve, about a 2 hour drive, with a picnic, binoculars, camp stove and camera.

The children and hubby have had their fill of zebra, rhino, giraffe, elephants and lions, but me I can't get enough of them.

I'd sit quietly on the side of the road for as long as I wanted without the complaints of being bored and the fact I've been waiting fire a rock to move for 20 minutes as I've mistaken it for a rhino, with my book of animals and birds and tick off as many as I could see.

At dusk I'd head for the watering holes and keep a close eye out for the leopard on my way back to the gate.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

How to change the status on your visa

Step 1 Consult an agency, they'll do it with you and give you all the information you need.Sorry this is a myth/lie, what they'll actually do is tell you what you need to do, send you forms to complete and when you've done all the work, they just submit the paperwork.Take today for example:To get a study visa all I have to do is have an offer of a University place, easy?Google University, search through prospectus, submit enquiry form...and wait, email again a week later...and wait, email again the following week...and get in car after locating directions and drive to said University.Still going OK? not at all...arrive explain you are from the UK, have NO knowledge of the University system here, you have 240 credits towards a degree, but the course you were doing in the UK is not available her so you need some guidance and want to know how you get the credits transferred.You wait for half an hour because the people on the front desk haven't heard of The Open University, you are given the emails of the two people that run both degrees you may like to apply for and sent to another desk to find out about accredidation......Do you have a student number? have you enrolled yet? No and No, I just want to find out if it's feasible and the costs and processes involved......Do you have a copy of your Matric?...No I'm from the UK, we don't do Matric......So in 30 degree heat you are sent to the other side of the campus, a good ten minute walk away, to evidence your qualifications to date......We need to see a copy of your O levels...well I sat mine 24 years ago and as far as I'm aware you can't get into a UK university with O levels or GCSEs, you need A levels, surely...I explain I don't know where my O level papers are and had the same situation when I did my Teaching Degree, I also took the occupational route for Level 3 (A Level equivilant) and The University of Wolverhampton required I sat Adult Literacy and Numeracy at Level 3 during my course...We must see your O Levels...I don't have them...We can't help you...what can you do to help me?...I thrust my teaching degree at them...We must see your O levels...I leave....I walk back to my car, I'm banging my head against every wall I pass, I go back to the first place I started and asked to see someone to discuss my options, again...Do you have a student number? You need to enrole first......And again, a member of the public, seeing my distress and frustrations tells me to go to the 2nd floor to see student guidance......I get home to find an email...'Please make an appointment with student guidance to answer your questions...

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Steps to recovering my grove

Yeah I'm getting there....well I was and then had another minor set back.

First the bad news, I'll get it out the way as quick as possible, trying to change the status of your visa is.....well words fail me, see my last blog post for more info on that if you're interested...

And the good new is, drum roll, I've got a volunteers placement, no need to change the status of my visa there then.

It's with a new venture for abused and abandoned children under 4, some of the stories of abuse are harrowing and I know its not going to be an easy job, I know I shall enjoy the challenge. I will be blogging on the baby house some more over the weekend.

Then there was the Pirate cup cake challenge, could I make 30 for a boys 5th birthday party, yeah no problem, I really enjoyed myself and the said boy, called me today (obv with mums help) to say his friends loved them as did he and could they have some for their birthday.

I also accepted another challenge/task to make some christmas decorations, sort of a secret santa to post to one another over on twitter and I've had so much enjoyment making them, that I'm doing more as gifts for family and friends when I return to the UK in December for a holiday.

So all in all, it looks like my groove is returning, I feel healthier and feel I have more of a purpose. I still have to tackle the University, but I'm going to put that on hold for a bit and concentrate on the things I find rewarding.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Pirate fairy/cup cake inspiration needed

Since my visa doesn't permit me to work (it's been 8 months now) I've been spending alot of time in the kitchen and I've perfected the cup cake/fairy it what you will.
I decorate with plain white icing sugar and shop bought sprinklers.
I often give hubby a batch to take to work and word and taste has spread and I was asked today to make 30 with a pirate theme.
So here's where you come in, I could google but I thought I'd start here.
Do you have any ideas for decorating please? All suggestions will be considered, in fact if I can get 30 suggestions I'll decorate one of each.
Thank you in advance.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Why I prefer Twitter to Facebook

Twitter allows me to be me. I find it non judgemental, I can say what I like and how I feel and even discuss quite personal issues.

I started my blog as a way to tweet longer, to explain a tweet and to be able to express an opinion.

My blog developed into somewhere I could share my experiences of parenting teens and as a place to give and receive advice.

We then moved to South Africa and it has become a permanent record of our families life here and the difficulties faced living in such a beautiful yet dangerous country.

The reason I use twitter over Facebook to promote my blog is I don't want certain people reading it, I don't want their comments, opinions and judgements. I don't want their pity and I dont want them sharing our lives with people I don't particullarg want to share my life with.

I've given the link to a few family and friends that I feel I can trust and don't object to them finding me on twitter.

Twitter allows me to be me, where as on Facebook I play the role of the daughter, the sister, the friend people want me to be.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Steps to recovery my groove

Inspired by @netcurtains and KateonThinIce and my blog post 'Losing my Groove'
I've been more active in taking steps to recover it.

I know what I need to do and how to do it and some of you may have seen on twitter this week, my frustrations with various embassy visits.

At the UK embassy in Pretoria I was turned away at the gates by security, so drive to Brooklyn to be turned away at the gates by security. It seems I was at the wrong place and should have been at the other, so giving up, I return home, I make a call.

Seems it's not that difficult to get a work visa here in South Africa, just need to get a job offer, prove that a South African can't get the job, certain other criteria applies, which looked fairly straight forward and there you go...a work visa.

So seeing as I specialise in Autism with a HND in Pyschology, a teaching degree and a Diploma in Child Psychology and 300 credits towards a BA in Criminology I figure it won't be too hard to get a job and meet the criteria.

I call companies, I search the web and get asked the same question...'Do you have a work visa?' my response is 'I need a job offer first', which it seems I can't get till I get a work visa....I'm stuck in a circle.

Today hubby and I had a meeting with the visa agency that brought us out here and we soon discover that alot of the help they offered us with our move was declined, on our behalf, without our knowledge. It seems the work visa is going to be harder than I thought, so it's back to being a perpetual student and with a study visa I can work up to 20 hours a week, which is a win, win for me...

...all I've got to do now is try to get UNISA to reply to my bloody emails so I can find out if my OU credits can be transfered for my final year of studies...think I'd have more luck, at this rate, getting a job offer first.

All of this hasn't been helped by the fact I've had a set back this week. I've got a tooth infection and been prescribed 2 sets of anti biotics and 1 set of pain killers. I asked the pharmacist for the leaflets as the tablets were decanted into 3 seperate plastic blue bottles. I didn't recognise the names. I opted not to take the painkillers as I didn't know what was in them and put the bottle in the drawer, preferring to take 30mg codiene and 500mg paracetamol 3 times a day instead...except I confused 1 of the anti biotics for pain killers and after waking this morning with a sore throat, which hubby pointed out that on that level of anti biotics I shouldn't have, we googled to discover that for the past 2 days I've been taking 2 lots of pain killers.

This has made me feel ill, sort of drunk, my concentration has gone, I feel depressed, hot, clammy and totally disinterested. So I'm putting my 'groove' on hold, till I feel better and more positive, as getting things done here in South Africa is difficult and stressful enough at the best of times.

If you want to join in with #groovingmums you can do so at

Two old birds

In honour of our 40th Birthdays, I had these made.
Guess who has the other one?

If you'd like your own custom made cushi contact @hippydi
I can vouch for their quality, price and speed of delivery.

We may speak the same language, but this could've been a disaster

For the past two and a half days I confused my medication.

I've been suffering with toothache and a serious infection for almost two weeks.

I was prescribed two lots of antibiotics and painkillers.

At the chemists I asked for the leaflets to accompany the meds as I wasn't familiar with the names and the tablets were recanted into 3 identical plastic pots.

I didn't find out what the painkillers were comprised of so opted to take 30mg of codeine with 500mg of paracetamol 4 times a day instead.

This morning I woke with a sore throat and swollen glands. Hubby and I were very surprised having been on antibiotics for 5 days.

That was when I discovered I'd been taking the wrong medication.

A quick google search showed I've been taking 60mg of codeine and 1000mg of paracetamol, 4 times a day for 2 and a half days.

No wonder I've been I'll.

Monday, 3 October 2011

World Record attempt

How's this for a school fete?

There was also the usual bouncy castles, hook the duck, lucky dip, second hand book stall, various food outlets, Russian ballet

and cage fighting.
Then there was the Guiness World record attempt 'The human teddy bear chain'
The school collected 5,500 soft toys and the idea was to get as many people as possible linked up holding a teddy bear. The results won't be known for a few weeks yet but it was fun.

Getting teens to cooperate

Easier said than done.

I've been adopting this method with mine and it seems to be working.

If I ask mine to do something by calling down the stairs to them, I get little or no response. 'in a minute' which never happens or the one I really hate is 'I'm saving my game' which takes for ever.

So this is what I do.

Call the child by name and ask them to 'come here a minute please'

Said child responds with 'coming'

When child doesn't appear I ask 'can you just let me know how long you're likely to be please? No rush'

They usually respond with 'I'm saving my game I'll come up then.'

At this point I get on with something else till they appear, I usually don't have to wait long.

I then ask if they can help me. Help with lunch boxes, emptying the dishwasher, putting the bins out or bringing the washing in.

I use this time to discuss school or clubs or what their arrangements are for the coming weekend and I fade out of said task, till I'm still there, talking/listening, but they're the one doing the chore.

It does work, at first they suspect you're up to something, but they soon discover they like this one on one time with you.

Of course in my situation, having only boys, this plan fails when hubby is around for one or both of two reasons.

Hubby tries to 'help' by yelling 'you're mother said to come here' which puts child on the defensive or child thinks 'why should I help mum if dad is here, that's his job'

Do you have any tips on getting your teens to help around the house?
Please share.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Irene - not the hurricane

Irene, pronounced Ireneee, is the neighbouring area to Centurion. In fact the golf estate is right on the edge and our electricity and water supply comes from Ireneee.

When I leave the back gate and turn towards the school the first place I come across is the charity shop.

This place has been a lifesaver to me, picking up bits and bobs, i.e sports equipment, household stuff and mainly books, I've read so many of them, they are so expensive to buy here as they're imported and where a book reads £11.99 it's priced in Rand at 200, which is almost double. I buy book for around £1 and return them, more of a lending library for me.
All funds from sales go to the mentally retarded and handicapped, their words not mine. Behind the shop there are many bungalows for people with learning difficulties to live in, there is little if no government funding, so I like to do my bit.
Next stop Ireneee dairy.

In fact they used to own all the land for miles round here and it is still a working dairy. they have a farm shop (over priced) and a restaurant.

However, in the summer it's not very pleasant eating with the smell of the farm. Local playgroups, mums with toddlers frequent it often as there are many animals and it is outdoor, public space, with grass and you can take picnics. Not many places like that around.
Ireneee dairy is a 'cash free' zone. this is becoming more popular now as the armed robbery risks are very high, so no cash, no robbery.

And then we drive on and we reach Jan Smutts, he was President twice, the same time as Winston Churchill, this place deserves it's own blog post.
Following on from there we reach the boys school, Cornwall Hill College.

The whole area is called Cornwall Hill, after a battle fought by the Duke of Cornwall in whenever. The boys house in school is Truro.
It's an amazing place, check out the cricket pavilion. There are 9 playing fields, put astro, tennis courts, a swimming pool 25ms long and cricket nets. The Italian football team used it as their base in the World cup.

kids aren't too impressed with the summer uniform, short trousers on a 16 year old?

From the school it's a very short drive to The Cornish Kettle and Plantland.

This is where I do my recycling, it is collected by a local charity and sold for funds.
The Cornish Kettle is delightful, there's a large pond, a play area and a couple of goats wandering around.
he staff here have been amazing, they've helped me out with information from buying a car to car tax and introduced me to various people when I've had a question they couldn't answer. They let me sit there for hours and don't mind if I only have coffee, they ask about the UK, the differences between the countries.
Then onto Ireneee Mall.

Yes, if you look closely that is indeed an upside down cow.
Again very similar to all the other Malls, in a security park and outdoors. Some very nice individual shops as well as the chain stores. This is where we go to the cinema, I prefer the kids to go to this mall in the evenings, especially if hubby is away as it's a much safer route for me to drive at night.
Anyway, that's my tour of Ireneee over and done with, just the Jan Smutts blog and market to follow, but I need to take some more pictures first.

Where we live

We live on a Golf Estate, sort of 'welcome to Beverly Hills.

The 18 hole golf course and the Hennops river meander through the estate. We rent and it's not cheap, but then we do have excellent security, well since they replaced the former group with Protea after an armed robbery at our neighbours

The houses are all individually designed and it seems anything goes, there are several smaller estates inside walled areas with 4 houses all 3 bed and identical.

We live a mile from the main gate and these are some of the houses I pass on my way in and out of the estate.

We're fairly central, just over the road is a Post office, Spar shop, chemist, cafe, row of various takeaways, fuel station, Wimpy and dentisits. Not sure what goes on in the other shops as I don't use them.

Southdowns is a larger shopping area, out the main gate, turn left and 3 mins up the road, the Doctors, hairdressers, nail bar are located there as is Doppios the cafe with free internet.

A Woolworths that looks remarkably like M&S.

There are plenty of restaurants from the fish and chip shop, spurs steak house and fine dining. I love the individual boutiques and gift shops there also.

Centurion Mall takes about 10 minutes to reach, it has a selection of nearly every chain store in South Africa and a few independent ones.

The Mall offers secure parking and costs £1.50 for six hours parking.

It is all outdoors, open space, benches, cafes, cinema. Typical really of all the Malls here. It's lovely to be able to wander around without fear of crime, (bag snatches and shop lifting excluded, unfortunatley.)

I also use Centurion Lifestyle Mall, also outdoors, but no security this is where I had my GPS and camera stolen from the car while I was loading the shopping in the boot, approx 15 min drive away. They use travel time here, not actual distance, so probably about 4 miles. The Food Lovers Market is also a must for lunch.

There are many more places I use during the week, all within a 5 mile radius, safe routes and I can get everything I need/want (finances permitted)

I'll tell you about Irene, the dairy, Jan Smuts house and markets, the Cornish Kettle, the Mall, the boys school and the charity in another blog