Sunday 30 December 2012

Differences between the North and the South of one country

We've just returned to Pretoria from 2 weeks in Cape Town and the Garden Route.

We may well have returned to a different country.

Back home in Pretoria I feel like I first did when we moved here nearly 2 years ago.

Except this time I'm not as patient, my empathy has gone, I'm frustrated, I'm on the verge of snapping.

I can sum up the differences between the North and the South of this country with 1 simple example.

Up here in a restaurant what I order, receive and then pay for is very different.

I understand Cape Town is a tourist destination, but you'd think enough people have visited, lived in both parts of the country to try and make changes up here to the way people live, use their initiative and train the staff to think for themselves and not just do what they are told, unable to problem solve leaving the customer, the staff member and the manager furious with one another.

It's not just the restaurant, that is a typical example from my experience of every aspect of everything here in the north.

Who you kidding? Women can't multi task.

I'm sorry I know I'm letting women down, but seriously who thinks they can actually multi task?

We all say 'men can't multi task' but I don't think us women can either.

Sure I can do lots of things badly, but if I want to do things well I have to do one thing at a time.

But like most women, judging by the tweets, we can't just do one thing at a time, we have lists, we cook tea, make phone calls, sew a hem up on a pair of school trousers and breast feed all at the same time.

When I try multi tasking I end up leaving a trail of destruction behind me. Today I've been altering a dress, made half a handbag, emptied and refilled the dishwasher but not put anything away, stripped the beds but not washed the sheets or re made the bed, been in the pool to cool off and left wet towels everywhere, half written a letter and forgot where I've left it, can't locate my keys for the post box or my charger for the phone under all my mess.

Hubby can't multi task either but he has swept and mopped the kitchen floor and put everything away. I've never seen the floor so shiny, it took him nearly an hour, I thought he was going to dismantle the cupboards so he could finish the job off properly. He's now preparing dinner, from fresh and no doubt he'll have to mop again, but that suits me, while he's busy stuck in the kitchen all day he can't observe my multi tasking mess and my kitchen will be spotless.

How to do......... as an expat in South Africa

First thing if you want to do anything here is start the conversation with...

'I'm not from round these parts, I'm British, on a visitors visa (can't work) and I would like some to explain to me how to open, set up, tranfer, apply for, find...etc'

Don't be embarrassed to ask to speak with a supervisor, hang up phone again.

From personal experience it's better to actually go to the shop/government building/municipality department and speak with someone face to face, there will be long queues so top your phone up and take a book. No need for snacks, they usually have food vans and drinks as they know how long these things take to do.

Whenever I need to do anything I take with me the following documents. You will need all of these photocopied and verified. To do this go to your local SAPS (Police Station) Don't confuse this with the Metro police they can't and won't sign documents.
I spend a lot of time at OR Tambo airport with visitors, dropping off and fetching hubby and find the Police very helpful there.

So here goes

Copy of Passport and Visa.
Medical aid Card and copy of hubbies Passport.
Proof of Residency (something with your address on, in your name, spelt correctly.
Letter from hubby to say he gives full permission for me to deal with these things on his behalf (preferably on headed works paper).
Copy of employment contract (Yes they do require the full 27 pages).
3 months of pay slips (of course when you arrive you don't have this, banks, etc will tell you what to provide instead, as each place is different)

A vial of the kids blood is often useful to offer, no one takes bribes here, you'll just end up in jail.

And when all else fails, just return with hubby, him muttering 'can't you do this yourself?' when all else fails and they need to see him, after you've completed all the forms, had everything stamped, signed in triplicate and queued for an average of 4 hours a day for the past week.

Slow cookers...what’s all the fuss about?

So far the benefit I can see is the meal doesn’t dry up or stick to the bottom of the pan and I can go out while it’s cooking and not worry about leaving the hob on.
But because it is slow, there have been a few disasters, the meals have been too liquidy, and the vegetables have turned to mush.
But I’m going to persist as we’ve had fab curries and as for the pork in apple juice, the lamb in coke and the beef in beer, as they say in South’s lekker.

Why kids are never satisifed...I blame the media

My kids still don’t know what’s hit them. They used to share me with 3 older siblings, my work, and my studies. And now that the youngest 2 aged 13 and 17 have me all to themselves, every day after school, all weekend, all the school holidays.
We had a good life in the UK, we rent out our 6 bed house in Malvern, hubby had a company car, I had a jeep, kids were in private school, life was more than comfortable, we had foreign holidays, and we didn’t go without.

Here in South Africa we took a step or two back for the first year and at the end of year 2 we've caught back up. We rent a 4 bed house, hubby still has a company car, I bought another jeep, the kids are in private school, but there the similarity ends. We are still comfortable; our foreign holidays are in the UK, we don’t go without.....
...but we’ve jumped into a whole other league, the sun shines daily, we have a pool, we have the most amazing scenery and wildlife literally on our doorstep.

And do our kids want more? they’re not selfish, they’re not unrealistic, but the neighbours drive Ferraris, Lamborghinis, the kids have drivers to take them to school/cinema/to friends, they have golf carts, wear designer gear, have maids and gardeners, kids have ipads, iphones, i,i,i,i...... they spend their weekends at Sun City, holidays on private game reserves in their lodges in Kruger.
My kids know they can’t compete and for the first time in their lives it doesn’t bother them, they both appreciate having me around, they appreciate the opportunities that living abroad bring them.

What stops them feeling the need to compete, to want more? They don’t have the pressure like they did in the UK from the media, their peer groups and their friends.

What were your highs and lows of 2012 ?

I hate being tagged, too much pressure, but it's rare that I resist @kateonthinice

1. What was your happiest event?
Seeing my children in the UK

2. What was the saddest thing to happen?
My Dad having a heart attack in June and me being so far away (South Africa)

3. What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did?
Having a child free holiday and spending two weeks driving the Garden Route to Cape Town.
Kids are currently in UK with their Dad.

4. Who let you down?
Really should stop going on about this, but seeing as I still haven't received an apology or had the problems rectified. I have to husbands employers

5. Who supported you?
Some good friends that I met through my volunteer work with Santa Shoebox and of course Hubby.

6. Tell us one thing you learned
How to ride an Ostrich

7. Tell us one thing that made you laugh
Riding the Ostrich

8. Tell us one thing that made you cry
Dad's heart attack, Aunties death, Nephews accident

9. Tell us three things your child or children did to make you feel proud.
Can I tell you 5 things? One for each child.
1. Visiting eldest child in her residential home on the UK and seeing how happy she is.
2. Eldest boy making the decision to leave the army after 5 years, despite not having employment to go to.
3. Youngest child in the UK securing his future and announcing his decision to move to Leeds in the New Year to train as a Sommelier.
4. Eldest son in South Africa getting his Learners Permit
5. Youngest son and child battling through with dyslexia and dysgraphia

10. Tell us one thing that made you proud of yourself.
My volunteer work with @kwo_org and learning a new skill of sewing and being able to use that skill to raise money for essentials such as toiletries.

11. Tell us one challenge you overcame
Speaking out and asking for help with depression

12. Tell us three things you would like to change about your life in 2013.
My fitness levels
My weight

I'm tackling the 3 above by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2013

Anyone can join in this meme. I was tagged along with the following:

@DownSideUp, @GertieandGinger @PollyBurns2 @chickenruby @Older_Mum @NewMumOnline, @rachelradiostar @joannah123 @expatmammy @michelloui @aresidence @TheBeezleyBuzz @SonyaCisco @goriami @RP4ges @kykaree @LynseyMummaDuck @Angeline1611 @AutismMumma @jooleroo @spicers1976 @KatBroon @NikkiCrick @cherriemayhem @Glasgow_Mummy @mrsshortiesmind @capturebylucy @missielizzieb @eann_Tan @knackeredhw

I'm afraid I'm not tagging anyone as all the people I would normally tag are in the list above.

There is no pressure to take part.

You don’t have to be tagged to take part.

Don’t forget if you do take part to tag one or more other bloggers.

New Year in South Africa

Happy New Year everyone

Tasks for 2013
Stop smoking (properly this time)
Get fit
Lose weight
Stop yelling at the kids
Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Right got that off my

How do you celebrate New Year as an expat?

Last year we had no friends :-) so like Christmas, the New Year was a quiet affair. This year I have a feeling it's going to be different. This year we've had numerous offers. We accepted the first one that came our way and probably out of all the offers this is our preferred choice as it happens. Watch out @dorettenel you may regret this.

I don't know what the customs are here in South Africa. Should I turn up with a piece of coal, expect everyone to know the words to Auld Lang Syne?

All I know is we've been invited to a Braai, bring your own meat, drink and snack bowl for the table.

Sounds like my kinda party, food, friends, alcohol. Doesn't really matter what the occassion is, does it?

Are you an expat or visiting family or friends abroad over the New Year? What do you expect from the New Year Celebrations? Are you in a country where you can't drink alcohol? Does that dampen the festivities? Or are you tucked up in bed already?

Monday 24 December 2012

Does being a Blogger qualify you as an expert?

I've been going on a bit about this recently and the non professional, professionals with their blogs and guest appearances on local radio and in local newspapers giving out advice and information on how to...just about bloody anything and everything. From toilet training (they do it at different ages) to how to explain death to a young child after the Connecticuit tradegy (the news contains graphic images and stories, don't act so surprised) What scares me is that some of you actually listen to these people, they've read an article online or in a magazine and are now 'experts' advising you how to do it, without even bloody refences to it) when in fact they are parents of 2.4 children, SAHMs and usually married to their childhood sweetheart and list Blogging as a profession.

They are the type of person that depresses others, causes anxieties and worries parents who didn't realise their child was a week late with their milestones. They just blog about their personal experiences and I for one think they should make that clear at the start of the blog and not try to pass themselves off as an expert.

Now I like blogs with personal exeriences of raising children with disabilities, home schooling, how they handle a prem birth, death of a sibling/parent/family member. I think they are beneficial, they help others in a similar situation understand they are not alone, that there are others out there they can reach out to.

There's always been competition with parents starting at play groups then moving into the play ground from 'how old before dry at night?' to 'ooooh Tarquin is a free reader and fluent in Zulu and he's not 5 yet' These comments caused issues, concern, but we didn't believe there was something not quite right about our child and there weren't that many of them. There were just as many issues back then with raising children and we shared this is what/how we did things, things we tried that worked and/or failed with dealing with colic, projectile vomiting. We knew the mums in the playgroup weren't experts, they had valuable advice to share and for us to pass on but make sure you as the parent take the responsibility and go speak to a professional if you read anything in a blog or on twitter that makes you think your child isn't developing correctly, don't just listen to 'feed them a spoonful of milk freshly squeezed from a gnat, twice daily until their stools turn purple' because if you think about it, that's exactly what they are saying.

I'm NOT anti blogging, I do it. I write about my life and family experiences. I am a SAHM, I bake, I sew, I do volunteer work and I blog about it, but I don't tell you how it should be done, because my way isn't always the right way for anyone else. I just wish other people would realise that also, before some harm is done.

Sunday 23 December 2012

What's the worse thing that can happen to your child if they don't......?

Get the lead role in the Christmas play? Give the best and most. expensive gift to the teacher at the end of term? Have the best costume? Win all the races on sports day? Have THAT toy/gadget/latest craze? Take part in every after school club? Swim/dance/karate/kumon?

Nothing......unless of course they are forced to live with a stressed out, neuortic parent that feels they are a failure because their child isn't the most popular/intelligent/prettiest child in the world. Or even worse one that constantly tells their child to take part in things they don't want to and force them to be someone they're not.

There's an easy way to resolve this. Either join the PTA, make cash donations to the school, buy a pair of Birkenstocks, drive a 4x4 and own the latest handbag. Because that's what you tell yourself is the reason why your child misses out on everything.

And stop listening to the 'Professionals' (other parents) on twitter and facebook and in the playground who half the time are telling you a bunch of lies because it's all about them and not their child anyway.

If you think I'm talking about YOU, then you might like to see if you're what I considered to be a Yummy Mummy also.

Thursday 20 December 2012

The Chickens guide to a stress free Christmas

1. Stick the kids on a plane and send them to the UK until the New Year 2. Open a bottle of wine and sit by the pool 3. Drink wine 4. Drink wine 5. Drin 6. 7. 8. *falls off chair* 9. *snogs the cat* 10. *coma*

All I want for Christmas.........

I've come across several blog hops recently for Christmas Wish lists and everyone has wanted me to embed a code and in exchange they will give me a shiny new badge (note the sarcasm). I've read some of these blogs and they're not wish lists they're want lists, sponsored posts, so I'm staying clear of them.
I am fortunate to live in South Africa with my husbands job, two of our children have better opportunities here than they did back in the UK. But I've been lonely, depressed and lost my identity along the way, mainly down to the fact I can't work, I feel all purpose has been lost.

But I don't need to work for financial reasons anymore and still afford a comfortable life. It's 6 days before Christmas we have spent the last two weeks travelling the South Coast and are currently in Cape Town. The children are in the UK till the New Year and I've stopped feeling sorry for myself.

I've made friends and found a purpose and that's giving something back. I can't change the world, end poverty so that's not on my wish list, but I can help to put a smile on people's faces, by giving my time, using my skills, knowledge and qualifications to support people living in poverty.

So, what do I want for Christmas?

Zip lock bags
Elastic bands
Disposable razors
Stationery items
Cake ingredients

Simple stuff.

I baked nearly 2000 cakes for children in the townships. People know my name, even if I can't remember theirs. I helped a Christmas Shoebox project collect and disrubte 6000 gifts to children living in poverty, with AIDS, orphans and next year I want to be able to give more.

I'm starting with lesson plans, delivering lifeskills, sex education, supporting adults with disabilities by making and selling crafts (mainly bags, I've discovered a hidden talent for sewing).

I don't know how you can help me, send me the things I need, get money to me. It's reached a stage now where doing all these things has now become a full time job and I'm spending a full time salary on doing so.

So don't offer me a shiny badge, but I am prepared to promote you and your company in exchange for some support, but please don't offer me things that I can't use for others, I'm not interested for myself.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and keep checking back here.



Thursday 13 December 2012

Christmas in the sun

This is our second Christmas in South Africa. I remarried in 2002 and since then I think Hubby and I have only had all the 5 children together just the once on Christmas eve till Boxing day. As the kids lived with us all year round (my 3 from previous marriage and his 2) we thought it only fair that the ex's should/could have the kids if it so suited everyone. Hubby and I spent Christmas with my Gran, parents, friends, hotels, neighbours or just on our own at home.

Not only is it very alien to us to be putting up the tree when temperatures outside are 30c, it was also very strange for us last year as it was our first Christmas in ages we spent with the kids, just the 2 youngest ones. The children and I were in the UK from the end of Nov till 23rd Dec 2011. We had numerous family Christmas's and were slightly worn out with it all when we got back.

The decorations were up, we exchanged gifts in the morning, skyped, had lunch, full roast, it was 30c, then hubby and I went to a pool party in Jo'burg while the kids stayed at home watching TV and playing their new games.

This year will be different again. Christmas isn't happening until January 2nd when the boys return from visiting their Dad in the UK. The decorations are up, gifts bought, we will collect the kids from the airport in the morning, open presents, cook lunch, which I'm planning to eat outdoors by the pool and that will be that.

But what will hubby and I do? Well we are driving through South Africa at the moment, currently in Port Elizabeth then the Garden Route to Cape Town. We arrive back home on Dec 21st. Hubby has a few meetings and I shall be baking cakes to deliver to @kwo_org and sorting and delivering an additional 26 shoe boxes full of christmas gifts to an orphanage in Hammaskraal.

New Year will be very quiet for us, as normally we invite the neighbours and friends round with their kids for a party, but this year we will be up in Kruger National Park in a lodge, enjoying the last few days of silence.

Friday 30 November 2012

Getting my groove back with purple hair

I'm either first to the party because it's the only invite I've had in ages or last because I've given up on waiting for people to invite me and I've started my own party.

I've linked this post into @kateonthinice Groovy Blog Hop. Well to be honest I was going to write a post about this as I have a few lined up to write over the coming week. But in as today is a day for tidying up emails, sorting out the tweets I've favourited to get back to (this is one of them) and generally getting everything I need in some kind of order to work my way through next week.

Hubby was in Europe in September, he was back for 3 days when I went into hospital for a neck op. Any way it didn't go as planned and he flew off to Cape Town for 3 days with me assuring him I would be fine and later on that day the pain kicked in and I was bed bound for a week, unable to move. My friend came to my rescue and dragged me to the bathroom, phoned the hospital who told her to feed me chocolate, coffee and coke. I got out of bed on the Wednesday, one week later, to go to the Doctors who hooked me on a drip, pumped me full of pain killers, prescribed me sleeping tablets so I could make the night time flight to the UK for 3 weeks of rain in Wales, my aunts funeral and a catch up with the family, mainly our adult children.

On my return, it was straight into the Shoe box project. We collected 6,000 boxes full of gifts that needed checking, filling, re wrapping and boxing for the different facilities in and around Pretoria. Sorting out storage, contacting facilities to arrange Celebration Days and baking more cakes than you can shake a stick at (stupid phrase).

I then, well at the same time really, threw myself into volunteering with @kwo_org who I now tweet for, helping them set up with their Nickel Xmas Market. I made bunting, nearly 2kms of it.

There are loads of blog posts in the past month about the two organisations above.

I'm now frantically packing for the kids for their trip back to the UK on Wednesday. They haven't seen their Dad since last December. They are flying on their own. I'm so very much looking forward to a bit of time with hubby on our own, a trip to Cape Town and Kruger national park. We've had one child free night since we moved here in Jan 2010.

Christmas presents for family and friends in the UK have been bought, I'm wrapping and writing notes, before popping them in the kids cases. They don't have many winter clothes so there is plenty of room.

I have 3 more commitments in the next week. A celebration day tomorrow at Mamelodi in a township, helping with security at the @kwo_org market, box drop off to my last facility and a Shoebox meal next Thursday for the 12 committee members.

So I've been grooving, but it's all going to come to a stop soon....or is it? I'm going to be teaching some lifeskills with @kwo_org in the new year. The shoebox project last year collected 1,200 boxes, this year 6,000 so next year, who knows? All I do know is that we will start our preparations earlier than June next year.

So what about me? I think I need some me time. Which I'll have when the kids leave.

So back to Kates Blog Hop and to the questions she posts.

 How can you inject some colour into your life?
 I've already been for a pedicure and dyed my hair purplish

What do you need to say yes to?
Help. I do suffer with depression which manifists itself in a rather distructive manner.

What could you give up that would benefit you?
Well I gave up smoking mid September till end of October and since then I've had a few, but I'm tackling it again once the boys leave on Wednesday.

Could you write an interesting memoir of your life?  If yes, get on with it.  If not, perhaps it’s time to shake things up a bit.
Well I suppose that's what my blog posts are, I have like 1000's of other started writing a book, actually two books, one fiction, one on life as an expat.

So it's over to you know, link up if you've been in a rut and feel like you need to recover your groove.

Friday 16 November 2012

Buy a bag for charity

So here is what I made. All by myself, with help and guidance from the residents at
I took them in a suitcase to the UK along with some button necklaces and beaded hearts and pestered family and friends to buy them from me with all funds going to @kwo_org.
I would like to thank the following people for their contribution to enable me to purchase toiletries and
items for the workshop, scissors, needles and bulbs for the sewing machines.

Cousin Karen
Sister Caroline
Sister in Law Jan
Friend Serena

I raised £212 and with the exchange rate at R13 to the £ that gave me a total of R2758 to spend.
3 bottles of body lotion
6 packets of diapers
6 cans of shaving foam
13 bottles of mens deodorant
13 bottles of womens deodorant
55 bars of soap
170 disposable razors
selection of needles, bulbs for sewing machine
6 pairs of scissors

I have all the receipts if anyone would like to see a further breakdown.

There is still one bag in the UK waiting to be sold, can't remember what colour, but it's yours for £12.20 inc p&p. Let me know if you want it.

The Shoebox project and Christmas is over for another year.

'Oh no it isn't'

I remember taking South African friends to the panto in Malvern, UK, it was hysterical watching them, watching the panto, they didn't have a clue what was going on.

It feels like Christmas has been and gone for me, I've been knee deep in shoeboxes, wrapped and decorated for christmas, but it's far from over yet, there are the CELEBRATION DAYS ahead of us all where we hand out the boxes that have been lovingly put together by some amazing people, received, checked, scanned and packed by some amazing volunteers and wonderful committee members who have given up their time, days off work and not to mention finances when we've run short of items, such as zip lock bags and elastic bands and fillers for boxes that didn't quite cover the requirements. They've given up space in their houses, garages and cellars to store extras for next year, visited townships and facilities, collected names of over 4,ooo children and mostly copied by hand off basic registers then entered onto the website to allow the donors to pick the name, age and sex of a child to donate to.

The Shoebox project has been a life saver for me. I got involved last year after asking twitter for help finding  an organisation in South Africa that delivers gifts to under prividleged children. After all I'd been sending shoeboxes from the UK for years. I've met some fantastic people who have been amazing to work with, supportive and proving to be very good friends. The Shoebox project got me out the house, gave me a purpose and a new direction.

Just what is a CELEBRATION DAY and what more can you do to help?

From mid November until Christmas the committe members and other volunteers will be delivering boxes along with Laser Logistics to more than 35 facilities in the Pretoria area. Throughout the whole of South Africa there are 100,000 shoe boxes to be delivered.

Prior to that we will be bagging up pop corn, crisps and sweets, baking cakes etc to take along to the Celebration Days and organise a little party when we will hand out the Christmas Shoeboxes.

What we would like from you now is to know if anyone would like to make some food donations, juices, papercups, food bags, sweets, crisps etc for our Celebration days.

There will be pictures once permission has been obtained from the relevant facilites as some of them are places of safety or individual children are protected by court orders, there will be more blogs, more requests for donations.
I'm looking forward to the Celebration days, it is a priviledge to be involved with Santa Shoebox, to have made some wonderful friends from the Pretoria committee who have been an enormous support to me and my family during a very difficult year with the death of family members, my fathers heart attack and the amazing recovery of my nephew after he was critically injured at school in the UK this month after a wall collapsed on him.

My wish list for Christmas, should you still be reading and feeling in a generous mood is for Zip lock bags, elastic bands and clothing and toys for 16-18 year old boys and under 2's boys for next years appeal.

Huge thanks to Mum, Mother in Law and Amanda in Saudi (formally South Africa, originally the UK) for their donations of Shoeboxes and fillers.

Here are some photos of the facilities and the children receiving their shoeboxes at the Celebration days. There are more to come, so pop back here in December.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

What kind of expat are you?

There are many types of expats and rather than generalise I'll just tell you about the ones I have met, both in real life and on the internet. You may recognise yourself in parts of this post but the only negative comments I have are about people I either no longer see or have removed from my twitter, facebook or I've deleted my membership with forums.

So without further ado, now that I've made my excuses/apologies at the beginning I can now write freely about the expats.

The seasoned expats
We've been doing this for 30 years, 17th move, 15th different country, kids in UK boarding schools, take up golf, bridge and drink gin, you'll be fine.
These expats live in a fantasy world, often young and newly married, maybe a small child prior to becoming an expat, their identity was changing when they were young, either fresh out of Uni or in the early stages of a career, they would've given up work when the children came along and life would be full of changes.

The company expats
These are the ones that had everything done for them on arrival, car, cell pone and SIM card, house rented and furnished, no utility bills to pay, schools found, HR spending time with them to introduce them to others and locals and to ensure a few invites and plenty of things to occupy you until you get your bearings.
These expats tend to be employed on a two year contract and live within an expat community. They disappear as quickly as they come and aren't really that bothered about making friends.

The know it all expats
These are the ones who can do anything and everything, or so they say. They tell you if you're pulled over whilst driving to just offer a bribe. They tell you to pay someone to stand in a queue on your behalf, they say driving at night is perfectly safe as long as you just put your foot down at the robots.
They tell you they mastered all the local arts (Braii's) and the local (global) beer is crap.
These expats are full of shit, they know nothing and n one, they have all the talk, but if you ask them to help you with something they mutter and you soon discover they are either seasoned or company expats or even worse......

The expert expat
You know the ones that post online with 'advice of being an expat' or the ones that produce the 'how to guides?'
Have you ever read one properly? Have you ever found one to be actually useful? I have and I haven't. If I've had a relationship with the person online and we've chatted about it, then yes I've found it useful,especially the personal stuff about feeling depressed, losing your identity, the importance of talking to your partner, how it's difficult for family and friends back 'home' to understand what you're going through and how you can expect to feel lonely and it can take up to a year to make friends.
But the 'advice' on 'how to....... find a school/job/removal firm etc is a waste of time...they just 'advise' on how important it is to do your research/get several quotes/learn the language just don't help at all, because your 'home' country/language is different from theirs, their culture and understanding of the world is different from yours.

The trueful expat
Well that's me. My kids were already in private schools prior to moving abroad, I can drink Gin till the cows come home. I'll blog about how fab it is, the opportunitites, the lifestyle andboast about the weather and the pool, but I'll also tell you how it is. The depression I suffer from, that creeps up on me without warning. The days when I cry for no apparent reason, the times I feel worthless.
I'll also tell you how to actually pay your water bill, how to transfer a contract,documents you need to register with FICA so you can purchase a SIM card, how to get a provisional driving licence for your 17yo son and I'll lso tell you about the safari's, the volunteering and the over whelming emotion of visiting a township.

But in summary, the biggest problem're not British moving to South Africa, your company has experience of doing this before, maybe your children are still little and not teenagers so mixing and meeting people is easier, maybe you're moving to a country where you are allowed to work or have a bank account in your own name or you're living on the opposite side of the country where safety and security is very different and also a 3 hour flight away.

So, what type of expat are you?

Saturday 10 November 2012

The one where I attempt to scald a child.

I love Coffee, not just any coffee but a Cafe Latte, one shot, 2 brown sugars.
I don't DO instant coffee and I don't care that the Italians consider a Latte a dessert, all I care about is
my Latte and please note there isn't a 'R' in it.
There have been many times I've asked for a Latte and they've replied 'one cafe larrrrrrrrrte coming up'
I've also sat and waited for the little pot of expresso to accompany my hot, milky drink as I've ordered the Latte part only and didn't mention the 'cafe'
Anyway, the story of how I attempted to scald a child.
Take out cups are made of cardboard, you can apply only a mall amount of pressure before the cup gives way, however if the lid is on securly and the drinking hole is the opposite side of the seam, you can apply alot more pressure before the lid shoots off.
So while standing at the counter waiting for your hot drink, ensure all small children are safely out the way prior to you picking up your cup off the counter. First, don't just assume that the Barista has secured the lid, check for yourself to avoid a 'slo mo' action scene where you sacrifice your hand, foot, leg and clothing to scalding coffee, while you shove and scream at small child to get out of harms way.
I have tested the lid theory scientifically by purchasing and drinking many brands of Cafe Latte, both in the UK and here in South Africa. This post is not sponsored but if *@KFCSA would like to contact me then I'd be greatful as their Cafe Latte is by far the best.
*assuming they haven't forgotten to order milk for the morning

Thursday 1 November 2012

Why as an expat you need to find a new family.

Life as an expat?

Is it for you?

Does your family understand and realise how much you need them?

Where do you call home?

We moved lock, stock and barrel to South Africa nearly 2 years ago, since then we've renewed our 2 year visa so we can stay here until January 2016 and then apply for residency. This would allow the eldest child to complete University and the youngest to Matric.
I would then be able to apply for work and have the bills in my name, making things easier on us all round.

We left 3 adult children in the UK, they'd already left home and in fact the middle one had been living in Germany for 2 years when we left. Our parents, siblings, nephews and nieces remain in the UK and everyone has been to visit us and we have course have been back to see them.
All 3 children have had medical emergencies, in the UK, since we've been here and we are happy wih the way family and friends handled it. There have been 2 funerals, the death of my Uncle in Dec 2011 and my Aunt in Sept 2012. The birth of my niece in Feb 2011 and the horrific ordeal my sister went through giving birth. My Fathers heart attack in June 2012 and the near loss of life with my 15 year old (step) nephew this month, when a wall at school collapsed on him.
But we've been there when we can, flown back for my Father and had already planned visits around the time of the funerals.

The thing is, no one is here for us, no one can just pop in when we have an emergency. Both children here have been in hospital, one had emergency surgery. I've had surgery on my neck and there have been the general illnesses like migraines, flu and stomach bugs, but they're not life threatening and we've had to deal with them as a unit of 4 on our own.

So this is why I call South Africa home.

I've built a network of friends I can trust, whose opinion I value and who I can rely on when we need things, be it money after losing a bank card and not being able to get a replacement for 24 hours, lifts to school because the car is in the garage or won't start, looking after when ill, meals cooked and homework done. It took a year to establish this, a year of struggling, lonliness and no idea of how to do anything or get anything done.

A year of family and friends back in the homeland not understanding why you are moaning 'look at the lifestyle, your finances, the sun, the pool, what the hell have you got to complain about?'
A trip to the Doctors to ask for help, anti depressents, psychologists, getting help around the home, asking for help and opening up.

The most recent experience on a visit back to the UK made me realise where home is and why I was desperate to get back. It wasn't just about the weather, the sleeping in different beds, living out of a suitcase, not being met at the airport on arrival. It was the plain and simple fact that I converted the cost of things into Rand and refused to pay R15 for a can of coke and I pulled up at the petrol station and sat in my car for a few minutes before I realised that I had to put my own fuel in.

South Africa is home now, I know how things work here, I know what channel I want on DSTV and found Sky confusing.

I like having my bags packed even if they do put the meat in with the vegetables. I like the open space. I like the security of living on a golf estate. I like my new lifestyle now that I am working and using my skills and qualifications (as a volunteer).

But most of all I love pulling up at the petrol station for a F1 pit stop, refueled, water, oil and tyres checked, without asking and back on the track in record time.

Friday 19 October 2012

Do you know the 5 signs of Breast Cancer?

On Tuesday I was tagged by @kateonthinice on her blog, via Britmums, to raise awareness of Breast Cancer. I wasn't on twitter during the day, I was attending the funeral of my Aunty Pat who bravely fought (for several years) and eventually lost her battle with Breast Cancer. I didn't know there were 5 signs...did you? I just thought I'd notice a lump. Anyway nothing more to say other than check your boobs. 1. Itchy, sore, or reddened breasts 2. Upper back pain 3. Nipple changes 4. A change in the shape or size of one breast 5. Pain, swelling, or a lump in your armpit There are 3 things I want you to do Head to: for your FREE guide on touching, looking and checking your breasts. Share that link to help raise awareness of breast cancer signs. Join in the Twitter party on Friday this week (19th October 2012) from 1-2pm with @BreakthroughBC and @BritMums Write a blog post about breast cancer and link it up here. If you can tag your blogger friends to do the same, that will be very much appreciated too.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

There for the Grace of God, go I.....

As I write this I don't know if April Jones is alive or dead. Either way the outcome is and will be for a very long time a tragedy for those around her and for her to deal and live with. A while ago I was asked to take part in Blogging for Madeline. You can read my post here about how many times I lost my children whilst on holiday and on day trips. I'm not proud to report I've ever lost my kids, but things happen, you cannot be in control of your children 24/7. I tweeted this, this morning 'I think I'm a good parent, educated, married, stable life....I've lost my kids numerous times, don't judge #apriljones #thereforthegrace...' 'Remember the place you live is different from everyone else, we've raised kids in country, towns and abroad #apriljones' 'Don't judge people by your values & standards as there is always someone ready to judge you and you'll say they're not justified #apriljones' I also replied to someone that I didn't think 7pm was too late for a 5 year old to be playing outside. I had a mixed response. To me allowing a child to roam free is going to end up in trouble, whatever age they are, wherever they live and regardless of the family situation. But then I know a lot of parents who never gave their children any freedom or responsibility and they've turned out......well we all know someone, we all disagree with how other people raise their kids, but do we ever stop for a minute and think about our parenting, the decisions we make? So your child has tea at someone else's house and they come home and tell you 'mummy, my friends mum said I could have pudding if I ate all my food, but I didn't like the food mummy and she gave her daughter pudding but I didn't get any' Honestly? You'd be aghast, you'd complain, you'd tell all the mums in the playground, you may even approach the parent and you'd certainly not let your daughter go play there again. Or are you the type of parent that would be aghast if your child was given pudding after they left their food? Same response no doubt? I'm a child of the 70's I remember growing up in a cul de sac up North and clearly recall playing outside in the summer when it was dark, walking the mile each way to school with my friends, we moved South when I was 11. When I had my kids I moved to a cul de sac, in the country, the only community apart from the Doctors and shop was this cul de sac, opposite the school, we took it in turns to take the kids to school, we had a walking bus (without the hassles) I lived there from 1993-2002 when I left my kids were aged 10, 7 and 3. They played outside in the late afternoons, early evenings with the other children, they climbed over the gates and the walls and you often fed extra kids or yours came home with an ice cream from one of the neighbours, they crossed the road to the park in groups, the older girls collected the baby in his pram and took him for walks. I'd spend hours in the woods calling the children in for dinner. When we moved in 2002 we moved to a town, we lived on a street, 7 miles from a city, a ten minute walk from the main line from Birmingham to London. We opened our front door and launched our kids into their new surroundings and they limped home as no one was out, kids just didn't go out to play, the park was empty apart from a few older teenagers on the swings. School told me that my kids were too street wise for their ages and it intimidated some of the other children. My kids are angels, but they ain't trouble either, a few spats over the years, a couple of fights and a few visits from the police about things my children witnessed, but weren't involved in. I worked for 15 years as a youth worker, inner city and in the country, there are good and bad kids wherever you go and that means there are good and bad children. You just don't know how a bad parent could have such a well adjusted kid and vice versa, but it happens. Twitter is full of critism for the parents of missing April Jones, people are judging the family by their own upbringing, their values and standards and it's just not on. Tell me what do you think of a young woman having a child out of wed lock, barely out of her teens, her child has never seen his Father, the mother could walk past him in the street after 20 years and not recognise him. She then lives off a few government benefits, sticks him in a creche and works, marries, has two further kids then leaves her husband, the youngest child only a year old and soon after sets up house with a new bloke and his two kids? Do you identify or more likely do you judge? I know that woman and her kids are well adjusted, been to college, left home to follow good careers, call her up when they need help, have set up savings accounts and pensions, talk to her when they need things and ask for help. Tonight, I, that woman get on a plane to go and spend 3 weeks with those children. They don't think I'm a bad mum, I don't think I'm a bad mum, but some people do because they don't know, they only choose to see things the way the media portrays people. So don't judge April Jones's family, don't even judge the family of the man who has been arrested.......there are bad people everywhere and there for the grace of God, go I.

Monday 1 October 2012

Supporting people with disabilities in South Africa

I'm cheating a bit with this post by adding to a blog thats had over 3,500 hits since I posted it in October last year. The reason for doing this is because I've sold the original bags and I've made some more. If you want to buy a bag click here for more info.

So what happens to your money when you buy a bag?
How does buying a bag help people with disabilities in South Africa?

I don’t work, I volunteer and volunteering costs me money. But where can I get the money from to assist with my volunteer work and just what exactly do I buy with the money raised by selling bags?

To start off with there are NO personal expenses, No fuel allowance. I give my time and transport costs willingly.

Volunteering gets me out, it starves off the depression, it allows me to integrate, learn the culture, the language, make friends, explore new places.

I ‘m a volunteer with Santa Shoebox. I am the sub coordinator for Pretoria and this is my 3rd year with them.  I don’t fundraise for them, just help with promotion, collection and distribution of boxes at Christmas time. Every Celebration day I attend, I bake cup cakes for each child at the facilities and if I identify a need I can meet and resources are available then I assist. But I do this outside of Santa Shoebox, as in I’m not representing them when I bake my cakes or meet their needs.

Through Santa Shoebox I have become involved with 2 organisations that I volunteer with independently.

I volunteer at Kungwini Welfare Organisation. I am involved with their adult home for people with disabilities, there is little government funding available and they rely on donations, both financial and in goods, goodwill and volunteers. I am also involved with the Children’s home. Their biggest fundraiser is their Nickel Xmas Market.

I’ve also recently become involved with The Viva Foundation in Mamelodi at the Alaskan Informal settlement. Where I spent a weekend with my son painting shacks as part of their Art Festival and I hope to become more involved with them.

At Kungwini I assist in the workshop, I help thread machines, I talk with people, I paint pots, I check quality control, I assist with orders, I identify needs and I try to meet them.

I do this by buying needles, threads, light bulbs for the machines, cottons, glue, paint, brushes, hand held devices for attaching press studs. I rinse out tin cans and plastic bottles from home to use to make crafts. I collect donations from friends, clothing, shoes etc. In the children’s home I provide them with toothbrushes and paste. I teach them how to clean their teeth and what will happen if they don’t, I challenge inappropriate language and comments. I talk about the world, share experiences, go horse riding, help tidy bedrooms, creating a feeling of ownership. I take and print photos, creating a record for these children to take with them through life.

By buying a bag you can help support me with this.

I want to be able to fund this year’s cake baking,  Last year I baked 2000 cup cakes, this year alone I’ve baked 350.

I want to print photos of every activity I’m involved with in the children’s home and help create memories.

I want to buy paint and brushes for Viva Foundation for their next Arts Festival.

I want to be able to buy items needed for the Workshop, to help them grow and develop their crafts to enable them to raise more funds from their Nickel Xmas Market.

I want to be able to have my own stall at a Market selling their crafts and my bags.

I want to be able to buy printing ink to advertise and spread the word about these organisations.


But I’m NOT asking you just for your money. I’m asking you to get involved with helping me, by buying a bag, as a gift, for personal use, telling your family and friends about where it came from and where the money goes and how it helps support people with disabilities in South Africa.

I will blog, tweet, post photos. I’m happy to discuss sponsorship requests from Media and PR companies to aid my work.

In October I am climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I need to find a reputable organisation to go with, source the equipment and clothing needed. Set up fundraising pages (need to get donations from other countries here). I will be using some of the money I raise from selling bags to fund this. I will be paying for my flights, accommodation and the trip myself, unless I can get a sponsor for this. All funds raised from the climb will go to Kungwini to help meet some of their many needs.


I will be in the UK the end of this week and I'm bringing with me an assortment of goodies made at KWO by adults with physical and learning difficulties. I've been learning the trade along the way, so there are a few hand made gifts by me. The workshop at Kungwini Welfare Organisation
Hand bags - Colour and sizes vary (approx 40cm x 30cm) fully lined £10.00
Bag logo
Beaded Hearts - Colours will vary £2.00
Necklaces - Colours will vary £3.00
Broaches to liven up your winter coat or bag - Colours vary £2.00
Key rings - Colour and styles vary £2.00
Postage and packing extra. Stocks are limited on this trip. Contact me via twitter @chickenruby or through my blog to order

Saturday 29 September 2012

NHS versus Private Medical Aid

For 39 years I was only aware of the NHS. Yes, there was private care available at a cost in the UK, but it usually came with a benefit package or the rich used it. Despite needing hospital care in the UK the private scheme was only ever used the once by hubby as in the past treatment needed hadn't fallen into the right category. I've had a few stays in hospital with viral meningitis and pneumonia and other things and all of them were 999 calls/emergencies so never really stopped to think about using the private care and apart from service in the NHS being slow, there's never really been an issue. On moving to South Africa less than 2 years ago, our only option is private medical care, so we've been told and although its part of a benefit package hubby still has to contribute 50% of the monthly cost and it's a taxable benefit. There was the cricket ball in the throat incident, pay cash up front, claim back from med aid, bills sent directly to us to pay, but not receiving them so issued with court orders to pay as the med aid wasn't linked to the emergency hospital son was taken to. Emergency surgery after the heelies accident, now apart from the cast being too tight, that all worked out well, from A&E to surgery, to ward to discharge, less than 24hours. There's been a CT scan after I was dehydrated, numerous dental treatments and doctor’s appointments. We've certainly had our monies worth from it but what has been the real cost? I personally think Private medical care is a waste of money, time and effort and so far it has caused me more stress than any of the treatments, surgery and emergencies that have happened so far. When admitted to hospital you have to set up an account, so your child is separated from you while you complete paperwork, provide copies of ID and med aid, know your hubbies works number off the top of your head as in any emergency you're never prepared. Did you know you can request which hospital you want the ambulance to take you to? Then the hospital will ask you after they've carried out initial treatment what scans/tests etc do you want? You're the bloody experts, you tell me. Do you want to be admitted? I don't know how much does that cost? Then of course you say yes to the tests and no you'll take child home if the hospital say it's ok to discover that now you have to phone your med aid and ask permission for the tests, you discover the hospital you are at doesn't meet with the med aids agreed prices and you have to then hand your bank card over for them to take the necessary payments, because they don't tell you this until afterwards or unless you ask, keep the receipt and spend next 6 months arguing with the med aid for a full refund...It was an emergency. Oh and don't forget the payment gap you'll end up in, the what? Exactly. You go to the Doctors or are half way through dental treatment and your funds run out. Yes seriously and the first you know about it is when a bill arrives or you get a phone call demanding payment. It's even more annoying when you explain to the med aid that you don't know how any of this works, as you are only used to free treatment as you're from the UK, you finally get informed that there's a drop in centre nearby where you can ask to speak with someone to explain all of this to you. So you visit every time you ne something or you get a bill and they are very good at reading off the computer, emailing you cut and paste and putting you on the phone to someone above them who is more qualified to answer your question, when all they then do is read off a piece of paper. This week I was admitted to hospital for day surgery. It was 6 weeks from referral by doctor to appointment and the actual procedure. Which compared to the NHS is bloody brilliant, but the stress of organising it was immense. R500 payable on initial consultation, claimed back from med aid. Completion of consent forms for surgery and all med aid details including car registration numbers for both myself and hubby (no parking permit was issued) details of next of kin in South Africa and as we are immigrants, contact for family members in the UK. Then there was approval from the med aid, the hospital contacted me to say I'd need to pay R3500 towards the treatment, so a visit to the med aid drop in centre, a phone call to discover that they won't pay for two treatments in the same year. But I wasn't having two treatments in the same year, but according to med aid level 1 injection were the same as level 2 injections. The physio and anaesthetist come to see me, told to refrain from driving for 48hrs and my neck may be sore for a week. At the consultation I was informed I'd be sedated and a needle would be inserted into my nerves on both sides of my neck from C1-7 and an electrical pulse would stimulate the nerves. I was put under and the procedure lasted 90 mins, I came round and my blood pressure was 57/40 something, I was dehydrated and it took 2 hours for the drip to pass through and I was discharged at 5pm. On arriving home I stepped out the car and collapsed on the drive, I've been in bed ever since with this (sat pm) being the first time I've been able to sit up for more than a few minutes without incredible neck pain. On calling the hospital on Friday I was told I had to have complete bed rest till Tuesday, take the meds as prescribed, despite instruction on box saying 'when needed' and to drink caffeine, coke and eat chocolates to keep my blood sugar levels up, my feet elevated and not to attempt to stand unaided and not to be left alone. Now hubby wouldn't have gone to Cape Town Thursday till Saturday had we been given that information at the hospital. And thanks to med aid company I now have to go through the whole procedure level 2 again in January when the New Year starts which will mean with the costs that we will be in the payment gap sooner than we want. In the meantime I'm trying to find a perodontist that works within the med aid figures and despite requesting that the med aid company find me one, I'm still waiting for the surgery I need to resolve and slow down the bone degeneration I have and prevent my teeth from falling out. I'd rather have the NHS any day, thank you very much. I may have to wait longer but from previous experience, there is less stress prior to the event and after. My father had a heart attack in June, the only option he had was the NHS, their care during and after was fantastic and the help he receives now is amazing. No wonder I'm suffering from depression, most of it caused by my lack of knowledge and the medical aids lack of understanding in response to 'I don't know how this all works, please help'

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Tampons, naked saunas and swimming sideways

I've had enough.

Responses from tweets indicate it is the same whatever gym you go to, regardless of where you are in the world.

As I enter the Virgin Active Gym there is a board

'Lets make South Africa Proud'
Followed by a list of do's and don'ts.


Do you know what that means?

It means if someone isn't respecting your boundries, you challenge an issue or just about anything else, you're likely to get sworn or shouted at, or told to mind your own business.

The pool has a current, yesterday I gave up after 10 lengths, I was in lane 1 of 6, the lane with the strongest current, lane 6 was empty and lanes 2, 3, 4 & 5 were men and women training, with paddles and flippers and one guy was even using a snorkel.
The current was so strong it took me 10 strokes to swim up the pool and 16 to get back and most of that was sideways.
Just a thought, silly I know, 'excuse me Sir, would you mind swopping lanes, only I'm just here for leisure swim, maybe it'll be easier for you to swim in the current with your flippers on than it is me'

'fuck off'

I went back to the pool today, I was the only one in theRE, the pool was really cold, but at least the showers were working this week. Last week there was a problem with the hot water so after a freezing cold shower I thought I'd nip in the sauna just for a few minutes to warm up.
I don't particulary enjoy walking in the door and being eye to vagina, thank you very much, OK, people go naked in saunas, but knees bent, legs apart on the top bench, facing the door just really isn't necessary. I walked out, there was nothing I could say.

Anyway back to today, out the shower, why are the doors see through perspex? we don't all enjoy showing off you know. I return to the changing room, put my costume, googles and hat on the floor, open my locker put my clothes on the bench and grab my make up bag and go to the mirrors to sort my hair and face. I return to my bench and despite there being loads of space a woman has put her damp towel on my clothes, I pick it up and ask 'is this yours?' to which she just snatches it off me and puts it back as close to my clothes as she can. I told her I don't want wet clothes and could she move her stuff, she replied that I was to move mine, so I shoved her clothes and bag along the bench, with most of it falling on the floor, grabbed my stuff and went to another bench.

Big mistake...
Me: excuse me would you mind going to the toilet to insert your tampon
Her: Why
Me: *Gives up, gets dressed, buys coffee and blogs*



Monday 17 September 2012

Just what is @kwo_org that I so often tweet about? and why is it so important to me?

Kungwini Welfare Organisation is an umbrella Non-Profit Organisation for 8 public benefiting projects, namely:
Paul Jungnickel Home - with 140 adults with disabilities
Kungwini Early Learning Centre - with over 200 children between the ages of 2 - 6 years
Drop -In Centre - for over 40 children between 6 - 12 years
Vocational Therapy Unit
Kungwini Protective Workshop
Children's Home
Nickel Xmas Market
Social Work Services

I got involved with the Paul Jungnickel Home sort of by accident. I had visited the organisation with Santa Shoebox appeal and had been taken out to visit the Kungwini Early Learning Centre. Everyone was so friendly, that I left my CV with them with the intention of supporting the teachers in the nearby township.

On Mandela Day, 18th July, his birthday, #67minutes I visited armed with cup cakes and a pair of scissors to help make some paper bunting for the Nickel Xmas Market. I ended up going back again and made 1km of paper bunting. I then started to make some material bunting for hanging outside and so far have made 150 meters.

Me and my sewing machine were too noisy for the meetings held in the adjacent room so I was moved to the Kungwini Protective Workshop where all hopes of sewing any more bunting were put on hold until the material cupboard was tidied. Since then I’ve been going 2-3 times a week. There is little English spoken and combined with speech difficulties I’m struggling a little to be understood and to understand. But the residents there are so patient with me, practising their English, taking me by the hand and showing me where to go, making me a cup of tea, using gestures and I’m finding my understanding of Afrikaans is coming on nicely, I catch key words and work the rest out. Sometimes I have to fetch someone to translate, but on the whole we all get on fine.

At the moment I’m making bags to sell at the Christmas Market. I have taken a few orders so far and will be posting them when I return to the UK in October. I will also be travelling with many other goodies for sale and I’ll be asking/pestering those of you I see to buy from me. Pop over to my face book page for more info.

So why has this organisation become so important to me? It has given me a life line, a purpose, people to talk to, a place to go and more importantly makes me feel needed and valued.
I can’t work in South Africa, I don’t ‘do lunch’ or play golf and I’m not a big fan of shopping or having nails painted, so I was a little lost.
KWO lets me be me, I can blog/tweet/facebook, I can take photos, I have the freedom to make suggestions and carry them out.

So if you want to do your bit also and help out some amazing people and live in or can get to Pretoria, have a look at some of the needs of the organisation and if you’re outside South Africa how about making a donation, there’s a space to leave a message and don’t forget to let them know that @chickenruby asked you to pop by.

You help to make a BIG difference in other people's lives.

Friday 14 September 2012

From appointment, to assesment, to treatment....6 weeks

15 years ago I suffered an injury at work, I now live with chronic pain in my neck, lower arm and fingers.

It doesn't prevent me from doing anything, it just hurts. I struggle with tin openers and writing and sitting for any length of time, esp driving, but I can manage it, it just hurts.

We moved to South Africa 19 months ago and almost overnight the pain stopped. I'm not working, I'm not doing 100s miles of driving weekly, I can't continue with my studies. The hot weather here also helped.

I was still experiencing pain if I did anything on a loop, but the pain stopped inbetween.

The last few months I've realised the pain is back. I know it sounds silly, but when you live with pain constantly it is possible not to notice it unless it gets worse. My threshold is probably higher than most.

More migraines, the feeling someone is putting pressure on the back of my neck, disturbed sleep and off I went to the Doctors a few months back. I was prescribed Gabapebtin. I refused to take it. In the past I'd suffered side effects. I was irritable, constipated, constantly searching for food and lost my sex drive. I started to exercise more and that helped.

The biggest trigger for my neck pain and migraines is stress. Couple with everyday tasks, writing, hoovering, cooking and baking (I have a guy who does my ironing) So back to the Doctors 5 weeks ago with a variety of issues (inc depression) and today I had my appointment with the pain clinic.

I went armed with a file of treatments and procedures. I accept my pain, I live with my pain, I just want a little help from time to time.

So I was booked in for day surgery, can't remeber what the procedure is called but it involves injection along my spine, from the base of my head to C8. I couldn't make the first appointment in 5 days time as hubby is away so it is rebooked for the following week on the 26th.

I'm so impressed, I know we are paying for it, via the med aid (waiting to find out if med aid will cover the cost) if not we'll have to dig deep. The only issue I had was completing the admissions forms as they wanted to know our car registration numbers...why? and a UK residential address and person to contact in an emergency.

The 5 C's in a crisis

Last week I wrote about regaining my smile

Life has been going well, I've been really enjoying the volunteering at a home for adults with learning and physical disabilities, I've established a routine, I'm committed to giving up smoking (even if I do require medical intervention to do so) I'm back swimming 1km daily at Virgin Active Gym. I'm spending my spare time, sewing bags and making bunting for KWO Christmas market. I'm busy emailing schools, local businesses and Embassies promoting

So life is good and I'm also dealing with Hubby being away into his 3rd week on business in Europe and holiday in the UK to visit family and friends.

But today was crap, I put feeling better with the depression down to the fact I've not had to deal with a difficult situation recently and not the medication making it easier to deal with stuff.

I lost/misplaced/had stolen my bank card and I went into meltdown. Not out of panic/fear/worry, but out of annoyance at knowing how bloody complicated this will be to sort out.

I'm at PicknPay, no bank card, I'll be back. I retraced my steps to the petrol station where I know I last used my card, nearly 24 hours ago, it's not there. Youngest is searching the car, under the bed and friend is checking her house and driveway where I went last night. I check my balance online, all is good and then I cancel the card.

After cancelling my card I realised how isolated I am here, how little help and support actually exists for us as a family, thankfully my boys are 13 & 17 and in a medical emergency they'd cope/manage in hubbies absence.

It takes ages to find the number online as I'm signed in, if I'd signed out and just surfed the website, I'd have found it straight away.

Them: Hi how are you?, I'm fine (this happens all the time, I never had chance to answer and didn't ask a question.

Me: I'd like to report a lost card.

Them: Can I have your name and ID?, not your account number, your ID

Me: That is my ID I'm British

Them: But there isn't enough digits

Me: I know, I'm not South African

Them: Can we have your account number?

Believe it or not, I don't actually know it. I get statements online, it's not written on the front of the card, like the UK, so I log back on to internet banking to locate it.

Them: When would you like your new card?

Me: ASAP as my hubby is away and I have no access to any money till he gets back next weekend

Them: How would you like to get your card?

Me: Please tell me what my options are and then tell me the quickest way to get access to my money please.

So I'm off to the bank tomorrow after my hospital appointment to be issued with a temporary card. The proper card will arrive at the bank in 5 working days.

I doubt things will go smoothly, they really do, here.

My friend is wonderful I called her. I had a cuppa, cake, cry, cuddle and most importantly....she gave me cash.


Wednesday 12 September 2012

I've not smiled in a long time

I'm not an unhappy person.

I'm not a sad person.

I am an angry person.

I am an upset person.

I feel let down.

Let down by this whole move to South Africa, the non exsistant support from hubbies company, despite the promises. Finding a house, setting up bills, opening bank accounts etc, etc, etc. Living in a dnagerous country. Then there was the problems with school, the refusal to acknowledge sons dyslexia, the subsequent house move, the emergency trip to the UK when my dad had a heart attack (one week after we moved) the lack of friends, the boredom, the lonliness, the medical aid.

I put a positive spin on things, I look on the bright side of life, but I do have a habit of letting things get to me, wind me up, make me shout. I also enjoy the good things about living here, a recent trip to Kruger National Park, the markets, the volunteering, being able to afford for my son to learn to drive.

I wrote two posts recently about being ill, about everything getting on top of me, about going to the Doctors and asking for help, about being prescribed anti depressents.

Yesterday I went for my 4 week review of the anti depressents and I told the Doctor I didn't think the medication was working. I said my life had been stress free for the past 4 weeks, no trauma, no hassles, no bills to query, no illness.

Of course everyone says that don't they? They've got better all by themselves, things are good, on the up, they don't need tablets any more. I understand that and perhaps I just feel better equipped to deal with things, to be more cheerful and positive about stuff.

But the one thing that reminded me that the tablets are helping is the fact that when I walked into the surgery, the Doctor said 'I've not seen you smile before'

Saturday 8 September 2012

Camping at Kruger National Park

We spent 4 wet nights and 3 full wet days at Kruger National Park. It was a 800km round trip and we drove 500km around the park, totally 27 hours of driving time, mostly by my son. It cost R800 to camp, we spent R700 on a yearly pass, R1300 on fuel. R300 on tolls plus food.
For some people it is the holiday of a lifetime, for us it will be a regular trip at under £400. However we do need to buy a new tent (hopefully a trailer one...hint hint Hubby)
Kruger is larger than Wales and we only saw the equivilant of Monmouth to Cardiff.

We tied the fridge up on advice of a neighbour who had been raided the previous day, however on our return we discovered they'd had a good go at the fridge and failed but stole the bread, ignorned the rice crispies and left dirty muddy paws over my air bed.

There are approximately 3100 hippos at Kruger and I think there may only be a handful that we didn't see.

Anyway without further ado here are some photos and you must watch the video of the Hippos mating. My 13yo son tried his best not to giggle and failed, his laugh is infectious.