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.