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.