Saturday 13 April 2013

My permission has been revoked

My son is 14 on Sunday. Every Friday night we have Pizza night with our friends, taking it in turns at one anothers houses.
Last night was our turn and we decided to turn it into a bit of a party and do the Birthday cake.
I love baking and yesterday morning I got out all the ingredients and asked my son what cake he wanted. As quick as a flash he replied 'Shop bought'. It made me realise that my days as a mummy are coming to an end. He is the youngest of 5 children.

The youngest has always had an issue with his photos being taken, in fact he hates it, it ranks a close second to getting his hair cut. As I tried to take a picture of him blowing out the candles, he hid his face, it winds me up and he knows it. He is missing from pictures in nearly all family events and if he is in the picture, his face is hidden.

Being expats and away from family, I make a huge effort to update the picture album, send prints back to people and post online, usually on facebook. I run my faceebook for the family only, I rarely post comments like the ones you see on twitter @chickenruby and I have recently started linking blog posts that I think people might like to read.

But I've been told 'no more mum, no more pictures, no more blogging about me'
I have to respect his wishes, he is old enough now to have a say in his private life. I've never ridiculed my kids, but I have shared personal stories about the things they've done, the troubles we've had and how we've problem solved. I've always sought permission from family members and the older children (the ones that have left home) prior to posting, but I've never had to ask to share pictures of them on facebook or twitter.

I don't own my children, but what they do effects me, my life, causes me issues, phone calls asking for help and guidance. Moments as a Mother I want to share, things I'm proud of, achievements I want to 'show off'

So I'll leave you with the last photo of my almost 14 year old and I'll attempt to take his picture to send back to his grandparents in the UK.

Monday 8 April 2013

How long does it take to become a local?

I’ve moved many time during my life, in fact 14 times, spanning 3 countries (Wales, England and South Africa) from birth to 17 this involved 4 moves from Newport – Leicester – York - Ross-on-Wye. Every time I’ve moved there have been things to sort, work, family, education, transport plus the usual hassles of changing utility bills and the actual move itself. We’ve all been there and done it and it ranks as one of life’s most stressful things to do.

Moving 6000 miles away has been harder, because on top of the above I’m also dealing with a different culture, language, way of life and way of doing things.

But what I’ve never had problems with is making friends. I’ve moved as a child and made friends at school, then as an adult and made friends through work, then as a mum and made friends again through school. I have life long friends, I have friends who have come and gone, I have friends I’ve been on holiday with and survived.

But when you move so far away from everything you know and your kids are older and you don’t work, then making friends is that little bit harder and it takes an awful lot longer than you can imagine.

So I now know how to do things here, expect the unexpected and be prepared to wait for hours, spend many visits and accept that sometimes what you want to do and what you can do are two separate things.

I’ve established my volunteering, the kids settled emotionally into school and country and through that I have friends, I have a support network. There are people I can party with, people I can call in to see. People who can help me with lifts when my car is off the road or if I’m ill, lend me money when I lose my bank card and hubby is out of the country.

I can now give directions when asked, recommend services, help someone sort out a problem. I know how to talk to people to get what I need, what words to use if I want something done ‘just now’ and not ‘now’ (which means never) I understand the language, the culture, the whole way of life. I can drive to various places without the need for a GPS.

I know there will be issues, things that drive me up the wall, things I’m unable to resolve but I now believe I am settled, I am a local. I belong here and the depression I’m still having issues with is all part of the transition phase of adapting to the culture, of moving 6000 miles away from family and friends and familiarity and re-establishing my whole life.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Parents V Teenagers

I’m not fighting with my teenagers anymore.

It’s not getting me anywhere.

When they leave home they live their own lives.

I don’t have to visit their homes if I don’t like the mess that they make.

I want a tidy home, not them.

I want the washing done, not them.

I want the dishwasher loaded, then emptied, not them.

I want the wet towels picked up off the floor, not them.

I cause the stress in the house, by demanding the above is done, not them.

So from now on, I will keep a tidy house, I will pick up their mess and drop it in their room.

I will choose my battles carefully.

I will ask for the washing, if it’s not brought to the machine then I shall just wash my stuff.

I will wash up my plate, cutlery, cup/glass after my meal, not theirs unless they bring them to me.

They obviously don’t mind using a wet towel, so I’ll leave it where they drop it, after all I have my own bathroom.

Then come the Monday morning when their uniform isn’t washed, when there are no bowls for cereal of cups/glasses for drinks, they will be the ones stressed and not me.

Lets talk about sex

The reality of Sex
Why is it never like it is in the movies?

Probably a lot to do with how the media portrays the ‘perfect lifestyle’ career, the perfect marriage, wonderful home and the most amazing kids, through newspapers, advertisements etc.

I also hold writers responsible. You know the ones that write the Chick Lits, screen writers for movies.

Picture a typical romantic film or even an action one. You know where after the good guy saves the world and gets the girl? They’re hardly through the door and they’re ripping one anothers clothes off and having sex against the wall in the hallway, him holding her off the ground. Cut to next scene and they’re lying in bed, perfect hair and make up, his wounds have healed and wrapped seductively in a sheet.

Now I know there is poetic licence used here, but come on, has that really ever happened?

In reality its arrive home after a days work, collected the kids from wherever, a boot full of shopping. This mornings breakfast dishes to be sorted, shopping to be put away, kids homework to do, arguments, dinner and plonked down in front of the telly around 9pm absolutely knackered, feeling like you have just saved the world and the fateful words ‘Early night love?’ or ‘ you having a shower/bath before bed’

And what happens next is nothing like the movies. After a typical day there is no way you can get on with it without a shower, there is never a piece of furniture strong enough for him to prop you on, as there is no way he can lift you off the ground like that. There is washing over the bed, you’re lying on the remote, getting tangled up in the bed sheets, pillows piled high, toppling on your head, ignoring the TV on in the background, ‘did you lock the door?’ ‘Is that one of the kids on the landing?’

And as for the morning, there is no crisp sheet wrapped round you, you’ve either already put your PJs back on or just pulled them up, your hair is a mess, your make up is everywhere. There’s a child knocking on your door for their breakfast.

There is no loving smile and breakfast in bed and the conversation goes like this.

‘Eugh, go clean your teeth’

‘Why do I always sleep on the wet patch?’

Monday 1 April 2013

My top 5 things to do in South Africa

My top 5 things to do in South Africa

  1. Volunteer work

    Especially if you can’t get a work permit like me. Volunteering in South Africa is extremely rewarding, for starters one is far less restrained in regards to ‘do’s and don’ts of being a volunteer.’

    I’ve been fortunate enough to get involved almost full time with both a local and national charity and spin off groups from both. It all started after years of sending Christmas shoeboxes to Africa from the UK, when I tweeted to ask if there was anything similar here and I’m now in my 3rd year with as a co-ordinator for the Gauteng area. Santa shoebox identifies and delivers 100,000 Christmas gifts throughout the country to deserving and needy children. These gifts are collected from individuals and companies and are checked and delivered by a team of volunteers to schools and homes in townships and areas of deprivation. Pretoria aim to collect and distribute 10,000 boxes this year.

    Donated shoeboxes ready for distribution
    Donated shoeboxes ready for distribution

    Through them I became involved with an organisation that runs a home for adults with disabilities, educare facilities, drop in clinics and children’s home. I’m involved in the Children’s home and the workshop.

    Through both organisations I have made the most amazing friends and shared some wonderful experiences and this weekend I am sleeping over in a township called Mamelodi, North of Pretoria, taking part in the Mams Art Festival painting shacks.

    I’ve been able to use my skills to support these worthy organisations and have learnt new skills such as sewing handbags which I sell to raise funds for @kwo_org.
  2. The Big 5

    I can drive 5 minutes from home, traffic permitting, to look for Hippo and Rhino at the local nature reserve or I can drive a further 10 minutes to Groenkloof and go for a walk with the Giraffes.

    To see the Big 5, Lion, Rhino, Leopard, Cape Buffalo and Elephants, I need to drive to Pilanesburg, near Sun City. This trip can be done in a day, it’s a 2 drive, but be warned there is nowhere to stop on route. Stopping for a wee on the side of the road is a NO, unless snakes and spiders aren’t a concern to you.

    Krugersdorp Game Reserve is a must for a Sunday; make sure you arrive by 11.30am so you can watch the Lions being fed.

    Or for a bit more excitement you can take a 5 hour road trip, East, each way, to Kruger National Park. Lodges, out of season, are around R250 pppn. The drive is fantastic, scenery amazing and plenty of rest stops on route for lunch or just a coffee.

    Local nature and game reserves are self drive and around R40 pp for entry. Most of the roads are tarmaced so a normal car is fine, watch out for the off road routes as the rain tends to make it difficult to drive and the sun hardens the ground, leaving big ruts that we’ve seen many a car stuck in. Pilanesburg and Kruger offer game drives, it is cheaper to book with the reserve than with a tour guide/agent but still costs around R500 pp. But they do guarantee you’ll see the Big 5. Self drive is not permitted after 6pm and there are fines if you’re not back to the gate in time, or like me I had to wait for over an hour with wild dogs circling the car until a night drive safari turned up and opened the gates to let me out. I’ve not done a night drive yet, but I’ve heard it’s the best time to see the Leopards.

    My son learnt to drive in a game reserve and now knows what to do at a Zebra crossing.

    What to do at a Zebra Crossing.
    What to do at a Zebra Crossing.
  3. Eating Out

    The choice of restaurants is varied from traditional steak to Italian. Indian and Chinese restaurants in Gauteng are few and far between, but we’ve found a few take aways. I’ve yet to have a meal or a dining experience I haven’t enjoyed. In some cases it is cheaper to eat out than to cook at home.

    For a real taste of Africa it is a must to eat at either Boma or Moyos for an authentic African evening. Drumming, dancing and tribal painting are on offer but don’t overwhelm the diner, there’s no pressure to join in. Make a whole evening of dining or an afternoon with friends for a coffee.

    The wine list is ‘divine’ and the cocktails inexpensive. I can personally recommend the Sowetean Toilet. And be warned you will require a doggy bag, I can almost guarantee you’ll not finish your dessert.
  4. Culture and History

    Despite South Africa being a modern country, there are so many places to visit. A visit to the Hector Pieterson Museum and Nelson Mandela’s house in Soweto are a must for the history of Apartheid. The Voortrekker Museum provides all the information on the original settlers and the Boar war right up to the present day.

    Another must is the Cradle of Humankind, find out where Man originated and the continuing excavations.
    A trip to Cape Town via the Garden Route and up Table Mountain to see the views.

    Cape Town from Table Mountain
    Cape Town from Table Mountain

    Drive round the Cape of Good Hope. Durban for the beaches and long weekends.
    There are cafes and gift shops at every stop. There is also so much to see and do here than we’ve already experienced and I fear we won’t be here long enough to fit it all in.
  5. Everything else

    The shopping at the malls is wonderful, clean and tidy and air conditioned. Some malls are all indoors and perfect for a wet day, others are half and half where you can venture outdoors with kids play areas, fountains, beautiful sculptures and decoration, cinemas, restaurants and cafes. You’d never know you were inside a security area. Parking is around R10 a day or even cheaper.

    Ice skating at Irene Mall
    Ice skating at Irene Mall

    All the malls contain the larger department and chain stores and a smattering of individual shops and stalls. You’ll also find at least 1 large supermarket.
    There are plenty of retail parks, although these offer less in the way of security and parking is free.

    Take a trip to Sandton to see how the other half live and a visit to Rosebank on a Sunday for the roof top African market. There are also various Saturday markets selling traditional African crafts and food.

    Don’t forget the sporting opportunities. Centurion cricket ground is visible from our house and we’ve seen the 20/20. The wanderers ground for the ODI, SA v Sri Lanka. Ellis Park for the soccer, local team v Spurs and the Rugby SA v UK and finally the eldest boy to Soccer City in Soweto for the AFCON Finals.

    Soccer City, World Cup stadium
    Soccer City, World Cup stadium

These are just a few of the things we have done here in South Africa. Started off close to home and widening the circle as time has gone on and we’ve felt more comfortable with our personal security.