Green Tea for Breakfast

We certainly have a stomach bug, and I mean both of us. Yesterday Robbie’s condition did not improve and I had to phone work to tell them I am not coming. Later we took the trip to the doctor again who prescribed re-hydration fluid, anti-cramp medicine and some pro-biotic.

The trip exhausted us both because among others we had very little sleep last night, and I crashed next to Rob on the bed. Later I got up to do some work and had to rush back to his bedside at the sound of retching. My poor boy threw up what little breakfast he ate all over himself, the pillow, the duvet and the mattress. It was a scramble to get everyone and everything in shape again.

Today my stomach also feels queasy and I have a terrible sore at the roof of my mouth -something I remember having often as a kid accompanying a sore stomach. I am trying to relieve my ailments by drinking green tea for breakfast.

Robert just woke up and I have to go through the routine of giving him breakfast and trying to force some medicine on him. Pharmaceuticals really have a weird sense of humor. The medicine against stomach cramps -which is clearly for little ones judging by the dosage information and the picture of a smiling infant- is so bitter, I think I would have trouble if I had to give it to myself, let alone a squirming toddler who needs convincing even when the (medimed) sweetly tastes of strawberry.

Cream Cupcakes, Not Guilty ?

When I emailed my mother yesterday and mentioned Robert’s runny tummy, she said maybe he is teething.  I dismissed the notion immediately, because my boy is almost fully grown, how could he be teething again? Besides I was too busy blaming the cream cupcake. I guess I was brainwashed by my ex, who used to claim that even a small ice cream gives him indigestion.

When I picked Robert up from school today he looked tired and unhappy. His teachers told me he has slight temperature and he hadn’t eaten. One of them mentioned teething as well because they noted that one of his cheeks was red and hot. I was still unconvinced until I tried to investigate his gum this evening, and sure enough the gum is swollen on the right bottom side his mouth, so I think we are both going to have some interesting times ahead.

Eating has been almost non-existent, and the runny tummy continues. He also has a little temperature, we are in for some challenging time.

Apart from that the weather in Cape Town is still great, it reached 28 degrees this afternoon. So we did get to the playground, runny tummy and all.

This is another picture of today’s sunset from the playground on the promenade

The Gross Out Phenomenon

Yesterday was another day off school for Robert. He started the day with a terrible bout of diarrhea and went on like this for the rest of the day. I spent considerable amount of time at the changing table trying to prevent a leaking nappy disaster.

Scientifically, an ailment of this nature can only be caused by a virus, but I do not know why I am still blaming the cream cup cakes we both consumed greedily yesterday. I was buying our usual stuff from the supermarket when he saw these ones on the discount table and started crying out : muffin.. muffin, and of course I had to buy him something. Perhaps I made him my excuse because they were discounted and I fancied something sweet.  I think next time there are more wholesome options, and I can buy him ONE bran muffin instead of a whole tray of cream cupcakes.

If it was not for another pressing translation assignment I would have enjoyed today’s break with my son a little more. It was a glorious warm autumn day with blue skies and sunshine, something that this part of the world is renowned for.  I took Robert in his stroller up Victoria Road in the direction of Camps Bay and after a brief rest taking in the views of the Twelve Apostles and Clifton beaches we headed back towards our part of the world, and Robert got to walk as well on the promenade.

We do not get this fabulous weather all the time, though. This past weekend was disastrous in the Cape. The rain and gale force winds wreaked havoc in informal settlements (shanty towns) and on the Cape Flats (where flood damage is always greatest).  I had quite a challenging time because I had to go to work and I was scheduled to drop off Robert with Britt’s nanny at their place.  As is always the case Britt came to the rescue and offered to come and pick us up. She gave me a lift to work and back on that day too, something I only got once from my ex husband since our divorce. Compassion was never one of his strongest points.

On Sunday Robert was due to be with his father and the weather was better. I had the chance to put the laundry out in the sun for a few hours when I came back from work. My ex dropped off our son late and my poor baby was drenched in mud water from the knees down. My ex insisted that I not mention anything because Robert fell in a puddle and was very upset for at least half an hour after that. At home Robbie protested bitterly at being carried into the bath and the subsequent cleanup, but I did not sense anything was wrong, our afternoon proceeded normally with the usual bath-time and bedtime routine.  I was very surprised when my ex phoned just as we were both drifting to sleep to ask how Robert was, it makes me wonder whether my ex was telling me everything about Robert’s misadventure.

Speaking of the tyke. I think he is starting the boy tradition of fascination with the gross. Whenever I change his diaper (and yesterday I had more of this experience than I care to count) he would give a comment on this, either: bum hurting (hetin) – meaning he has a nappy rash , ka ka toiten (he should have used the toilet) or just nappy on/ nappy off. Lately however he started commenting -I think- on the actual contents of the nappy.. gross.  As I wrinkle my nose at the disgusting diapers and try hard to keep the squirming toddler from smearing it everywhere or putting his hands on his dirty bum he would go : “like avocado”… Yuk… Last night he volunteered: “Like Hummus” … I had a hard time fighting my gag reflex while laughing at the same time.

Wildlife on my Doorstep

I found this creature today on my doormat

Its colour is definitely real and it has this strange circles on its back that look like eyes. I have no idea what type of caterpillar this is but I showed it to Robert and he was amused.  This thing however had an unamusing end to its life because when I threw it back in the garden my cat Petey took interest in it and started “hunting” it in the fashion of wild cats.  I did not investigate the outcome.

I have a tendency to think of caterpillars as gross an uninteresting, even though I read the “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” as a child and empathized with him/her ( I read the German version of that book, where the caterpillar is a girl : “Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt“).  But obviously they come in all shapes sizes (and colours).  This green one reminded me of the one I saw in Dominica

It is nice to know that I do not need to travel to the end of the world to see this type of wildlife.

Mother’s Day and other Stories

Yesterday was mother’s day in this part of the world, and the weather was truly magical. We had sunshine and clear skies and a temperature of 28 degrees. On days like this it is hard to imagine living anywhere other than the beautiful Cape.

Robert went to the beach with his father in the morning, and later in the afternoon we went for a walk on the promenade and to the playground. At the playground he played on the swing for some time which is his favourite, then he insisted on going up the slide. Now this is not the little baby slide but something that goes up for about 2 meters, and my heart was up in my mouth every time he went up there. The playground was full so I could not really follow him up there, and I had to give him instructions to put both his legs forward as he sat ready to slide. Somehow he got it, but he is a careful little fellow always breaking with his foot against the sides of the slide, so it was not a very fast ride once he launched himself down. I was able to stand the suspense for three horrifying climbs and rides on the slide before I called the game off.

Looking after a little child gets easier and harder as the days go by. Now he runs ahead of me in the park and on the promenade and I have to be on the alert every single second, prepared for surprising actions. I can only relax when he is safely strapped into his stroller.

I had planned to go with Robert to a Mother’s Day lunch at the Aquarium, but I thought it was too much excitement for him after the beach. Yesterday we spent the day at home, and played in the garden, but it was a bad decision in retrospect because my little one missed his nap and got very rambunctious, throwing things around in our little flat, and basically getting on my nerves.  He went to sleep at around seven but by then I was also exhausted. The only treat I got for mother’s day was a little present and card from Robert’s playschool.  It was a heart-shaped pendant in a dainty little bag along with a handmade card. The teachers and the children contributed in making cards for each mom with beads glued on them. When Robert got hold of the card he managed to take off most the colourful beads, before I could caputre the present in a photo.

Thoughts on South African Politics

This weekend was a busy weekend for us here in South Africa, because we witnessed the inauguration of our fourth democratic president, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. Some radio stations called him the fourth democratically elected president, which in my opinion was slightly inaccurate since the third president (Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe) did not come into power as a result of a national election.

I was part of the election process on the 22nd of last month.  I voted for the first time in my life.  In my country of origin there was no point taking part in a referendum – it is a one party state with presidents chosen for life (and then passing the presidency on to their progeny).  So I had a certain pride in making my mark here in my adopted country.

The process went on as expected with our ruling party the ANC (African National Congress) taking over 66% . Further results show that opposition parties are a fragmented lot in this country; the biggest is the DA (Democratic Alliance) receiving 16.75% of the votes followed by the new party COPE (Congress of the People) which took 7.5%. The latter party was formed by disgruntled members of the ANC who did not approve of the current leadership and went into opposition attracting a few Mbeki loyalists.

In this fourth democratic election there were only a few surprises. The ANC has lost some votes to the opposition (they came just short of a two-third majority), and the DA won absolute majority in the Western Cape Province. We now have a new Premier in the Eastern Cape : Helen Zille , leader of the DA, who was previously the mayor of Cape Town – I only found out recently that Ms Zille was an anti-Apartheid activist during the seventies, and  famously uncovered the circumstance of Steve Biko‘s death when she worked as a journalist for the Rand Daily Mail. The victory of the DA in the Western Cape is important because it is the first time any party manages to wrestle an absolute majority from the ANC in any of the nine provinces.

The elections had their serious moments and their really strange ones. Here in the Western Cape I saw election posters for the Cape Party, whose major objective was to declare the Cape independent (A republic of the Western and Northern Cape) – They got 2552 votes in the provincial elections, according to these results,  accounting for 0.13% of the provincial votes.

For me these elections and the subsequent events threw my adopted country in a positive light.  Despite all the negative hype about corruption and rape charges and the controversy around the person of Jacob Zuma, he has made all the right noises so far throughout his inauguration and cabinet selection. He is reaching out to South Africans of all races, and vowing to build the economy and combat poverty and disease.

Yesterday I listened in to the President’s announcement of  his cabinet selection. I noted that he formed a new ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities. To lump women and children together with the disabled may seem strange in other parts of the world, it may be b even unusual to single all these out as a separate category from the general population.  However, this is a testimony of how much work is still needed before real equality is achieved in society.  Our new president has charmed the majority of the population in this nation, and he is working on winning even his most bitter detractors, but how much he will achieve remains to be seen.

I can already see one bright spot though. News readers around the world will no longer have to wrestle with the name of our new president.  Although former president Kgalema Motlanthe is not completely out of the picture, he is now our deputy president.

Making Assumptions

Assume is making an ASS out of U and ME.  Well it turned out that I owe the Post Office an apology. My mother was the one who took out the item from the package because it came over 1kg. As much as I am happy about this I am ashamed at my rush to judgement.

The possibility did occur to me at some point, and although I am usually a trusting person who does not make accusations lightly,  I was influenced by my state of mind. I also have a deep-rooted mistrust of the Post Office which really had a bad reputation here in South Africa, and even a worse one in my country of origin. I haven’t lost any items in the post since I came to South Africa but my ex husband and I were victims of  fraud back in Johannesburg,  which was done most probably through intercepting mail statements.

A lesson learnt: Always be patient to do not make assumptions or jump to conclusions, there is always a possible benign interpretation.  My faith in the post office has been restored -somewhat- because despite the delays and frequently bad service things do arrive eventually.


I went today to a sheriff’s auction. The house was on a street I passed often with Robert on our way to the park, so I thought I might as well go and see how these things are done,  because auctions are usually where you pick up bargains. I was going for an educational excursion, I did not want to buy the house which was clearly beyond my means. I was not prepared however for the emotional aspect of watching this happen.

First I was surprised to recognize the place, because I often looked at it with envy I am ashamed to say. The outside renovation preserved so much of the character of this old building, then I went inside and I was struck by how much of a building site the place was. There was a living room at the front of the house which looked disorganized then a hall with nothing but cans of paint. The kitchen was a dark place with merely a fridge, bare counters and boarded up windows. There were exposed pipes and wiring, floors that still required tiling and naked roof rafters. The upstairs is where those people probably spent most of their time, and here you stumble on their personal lives. There were three bedrooms with books, computers, and study desks. I saw posters, and personal items. One of the beds had a small aquarium with tiny goldfish right next to the bed. It felt so wrong to be tramping around people’s belongings, as they were about to lose the roof over their heads.

I spoke to the owner briefly. He was taking it very graciously but his pain and regret was palpable. He is an architect, who overextended himself loving and preserving what he thought would be his permanent home. He said that the hardest part was telling his children that the bank has foreclosed on their home, because they lived with them in this mess for two year, I could relate to his pain. I briefly experienced living in a renovation site while I lived with my ex husband in Gonubie, and the situation was a threat to sanity.

The owner said that he spent so much time an effort recycling the old brick and trying to preserve whatever he could of the character of the old home, he was not doing it for comercial purposes he was doing it in pride of ownership, and Ironically this was what brought on his downfall.  On one kitchen wall he taped the architectural drawings and concept of the house, which he could not finish. Now all his and his wife’s efforts are going to become some investor’s gain. I never saw the wife, but I could imagine her, as her husband told me, scraping away 12 coats of paints from the wooden steps.

There were more than twenty people like me tramping around the old house, but when the auction started only four or five where active bidder in addition to the bank.  In the end the bank representative ( a woman and apparently they are always women) told the last remaining bidder that the bank would buy unless they got a certain price, and the bidder met the required price. There was handclapping and the auction was over, a family lost their home, just like that.  Everyone went on to congratulate the new owner. There were insensitive comments like : Ah, you can knock the whole place down and sell the empty lot, and you can get your money back. I thought of how the owner may feel hearing these jibes. I left with a heavy heart, wondering whether I really had the stomach for auctions, perhaps they are the domain of hardcore investors only. All the way home I kept thinking of the man and his two teenage boys who still do not know where they are going next, I was grateful to have my own roof, even a rented one.

The gray cloud of sadness did not lift when I came back home to examine again a package I received from my mother. I collected it earlier today at the post office and discarded its empty box, noting with disinterest the post office tape which said it was found open and secured by postal workers. The package contained the items I expected and some additional ones, so I was happy. Only much later I discovered my mother’s little note where she said that she had included a packet of wine gums (gummy Bären) which was not in the box. The realization left me bitterly disappointed. The sweets are perhaps the least valuable item in the package but they were still sent with love from my mom to her grandson and the fact that some crook in the post office had actually taken them out makes me feel betrayed.  It is such an effort to send things halfway across the world like this. The postage is frequently more expensive than the item itself, and I am definitely going to complain at the post office. Mostly I will be wary, and I will ask whoever sends me stuff to give me a listing of the items sent, so that I can at least confront the post office right away. Now I will have to complain without valuable pieces of evidence, like the box I threw carelessly away.

Cyber Snobbery

One of the places I frequently hang out on the net is Facebook. It is a social networking site, with many infantile applications, games and time-wasting activities, but for me it is useful for connecting with long lost friends and relatives, as it gives me their latest news, photos or random updates.

Last week I was sucked into a Facebook craze. I filled out names of Five Cities Where I Lived, and was later bombarded by requests to fill in five all time favorite movies and books, five greatest fears, five addictions, five bla bla bla bla bla, and it never ends.  Needless to say that I could not be bothered, and dropped out of this FIVE-itis almost immediately, but I had already filled out my five cities.  I lived in more than five different cities, from large to small to insignificant desert outposts, so  I chose the ones that where important to me, or the ones that presented landmarks in my life : Aleppo the city where I was born; Vienna where I had my first brief -and unhappy- encounter with the western world;  Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, where I lived independent from my family for the first time, and Johannesburg my first point of contact with South Africa. Now I was left with one slot and the contenders were : My current city of Cape Town, Abu Dhabi where I lived as a teen with my family, and East London my second stop in South Africa. There was also Al-Ain and Ruwais in the UAE, but the latter thankfully does not qualify as a city.  I left out my current city, because I thought the question was applicable to the past, and chose the place that was most important in my life : East London.

Perhaps I should not be surprised that I received a comment from one of my friends on Facebook. She said : “I wouldn’t tell people about East London”. You see East London is a sleepy hollow, a very laid back backwater town of South Africa. It is neither hip like Cape Town nor Savvy like Johannesburg. It is not even as Cool as Durban or Port Elizabeth. Even its inhabitants jokingly call it “Slummy”, so  why should I out myself by saying I lived there? In this age of cyber snobbery where everyone has to be smarter, cooler and more with it than the next Facebook friend.

Now, I really do not care about being a snob. I love the Eastern Cape. I do not find any problem in saying that I lived in East London, and to be more accurate (and even more of a country bumpkin) in Gonubie. It is one the most beautiful places in South Africa and if I wasn’t married to the wrong man I would have been very happy to continue living there. In fact I often think that if it wasn’t for want of good jobs and good schools it is the perfect place to bring up young children.

East London has the distinction of being South Africa’s only river port. It lies between the Nahoon and Buffalo Rivers and has a great expanse of beautiful white beaches and the best weather in South Africa. Its people are friendly and kind and stop to talk with you, and it has a low crime rate. In fact I would prefer living in East London over Johannesburg any day of the year, no matter how cool, hip and with-it Johannesburg was. I guess I am a country bumpkin after all.

Why My Son Doesn’t Wear Handknit

There are reasons why I do not produce much hand-knit material, and I have very little to show for it once the I actually finish an object.

When Robert was born I knitted him a jacket, it ended up getting stolen from my ex’s car along with the baby backpack I received from Cape
Town Mediclinic, a baby bottle, a board book and other baby paraphernalia. Last week I did finish a sweater for Robert, it was lying there awaiting completion since September. In fact it traveled with me to Germany and back, and was just missing half a sleeve. I finished it even in the middle of a rush translation project because I wanted to make sure that he gets to wear it as the weather gets cooler. The sweater was a little on the small side – the pattern was for a one-year-old not 18 months +, but I had elaborate plans of blocking it or even unravelling it from the bottom and knitting longer ribbings. My plans did not come to pass, and the sweater was worn for TWO times only.  I forgot that it was not 100% acrylic and put it in the washing machine along with other synthetics. When it came out it was felted and shrunk beyond recognition. The heat was not an issue I think but rather all the spinning and agitating. Now it has been put away out of sight, I am not even sure whether I can give it away to a smaller baby, I am too upset to even have a second look.

Now like its predecessor the cardigan all that is left are photos. Shame, because I liked the sweater so much, it matched Robert’s eyes perfectly.