Sala Kahle Mzansi – Stay Well South Africa

Today we leave South Africa on our very long flight to New York. I spent my last night in SA at my friend’s house. She is also the new adoptive mom of my cat Pete.

The day before that has been hectic with moving stuff and vacating the flight. At least I have 18 hours of doing nothing while en-route to JFK.

I am sending a shout-out and a heartfelt farewell to my beloved home country. Robert and I will come back, in two years. Stay well. Sala kahle my Mzansi.  Thank you for giving me a place to love and be proud of. Thank you for helping me grow up and find my patch on the rainbow. I will always think of the road leading to you as Paradise Road.

Cape Town Rocks !

This is my often declared opinion of the Mother City.. It Rocks ! but this has been taken to a totally new level with the U2 Concert at Green Point Stadium. It was a perfect evening, with a giant full moon shining over the mountain as we queued up to enter the stadium then rising over the stadium.

I went there with my best friend and we soaked in the atmosphere of the Fan Walk complete with carnival performers, big dolls representing the band members. We had Bockwurst Rolls from a kiosk and queued for a long time to get drinks, but it was all part of the fun.

At the stadium we first listened to Springbok Nude Girls led by Arno Carstens and then there was some wait until U2 graced the stage. The visuals were fantastic and the atmosphere electric. The best moments for me were when Bono shared the stage with Yvonne Chaka Chaka and they sang I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For and then Stand By Me.  There were many visuals of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and a tribute to Suu Kyi the leader of opposition in Burma (Myanmar). In all it was a dazzling show that left me in awe. My ears suffered somewhat and in most songs I recognized the beat but not the words, I wouldn’t know whether this was the norm for all rock concerts because it was my very attendance of a live rock concert.

It is great that many other sites and blogs, including the Cape Town Travel Blog had an extensive post about the concert, with videos and great photos. This was especially welcomed since my own photos have fallen victims to a technical bug. My camera was ready, with spare batteries and all, but instead of taking pictures it winked at me with the message : NO DATA CARD. Sure enough I had forgotten my data card in the laptop the last time I downloaded photos. What can I say but, there is a good reason to own a good camera phone.

Here are some of the better pictures:

I was trying to catch the moon in this one, it is the “searchlight” on the far right corner.

It is not easy to see on my camera, but the stage has bridges and walkways that wrapped around parts of the audience (The Golden Circle crowd) who got the best position in the show. Later I heard that they had a bar right there in their midst and free sushi – for a ticket price of about 400 USD, it figures.

Depending on the lighting the setup of the stage looked like a spaceship, a giant arachnid or a cathedral. The whole screen setup was also very innovative.

Final number, gone are the days of lighters. It is now “turn on the screen of your cell phone” and we were all part of a galaxy of stars.

Long Street

I know I am supposed to feel thrilled and happy with the developments in my life. Most people would do anything to have a bite of the Big Apple, but I am just a small town girl who learned to love the Mother City.

The sights and sounds I experience of Cape Town in these days and weeks have great poignancy because I know that I am going to be without them soon. My eyes have learned to appreciate and take in all the color and vibrancy I took for granted for the past five years, and I know deep in my heart that even the greatest city in the world cannot replace Cape Town from my heart.

My son’s pre-school is at the top of Long Street, attached to the St. Martini German Lutheran Church. I walked this street many times before but in the last weeks I started to note and take in almost every building and shop-front. This post is my tribute to a Cape Town landmark.

Long street is Cape Town at its best. Its Victorian buildings are tourist favourites, its shops, restaurants, and coffee shops well-frequented by foreigners and locals alike, and it comes to life at night with its selection of bars and party haunts. The shopping possibilities on Long are endless: Books, lingerie, antiques, African inspired and designed clothes, accessories, and the obligatory African art are only some of the offering.

The street features a couple of mosques rubbing shoulders with coffee shops or bars, and there is a Turkish bath at its end. Each of its Victorian buildings is distinct in its style and most are not shy of making a bold statement with colour and design. To my mind Long Street best expresses the irreverence of this city and its bohemian nature. It is happy with its quirks and flaunts them instead of hiding them.

I love Long Street, I love Cape Town, and I love South Africa and all its warm people. Nowhere else in the world can be warmer. No other place can have a stronger pull on my heart.

Music is the Shortest Way to the Heart

Today I was listening on my iPod to an archive interview with Johnny Clegg, one of the best-known cultural and musical icons in South Africa.

The interview sent me back on a journey down memory lane to the time when I first became aware of South Africa. This was in the mid 1980s, and I was a teenager, going to school in the oppressive environment of a small housing suburb located near an oil refinery but nowhere near any naturally inhabited city in the Emirates. Needless to say I had lots of time on my hand and the radio was my best companion, and I followed the British chart shows religiously. My favourites back then were Madonna of course and some other pop groups I am almost ashamed to mention by name today, but I was slowly developing my preference for rhythms and style that were not strictly western.  I remember being charmed by the message and rhythms of songs such as Something Inside So Strong by Labi Siffre; Gimme Hope Jo’anna by Eddie Grant, and Paul Simon’s famous album Graceland.

But it was the dance music of course that got me going best, and still does on those slow days. My favourite was this song by Johnny Clegg, the Scatterlings of Africa which went to become a major hit at least in Britain and other European countries.

Many years later I would meet my ex husband who was heading to this part of the world and I would take more active interest in the music and the culture but I think those songs were the hook that captured my imagination and brought me eventually here. I adore the music, and cannot resist humming along to Shosholoza, or tapping my foot along with the gumboot dance. I am always enthralled by pure African voices breaking out in spontaneous song.  There is a an undeniable magic there, and certainly the millions who were charmed by Waka Waka would agree. It is, after all, the only World Cup Song that became a bona fide hit.

And since we are speaking about music that speaks the heart I cannot resist including another video that came out of the World Cup hiatus, Helele by Velile Mchunu and the Safri Duo; a beautiful song with scenes from the mother city.

Review of 2010

The year 2010 is for me definitely a watershed year, where I tested the ropes on great many things and I am glad with the way they all turned out.

Early this year I finally made what I have been threatening to do for a long time, namely quit my office part-time job and concentrate on my home-based translation business. The decision was brought on after long consideration, and quite by chance on the day I handed in my resignation I found out that I qualified for an interview for a translation job with a high-profile international organization.  Of course, this did not mean I got the job but at least I travelled to the interview unencumbered by excuses to an employer, and I faced my interviewing panel as an independent language practitioner.

In April I found out that I passed the interview too and I braced myself for a long wait, loitering in a roster, without any idea when or where I will be called, but this did not concern me much at the time, there were other things to look forward to.

In June the World Cup came to South Africa, and my desire to live the experience to the full was also one of the reasons behind quitting my job. Robert had a prolonged holiday from school and we had our fill of the festivities, street parties and the fan walk. I was also fortunate enough to see two matches live, including the one Semi Final held in Cape Town between the Netherlands and Uruguay.

I am a World Cup baby, and I celebrated my 40th this year in style. And  a ticket to Algeria Vs England was a present to myself (the match itself a dud though). My birthday month also saw me sign a contract for buying a tiny new flat in a brand new block just around the corner from where I am renting. It was a huge leap of faith as I was not sure whether I can afford it, but my parents stepped in and rescued me with a generous loan that saved me from resorting to the banks (and risking getting turned down by them). My flat was scheduled for completion in February 2011.

Later in the year I had some stress with deadline and projects but in general I gently plodded on doing my work, looking after Robert and not forgetting to have a good time.

Late in October the saga with my lengthy job application progressed one step further and I was nominated for a job in New York. The rest of the year I spent doing some paperwork and speculating about how long the process will take.

I finally told Robert’s father of these plans in November and he did not take it easily. I had a few days of emotionally exhausting talks with him, where I stood firm on the fact that my life is going on – without him. He understood that the move will only benefit Robert in the long run.  I met him halfway, by offering him to rent my new apartment at a rate considerably less than market value.  Of course he was very pleased with that. He saw the flat with me a few days after Christmas and was involved in suggesting some minor changes.

Befitting my new amicable relationship with my ex we had a picnic on Christmas day at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and he was with us to celebrate New Year’s Eve.


We had a simple celebration at home with music and dancing (provided by Robert). We had champagne then walked downtown to watch the Christmas Lights on Adderley Street. Later we came home and had a quick late supper then walked up to Ocean View Drive to watch the fireworks at midnight. It was a quiet end to a wonderful year and I hope 2011 will be just as great.

Book: The Other Hand (Little Bee)

The Other HandThe Other Hand by Chris Cleave

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There is a noble premise to this book, to raise awareness about refugees to Britain, and to combat the sentiment of apathy that most people feel towards their plight. The character of the Little Bee is sweet and fascinating. The way she superimposes her experience in Britain on remembrances of her Nigerian home is quite endearing.

However, and I cannot quite put my finger on it, the book left me unsatisfied. Like many stories that are written by white people about Africa or about African people there is a certain flatness to them. The Africans are always the helpless people who surrender to their fate, no matter how many radical plans they make to escape it.  Africans are either brutes or victims. Either sub-human monsters or near-saints, but perhaps this is just me. Little Bee comes quite close to a real-life humane and wise African girl, but the others in this book are not quite so engaging. Of course you will have to read the novel to judge by yourself, it is quite short and easy to finish in one or two sittings.

The book is about Little Bee the Nigerian girl who finds herself a central character in the life of Sarah, a British editor of a funky women magazine, and mother to 4-year-old Charlie. The events of the novel takes place over a few weeks but move backwards to the memory of both women’s lives and the fateful events that brought them together. It is narrated in the alternating voices of Sara and Little Bee.

One thing that bothered me as a mother of a small child is the portrayal of the little boy, Charlie, a.k.a Batman. His speech manner is quite irritating and I think it is quite exaggerated because 4-year-olds in my experience are quite capable of uttering grammatical sentences. Sarah has her heart in the right place, but she is also neurotic to say the least, this is perhaps done on purpose to illustrate that sometimes the immigrant is far wiser than the full-blooded British citizen with his or her “values” whatever they are.

Perhaps I would have given the book one extra half star but since the option is not available I am erring on the minus side, simply because the book did not deliver on it hyped up promise.

View all my reviews

The Party Post

Robert’s birthday went better than anticipated considering that he had a temperature in the morning.

We first had a party at his school. He was very proud to put on his crown, which Melanie made in green, and I am sure he requested it specifically, because it is his favourite colour.

He blew three (pronounced by him almost like free) candles

I baked the cake and the cupcakes for the schools and prepared little party packets for him and his classmates.

and the best part of the party for all kids including Robert was eating the cake, and here he is doing just that.

We went home after the party and decided against sleep-over with his father today because of his cold/flu symptoms. I took him out of school early and after we bought his present, a box of lego and some Disney DVDs we went to his 2nd birthday party at Britt’s house. There I took the remainder of the party packets and the other cake, which I was too lazy to decorate this time. Britt, Maria and the girls did the rest. There was another lovely cake there, two other friends and Robbie had lots of fun. I never noticed it at the time but he was indeed the only male with a harem of little girls fussing over him.

The day was warm and the kids played in the garden, and when Britt finished teaching for the day we sat down a little with one of the moms and shared a glass of red wine. It was a pleasurable conclusion to a lovely day. I couldn’t be happier and I am sure Robert felt on top of the world as well.

Happy Birthday my son my sunshine. I love you more than anything in my life, you are the reason I take every breath. God keep you for me healthy and happy forever.

My Little Boy Turns Three

After all the milestones of first smiles, first steps and first words I can tell that here is nothing more remarkable than the milestone of turning three. It all happens so fast, one day I am dealing with a little toddler with moods and tantrums and the next day I am listening to instructions, opinions and stories from a little boy. This is not to say that I am not dealing with tantrums anymore but the little personality is getting itself established very quickly.

I had put cream on my sore nose one day, and the little boy came up to me instructing me to rub it in “wob it in mommy” he said. Another day I was hugging and tickling and rough-housing with him and in between giggles he said: “I call the pleese” (I will call the police – a line I discovered later that he picked up from 101 Dalmatians, and used almost appropriately).

He is aware of himself growing, “I am biiiig” he tells me on a daily basis, and my heart expands with my love for him, and I wish to tell him, do not be in a rush to grow up because growing up is a tough job indeed. He will have his tough days ahead. Along with turning three he becomes a pre-schooler, no longer a toddler and he will be leaving his baby class, his beloved teachers Melanie and Yvonne, and all the little friends he got used to. There is no denying that he is ready as far as educational development is concerned. He is way above the level of the 0-3 class already.

When I speak to him he answers like an adult. Did you have a good time at school I ask, and he answers : Yes I did. Always in full sentences, never a yes, no answer or a nod of the head. He can count from one to ten, and recognizes almost all number digits and many letters. He has been able to recognize his own name for almost a year now in upper case and he now knows it in normal print writing. Recently I introduced him to the computer and he can use the mouse skillfully. He can also operate the DVD player on the computer and navigate some of the simple menus.  He always impresses me with his quick learning, but whether he will be emotionally ready to change into another class and later next year to another school is another matter.

I have been suffering with a bad flu all last week, and I tried diligently not to pass it on to him as an evil birthday present, but for all my attempts he woke up today with a little temperature and I was in doubt whether he will be fit enough for his party. Fortunately everything went well and he had a double birthday party, one at his playschool and another at Britt’s place. It was great fun for everyone.

Book: The Saladin Murders

The Saladin Murders (Omar Yussef Mystery Series)The Saladin Murders by Matt Rees

Frankly I found this a very depressing read, and knowing that reality probably mirrors this fictitious tale in many of its grisly dimensions was very bitter to contemplate.

This is the second Omar Yussef mystery and it plays out in Gaza, a dump in every sense of the word according to the protagonists. The dirt, the sandstorms, the corruption, the religious zealotry, the garbage, the ruins, and so many deaths and corpses are the order of the day in that terrible place.

Omar Yussef comes to Gaza as part of a UN group. He is investigating with his UN boss the arrest of a colleague who is also a part time lecturer at Al-Azhar University. This innocuous beginning quickly spirals into something sinister as one UN man gets kidnapped and another is assasinated. Soon the corpses pile up among Palestinians rival factions from one killing to another revenge. I lost track of the motives, the agendas and the rivalries. What is left is the deep sense of futility as corrupt politicians fight it out and squabble over this pile of garbage that is Gaza. In this story Israeli violence and hostility do not exist; it is all about Palestinian internal strife. The violence between rival factions is extreme and almost mindless, and the distasteful part is that you cannot even dismiss LAW wielding fighters as far-fetched. Just because the events take place in Gaza, the craziest and the most mindless violence is possible.

A woman in the story says: “Sometimes I think that the only Palestinians who do not weep are the dead ones”.

I was saddened by a little boy, who showed Omar Yussef the doves he is raising on the roof, an innocent child who would soon be struck by tragedy and grief. Nobody remains innocent for long in this environment. Yet people laugh and joke, they exchange wisecracks in the face of death and enjoy a distinct gallows humor, which rang very true. Those Palestinians are tough, and they can put up with a lot of suffering. Omar Yussef says: “I am Palestinian” by way of explanation of his tough nature and tolerance of hardship, but even he was pleased to leave the dust of Gaza, its graves and graveyards behind.