The Year 2009 in Review

It has been almost four months since I wrote anything new for this blog, and the gaps are now too big to fill, but I had a few problems and some joyous things to celebrate during the last third of 2009.

September :  I was busy with a huge translation project which took up all my time.

October: Two days after I delivered my huge project I was due to start with another one, but I  never did any work because my laptop was stolen out of my flat, and thus  I officially joined the ranks of South Africans affected by crime. I was inconsolable for at least a week but then had to pick up the pieces on a rebuilt desktop machine and tried to carry on. I also had to change gears from self-pity when I went on a trip to Nairobi to write an exam, more about which I will write perhaps later.

November: I managed to work on another small translation project and started thinking about buying another laptop, but my world crashed again when I was hit with severe pneumonia. I was bedridden and feverish for over a week and started thinking all sorts of bad scenarios including death and Malaria. I learned a simple truth, that once a health issue rears its ugly head everything else pales in comparison; I promised not complain ever again about anything, because being healthy is enough blessing for anyone.

Perhaps it was middle age, or the severity of my illness but it took me quite long to get back to normal. I suffered from the usual nasty ailments that follow long treatments with antibiotics and I was still coughing at the end of November when we had a visitor from Germany.

December: I decided to fly to Germany for two weeks at short notice. This was made possible thanks to a very special friend who agreed to look after Petey my cat and my two neglected but alive plants.  Robert and I braved a 10,000 km distance and long flights to be with family over Christmas.

The trip was among the most pleasurable moments of 2009. It was possible for us to visit my aunt in the German countryside and reconnect with an uncle and grown cousins, whom I only remember as kids. We had a wonderful time and were spoiled rotten.

We arrived back in Cape Town today, the last day of 2009.  Robert and I are having our mini New Year celebration, listening to music and munching on potato chips. I have opened a bottle of South African bubbly. As we say good bye to old 2009, we are again at a crossroad in our lives. The need to reflect and make a decision. I realise that forever I will be split apart between my love for my family and the life I built against all odds here in South Africa.

My heart is unequivocally in South Africa, the beautiful land where I feel at home, but the fact remains that I was born elsewhere and all my relatives are far, far away.  Am I doing the right thing for myself and Robert by staying in South Africa. Isn’t better for him to be in Europe where he can have access to grandparents, a better education system and an additional language?

It is hard to decide what is best for my son, and it is harder to make my own life revolve around what I may think best for HIM. Because down the line parents always get blamed for the decisions they make on behalf of their children. It is perhaps fairer to go with my heart and choose what I think is best for me,  because what my son needs most is a happy mother who can then provide him with her absolute best and make sure that he gets the most of his surroundings. But even though I am absolutely convinced of that there is always a small voice inside my head that tells me “what if I was wrong?”

Only time will tell.

Summer in the City

I did not plan to foot it all the way to Camps Bay today, but the weather and the scenery beckoned me along. I only wanted to avoid a desperate situation such as yesterday’s when I wasted so much time trying to get Robert to catch up on his daytime naps without success, so today I decided that we would both be better off if he nods off in the buggy.

We started right after breakfast, and headed towards the ocean, and soon I found myself pushing a sleeping baby past Clifton 1st Beach, and towards Camps Bay. The weather was perfect and there was a non-stop stream of traffic into the area. The beaches themselves were very busy with holiday-makers and locals enjoying the last few weekeneds before the end of school holidays. I had brought a book with me, but it is usually the case that my little man wakes up as soon as I stop for a little break. This is most inconvenient when I arrive home with my backpack and full shopping bags, and just want to catch my breath from the heat.  Well this time was no different and my book languished in the backpack unopened as we spent some time on the beach.  We mostly clung to the shaded park belt on the periphery of Glen Beach in Camps Bay, but I allowed Robert a short time to play in the sand with his “bucket”.

It was too hot to walk all the way back so we took a minibus taxi home.  Later in the afternoon Robert managed another short nap, and we continued our routine as usual.  Later we played and read books and enjoyed a stress free afternoon. This was so much better than yesterday when both of us were out of control;  Robert was spinning around because of his lack of sleep, and I became frustrated, tired and angry as a result. Needless to say that this is a lethal combination that leads to unhappiness all around.

Cape Town on January 1st

In South Africa the first of January is when most people especially Africans head to the beach. I do not know where this custom came from, but it is a fact mentioned often even as far up the coast as East London.

Today I decided to investigate this phenomenon myself and walked towards the promenade with Robert.  The first thing we saw was a very long queue in front of Sea Point swimming pool, then we witnessed the crowds that were already enjoying a swim there. Of course there were many more people occupying the shaded area on the promenade. For the occasion the city council prepared extra portable loos to relieve the pressure on the existing washrooms.  So I was dismayed when I actually had to visit a washroom to attend to my son’s nappy (I was prepared to change the nappy anywhere but I had a hard time finding a private space on the grass amongst the picnicking masses). To my surprise, or perhaps because it wasn’t noon yet, the washrooms were not busy and still fairly clean. I was able to change Robert quickly and there was even toilet paper to complete the cleaning task. For his part, Robert did not like lying on the hard bench in the changing room,  he howled inconsolably while staring at the mouldy ceiling and the broken fluorescent lamp. Maybe the place was not up to his standards,  he is part snob of course.

I was not planning to stay the whole day at the beach.  Today I wanted peace and quiet, away from the crowds; this was the last day of my holiday and tomorrow I have to start working again. I headed with Robert towards Mount Nelson Park, which is always quiet on public holidays. Today we had it to ourselves. Robert slept in his buggy for over an hour and I relaxed and read my book.  When Robert woke up he got to enjoy playing on the swing, running around and looking for sticks (tick). It was a great way to start the year.

We returned via Main Road, Sea Point which was bustling with people, so different from the quiet deserted streets on Christmas Day. Stores and most businesses were open, and people were just in full party mode.  More people were still streaming to the beach, and there was still a long queue to the swimming pool. For Robert and me though it was home time, we had to get ready for a long day tomorrow.

Christmas Day

The holiday is one thing and getting enough sleep is quite another. The situation is not helped when Robert wakes me up every few hours, or when I am second guessing myself even in the subconscious of sleep, about inviting my ex over, and giving him access to my space. As things went though, I shouldn’t have worried.

Robert’s father arrived with his present, a little plastic bike that is so popular with toddlers, and which I suggested as a present for this year. He also brought the large coffee press, since I only have a single cup press.  We had the usual breakfast with some festive stollen. Later Robert got to open his presents, which I had bought from different sources and saved for this day in particular. The biggest hit was a book of nursery rhymes with music.

After breakfast we took Robert for a walk, which he followed by a very short nap.  During all this time and until we returned home, my ex and I talked about general things. No recriminations, minimal talk about troubles, and mostly focused about Robert, I do not mind this sort of interaction at all.  Robert was still asleep when we arrived home, but a  s soon as he woke up, I had to move again to a friend’s place where we were invited for Christmas lunch.  The lunch was a small affair, very much to my liking, and there was only another couple invited. We still managed to get in the party mood,  cracking party favours and wearing paper crowns. The hosts were very generous and included both Robert and me with Christmas presents, whereas I only had a present for their little boy Zach, who is only one month older than Robert. The other guests received funny presents, while Robert got another noisy toy to add to his collection. I will get to enjoy that in the next few months.

Once home we had another visit from Lucy’s daughter and her son Tando. It was the perfect occasion to call Lucy in the Eastern Cape and wish her Merry Christmas. Even Robert got to say something to his nanny for this day,  it didn’t matter if nobody understood what he wanted to say, we just assumed it was a fitting Christmas greeting.

Robert tries to figure out the funny shaped present his father brought him
Robert tries to figure out the funny shaped present his father brought him

Silly Season Stories and Christmas Eve

The glorious South African weather apparently always turns to the worse (cold, wind, rain) for Christmas. Perhaps because heat and humidity are hardly fitting companions for the celebration, or maybe in sympathy with the housewives and kitchen employees who do a tremendous amount of cooking for the occasion, I mean who would even want to think of a roast when it is roasting hot outside.  This held true this year, as Cape Town witnessed gale force winds, unseasonal rain and almost wintry temperatures in the past few days.  The rough seas brought some unexpected consequences for a coastal resort, as people were treated to a white Christmas landscape on the beach, with the ocean foam that settled on the beach. The cool weather which was with us since late Sunday afternoon was an excuse for me to take a break from my daily jaunt to the shops.

Sea Point is becoming crazy in these days. There are tourists, holiday makers, and shoppers and the Main Road is covered with bumper to bumper traffic. These are the days when it is good to be on foot.  Like everyone else I had a busy day today. Robert and I made to the library for story time then off to the bank for some unfinished business. I was grateful that this boring stuff was dispenses with while Robert napped in his buggy. Later I nipped into the post office for some late mail – this is quite a habit with me as you will notice, everything to the last minute.  Actually all the work that I have done today (except for the holiday mail) could have easily waited until after the holidays, but there is nothing like a long weekend to put you in panic. Some of the shops are even open during Christmas day for some time, but still there is a sense of panic to get everything done and bought because some of the businesses close and the shops are not open for twelve hours. Humans are really strange.

As I write this I do not need to buy anything anymore. This year I went overboard, maybe it is to compensate for the long months of hardship, or to prove to myself that there is life after divorce. Perhaps to spite my ex I went out and bought all the things that he did was loathe to waste money on, it is kind of retail therapy I guess.  The last few days were no different, and I was running around for last minute shopping trips even as far as the Waterfront.

I did my last shopping trip to the Waterfront on Friday as Robert was with his father. And on that day I witnessed an unfortunate exchange between a bus driver and an irate would-be passenger, who tried to hail the bus to stop at a traffic circle near the Waterfront shopping complex. The driver did not stop and the irate South African continued running after the bus through the traffic and knocked so hard on the door that he shattered the glass.   Like a horror movie scene the same guy waited with his bloody hand and the next bus stop and screamed at the driver to wait on the side of the road because he had just called the police.  The driver, he claimed had risked injuring him gravely when he drove on as he was holding on to the bus, and his hand got stuck.  I was in the seat next just by the door of the bus, and I remarked that I could not see any of that. The man had irritated me so much with his crazy outburst, but he was adamant that from my vantage point I could not see everything.  The bus driver drove on and did not heed this man, but I can tell that he was shaken by the incident and he took my cell number for reference in case he got further questioning from his boss.  This crazy incident and the total lawlessness of the shopping frenzy at the V&A Waterfront made me vow to avoid it until the end of the holidays. It is a pity because Robert and I could spend a lot of time at the Aquarium, but we will get much more out of it if we wait until the out of town crowd leaves.

My shopping was later restricted to the supermarket in my direct area, and I started planning elaborate but easy menus for a quiet Christmas at home. I bought Stollen, Christmas Pudding, sparkling wine and some cold ham (no roasting for me thanks, I do struggle with simple cooking). But my plans where altered when I received two different invitations for lunch on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day.  Two different moms from my playgroup with Robert, which would be quite nice.

Last Sunday I noticed that the Church on my street ( literally two houses away) is holding a Christmas Carol evening, so I thought I could go there with Robert. We went directly after he went for a walk with his father on the beachfront.  I expected music and a lot of hymns but what I got was somewhat disappointing. The church must have been one of the less famous ones, since the congregation consisted of barely a dozen coloured people.  When I arrived the band was “rehearsing” Silent Night, and there were many miscues and mishaps, and even when they managed to get through a segment without someone dropping out, it just did not sound right.  In the end Robert and I managed to stay for roughly half the prayer evening.  I started out in the last pew but the Pastor asked me to move forward, as it was a relaxed prayer session today. The children, he said, can walk freely and look around, because this is a house. All fine and good but when Robert started chattering in front of the pulpit, I thought it was perhaps getting too much. Although I swear the little one provided some entertainment value for those who could not concentrate on the religious message.  I did not get to hear Silent Night, but managed about half of Joy to the World and one hymn at the beginning.

Personally I like the prayers that offer a universal message of peace, kindness and love, but the intricate issues of Christian faith are rather beyond me. Perhaps I cannot comprehend these ideas because  I was raised in a Monotheist faith.  This is neither the time nor the place to throw my religious convictions (or the lack of them) around so I will desist right here. Next year I will go to a proper Carols by Candlelight, either in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens or in one of the more glamorous Churches in town.

After all these adventures this week, Christmas Eve is finally upon us. Robert’s father took him again today for a walk on the beach front, and this time I spent most of my break from baby at home. I did tidied up and wrapped up all of our presents, I only had one present to go by the time Robert came back.  As Robert drifted off to sleep I decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to invite his father over for breakfast on Christmas Day, he struck a dejected and sad figure as he dropped off Robert. Maybe I am naive but I am hopeful that he we will maintain a cordial relationship that will benefit our son.

Busy Playing, Busy Organizing

Yesterday was another busy day. In the morning I met with two moms from our playgroup at the Pavillion Park, and the kids spent a great time in parallel play. Robert took turns on the swing and climbing up the slide and basically running around.

In the early afternoon I took delivery of our new furniture. The rest of the day was spent trying to organize and store things in their proper places and getting rid of the boxes. I have recently posted a photo of my chaotic lounge area and now I will have to post another one demonstrating the great change. The tidy-up process is still ongoing, because after the bulk of the work is done there is always the fine-tuning and the subsequent disposal of unnecessary bits and pieces, which were simply squirreled away out of laziness or because there was no time to deal with them immediately.

It is difficult to do such work with Robert running around, and the time he spends sleeping is hardly enough to get the necessary work done, but getting organized remains my one major objective for this holiday. It would be nice if I manage to update my blog as well,  but this latter job is still sadly lagging behind.

Robert helped me organize yesterday in his own way. Pulling out books while I tried to put them on the shelves and emptying the drawers I painstakingly ordered.  At the end of the day I was really frustrated, and as soon as I got most major stuff out of the way we took off for a quick visit to the beach. After a full day of being stuck in a hot apartmernt,  Robert played happily and enjoyed the nice mild weather of the late afternoon.  We headed home at sunset and Robert slept in his buggy all the way home.

Staycation Report

As of Monday Robert and I are on summer vacation, and I cannot believe we have been at it already for five days now. So what have we all been busy with.

Monday I met one of the mothers from my playgroup at the park. This is a mother from my Friday playgroup, which I used to enjoy so much because there were moms from many different backgrounds, and almost none of them a native Capetonian.  This apparently can raise the temperature of personal interaction between moms to a comfortable degree.  Perhaps this is a gross generalization, but I must admit that the Thursday group was decidedly frosty for me, and that was one of the reasons why I decided to quit the play group, it had served its purpose.

On Tuesday Robert and I took the window shopping route, along Sea Point Main Road. We went to the book sale held at Sea Point High School. Robert was excited by the number of books he saw.  He started to babble : book.. book; I am pleased to announce that this is now one of his favourite words. He especially asks for “book” when it is time for sleep, and his favourites are usually the ones that I am keeping away from him until I get a chance to repair the destruction they received at his hands.  Today, I found a couple of books that I thought he would enjoy.  On the way back I bought us lunch at the supermarket and we had an impromptu picnic at the Mount Nelson Park, which we visited together today after a very long time. The park had changed and I had trouble getting in there because they added an invisible childproof lock at the back of the gate, and I had to push and strain at the gate for almost ten minutes before I realized the problem. We had the park to ourselves, which was really strange considering that the day was a public holiday.  But being summer it is safe to assume that everyone was headed to the beach. It is a good thing that I did not go to the beach on that day because I received my first light sunburn of the summer on my shoulders. It is also a good thing that I always put sunscreen on Robert.

Yesterday though was the strangest day of all. In the morning I took Robert to the Pram Jam at the Sea Point Library. It is a story and song session hosted by the children’s librarian, and attended by young tots and their moms (or their caregivers as was the case with most the attendees this time).  Robert’s father picked us up from the library and he took us to the Waterfront.  It was the first time we go on an activity for Robert’s benefit since our divorce and I must say that it was a little surreal for me.  The sights and sounds were all the same, but the dynamics between the three of us was completely different. Robert was on his father’s arms the whole day, and was behaving most of the time.  First we stopped at the toy shop where Robert spends a lot of his time with his dad. The array of toys is mind boggling and they all vie for the attention of children of all ages, and it is a great way to waste time with a toddler even if the intention isn’t really buying. I got a chance to go shopping for some discount items not available in our area, and also for a sandal for Robert. Lastly I got to replace my lost Aquarium card, but we did not get to visit the aquarium because Robert was starting to get over tired.  When we finally got home we were both exhausted. I thought Robert would sleep for hours but he only managed one hour and then continued to spin around the flat until about half past eight, and this time we both dropped to sleep dead to the world.

The next morning my ex had sent me an SMS telling me it was nice to see how much of a mother I was to Robert, and that he felt strangely removed although still close to him. He suggested we go to the beach next time. I really do not know about spending time with my ex. On the one hand the peace is good for the soul, I spend less energy fighting with him and more on being myself and mother to Robert.  However it is still exhausting on another level, because I have no idea who I am dealing with. I have seen so many faces of the man it keeps me wondering what next. Wait and see, that’s the only thing to do.

Surprising My Mom

Yesterday Robert and I set off before sunrise from our little flat. The trip almost started with a mishap when the taxi I ordered sat for ten minutes in front of the wrong address a block away. The problem is that they do not call the customer and their head office is off duty at the ungodly hour of 04:30.In the end it all turned out alright and we found each other and arrived at the airport in good time.

Getting on the flight was no problem as I expected. I had already listed myself on standby for the day and SAA staff gave me a bulkhead seat which is right behind business class, and so Robert and I had three seats between us, and I was close to the toilet for the inevitable nappy changes.  Being a nervous flier at the best of times I was a little bit concerned over the long trip and how Robert will take it, but the time somehow passed, and people took interest in the little baby, talked and played with him and generally took his inquisitiveness with humor.

Getting on the flight from Frankfurt to Berlin gave me a few white hairs. It was the last scheduled flight for the night, and was obviously overbooked. The airline staff did not seem concerned though and I thought they would not leave me behind, baby and all. I was right and I got on the flight sandwiched between two passengers and with Robert on my lap.  My next passenger was a very interesting gentleman from Vancouver BC of all places and he was flying to join his German girlfriend in Berlin. We chatted up a storm and my little boy, probably lulled by the familiar Canadian accent went to sleep for the duration of the short flight.

My aunt was waiting for us at the airport. It was a good thing that I called her on the weekend to tell her we are coming because she thought we would be only showing up on Friday for my mom’s birthday.  That would have been quite funny to arrive disoriented and tired an hour before midnight and try to figure out how to get to my parent’s place using after midnight transport..

We decided that it was best to crash at my aunt’s place and only call my mom in the morning. It was late by the time we finally put our heads down, and my little one was so disoriented, tired and unhappy, he cried for almost half an hour before finally dozing off on my breast.

Today my aunt did not go to work and called my parents with the flimsy excuse that they should pay her a sick visit… My parents live only a few minutes away on foot and my aunt and them visit each other all the time, so they do not need much convincing to come over.

The look on my mom’s face as she saw us sitting there in my aunt’s living room was worth traveling 10,000 Km. I was so happy I made the effort.

I am now home with my family and can enjoy to be a child again.


I am getting good at playing my cards close to my chest. I am still waiting for a chance to tell Jackie that I am moving, and she still has no inkling that the Gonubie house has sold.

I do not feel a tiny bit guilty, as I have been subject to many intrigues in my life and I am not hurting anyone by cloaking my affairs in secrecy for now, awaiting final and confirmed outcomes. So far I have signed and faxed the purchase offer and things are proceeding fine although I had to deal again with infighting between real estate agents. The agent who had been sitting on the property for the past few months has come out of the woodwork and is now trying to sling mud at the junior agent who actually sold it for the benefit of another agency. I guess nothing much happens in that part of the world so they have to prolong such battles.

Another thing that I have been plotting secretly is leave during the last part of September and a few days of October. I am secretly hatching a plan to travel with Robert to Germany for my mom’s 60th Birthday. They are not supposed to know about this yet, since I have no idea how to make this thing work, with moving and setting up a new home, but at least the goal is there.

Today I finally got confirmation of my leave, which had been no small thing to accomplish since I have zero leave days this year. The planning department adjusted my schedule so that I can have two weeks off without taking leave, which was nice of them but took a lot of fighting from my side. So there, I have so many thing to look forward to once I leave this place.