This matter of relocation is definitely not for the fainthearted. I am already intimidated, and I am mostly doing this alone. The entity employing me only gives me phone numbers and contacts, and it is left to me to sift through the mountains of information out there, and verify them if possible on the internet.

I realize now that I haven’t actually spilled the beans yet on what or where this is about. I am going to be employed by an international organization based in New York as an Associate Arabic Translator. This is of course a wonderful opportunity for me and for Robert but there are many challenges involved, and I am trying to overcome them one at a time.

The biggest obstacle so far is finding a proper pre-school for Robert, somewhere where he will be happy and looked after. He is doing so well at his pre-school here in Cape Town, and I am only going to enroll him at a pre-school in New York that is on the same level or better.

A few days ago I was so happy that one particular Child Care center in Midtown Manhattan had space for him. I thought that I had this figured, until on closer examination it turned out that the pre-school was in a basement of an office building and the children had only limited access to natural light. I had the disturbing image of child-prisoners going out for fresh air once or twice a day. I cannot do this to my son after living in the sunshine of South Africa and having access to open air playgrounds during school hours.  Of course South Africa has more sunny days than most places on earth but still, can you imagine having a child deprived of daylight ? The woman working at the centre said their working hours were from about seven in the morning until six in the evening, so it is conceivable that during winter some kids will arrive in the dark and leave in the dark, I cannot think of anything more depressing, even for an adult let alone a child.

My ex husband said that there are so many people competing on very little resources in Manhattan, so I am expanding now my search to residential areas with good transit access to town and wherever I find a good pre-school it will be where we will live. As this is my main focus now I haven’t even thought about shipping my few things, the logistics of moving my cat (if at all conceivable) and many other little problems that will surely present themselves as time moves on closer to the d-date.  I haven’t committed myself yet to the employer but I already gave notice on my rental flat and I have to be out of here by April 1st, so I hope I will manage to solve my problems until then.

If all else fails, there is help from family. My mother generously offered to be with me for the initial relocation period in New York, and thanks to this lifesaving gesture my fear has not reached the point of panic (yet).

When I first applied and attended the exams required for the job, I desperately wanted to be based in New York. Now I am not so sure, it seems it is awfully crowded busy and noisy and I have always been a small town girl. Cape Town to me is just big enough, and I cannot imagine living in a city where I have to compete with millions. I have to dig deep and keep my faith that things always work out in the end.

New Beginnings Beckon

Early this week I stated that my life is on autopilot and there is fair weather ahead. I think I spoke too soon. Less that 48 hours later I get news delivered to my inbox that might bring a monumental change into our lives; a change even more profound than what divorce wrought on almost three years ago. In short, we may be departing the South African shores in the next few months. I have very mixed feelings about this particular development although I worked towards it since June 2009. I have been living in South Africa since 1999 and although this doesn’t seem like a long time, it is still half my adult life, the other half I spent between my native Syria and the UAE. So when I leave it behind I will also leave a huge chunk of life, memories, experiences and very dear friends.  And without a doubt Cape Town will always be the place I call home, and where I shall hopefully return in due course.

As this happens my son has started at a new school. He is now officially a pre-schooler or Grade-R pupil. Initially I had some trepidations about starting him in a pre-school that uses German as a teaching medium, but I always wanted him to retain the connection to this language, and in my mind I wanted the German taken care of at school so that I can perhaps introduce the Arabic. Admittedly, having my child tackle three languages will be a challenge but I feel he has a keen interest and keeps asking about words and their meaning in another language. He often inquires what is this “auf deutsch” or what do you call that “bel3arabi”(in Arabic). He also asks me to play some of his DVDs in Arabic, or German (or even French and Spanish), so I am encouraged about capacity for learning language.

As early as his first day on Tuesday, he already told me that he likes this new school and prefers it to his old school. There are a few hurdles to conquer, though. On the first demonstration of “Play Ball”, one of the extramurals offered, he went into total strike and was the only child crying. Throughout the demonstration he sat glued to my lap and only approached the tasks of kicking the ball once or twice and very timidly at that. I tell myself that I distracted him with my presence and that he will do better next week, but I still worry about his shyness. It is largely my fault, I know. I have never been one for socializing, so he does not get the benefit of play-dates and parties very often. I am hoping this will change with time as he gets into his own character, but if social aptitude is genetic, he will probably end up on the reticent side, because he gets it from both parents.

It breaks my heart that I have to tear him away from the few friends he has. On Wednesday I watched him play naturally and spontaneously with Britt’s little girls, and this is something that had just started to evolve after many months of visiting. I wondered about the adjustment required of him in the future. I keep hoping that it will be easier for him than it will be for me, I know I will pine for my friends here and for my warmhearted Africa.

Names and Conversations

My boy knows everyone by name.

His teachers are : Teesa, and mawi ( Theresa and Marly), and the gardener is sissa (Fisher) – that last one comes out with a lisp so it is somewhere between thitha and ziza

A few weeks ago I started to teach him the concept of names: your name is Robert, your papa’s name is Ron and the cat’s name is Petey… etc..

Lo and Behold when I ask him today “what’s your name?” he answers me… “wohn” , he obviously thinks he is his father, that is not a very sign for me…

On a happier note here are some of the conversations we had recently:
Mommy: What is Fisher doing?
Robert: Sissa wot-ahwit
Translation: Fisher is watering

Mommy: Did you see the moon?
Robert: Mouhn up da wol
Translation: The moon is up the (above the) wall.

18 Months

On the week Robert turned one year and a half I received the first folder of his artwork from school. I cannot see him becoming a Picasso anytime soon. So far I haven’t been able to develop his artistic talents, because he still needs to learn that crayons are something to draw with, not eat or throw around. It seems that his teachers at school are having a little more success in this respect.

Last Sunday, Robert’s father was looking after him, and he told me something that I did not know (seriously this time): Robert can sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I was amazed and tried to make him repeat this feat, but whenever I started the rhyme he would wrinkle his forehead and say in a little sad voice: papa.  I hope he does not mean that he will only sing it for papa, that would be too cruel a punishment for his poor mom, even for having to leave him with “papa” for a full weekend.

Yesterday Robert gave ME one of these firsts when he recited: one, two, three and later before bedtime : eight, nine, ten. So it looks like he is learning new things at school, which is very nice.

School is going fine for Robert. He still fusses a little bit when I leave him there in the morning, but he is also not too enthused to leave when I come to get him in the afternoon. He still gets himself stuck in the little chairs and “helps” the teachers stack them and carry them around. It is actually a problem to separate him from his beloved chairs (tayss as he calls them).

I am glad to say that at 18 months my son is fully weaned. If it wasn’t for pressure of propriety I would have gladly continued breastfeeding him, and I think my body knows that because I still produce milk. Evenings are still our bonding time and we both enjoy our good night cuddle, so I haven’t completely lost out.

Meanwhile our life at home is terribly busy and disorganized. I am chipping away at a translation project, and the household chores are getting last priority. To add to the chaos, I have a plumbing problem in my flat, which makes my lounge area flood regularly with bath or laundry water mostly from the next door flat, but sometimes from our drain system as well. I have spoken to the landlord several times and he always promises to send a plumber to look at it, but I am still waiting. In the past his universal solution for this problem was to pour a bottle of drain cleaner down the drain in the flat next door. Last Saturday he brought me a bottle of the stuff which I poured in my kitchen and bathroom sinks, it was horrible.  The stuff is DEADLY and I never ever want to handle it again, not with Robert in the same space.  The poison fizzed and did its thing down the drain and there was a terrible ammonia stink for a whole day, but did not do a wit of good for my flooded apartment, so it seems the problem is far more serious this time. Meanwhile, I just mop the floor and wait for the plumber, but in my mind I am already planning to leave this place, I cannot imagine tolerating this in winter.  But for now, and until my translation project finishes, I am stuck here and have to put up with this.