Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

It's a kind of madness

This week has been one of changes... again. Some I can mention, others not. One of those changes was set in motion by Jaime (yep, girl... you're to blame for this one). Jaime blogged about NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. I'd seen it a few years in a row, but never even briefly considered it. What made me look at it this year?

Some time back, I started writing a book. I think three people know about it, aside from Jurgis and Tat. I never spoke about it. It's too fragile, prone to injury due to the shards of broken ego and numerous other dangers 'out there'. Along came NaNoWriMo. I grabbed at it gingerly, hoping it would push me into finishing the book. I need to finish the book, for me. It's just something I want to do... eventually, not because it's a book, but because I want the story told.

Do I have time to write 50 000 words this month? Not really. The plan is to use my bus time and times I wait for my students to put as much writing in as possible. Will I do it? Who knows. The only way I'll find out is if I try, right?

I did something very unusual when I joined NaNoWriMo, though. I connected with Brazilians who are writing too. I don't go out looking for social events with the locals. I'm afraid my Portuguese will fail me and my person-to-person social skills aren't what they used to be after all this time. Not only did I connect with them, but I agreed to go to a meeting with them and I was even prepared to go alone! That was a big step for me. Luckily Tat came with. I'm glad she did. She lights up any occasion : )     

I needn't have worried. We started out at a book store (ooooooh so many books!!). I was browsing, trying to look inconspicuous, when a girl came up to me and mumbled something about NaNo and writing. Tat joined us and we started looking for the rest of the 'gang'. I said the most sensible thing to do was to write out a sign and hold it up the way they do at airports. This bookstore was crowded!!  I scrawled a sort-of sign on my notebook and Tat walked around holding it up. I think the other two girls were cringing! It was so funny! We couldn't take a photo, as they're extremely picky about photos in shops here. Tat had them announce that the NaNoWriMo group was waiting at the pocket book section and slowly the others joined. We ended up with 7 people in our group.

From the book store, we headed out to what turned out to be an extremely noisy bakery/cafeteria. I heard about 10% of the conversation around me, but it was still enjoyable. We laughed a lot. I didn't have my camera on me (next time I'll make a point of taking it), but Aline, the girl who organised the gathering had hers. I'm grateful. They were all lovely people. I'm glad I met them. I think we have new friends. In their favour, they managed to listen to my ramblings without laughing at my Portuguese. Oh the notepad Tat is holding? That is what had NaNoWriMo scrawled on it. It was small here in the restaurant, but it might as well have been a billboard in the much quieter book store!

All in all, it was a good day. I'm glad I went. Time will tell if anything will come of this. If I succeed, I succeed. If not... I'm not going to cry over it : )


Tuesday, 27 October 2009


You may have heard of it as a capibara, capybara, capyvara... or you may well never have heard of it at all. The capyvara, as we know it, is the largest known rodent, if I'm not much mistaken and it comes from Brazil. I've been told they can be found scurrying around alongside our riverside highways. Apparently plentiful in the cane fields of Brazil, I've heard they almost a staple diet for the cane cutters. For that matter, I believe they are food for the poor around the highways too.

capyvara babies 1 
Photo credit goes to Zooborns or the Buffalo Zoo

One of my regular pick-me-up sites I visit is Zooborns. The photos and antics of baby wild animals almost always puts a smile on my face. Today, I checked into Zooborns, only to find the capyvara. Yes, Zooborns spells it capybara. It's etymology is somewhat confusing. I think it is only here that we call it a capyvara. My Oxford dictionary sheds a little light on that:
n    noun (plural same or capybaras) a large South American rodent resembling a long-legged guinea pig. [Hydrochaerus hydrochaeris.]
    C17: from Spanish capibara or Portuguese capivara, from Tupi capiuára, from capi 'grass' + uára 'eater'.
Tupi is a local tribe of South American Indians. Many of our local names come from Tupi. Our last street address, both the street and neighbourhood were Tupi names. I love the way they roll off the tongue : )

Here is what Zooborns have to say about these giant rat-things:
"The Buffalo Zoo welcomed three baby capybaras on September 10th. The zoo tells us that the three babies were running around and even swimming the day they were born. The proud capybara parents have had three previous litters for a total of 20 offspring! Capybaras are the world's largest rodent with the largest recorded size at 232 lbs (105 kg)!"

capyvara babies 2

My first encounter with the capyvara was back in 1988. We were visiting the Johannesburg Zoo with Hamish. Ceinwen was bored by most of the animals, but when she spotted the capyvara, she lit up. She absolutely loved those ugly animals. Yep... 'ugly' was my first thought when I saw them. They have these long very yellow, very ugly incisors. Think giant yellow rat teeth. This lot hadn't seen a toothbrush in a while, let me tell ya.

capyvara Ceinwen

Sadly, I have no photos of Ceinwen with the capyvaras, so a photo of Ceinwen and Hamish will have to do.

Later, we returned to the Johannesburg Zoo with Tatiana. I figured, as I'd learnt my lesson with Ceinwen, having taken far too few photos, we'd take many photos with Tat. I was particularly determined to get a photo of her reaction to the capyvara. She was, for her part, particularly unimpressed with them, so no photos were taken. She did, however, enthuse over the ponies, so I got this really odd photo. I doubt she'll be impressed with me posting this photo, but... I claim the Mom's Amendment ; )

capivara tat

Sunday, 18 October 2009


Stewart titcombe - proteas

The photo doesn't do it justice. The painting desperately needs framing (we left its frame in SA) and I wish I knew how to clean it properly. After almost  half a decade in the house of a smoker, it isn't looking its best. That's the yellowy-grey you see at the top and bottom.

For those who are unfamiliar with the subject of the painting, it's South Africa's national flower, the King Protea. My gran owned a florist shop, Heather the Florist, on Rink Street in Port Elizabeth. Apparently Stewart Titcombe (1898-1965) was visiting South Africa and painting scenes of Port Elizabeth, a town he grew to love. On finding the florist shop, he asked if he could paint the proteas, then gave the completed painting to my gran.

We just got back from the shopping centre... with the new modem. I really didn't want to get one, but having online students tomorrow, I had no choice. I need a reliable connection to be able to teach. The modem isn't a total waste, as we can use it anywhere in the world, so that is a plus.

And so starts another week. I need to just mark the remaining test papers of those who passed creatively.... but pass they do. Keeping my fingers crossed for a calmer week though.


del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Saturday, 17 October 2009

The little blog that tried

The good news is that I might get quite a few Kippy votes in today. We're on a dynamic IP address. Uh... this brings me to the bad news... while I was out teaching this morning, our modem was struck by lightning. I wonder if it was all the cursing I did at scammers and ISP's this week. What do you think? Anyhow, we have an old back-up modem on hand, but it is very dicey (reason it was replaced to start off with), as we're more offline than online with it. It took me a good while to load this compose page. I have no idea when or how I'm going to get this blog to post, so it may end up being a long blog. Good thing you all have nothing else to do other than read my waffling, right?

This week has been downright gruesome. Remember I posted about our ISP changing and how odd it was that they were going offline for 6 months? We got the call for that from our internet Carrier late on the Friday afternoon (well timed) before a long weekend. Monday was a public holiday. They pushed us to register with the new ISP within 24 hours or we'd lose out.  Now, anytime we have internet issues, it is well nigh impossible to get through to the ISP... even on a good day. Everything was very official with this whole setup. Who're we to argue? When you encounter regular oddities, you get to a point where little surprises you. This changover to the new ISP happened literally a day before the bill was due for the old ISP. On Tuesday, I got a nasty call from the old ISP. Why haven't we paid? Uh.... well... I have no intention of paying for a service I'm not using. "But you're signed up with us." No, we're not. Yes, you are. I told them about the call from Telefonica telling us that we were to change to UOL because Terra would be going down. The caller claimed to know nothing about that. The conversation went downhill from there. Jurgis was out at a client and I was home getting my knickers in a knot. They don't give you much leeway here before cutting your internet. When Jurgis did finally get to speak to them, we were in for a surprise (that's putting it nicely). It turned out that we'd been scammed into changing... by who, we don't know. When your Carrier phones you, you can hardly ask them to show ID. We had confirmation calls and emails from the new ISP, UOL. The 3 'players' in this little game are all massive companies. We are now registered with two ISP's. It's a mess. Procon, the consumer rights organisation says we can only take action once we have proof that we're actually paying both. In the meantime, we should just choose one to cancel with *muttering under my breath*

Thing is, we need to move. We've been needing to move for a while now, but we're taking advantage of Brazil's never-never attitude to procrastinate. We've been wanting to change to cable (we're currently on adsl through our telephone company). To install cable in this house before we move is not practical, as we'd be faced with two lots of installation fees... one here and one once we move. Now we have the bust modem... the pressure is on.

Aside from our internet woes, I have been headachy, generally feeling unhealthy and grouchy *snap... snarl* Our electricity bill arrived. The price of electricity has gone up... way up. The tax alone is R$50 (around US$30), 50% of the actual bill, plus an extra fee for street lighting. The electricity tax is threefold... a municipal, state and federal tax. Eish! If we got great service and had excellent facilities, I wouldn't mind, but we don't.  I was shuffling students again this week, as one of my Skype students had a power outage during our class this week and it wasn't even raining very hard at the time.

Jurgis just surprised me with a bit of information. I have been looking online for work by the artist, Stewart Titcombe, for years with little joy. It seems his paintings are now only being stewart titcombe - vergelegen sm sold, usually by auction. When I have a respectable connection,  I'll post the photo of the painting I have. Stewart Titcombe was visiting my home town of Port Elizabeth some time before I was born. He went into my gran's florist shop and fell in love with some proteas he saw there and asked her if he could paint them. This painting is of the PE harbour. I found it on an auctioneer's site. Something that took me by surprise here too is that the ship is named Vergelegen, which was the name of the one farm my gran had. She spoke of it often.

Ah the joys... shall I try to post this blog? Guess saving it all first would be a good idea...


del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Bag lady

Some days I feel like one, lugging the world around with me. I never 'grew out of' the baby bag era of carrying everything, including the kitchen sink with me. I've been getting better at not carrying too much, but, as you can see, I'm still something of a hopeless case. My excuse is that I was a Girl Guide and my motto is "Be prepared".

Apologies for the colour in these photos. My video card driver was updated yesterday and now Photoshop screams at me when I try to work on a photo. It shows all white as yellow and does some other strange colourific effects.

teaching bag

My bag is what some here call a postman bag. Tat got us each one for teaching. I prefer the idea of a messenger bag. It's strong, sadly not waterproof, and versatile. Attached to the bag is a little pair of clogs Jurgis brought back from Amsterdam. I felt the bag needed brightening up.

teaching bag contents

Now for the innards...
1. Teaching book and folder with lesson plans. I had a different one in, but swapped it out for this photo, as the other one had the school's name on it.
2. My bright little notebook for random notes and blog-thoughts while out.
3. Headache stuff (Dorflex) and a mini-nailcare thing... just a nail file and orange sticks (I had good intentions).
4. Chase the Wind by EV Thompson. My current, rather tatty read.
5. My pencil case... with whiteboard markers, pencils, pens (all working), paperclips, etc etc.
6. Tissues (handy stuff that...)
7. A note pad that I scribble random notes to random strangers on : )
8. Psychedelic post-it pad for leaving little notes in random strange places : ) I have a ready note on there. Just needs to be stuck up when the urge hits.
9. Sunglasses case, complete with sunglasses.
10. Pen and pencil set sent to me by Tat's friend for Christmas last year. Hair pin sticking out underneath that my hair is currently too short to hold.
11. A diary that I bought in a moment of urgency when I saw my schedule take on a life of its own. I just knew I was going to mess up if I didn't have it all with me.
12. Small comb, hair-tying-up-thingie, Vitamin C sweets, Tic-tacs (sweets in question are old. I keep forgetting they're there).
13. Keys... with Swiss army knife. That knife is ancient.... I think from '96 or around then.
14. Soap I bought on the way home. I love spicy, fruity soaps and find them hard to get. This one is lemon scented.
15. My makeup... 1 cover stick and 1 lipstick... the most I ever wear.
16. A packet of Trident sugar-free gum, spearmint flavour, an old Trident wrapper, a copy of my ID card, and under that, barely visible, my business card holder.
17. Mp3 player, and just above it, the most awful lip balm I have ever used. Can't get decent stuff here. Blegh. I now use petroleum jelly with mint oil stirred into it. Works well.
18. 2 plastic bags... just in case. I have had to virtually swim home with my bag before. That is to protect the more valuable non-waterproof items. Pen - a more handy one kept in an outside pocket. The most used one too. Uh... and paperclip.
19. Little fold-up umbrella.
20. A wallet Jurgis bought in Lithuania. It's embossed with a scene in Vilnius. I commandeered it when my wallet wore out.
21. Bus recharge card and phone card. I always carry a spare phone card. Never know when you'll need it.
22. Um... a plant. Hen and chickens, to be precise. I filched a plastic water cup to keep it 'safe' in my bag. Oh.... I filched the plant slips too. I don't often have plants in my bag.
23. Bank slips, cash slips and random coins.

There you have it. Oh wait... my cell phone isn't on that pile. It goes with me too. Ooooh... I almost forgot. I have a wooden thingamebob that Jurgis made that makes carrying grocery bags home a cinch. It lives in my bag too. It wasn't in the photo because I had taken it to the kitchen with the groceries. He should really market those things. It's brilliant!  Picture this sort of thing made from a lightweight, dark wood (much more elegantly). I'll photograph it sometime.
bag carrier


del.icio.us Tags: ,

Monday, 12 October 2009

Monster activities


I had a nightmare last night about flesh eating monsters. In fairness, an 'offshoot' of those monsters was the wood element monsters who were happy to just observe the strange looking humans. Yes, we were science fictionishly strange looking.

I think my nightmare might have had something to do with the fact that I needed to mark test papers today. I'm not even going to elaborate on that subject *sigh*

Our internet has been down for most of the day. I mean dead... totally. Our internet is another long story, as unbelievable as most such stories are from this end of the world. We get internet via our carrier, Telefonica, and through our ISP, Terra. On Friday afternoon, we got a call from Telefonica saying that our ISP, Terra, was to be down for maintenance for 6 months!! What the heck? Six (6) months?? Who goes down for maintenance for 6 months?? They are changing us over to another ISP, UOL for those 6 months and for a time, we will pay the same as we were paying with Terra, but after that, the cost will go up by no less than 200%. I foresee an unholy mess.

Today is Hamish's birthday. I wish I could call him. I hope he is having a wonderful day. I wish I could celebrate it with him.

We had another storm here today. The wind was crazy!

Seems it's sardine run time in South Africa again. Do have a look at this link and be sure to click on the slide show. Amazing! The locals line up on the beaches in hoards to get their share of sardines too. On the east coast, the annual sardine run is a major event.

Hm... supper is smelling cooked and my stomach is grumbling. Hope you all have a great evening. I'm off work today (if you can count marking depressing tests as being 'off work'), as it's Children's day here.


del.icio.us Tags: ,,,,

Saturday, 10 October 2009

I dream of stairs

In this past year, I have dreamt of stairs quite often, going both up and down the stairs. The stairs never seem to have a negative connotation for me. That, in itself, is saying something, as, for most of my adult life, I have had a virtually paralysing fear of heights and particularly stairs. I would actually visualise falling down the stairs every time, no matter how small the flight of stairs was, and 'feel' the pain of the fall very realistically. I have overcome that fear in the last year or so, thank goodness.

beach stairs
Photo is taken from a blog on interior decor relating to stairs.
This particular one is a scan, I believe, from the magazine, Vanity Fair.

Last night's dream was of concrete stairs leading to a beach. The stairs went down between houses, but were quite wide and sunny. I was with an older woman. I am not sure who she was anymore, but I know she was someone relatively close to me. She went on ahead as we went down. As we got closer to the sea, I saw that there were houses that were flooded out, looking much like the more recent flood scenes from São Paulo. I looked down at them and said, no, that I'd be going back up. I turned and went back up. The flight of stairs was long, but sunny and not tiring at all. I danced and skipped up the stairs. I felt light. The scenes around the stairs were greener... not all houses.

When I arrived at the top, under the shade of a tree, I found George Irvine, another 'ghost' from my past. Not a ghost really. He's alive and well, albeit pretty old now. Back when I was a child, my gran had me deeply involved in many church denominations. When my grandfather died, Rev. Irvine, our Methodist minister, sat on my gran's bed and comforted me. I had asked something about heaven and whether or not I'd go there. I was one very unhappy little girl, already pining for my grandfather. He responded in his delightful Irish brogue that of course I'd get into heaven. Sure and wouldn't St Peter welcome me? After all, I'd been baptised, christened, dedicated, and blessed in just about every denomination! If there is one person back home who knows my family story well, it is him. He saw us through many of life's dramas, including, much later, the funeral of my first child. I looked him up not too long ago when I was looking for my brother. I knew that if anyone could find him, George Irvine could, but I was afraid he wouldn't remember me or my family. He's become something of a religious 'great' in Port Elizabeth, my home town.

Back to the dream. I went up to him under the tree and asked if he could remember me. He looked a little blank, so I related the story of how he comforted me when Jim died... and how he was there again when Ceinwen died. I woke up then... still not knowing if he remembered me. In the waking world, I pretty much know he wouldn't remember me and it doesn't bother me at all, but somehow, it bothered me in my dream.

I'm noting this dream because I haven't been recalling my dreams lately, something which upset me, as I really like recalling them and sitting thinking them through. Besides, they're often more fun than the movies. I've always been a very vivid dreamer.... even when awake : )


Wednesday, 07 October 2009

Beautiful people

fa-cp - Flame in the vase

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen."
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,

Tuesday, 06 October 2009

São Paulo style 'snow'

Actually, it feels like we're in a giant popcorn maker with white balls bouncing off everywhere...

This photo was taken in our carport. The hail you see is what came from our gutter.

At about 3pm, the heavens closed over and huge splats of rain came down. A few minutes later, we heard the distinctive clackety-clack of hail falling. Being insatiably curious, we headed to the doorways to see the hail. I got smacked on the head by a few large stones.

I was kneeling on our quirky 'headboard' to get this photo of our 'snow'.

The dogs were terrified, poor things. The plants got totally shredded. The little cordelyn looks like a giant rat has been gnawing at it and Jurgis' Lady of the Night is shredded.

At our front door.

We were expecting some fairly dramatic weather, as the South of Brazil has been getting tornadoes with wind speeds of around 82km/hour (50 miles/hour). I know that isn't a lot when compared to our Northern friends, but for Brazil, it's dramatic.

It's a time of changes out our way. Most of you have seen Tat's new 'do' and, naturally, my profile photo. One of my newer students owns a hairdresser. She's the sweetest Japanese girl. I made an appointment and she worked magic. She put gallons of goop in my hair too and used a straightening iron (what?! on me??). I never, ever use products in my hair and don't even blow dry, never mind use curling or straightening irons. Freaky!! I loved the hairdresser though. They had those magical reclining chairs at the washbasins, so you get to lie down while having your hair washed. Bliss! I'd go there just for that. The sweetie gave me the whole anti-frizz treatment free. Methinks she knows who'll be marking her tests ; ) Nah.... she's just a honey. If ever any of you are down my way, I highly recommend her!

corrianne hair - 2 october 2009_2920
Thanks, Tat, for playing photographer again : )

And speaking of tests... we're in full test mode here with the totally out-of-this-world weird marking system. 'P' stands for 'poor' in the reports. We have been notified that putting the 'P' in the marking system is just a formality and we are not  to use it for any of the students. The lowest we're allowed to mark them is 'R' for 'regular' *sigh* They pass, whether they study or not. Makes me wonder why we bother marking the papers. The one class gets their tests to take home and do there. More on the subject of tests... at the end of the last semester, we were rushed and pressured into getting the results in way before school ended for the term. During the holidays, one of Tat's students asked her where his report was. "Don't you have it?" No, he didn't. We asked the co-coordinator. "Oh, the students only get their reports if they come back to the school and ask for it."  Huh? Have you ever heard of anything like that? No reports get mailed out. The students had been back at the school for the next semester and were only given the previous semester's reports a good month into the new semester. Weird. I honestly don't know how they function.

Ok, I'm off to a student now, assuming she is having class, as she often cancels when there's rain. Rain + São Paulo traffic creates merry havoc.


del.icio.us Tags: ,,,,,,