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

Friday, 26 February 2010

A very merry -birthday to you... to you... a very merry -birthday to you!

The tune is going through my head. Can you hear it?

tatiana - 17 Jan 2010_3450 bw

Ah Tatiana, you are so much to so many. How many young girls will listen as easily to Celtic Woman, 80's, hard rock, Disney and some other weird (and loud) stuff I don't even have a name for?

Gentle and kind. You spend time as easily with a toddler, a fragile old woman, teens going to an event, men playing their tunes at obscure pubs. You make conversation with strangers on the bus and diplomats at black tie events. I've seen you bring tears of happiness to an old woman begging for left-over fruit at the street market and yet another who was amazed that someone so young and vibrant would notice her, never mind love her smile. It's no wonder strange young men run after the bus to give you notes, telephone numbers and drawings of you.

Smart. Oh yes, you're smart, all right. Most people say 'clever', but clever is a little different. You are clever... with an IQ that rates nicely for those who care about that sort of thing, but smart is so much more than that. It's knowing how to use the grey matter you're given. Perhaps it is that balance between instinct and cleverness. However one describes it, you've got it... plenty of 'smart'. It will take you so much further than getting all the scientific and mathematical formulas right.

Quick tempered and stubborn too! I'm laughing here. Oh yes, you are those and more. I've seen your temper flare at a moment's notice and often gritted my teeth through sulks and tantrums, but such moods never lasted with you. I don't know how you do it, honestly. The smiles just can't be kept away.

Dreamer and achiever. I hope you achieve all those dreams... falcons, black belts, elves and forests, vast libraries, friends, laughter, love... and smiles. Have a wonderful birthday, my dearest daughter. Your teens are over. Most parents breathe a sigh of relief, but I've loved every stage of your growth.... ok, barring a year or so ; ) You're so special, truly a gem of a daughter and I'm so very proud of you!

I love you! We love you! Thank you for all the joy you've brought into our lives!


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Thursday, 25 February 2010

Good fences make good neighbours

Two days ago, Jurgis and I were inside when we heard a woman calling, "Visinho!" (Neighbour!) Jurgis went out and found the neighbour, with whom we share the property, was stuck inside her home. Her husband had left with the keys. We have the same problem here... only one set of keys, so our comings and goings have to be carefully planned. He helped her out of the house via the window (she's pregnant and needed to get to the doctor), then unlocked the main gate for her. While he was there, she mentioned how frightened she was of the dogs. Jurgis assured her that the dogs wouldn't bother her. We had put up a temporary gate fashioned out of the base of a bed. It's strong, just not pretty. She seemed satisfied.

Yesterday, her mother and father were home (we think they're visiting because of her pregnancy). They called us over and handed us a business card, saying the estate agent wants to speak to us. We were confused, as we deal directly with the owner who is one of Jurgis' friends. Just to make sure, he called his friend first and asked what was going on. Apparently, the neighbour called their estate agent and complained about the dogs, saying they're scared of them. The owner told us not to worry about it. The reason the owner rented this property to us because of the dogs! He wanted the dogs here.

As for the neighbour... this would be all good and well except... a) The dogs have been hiding from the heat under my computer desk virtually since we've moved in. They refuse to budge. b) The dogs have only barked once and that was when the old tenants sent someone to take their old stuff away. We've had our own removal guys, visitors - total strangers to the dogs - from out of town, and internet installation guys coming in and out with no fatalities or emergencies.

Jorge is now building a gate. Shelves and wardrobes must wait. The gate will probably be too heavy for anyone but him to lift, but that is all good. As for the neighbour... I think she has shot all neighbourliness to... well... you get what I mean. They have a little girl. The day I arrived for the first time with bird and cat in tow, their glass door was open, leaving only the frame closed. The girl smiled at me and I greeted her with a cheery 'hello'. The mother promptly shut the glass door in my face. Uh... ok, so I'm mean stalker material...

When we heard about the report to the agents, I went to ask her how she could do that right after Jurgis had helped her by lifting her bodily out of her house. The mother was there. Apparently the woman was at work. The mother complained that she needed to do laundry (a separate upstairs portion... the stairs are close to our entrance, but not on top of it... about a yard) and was afraid her daughter would be bitten. They say the previous tenants promised them the plants. Today we heard the owner is collecting their plants (it was the owner's brother-in-law who was renting). So these people are chancing their arm. What got me is that they weren't concerned their toddler would be bitten (our dogs are big), but that the pregnant mom would be bitten... She was told the dogs were safe as long as no one teased them or went inside the gate. Our dogs couldn't care less who stands outside the gate. There, they'll just bark. Inside, they'll bark louder *laughing* Besides, there's always someone home here and the darn dogs are now too used to their creature comforts to venture outside and be bothered with an ungrateful, petty neighbour.

On the bright side, apparently they're moving soon, as the house had flooded during the recent rainstorms, though the previous tenants here told us they're moving because her life is being made miserable at work because of her pregnancy, as her work involves a lot of running around and she can't keep up. Ah well... our other neighbours are quiet. Most here seem to keep to themselves. I can live with that : )


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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Settling in

I was able to do a load of washing this morning. Great! Our clothes were about to get up and walk to the river to be washed. It says something that I think the river smelt better.

Leaving home, I was barely 10m away from the front gate when I twisted my rubber ankle in my 'block' shoes. These shoes were chosen to last. They're wood platforms. I wanted platforms to give me that bit of an advantage in rainy weather when the streets turn into rivers. The trouble with these is that they have no give, so if I hit a crack in the paving, I go down like a sack of potatoes, as my ankles have no stability at all. Anyhow, this time, the leather ripped. Luckily, I was close to home and could change into my moccasins, which are usually for winter wear, and hotfoot (quite literally) it to work. On the bright side, these shoes are comfy and I can run to catch a bus if I need to. I love moccasins!

Speaking of buses, I found a bus that stops about 100m from our gate that uses my bus card. Ótimo! I asked the conductor and found a  bus to return home with. Even better. Thankfully, it's not the inter-municipal, which is now the same price as the regular buses, but doesn't take the same bus card.

Where we're living now is good, I think. I'll have to go into Zelina occasionally to get mail, but it isn't as though we get much, so that won't be often. We get NO traffic noise in spite of being 1 block away from a major freeway. The only traffic we get is planes flying overhead. We seem to be on a major flight path. I don't mind that in the least.

We have 5 supermarkets to choose from, plus an apparently awesome Horti Fruti. All are within a mile from home including the shopping centre I have yet to visit, which has a Walmart. There's even a Sam's Club, but I'm not sure how much we'll use that.

: (  Tell me... what kind of person has as a ring tone, the sound of a little girl screaming in horror or pain. It was so real that everyone on the bus turned around to see where this child was in trouble. The idiot whose phone it was got numerous calls. By the third ring, I told him take his phone far away from me or I wouldn't be responsible for my actions. I wanted to grab it from him and toss it out of the window. I wish I had known how to ask him if he was a paedophile or something. I was sick to my stomach. He was a 20-something slob of a guy. He said, "But it's only a ring-tone!" Gah!


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Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Moving Monday


Advanced apologies... this is long-winded, but there's a lot of detail for Tatiana's benefit, as she'll be able to picture it all with painful clarity.

The cable guys still haven't been. We found out today that they're only coming on Wednesday and were supposed to have told us that last week. Ugh! I'm lost without the internet. My students are used to communicating by email and I've had to cancel my Skype students because of this. It's losing income for me in a big way. Jurgis can't work without the internet either. This is so frustrating.

I had a ditzy airhead sort of day. I left home early to get things done in the village, which is now a fair trek away. I took a bus in to the bottom of Zelina and walked up. It was disgustingly hot. Got into the village only to be told that, no, the post office no longer forwards mail if you move. Oh? I asked them what on earth people do with their old mail then. You have to change your address with the utilities and hope for the best. And what about mail en route from far off? If you know the postman, you could ask him to redirect any mail that arrives. That is just crazy.

From the post office, I went to the hardware store. I needed to get a new post box. After a bit of the usual miscommunication, I left with a post box and some runners for the curtains. Yes, Tat, you read correctly... curtains! =Þ We have to have them here. The main window has no shutters and it gets full afternoon scorching life-draining sun.

Now being the ditz I was playing at today, I went back to the bank... with large metal box in hand. The doors here have metal detectors, so I tried to put the box into one of their outside storage boxes, but the machine kept telling me to try again. Hmph. I went to the door and signalled to the security officer that I had a problem with the box. She signalled back that I must get myself inside pronto. Yep... it was Tat's old friend who scolded me for even doubting that I'd get in. She kept me talking for what seemed like hours. Tat will relate to that, I'm sure ; ) I then went to the info desk and was told that only Tat could change her address... "But...!! She's in England! She can't!" She asked me if I had Tat's pin codes. I nodded a mite too enthusiastically, so she took me to the ATM where I could cancel all Tat's bank-related mail. Great! Uh.... guess who went blank at the ATM... Pin code? What pin code? *sigh* The lady was sweet and looked at me as though I was a special child. Never mind, sweetie... you can come back tomorrow. I think she must have walked off inwardly shaking her head.

Off to my own bank. That went a little better. My ditz moment only happened at the door. I saw a heavily armed security guard and explained my box issue. I was afraid I wouldn't be let in. He chuckled and said that I would be better off speaking to the bank security guards. Oh? *another blank look* Then it twigged... they were part of the armoured guards delivering or collecting money. I blushed and went into the bank where, again, the guard just waved me through. The info guy, who by now knows me for my strangely put requests laughed with me in disgust that the only way I could change my address was by phone and putting my pin in over the phone and not with the multitude of security passes I need to operate online. I can only change my address in the bank if I have a proof of address. Well, no I don't have a proof of address yet because we only moved a day ago. At least I know how to go about it there.

Back to the post office. I wanted to change our address on the forms we have there for our post office box where we get all our international mail. Who was standing there guarding money deliveries? The same guard from the bank! I think he thought I was following him. He looked at me and laughed... "So they let you in with your box?" I just blushed... again. I made a lame comment about the money delivery guy looking like Santa (he did too... the money bag was bright red and slung over his shoulder) just as they all disappeared, guns in hand, into the depths of the post office.

A brief stop at the supermarket (the one at the bottom of Zelina) and onto the bus home. No, my day wasn't over. I was worried about getting the right bus, as I couldn't look it up beforehand. It's amazing how I've come to rely on Google maps. I wanted a bus that didn't turn off at Giestas, but would go to the end of Ibitirama. Ah... found one! It was going to Shopping Plaza Sul. Great! I figured it would go down Ibitirama and turn right onto the river road. Ha! Clever is as clever does. I got on the bus, paid and as I went through the turnstile, the bus turned to the right. I asked a woman how far the next stop was. It was far... the bus went down and down... eventually it stopped and I stumbled off in despair. I had to walk all the way back up the hill to get another bus going down the other hill. I nearly cried. I was hot and bothered and lugging groceries and post boxes. With all the walking, I was feeling very sunburnt too. I eventually made it back to the top and took another bus home.

Let me tell you, I was grateful to get home! I did supper and headed out to my student who, thankfully, lives at the end of my road. What a pleasure!

And that, my friends, is the end of today's sorry tale. Wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Oh... we have loads of cats desperately trying to get into our place. Apparently the previous tenants had 4 cats! The last attempt was made by... a raccoon!! Yes, you read that right, Tat! A raccoon! : ) It ran away though. It was curious, but afraid. I'll see if it comes again and take a photo. There... I got a photo, as you saw. Not quite as raccoonish as Raccoon was, but close. She's very petit and friendly, except that she's taken to coming in and trying to swat the bird!


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Monday, 22 February 2010

Our move so far

humble home garfield

I'm sitting here at 9pm on the Sunday, ready to go to bed. I have a raging headache. I think it's because there's so much to remember and my head is busting from its seams.

Saturday morning, as per arrangement (SHOCK!), the removal van arrived. It was a grizzled old man and his young black sidekick. What an odd pair. The dogs surprised us by not trying to take their heads off. In fact, they didn't even bark. I shut Specs into the bathroom, so the move could carry on around her. Heidi was put into our bedroom along with the things they weren't to take.

The old man's comment? "You have too many big things!" We laughed. That about describes our normal accumulation of furniture. It's always big and bulky and if Jurgis has made it? Even worse. The truck did 3 trips. It must be noted here that it wasn't a very big truck. I would have taken photos, but I was too busy packing last minute stuff and cleaning. Through all of this, the dogs were either following me or sniffing at the removal guys.

On the third trip, I got each of the men something to drink, at which point we discovered the old man, whose truck it was, was a diabetic. The young guy chatted. Apparently he's a builder's assistant during the week, but is a bit of a gaming geek. He likes to go on gaming weekends, where he games and wins huge prizes. He didn't elaborate much. He was a likeable guy with an open, friendly face.

I had to laugh. as much as the old man said we had too much (he mentioned it frequently), he insisted that that absolutely everything was taken, even the stuff we wanted to toss. As fast as I put it on the toss pile, he'd fetch it and load it up. He had quoted us R$130, but because it turned out to be 3 trips, he increased it (we expected that, as the quote was given blind and approximate by phone) to pay his helper 'a little more'. On the way back, he took Jurgis to a pub for a beer (he paid... yes, that is strange, but he's a strange man), so that Jurgis could have the peculiar priviledge of watching the assistant down a large helping of 'pinga' (pure cane spirit) in one gulp as though it were water.

We then called a taxi to take the last of the bits, personal stuff and valuable documents, and the cat and bird. Three taxi numbers later, we found someone available. He took us and the critters to the new house where I stayed.

I nearly had a fit when I walked in. Absolutely *everything* was stacked floor to ceiling in the bedroom! All the essential stuff was at the back under everything. This little house has one bedroom, a lounge, bathroom and kitchen. Specs took one look at the whole thing and fled into the mess in the bedroom. No, I took no photos. I had only a vague idea where the camera was at that point and both cat and bird were in covered containers.

We fell into bed after an ordered pizza at about 8:30pm, exhausted, and slept through to 8am this morning. It was hot. This little house is so hot!

Today, we managed to get some semblance of order into the kitchen, wire up a 220 power point (thanks Jurgis), without which little will function in our household. Jurgis did most of the hard slog. The poor guy is bushed and we're nowhere near done. He had just set up my pc, scanner, printer, etc, as I had to print lessons and scan timesheets for tomorrow morning when we got a call. "I'm on my way. What is the address again?" It was Jurgis' out of state cousin down for a visit. OMG! Flat panic. Jurgis was in ripped jeans and no shirt or shoes. I looked a mess. The toilet had a ladder poised over it (the 220 power is from the shower, which is right next to the toilet). The pantry is quite literally bare. We were in no condition to have visitors. We were expecting her, but only a week later.

And here was me saying, ".... It's not as though we get visitors anyway."

Nilza arrived with her brother and his wife in tow. In the lounge, we had two computer chairs... a plan had to be made *fast*. As it was, I spent all that time on my feet over the scanner. Nilza had brought old family photos for me to scan. The idea was that I would film her and Jurgis talking, so that we could finally nail down some of the names, faces and characters in the family tree on her side. She is the one who could fill in all the gaps for us.

Aside from the trauma of being inhospitible and not being able to offer the guests anything but water, it was a lovely visit. Nilza was as sweet as I expected. She seemed to prefer talking to me and leaving Jurgis to talk to her brother, Dito. Dito's wife wanted to talk technicalities of scanning (she plugged in her scanner and assumed it would self-install the way her printer did). Jurgis and Dito got along famously, ending the afternoon talking war wounds *sigh* What is it with old men? ; )

nilza visit

I took them out into the little 'garden' of pot plants and took photos there. The sun was excruciatingly hot. I think that's where the headache came from. Only Nilza seemed ok with it, but she comes from an even hotter state. After they left, I discovered they'd come all the way from Santos to visit! Santos is a beach town and an hour's  drive on the freeway, depending on traffic. In holiday season or funky weather, the trip can take 3 hours. They left after making us promise to visit them and stay a while. I felt so bad that they had come all this way and not been offered anything now. I honestly thought they lived in the neighbourhood, as Nilza said she'd visit while she was staying with someone right here and she knows this area well.

In all though, it was good. At the start, I apologised to Nilza for my bad Portuguese. Her reply was, "Don't worry. I can understand you." Now that was a novelty for me. The reaction I usually get is, "Huh?" or "Não intendo. (Don't understand)" with a blank expression. As they left, Dito turned to me and said, "We're cousins now too." That was sweet.

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Saturday, 20 February 2010

It's happening! Kindof...



I'm not going online right now, but offline. We're going to bed tonight with literally just our bedding to put into a bag in the morning. Everything else is done. The van will be here at 8:30am. Weirdly, we were trying to make him come after 9am. I say weirdly because it is definitely a first in Brazil where they want 'action' earlier than we do. This is a nation that sleeps till after noon on a Saturday.

The cat is snoozing in her box... min gepla, as we say in Afrikaans. Hm... how does that translate? 'Little bothered' is perhaps the closest. The dogs are as rumbustious as usual. In all, the animals are unphased by the whole deal. We'll walk the dogs over to the new house. The cat and bird will go by taxi.

We currently have ADSL. As such, we have a ISP and a line provider. As from tomorrow, we'll have Cable instead. If we had a TV, we'd be able to watch cool things like Discovery Channel and National Geographic... and it's still cheaper than what we have right now. Fingers crossed for a smooth transition and no catches to the new plan.

PS. Someone send me some duct tape!! All the Brazilian packing tape is peeling off!! Every last bit. We have to retape all the boxes. The tape only sticks to itself, so all tape needs to wrap around completely, so it has something to grip onto *crying*

PPS. Do you know how large a dust bunny community there is behind your wardrobe???? Do you know? Do you really know???

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Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Ten thoughts?

I'm sure I can come up with 10 thoughts... I think... maybe. Och, forget it. Here's a regular blog.

are we there yet

I think Katey and Maggie may well be able to relate to this cartoon ; )

We went to see the new house this morning. It's a tiny place, which is more or less what we'd planned for, cost and size-wise. The idea being that, seeing as it's just the two of us, we can downscale, save and get rid of a lot of the junk we've collected in the past 10 years.

The house is in a far quieter road. That's a huge plus. It will be so good to be able to fall asleep in relative quiet and without the persistent smell of diesel fumes. Large aluminium gates lead to the front house. We're at the back. A couple of small flights of stairs later (necessary because of the flood level, if you recall) is our little tiled yard. Not too big, but enough size for now. Up ahead it tapers off. The previous tenants haven't taken their potplants as yet. I'm hoping they leave the gorgeous fern behind. Apparently they may leave the plants, as they're moving into an apartment. It seems plants thrive there though. That is good. A steep, narrow flight of stairs goes up the side of the house to a rooftop laundry area. We may well turn that into a rooftop garden and braai (bbq) area. I can see me sitting up there in the winter sun, reading a book with the dogs at my feet. Hm... wonder what the dogs will do with the stairs.

One of the tasks on Jurgis' to-do list is to make a gate, so the dogs can be kept separate from the main house. He's good with that though.

The inside of the house is not in the least fancy. One bedroom, a main room, which will be our computer room and office, a minuscule bathroom and the smallish kitchen. My biggest concern at this point is how we'll fit the furniture in and we don't have very little as it is. The desks will take up most of the space. We're getting the first month rent-free, as there are repairs to be made on the house. We'll be doing those.

I predict the next month is going to be... interesting...

The rest of the day was spent finishing the scanning of the photos. That goes hand-in-hand with the project I'm busy with that needs to be finished rather urgently. Then there's the packing. Actually, then there's the tossing. We're doing more 'donation pile', 'recycling pile', 'trash pile' than actual getting things into boxes.

Tat's doing well. Her biggest complaint is that the coffee sucks. Katey, what coffee do you drink? She's handling the cold better than most of the other folk there. Simple mind over matter, she said. One guy saw her badge and said, "Oh! You're from South Africa! Where in South Africa?" She replied that she's from Durban, at which he broke into a song he knew about Durban, "Ag please daddy, won't you take us all to Durban...." Tat cracked up! I asked if there are any other Africans there. She mentioned Thandi who was surely South African, but she wasn't sure, as they hadn't had a chance to talk yet, and Sipho from Zim. Sipho is a girl! Whoever heard of a feminine Sipho? For those not familiar with the name, that's like calling a girl 'Peter'.

Anyhow, today was Carnaval. As I said to Jurgis, it's legalised porn, where a lot of the dancers simply have their 'costumes' painted on. One float was even based on the Kama Sutra (or so I heard)... brave even for Brazil. One 'team' was led by a 7 year old girl. She is apparently the daughter of the team 'king'. Child protection tried to get a judge to prohibit her from performing, as she was to be the main dancer, which is usually a highly sultry role. The judge decided to let her participate. Brazil shrugged collectively. The poor little girl started her parade, had the entire media circus pounce on her and promptly dissolved into tears. I had to chuckle at Rio's solution to the toilet situation. They now have enormous fines for men who relieve themselves in the street.

http://img.terra.com.br/i/2010/02/16/1448447-5327-atm14.jpg No, I'm not showing the photo here ; )  You know what irks me? They only ever have solutions for men. I mean... women don't need the bathroom!


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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

"Daar is 'n haltjie, Dwaal..."

For some time now, George has promised me an article about my mom in a popular South African magazine. Apparently, she was interviewed while travelling around the country. As far as I know, she was headed up to Johannesburg from Port Elizabeth at the time. He finally sent the article, which had a photo of her, but nothing else, other than her age. This is a woman who, in her 60's would go for a walk to the beach for an outing... the beach being a mere 8km or 5 miles away.


I hope the article is typed out well enough. I had difficulty reading most of it. My dear brother sent me the page scanned in at super low resolution. The final image I received was only 800 pixels in height!

Incidentally, 'dwaal' is the Afrikaans word for 'wander'. Or we can say 'he is in a dwaal', meaning, he's quite lost or has total lack of concentration or focus.

Herewith the article:

3 April 2003
Whistle stop on the wastelands

A poet described this part of the Karoo as grey and godforsaken - he was partly right

In the third instalment of his railway adventure, Dana Snyman hops off the train in the middle of nowhere to find a remote place aptly called Dwaal and bumps into a collection of fellow travellers with stories to tell.

You magazine article-2 

I WISH the police would hurry up and bring back Kitte's motorbike. I need a ride to Dwaal. I'm stuck on a desolate stretch of the N1 somewhere between Colesburg and Hanover and getting tired of waiting.

At the crack of dawn I got off the East London-bound train only to discover I'd stranded myself in the middle of nowhere. Hanover station looked as if it had been hit by a Scud missile - derelict and deserted. There wasn't even a bench on the platform.

I wanted to get away as fast as possible. The problem was the actual town of Hanover was more than 10 km away.

I managed to hitch a ride with Johnny van Wyk in his wheezy Mazda. He dropped me off on the N1 where I encountered Kitte Honibal and his dog Boetie. They were also heading south, with a makeshift trailer Kitte had crafted out of two old bikes and a chicken coop gate.

He'd been towing the trailer with a 125cc motorbike, but in Trompsburg he'd sold the clapped-out machine to a guy named Chris. But there were all sorts of complications with the transaction and now he's expecting the police to bring the bike at any moment.

Kitte had a narrow escape in Trompsburg. Someone offered him work. "I don't want to work now, man, I just want to get to PE and go out on the sea," he says, pointing to the enormous sailboard perched on the trailer. As he gestures, I notice deep scars on his right wrist. Knife wounds?

I sit on a rock at the side of the road and contemplate how I, almost middle-aged, have landed up in the company of a boardsailor and a dog named Boetie in the middle of the Karoo at 10 o'clock on a Wednesday morning.

It's been almost a week since I started my train ride from Musina to Cape Town. On the journey, I've encountered people you'd never meet if you did the journey by car - taxi owners, truck drivers, hitch-hikers, barladies, idlers and drillers. Not that Kitte would describe himself as a drifter, even though it's been years since he held down a job and most nights he sleeps under the stars.

"I'm actually writing a book about drifters," he says. He shuffles off and digs around in his trailer until he finds what he's looking for, a grubby file containing his writings. He reads aloud about a drifter who killed another with a brick. But we're only just into the story when he stops abruptly and asks, "What the hell are you planning to do in Dwaal?"

IT'S because of a poem that I want to visit Dwaal - Uys Krige's poem Tram-ode.

In Std 9 our Afrikaans teacher read it to us. It's about faraway places with lovely names that hold a special attraction for restless souls: Putsonderwater, Kilimanjaro, Pilgrim's Rest, Baardskeerdersbos... The poem goes on: "Daar is 'n haltjie, Dwaal, te midde van die vaal godverlore dor Karoo..." (There's a little stop, Dwaal, in the middle of the grey, godforsaken, barren Karoo...). Ever since hearing that, I've wondered what life's like in Dwaal.

But trains don't stop in Dwaal any more. You have to get to Hanover and pay Seef Farmer R40 to take you there in his HiAce.

That's another thing I'm beginning to realise about South Africa. Wherever you go, there'll always be a taxi driver, pastor, teacher or somebody else willing to give you a ride if you pay. Every town, it doesn't matter how small, has what township people refer to as a "hiking spot". Just stand there and you'll soon be on your way.

I feel a little sad to be leaving Kitte behind. He looks much more content with his lot in life than the lawyer with the Audi A4 who drank beer with me in Colesberg and told me three times that he'd met Bob Skinstad in Durban. Something still bothers me. What caused those scars on Kitte's wrists?

He seems to read my mind. As we say goodbye, he opens his file, produces a letter and waves it under my nose. It's an affidavit from police in Brits noting that the marks on his wrists weren't the result of a suicide attempt, they were caused by an angle grinder that slipped while he was helping to overhaul a bus.

"Ja, life can be very hard, my friend," he says. "But never for a moment would I consider suicide."

Dwaal is about 20 km from Hanover on the railway line to Noupoort. Seef drops me off some distance from the village because I want to do the last bit of the journey on foot. I want to dawdle into Dwaal.

In the glory days of train travel all these small stations had station-masters, proud men who paraded along the platforms in their blue uniforms. There was an annual competition to find the neatest station in the country. And there was the baboon that worked at a station near Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape.

In his book, Everlasting Footprints, NG Bezant recounts how Jack the baboon helped to operate the signals at the station in the 50's. Jack's boss, signal master John Wide, recruited the baboon to help him after he lost his legs in a train accident.

Uys Krige was right. This is a dull part of the Karoo. But not godforsaken.

There are all kinds of hardy bushes near the roofless station building. I've been standing on the derelict station platform for a few minutes when, as out of nowhere, steps an elderly gentleman. Anneries van Wyk turns out to be a retired builder.

He tells me he once worked as a builder in Maputo when it was still known as Lourenço Marques. Then his mom died and he had to come home. He flew back to Bloemfontein in a Boeing - a Going, as he calls it. That flight has been the highlight of his life so far.

"The Going is a wonderful thing, you can sit up in the air and drink tea, but it's so calm that the tea doesn't even make waves. We'd been in the air for only 18 minutes when the driver up front told us, "buckle up, we're going to land now."

Anneries hauls out his tobacco pouch and slowly rolls a cigarette. We stare into the distance.

That's all there is to do in Dwaal - stare into the distance.

I NEED to get out of Richmond. I'm tired of drinking apple juice.

I ended up here after hitching a ride from Hanover in a truck. I want to get back to Merriman tonight so I can board the Trans-Karoo, but there's a long wait ahead because the train is only due at 1am.

I'm sitting with At van Rooyen on the pavement next to Richmond's main road, chatting about the Levi's advertisement that was filmed here last year. Occasionally people give us apple juice, litres of the stuff.

Last night a truck overturned on the N1 nearby. It was full of fruit juice. Last week a truck carrying potato crisps overturned. Before that it was a truck with StaySoft.

"Last week there were chips all over the place," says At, an unemployed mechanic. "I ate so many that after a while I didn't want any more chips."

Most people in Richmond struggle to make ends meet, so in a bizarre way the truck accidents are a blessing.

A local explains: "This is a small town. If there's an accident, the police go out first. If all three police bakkies go out, we know we've been blessed again. But we don't drive out to the accident immediately. We wait at the garage until the police return. Then we ask them, 'Is there anything?'"
You magazine article-3
"If they say, 'No, there's nothing,' we know there's something. We climb into our cars and go out and load up."

An old white Mazda roars around the corner. It's Pastor Jonathan Groen who operates as a taxi driver in his spare time. He'll take us to the station. It turns out At is also heading for Cape Town.

But we have to stop on the way to see Gert Swiegers, the king of Boeranje who lives in Murraysburg. He apparently has a lot he wants to get off his chest...

MAIN PICTURE: Dana Snyman discovered that there's not much to do in Dwaal other than daydream.
RIGHT: Kitte Hanebol (right) with his sailboard en route to Port Elizabeth. With him is travelling companion Christo Bester and dog Boetie.
BELOW RIGHT: Annatjie van der Merwe (63) and dog Peggy try to hitch a ride from Colesberg.

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Thursday, 11 February 2010

Of life and death


I got word from Hamish yesterday that my mom has passed away. It wasn't entirely unexpected. Born in 1940, she was suffering with Parkinson's Disease and had had a few falls, which left her wheelchair-bound this past year.

Hamish is flying down to my hometown, Port Elizabeth, for the funeral on Saturday morning. George will be travelling home too. I'm glad they'll be together for the occasion. We're all worried about what will happen to my sister, Yolande. She hasn't been separated from my mom for well over 30 years now.

I think I have a different view of death from most people or, more to the point, how we behave at the death of a loved one. For me, the only reason there is to hold onto ashes or a gravestone is for the comfort of the living, if that kind of thing comforts them. To me, no part of our loved ones remains in the ashes or the grave. If I were Hindu, for example, and believed in a second, third, fourth life, after death, the last thing I'd be concerned with was the treatment of my body. The same goes for the Christian belief of Heaven. You die and go to Heaven, a place of perfection. Your concerns aren't with your body, though perhaps more with the loved ones left behind. Thinking through the various belief systems, I can't find a reason for special treatment of the remains. In the end, what is worth holding onto is the memories. I would much rather go through a photo album of the loved one on the anniversary of their passing, than to visit a cold, empty grave. Just my thoughts... Having said all that, I've asked Tat to try to ensure that I'm planted (pardon the pun) upright at the base of a tree when my time comes. I may as well be fertilizer and I can't think of a better place for my body to 'rest'.

I'm so grateful for the love of my brothers. Coming from a family that was very divided, it is so good to be in touch with them and see them getting together to do 'family' things. Both had to travel really far for this funeral. I wish I could be there for them.


I didn't manage to finish this blog earlier. As it turns out, George wasn't able to go to PE for the funeral. Hamish went and was able to track down my sister, Yolande. That is another story entirely. In short, the funeral and cremation are over and the ashes scattered. Yolande will now go home to Jhb with Hamish. She couldn't be in better hands.

Back to my earlier subject... The events of the past few days have had me thinking a lot, naturally, particularly on the subject of death. Yesterday, as I was walking to the student, I was wondering why I felt as I do about death and the 'commemoration' of death. I thought back to the deaths of those closest to me over the years. I didn't see my grandfather after he died, so couldn't judge by that, but I do know that Gran used to say that he is now 'watching over me'. I remember just being puzzled about that. When Ceiwen died, I knew, not from the physical signs, but because I felt the sudden emptiness. The same happened when I went into his room and found Jurgis' dad... The room was empty... empty of life force. When Fel died, a mutual friend asked me if I can feel her close by. I desperately wanted to, but there was nothing, just memories and my own sorrow over her passing. I think that is why I don't attach any significance to the physical 'mementoes' of a person's death. They're gone. There is only emptiness remaining. There is no life force or spirit attached to the ashes or the grave. It's just an empty shell. Their spirit or life force lives on in my heart and memory.


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Monday, 08 February 2010

The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul

Tatiana - pink dress old eyes

I could drown in those eyes! Don't you just wonder what was going through her mind?


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Sunday, 07 February 2010

Tonight I cried...

Tonight I cried for the land I believe I'll never see again. I cried for longing of old, familiar things. I cried for memories that are now only in my head... for the good and the bad... for the people, for the soil... for the beauty. The longing is fierce.

I'm picking up and carrying my life and soul yet again. Each time, a few fragments break off and are left behind. Each time, there are irrevocable changes, losses, and sometimes gains.

I love my country. That will never change. I'm ready to move on.

Saturday, 06 February 2010

Move on!

We've just had a major power failure of a few hours. I put supper (chicken wings and roast potatoes... keep it simple) in the oven (one of the few times I'm grateful for gas) and Jurgis and I sat around chatting. Note to Tat: We found the epsom salts by candle light!!! It was hidden under The Big Black Bag haha!

Our last few days... wow... like we need more 'action' around here. We were advised, on Friday, that we have 15 days to vacate the premises. We've been expecting this a while now, as our contract expired last year.

moving rain
Did I mention it's still raining here?

First... Panic!! A while later, reason sets in and we start house hunting. There are a couple of options, but very little, as no one wants animals. Totally understandable, but not the way I work. Later, Jurgis went off to meet with his buddies at the pub and casually mentioned that we may lose the dogs because no one wants dogs and we have to move. His one buddy cried out in alarm! You can't get rid of the dogs! Move into my place! He owns a house close to a nearby river (read 'regular flooding', though apparently this house is built just above the flood line. It sounds perfect though. Very low rental, fairly small, close enough to a large supermarket and close to a bus route. I'd have to make a special trip to the post office, but I can deal with that. And..... the dogs can stay!! : )

Anyhow... Today I got my horoscope. I'm one who tends to take horoscopes with a truckload of salt, but I'm not shy to celebrate when it says what I want to hear ; )
Hi Corrianne! Here is your Daily Horoscope for Saturday, February 6   Slow down a little and take stock -- your intuitions should be more or less right on, so you can count on seeing the forest and the trees. Once you're settled, it's time to move out quickly!

Didya see that?? "Once you're settled, move out quickly!" *grins* Ok, I'll make no secret of the fact that I dearly want to move out. As I was explaining to a friend earlier...

As you know, our plan was for Jurgis to get his Lithuanian/EU citizenship and passport. I'd just tag along on his coat tails... seems South Africans aren't welcome anywhere really. There's a catch, though. For me to go to Lithuania, I need a Lithuanian entry visa. Recently, the Lithuanian consulate of Brazil shut down, so all Lithuanian consular issues are dealt with in Argentina. That, for me, means that, to get a Lithuanian entry visa, I need to get a visa to go to Argentina, then fly to Argentina, where I will apply for a Lithuanian visa. Ridiculous, não? Pft... Burrocracia!! (Dani might get that last one... )

So... here's what I decided. My end goal is to be in the UK with Tat. I'm going to get myself a job in the UK, then go there. Visa application takes place right here in São Paulo. Jurgis can amble along to Lithuania. Once we're both in Europe, either he can meander over to the UK or I can then apply, way easier, for a Lithuanian entry visa.

Can someone tell me why South Africans aren't welcome anywhere? Ok, don't answer that. I'm not sure I want to know. Now if I were Brazilian, I could fly over to Lithuania OR the UK without a visa. Let's not mention that 80% of Brazilians in the UK are there illegally *sigh* Yes, you've heard the same tale about the Brazilians in the USA... without the need for a visa too. Go figure.

Uh... anyone got some boxes to spare?


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Thursday, 04 February 2010

Water water everywhere...


There have been more deaths too... and now I've heard they're evacuating the zoo : ( Apparently the animals are being moved to higher ground around the zoo. The botanical gardens alongside are taking damage. The Tieté river has flooded its banks, as usual. My other student for tonight cancelled as her part of town is without electricity.

Another tree, this time about 100 meters away from the student's door, fell... well, fell is a bit of an understatement. It was ripped down. Waiting for the bus to come home took forever. When it did come, it was loaded with steaming humanity. The inside of the bus with all the windows closed was a sauna. I stood with a neighbour's umbrella dripping on my foot and on the other side, a raincoated man... it took him a good kilometre or so before he decided that removing his dripping raincoat would be a good idea. The gaúcho ('cowboy' from the south of Braz) sitting in front of me slept blissfully though, his felt hat dipped over his eyes. Stubble on his weathered cheeks and toothpick making a statement out of his mouth, he looked out of place, but comfortable.


I found this excellent sketch of a gaúcho online, but can't find the original artist (other than the signature)

Speaking of gaúchos, while I was looking for a pic, I found this: link here. Can you imagine donning a pair of goggles and visiting a place in virtual reality?


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Wednesday, 03 February 2010


On my way home, on the temperature board on Anhaia Melo, it read 37ºC (98°F). Enough already! Anhaia Melo is about a mile from where we live. The sky is heavy with clouds. On the bright side, small talk is simple. Everyone is talking about the weather. Extreme heat followed by extreme rain storms, daily. Last night's storm dropped a tree in our neighbourhood. The roads were all flooded, except folk like us on the hilltop. We're on daily emergency flood alerts. In January, 69 people died because of the floods. One woman was apparently sucked into a stormwater drain. No, the drains aren't that big. The woman was likely small. São Paulo is in it's 42nd day of daily rainstorms and feeling it.

Tat, if you see this, the tree fell in the little road that goes off to the right after crossing Anhaia Melo and before the new Metro construction:

I got myself a bright, psychedelic green umbrella. My old one was rendered useless in the accompanying winds on Monday.

Speaking of storms... it's about to break and I need to leave to the next student. Yay! : ) It'll be good though. The rain breaks the heat. The humidity build-up is no fun though.


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Tuesday, 02 February 2010

Off kilter


I was woken up an hour early today. Not a big deal really, though I do like to sleep as late as I can. I'm no early bird and I've been feeling very tired lately... constantly drained. I checked my mail and messenger... no word from Tat. That was strange. My heart sank just a little, but then I figured she was busy. I tried to call the number she gave me and it just rang.

I hauled myself out to get to my student. It was hot! At 10am, the temperature boards in the city were reading 34ºC (93ºF). I was close to my student, a 2 hour bus ride, when I realised I'd left my cell phone at home. Dang! I got off outside Iguatemi Shopping Centre and popped in there to call home. "Thank goodness you called!" Jurgis let me know that the student had cancelled today's class and Thursday's, as she would be travelling. I mean, I don't have a life to organise. Don't bother telling me until the last minute. There's nothing I like more than taking a hot bus ride across town for nothing. Grr!! I went to the stationery shop to get some envelopes. We need to send documents off to be licked and stamped. Then off home again.

On the way to the bus stop, I stepped skew on a broken tile. The pavements here are disgusting! I twisted my ankle and went down like a ton of bricks. My bag flew off in one direction and the package I was carrying in another. Suddenly I felt very sorry for myself. It was a day when everyone seemed to be rude and self-serving. I was missing Tat and the fall just capped it all. I got the bus to go home and huddled in a corner. I actually sat in one of the reserved seats for the elderly. The bus was empty enough. On the second bus, there was this youngster who insisted on singing along to his mp3 player. I was feeling rather churlish by then, so I told him to stop, as we definitely didn't have the same taste in music. Closer to home, a man got on the bus and gave a 'talk' about how it costs nothing to smile at people and be kind, wishing them a good day and a "God Bless you". I smiled. I needed to hear that. These hawkers get on with various stories to sell their sweets. This was the first who, I think, had something worthwhile to say. The effect was ruined by the irritating youth (who hadn't stopped singing and had caught a glare or three from myself and the woman sitting next to me). He felt the need to tap me on the shoulder and, in a sarcastic tone, said, "And God bless you too, Girl".

I was feeling sore in so many places and emotionally fragile. Jurgis told me Tat had texted me. It turned out that some phone lines had been stolen and the neighbourhood was without phones. For a second there, I thought she was calling from South Africa. Surely that sort of thing didn't happen in England?! I called her on her cell. We confirmed the phone number. Blame the state of my mind, but I tried calling again. Still no reply. Well, darn... what do you know? Jurgis pointed out the obvious. Before his words were quite out of his mouth, I realised what idiots we were. Tat was waiting for my call on the other end and I was frantically trying to call and getting no reply... no darn phone lines!! That was funny when I'd finished feeling like a total nincompoop.

It's been an otherwise fairly frustrating day. I'm trying to pin a few students down to their class times and I'm having too many cancellations. Yes, I know it's still before carnival, and Brazil only starts their year after carnival, but... Gah!

On the bright side, I'm busy with a project and am fairly happy with how it's going. I think it will look good when I'm done. Just wish my pen had a backspace *sigh*


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