Putting things in perspective

It is ironic that as my time in South Africa grows short I am feeling more and more at home in my adoptive community. Is that irony or is that simply the way that life works most of the time?

I was feeling like a real cranky-pants yesterday and today. So much so that it caused me to dig into the envelope that I never thought would be opened…IMG_2797It should say enough that I never thought I would need this one, and that I would find myself opening it on the plane out of curiosity, but here we are.

Yesterday could charitably be characterized as “frustrating.” I was dragged all over town and literally pulled in multiple directions by my friends. I was hit up over and over again for money from the aforementioned friends. I took another friend to the doctor’s and dumped a pile of cash to deal with his massively infected stab wounds because no one else in his life, apparently, would take him to get the medical care he desperately needed. I also made the mistake of giving someone the benefit of the doubt and caused a whole pile of grief because of it.

I am so tired of being treated like an ATM/taxi all the time.

Ironically, I feel like I have a newfound appreciation for the parents of teenagers.

And you know what all my carping and pouting and frustrated silences of the past couple of days have taught me? That I am a cranky bitch and feeling oh-so sorry for myself because I am in a position of privilege compared to my friends here.

A little bit of perspective goes a long way.

And, in case you were curious, talking to the lovely Miss A and these two beauties from Kimberly’s magic envelope helped me pull my head out from where it didn’t belong.IMG_4461

More Sibling Love

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Poor Christine was preggers when we took this shot of all of us drinking, so she’s behind the camera rather than in front of it 😦

I may have said this once or twice before, but it bears repeating: I have the most amazing family. We laugh, we sing, we drink in garages. As much as I’m loving life here in SA, there’s nothing like family.

I was feeling pretty apprehensive before coming here, mainly about once again upending my comfortable life with Sam, and not knowing what the coming months would have in store. As always, my siblings were there to give me exactly the support that I needed.

For my birthday A&B found a seal snorkeling safari in Cape Town and sent me on one of my favourite adventures ever. I have kayaked with seals in BC, but this was on a whole new scale. Duiker Island is home to about 5,000 cape fur seals, and you can go and snorkel with them. Fun!! The pictures really don’t do justice to how incredible it was to swim with literally thousand of seals darting all around you. Apparently I am a terrible photographer whilst snorkeling and tying not to drown from laughing. Sorry about that.

I can’t thank you two enough for what a wicked experience that was.

And I am STILL getting to explore the wonderful Christmas gift from Kimberly. Honestly, make a note people: time capsule presents containing photos of adorable nephies are the greatest gift anyone could receive (apart from a seal snorkeling adventure, naturally). Today, after a long week of transcribing and some pretty heartbreaking conversations about race in this country, I decided I could go for a little inspiration:IMG_4425I especially enjoyed the note reading “get ‘er done…or you could always be a Disney monkey” 🙂IMG_4423And now this is what it looks like in my room ♥♥♥IMG_4427Thank you again and again you pint-sized piece of love. I am better for having you in my life as well xox

And let’s also not forget those other awesome siblings – cousins! Love you Ann xoxIMG_4429

And now, for no reason other than I wanna, two more beautiful views of the Township. I never get tired of it. It’s a wonder I ever get any work done at all.IMG_4404

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Happy Mothers’ Day from Mama’s House

Today is Mother’s Day, and a Happy Mothers’ Day to all you mums out there!  I have an incredible Mom. She is kind and caring and generous and thoughtful and funny and intelligent and a kick-ass cook. I am *some*  of those things, in very small measure. This is my Mom in one of the photos Kimberly gave me, along with my sister who is also an incredible mom.IMG_4396

(Mom is also an endlessly good sport with all the crazy nonsense I *encourage* her to do!)

I also learned, thanks to my lovely new Dutch friend, that this past Thursday was Freedom Day in the Netherlands, a day that always brings back powerful memories of my Grandmother who lived in Holland throughout the occupation.

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Frank and Jopie, looking dapper AF

My grandmother was a force of nature, incredibly brave and powerful, and one of my favourite people ever. When ever I wonder why I’m not more like my loving and gentle mother, I just think back to Jopie and am grateful that all that sass and ferocity skipped a generation 😉

On this mothers’ day I am missing my mom, and grandma, and my sisters who are also awesome moms, but I am happy to be living with this wonderful family and Mama whom I think would have gotten along with my Jopie very well 🙂

So, with gratitude and love I once again dig into The Greatest Gift courtesy of the wondrous Kimberly:IMG_4394

My mother grew up in a small town in Northern Ontario that holds a very special place in all of our hearts, not least of all because of the giant cow on the way up, and the tiny island that has been in the family for decades, where now the third generation of kids born in Canada is learning to swim and fish and be tortured by mosquitoes.IMG_4395Thank you again Kimberly, I love it!!! A big Happy Mothers’ Day to you and to all the mothers out there! xox

Feeling like a boss

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The view from my new abode in the Township

I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling pretty good about life these days. I had a wonderful trip to Thailand, connected there with some truly inspiring and fun people, and now I’m back ‘home’ in South Africa, ready for whatever lies ahead. And I came home to friends! My dear friend Jane, who was my boss when I was an intern in Tanzania back in 2008, was travelling with the new crop of interns and I was lucky enough to get back in time to spend the day with them before they flew home to Canada. The first part of the day involved a lovely stop at a vineyard, including an oddly gendered lunch:

Then we decided to drive down to the coast and look at the penguins. Penguins!! I saw them once before on Robbin Island, but these guys were just waddling around right next to us. Penguins!

They’re such funny little things. We capped off the day with a gorgeous sunset over the Cape and a fantastic seafood dinner on the ocean. IMG_3996IMG_20160414_190501756[1]

I loved being able to spend the day with my friend and to get to know the interns, who are so full of ideas and energy and I was invigorated just hearing about the work that they are initiating in Durban and Dar es Salaam. They reminded me a little bit of that first crop of interns from so long ago 🙂CIMG1743

And I came home to mail!! Honest to goodness, in the mail, stamped and everything mail!! I am a lucky human.On that note, I dig once again into The Greatest Gift, feeling pretty classy 😉IMG_4002

IMG_4003.JPGAhahaha, so wonderful! Thank you again and again Kimberly!  You’re right – no one would ever mistake us for classy, but we do have more fun than ‘normal’ people, whoever they might be! xox

And this is now my room 🙂IMG_4004

 

An open letter to South Africa

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Dear South Africa,

It was a little bit hard to love you today. I’m having a hard time getting in touch with one tour guide that I feel like would be a brilliant person to speak with about the research I would like to do around Township tourism. I think it is a busy time of year for her, but I am hoping that she isn’t politely trying to shake me because she wants to have nothing to do with me. I was really looking forward to meeting with another guide in Cape Town, but after a series of failed communications on both our parts (and nearly 4 hours of travel on mine) we failed to meet up. And the train was creepy. My roommate has taken to trying to shake my resolve to move to a guesthouse in the Township by telling me on a daily basis how ‘they’ are constantly shooting and/or raping one another. I think it’s also partly due to the fact that I’m engaged in non-violent warfare with both Audible and Hotwire over my ongoing inability to log into my accounts. *sigh*

Then, I heard a really, really horrible rendition of Sexy Sax Man being played in a square, and it instantly made me think of my three brothers and wish that they were there with me to witness it. For those of you uninitiated….

You’re welcome/I’m terribly sorry.

Then, I remembered that the man at my coffee shop (yes, it’s mine now) made this drink for me this morning:IMG_20160316_094738354[1]

And the other guys who work there gave me a hug when they came in and gave me some more Xhosa lessons. And my awesome brother B-Rad wants more pictures, so here ya go…IMG_2848

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Don’t be a sad puppy…

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…it’s so beautiful here!

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And everyone loves photos of food 😉

Especially when this is what it sounds like while you’re eating.

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And penguins!!

Racial reclassification

And this…while not totally fixed, is NOT a thing anymore.

So on that note, I had some pizza, drank a beer, went for a very sweaty run and decided that I needed to, once again, delve into The Greatest Gift of All Time (dun dun duuuunnnnnn!). For those of you just catching up, my sister Kimberly gave me The Greatest Gift when she made me a stack of letters to help me contend with all that I might be faced with in this journey. So today it is…

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(and I am post-run sweaty. I swear I’m not always that shiny)

And a big thank you to my brothers and my sisters for keeping in touch, and for all of you who have given me such great feedback so far on the blog, and for my dear friend in California who sent me an audio letter (can you imagine?!? What a guy!), and my Aunt Jo for sharing my blog with her millions of adoring readers (!!), and all the people I miss all over!IMG_3358

Bahaha!! Oh Kimberly, you are a wonder. Thanks for ending my day on such a great note xox

The Greatest Gift

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I am one of those immeasurably lucky ducks who is blessed with a truly wonderful family. Case in point: for Christmas this year my siblings and I all drew straws in our first ever attempt at a gift exchange. I drew Brad – easy-peasy – something kitcheny, something to do with Die Hard. Sold. I love that guy.

I was lucky to have had my name drawn by my wonderful sister-in-law Kimberly. What do you give the girl who wants nothing, and is about to purge the little she has in order to relocate to the other side of the world?IMG_2994

If you’re as thoughtful and as creative and as generous as Kimberly, you give the gift of family love from afar. After hearing stories about living away from home for years, she gave me the only things (apart from sunscreen) I would always need. A taste of home…IMG_2993

Some friendly faces…IMG_2991

Some reasons to celebrate…IMG_2998

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And some cheer for the crap days…IMG_2997

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And of course, my personal favourite…IMG_2797

Kimberly, you are a treasure. I can’t wait to explore all the parts of this wonderful gift!!