Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Pity the plight

I had forgotten what it means to actively look for a job.
Writing resumes and updating CVs and googling what a cover letter is and applying for things even if you don't know exactly what a 'copy collector' does.
And then not getting any replies, even though you sent more emails to strangers than you have sent to your friends/family in the past year.

I had an audition for an interview today. Or that is how I saw it, because the interview was at a recruitment agency which then presents your CV, generically re-typed, along with other CVs, and then the client chooses a CV and that person gets to come in for an actual interview.

It is a very strange beast, the corporate world. Very 'the Other' to me, haha. I have always felt more comfortable in a creative, cultural world, felt like it held some chance of belonging.

Now you, like every other woman there, are the length of your pencil skirt, your fake diamond/pearl earring studs, your black fake-leather handbag, your black mary janes, your position behind a desk doing admin. Want mens het moes altyd 'n girltjie nodig wat jou kopie vir jou kan doen of jou foon kan antwoord. This is not Suits, no sassy Donnas or Rachels in hot dresses. It feels a bit stifling, as if anything slightly different to 'order' and 'normal' and 'that is what one does' is this threat. Sure, I am exaggerating, but it bothers me when the summary of a life, already restricted to two pages, is then edited and changed to look like all the others.

I am not all the others.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Classy girls.

Aaaaand today's offering, Plum Jam. 

I like plums. Sweet and cold and juicy. Slightly inferior to a nectarine, but still somehow worthy of poetry. Pick 'n Pay had some organic plums on sale, and by coincidence the Sunday Times had a recipe for plum jam. 

When everything you thought would happen suddenly changes, it is as though you are walking into the ocean, and out of the blue (haha) the waves have washed a dip into the sand and bam! you can no longer stand. Time to sink or swim. 

So making plum jam is reassuring, because although it is a new recipe and could flop, the territory is familiar none the less. And it came out really well. High-5-ing myself for the little achievements of the day (others include washing the dishes or repacking everything in sight). 

The recipe is as follows: 

Simple Plum Jam (adapted from the ST Food section, 17 February 2013, p.6)

1kg red plums, halved and pitted
1kg sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
4 star anise
4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick

Layer the plums and the sugar in a large dish, and leave overnight. 
The next day, place the plum-sugar-mix into a saucepan, and stir over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. 
Add the lemon, star anise, cardamom and cinnamon and bring to the boil sans stirring. 
Here I went full-steam boiling, which was a mistake because part of the jam boiled over. So on a scale from 1-6, I'd stick to a 4. 
Boil for about 40min, and scoop off the bubbly top layer. It's not essential, but the jam looks cleaner later on. 
Drop a spoonful of the jam in cold water, and if it doesn't dissolve it is ready. This method has never worked for me, so I kind of judge the level of blubbly-top layer. If it looks very sticky, like golden syrup, the jam is done done done. 
Then you just fill it into sterilised jars and seal them. 

The original recipe was double as much as I made, although I added more spices. You could also leave out all the spices for a simple plum jam, but this stuff is quite ttttasty. 

Here you can't see it all that well, but with the "bubbly top layer" I mean the whitish stuff. When this gets to be a lot more, you are done. 


Thursday, 21 February 2013


* “Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


Thom Yorke is back, well, with Atoms for Peace. Amok is out end of the month. When you click on this link to the Amok site, the background shifts between images of websites, all somehow linking to Atoms for peace. As the band explains, "wherever fans leave their mark [by including the link to the Amok site] feeds back to the stream, using the whole Internet as an ever-changing visualiser".

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Letter

It was a slow start. I actually thought this would be one of those books that I will pretend to have read when other people start talking about anything more complicated than the Little Prince. However, the Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar were fantastic.

I am at a cross-roads in my life, which at the moment consists of waiting and spending too much time on 9gag. By comparison, Hadrian is nearing the end of his and writes a last letter to his successor Marcus Aurelius. Here he describes his childhood in Spain, his grandfather, how he ascended to the seat of emperor (he gets rid of a throne at some point), how he triumphed in battle and how he ruled the empire. Hadrian also speaks of his love of philosophy, music, art and poetry, and of his appreciation for Greek culture.

I am no expert in the Roman emperors, but Hadrian is remarkable because he does not possess some identifiable hamartia, unlike Shakespeare's Mark Antony or Goscinny and Uderzo's Julius Caesar. Instead, he aims for peace and for people of different cultures to be able to life next to one another without the constant threat of death and destruction. He also recognises that "our great mistake is to try and extract from each person virtues which he does not possess, and to neglect the cultivation of those which he has" (p.47). It sounds similar to Einstein stating that you cannot judge a fish by how well he can climb a tree (or something like that).

Hadrian acknowledges a basic humanity and under his rule the laws pertaining to slaves and gladiators were changed because the emperor wanted everyone, be they Roman, slave or barbarian, to share an interest in having Rome prosper and endure. In the reflections by Yourcenar at the back of the book she writes that she was much influenced by a paragraph she found in a letter from Flaubert to La Sylphide: "The melancholy of the antique world seems to me more profound than that of the moderns, all of whom more or less imply that beyond the dark void lies immortality. But for the ancients that 'black hole' is infinity itself; their dreams loom and vanish against a background of immutable ebony. No crying out, no convulsions - nothing but the fixity of a pensive gaze. Just when the Gods had ceased to be and the Christ had not yet come, there was a unique moment in history, between Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, when man stood alone. Nowhere else do I find that particular grandeur."

This is no easy read, but worth the trouble of getting past the first pages in order to become truly immersed in the story. Sure, it is a bit strange to read a fictional memoir of a Roman emperor from 2 AD and which was written by a French lady in the 1940s. On the back cover the Independent on Sunday is quoted as saying that "Yourcenar conjures worlds. She can make us share passion - for beauty, bodies, ideas, even power - and consider it closely at the same time. She is that most extraordinary thing: a sensual writer."

And to see Yourcenar's words come to life in your imagination is magic.

Ek herhaal jou

Dit is altyd tyd om te gaan, om jou tas met kreukelvrye hemde en iets vir die aand en broeke wat beskerm teen muggies en multi-tasking skoene te pak. En mens moenie vergeet van die boekrak vol boeke en notas wat jy probeer in 'n ander sak te stop teen spyte van die iPad en Google. Die internet weet tóg nie alles nie, veral as dit kom by bokkies en blare.

Jy los altyd vir ons die huis so voorberei as of 'n atoombomb Pretoria sou tref en ons jare sou moes oorlef. Net met smullekker opsies, dis niks blikspaghetti of bone op roosterbrood by ons nie. So ook die versoek dat ek 'n sjokoladekoek moet bak.

Ek weet nie hoe dit by ander mense se families is nie, maar die vrouens in myne is groot op kosmaak. My Duitse ouma het altyd Späztle gemaak met Rouladen en as nagereg was daar een of ander enorme koek. My ander ouma is nie juis so dol daaroor om ure in die kombuis te staan nie, maar soms maak sy 'n hoendertjie, of bederf ons met beskuit en heuning wat sy iewers by 'n padstal gekoop het. Sy is ook die een om te bel as jy blatjang of kweperjellie of enige voedselpreservering wil doen.

Maar die wenner bly my ma. Toe ons klein was het sy altyd baie moeite gedoen met onthale vir al die diplomate. Dit was net tafels gelaai vol pragtige bakke met happies of verskillende koeke of antipasti. As kind het ek die pienk salm-mousse in visvorm of die koue beetsop nie so waardeer nie. Maar vir ons verjaardae was daar altyd wonderlike koeke om na die speletjies (nou die drankies) te geniet, of dit nou 'n kat met 'n snor uit liquorice is toe ek vyf geword het, of laas jaar se drie-lae-sjokolade-mousse-koek.

Sonder my ma sou ons nooit die twee kante van 'n ordentlike fees leer ken het nie. Daar is die ure van voorbereiding in die kombuis, wat soms dae voor die tyd begin. Dan is daar die opskepbakke uit pewter wat sy uit Mexiko gebring het, of dié met die bont groente aan die kant, of selfs die Rosenthal porselein. En moenie van die tafeldoeke en die bordjies en die koffiekoppies (wat my neef gesê het mens nie mooi kan vashou nie) vergeet nie. By 'n ordentlike onthaal moet mens altyd 'n bietjie bang wees om die breekgoed nie te breek nie.

Die kos is natuurlik altyd die hoogtepunt. As almal smul en gesels weet jy al die werk voor die tyd, en al die skottelgoed wat nog vir jou wag, was die moeite werd.

My ma het ons geleer om nie bang te wees vir kos nie, om altyd nuwe resepte te probeer en om daai moeite wat agter elke pragtige dis gedoen word te waardeer. En dit is iets wat ek altyd met my sal dra.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013


On Thought Catalog, I found this list by January Nelson with 25 things one should do before one turns 25. Well. I have less than four months to make shit happen. I didn't agree with all of the points, but here are some valid ones:

3. Minimize your passivity.
4. Work a service job to gain some understanding of how tipping works, how to keep your cool around assholes, how a few kind words can change someone’s day.
5. Recognize freedom as a 5:30 a.m. trip to the diner with a bunch of strangers you’ve just met.
6. Try not to beat yourself up over having obtained a ‘useless’ Bachelor’s Degree. Debt is hell, and things didn’t pan out quite like you expected, but you did get to go to college, and having a degree isn’t the worst thing in the world to have. We will figure this mess out, I think, probably; the point is you’re not worth less just because there hasn’t been an immediate pay off for going to school. Be patient, work with what you have, and remember that a lot of us are in this together.
7. If you’re employed in any capacity, open a savings account. You never know when you might be unemployed or in desperate need of getting away for a few days. Even $10 a week is $520 more a year than you would’ve had otherwise.
8. Make a habit of going outside, enjoying the light, relearning your friends, forgetting the internet.
15. Forget who you are, what your priorities are, and how a person should be.
16. Identify your fears and instead of letting them dictate your every move, find and talk to people who have overcome them. Don’t settle for experiencing .000002% of what the world has to offer because you’re afraid of getting on a plane.
21. Make a habit of telling people how you feel, whether it means writing a gushing fan-girl email to someone whose work you love or telling your boss why you deserve a raise.
25. Quit that job that’s making you miserable, end the relationship that makes you act like a lunatic, lose the friend whose sole purpose in life is making you feel like you’re perpetually on the verge of vomiting. You’re young, you’re resilient, there are other jobs and relationships and friends if you’re patient and open.

I especially appreciate #6. I love my Bachelor's degree, because it taught me how to see the world not merely from one perspective, and thus be able to solve problems in different ways. If this does not work, maybe that will. Linked to the degree are the people I've met at university, the lasting and fleeting friendships, the unforgettable and forgotten nights, the 'Aha!'-moments and the realisation that although I could've become anything, being in the Humanities was like putting on a dress I wasn't entirely sure of for the first time and having it fit perfectly.

Vicious Traditions

At the end of Mr Brooks, Vicious Traditions by The Veils plays as the main character dreams of being killed by his daughter. Or is it not a dream? I can't remember. But the song stayed with me, and the band has remained one of my favourites.

In April they are releasing their 4th album, click the image below if you fancy a free download of their first single. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Post time

Getting mail means someone is thinking of you. I don't mean bills or Pick 'n Pay adverts or the Rekord or letters from charities. I mean the occasional postcard, the letter from your grandmother, the birthday package that comes out of nowhere and makes you smile. In the age of emails and restrictions to 140 characters I like seeing someone's handwriting.

Today I got a postcard my mother sent a year and three months ago (check the date in the top left corner). I wonder what took it so long to get here.

1. 11. 2011

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Baby, you're a firework

Yesterday we joined the Joburg Photowalkers for a date in Old Chinatown because of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Last year we went to the Nan Hua temple in Bronkhorstspruit where the festivities were on a much larger scale.

Last year, it was so much fun. This year, I don't really know. It was loud, messy, disorganized and more for 6-year-old boys than for adults who value their eardrums. The festival was held in one corner of Commissioner street, but in comparison to the vast amount of activities and stalls at the temple this was rather disappointing. If one wanted food, one either would have had to book a table at one of the restaurants beforehand, or one had to queue behind 200 other people. When our hunger did finally overcome our desire not to stand in that queue, there was almost no food left, which meant we paid R30 for rice with a splash of that fake reddish sauce and a ball of chicken hiding in a corner of the Styrofoam container.

The event's flyer announced that there would be a large fireworks display at 21.00, but for the three hours before that random children and old men kept lighting crackers and other bang-sounding things. Initially it was fun, but after the 20th cracker explodes on your leg or next to your ear you really want to make a piñata out of whoever threw that thing and beat the living shit out of them. Then people had the brilliant idea of lighting their floating lanterns, which just ended up crashing into the crowd. And people don't like balls of fire floating towards them.

Although the final fireworks were an hour late, they were spectacular. The sky lit up the way the eyes of a 15-year-old girl  would when she gets asked out by her crush. Only it was 50000 better. Somehow the Chinese also really really really really really really really like Gangnam Style, so after numerous attempts throughout the evening to get the crowd to participate by dancing to the song, the organizers also orchestrated the fireworks to match Psy's hit.

I think it is worth going once, but would rather recommend whatever Nan Hua plans for that year. This was overcrowded and baldy organized no matter how brilliantly the night was lit up.

Sex tea, anyone?

Saturday, 9 February 2013


It is not always easy because we are dependent on circumstance, but to break from what is usual is sometimes just the kick in the nuts one needs to reclaim what is spectacular in your life.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The sky above us shoots to kill

At the Huguenot Monument in Franschhoek, an man in his seventies held what appeared to be his grandson upside down in order for him to smell all the roses. The child was squealing with delight, and the grandfather was smiling, too. A happy little postcard memory.

At Yoav's concert in the Kirstenbosch Gardens, a girl was playing with her mother's hair.

Another little girl told my sister she likes her because she has "dots" (freckles) on her face.

Also at Yoav, one could witness the worried measuring of height in the eyes of a mother turning around to the call of her son's voice and finding him in the branches of a tree.

There is this photograph of the two of us, I am around seven years old, all blond-blue-eyed innocence. I lie against the fold of his stomach, counting flowers, he provides the love to lean on.
That is what it should have been like, til death, not difference, do us apart.

A year and a continent later, he is running behind me as I dart down the stairwell, trying to catch me. My castle is outside, furnished with enough blankets and a high-chair for my dolls to block him from coming in. I reach it in time and build my fort. He paces around in front of it, telling me to come out, ordering me to come out. A dragon in waiting. I won't be fooled. For days we don't talk. Even when it is my birthday I won't forgive. And now, many years and continents and opinions later, well, for months we don't talk and there is nothing to forgive any more because of choices made and lives lived apart.

As children, we search for the hand that will guide us though shopping malls and crowded spaces and won't lose us. We rely on that hand to hold on to the bike when the training wheels have come off but we're still too scared to pedal onwards alone. There is the protective spell of innocence uncorrupted by the bad in each other which life will hurl at us soon enough. There is also the real time protection of parents and family and siblings and whomever is in our lives to guide us.

The best memories are not the presents I got or the places we visited, but rather being treated to a strawberry milkshake at Wimpy by my grandmother because I ran errands with her all day, or my mom driving all the way from Pretoria to Jeffrey's while we were sleeping on the backseat of the Merc, or identifying cars in Geneva's morning rush hour, or building a tipi under the giant oak, or listening to Celine Dion for the millionth time. The best memories stem from being enveloped by love, and not worrying whether or not the hand would hold on.


Friday, 1 February 2013

My happiness

Japan interview, done.
It is intimidating when some of the other applicants have already done the programme, or can already speak Japanese, or have worked for a few years, or are looking really serious in their suits and ties.
It is also intimidating when you walk into an enormous room and see a little white chair in the middle, facing the three men who will be interviewing you.

But then, somehow, it all turned out ok.
They let me talk about multiculturalism and needing to be 'immersed' in order to learn a language and ideas for my Masters and Chris Chameleon and Boo! and Desmond and the Tutus and Japan having too many old people and music videos and Gangnam Style and Disneyland and culture shock and being thrown in the deep end.

Here is also a funny commercial relating to language and happiness: