Sunday, 31 March 2013

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Call me, maybe

My sister lives in a different city now, my mom isn't home often, my friends lead separate lives which only cross mine on occasion and I don't work so I don't speak to colleagues. Therefore I have no one to talk to in the everyday. I'm looking after our neighbours dogs, so I talk to them. Or to the doves and hadedas in the garden. Well, I don't really talk to the birds, I kind of shout at them to stop shitting everywhere. And hadeda poop is this big black stripe in a sea of white which is really off-putting on your tablecloth or chairs or next to the pool.

On occasion I say "Hello" and "Cheque" and "Bye" to the lady at the gym or the lady behind the till somewhere. But conversation has become a thing of rarity, so when I get to speak to real people I want to flood them with words and hear sentences and things that are happening and listen and speak and have a voice that is heard by a human and not merely by animals.

Sure, my mom phones me and I text/whatsapp/email with others, but not really seeing people and interacting with them makes for quite a solitary existence.

Luckily, there is my grandmother. I am not sure if she is worried about me living alone, or if she has forgotten that she called me the previous day, but I have been receiving daily calls to hear how things are going and when I am coming to visit. Maybe she is afraid I will leave and then one of us will die and then, well, we won't have had the chance to speak in person again. I don't really care about the reason she is calling me, I just like hearing a voice which tells me about silly things like the weather or her garden and asks how I am doing. Dankie ouma :)

Look at this cool cat. 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

You know I need you now

I and the world.
What will I have for breakfast?
What do I want to do today?
What am I in the mood for?
What do I like?

I. I. I.
It's always about me, about how I am doing in my little life.
In an attempt not to become entirely self-obsessed or go stir-crazy, I enrolled for free online courses on Coursera and decided to volunteer at the SPCA or WetNose.

WetNose is an animal shelter where the animals can remain until someone adopts them, meaning that they are not put down after a certain amount of days. The centre is situated between Pretoria and Bronkhorstspruit, but the 15 minute driving estimate that their website gives is very optimistic. It's about 25km from my house to WetNose, and add onto that the R12 toll gate fee. So this is not the ideal volunteer job for a broke person.

Initially I was a bit confused as to what I should be doing, but then I was told that you can either walk the dogs or play with them or groom them. For the cats you can sit with them in their enclosures and try to let them allow you to touch them. For today I stuck to the dogs.

Luckily, there was another lady who was there for the first time, and thus we spent our time taking out dogs who shared an enclosure (most often they are on their own) for a walk and talking about ourselves (haha). In the four hours we were there, we walked 10 dogs, but that doesn't even make a dent in how many dogs there are. Fortunately there are other volunteers and the staff also walks with the animals.

My mom was probably afraid I would not be able to resist and take in a dog or five. But not knowing what the future holds means that it would not be fair adopting a dog now and then, a few months down the line, taking him/her back because I'm moving away.

I know volunteering is all about giving back to the community and helping out when someone is in need, but whereas people mostly choose the role they play in their own life, these animals did not deserve to be categorised as 'unwanted', 'stray' or 'seized'. No one deserves being abused, neglected or abandoned, be it human or animal.

Today was equal parts sad and joyous. It gladdens the heart to see that a little attention can go a long way to providing some happiness for dogs that are cooped up in little cells all day long. But it is also very disheartening to see the amount of animals that have been there for months, if not years. I hope that someone for all of them is found that is willing to adopt them despite not being puppies or pure bred or without issues.

In their song Sit down by the fire by The Veils, the singer says he is "drunk on the sadness of a world unmanned", but maybe the problem is that we feel the need to possess the world, that we need to control all that happens and are then terribly shaken by everything we cannot predict. I mean, I get agitated when the weatherman doesn't get tomorrow's weather right because it either leaves me carrying a jacket or missing one.

But perhaps the world would be a better place if it were entirely unmanned, only animaled. Nature would sort itself out without us ruining it all in an attempt to improve it all.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

I can see a lot of life in you

There's a book series called City-lit, where a city is explored through excerpts from various other books to chart the feeling of a particular space at different times. I just finished reading the book on Berlin, and together with watching 24h Berlin, and my father totalling his car in Berlin, well, the city is coming to me although I am very far removed physically from it.

This waiting around for something, anything, to happen is making me feel like an animal trapped in a cage that it could pimp out and make super comfortable but now cannot leave until a freaking earthquake comes and shatters the bars. Slightly over exaggerated, sure, but waiting for things to happen is not programmed into me. Fuck all the chilling and cleaning and baking and cooking and planning Taaltandem (which takes 3 minutes) because I'd rather be busy.

On the other hand, I know this is the moment to be patient. Pro-active, yes, but patient. Wait to hear from Japan, wait to hear from Goethe, wait to hear from Germany, wait to hear from Sandton, wait to hear. WAIT. WAIT. Ugh. Wait.

Enjoy the chilling, who knows when you can chill again and won't have to get up before 10 AM on a weekday. Enjoy the possibility of nothing. Tell yourself stupid things like this to somehow infuse your life with the tiniest level of importance.

Ja. And in the meantime be thankful for friends like K who keep you in the loop and organise jobs for you and drink wine with you in the cinema because otherwise Lincoln would be unbearably boring and give you Macadamia-nut-butter and help you make a gift for your grandmother and are really great.

So great they make you bake cookies with hearts, from this recipe, which fails a bit but remains tasty.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

I speak because I can

It is a scary thing, speaking a language that is not your own. You don't know what the right words are as your tongue stumbles over unfamiliar sounds and your synapses search frantically to relay information that they have acquired, somewhere, at some point in time, but that you cannot seem to remember.

You are afraid that the others will have learnt the mastery of the language, that they won't make mistakes as you, in turn, take an axe to a language that is supposed to flow beautifully.

Learning a languages means pronouncing words from your mother tongue with a different accent when you don't know the correct word. It means gesticulating a lot. It means nodding and smiling when someone else finally finds the word and you have an 'aha'-moment. It means opening your mouth and stumbling because yes, it does get better. It might even get so good that you won't have to search for the right words, that you won't fall over each grammatical exception and that you might even interject youthful slang like a local.

Speaking more than your mother tongue opens worlds and breaks down barriers because people appreciate others making an effort to learn their native language, even if you aren't extremely proficient yet.

It isn't easy because your brain cannot simply go into Google Translate mode, but all the strain and embarrassment is worth it when you don't have to think what you are saying anymore and the executioner has become eloquent.

Therefore a friend and I created Taaltandem, a page on FB that aims to unite people in Pretoria who have learnt a language or are in the process of acquiring a language and want to practice their oral skills without the confines of traditional classes. It is a free event, about twice a month, where a random group of people get together and chat about their lives. The only condition is that you try to speak whichever language you are learning.

Our second event took place yesterday, and although I was nervous it would be a big awkward flop, every one that came was charming and keen on interacting with so many new faces. Wonderful.

If you are interested, there is a 'like'-button on the right side of the blog or simply search for 'Taaltandem' on FB and join the page to see when the next meeting is.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

When all you got to keep is strong/Move along

One suitcase. I left with one suitcase, my laptop bag and a handbag. I didn't care about the things I had left, it was all about flying towards a future that had to be different from years lived in between.

My sister is moving out tomorrow and thus packing up her room. She has only one suitcase, true, but bags and bags and bags and bags and more bags full of things. Her room still looks full, even with half of her stuff gone already.

It is quizzical how we hang on to things. Tiny keepsakes, objects of remembrance, but also plastic bags and Tupperware that no longer has a fitting lid and carpets that are stained and CDs that are scratched and clothes that can no longer be worn in public. We hang on to bad sofas and creaky beds and tilted tables and uncomfortable chairs and squeaky wheelbarrows. We keep all of this broken stuff even though it neither gives something nor takes anything from our lives. All these objects do is remind us of the tiny little hoarding complex enshrined in capitalist society.

We are constantly encouraged to buy newer, better things to replace the old things that still work. So we are caught in this spiral where we don't want to throw away the old because we don't want to have wasted our money, but then we proceed to buy the new since spending money is fun, even if you have to pay with your Credit Card and the waves of debt are steadily inching up beyond where you can stand.

I, too, like my things. I like my books. I like my earrings. I very much like the new jeans that actually fit. I like the old photo albums. I like my mom's Rosenthal porcelain. I really like my red Adidas. I like my stuff.

But if it all goes away, if I can take nothing from the burning house but myself, well, I'll move along, because they are just things. Some can be replaced, some can be recovered from the Cloud, some might be lost forever.

It won't be all that tragic though. Losing everything does not equate to losing everyone.
I'll still have friendship.
I'll still have love.
I'll have hope.
And, somehow, happiness. Because being happy is not measured in how many objects we possess but in an appreciation for what remains when all else is lost.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The ice cream man is coming

Actually, I went to him.

I had an interview for an interview in Sandton, so I took the Gautrain instead of driving.
Woolworths had a sale and I bought shoes.
When I got home, I had two shoes for my right foot. Highly impractical.

Today, I took the train again to get a left shoe for my right, but the ride was more expensive than the silly pair of pumps, so I tried to justify the entire trip by making it into a shopping spree, except that I have no money. Yay me. After exchanging the shoes, I went past Häagen Dazs (don't go to their website, the flavours are too enticing) for ice cream that I couldn't really afford either, but my very flawed reasoning told me that spending R30 on one scoop is better than, well, not buying anything at all.

Ja. I gawked at all the flavours and couldn't decide for a long while because I WANTED THEM ALL, NOW. Then the guy behind the counter noticed I was there, took my order, handed me my cone and turned around again. No one wanted my money. I waved it around for a bit but got no attention, so I walked away.

Thank you, Häagen Dazs, for giving me free ice cream today, even if it wasn't really your intention. It made my day.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Wildest Moments

I don't jump off bridges or out of planes or fence with crocodiles.
My sister and my cousin think I drive too slowly.
I like being on time.
I don't smoke, or own anything (besides shoes) that is made out of leather.
I like my whiskey with milk, not water.
I like books more than I do Grand Theft Auto (or any video game for that matter).
Motorcycles? Meh.

Basically, I am quite a boring person. No extreme risks, no wild moments, no great need for adrenaline rushes.

When it comes to my hair however, yeah, there I'll pretty much do anything. It grows again. Besides the mullet-stage that inevitably sneaks up on me, well, I quite enjoy having different hair.

This time, I shaved it off and donated my ponytail to Cansa, who hold an annual Shavathon at the beginning of march. If your hair is longer than 22cm and not overly destroyed by bleaching/colouring/blow-drying/etc. they can make a wig out of your donated hair. So that is what I did. (Click here if you feel like sending them a ziplock bag with a ponytail in it. Yay presents for you Cansa).

The cutting of the ponytail was quite liberating somehow. Long hair is not really my thing, so it always ends up in a bun or somehow pinned into submission in any case. This is by far a better use for it. So, dear hair, I hope you can serve someone else better than you did me.

Before (all innocent)

After (so hardcore I have two heads)

Goodbye ponytail. Until you grow again. 

Friday, 1 March 2013

Pho[to]graph Blues

He showed us his Canon 5D Mark III. And the three lenses. And the flash. And showed us how it worked (like I didn't know). And started to show us some of his thousands of photographs. Thousands upon thousands. Somehow we managed to escape the onslaught of imagery that was of no interest to us. I pity whomever gets invited to the endless slideshow that will be "Südafrika 2013 in Bildern".

But this is what distinguishes the digital from the analogue: instead of 36 photographs you get 32GB of data, the equivalent to thousands and thousands of images. We point our cameras at anything that moves, because we can always delete the bad images later (I don't know if you do this, but as much as I like to believe I am an organised person I have yet to sort through all my useless photos).

My mother has two Minolta film cameras, and a friend gifted me an Olympus. Just to find film proved a bit of a mission, because somehow all the camera stores decided to move to other premises and I hadn't realised this. Also, putting in the film was a tiny challenge, uhm, as the first film I shot came out blank because I hadn't done it right. Naturally I blame the stupid useless YouTube videos.

But now, after about a year of practising, all the photos don't come out over/underexposed any more. High-5-ing myself here. And seeing how everything turned out after development is really exciting. Much more exciting than reviewing x images on the small screen of your camera, or downloading them to your computer. Sometimes it is quite fun to follow the hipsters and go all old school. Next up, the pinhole camera.