Georgian kids dig Monkeys

I have a fabulous job. Although I often run around like a headless chicken, and have been known to put my job description as “General mad person” I have to admit that I get to do some weirdly awesome stuff.
I suppose it’s in the nature of the pure randomness of my position that the law of averages has to make doing all of the odd jobs at an ad agency land you a fair number of very different tasks.
Today was just such a case. Yes folks today I had to entertain a twelve year old Georgian (the country, not the town) boy while his mother sat in important meetings in my office. And I must say I am so glad that I was not needed in that important meeting.
So what do you do with a European kid for three to four hours in the Garden Route? Well I took him to Monkey Land.
I grabbed my emergency flat shoes from my boot, tossed my heels into my boot, and off we went.
At the start of our journey this serious young man was discussing politics and economic growth with me, and also the history of his country and their wars with Russia.
But after an hour’s drive and plying him with treats he was ready to take on the forest stroll through Monkey Land. This kid was blown away. Now I have been before, and though it’s beautiful, I must admit that what was really great to see was this little guy chilling out and having fun. He was blown away. The absolute wonder on his face at every new species we came across was priceless.
After a forty five minute tour we spent some quality office plastic in the gift store. He was there, he had had done that, he had to get the T-shirt! (and some random prankish kids stuff)
He was a different child on the journey back. He was singing to the pop on the radio, flashing passers-by with my hazard lights and hooting at people in the stop go.
In the few hours that I had charge of him he transformed from a stuffy middle-aged man in a twelve years old’s body, to a twelve year old boy. He was being down right naughty! Perhaps for many people that would not be an achievement – but in this case it was. I hope he has a great rest of his holiday – and I hope he remembers how to act his age, instead of his mothers. It was one of my greatest achievements, to be sure.
And what an awesome way to spend a morning of work! Gallivanting around the Monkey Sanctuary while my colleges were stuck in the office. I wonder if they realise how much more fun it is to be the professional multi-tasker than any of the more important jobs? I mean sure, I am bordering on under-aged senility most days, but what a rush!

http://www.monkeyland.co.za/

Random Things that made me happy (recently):

♥ Capoeira class of two. We worked forty times harder than we would in a big class. It’s like being under a magnifying glass. It’s really hard but growth and improvement are inevitable. I do believe that is what the proverbial “Getting out of your comfort zone” is all about.
♥ Driving down the road behind a silver bakkie with “just married” painted on the back of it. People still fall in love and get married and ride off into the sunset. What a happy thing. I am so glad that I live in a world where there are still real live “just married” cars.
♥ The little heart drawn onto the bottom of a sticky note left on my desk by co-worker. Formerly the most formidable of co-workers, now leaves me instructions with smiley faces and hearts on them.
♥ coffee pods. OMG. I love the Nespresso machine at work. It’s like a friend.
♥ My ten year old daughter turning her creative writing piece for school into a horror story. The teacher professed to find it “very disturbing” as my daughter is a fairly well balanced individual and the teacher a bit of a prude, I can only take it as a sign of her brilliance that she is already disturbing the comfortable and comforting the disturbed. Genius in the making.
♥ my headphones at work. I love my headphones at work. They are my salvation, along with music, of course.
♥ Tea
♥ Seeing a toddler dancing the funky jive on the pavement the other day, to absolutely no music. She could hear it, she was bopping to the tune in her head.
♥ Coffee
♥ The teenagers at the Ross Taylor Surf contest. They are so earnest! I love teenagers (now that I am thirty) they seem very much more soulful and chilled out these days than they did when I was a kid. We were so angst-ridden! Todays teens are so hopeful and sweet. I love teenagers.
♥ Teaching the over fifty something copywriter at the office how to cut and paste, forward an e-mail, send attachments and (this is the big one) use his Skype.
♥ My son throwing his arms around my neck and telling me he loves me. Don’t get a truer love than that of a four year old boy for his mom.
♥ The “dumb ways to die” video. It always cheers me up. Really! It is so funny!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJNR2EpS0jw
♥The various reactions on peoples faces when my eccentric little car decides to randomly hoot at them. Then they look up expecting to see an angry face and instead there is me, smiling and waving while they wonder who the hell I am and why I am saying hello to them.
♥ The guy who I passed in the car park who then tapped on my window to ask what perfume I was wearing.
♥ Consol glass jars. I use them for everything, and they always make my packed lunch salad look like a designer meal instead of a scraping together of whatever the hell I could find in my kitchen.
♥ The elephantshoe website. Seriously, how cool are these people?
http://elephantshoe.com/
♥ The bushbuck ewe in my driveway when I come home in the dark. I love her, and the Cape Eagle owl who visits too. how lucky am I to live in a country so wild and free?
♥ The beach, and living just a twenty minute drive away from it.
♥ chick flicks. I love them now. I love that I can lie in bed and watch whatever I like at night with no-one to complain. One of the many reasons why being single has made me too independent (and possibly selfish) to bother getting my ass into a relationship again. I love to watch movies and cry my bloody eyes out if I want to.
♥ Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy.
♥ The traffic control guy on the corner near work, He is such a happy guy.

Three witches in the Moonlight

What a special and beautiful natural phenomenon I witnessed tonight!
Tonight I stood watching the rise of the rare blood moon arm in arm with my mother and my daughter.
There was something so magical, so charmed, so witchy about having three generations of females standing under that moon together listening to the little froggies singing. I was filled with a profound gratitude for these beautiful souls in my life. To be able to share a moment like that with them. Wow.
It’s the kind of random, beautiful thing that money just can’t buy. No cliché intended – but it cant, and nor can poverty deprive you of the moonlight.
True poverty would be to see that moon and not realise how lucky you are to be alive.
Sometimes I am struck with these moments of clarity – where I see past the worries and the material things. I see past all of it, society, money, work, success, goals, all of it. And those are the moments when I can breathe.
I remember why life is so valuable, so special. I remember why we are here. It’s to look at the moon. To feel sun on your face and see it’s light through your closed eyelids. We are here to see the ocean stretch out forever at sunrise. We are here to feel the sand under our feet, or the forest floor. I used to have a rule when I lived at forest edge, that I should never walk in the forest with shoes on, because then I wasn’t really there. I n the same way you have to get your feet wet when you go to the beach or the river, so that you were actually really there. Because that is why we are here.
Not to watch calories – but to eat the damn cupcakes! Not to tame nature but to rejoice in it. We are here to experience this beautiful, mind-blowingly fantastic planet. We are in paradise. It’s funny how we forget so much of the time. most of the time, actually. We are here to feel.
We are here to love and be loved, but also to feel sadness, pain, fear. Because they make our experience of Joy, wellness and triumph tangible. I am not saying I want sad things to happen, I am just saying that when they do we should remember that they make our joy even more precious.
Life is precious. This planet is precious. This galaxy full of stars and star dust.
If you have the chance to experience something like I did tonight. Something beautiful and real, that can’t be bought or taken away, then you are wealthy. If you have the privilege of sharing that with someone you love, weather it is a spouse, a parent, a child or friend, you are doubly privileged.
To have been born with the kind of soul that sees and feels all of the beauty in the common places can be anguishing, but is also the only real way to experience life. to be one of the few who manage to keep their souls open and soft even after being hurt, is a privilege. Because although we feel more pain we also see more beauty. More magic. True beauty is painful to witness, you experience it like a small and stab to the heart, but one that you wouldn’t want to be without, much like love.
We are even softer because of our strength. Kindness, gentleness and perception takes strength and courage, and most often comes from over-coming great obstacles. I am so grateful to have a soul that can dance in the moonlight and rejoice in the wonders of the universe. To have the mind of an adult with the wonder of child. And of course a cynical and wicked sense of humour packed in my back pocket for the appropriate moments.
Because lets face it, if sadness can season your joy then a cynical streak can season your wonderment, and a sense of humour is simply essential to life on Earth.

Oh the aged and technology

My mom recently retired. She decided to get an ADSL line installed to keep herself busy. But of course to convince her that the laptop can, actually, really stay set up all the time? Well that is another story! The instinct of the average “over sixty” something person is to cage up such things as lap tops, hiding them in elaborate hiding places, and only pulling the thing out after you have telephoned to let them know that you have sent them an e-mail.
I type these words with confidence as I know that my mother will never read them. The concept of something like a blog is completely alien to her.
She comes from a time when one didn’t air their dirty linen in public. I must admit that it would be nice if more Facebook users took that sentiment to heart!
In fact the idea of Facebook and Twitter are absolutely appalling to my mom. She is a lady, and she will never have a Facebook account!
However, not wanting her to completely waste her retirement (and her Internet cap) I am trying to encourage some gentle accounts. So today I set up a Pinterest account for her, and also a LinkedIn account. Being a professional minded person she immediately understood the value of a linked in account. An online CV? Great idea. But what about Pinterest? (No offence Indulgy and Instagram, but I thought this would be a good first step)
So I set up the account.
“You say I can use it to look for recipes?” she asks me.
“Yes mom, and ideas”
How do you teach someone who is terrified of their PC the joys of browsing through millions of images for beautiful things? That happy place that you go to when you are just cruising through a sea of inspiring and beautiful images? Things that interest and please you?
“Okay”, I tell her, “it’s like a digital pin board of pictures you like.”
“But what for? Why do you have it?” she wants to know.
Just, because.
In case you want to look for an idea that you want to try some time, or something that inspires you a little bit. Why not?! How do you explain this to someone?
Although she happily uses word, excel, Google even, and her E-mail for accounts and even online banking, my mom doesn’t understand the joy of web crawling through a digital wonderland, of cruising through articles and news feeds and following any tangent that grabs your attention. I think that it is something you are just part of or you are not.
I wonder what wondrous new things will have come about by the time that I retire? What my daughter will be trying to teach me to do? Or if those of us who are accustomed to the ever changing digital world will be able to keep up when we are older? I guess we will have to wait and see.
For all that though, I must admit, with my mom around you don’t really need Google. She really does know how to do everything!

Freedom

Oh how I love a long, hard drive.
I love climbing into my car with enough petrol to go pretty far and back again, without an exactly clear direction of where I am going. Load the kids in, everybody fed and dressed for all eventualities.
I did exactly that this weekend.
I finally have my own car again, not my stolen car back, but another little ancient that I bought just last week. This Weekend was the first weekend being in my own car after more than six weeks.
I had an idea that I wanted to go to a little second hand shop in the next town west from us. I thought it would be great to see friends of mine who live there, or maybe another friend who lives one town on from that one. I couldn’t get the first girl on the phone though, and decided just to wing it.
So off we went, The children and I. with a sense of freedom curbed only by our budget. But for the moment we forgot the constraint of things like budgets and rather rejoiced in things like cars, 1800 engines, and the freedom to just head out onto the open road without really minding where we end up or with whom. You don’t have to wonder if it will be good, it is already good. Freedom.
Well we went to the next town, I found the second hand shop I had heard about and found exactly what I was looking for at a really good price!
But of course the second hand shop in Sedgefield doesn’t take card, only cash, so I headed out to the nearest ATM. Who should we see there, walking down the road to the ATM, if not the very friend I was hoping to see! Her phone still uncharged and forgotten somewhere in her boyfriend’s car, she was ever so glad to see us too. So went for tea, and who should appear but the other friend I had been thinking of visiting the next town over! The amazing thing is that although these people are my dear friends, we don’t see each other every day, or even every week. So to all end up spending a luxuriously lazy Saturday afternoon drinking coffee together without any planning at all going into it, well, it was a treat. A joy. The kind of thing that can only happen when you jump into your car on a whim, and is twice as awesome because if it’s randomness.

I almost can’t wait for next weekend, to jump into my car again and maybe drive East this time instead, and see where we end up.

Chopping wood

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water” – Buddah

I am a guys girl, really.
At least I suspect I am. I get a real kick out of doing things for myself that are not typically girly things to do. My favourite of these things is chopping fire wood.
I get a real kick out of chopping wood.
As with many of the best things, the first time I did it was out of necessity. Or was it curiosity? I forget now, it was so long ago. But I know this, I love it.
There is a certain satisfaction in swinging a heavy axe up behind you and dropping it in just exactly the right place on your perfectly balanced log to make it split satisfyingly down the middle. If you have a really big axe, like the one I had in the beginning, you don’t even have to really exert much force. The axe itself is so heavy that if you just swing it up and let it drop in the right place the wood practically jumps apart. In those days I used to have a wood burning stove and I used to chop wood every night.
These days I still have a small fire place, and a much smaller axe. You have to use a bit more muscle with a smaller axe, and a bit more precision is called for. But chopping wood is fun! You work up a sweat. You feel primal, in touch with your ancestral strength. I must admit, when I have just chopped up a decent pile of fire wood for the night, I am the man! Well, I am one badass girl in any case. I think I get in touch with my masculine side. I know girls aren’t meant to do that, but we do, and it’s fun. I do miss my old axe though. I think one of the nicest gifts anyone could give a girl is a really big axe.
When I was a kid my dad insisted that I have a pocket knife, a pop gun and a remote control car. Maybe that’s why today I love axes and driving fast cars. Although I am not much of a fan of guns.
As much as I love the idea of chivalry, of having a real man about the place who does things like this for me, let’s face it. In reality most girls will be much better off being educated in the masculine arts than served by a man. Skills stick when men have buggered off, and a girl who can wield an axe stands a much better chance than one who stood around watching a boy do it for her all her life.
So if you need a bit of exercise with a sense of primal achievement, buy an axe and get bigger braai wood next time.
A word of caution though girls, as much fun as this all is, I don’t recommend chopping wood in heels. Just take my word for it.

Natures list

I love randomness.
I love things that happen out of the blue and that are just so silly, or so “twee” that they make me laugh out loud.
This is a thing that usually happens to me when I am sitting at my P.C. at work in the morning, and the office is deathly quiet. when the most prominent sound in the room is the furious clickity clacking of fingers flying across key boards.
For some reason that is always when something random will take me by surprise and I will laugh and laugh and everyone will look at me funny (that is funny strange not funny ha ha)
It was just such a moment.
I was looking for accommodation for one the directors in Natures Valley. They wanted to get away for the weekend with the family and I volunteered to help find something suitable, seeing as it was a surprise for his wife (who therefore couldn’t be involved in the booking) and he would need some help.
I couldn’t find much on the internet. My trusty friend “Google” found that Natures Valley is not that well documented. At least the accommodations there aren’t. So I decided to go old school. I picked up the telephone (Yes folks, a dinkum land line!) and dialed the yellow pages (apparently this was somehow connected to a book with yellow pages in it – at one time in our history) and there found the telephone (land-line) number for Tourism information in Natures Valley.
I dialed the number. The woman on the other end of the line (a land-line is apparently connected to your ears by strings) answered, informing me that I was through to “the shop”.
I asked if she perhaps had a telephone number for the tourist information center in Natures Valley. She told me that she is also the Tourist information center. I exclaimed my delight at having the correct number and asked her if she could kindly furnish me with a list of available accommodations and similar type establishments in the area. Would she please e-mail me the list? She sounded a little unsure but agreed that she would. I gave her my contact details at work and then she said something that I thought a little strange. She said she would e-mail me the list, but that I would have to wait for her husband to return as he had it with him.
Weird, I thought, but perhaps it’s on their laptop and he has it with him.
Well later that day, when the e-mail finally arrived, it all became clear to me. In fact I cracked up!
I have become so accustomed to dealing with a super high paced digital market place, we order everything on-line, pay for it on-line, Skype chat people in the next room of the same building, send each other links to any new product that we want to try or share. Its all digital. You can imagine my surprise and pure delight when I received, via e-mail, a photograph of a hand written list with the names and phone numbers of the accommodations in Natures Valley.
I hosed myself. I cried tears of laughter. My colleges wondered at me and I simply didn’t have the words, so I sent it to them. They shared my laugh too. We had a good old chortle.
It was not because we thought any less of the sweet couple who sent me a photo of their list. It was because we had this sudden insight into how mad our lives have become, and how simple they actually could be.
It is kind of nice to know that there are places (not far away at all) where we are still in Africa.
Natures Valley is such a perfect, tiny little haven of beach and bush. It doesn’t need or want too much exposure. Why advertise paradise? It’s the hush –hush secret destination that everyone wants to go to. And those in the know will know that it is exactly perfect that its tourist info center consists of lady at the pub / restaurant / superette with a hand written piece of paper with names and phone numbers on it.
I just love it!

Sixty seven minutes

Friday was Madiba day in South Africa.
As all South Africans know Madiba day is the late Nelson Mandela’s birthday. A great man who taught the world a great deal about tolerance and love. I think for most of us he is something of a modern day Jesus. Not that we think of him as a god, but because he changed things, in a good way, for all of us, at his own expense.
Now in the last four years it has become traditional for South African’s to pledge 67 minutes to doing some kind of charity work on Nelson Mandela’s birthday. It can be anything at all, as long as it is for someone or something less fortunate than yourself. It’s a charity day and although it is not a public holiday many South African businesses are starting to recognise the day and give their staff that little bit of extra time out of their work day to do something in their community. Some business even get on board and do something as a group.
I am lucky enough to work for just such a business.
We decided that this year, because Madiba had such a soft spot for children, we would do something for the local children’s home. We convinced our bosses to let us buy enough hot chocolate, milk and mini marshmallows to make all fifty children a mug of hot chocolate. Not something they get to enjoy very often, if ever. It’s been a pretty cold winter and we though they would like that.
That wasn’t the big thing, though. The big thing we did was donate them a computer. Complete with monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers. We got hold of some (legal) free software and loaded it on there. Our 67 minutes were spent setting it up for them and showing them how to use it.
The heroic ladies who run this establishment were over the moon! They were so excited to have access to a computer. Even though they don’t seem to keep any of their records digitally yet, I am sure that they will. What made my day though, was not the ladies. The really great thing was the excitement of the older children.
There was one little boy in particular who must be around 12 years old, who watched the entire set–up process from start to finish. We quickly realised that this little guy was going to be the new computer kid on the block. We gave up giving instructions to the kind aunties and instead showed him how to run the thing. Needless to say he got it immediately. His excitement at the games pack that we loaded on there was the most beautiful and pure type of happy that I have seen in while. He was in his element!
I know that I should be pleased that these ladies will have a computer to keep records on now, and that the kids will be able to use the educational tools to become more computer literate, but what makes me happiest of all is knowing that these kids will have the chance to play computer games. They will have computer time. They might have their daily access increased or reduced according to their behaviour, exactly like most kids do. Anyway we all know that you learn fastest while you’re having fun! What better way for a kid to get up to date with a data orientated society than by becoming an ace gamer?
They were just so happy!
It made such a difference to them, and such a difference to me. I managed to avoid the terrible sadness of their circumstances and be happy that they will have something that is fun, normal, in their lives. I couldn’t help but get caught up in their joy in that moment.
I was also pretty amazed by the remarkable women who run the place. They call themselves the children’s aunties, but really they are the mommies. You can easily see that they love these kids.
Strong, amazing women, and so grateful for every little thing that they have to work with.
I strongly recommend that anyone looking for something to give their lives a little bit of reason, or wanting to get involved in their community in some way, try reaching out to these establishments.
We visited the Dorothy Broster children’s home in Hornlee, but there are so many other similar places in Knysna and all over place.
You don’t have to wait until you hit the big time or get rich to be able to make a difference to these children’s lives. We were lucky enough to have our works behind us, but another friend of mine visited them on the same day and told me how excited these 50 kids were over a single ball that she dropped off along with the toiletries she was bringing them.
A ball costs R16 at the Spar!
Children’s homes should not be sad places. If anything children’s homes should be filled with the most privileged and well looked after children of all, because these are not children with one or two parents to provide for them, these are everyone’s kids. They belong to the entire community.
It made me feel well, happy and privileged to bring happiness to that one little boy. Even if only he is made happy, that’s enough.