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Monthly Archives: April 2013

A letter to an angel

My favourite, favourite picture of you

My favourite, favourite picture of you

My dearest Tiekie

It has been seven long years since I received that dreaded phone call and I still miss you like crazy.

It is every person’s worst nightmare. That urgent phone call to tell you that someone that you have loved forever is no longer there.

We were away for the long weekend, with bad cellphone reception and I left my phone in the room when we went to dinner. I should have known something was wrong when we got back to our room and I saw the missed calls from brother Danie, all the way from London. But I was in an excellent mood, and phoned him back all chirpy, then stopped in my tracks when he broke down crying. All he could say was that you were gone. The next thing I can remember was someone (me), screaming and crying.

Surely, I should have had a premonition? We were virtually like twins? Do you remember how we used to dress up the same and convince the neighbourhood kids that we were twins? I was only slightly taller than you, even though I was three years older. We looked so much alike way back then. And we were closer than most twins. Best friends and sisters.

It took a while to get the whole story out of him. I knew some of it already. You hurt your bad knee (again), coaching netball at school that week and fell down at school, fracturing your elbow. The doctor prescribed bed rest. The 27th of April was a public holiday and your husband took the kids to your father-in-law so you could get some much needed rest. You took the opportunity to send save-the-date messages for Kats’ 6th birthday party two weeks later. I got the sms earlier that day when we were driving to the Kruger Park. I still replied and said that I would definitely be there.

At around 17:00 in the afternoon, you phoned your husband in tears, saying you couldn’t breathe. He immediately rushed home to find you already blue in the face. The emergency services declared you dead on arrival. A blood clot through the lungs. A pulmonary embolism. We were told that even if you were in a hospital your chances of survival would have been slim. But, that blood thinners as a preventative measure may have helped. Or even some aspirin.

Your best friend from school later said you sent her a message in the early afternoon to tell her that you were feeling sick. You were going to take a nap. Nobody knows whether you had pain that afternoon. I wish you phoned somebody, but I am sure you thought nothing of it. You were only 32 years old, after all. All we know is that when you did phone, it was already too late. And my world came crushing down.

You were so loved. You had the most beautiful memorial service. The kids in your class sang a special song. There were friends and family from everywhere there. I cannot remember much about it though. All I can remember is that your two little angels were sitting with me and that my heart broke in a million pieces for them. They were so small. Only four and (almost) six years old. I don’t know whether Antonio knew what was going on, but Katelijne was inconsolable. I will never forget how she asked me to read a story in bed for her that evening. Like her mother used to do.

And I can remember anger. Anger at people’s comments. Like “God always picks the prettiest flowers from his garden”. What the hell? What sort of God will do that? I am sorry, I cannot understand that.

But, the anger has subsided. Your husband married again, and to a lovely girl who loves the kids. But it is not their mother. And whenever I see them I feel sad, sad and guilty that I cannot do more for them.

I think they see me somehow as an extension of you. They are starved for a mother’s love. And as we expected, it is not getting any easier as they are getting older. I wish I could tell you they were fine, well adjusted and have no issues. But I would be lying. They are not doing fine. But they are both seeing a professional and dealing with their loss. What I can tell you is that they are loving, caring kids and that my girls love them to bits. They love spending time together. Anya and Antonio are like a brother and sister.

What I miss most about you is someone to talk to about everything and nothing. Someone who knows everything about me, everything about our shared childhood, about the joys and the pains. And you were always so much better at remembering details than I am. I miss being able to phone you and check with you about who the neighbours in Eloff was, and the name of your friends who were waitresses at my wedding. And to giggle about starting a fire with the embers of our marshmallow-in-a-pot solution in Eloff. And someone to share the memories of dad with.

Probably the last pic of all of us together

Probably the last pic of all of us together

Today, I am writing this letter to you to tell you that I miss you and will always miss you. I miss your smile, the way you would listen to my problems without judging me, the way you cared and loved and laughed.

I wish your children could have known you better. You were such a wonderful mother. And I hope that as they grow older, I can tell them more and more about you and the type of person you were, and hopefully they can aspire towards being like you.

I have so many regrets. I wish we spent more time together. The last time you came to visit, we took the kids to the Montecasino Bird Gardens for an Easter egg hunt, and we all had such a lovely time. We took many pictures, but can you believe we never took one of you and I. The only picture with you in it, is one where a parrot bit the bottom of you pants and we took a picture of the bird, chewing on your pants.

In the last seven years, I have tried to make sure that I take as many pictures of the kids and I, as possible. It doesn’t matter that I don’t look my best. What matters is that our memories are captured. It is too late for you though.

Above all, I want to tell you that I love you. I want to tell you that I am sorry that I have not been enough of a presence in your angels’ life. And I want to tell you that the one positive is that, as a family, we are now probably closer than we have ever been.

The kids all together over Easter weekend

The kids all together over Easter weekend

With all my love

G xxx

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Posted by on April 27, 2013 in Family

 

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Counting the sleeps…

It is finally here!

In just a bit more than a week, I am leaving for Peru and my Inca Trail adventure. I am so excited that I can barely contain myself, so if you’re prone to jealousy, then I would suggest you stop reading round about now..:-)

I haven’t written much about this fabulous trip, except for the fact that I will be hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which I have been exercising for. So, I thought I would share a bit more about the details of the trip.

We are doing the trip through G Adventures, and the official name of the tour is In the Shadow of Machu Picchu. It is a 10-day tour and starts off in Lima, the capital of Peru. Lima is knows as the City of Kings and was ‘founded’ by the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Lima is also known as the Culinary capital of Latin America, and apparently a seafood lover’s paradise. I definitely want to try out some yummy food and maybe do a culinary tour, which is an add-on activity. On day two we take a flight to Puerto Maldonado, on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest. We travel by motorised canoe and take a walk to our lodge in the Tambopata Rainforest Area, an area which apparently holds the world record for the most bird sightings in one area. We will be doing plenty of walking and will be spending the night in a rainforest lodge, with no electricity, so pretty rustic. (Note to self – don’t forget to take lots of elastics and bands for my hair, because the combination of heat, humidity and no electricity is sure to create havoc with my hair!)

On day three we take a flight over the Andes into the heart of Inca territory, Cuzco. Cuzco is the site of the historical Inca Empire and the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city. The elevation is about 3 400m (11 200ft) above sea level. Now, for someone who lives in a city which is about 1 750m (5 700ft) above sea level, the adjustment may be slightly easier but this is still pretty damn high, so I am stocked with altitude sickness tablets that I will start popping round about this time! At the height of the Inca Empire, the Inca occupied territory stretched from Ecuador in the north to Peru and Chile in the south. In 1525 Huayna Cápac, the ruler at the time, died of the smallpox, introduced to the area by the Spaniards, after he set of to investigate the unfamiliar men. His death was followed by a Civil war between his two sons, Huáscar and Atahualpa. The combination of the war and the effect of the smallpox epidemic weakened the empire, and eventually the Spaniards captured Atahualpa (who had by then defeated his brother).

The Inca Empire

The Inca Empire

Legend goes that the Incas collected and paid a handsome ransom of silver and gold for the release of Atahualpa, but they reneged on this once the ransom was delivered. Eventually, Pizarro executed Atahualpa, and instituted the puppet Inca Túpac Huallpa in his place. He died shortly after and was succeeded by another puppet ruler, Manco Inca Yupanqui. But Manco Inca turned on his captors and recaptured Cuzco in 1536. Eventually he was driven out of the city and he retreated into the mountains of Vilcabamba, where he and his successors ruled for another 36 years until the last ruler, Túpac Amaru, Manco’s son, was eventually tracked down and executed in 1572. It is believed that Manco Inca built a magnificent city in the mountains which was filled with all the remaining riches of the Inca empire. For years treasure hunters and grave diggers were searching for the lost treasures and the lost city, until eventually, the American historian Hiram Bingham ‘found’ Machu Picchu in 1911. He believed that it was the lost city and final retreat of the Inca’s, but no evidence has ever been found to conclusively prove this. But before I bore you to death, the purpose of this little history background is to highlight just how special this area and in particular, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is. Or maybe to highlight what a geek I am!

View from the top of the Westcliff stairs

View from the top of the Westcliff stairs

The Inca trail is a 43km hike and stretches over a four days, with the final day spent mainly at Machu Picchu. I have been exercising and am hoping that I am sufficiently ‘moderately’ fit to tackle this trail without passing out halfway amongst the 2 000 steps on the trail. To prepare myself for all these steps I have, on a few occasions, done the Westcliff stairs (two flights of stairs of 400m, consisting of 210 stairs nestled in between the beautiful residential area behind the Westcliff hotel in Johannesburg). The stairs are very popular amongst runners, and in particular Comrades runners. For those of you who don’t know, the Comrades is a 89km ultramarathon and any runner’s dream to complete.  Bruce Fordyce is a legend in South Africa, and won the Comrades a total of nine times, eight of which were consecutive. And, apparently Bruce used to train at the Westcliff stairs. The difference, of course, is that I tend to huff and puff walking up the stairs on my second lap, whilst the runners actually run up and down the stairs. But, I am not running the Inca trail (which you can do, if you like…), so that is okay with me!

hiking_clipartIn addition to training for the Inca trail, I also had to do a fair amount of shopping. Since this is the first multi day hike I am attempting doing, I had no idea what to expect in terms of the actual conditions of the hike. It is autumn in Peru, and as I understand the daily temperatures in the mountains are fairly similar to Joburg this time of the year, but it gets pretty cold up in the Andes mountains at night. And layers are highly recommended for the hike. Luckily, porters will be carrying most of our gear and clothes, so we only need to carry a day pack with water, jackets, camera, snacks etc. Basically, everything that we would need during the day. We are sleeping in tents along the route, so I am stocking up on warm clothes, thermal underwear, a silk sleeping bag liner (who says you cannot sleep in luxury in a tent??). And of course, I could not resist buying all sorts of hiking gadgets and stuff, like a small towel that folds up to the size of a matchbox and a multi purpose buff, that can serve as a hat, arm band, hair band, balaclava and (if you can figure out the complex drawing) even a pirate hat! Harr, harr!

Finally, I want to take some awesome pictures to remember this trip by, and on the few hikes we have gone on, I have quickly realised it is not the best idea to have to stop a whole line of hikers in an effort to take a DSLR out of a back pack to take a quick snap, so I had to find an alternative solution. I finally found a bag that I can carry on a shoulder harness in front of me, so I ordered the bag and the harness and am just hoping it is not too big, so that I can still walk fairly comfortably!

Now, the only thing to do is to count off the sleeps until I finally leave for Peru, via South America, on the 26th of April. And make sure that I pack everything… I am notoriously bad at this part and always forget something, so I am going to do a packing list to make sure that I am not stranded in Peru without a water bottle, or medical insurance card, or hiking socks, or blister plasters, or travel vouchers, or hat, or sunscreen, or gloves….oh my goodness, I think I must start to pack!!

Adios Amigos!

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Travel

 

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All by myself

I REALLY like to spend time by myself, I promise…

Being divorced, my kids go to their dad every second weekend (mostly), which means that I have every other weekend off. Initially, this was quite an adjustment and I often found myself feeling sorry for myself on a Friday evening. But nowadays, I look forward to spending some time with me, myself and I.

Don’t get me wrong, I love company. I enjoy spending time with my friends. I enjoy visiting friends, entertaining friends and I see myself generally as a very social person. I get along well with most people and can enjoy a party as much as the next person.

But, I also love being by myself. Me-time. Some of the things I really enjoy doing by myself are:-

  1. MjAxMi01ZDM3NGNlMzQwZWRjMWM2Reading. I have loved reading since I was small. I still get excited when I walk into a library or a book store. I can vanish and spend hours perusing books, without getting bored. And reading is the type of thing that you generally do by yourself.I had a boyfriend who read to me, and that was really something special, but sometimes I missed my books very much. I cannot imagine myself ever being in a relationship with a non-reader. I would always worry that the person would feel neglected when I have my nose buried in a book and at some stage they would complain and want to ‘do something’, whilst I would be quite happy reading. Of course, I know there should be a balance and I am able to put my book away in the interest of having some human interaction, but it should be a give and take, not so?
  2. Going to the movies. A lot of my friends are shocked when they ask me where I am on a Friday evening to discover that I am at the movies by myself. I can audibly hear them voicing ‘ag shame’. But really, I do enjoy going to the movies by myself! Of course it is something nice to do with a friend or a partner, and I do enjoy sharing this experience, but if you think about it, the bulk of the time is spent sitting in a dark theatre, silently enjoying the make believe world playing off on the big screen.And the advantage is that I do not have to argue with someone else about which movie to go and see, or if I made the recommendation about whether the other person is enjoying the movie!
  3. Lazing around in my pyjamas. I love a lazy weekend morning, where I can sleep until I wake up, read a bit in bed, slop around the house in my slippers, make breakfast and then drink coffee in front of the TV whilst catching up on some cooking programmes I missed during the week. If I have nothing specifically to do on a Saturday morning, you can easily find me in my pyjamas at lunchtime. I probably won’t answer the front door though!
  4. Having a night in. My favourite thing to do after a hectic work week is to go home on a Friday evening, cook something yummy that doesn’t take too long (like ravioli, with pesto, sundried tomatoes and pan fried prosciutto), pour myself a big glass of wine and park out in front of the TV, watching a nice movie. Something that I missed on the big screen, or an old movie that I want to watch again, or something that I don’t think the kids would appreciate.
  5. Indulging myself in a facial or hair treatment. There is nothing to make me feel like a queen than to treat myself to a facial at my favourite spa, with a hair wash and blow afterwards, or to go to my hair dresser/friend of the last 15 years for a two hour colour, treatment and blow wave session. As I get older, I appreciate these little moments of self indulgence more and more, and always imagine myself how I exit from these places looking radiant and oh-a-little-bit-younger.
  6. Writing. This is a newer hobby of mine, but I love spending time, writing something, fine tuning it, picking the perfect pictures and reading some blogs that I follow. I often don’t have time to do this during the week, so it is lovely being able to catch up on weekends.

Of course I get times when I am lonely and my general rule of thumb is that I like to be by myself by choice and not because I have nobody to go to or nothing to do. There is nothing as lonely as sitting at home when you are in the mood to go out and have a party. But I always have a friend or two that I can phone or text and go and visit, so these times are few and far in between. And often, my weekends are so fully packed, that I really treasure the times when I am not busy.

If I know I will be busy on a Saturday evening and a Sunday, then I feel deprived if I don’t get to spend at least a Friday evening or Saturday morning by myself!

So, honestly…next time you find out I am spending an evening by myself, don’t feel sorry for me, ask me what wine I am drinking or what movie I am watching…!

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Single life

 

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Making the best of it

HolidayTravelNThe internet is a great tool. Especially if you want to travel.

Do you remember the days before the internet and email? Booking a weekend away was a whole research project. We used to keep a copy of the Automobile Association’s self catering guide at home and scroll through the Getaway magazines and rely on other people’s recommendations. And when you are a young working adult who cannot afford to pay top dollar to make sure you are not staying at a dump, then it gets tricky.

Nowadays, it is a lot easier and you can do all the research from the comfort of your chair. I also have a little more disposable cash, so that helps a bit. But, that is no guarantee that you won’t rent a dud.

Last weekend was the Easter weekend and we decided to do a family get together. My brother lives in Cape Town so we don’t often get the opportunity to get everyone together, and in fact the last time we all got together was in December of 2007. It has been a while.

Unfortunately, I left it a bit late and by the time I was trying to find a 8 bed self catering unit that I could rent for a weekend without mortgaging my house, choices were a bit limited. But I did a few enquiries, sent a few emails and got a couple of comparative quotes. Eventually, it came down to two quotes and I made the bean counter decision and went with the cheapest one. In all fairness, it was fairly low cost, but certainly not cheap.

So, on Thursday afternoon, I left the office a little early to make sure we are all packed and on our way, in time to pick my brother up from the airport. For a change, this was well timed and he was flying into Lanseria airport, which was en route to our little weekend haven in Magaliesburg. My mother, stepfather and my niece and nephew were on their way from the general direction of Pretoria. All going according to plan, until my brother send me a message to say he missed his plane. Yup! On the day before a long weekend…

For the next hour and a half we were all sort of suspended in mid air (i.e. diddling daddling at home) while we waited to hear if he could get onto another flight that day. The good news came through at 15:30, an hour after his original flight. He managed to get a spot on the 16:00 flight. The bad news was that the flight was into OR Tambo, which meant we had an hour detour to pick him up. So the estimated arrival time at our weekend destination moved from 18:00 to approximately 20:30. Yuk. But at least we would all be together.

In the meanwhile, my mom was phoning in a state of panic, saying they’re lost. Now, there is something you need to know about my mom. She is notoriously bad with anything more technical than an electric kettle. I dread her phone calls telling me that she cannot access her emails, or her 3G card is not working or how to add a person to her email distribution list. Most of the time the ‘turn it off and then turn it on again’ advice sorts out the problem, but sometimes I end up pulling out clumps of hair in frustration. So, needless to say, she does not have a GPS and even if she had one, she would not be able to operate it. So, if anyone out there was thinking of buying her one, you will have to deal with my wrath!

Having said that, I was clueless as to how I was supposed to help her get to where we were supposed to go, without a location. As she clearly had no idea where she was. So I was giving help on the other side of the telephone line, frantically googling names of places she saw as they drove. But ‘Fresh farm market’ will, surprisingly not yield any useful results. Eventually, I asked her if she had the maps application on her BlackBerry. And if she could send me her location. She said she would, but never did. Luckily, after carrying on down the road they were on, they eventually did find the place. One down, one to go.

But, of course this is when she sent me a message to say the place is ‘a very old farmhouse with only one bathroom’. And it was not the content as such, as the tone of her message that alerted me that this may not quite be the iddilic venue we were looking for. In hindsight I should have made her compile an inventory list there and then, as I was still at home and could have taken some essentials such as braai tongs, a bread board and a WINE opener with! Alas…I bundled the kids in the car and set off for our trip to the airport (late….).

When we eventually arrived that evening, it was dark so we could not observe the place’s redeeming features, such as the luscious green lawns, the lapa at the swimming pool, etc. all we saw was a very old house with mismatched furniture that looks like it was picked up at a local dumpster. At least it was clean. I was told that the swimming pool was very green and that we could not use the shower as the house is made of clay and when you use the shower, the tiles fall off. Ever heard of paint? Anyhow, we settled in, used the kitchen counter as a cutting board to make some burgers and laughed at how the day ended up. And started planning our weekend.

In the end, we had a lovely weekend. We relaxed, played Monopoly, cards, Jenga, went for a hike, and ate until we looked an felt like fattened calves. We even had to employ some monkey gymnastics on Saturday morning, because my brother took the wrong keys out of my car, and when we wanted to leave for the hike, we were stuck in the house! Eventually, we found a tiny window that did not have burglar bars in front of them, and my brother had to airlift Anya through the tiny opening to get to the car and rescue us!

I think I will let some pictures tell the story!

Our little rescue agent being airlifted through the window!

Our little rescue agent being airlifted through the window!

Who says hiking can't be fun??

Who says hiking can’t be fun??

After all is said and done, it was great to spend the weekend with family. We never know if we will have the opportunity again, and let us hope it will not be another 5 years!

The whole family together for the first time in 5 years!

The whole family together for the first time in 5 years!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2013 in Family

 

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