Tuesday, 26 February 2013

When home is no longer where you think it is......

As some of you know, on the 10th of February my Dad sadly passed away. He was two months shy of his 89th birthday and was a man who had so much knowledge and had done so many different things in his life that I can happily say he lived a full good life. However his sudden passing left me needing to do an emergency trip back home. Home, the place I grew up and lived for the first 29 years of my life, the place I have missed so much.  Half of me was almost happy to do the trip, (not the reason for the trip, but to see the place of my dreams.) So 27 hours of flying and airports (that's just one way) and a 7 hour time difference and then 10 days later doing it all over again to get back to Canada and I feel like I have been knocked on my butt.

I typed some of this while I was there and the rest I have just finished now.

Flying into Africa was a strange feeling. It's like coming home, but I realized almost immediately it's no longer my home. It's the first time I have felt like this, all my previous visits I breathed a sigh of relief to be back in Africa, to be home where things were familiar and life is vibrant and exciting. Now as I pushed my way through the rowdy masses in JHB airport, clinging to my bags to stop a "helper" from forcibly taking them from me while he showed me the way to my next gate I almost had a sense of foreboding.  I know my visit was not of a pleasant nature which may have had an implication on my mood, but things felt so different this time.  I made my way to the boarding gate for my last of the three flights, a short 50 minute flight to Durban, there was no plane at the gate and people looked confused.  I took a seat and joined them.  A pilot sat down next to me and then as we are about to start boarding they announce that they have changed the gates and we need to get across to the other end of the gates to board now.  The pilot shakes his head and says to me, "Jhb airport couldn't organize a piss up in a brewery"  and tells me not to rush with the rest of the people, the plane is not leaving without him.  Welcome to Africa.

I guess by the time I arrived and cleared customs I looked travel weary, I was jet lagged and my back was in pain from a skating fall I had had a few weeks earlier, the customs guy looked at me and said "long flight? - never mind, you're home now". It Made me smile, but at the same time I knew my home was thousands of miles away in Canada with my kids and DH.

Below are a couple of random observations both good and bad from my trip to share.

Umhlanga Lighthouse - Photo by: Jen
Durban is HOT and HUMID, I nearly melted....I could not survive that long term, I was almost longing for -20c note I said almost!

There is nothing like the smell of the earth when it rains in Africa, especially after a hot day. It brought a tear to my eye when it rained the first day and the overwhelming smell hit me, I sat outside on my Moms patio and breathed it in.

Newspapers in SA are depressing. It's only local news, and most of the reports about the crime in the suburbs do not even warrant reporting on. Except for the sports pages, where local and some international sport (mostly European) is covered, it's all about violence and politics.

The food is exceptional. Even from the moment I climbed on SAA, the food was wonderful, SA'ers truly know how to eat. I am typing this while still here and I have no access to a scale, but I know I have gained weight and loved every minute of it.

I craved biltong (it was amazing) I craved a jam donut (it was a disappointment- I threw half of it away). I ate the best steak ever.

The lack of cable internet drives me crazy, even using my brothers ADSL line for dedicated access was slow and not like I am used to.

I did not feel safe. We walked across to the shops and I had the sudden thought that I should not have my bag with my iPad and wallet and phone over my shoulder.

I got used to driving a stick shift on the wrong side of the road and within 24 hours felt like I had been doing it for years.

Mosquitoes love me, does not matter the country, I am the one in the room that they will bite.

Biltong cream cheese is one of the best things ever made

It was amazing to see old friends, there are some people you can just pick up with where you left. It does not matter if it's been 7 years or 20 years.

I love the fact that they serve Coke Zero in restaurants, I missed bottomless soft drinks though.

Alcohol is cheap.

Having packers when you go through the checkout at grocery stores makes your life so much easier

Monkeys are cute

Loved the exchange rate, it was a pleasure being on the right side of it for once.

Clothing in the stores mostly sucked. What is up with the fashion sense there? It was either hippiesh 70s style or neon late 80s. I dont care if that is coming back...I am never going back to the 80s. And skirts that are short in front and long at the back are stupid.

I made a note to myself to open a bank account in my own name with some money in it. If your spouse dies and you need cash when all the bank accounts are frozen it's a problem. Especially when the funeral home demands payment on the spot....so much so that they will follow you to the bank and wait outside for proof of payment.

Having to drive with your handbag tucked under your legs out of sight is a pain, as is having to lock your car doors, take the gear lock off, the steering wheel lock off, de-arm the immobilizer, and have cash on hand to tip the car guards that patrol every parking lot.

Hibiscus Flower - Photo by Jen
Nothing can compare with the lush green and vibrant colourful flowers in a tropical climate, it is beautiful.  Made worse for me by the fact that at this time of year everything in Canada is white and grey and slushy!

The first time I really felt homesick for SA was the day before I left. We spent the day walking along the beachfront and sitting on the sand watching my nephews swim. I miss the ocean, I miss hearing it I miss watching it, I miss diving in it.

On every previous trip I have felt sorrow leaving, I felt like I was leaving a part of my heart and soul behind, I did not feel that this time. I was looking forward to getting home, home to DH, home to my kids, home to the monster dog, and yes even home to the snow. Don't get me wrong, a part of me will always belong to Africa, I will always support the sports teams and I will always love and miss the country, I was born there, I grew up and became me there, it's just that I realize now that home is where your family are, and for right now, home for me is Canada.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Things I have learned being a mom.

You will always think you are a failure....and yes there are things you suck at. I suck at reading with my kids, I know I should sit and do it every night, especially with Princess as she is not a good reader, but it is so frustrating! The thing is, although you are a failure it's important to look at the areas you do well in. I give them a loving home, they eat well, veggies and fruit are in their diet every day and they don't eat a diet of crap, fast food and take out. That's got to make up for the reading right? So I guess they will be healthy illiterates ;)

Taking your kids to extra mural activities is a pain...but there are benefits. We do MMA three times a week. It's a mad rush in the evenings to get dinner down, get dressed and out the house, it means leaving a plate of dinner to be rewarmed for DH when he gets home. The benefits, healthier kids who know how to protect themselves and are learning some good discipline skills. And yes ok, I'll admit it's not such a chore as I thought it would be, there is another benefit, there are young well built men rolling around the floor training the kids....need I say more?

You can't change who you are just because you're a parent. I tried not swearing and being a good role model, it sucked. So yes, I swear and I'll admit I have been known to have the odd drink while they are around, and I most certainly have fun with my friends all with my kids around. The outcome, my kids don't swear, but they do know every swear word (well almost every, there are maybe two that I can think of that don't get said in front of them). The plus side on this, when they hear someone swear outside the home, or on tv, it's not a big deal to them, they are not shocked and horrified. They know adults (and some younger kids who are trying to show off) talk like this and they don't care. They also know that if they say any of the words they will reap the consequences. In the long run we will have to see, but I often wonder if the age old stories of the pastors kids always rebelling and the rebels kids turning out to be good, have something to say, and if nothing else by the time they are adults my kids will be able to cuss like a sailor.

I think the biggest thing is if the kids are happy, healthy and well adjusted, and know whats important in life you are doing an ok job, no matter how you are raising them.  Also remember there are parents who suck at this far more than any of us!