Privilege

In one of my local Hout Bay Facebook groups there is an on-going debate about the term ‘privileged’ and what that actually means. It is sometimes used as a divisive term in regards to race. It is actually more related to financial status as many white people are also poor. The primary difference that I see is that there are very few white people who live in shacks, where as there are millions of blacks who live in shacks.

IY-The-Old-768135.jpg

Image credit.

Based on statistics published by the Housing Development Agency (HDA) in South Africa in 2013 (the most recent I could find), the number of households living in shacks has increased at a rate of 4.5% per year. In terms of total households, Census 2011 indicates at total of 712,956 households living in shacks in backyards, compared to 459,526 in 2001.

stats SA

This varies across the various provinces in South Africa.

stats by province.JPG

Consider that in each shack you could have anywhere from 2-6 people living in them and you start to get an idea of the number of people who live in shacks.

stats by number_gender.png

For me the saddest statistic is that Census data indicates that there are just under one million children under the age of 18 who live in informal residential EAs accounting for 5% of all children in South Africa.

This analysis is based on Census 2011 data and I know for a fact that this data was incorrect. We know that to get an accurate Census of the counts of people living in shacks when they are often out working during the day or they may be of an illegal immigration status and unwilling to disclose personal info is near impossible. Aside from census data, the HDA analysis is supplemented by other survey data sources including the 2010/11 Income and Expenditure Surveys as well as the General Household Survey from various years. However as an analyst, I know that your outputs are only as good as your inputs. Dodgy data = dodgy analysis.

It is harder to find stats on informal settlements divided by race. The best figure I can isolate is that just 7,754 white households lived in informal settlements. This is extrapolated to estimate that 31,000 white people live in informal settlements.

So when defensive white people throw out the ‘my family was poor’ argument they are being somewhat disingenuous. The majority of whites in South Africa have no comprehension of the levels of poverty and lack of opportunity that shack dwellers experience.

Shack dwelling generally means that you do not have running water or electricity supplied to your shack or other amenities that most of the world take for granted.

stats acces to services.png

I was reflecting on my own privilege one morning this week when driving to work. I accept that I am privileged. I wake up in a warm, dry bed. In a home with a solid door and windows to keep out the elements and hopefully any unsavory people I do not want to wake up to in my bedroom. I shower with piped in heated water, available at the turn of a tap (albeit restricted amounts due to the drought). I choose from my closet full of clothing and shoes to decide what I want to wear. I take a lunch of healthy food with me to work. I get into my relatively new car which gets serviced regularly and I drive to my high paying job which has parking on site so that I do not have to walk into the rain. I am treated with respect in my work environment and have a certain level of control over what I choose to do and when. If I have health issues I make an appointment to go to the doctor and it is paid for by my medical aid (which I can afford to have) and I get paid sick leave from work. At night when I get home I have a supply of ready cut firewood which is delivered by the truck load to my home and I can start a big fire in my fireplace. I have 5 pets who are fed the best food available and which I can afford to take to the vet whenever they have a twinge. If we have a busy day we can afford to go to a restaurant or get a take away. Otherwise we can afford to buy the best food to cook and eat at home.

I thought about how grateful I am for all of this as I drove past people walking in the dark, enduring the pouring rain on their journey to what is most likely a low paying job. People who had probably spent the night sleeping in a shack which might have leaks and drafts of ice cold air keeping them awake, who if they wanted to wash with hot water had to go to a standpipe to get the water, bring it back to their living area and heat it in order to wash. People who most likely did not have any breakfast, but who if they were lucky, might be given a bit of toast and margarine before they start their day’s work. People who work at what may be a very physically exhausting job for an entire day for about what I get paid per hour just to sit on my arse doing analysis and writing reports.  People who have to suffer with any pains or ailments they have until they can get the time off to go to the free clinic for basic treatment, but will miss a day’s pay. People who may have only a few items of second hand clothing to wear, yet always look clean and well dressed.

It made me count all of my blessings and to be grateful for all of these things. It made me aware of my privilege.

Some people say ‘but I worked hard and sacrificed to get to where I am’, however the difference is that my parents could afford to educate me. I had books to read as a child and I had opportunities.

I cannot deny my privilege however I am not defensive of this nor do I carry guilt about my circumstances. I have had hardships, after my divorce from my first husband I had nothing. I worked as a waitress and I endured abuse from drunken idiots who came into my workplace. I survived off of the food they gave me at work. I struggled. But my way out was to move to a bigger city and fall back on my University degree. That led me to become self sufficient and financially stable again and when I met Norman and emigrated to the UK I was able to get a temp job which eventually led me back to SA where I have specialist skills which have allowed me to get the job I have now. Part of that was due to my drive and determination but a lot of it was opportunity and some of it  of course was destiny.

I count my blessings every day.

 

 

 

Thou Doth Protest Too Much

Navajo has still been struggling with his ear infection and as a result is not sleeping well. This means that none of us get any sleep as he sleeps by our bed and he is so restless. He went back to the vet this week for an ear cleaning and injection and is now also on tablets for the inflammation as well as the ear drops. We had to buy a muzzle to put on him when we put the drops in as he tries to snap at us and growls the most terrifying growl.

After waking at 4am from Nav I was a zombie on Wednesday and had a busy day at work so when Norm offered to cook us dinner I was so grateful. He did Banting food and wrapped chicken breasts in bacon, steamed broccoli and stir fried baby zucchini with mushrooms. He grated sharp cheddar to top the broccoli. It was delicious.

wed chicken2.png

While at the client site on Thursday we had a message come through that the protests had started up again. We have now had weeks of on-again, off-again protests which originated with people protesting the living conditions in the shacks which the government have arranged for them after the recent fires where 4500 informal houses were destroyed by fire in March‚ leaving 15000 people homeless. These conditions are not fit for humans to live in. They are in tin shacks which have no electricity or running water, only communal showers and long drop toilets. The field they live on is a flood plain and after months of drought the recent rains have resulted in the floor of their shacks being full of water. It is freezing cold at the moment and it is really unsuitable.

An update was posted onto a local Facebook group, Hout Bay Organised and the first post made at 11 a.m. advised us that “anti land invasion forces along with SAPS were removing illegal dwellings by court order in Dontse Yhake (DY). Apparently stun grenades have been let off to disperse crowds.

A court interdict has been in place and residents that have erected illegally and who are preventing the implementation of much needed infrastructure have been made aware.
Very large police presence containing situation in the DY area above IY. All main roads remain open. Hughenden Road is closed.”

I live off of Hughenden Road so this was rather worrying. I did not know if I would be able to get home. As Norm is part of Neighbourhood Watch I messaged him to find out what was going on and if our house was at risk but he did not reply. I found out later he was on the other side of the mountain having lunch with a friend. Later after he came home he told me the roads were clear but there was still a heavy police presence.

A house was invaded near the gates at DY and there were Nyala vehicles in place to deal with any further riots but they were being stoned and various battles were on-going between police and protestors.

nyala.jpg

We read about children being subjected to tear gas from within their shacks, as the shacks provide little protection from any outside elements. It was heart-breaking to read about the innocent being caught up in this chaos that was being perpetrated by a few.

protests.jpg

Friday morning we woke to read there had been a night of violence in Imizamo Yethu. The ANC offices were torched and a community leader’s home was attacked, various businesses looted, and a young person was shot dead.

This is the second death due to these protests. Earlier this month, a probe was launched into the death of Imizamo Yethu resident Songezo Ndude, 26, who sustained head injuries during clashes between police and residents.

We heard that they cleaned out the Somalian shops and burned all the containers on the Main road in IY where the businesses operate from.

We then heard that the people who were behind the protests were the slumlords who had paid the local meth addicts to cause havoc and torch the buildings.

We also read that a body was found in the streets of IY. It was a 19 year old young man named Siyamthanda Betana and he was murdered in the cross fire of the shooting. He was at a friend’s house when he heard a noise. He went outside and was shot.

student murdered

His family are devastated and one of his former teachers has offered a reward to anyone who has information about his death. Everything I have read about this young man has said he was a clever, kind and talented young man. This is such a tragic waste of life.

All of this seemed to happen predominately under cover of night as do most acts of cowardice. During the day it seemed to get relatively calm however we saw a heavy police presence when we ventured out on Saturday morning.

Friday night we stayed in to avoid any potential conflict with the chaos. When I got home from work I built a big fire as it is so cold. I played games on my iPad and indulged my addiction of home improvement shows. I cooked a banting dinner for the three of us as Caitlin was at home. I made pork chops & free range chicken sausages with roast veggies and steamed broccoli.

I had bought a new device for streaming which arrived that day and Norm spent the evening setting that up so we can watch telly from our bedroom. We love spending the morning in bed with the pups and endless cups of frothy coffee on weekends.

Saturday morning our gardener Mzudumo arrived early and said that he had not slept all night out of fear that his home would catch fire if they torched the area community leader who has a shack near him. The drought has meant our garden is barely growing and we cannot wash our cars so we asked him if he would mind going to Caitlin’s new flat and helping Cait with sanding the base boards which need to be repainted when she puts down her new floors. He is just happy for the work and it meant he was inside on that cold day rather than outside in the garden so he was agreeable with the change in routine.

Norm and I first went off to look at bathroom fittings as that is our next home renovation project. We needed something to eat and so we popped into the Earth Fair Market in Tokai.

earth market

We spotted Gail’s Kitchen, a trader who was selling Banting products.


We grabbed a chicken sandwich, an Origin coffee and a table out in the sun.


Norm got stuck in. The bread was divine!! Normally banting products can be very dry and tasteless but this bread was moist and tasty.


We decided to buy a couple of bite size quiches, a loaf of bread and some tiny carrot cake muffins to take home.


We finished our bathroom ideas shopping at the places nearby the market and headed off to Caitlin’s flat, stopping on the way at Mr Price. I needed a basket for carrying wood from the garage to the fireplace. They had several and I found the perfect one.

basket.png

I also bought a new tin to keep my coffee pods in.

I found a clock for my newly renovated kitchen which goes perfectly with the cupboards we have installed.

We went to Caitlin’s flat and Norm pottered about helping her remove nails from the floor and walls and rehung her cupboard doors which were a bit skew. We hung around until Mzudumo was finished at 3.30 and we drove him back to Hout Bay as Caitlin stayed to continue working on the flat.

We were off to our friends Alison and Andy for a spit braai that evening and so Norm walked the dogs and we showered and headed off. Our friend Retha was also there so we had a lovely evening chatting to friends and hanging out.

img_7256

We had heard at one stage of the evening that chaos was happening again in the township but none of the security groups was posting any thing new, but still we did not want to stay out too late and we headed home about 10ish.

The next day Caitlin went hiking but Norm and I had a pyjama day, I cooked a big pot of spicy tomato, sweet potato and carrot soup and we built a warm fire. A perfect lazy chilled out Sunday.

We watched the film Going In Style with Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and Michael Caine.

going in style

It was a perfect lazy choice and was a funny film. We really enjoyed it and give it 4 Kitten Stars.

The peace seemed to be across our valley as we read that finally there had been a Peace deal reached in Imizamo Yethu.

I hope this means that the re-blocking and building of more suitable homes can carry on and that the protests will cease.

Today I worked from home in the morning and I am currently at the hospital with Caitlin who is having minor surgery. Please send her your healing prayers and hopefully we will be at home soon.

Enjoy your week. xx

Lucky Kitten & The Birthday Bao

Last night Norm and I tried a new venue to celebrate his birthday. I had just planned a quiet dinner for us two as I had thrown him a small drinks evening at our house on Sunday and invited all of our friends. I knew we might be a bit tired on Monday as a result and I had work all week so I did not plan anything too raucous.

I did not tell him where we were going until I needed to direct him into their car park. We went to Lucky Bao Bar which is the sister restaurant to Cheyne’s which is located directly next door to Lucky Bao.

baosign

Both are owned and operated by Cheyne Morrisby, who in my opinion is a culinary genius. I had wanted to go Cheyne’s but as they have a winter special on in July it is booked solid! However I am very pleased we went to Lucky Bao as it was a fabulous evening. We were the only people when we arrived.

bao us2

Norm ordered a glass of wine on arrival but I opted for a cocktail. It was called Buddha something or other and contained Vodka and lime and passionfruit and all manner of nice things. I did not take note and cannot find their cocktail menu online.

bao cocktail2

To start off I had the Chicken Yakitori which is chicken skewers in a peanut butter and coconut cream sauce. There were 5 skewers of chicken breast which was more than adequate as a starter. The chicken was tender and the sauce divine.

bao yakitori2

Norm had the Belly Bao: Grilled Pork Belly, soy, maple and sriracha.

bao pork bao2

He really enjoyed this. I had a wee nip of the bao and it was soft and tasty.

For his next course Norm had the Lucky Wagyu Burger. It has bacon, cheese, a spicy sauce and wagyu beef and is a generous serving. The pic of our burger is on the left but it was quite dark so I nicked the lovely pic on the right off of Lucky Bao’s Facebook page.

He had it with the Lucky Slaw. It contained mandolin sliced root vegetables in a green chili mayo.

bao slaw2

I had the Korean Fried Chicken which was really lovely. There were 3 large pieces and it was ever so crispy, almost like it was coated in cornflakes. It came with a dip. I do not know what the dip was as I cannot find their full menu online. Whatever it was it was nice.

bao korean chicken2

I also had the Gyoza which are little dumpling type items filled with a saucy short rib in a little pastry type casing and it came with a spicy sauce. I loved this dish.

bao rib2

We shared a bowl of Nori dusted fries served with Bullseye sauce. It was nice and spicy.

bao fries2

I had my eye on a dessert and fancied the tempura banana with peanut butter ice cream but I was just way too full to have dessert. I was a bit of a piggy but I was starving and it was all so divine.

The staff were very friendly and you watch them cooking the food right in front of you. It got a wee bit smoky so they had to open the door but it was a freezing cold night and it could not remain open. In summer it will be fab to sit outside on the balcony and enjoy the food in the night air. We will certainly be back, we really loved the experience!

I give The Lucky Bao Bar a solid 5 Kitten stars.

5 Stars.png

When we got home Caitlin was back from pulling up the carpets in her new flat and we gave Norm the presents from the kids. They got him a pot to go on the braai to keep meat warm and a new briefcase for his laptop.

Norm presents

He is wearing one of the shirts I gave him, I gave him 2 dress shirts and a pair of comfy track suit bottoms. He was very happy with his presents and I was very happy with our evening. Happy Wife Happy Life Happy Norm!

 

Nature or Nurture

I have read a few things about Virgos this week which made me ponder how much influence your star sign has over your personality traits and how much is environment.

Virgos are notorious for our organisation. As a child I read a book which really stuck with me. It was a very old book which I found on my Grandmother’s book shelf. It was called Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.

peppers.jpg

I was an only child and to amuse myself I read voraciously, I read pretty much any book I could get my hands on (some of which were entirely inappropriate for a child which is possibly why I have so many issues now lol). I even read her encyclopaedias. I was fascinated by many aspects of this book. I found the concept of so many people functioning in a tiny house quite bizarre as a middle class only child. My Grandmother’s house only had one bathroom but by the time I was spending a lot of time at her home not many people lived there full time. My cousins and I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, myself in particular as I grew up in the house next door to her. The Peppers had a regimented routine which was timed by Mr Pepper and functioned in an almost military like precision.

I liked this idea and I still have a Bathroom Routine which I follow meticulously and if I get off track of this routine then I will generally forget one of my daily tasks. My routine is Virgo analytical and based on the least repeat actions and optimal process flow. After I shower I brush my teeth, that way if I drip toothpaste it does not get onto my clothing. If I wash my hair I put on my leave in conditioner or hair oils as soon as I am out of the shower while my hands are still clean of  other products which reduces the amount of water and time I waste on repeated hand washing. I put on my face cream then leave it to ‘set’ while I apply my body lotion. This stops your face being shiny and oily and leaves my body lotion time to soak in while I apply my make up in the next step and it avoids the body lotion being wiped off by my clothing. Then I put on my clothes and lastly I dry my hair which allows my hair time to air dry as much as possible (thus saving electricity as well as time and hair damage.)

I find routines give me a feeling of comfort and calm. Lord knows I need all the calm I can get in my life as I am a complete stress kitten full of senseless anxiety.

Recently a friend sent me a Ted Talk video about the Philosophy of Stoicism which I found fascinating.

It basically discusses how our reactions to events are the root of our emotions, not the actual events themselves. In a kind of ‘we choose whether to be happy or sad’ sort of way. That whether a situation is stressful or not is down to how we choose to react to that situation. Personal Mastery.

suffering.JPG

Norm is very good at recognising whether my reactions are based on current situations or whether they are ‘triggered’ by my tumultuous past.

The video also describes how we can strive for self improvement through the 4 Cardinal Virtues.

4 virtues

Nelson Mandela was influenced by the study of these principals. I suspect this is where he made the decision to lead through peace rather then the methods which had gotten him imprisoned.

I found this concept very interesting and it gave me some goals to strive for in my own personal growth where as my husband is high on these scales. He is a natural born leader and is excellent at communication and staying calm. (Most of the time.) He stresses over things I find silly, such as cooking, as he does not feel confident in the kitchen. However he can stand in front of a thousand people and confidently present or speak to them. That situation would make me physically ill.

However my Mom and my husband are both Cancerians and while my Mom is great at engaging on a one to one basis I cannot imagine her speaking to a group of people in a professional capacity. So how much is nature and how much is nurture?

It makes one think. But then I think too much.

Last week was a busy week. We returned from our anniversary trip  last Saturday and then on Sunday we relaxed as we were rather exhausted and it was cold and dreary outside. I made a huge fire and a big pot of chicken curry for that night which then did us for a few lunches during the week.

I went back to the nurse last Monday who says my blood pressure is still high. It may be diet related as we did not stick to low carb eating while we were away. I then went for a follow up at the ENT on Tuesday and she told me my ears are still full of fluid so I am back on different meds. I only go back in a month’s time.

Norm took Navajo to the vet on Tuesday and he also has an ear infection, he is not very happy at the moment and is rather moany and groany so hope the drops help the poor baby.

Wednesday Norm did a shop for me as he was going to be away in Gabarone from Thursday morning until late on Friday and it is difficult for me to get to the shops, deal with the animals and still take Cordelia home on the days when she is working for us.

Thursday night I cooked chicken breasts in spinach and coconut cream and served it with corn on the cob and fried zucchini left over from my lasagne which I also made that night. It was a short cut low carb lasagne for me and Caitlin to have on Friday while Norm was away. I made my normal meat sauce but instead of slicing the zucchini into long strips lengthwise to mimic lasagne noodles (which takes ages) I just chopped it into little round disc shaped slices and popped a layer of those on top of the meat and then topped it all with mozzarella. It tasted just as good and saved on the faffing with slicing the zucchini.

lasagna.JPG

Norm had some travel issues and only arrived home after midnight on Friday but I waited up for him as I was very happy to see him.

Saturday we were up early as I had an appointment at the chiro for myself and Pixie so we toddled off to Noordhoek for that. Our appointment was at 9.30am so we were back home by 11. I had invited friends around for Norm’s birthday celebrations on Sunday so I showered and headed out to the shops to buy party food and Norm’s presents. I was starving so I stopped at Woolworth’s to have some breakfast. I had their eggs benedict and added some bacon to it.

woolies egg

They are usually really slow there but they were on the ball and I was fed and off on my way quickly. I did a huge shop of snack type food. I used to do proper cooking when we entertained but then I would spend all day on my feet cooking and end up tired and if I am faffing with food service I can’t relax and enjoy it so I decided to do all finger foods.

Norm spent the day Saturday painting our new kitchen. He did the ceilings and the walls around the cupboards. Now he only has the dining room left to finish. The end is in sight! Our next project is the upstairs bathrooms but we are not sure when we are going to start that project but I am putting away money each month to fund it.

As Norm was busy painting and it was pouring with rain we decided to be lazy and use OrderIn to get takeaways. Norm normally hates using a delivery service but there was just too much going on for him to pop out and I cannot drive at night so I persuaded him to use OrderIn. We ordered from a new place as saw on their menu that we could get low carb food. We chose RT’s Pub & Grill. We got the usual email saying our food would arrive in 45 minutes. Usually this is an over-estimate with OrderIn and it arrives in half an hour. However after an hour I received a call from OrderIn to apologise that they were running a bit late and it should be there soon. After an hour and a half had passed I received an SMS to say it was on it’s way but then I got an SMS asking me to rate their service which usually arrives after the food has been delivered so I phoned them back to ask what was going on. The guy on the phone was rambling nonsense at me, first saying the driver had been in an accident, then saying that the food was not ready and he would have to phone the driver and phone me back. I waited another 15 minutes and I phoned back to the call centre and got a different agent who slagged off the first agent saying he ‘wasn’t surprised he did not ring back’ and implied that he is not very good at his job. He then said HE had to phone the driver and he promised to phone me back. I was raging by the time. He phoned me back in about 10 minutes and said that the delivery guy had been almost at my house, but then the restaurant had phoned to say they had given him the wrong order and he had to go back. This all reeked of utter bullshit. The food eventually arrived after over 2 hours. It was ice cold. I was so angry I gave them a 1 star rating and tweeted how poor the service was.

I then got an email saying they will credit my account. I have not seen it reflect as yet but they said it might take a few days. Norm will never order from them again. I was so disappointed as it is a life saver when he is away and I have to feed me and Caitlin with no shopping in the house. It was also a shame as I think the food would have been fine if it was warm.

On Sunday we were up early getting the house cleaned for Norm’s birthday drinks. We are both pack rats and end up with piles of books and paper and all sorts of crap piling up. Norm also steam cleaned the tile floors.

We had invited everyone from 4pm as it was a Sunday we knew every one had work the next day (including me!) so we started early.

I made devilled eggs, fried some little free range chicken chipolattas, and put out fresh bread, a cheese board, nuts, crisps, popcorn, dips, some veggies with dips, olives, crackers, jams and all sorts of nibbles. We stocked the bar with spirits and had a cooler with beer and cider. We had various bottles of red wine on the bar and plenty of white wine in the drinks fridge.

Once people started arriving I turned on the oven to heat up the frikkadels (meatballs), chicken and cheese meatballs, and the chicken samosas I had bought at woollies. They were tasty and so easy to prepare.

party food

Our house is perfect for entertaining now with all of the counter space in the new kitchen as well as the new bar area. Downstairs is all open plan so people could gather in various areas and still mingle about and be part of the different convos. It was lovely to see our friends, we ended up with over 20 people there.

party2.png

efftings retha.jpg

Eventually we all ended up gathered around the bar. I love that new bar.

party the boys.jpg

We had such a lovely evening. We still managed to be in bed by 11 even if we were a bit tipsy with it!

Tonight Norm and I are going out for dinner to a venue we have never been to before. I don’t want to spoil his surprise so I will save it for my next blog.

Have a great week everyone!

 

 

 

New Beginnings

Wednesday was a day of new beginnings for me. It was the day I started the project with the new client that I have been undergoing the arduous recruitment process for. It is a very different working environment to the corporate environment I am used to. It is more like a government office environment, i.e. it is rather dirty and low budget. If you want a cup of coffee there is only instant available and you have to bring your own spoon and cup to make it. None of the luxuries of ground coffee beans and an espresso like the office I am in on Mondays and Tuesdays. You have to bring your own plate, knife and fork as well as your own food unless you want to risk walking down the main road for sustenance. You will be taking your life in your own hands to walk down the road on your own as it is a rather chaotic street.

The bathrooms are horrific. You feel the need to wash your hands after going to wash your hands there.

It is a long travel time to get here, I spend about 20 minutes getting through one single junction which queues up for miles. The full trip is almost an hour each way.

I do not have comfy, safe, dry undercover parking, I park across the road and have to walk through a rather unsavoury, dirty, noisy street to get to the offices. If it is raining, then my laptop and I just get drenched. If you have never been to Africa you cannot conceptualise the noise of an African taxi rank which is just outside my desk window. A constant hooting of horns, whistles of the guys touting for passengers, shouting and catcalling. It is deafening and difficult to concentrate.

However the work seems like it will be interesting and I will learn new skills and have the knowledge and experience of a new system to add to my CV. It is a common system being rolled out to multiple universities internationally. Also in the current economic climate I am just grateful for work, I will adjust to the other details soon I am sure. But that does not mean you won’t have to listen to me whinge. 🙂

Wednesday was also the Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere.

Solstice image

Image credit.

I was invited to attend a Sweat Lodge to celebrate the Solstice. The sweat lodge has many uses and can be used to achieve whatever you wish; either just for cleansing and purification or to get answers and guidance by asking spiritual entities or the Great Spirit and Mother Earth for wisdom, or help with an issue.

The lodge itself is made up of saplings tied together and draped with blankets to keep in the heat from the stones. An actual fire is not built inside, the heat is from stones heated in the ceremonial fire pit outside of the lodge.

sweat lodge.jpg

Image Source.

The ceremony has protocols which must be honoured before you even arrive, you should either fast or have only light fruit for at least a few hours prior to entering the lodge. Women who are on their moon cycle should not enter the lodge. We were asked to dress in skirts or dresses and the women should cover their shoulders, the men should wear a shirt to cover their chests. I wore a long dress and a sarong around my shoulders. The long dress made crawling around in the lodge a bit of a challenge.

The process around building the fire is also bound by tradition, you build up the rocks into the fire pit with each attendee offering a rock to the Great Spirit and Mother Earth and silently stating their intentions for the ceremony either silently or aloud for the group. You go round the fire pit in a clockwise manner, each person placing a stone until the designated number of stones is piled onto the wood ready for lighting. Once the fire is lit only the lodge keeper or the fire keeper may cross between the fire pit and the altar which is set up midway between the fire pit and the opening of the lodge. The Stone People spirits are awakened in the stones by heating them in the sacred fire until red-hot.

Prior to entering the lodge everyone must smudge themselves from the smoke being emitted from the abalone shell filled with sage at the entrance to the sweat lodge. The entrance faces to the East and towards the sacred fire pit. This has very significant spiritual value. Each new day begins in the East with the rising of Father Sun, the source of life and power, dawn of wisdom, while the fire heating the rocks is the undying light of the world, eternity, and a new spiritual beginning that we seek in the sweat ceremony.

Once the fire outside the lodge has had an hour or so to get very hot everyone enters the lodge and settled around the pit.  There were 23 of us in the lodge so it was very full.

One at a time the white hot stones were loaded onto a shovel and pushed into the lodge, then lowered into the shallow pit inside the sweat lodge, first placing a stone on the west, then north, east, south, and in the centre to symbolise the Grandfather. Additional stones are then placed to Grandmother and The People. The lodge keeper and the attendees all welcomed the stones, saying ‘welcome grandfather’ or ‘welcome grandmother’. After seven stones were in the pit, the entrance is closed by the Fire Keeper. This began the first round of ceremony in the lodge. The sweat leader played the Drum and called forth the spirit guides in prayer from the Four Directions. The sweat leader then dips water and pours it onto the hot stones in the pit, producing large amounts of steam, usually one dipper for each of the four directions, or until told by the spirits to stop. Then she begins the prayers, songs and chants.

We started by all stating our ancestry and calling on our ancestors to join us in the lodge. I called on my Cherokee ancestors and White Buffalo Woman.

img_0004
There are multiple rounds of prayer and with each of these rounds 7 new stones are brought into the lodge. There is a minimum of a round for each of the four directions, where each direction symbolises a different purpose and energy.

The temperature in the lodge increases in heat as the fire pit fills up with the stones. At one stage it became too hot and we begged for air and the side was opened slightly.

I personally felt that the lodge was too full, when I have had a lodge before there was enough space to lie down should the heat become too intense. I also went into a trance like state in that previous lodge as I was able to relax and lie down. This facilitated visions and mysticism. However I still felt the benefit of the lodge, it was just not very physically comfortable.

By the time we finished the rounds it was midnight. Norm came to collect me and we went home without my indulging in the meal with the group. As I had started my new job that day I was exhausted. The night before I woke at 4am having only gone to bed at midnight so I had done all of this on 4 hours sleep.

The night after the lodge I was only in bed just before 1 am but I slept straight through until 7am. I never do that. In fact, there was a short in our security beam and the alarm went off, the dogs went insane and the security company came to trawl around our garden and I slept right through it all.

I feel so relaxed after the lodge, more in touch with my ancestors and my spirituality. I think that what has been missing in my life was prayer and spirituality. I have found this in my Cherokee roots and it is grounding me. I was raised with no religion or spirituality in our home, my Dad was agnostic. I have always been sceptical of the concept of a singular god. I am far more comfortable praying to The Great Spirit and calling on my ancestors for guidance and blessings.

I am so happy that I have found this path.

I wish you all a great weekend. ❤️💕❤️

Solstice Celebrations 

I started on Saturday with the Corticosteroids my doctor prescribed for my on-going issues with my ears and sinuses but they have made no difference whatsoever. I went back on Monday for another blood pressure check and to get my lab results. My blood pressure is still high and needs to be monitored. The lab results showed I still have a bacterial lung infection and I am now on a different course of antibiotics. My GP has also referred me to see an ENT specialist about my blocked ears. I made an appointment for next week to see her. She is located near my client where I am based on Mondays & Tuesdays so I will just walk over there and hope there is no rain that day. Umbrellas are useless in Cape Town with our winds.

We have finally been receiving a bit of rain here and there which helps with our on-going drought issues however we must not become complacent that a few drizzles will resolve the low dam levels. The City of Cape Town has decided to finally get off it’s hands and send out a RFI (Request for Information)  this week to try and come up with some ideas to resolve the issues rather than just hope for heavy winter rains.

It is now very cold in the mornings and I cannot bear to take a cold shower. I keep my shower to as short a time as possible and I get wet when the water is tepid, but ice cold water on a cold morning is just asking for sickness and goodness knows I am struggling enough with that already. I no longer condition my hair in the shower, I put on a leave in conditioner afterwards. I look a mess most of the time as I try to only wash my hair once, or at most, twice a week. Luckily menopause has sucked all of the moisture out of my once oily hair and it copes fine.

I think we are going to have to bite the bullet and implement a proper grey water recycling system as Norm has a damaged shoulder and is struggling with carrying the buckets of water down to the garden.

As mentioned in my last blog, Friday was a public holiday in South Africa and I went across town to Maestro’s on The Beach to have lunch with my friend Di.

It was a stunning winters day and we grabbed a table outside to enjoy the view of Table Mountain and the beach.

As it was a weekend I decided that carb controls be damned and I ordered their chicken schnitzel with cheese sauce, chips and onion rings. The Schnitzel comes with a choice of one side dish for R105 (about $8 USD). The cheese sauce is an extra R19 as were the onion rings (at R25).

It was really yummy and I wolfed down every bite.

I even had ‘dessert’ in the form of an Oreo Milkshake for R35. It was thick and creamy and rather divine.


Di and I had not seen each other in ages as we live on opposite sides of Cape Town and neither of us are great on motorways nor can we drive at night but we made up for lost time, spending 5 hours sitting in the sunshine and gabbing. It was good for my soul. It was lovely having the sun on your back and good conversation with a friend who cares.

When I eventually made it home Norm and I decided to watch a film and we chose the movie ‘A Cure For Wellness’ as I had thought I had seen a friend posting about it on Facebook. Later I checked back on their feed only to discover it was a different film they watched. Oops.

cure for wellness image

A Cure for Wellness was a crazy,  bizarre and rather uncomfortable film. It was a bit like a train smash in that you could not stop watching it no matter how horrid or distasteful it got. The premise of the film is that an ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. It all derails from the point of arrival and just becomes more and more strange. It ended in a rather unfinished manner (so many questions) and therefore makes me think they are planning a sequel. I will not subject myself to that if so.

A Cure For Wellness gets 2 kitten stars and that is only because it managed to hold my attention.

Early on Saturday Mzudumo arrived and got started in the garden while Norm and I had plans to  go the shops to buy a cover for my new iPad. I saw on Facebook that a friend was asking about the cost of an Uber to Cavendish Mall so we stopped to collect her and her son and gave them a lift. They were going to the cinema so we could not give them a lift home as we had to get back to give Mzudumo his lunch.

I went to the iStore but they only had black covers and I wanted something a bit more colourful and cheerful. They referred me to Incredible Connections and they had a red one which is the colour I wanted but it was almost a thousand rand! I chose a bright fuchsia coloured one instead but when I got it home and on my iPad I saw that it only has a ‘prop up option’ when in the landscape view, not in the Portrait view. As I play covet and it is only available in that view it means it is not very handy for me. That is what I get for being a cheapo miser to save R300!

After we finished shopping we went for brunch. We chose Mugg & Bean as it serves breakfast all day and Norm loves his omelettes.

We both went for their ‘Simple California Omelette’ which is described as a deconstructed 3-egg omelette filled with cheddar, mozzarella & fresh basil. Loosely topped with fresh avocado, back bacon & Danish-style feta, drizzled with a basil pesto mayo & served with pan-fried cherry tomatoes. It is R77.90.

It is served with toast, Norm had the low carb option but I had white bread and just ate a bit of it. We found it odd that they did not serve the toast with butter. We asked for butter but by the time it arrived the toast was cold. The butter was rock hard as if it had been in the freezer, I could not even cut it with my knife, much less spread it on my toast. This is a pet peeve of mine, butter should be served room temperature.

Caitlin had her childhood best friend Katherine down from Johannesburg that night with her gorgeous twins Luke and Tyler who are 3 years old. It is a good rehearsal for grandkids (which are not even visible on the horizon at this point.) The boys are so different considering that they are twins, Tyler is fearless and exuberant and very friendly while Luke is more cautious, gentle and sensitive. Tyler had a great time playing ball with Pixie who loved the attention and was so gentle with him but Luke was a bit intimidated by the dogs and refused to get on the floor, choosing rather to walk from couch to couch.

As the boys were having dinner with us I decided to make something child friendly and made 3 cheese mac and cheese adding full fat cream cheese into the sauce as well as cheddar, then topping it all with mozzarella for baking. Of course I plonked a load of chilli in mine.

 

Once the twins settled down to watch a movie upstairs in bed with Katherine and Caitlin Norm and I put on a movie to wind down from all of the excitement. We chose Collateral Beauty with Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren. We chose it for the brilliant cast.

collateral beauty.jpg

I found bits of it confusing, but it was a very emotional movie and well acted. Other than Keira Knightley who looks the same no matter what emotion she is displaying. I give it 3.75 kitten stars.

Katherine and the kids were flying very early the next day and they were up and out and away to the airport. After Caitlin got back she went back to bed as it was so early for her. It was father’s day and she rose about lunch time to give Norm his presents from her, Lily and Trevor. They gave him some meat thermometers for when we braai a roast as well as a grill matt for cooking on the grill which means you do not have to scrub the grill, you can just wash the matt.

braai mat

On Sunday I had another drumming session planned. There were more people there this time which made it even more fun. We sang lots of songs and we performed a new activity called ‘Heart to Heart’ which is about connection, toning and harmony. It is done with 2 people and you put your ears together, place one hand on the other person’s back over their heart area and the other over their opposite ear. You then vocalise until you are harmonising the sound. Caitlin and I did a reenactment to show how it’s done.


I was rather full of trepidation as it meant being intimate with a total stranger as well as ‘singing’ which I know I am not very good at (exuberance and skill are totally different things.) I loved it though! It also sort of relaxes you for the singing portion of the day.

Later I read about how sound is used for meditation and in various spiritual practices to aid connection to spirit and the universe. I find it fascinating.

After my drumming session I raced home as Caitlin had booked us into Woodcutters Arms pub for a late Fathers Day Dinner.

We got stuck into their yummy pub grub. Norm had his fave starter the Scotch Egg at R45. Caitlin and I shared the Jalapeno Cheddar Cigars at R44.


Norm had a blue cheese and onion burger from the specials board and I had the Cajun Chicken Burger at R82.

Caitlin and I shared the onion rings and she had a Red Pepper and Halloumi Salad at R85. I was stuck into my burger too quickly to snap a pic of her food but it was very pretty, however she said the halloumi was cold.

Norm was very virtuous but Caitlin and I shared a dessert. We had the White Chocolate and Oreo Sundae for R43. It was so delicious.


Monday and Tuesday were both very busy at work. As I was at the doc on Monday I had to work late to make up the time and so Norm cooked dinner. He baked chicken breasts, fried a variety of squash and steamed corn on the cob. It was very yummy.

Caitlin slept at Wes as his parents were away and there had been a break in on Sunday night. He slept through it and didn’t hear a thing but they took about 4 TVs, iPads, laptops and a lot of valuable items. I’m just glad he wasn’t injured.

I had a client workshop today and when I got home I cooked my fave, Mexican food. It’s quick and easy.

I prepared the toppings while the chili con carne cooked.


Then I made it into a big pile of yumminess.

Tomorrow is a big day. I start my new project at my new client and then tomorrow night we pour a sweat lodge to celebrate the Winter Solstice. It’s my first sweat lodge with this group and I’m very excited. It will only finish at 11:30 or midnight so I will be knackered on Thursday but I am sure I’ll survive.

Wish me luck! ❤️

Armageddon

This has been a rather eventful few days in South Africa. None of the events were good, in fact it felt a bit like Armageddon. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next thing on the agenda of the gods is a Zombie Apocalypse. I refuse to eat brains, I only have a tazer and an axe for defence, and I am the slowest one in my family and therefore first on the menu so I certainly hope it does not come to that.

As I mentioned in my last blog, Caitlin and I worked from home on Wednesday as the storm due to hit the Western Cape was expected to be fierce. The predictions were correct as the wind howled, the sea churned and the rain poured down.

The damage we suffered was minor compared to many people. Norm had spent the day moving all of the garden furniture and garden ornaments into the flat at the back of our house so that they would not be airborne. Late morning Caitlin’s bedroom window started rattling and we realised that one of the panes was about to fall out and we had to call in an emergency repair guy which cost us R850 for 10 minutes work. That is only a temporary measure as they could not safely get onto a ladder to repair it and just secured it until the weather clears. We did not want to leave it though as the wind was howling into Caitlin’s room and it was really icy cold.

We are having someone in to quote for repairing the putty around all of our wooden framed windows. Wood framed windows look lovely but require a lot of maintenance, especially by the coast.

The day before the storm hit the sky in Cape Town was spectacular.

Image Credit.

The sky was dark and dreary from my balcony.

our storm

Later we saw on social media that  some of the new shacks which were still being built for the people who had lost their homes in the recent fire in IY were damaged.


Then we heard that a tree was down on the only road out of our suburb.


It was removed quite quickly by the local garden centre, Earthworx Garden World.

I settled in to get some work done but we had no wifi for sending or receiving emails, but luckily I had all of my data on my laptop and did not need to connect to a database or communicate with the team.

I did have my faithful companion Panda as my work colleague.


As the day went on and the storm built up in strength we saw many pictures & videos on social media of the chaos that was going on along the seafront.

IMG_6354

This is the beach nearest my home, it is about 5 minutes from our house.

IMG_6358

Three Anchor Bay slip way disappeared under foam & water. Everyone was advised to keep away from the Sea Point /Mouille Point Promenade. (photo credit from Jacques Weber JDW)

But typical of the South African resilient spirit, there were some people such as windsurfer Jake Kolnik who chose to risk their lives and ride the waves.

windsurfer

By the end of the day we heard that 8 people had died.

Later we heard the horrific news that a fire was raging out of control in the Garden Route where my son and daughter both live and that the entire area was being evacuated.

We saw some terrifying images on social media.

We saw heart-breaking photos of animals running from the heat of the fire and later those who survived but seemed to have lost their families. I hope this baboon is not injured and that his troop just scattered and that he finds them again.

baboon

There are still wild elephants roaming the Knysna forest which has mostly burned down, I hope they made it to safe ground.

We later heard that a family had been killed in the fire. Madre Johnston, 33, her husband Tony, 34, and their son Michael all perished. Madre, the mother was 8 months pregnant and they were celebrating their 3 year old child’s birthday. So tragic.

FiredeathJohnston

Today the news is that a fire-fighter has died from damages sustained in the fire and another is in critical condition with 50% burns over his body. This brings to five the number of fatalities as a result of the fire.

There is a suspicion that the fires were a result of arson as there were at least 26 different fires that were being fought. What type of person does this knowing the devastation it will cause?

The after pics are so sad. So many people have lost everything.

The fires were near my son’s house but luckily he is safe. The fires are still burning and the firemen and women are still fighting to keep them under control. I pray for all of those who were affected and all of those who are still in danger. 

Meanwhile, life goes on. Norm has been doing a bit of painting in the newly renovated kitchen. And then yesterday the electricians from Thomas Electrical in Hout Bay came and installed my new light fittings. There are 2 of the smaller 3 light fixtures on the upstairs and downstairs landings and there are now 2 of the 5 light fixtures in the dining room and the lounge. They go so well with the curtain rails and the stair railings. I did not like the old fixtures that were there when we bought the house so I am very pleased to have these which match.

lights all.png

The weather is freezing cold but despite this menopause overruled my senses and I slept with my fan on Wednesday night and I woke with my neck literally frozen. I could not move my head and so after work I managed to get an appointment to see an acupuncturist at the Hout Bay Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture Clinic. He did both acupuncture and cupping which did give me a bit of relief from the spasms in my neck but it did not resolve the locked neck. Now I am even struggling to open my mouth as well as turn my head.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my chiropractor in Noordhoek and hopefully that will sort me out properly.

Tonight Norm is looking after me and we are relaxing in front of a roaring fire.


In the meantime please keep the victims of the Cape Storm and Knysna fire in your thoughts and pray for the fire-fighters and the homes still at risk.