Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sun in Soweto and Giraffes in Groenkloof

I'm finally coming out of my sun and wine induced stupor. I am no longer suffering from headache, but still sporting a pair of practically burnt-raw shoulders. And that's after applying the spf 100 sun block both Saturday and Sunday mornings. Hmm, perhaps my skin color is not genetically suited for this part of the world. Hmm, perhaps there is another skin color that is more suited for this environment. Hmm, I must ponder this question further at some point... 

Yesterday, we shipped our visitor to the wonderful Cape Town, where she is happily convening with the cape penguins after our jam packed weekend. And what a weekend it was!

Since she only arrived on Friday, late morning, we decided to take it easy that day. She had, after all, spent the previous 30 hours traveling a distance that should not take more than 20 hours, all in exchange for some seriously cheap flights. For a moment there, especially since she did not emerge from the plane รก la moi with puffy eyes, perma-slobber on the chin, a spotted menu on the front of the shirt, and severely swollen extremities, I truly envied her flight-travel stamina, as well as her more airplane-suitable size (both in my case to be found in the 'remembrances of things past' file) but then I remembered my philosophy is not about wanting to be more patient or smaller but wanting to travel in first class instead. Take that you envy monster! 

Anyhow, on Friday we lunched in one of my favorite restaurants, Cape Town Fish Market, before touring the local sights per her request - Woolworths food market and Pick n Pay. I always thought I was alone in my wish to soak up the local 'atmosphere' in the form of visiting grocery stores, post offices, train stations, doctor's practices, or the dentist's for that matter. I have an aversion to visiting any kind of doctor's if the visit entails more than just your general ogling and pointing (by me), but one of my coolest experiences from Mexico is my trip to a Mexican dentist who told me to ignore the burning smell as it was only the generator for the drill. That's hardcore, and the tooth still holds! I also now have breast-ultrasound experiences from three different continents and have to admit, also based on my talks with other women here and abroad, that in such issues Mexico (and paid for health insurance) rocks. Still, I much prefer visiting grocery stores. 

After getting completely sidetracked there, a couple of words on the night's entertainment: Braai and wine. Good, solid, thoroughly South African choices and fun had by all (we hope) combined with a new taste experience for our visitor - pork rashers on the braai. Didn't go down as well as the wine, but I still feel that scorched fat is an under-appreciated pleasure. However, that could just be me.

Early Saturday morning (far too early was the guest's opinion) we headed out towards Soweto and one very cool backpacker lodge and one even cooler shebeen (this link explains so much better than I ever could). Lebo's Soweto backpacker lodge is always our starting point in Soweto and if I was a tourist in Jozi Lebo's is definitely where I would stay. As on our previous visit we got to meet some cool Sowetans, discuss the upcoming election and the quite frightening possibility of the Zuma presidency, drink the local brew, sorghum beer (turns out we Finns have something similar explaining my not minding this stuff perhaps) from a shared mug, eat burn-your-finger hot vetkoeks, and walk the busy streets of a couple of Soweto neighborhoods while listening to kwaito blaring from all directions, and just enjoy and soak up the atmosphere. Cool stuff and severely burnt shoulders! 

As a fitting contrast to Soweto's wonders we headed out to lunch to Montecasino. After cringing at the fake sunset meets sunrise that is the ceiling of Montecasino, the fake pigeons and cats on the as fake windowsills, the suspicious looking 'laundry' hanging over the wannabe alleys, the painted cracks and ware on the walls, the plastic ducks in the moat/stream, and taking our visitor's or our photo with said details, we decided to lunch outside, in the actual real sunshine, in a place called Metropolis. The food wasn't anything special and some of our guest's health chicken (whatever that is) was actually undercooked, to which the waiter responded with a shrug and weird gestures that could have either meant 'we can cook it more for you' or 'up yours stupid tourist'. We'll never know for sure. However, we tried a wine I'd never had before - chosen purely on being not too cheap and not too expensive - Rijk's Sauvignon Blanc. A lovely new acquaintance. Almost sweet with a pleasant acidic aftertaste (how snooty do I sound). I'll definitely be having more of it in the near future. 

After a much needed nap for our guest, four cups of coffee for the hostess (how old are we), and no rest for the chauffeur a.k.a. the hubby, we headed out to dinner at tried and tested excellent Karoo Cattle and Land. Food was excellent, regardless of some of it being pap, which should not be classified as food but rather as edible wall paper glue. Excellent red was also had from the excellence that is the excellent Karoo wine list. The name of this particular excellence escapes me though, but I can tell you it was excellent. Excellent. And in case you were wondering the experience was excellent. However, before I had a chance to devour half of our guest's excellent malva pudding (thus hopping on the sugar train headed for crazy), the hubby steered us into the direction of Fashion Cafe, as we had promised this type of distraction to our single friend. Not so excellent. This bar is somehow in cahoots with Fashion tv channel, but since the music on their website annoys me too much to look further into this connection, I'll just give you my personal impression of the place. I don't think I'll ever be going back to this particular bar, seeing as I'm at least 10 years too old, don't like my drinks all fruity and pink, my shoes are far too flat and last year, my hair is too short, my hubby too bearded, and my ears too sensitive. Either I'm old and boring, or Fashion Cafe sucks. No need to comment on this specific point, especially if you know me. Excellent, thanks. 

On Sunday morning it was time for some wildlife. We headed out to Groenkloof Nature Reserve, a favorite destination, and this time around I was not left behind, but got within 15 meters of a real live giraffe. A giraffe is a beautiful being, and I only wish my eyelashes came anywhere close to the ones on these creatures. For almost half an hour we hung out with our new friend and his/her spouse or partner, who refused to face us but kept glancing at us over his/her shoulder very nonchalantly. To top off the experience, right before taking our leave we were introduced to a baby giraffe hiding behind a bush. Cool as ever. We also saw quite a few wildebeest and some zebras. The wildebeest were kind of aloof, but the zebras actually posed for us, making all the sweat and sunburns worthwhile. And I'm talking serious burns here. Permanent sun damage. Damn. Still points to SA.

After our hike and hangout with the local inhabitants we were ready for a braai. Many of our friends were there and as usual, whenever wine is drunk, the discussion turned to politics, race, and other such harmless small talk topics. I appreciate people's willingness to discuss, even if I cannot for the life of me understand where they are coming from or ever give any credit to some things they have said. I must admit some of it is taking quite a toll on me and on my love affair with this country. Perhaps I should just stick to easier topics for a while, and give my moral compass a break. Still, I could not have asked for a better immersion for our guest into the institution of the braai, or into the South African tradition of hospitality. Opinions aside, people are just really welcoming, friendly, and nice!     

Our visitor is due back on Thursday night and on Friday we are off to see some more wildlife, have awesome, non-draining discussions over good food and wine, lie by the pool but in the shade and hopefully not burn any more. This time around we are hoping to spot elephants, lions, rhinos, and cheetahs. And as I now sit around recharging my mental as well as physical batteries the snap-happy hubby is acquiring a lens the size of my thigh for his camera. Should make for better photo content on this blog. We'll see.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Playing the hostess

Hurrah! Something different is on the horizon.

A guest is arriving tomorrow, all the way from the, apparently still freezing north. You may remember me mentioning a potential visit before, but as of couple of weeks ago the 'potential' part was discarded, and she is taking off as we speak, to spend a whopping 12 hour lay-over at a bigger European hub, but on her way nonetheless. 

I am seriously excited to show off this wonderful country. Be it my late lack of excitement (or the 'excitement' having been limited to a trim at the hairdressers and a breast ultrasound at the gynecologist's. Fun.), I am brimming with hostess-like grace (or as close to grace as I ever get), anxiously awaiting the maid who was supposed to be here between two hours ago and now (new service, more on it later) and is supposed to iron the guest sheets and wash the still lingering results of a pork rasher cooking extravaganza off of the surfaces. 
This just in: The company called with profuse apologies. The lady hadn't had her ID with her so the guards had not let her in... She must look threatening, since they didn't call me to come and pick her up. Hmph.

I am officially on my tippytoes out of sheer excitement.

What do we have planned then? Lots and lots of stuff, more than enough, all crammed in the two weekends she will be spending with us. From Monday to Thursday she will be living it up in the amazing Cape Town Waterfront per my instructions titled 'If I was a thirsty-for-South-African-wines single girl'. Through this part, I will live (and drink) vicariously.

Naturally we will be taking her on one of my preferred routes: From a Soweto shebeen to the fake skies of Montecasino. This route is a true personal favorite. It lets the guest see the two extremes of South African living, and also sample local beer and lots of other drink, which is always a bonus in my books. Drink will also be sampled on Hatfield square and in it's varying bars and clubs (new for us, but feeling the pressures of entertaining a single person with something besides our lovely faces), as well as in the wilderness of Groenkloof nature reserve. First we'll hike and hopefully spot some creatures, and then we'll open bottles over a nice traditional braai. Yum. Some of my favorite restaurants will also be on the visit list, and their wine lists will certainly be ogled.

For our visitor's second weekend here with us we have a special treat in store, for ourselves as well as for her. We'll be spending two nights in a five star lodge in a nearby big nature reserve, complete with a bath tub overlooking a watering hole, lions and elephants, 2 daily game drives in an open vehicle, delicious meals, and plenty of South African wine (in case this was not obvious already). As odd as it may seem coming from a woman who manages to do nothing all day long, I really need to get away, to have a little vacation and see something else besides the 'Mexican Sand'-colored walls of our house! Isn't it ironic? The flippin' color is actually officially called just that. 
I hope our visitor likes it all. 

I hope I like her... Oh man. I haven't seen her in six years and the last time I really talked to her was probably 15 years ago. I do remember liking her a lot when I was 10. Man, oh man. 

Facebook is a wondrous thing. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Homesick for Mexico

I thought that once our stuff finally arrived here in South Africa, I would start feeling properly at home here, I really did. That's how I remember it working when we moved from Denmark to Mexico. For expats, having your stuff often equals having your home with you. The place you put your stuff is just a canvas to paint your desired environment on, in our case a mishmash of streamlined Scandinavian design, quirky Mexican artifacts, odd pieces designed by yours truly, and Ikea. The house on the inside now looks like me. Still...  

I find myself feeling homesick for Mexico. And yes, by homesick I mean feeling like that is where my home is, where my real life is, and where I would like to return to. I don't just miss my friends, or Mexican food, or speaking Spanish, or being able to walk everywhere, or our apartment, or our flower guy, or the oh so juicy arrachera cuts of meat, or my local Starbucks (even though I do desperately miss all of these, especially Starbucks). I really feel homesick for Mexico.

Now WTF?!?! Why can't I feel at home in this awesome country?

Well, if I really take a proper look at my life I might just understand. Even looking back at my postings on this blog I can see that there are far too many complaints concerning boredom, not having deadlines, or not having stuff to do. The unfortunate truth is that no matter how hard I have tried to start up stuff - volunteering, a book club, sports, traveling, etc - things just don't seem to pan out for me. And to top it all, it seems that the hubby is going to be away pretty much every week at least for the next three months. 

Don't get me wrong, we have had  a bunch of good experiences, braais up the wazoo, different activities, and such things that are part of getting to know a new country. However, that does not a life make, and I guess that's what I'm missing. A life outside of this estate that is beginning to feel like a prison more and more every day. A life that I have chosen, filled with activities that are right for me, and with like-minded people.

Thankfully in my darkest hour I found this. Perhaps there is light (and life) at the end of the tunnel. I can't wait.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fall hits Joburg

Yesterday, in the evening my feet were actually a little cold. 

Gasps of horror.

I might actually have to wear socks in this country. 


I thought being in Africa meant that it would always be warm and I would be longing to wear a loincloth of some sort, but I also thought that Mexico would be filled with poncho-clad guys in big sombreros sleeping by a cactus with a half-empty bottle of tequila, or that Paris would be filled with waif-like women wearing berets, with baguettes dangerously close to their armpits. 

I am such a country bumpkin. I guess the weather serves me right, for entertaining Disney views of entire nations and cities. 

Anyhoodles, not going to wear socks until my toes actually turn blue.   

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A word of warning on the maid front

As you have probably gathered, I still haven't got a handle on the maid situation, and I'm still forced to clean my own house and iron my own clothes - oh, the suffering I must go through. Boo Hoo. Hoo.

(Warning. I will now attempt to use this medium to rant about the horrors of my experience with a company that truly blows.)

The reason, however, to the halted situation is not me, but the, by now infamous agency: A1 Domestics. After sending a flurry of emails and calling them for a whole week, I still don't have my money back, nor do I have a new maid. 

The first one, as you may recall, did not speak any (or at least enough) English, and I had to let her go. The second one, who was extremely distraught to hear that we didn't have any children and Thor forbid she would actually have to clean instead of being a nanny, quit. Still, this is not a rant about them. This is a rant about an extremely unprofessional company and all that is heinous about it. 

First of all, this the dubious tactic they used to ensnare me:

Someone had told me about a company someone they knew had used and liked. This person thought the name of the company was something like 'Maid in Heaven'. Being the internet addict that I am, I promptly googled this. The first site that showed up links back to A1 Domestics site. There was also information on a company called Maid - in - Heaven, but they didn't have a website, leaving me feeling a little iffy (gut feeling gone wrong). In the end I decided to email both companies. A1 Domestics called me back right away. Of course (eye roll), they wanted to rid me of my money. On the phone too, they sounded very professional, asked me about my requirements - my only ones were that the person had prior experience and that she spoke fluent English - and the woman assured me that all of her "ladies have prior professional experience and references." Well, I guess that wasn't true either since neither of the maids had any sort of references, when I inquired about them, and the second one had only a copy of 'her' ID book, and couldn't produce the original for me. For this reason, I'm glad she quit, since I would like to abide by the law, and not hire anyone who is in the country illegally.

Since becoming more than disillusioned with A1 Domestics and their bad business practices, I have done some more research on the internet. I heard about another agency, called Marvellous Maids, that is supposedly a little more expensive, but very good. Again, I googled, and guess what pops up? A header 'Marvelous Maids' links back to A1 Domestics. Bad business practices - need I say more?

So, to summarize, no one that I know has said anything positive about A1 Domestics, and this company is simply leaching on the good service of the other two companies. There might actually be steam coming out of my ears as I write this, since my blood is for sure boiling. It is now evident to me, that my money is gone, and even if they ever do get back to me, apart from giving my money back for services not rendered, I would hate to get another maid through them. Who knows what kind of a person would show up at my doorstep, perhaps someone who only speaks Portuguese, thinks she is here to take care of my ailing mother, and to feed my bunnies. Would not surprise me in the least.

The battle for clean floors wages on. Oh Thor, give me strength.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Never been to Africa

Without lying or exaggerating this is what some of my South African friends say, because they have perhaps never left South Africa, or only ever visited places like Namibia, Swaziland, or Lesotho. Namibia is the northwestern neighbor of South Africa, Swaziland is pretty much encompassed by SA on the east coast, and Lesotho is a country completely within the borders of South Africa.

But what does it mean? How am I to understand this, since I thought I already was in Africa? I mean the name of the country has the word Africa in it?!?!

So naturally I couldn't let this lie.

I'll try to shed some light on this issue and perhaps also finally explain it to myself. Or just ask more questions, and get multiple debates going while wine is flowing. 

According to my friends they are in South Africa, which is only linked to Africa by default, by the geographic location only. 

"Yee- yees?" I would say, thinking these people must have already had too much to drink. 

According to my friends they are not in Africa, because Africa has lions, elephants, zebra, mud huts, and guys with spears. No mock Tuscan mock villages, like the one we are forced to live in, no Montecasino, no Soweto, and no Cape Town. Apparently we live in the west, as opposed to Africa. Now, I never knew that these were direct opposites, but I have now been set straight. If I was being mean I would make a jab at the baggage the word 'European' has in this country. Just read Alan Paton's 'Cry the Beloved Country', and gauge the full meaning of the term in apartheid SA. But I won't get into that now.

Upon meeting one of our best SA friends for the first time, he made a comment that I will never forget. I thought it was an awesome response at the time, and it put a lot of my fears about coming here to rest, but I am only now starting to fully understand the various implications of that comment. On being lectured to by an Italian regarding what carpaccio entailed our friend retorted that he was "from Africa, not the deep dark Africa." 

Now I am left to wonder why it is so hard to be proud of this glorious continent, why is Africa only to be synonymous with a stereotypical image, and why are so many Africans themselves advocates of this kind of thinking? Not judging, just asking. Granted, Africa has its issues with wars and famines, and the unfortunately high concentration of dictators, but it also has unparalleled beauty, huge modern cities, cool, original people, multiplicity of interesting cultures, and, well, the animals of course. Why is it that being 'western' is something to strive after? For an American my home country, which all Finns maintain is in Northern Europe and completely westernized, must seem like belonging to a different category entirely with our location on the arctic circle, our long border with Russia, and our ubiquitous nudity linked to a tiny hothouse, lovingly referred to as the sauna

When did all the signifiers come to signify so much more than than simple geographical location? When did Africa become a loaded word, and one which even Africans themselves have a hard time stomaching? 

Elaboration anyone? Until I lose myself completely.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alien inhabitation

The hubby is on yet another tour of southern Africa, due to work and I am left to fend for myself. I used to do this quite a lot and almost felt like a single woman, just without the pressure of finding a man, or even, you know, trying to look respectable in case I came across someone suitable. I already had that special someone, he was just busy working hard, trying local delicacies, and buying me cool jewelry in somewhere like Kuala Lumpur, Santiago de Chile, or Surabaya, as I partied the night away.

However, maybe it's the age that is slowing me down, or perhaps it really is true what I just wrote to my BFF in Mexico: I seem to have developed a new South African persona. This gal is much more outdoorsy and domestic than I normally give myself credit for. She goes to the gym, to spinning class, she likes hiking and participating in races at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings. She cooks, she cleans, and almost watches no television. She gets excited about going on a game drive, or a sporting event, and doesn't drink nearly as much as the Mexican, the Danish, or the Finnish me. 


Monday, March 09, 2009

Blue Bulls vs. Stormers

In case you are not totally into the South African sport-scene, we are talking rugby here. Yes, possibly the most important as well as popular, and at the same time the most controversial, sport in South Africa. In the least, rugby is one of the popular top four, alongside cricket, hockey, and soccer. 

Last Saturday the Blue Bulls from Pretoria beat the Stormers from Cape Town, and I and the hubby as well as a group of drunken people whom we like to call friends were there at Loftus Stadium to witness it. And I must say, as much as I knew I would be bothered by the extremely violent nature of the game, not to mention the racial issues surrounding this sport, in the end I'm glad that I decided to go. The game provided me with a rare glimpse into the Nation's soul.

So this is what went down: 

After my 10k race in the morning (bettered my time by 9 minutes, thank you very much!) I and the hubby headed out to finally pick up his car - a huge honkin' 4x4 gas guzzler that honestly makes me ashamed, but at the same time able to travel to places like Kruger National Park and Mozambique. Unfortunately, as you probably guessed, regardless of our deal to only drive the 4x4 if we really need to and otherwise make use of the 'practically runs on air' Daihatsu, the hubby decided to drive the new vehicle to our friends' house where we were meeting the rugby enthusiasts. I hope this does not become a trend.

After several minutes (possibly 30-40) spent ogling our new car (Where is the sensitive environmentalist I married?) we all packed into one, even more monstrous, SUV, and headed towards the stadium. This took place sometime before three in the afternoon and the game was set to start at five. I asked no questions, but decided to go with the flow (i.e. get a drink and yabber about irrelevant issues) and take in the experience.

As we got closer to the stadium, but were still at least 1,5 kilometers away we began to pass people in all shades of blue clothing sitting on camping chairs, drinking beer, and tending to something resembling a cast iron pan attached to a tank of gas. The latter turned out to be a skottel, which boils down to, once again, a form of braai. As you all must have understood by now meat is the perfect accessory to everything, and I do mean everything

Luckily, since we decided to arrive only some hours before the start of the game, one of our friends had scored himself a parking pass. We must have driven past hundreds of the impromptu sidewalk braais in more or less appropriate spots, as we drove all the way into the heart of the event. Thanks to the parking pass, we found a good spot not too far from the stadium and abracadabra, from the trunk of the car out came a skottel, some boerewors, beer, wine, sosaties, and rolls. We were set for our pre-rugby lunch - beer-fried boerie rolls enjoyed sitting on the fender of the car and drinking ice cold beer (or if you are me someone else's wine. Sorry W!).

The sun beat down, and I found myself wishing we had arrived in time to snag ourselves one of the prime spots underneath the trees. After all, I was wearing my nigh only piece of blue clothing - a cardigan. However, I was quickly informed that if I wanted shade I would have to have arrived not some hours before, but hours before. Apparently a rugby game can easily be made into an entire-day happening, starting at dawn and stretching all the way into the wee hours of the next morning. Never say South Africans don't know how to party.   

After the quick (in relative braai terms) bite, we were ready to head towards the stadium (at this time we were also equipped with energizer drinks secretly mixed with vodka, see my previous comment on partying). We found our seats, luckily on the shady side and began to soak in the atmosphere. The stadium was sold out and pretty much all in blue. Even the one Stormers fan in our bunch had not dared to wear his team colors. There was electricity (and beer fumes) in the air. 

After a short (thank Zeus) stripper act that officially went under the banner of cheerleading the game started. Now, I've never even pretended to understand rugby, and can honestly say I am now even more confused. The game wasn't nearly as physical as I had feared, and a lot more kicking of the ball (is it called that?) was involved than I had expected. The Blue Bulls won. How? I don't know. Something they call a try took place a couple of times and both teams accumulated points. What I do know is that the players wore nice uniforms, had good muscular legs, and both teams combined only two of the players were older than I am, which made me feel very old, and sip the berry flavored vodkaizer at an increasing pace. 

During the game, I also participated in the Mexican wave, which was a lot of fun, but not the booing chorus that erupted every time Stormers number 8 had the ball. Luke Watson is called 'Puke', and widely hated amongst South African rugby fans. This hatred is due to a comment he allegedly made regarding the emblem of the South African national team 'The Springboks'. On being picked for the national team he supposedly had said he had a hard time not vomiting on the jersey. Now, as harsh and unwarranted as this may seem, the comment should be decoded through the current debate raging around the symbol of the national team, as well as the past (and quietly also the present) of rugby as a 'whites-only' sport. 

The symbol of the South African national teams during the apartheid era was the springbok. Understandably enough, alongside the renaming of towns and streets and such to reflect the rainbow nation as opposed to retaining reminders of the horrors of apartheid, the symbol and the name of the teams were to be changed from the bok to a protea. In the case of rugby, due to massive resistance, especially from the Afrikaner population, this didn't quite work out at the time. Mandela put a lid on the discussion, but now the demand and the debate have resurfaced. 

This is just my two cents, but looking at the crowd, the players, and hearing the two Bulls fans two rows in front of us belt out the old national anthem (i.e. the apartheid nation's anthem) at the top of their voices does not ensure me I am looking at a good representation of the New South Africa. 

Still, I  did have fun and I enjoyed the experience, but like so many times before in South Africa, I was forced to realize that the nation is still in major transition, and old habits die hard. It is as if the nation is a fifteen year old moody teenager, who goes from being an angel to a complete devil in less than two seconds and even without no one completely realizing the change until it is too late, and the affected bystander is left with no other option than to thank Zeus for wine and being able to buy plenty of it. 

Growing up is hard to do.   


Friday, March 06, 2009

Domestic bliss

I cleaned the house! And, surprise surprise, I managed to clean off quite a few stains and such I had assumed were a permanent part of the walls, or the floor, or the sinks, or the oven, since none of the maids had gotten rid of them. Well, at least now the house looks like I would like it to look when we are expecting guests. The hubby managed to sort out and put away the incredible amount of cables and various thingamajiggers he seems to accumulate year after year and is unable to relinquish. The mother load, that has been taking over the study and spreading its tenticles all the way to the guest room bed (and I swear was actually taking root) is now at least behind closet doors. Hurrah!

Moreover, since the magnificent stain-removal accomplishment gave me an immense surge of domesticity I also baked a Mississippi Mud Pie for dessert tonight. I don't cook and very rarely bake, but I must admit the aroma of the chocolate in the house is pretty darn nice, especially compared to the air freshener that supposedly is citrus scented, but in reality smells like not yet ripe banana mixed with toothpaste.

Furthermore, tomorrow morning I'm doing yet another 10km race. This time in the runner's category...

Life is really truly good. 

Thursday, March 05, 2009

You-know-what chronicles. Yes. Yet again.

Guess what my time has been spent on today. 

I'll give you a clue: 
If it wasn't for the people coming over tomorrow night for a braai I would happily drown.

I'm pretty certain most of you guessed right.

Drumroll please......
Indeed, I have been invading a territory I loathe and hope to clear out of as soon as possible. 
I have been cleaning my house.

This is an SMS I received at 9:10PM Tuesday night, when the maid was scheduled to come 7AM the next morning:

Im not coming 2 moro u must look 4 smeonels who can work with ur list but me i cnt

Nuff said for now. At least she let me know. The battle with the agency continues. However, I would just like to publicly make clear that this time I did not fire the maid, I was willing to make an effort and try to make it work. This time she quit.

How many calories does cleaning your house vigorously burn? Perhaps I am entitled to some nice glasses (read: bottles) of wine... Who am I kidding?!?! I always feel entitled.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Life lessons and some sucky South Africans

We finally have our stuff here in SA. We are almost done with the insurance claim. The weather's good. We started golf lessons. I realized I don't have to read Shantaram if I don't want to. We have awesome friends. We are almost the (not so proud) owners of two cars, so I can get around soon too. We are in good health. I haven't come across any snakes yet. I have plenty to read. After six years of marriage I am more in love than ever.

Life should be good, right?

For the most part life is good too, and we are happy. Still, apparently it doesn't take much to pull me down into the dirt. All it takes are a couple of rude people and I'm sad. I guess I'm writing this post to remind myself of how lucky I am to be who I am and to have what I have in my life, and to remind myself of the negative power a proper hissy fit will have over me. Believe me, had I been privy to the minus energy of my frequent hissy fits as a teenager my mother would not be looking back now at (and I quote practically word for word) "the horror that were the teenage years of my daughter." Sorry mom, at least for some of it...  

Now, I am proud of the fact that I am very much in touch with my own self-worth and if I feel someone is not giving me the respect I deserve I will, without a doubt, let them in on this epiphany. Sometimes in a not so nice way. But, I respect people who deserve my respect. 

What is going on then? Well, something has been going on with the house that we are renting pretty much ever since we moved in. No, the house is not haunted. I wish, that would have been much easier to deal with - get an exorcist and move on. The current problem now is how to deal with the extremely unpleasant aftermath of very much required and warranted repairs in the house. The repairs were eventually taken care of, but for one thing, and as we were trying to get the remaining issue fixed, such rudeness took place that I spent a good 30 minutes crying - over a rude contractor's visit. Naturally after drying my tears I complained, loudly and in writing, and lo and behold instead of an apology I got more shit thrown on me. Points deducted from SA. The contractor's response really got to me, since I had not been rude. Frustrated yes, but not without some very valid reasons in the form of water pouring in every window, construction material blocking the drain, and mold thriving underneath the wood floor, to name a few. In my opinion, we had been more patient than was warranted by the situation, and kind of nice too, regardless of people being late all the time or not showing up at all, or showing up unannounced. The guy actually had the gall to say they never showed up unannounced, because we have to okay them to come in through the gate. However, in this case I consider the gate my front door, and the guards giving me a minute's warning before someone shows up does not an appointment make! 

Currently I am divided as to whether I should mention the name of the rude party (not me, even though they said I was "always unfriendly"). The owner of the house is part of the same company, just a different division, but apart from minor issues has been a fairly decent landlord. I really would like to warn others never to deal with the construction side of this company as they have apparently never heard of such concepts as professionalism or common courtesy, but I am trying to take the high road and use this experience to remind myself how lucky I am if I have nothing better to cry about than an a-hole of a contractor. 

Taking the high road!
Taking the high road!
Taking the high road!
Taking the high road!

Maybe if I keep saying it it will come true.