Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gestational-Occupational Hazards

More than two weeks have passed since I was last able to indulge my fetish for opinionising and storytelling - and oh, what a MINDBLOWING two weeks it has been... If I hadn't been broken by the exhaustion that comes with working full-time when 6 months pregnant, there would have been reams and reams of stories for you to read, but instead, I've been coming home from work with only one thing on my mind: sleep.
Getting up every hour or so to pee (the good Lord's way of preparing you for the ultimate post-birth shock of deliriously sleepless nights)is already not a very good way to ensure optimum rest for a long day at work. In the later hours of the morning - the icy, black night air clamped around me in our draughty little loo, I somehow manage to feel grateful delight that my baby girl is alive and well in my belly (then my selfish need to be warm again overtakes this motherly altruism, and I remember to turn the heating on again so we don't have shiver and shudder getting dressed in the 6am cold.) Between our quick showering, getting dressed and leaving the house at 7.30am, Max is given the quickest of runarounds and a top-up of bunny muesli, Craig glugs back a strong cup of coffee while he catches up with the latest news on the Guns 'n Roses site and I spoon ungraceful mouthfuls of muesli into my mouth while trying to apply eyeliner, mascara and blusher in double-time.
It's a wonderful thing for one scatterbrain to live with another sufferer of this disease: I don't have to feel too guilty if I forget my cellphone -- and I don't mind too much when the reverse happens and Craig forgets something of his. Between us, though, we are never ever late: a point of great pride for both of us! The drive between Spratton (where Craig's school is) and all the way back past our village to Kettering takes about 45 minutes - but it's a picturesque and peaceful drive along winding country roads with sprawling views of the farms and villages - where every day is different to the one before: sometimes veiled in a luxuriously thick mist, sometimes everything is asparkle with dew and immaculate sunshine...

I so badly wanted to write about all the things that've happened in the last two weeks, but now, unavoidably, the groceries need doing. And so, I must say goodbye - but with a promise to write a little every day instead of never writing because I'm waiting for a fat chunk of time to suddenly pop along out of the blue!

Until tomorrow, adios.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Kraut, the strippers and all the little children

A week of work - and indeed, WHAT a week! Getting out this lonely house and cramped little village has given me so much food for thought (and writing) that I feel I might explode with all the stories that've bombarded me every moment of my last 5 working days! Where on earth would I begin?!

Having hungered to write every evening, today was D-Day for letting my post-work exhaustion get the better of me. And so, here I am, back at the keyboard and blissfully happy! (A chubby glass of red wine would, however, make me ecstatically happy!!) Today's BlogPatrol statistics showed that one of today's six readers found my blog by typing: "names of strippers at teazers durbanville" into Google! Eish! This is what they discovered - but whether someone looking for the the names of strippers at a specific Northern Suburbs titty-bar would be inclined to read the actual blog entry is utterly dubious, let alone understand the 3+ syllable words!! A slightly twisted German found one of my other blog entries after searching for 'medical fetish'!! This reminds me of a Swiss-Italian colleague of mine at university - a giant and burly, bizarre sculptor who specialised in sculpting from stone and marble. One sultry windless night, on the slopes of Vredehoek in Cape Town, he regaled a handful of us with a sickening but somehow (I'm ashamed to admit) still intriguing story of a surgeon friend of his who just couldn't get it off, or get it up (ahem!) without his pretty nurse slicing open his poor, innocent scrotum - and then delicately stitching it back up again.
Gosh - and now I have a German hunting for medical fetishes on the Net on my blog!! Hopefully (and with a prayer attached) it was not the sort of information he ached for... (he -- or she! -- found my entry about 'Foodie Fetishes' that South Africans suffer from when living away. Wonder what he thought? Anyway, I'd far rather be a food-obsessed South African than a medical fetishist Kraut!!)

My eyelids are struggling to defy the inevitable law of gravity, my muscles are whining, like nagging, over-tired children: please, take us to bed... NOW!!!! But before I succumb to this delicious and long awaited eventuality, let me tell you a little about my week of work at a primary school in Kettering that first employed me for just a week of 'cover' - but have now asked me to please stay as long as I possibly can(proud wink)!
Branded a 'special measures' school, I had absolutely no idea WHAT I was letting myself in for when I emailed my agency straight back agreeing to take up the post - seeing only, kaching-kaching, money in the bank. Day one was manageable - the staff impressed me with their welcoming, co-operative team spirit (a wonderful surprise after my very chilly one day in another state-run primary school a few months ago!) The kids seemed ok - until the Monday, Day 2, when I found myself in a storm of pre-pubescent clawing and biting! Another incident had one writhing, twisting boy being physically restrained by the headmaster and another teacher while he screamed, red faced and fuming frantically, "I'll kill you! I'm gonna kill you!!"
Besides this constant threat of violent verbal and physical behaviour, there's the children who make your heart break for their lack of love and care at home. A little girl was caught stealing the others' lunches, after weeks of it disappearing - the school is going to press charges against the mother for neglect. She doesn't feed her child. Another little one is so stressed that she broke down in class saying, when pressed by my questioning, "But I've got so many problems, Miss Roberts... I don't know where to start."

Hmmm... as usual there is just so, so much I need to say. But I simply have to cut myself short here - I will have to write more on the weekend...
The long and the short of it, is that the two headmasters heard about how I was working with these more troubled children from the rest of the staff, and that they want me to run specialised, therapeutic art classes for these particularly 'special' children. Eight of them. I'll be able to design how the classes will be run - gives me an excuse to buy the art therapy textbooks I've been itching to buy for the last 10 years! So at long, long last I have found a very special spot which feels as if it was opened up just for me! BLESSED!!

Sorry this was such a short, squat bit of story - but I will be back on the weekend with a vengeance!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Week of Work!

YIPPEEEEE!!! YAHOOOO!!! HURRAY!! At long, long last I have some work from Protocol Education!! From tomorrow till the next Friday I'll be a teacher's assistant at Avondale Junior School in Kettering - and why exectly I'm telling you is because I'll probably be too tired to write in the evenings -- my blog will be stuck in limbo for awhile. Though, who knows, I may just have a story I'll be bursting to tell you!

Until then, keep the comments and stories rollin' in, folks! And, while you have some time, why not explore my other blog listed just here to the right? See it?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Four spoons of sugar, please!

Though there have been some very exciting and rather distracting things I would love to have written about instead - including a trip with another 2 South Africans to an Indian takeaway hidden in the dark bowels of a ghostly industrial estate. But, I had promised to write more about our family's 'domestic worker'...

Eunice Thenjiwe Nozulu. (Though I think, in all likelihood, it's probably Thenjiwe Eunice Nozulu - the issue of carrying both a Xhosa name as well as an English name is a whole nother matter: it could be psychoanalysed and deconstructed and stripped 'moer-toe', but at the end of the day it is about two things: fitting in / belonging outside of their Xhosa culture and the general white laziness to pronounce the clicks and curls of Xhosa names.) I can hardly remember back to being three years old and Eunie's first day at work - but there are beautiful, richly coloured memories of Eunie arriving at our pre-primary school to take Melissa and I home, a short walk in the swelteringly perfect summer afternoon, babbling and giggling as if we were all three years old - Eunie telling us she'd made us strawberry jelly for after our lunch! I mean - what more could two little girls want? It was only as we got a little older that the roles reversed a little and we were the ones who made her hot, cheesy toasted sarmies for lunch - and, it would be hopeless to try count the cups of dark, scaldingly hot tea saturated with at least FOUR heaped spoons of sugar! It was round about this time too that Eunie began to scold us, albeit playfully, for our messy bedrooms or leaving crumbs on the kitchen counter.
She gave birth to identical twin girls - Ayanda and Siyanda - when I was about 5 or 6. I decided then and there that black babies were definitely the most gorgeous and adorable in the world! And oh, how deliciously they smelled: like hot, crumbling spice cookies just out the oven! We used to beg Eunie to bring the babies to work so we could tickle them, tease them and carry them tied tightly to our backs with their baby blankets! And as we got older, we watched the twins grow from plump dumplings to shy schoolgirls. (But you see, as I'm writing, I'm editing and heavily censoring myself to the point where there must be a thousand intertwined stories that deserve telling - and here I am giving it all to you in cutesy-pie, neatly wrapped up sentences. Whatever shall we do about this? Perhaps I should devote the rest of the week to telling Eunice's story in full? Actually, it is not so much a story, as stories: hey,it could be the basis for my first ever novel! So maybe I shouldn't spill the beans here in this blog - maybe I should keep it all under wraps till it is a published novel? Let's take a vote!! Let me know your vote in the COMMENTS option below!)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A domestic affair

Since the very minute I opened my lazy, Sunday-sleep-in eyes, I’ve been trying to get on top of the housework. And I don’t just mean the basic day-to-day of laundry and dirty dishes – I mean: deep cleaning -- every crack and cranny and nook and dusty cobweb! On days like this when my hands reek of bleach and I blush, all alone on the bathroom floor, for shame at the accumulated filth, I wonder if it’s just me – or do you also suffer from this same domestic affliction?

For example, our bathroom. The bath gets washed after every use – as well as the basin. The shower sort of looks after itself – though the persistent build up of that stubborn milky limescale on the glass doors is something I should tackle more often – but the damn fumes from the cleaning agent give my asthmatic lungs a nasty shock and it takes so long!! And yes, I’ve tried the domestic-goddess eco-equivalent : a dysfunctional paste of baking soda and white spirit vinegar which requires more elbow grease and brute strength than I possess! And so, window wide open, I dribbled limescale-remover over the glass shower doors, scrubbing it hopefully (and holding my breath) over every square inch. A thorough rinsing and voila! the shower looked fabulously a-sparkle! But the limescale monster lurks invisibly in the water-pipes, just waiting to begin its unstoppable, ugly destruction!

Sometimes I wonder if it’s that I was spoilt by the very South African tradition of having a ‘char’. Heaven forbid I say ‘maid’, so let’s stick with ‘domestic worker’, shall we? (By the way, as a quick aside, does anyone agree with me about how profoundly irritating and petty it is when ordinary, unharmful words suddenly accrue a new, derogatory – even blasphemous – meaning altogether? Take, for instance, the word ‘maid’.

1. a. An unmarried girl or woman
b. A virgin
2. A woman servant
3. A housemaid or chambermaid
[Middle English maide, from Old English maegden]

Now… Please… (sigh) tell me that the journey this word has taken from its ancient and simple origin is not a ludicrous one!? How did ‘maid’ become a swear word in South Africa? (And the more I think about it, the more I am confused by the stupidity of it!) Radio 702 DJ Jeremy Mansfield received a vigorous handslapping for using the word in what could only be called a rather unthoughtful manner -- see below:

“The word meid is defined in the Afrikaans/English Dictionary, … as a derogatory reference to a (coloured) maid servant, servant-girl. Although the term maid or meid can also be used in an endearing manner, we have no doubt that the term was used and understood in its derogatory and racial meaning here. We accept in favour of the Respondent that it was never the intention of Mr Mansfield to be derogatory of black women.”

Obviously, the way in which a word is spoken can speak volumes more than the specificity of the word itself – but was it really necessary to revamp an entire vocabulary? Yes, the word has been used with venom and violence, but so have other words describing certain vocations whose nomenclature has remained unchanged. So why this particular one? Our domestic worker began working her two-days-a week at our house when I was about 3 years old. We shared Eunice with my best friend’s family – and she really was like an aunt to us: walking to pick Melissa and I up from playschool, making us cold red strawberry jelly on hot summer days and the most delicious toasted cheese snackwiches. 27 years later and she still works two days a week for my mom and dad – in the same house… (this is a story all on its own – I’ll write more about it tomorrow!)

But back to the crux of the matter: can I blame my erratic style of cleaning on my cyclic nature of doing things (i.e. chaos jolts me into frantic, obsessively detailed order which slowly disintegrates into eventual chaos…) or can I blame it on having grown up with a maid/domestic who did all the big household chores like vacuuming, ironing, floor-mopping and window-cleaning so that I never observed and learned for myself? Here, in my little English house, I must be my own maid – and truth be told, like Eunice works two days a week, I should probably (I guess it’s downright unavoidably obvious) do the same: design a housekeeping schedule and stick to it religiously.

(I’m really intrigued by this idea of my generation basically being the last to have grown up with a Xhosa, Zulu or Sotho woman in their daily life – so a) I’ll be exploring it more deeply over the next week and b) how can I convince you all to tell me about your stories?! Do I have to pay you? Just kidding – but I am BEGGING you for your own stories, ideas and opinions – kapish? And besides - I think I've just scraped the very top of a very hot iceberg indeed - so the more that can be a part of this juicy and important debate the better!)

PS. Thanks, Jeanne, for your Bovril advice - and your delicious blog :