Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Memories

Easter this year was shaping up to be bright and warm and cheerful but true to Easter weekends of memory Sunday it rained. Still Easter Sunday has been warm and cheerful despite the rain. Very different from most Easter weekends I remember. I've never found Easter memorable here it’s always been a bit heavy and dull. While I was charging around the house on Saturday morning, trying to do housework around the family I was reflecting on why Easter holds little meaning to me now. Just to clarify I am not talking from a religious perspective but merely from my own human perspective.

I think now that I can look back with no emotion I realise that our first Easter here was rather horrid. Though physically we had moved countries and into our new home and for the Mauritian a new job, emotionally we were still way behind. We were lonely that Easter, it was cold, raining and damp. We were very unprepared for how cold it would be, we were expecting to be cold we just had no idea how cold. We didn’t have a lot of money spare that year so we weren’t even sure we could afford to buy Easter eggs for the Butterfly. I remember telling the Mauritian that it didn’t matter; she was still so young she wouldn’t really understand anyway. I also remember feeling so guilty for saying that too. We did eventually manage to buy a few small chocolates and hide them on the veranda. There we were, wrapped in layers against the early morning cold braving the pouring freezing rain while our precious Butterfly charged up and down finding little treasures and wanting to open and eat them all at once. She was in her element, I felt terrible!
I remember so many Easter weekends surrounded by cousins and Aunts and Uncles. Everyone talking and laughing at once lots of business all round. I remember been dragged off to so many church services and having to be quiet and well behaved for so much longer than usual. I remember charging around the garden with my cousins as we all competed to see who could collect the most chocolates. I remember after all that hard work having to beg a chocolate from my mum for the rest of the holiday. Such blessed happy memories even with the grey clouds rain and cool mornings. Now as I watched my child get stuck into her first Easter “egg” hunt I felt terrible that she was all on her own. I was beginning to think perhaps we had be too hasty in our decision to move, my doubts were as black as the skies that Sunday.  We curled up on the couch under a duvet drinking cup after cup of tea and just watched the Butterfly flutter about playing without a care in the world oblivious to the turmoil going on within us.
The following year we were in the final steps towards permanent residency and because of the cost still a little strapped for cash that Easter. In a stroke of genius, or so I thought, I decided to make the Easter chocolates that year. That morning was again grey and cold but at least this time it wasn't raining and the hunt took place in the front yard. But the magic had gone out of Easter for me there was still so much guilt about the Butterfly doing a solo egg hunt.
The past two years it’s been up to the Mauritian. I felt no interest or anticipation for Easter, for me it was just another cold, dark, wet day with memories I didn’t want to keep. The Mauritian complained bitterly about the rain while he tip toed around the house hiding chocolates. The Butterfly squealed with delight at the thought of a rabbit hopping about the house hiding Easter eggs while she was sleeping. I was grateful for the distraction of the Lollipop last year I was too busy with her to stop and worry about what my Butterfly was missing. 

What a difference a year makes! Suddenly Easter’s magic has returned. Thanks to the security that comes with the realisation that our choice to move was the right one. Thanks to the companionship of new and close friends. Thanks to warm blue skies and bird song. Winter is taking her time leaving the north so summer is holding on here a while longer so this year Easter has been warm and bright despite the compulsory Easter Sunday rain. In the early morning dark, the Mauritian and I ran about the back yard hiding chocolates anticipating the look of our children’s faces. When the time came the Butterfly took the Lollipop by the hand and off they went on an egg hunt. How lovely it was to watch them tearing about the garden finding treasures everywhere. For the Lollipop it was pure magic, she still pops out into the garden to check if something else has magically appeared. This afternoon we joined friends for a lunch time barbeque. This couple have no children of their own but the house was filled to bursting with their nieces and nephews and children of the other guests. The Butterfly was delighted, especially as there was a classmate of hers there too. Even the Lollipop was easily detached from my leg and swept along by the rampage that only children can make. Come to think about it, for the first time since our arrival in our corner of World’s end we were at a barbeque where we knew everyone. No introductions required! But I digress, after lunch today the kids were told that there was another egg hunt to be had. Off they went tripping and falling over each other to find the huge quantity of chocolates that had been hidden around the house. The Lollipop was not left out and even though she found some herself the other children happily past on one or two of their finds to her, she had quite a stash at the end. The noise level was great with every child speaking or shouting at once, the adults just sat in the dining room leaving the children to their own devices! No worries cos that’s just how we roll!
Today I said goodbye to my Easter guilt as it dissipated with the squeals and yells of children having fun together. While the adults cooked and cleaned laughed and talked, storing new memories safely away. My how the times have changed! 

The stubborn summer sun is slowly setting on this peaceful Easter Sunday evening. Neil Diamond is softly serenading “Holly Holy” the Mauritian is dozing on the couch. Our sweaty chocolate covered daughters are splashing quietly in the bath before bed. And here I am once again reflecting on what was another perfect day and feeling just a little sentimental.


The Job at Hand

Like her mother before her the Butterfly is not the most agile or athletic child. Unlike her mother, however she is enthusiastic and game for almost anything. The Butterfly will give it a go if everyone else is. 

The Butterfly loves themed days at school and has happily dressed up as a pirate, a Christmas elf, or a Butterfly Princess and worn a bazaar wig to a disco.
Her first month at primary school she took part in the school cross country with boundless enthusiasm. The Mauritian was instructed that she needed new trainers and I was told she needed comfortable clothes to run in. The Mauritian bought her a brand new pair of trainers; I just dressed her in her same clothes. In the days before the event, the children trained daily with their class and we were given a daily report of her progress.  My heart almost burst with pride on the day, she put her head down and just ran. Two circuits of the cricket field at Pukakura Park and not once did she stop to walk or get distracted by the other children around she just got on with the job at hand! When she came home that afternoon, she said, “Did you see me mum, I just got on with it and I didn’t give up. I made it all the way to the end!” What an immense sense of achievement she must have felt that day.
The one thing she has is rhythm, she loves to dance and as with all else she does it with great enthusiasm. The school dance saw her dancing her little legs of and smiling broadly all the while. Again, I noticed the immense concentration; she repeated the steps over and over with great precision. She would be concentrating so hard on getting the steps right she would lose time then she would scramble to get back in time. Five songs they danced to of varying lengths and not once did she turn to look for me or stop dancing she just got on with the job at hand!
I asked her afterwards if she'd had fun: “Yes mum,” she said jumping about “dancing is super fun but it makes me tired sometimes!”
Then she started playing cricket, and apart from the first game when she complained bitterly that she did not like fielding, she attacked it as enthusiastically as everything else. She never missed a practise or a game and showed improvement and increased enthusiasm each time. Her proudest moment came the game she was chosen as the captain; she hasn’t let us forget it. I love watching her play she misses more balls then she catches or hits but she goes after every ball. She loves to bowl and does it really well. The thing I’m most proud of is how she just gets on with the job on hand. She makes a point of always watching the ball even if sometimes it takes her a while to realise the ball is heading towards her.  I asked her after a game once if she enjoyed fielding now and was told “No not really but I just get on with it.”
After struggling, together to teach her to swim the Mauritian and I were floored at how much she learnt during her swimming lessons at school. From not letting her face get wet to holding her breath and sitting on the floor of the pool in five short weeks. At her swimming demonstration she had a look of determination on her face, her Papa was watching she had to show him how good she was.
Then came the Central School Junior Triathlon! The Butterfly was so excited she could hardly sleep the night before. Yet again, her enthusiasm and determination shone through as she got down to the job at hand. Off they went running once around their school field then grabbing scooters or bikes and riding to and around the Quadrangle. Back they came dropping off the bikes and scooters running half a circuit of the field to the swimming pool. At the pool, they were told to climb in and run along the bottom for the width of the pool then a final run to the finish line, except the Butterfly she swam it. The Butterfly did it all head down, biting her lower lip in concentration and never once faltered or stopped. Except when she was almost at the end, she looked up and saw me and Hollie she smiled broadly waved and yelled “Hello Hollie!” She had a “high five” for everyone at the end and I heard her saying to her teacher “Can we do it again tomorrow?”

No my precious Butterfly will never be an Olympic athlete but she sure knows the value of doing her best and having fun trying!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Hakka Beauty

Those among us who do not have a Kiwi upbringing think the Hakka is just a silly thing the All Blacks do before the start of a rugby match. Now we all know it is of pacific origin and most assume it is some kind of war dance.
Living here at world's end I have learnt very little else about the Hakka or its origins, but I have learnt this: There is a lot of power and emotion in a Hakka and with every movement there is a story. I am learning slowly to appreciate its beauty.
The uniqueness of the Hakka unites Kiwis worldwide when it matters most. Even during the Rugby world cup it has the power to draw in even those who have no interest in rugby, everyone sits down to watch the All Blacks perform a Hakka! 

Last year at Central School’s final assemble boys aged eleven and twelve stood up proud and performed a Hakka loudly and with joy in their faces they had made it through another year of school, they were well and truly ready for their holiday and it showed in every movement and shout.
Recently a family member of a friend died somewhat tragically, I don’t have the details of her death suffice to say that it was not from natural causes and it is obvious that she was loved.
I know this from a video taken at her funeral posted on Facebook: When her coffin was been carried from the service to the hearse the parking lot resounded with the cries of the Hakka performed by High School Students. Even over the internet the emotions were palpable, the respect phenomenal it sent shivers running up my spine. These boys were fare welling someone, they were feeling their loss very deeply, and it showed it every deliberate movement every loud resounding word of the chant. How can such incredible beauty not move you? 

At any important festival, at the arrival of dignitaries or celebrities the Hakka booms through the air and people stop and watch in fascination or pride. The Hakka sets or reflects the mood or says what people are thinking or feeling.  The Hakka is a part of Kiwi society, tradition and identification it will always be.
It has survived centuries of changes, oppression and modernisation yet it has managed to retain its primal value. It is a call to battle, a cry of welcome, it is a celebration, a sign of respect, it is an opening, a closing, and a sad farewell. 

The Hakka, in its own uniquely Kiwi tradition is a thing of pure beauty.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Looking Forward

So I’m sitting here at home on a lovely warm autumn afternoon, Carter’s Window is crooning through the Mauritian’s custom  built loud speakers and I’m thinking life just doesn’t get any better than this!
We’re home from a busy, tiring, extremely sweaty and sometime stressful six-week tropical holiday. Our Little Lollipop is no longer a baby; she’s a walking talking screaming bundle of character and personality. The Butterfly is a smiling, intelligent if sometimes insolent growing child seemingly unfazed by life. The Mauritian is tearing along at his place of employment alternately loving and hating it but giving it all he’s got regardless. He’s home on the weekends and our time is our own and the girls demand every spare moment he has. Me, I couldn’t be more content, our struggles to settle into life at World’s End and to make a place for us is over. I no longer worry about the Butterfly fitting in or if we’ll be warm enough this winter. In fact things seems so right at the moment that I haven’t put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard rather since coming home, I haven’t needed to. That’s a good feeling!
So this is the first blog of the year and it’s just about April already, never mind I'll find a way to make up for the lack thereof I'm sure. Autumn is supposed to be here but the summer is clinging on vengefully and will not be persuaded to head north. Autumn it seems is only allowed in for a few hours after dark.  The long winter nights are beginning but we are still staggering about in the dark in our summer pjs. The best part about this year is that actually I have no stories to tell, no events to look forward to or work towards and as of yet no "light bulb" moments. I have managed to turn forty with a minimum of fuss, an awesome if a tad early birthday party and an “eReader” that I am exceptionally pleased with. We have made some new friends and once again, our weekends are busy and memorable. But I am still well on my way to having a year of just being; no major changes or situations that need attending are looming on the horizon of time. This year it’s all about the mundane. This year it’s all about the reply “Nothing much” to the question of “What are you doing...?”  Guess what, I'm actually enjoying it so far. Will it remain this way? Who knows? For now, I am quite happy with things the way they are.
However, next year is shaping up to be a busy one with lots of excitement in the mix.
Not too long ago that marvellous invention called SKYPE rang and I was talking to my wondering cousin from “Africa2Anywhere” who will be heading down to the end of the world and spending Christmas with us. I am so looking forward to seeing “Tin Bum” and “Teeny” and hearing their stories about their travels and experiences. But I think the prospect of again spending Christmas with family is what I am most looking forward too, even though it’s just a small part of a large family.  
About four days into the Mauritian part of our tropical holiday, my baby brother and my favourite Eeyore finally announced their engagement. I was so excited I didn’t think to ask why they waited until we’d left to make the announcement.  So began the discussions between the Mauritian and me about how we were going to save the money required to send us all back to South Africa for a wedding. Fortunately, a wedding date was set early so we have been able to make definite plans for our next holiday before even arriving home from our first holiday. Unfortunately, finances, employment and education have dictated that it will only be me going home next year; the Mauritian and the girls will be staying at world’s end to carry on as normal. I’ll confess I’m rather looking forward to travelling alone. I can hear it now, the sharp intake of breath and the look of horror on some faces. Doesn’t change a thing though, after the stress of getting two adults, a child and an infant through an airport thirteen times, a hotel twice, two flight delays, two extended stop over’s, issues with the infant ticket twice, over weight baggage for one domestic flight, two airport shuttle trips and two missing pieces of luggage travelling on my own sounds like heaven.

Then there is my eldest niece who is working towards a holiday at World’s end during her summer break next year. Why she would want to swop a northern winter for a southern one when she’s on a summer break may sound odd but I don’t care at least she’s coming to visit.
I shall digress here a moment if you will so indulge me and address my beautiful niece directly:    Now not only is it on Facebook but I have also stated it worldwide on my public blog! You have no choice now niece of mine you have to visit! (Insert smiley face)
I’m sure she knows I love her.
And now back to my ramblings!
That takes care of the first half of next year I wonder what else the fates have in store for us next year. Now, that thought brings me rudely back to the present and the realisation that even though I have been blessed with a year of calm rambling there are those around me in turmoil. I now realise that I have just one thing I really need to do this year, support a friend who is in the process of changing their circumstances and starting their life over. I’ll admit I am honoured to be one of the two people who are aware of our friend’s life changing decisions. But watching my friend struggle to get things into place in order to move on and forward is hard. There is little I can do but support the decisions, play “devil’s advocate” and try not say anything on Facebook that will give the game away. I’m not a very good secret keeper; thank goodness, I was allowed to tell the Mauritian!  I glad I am able to be there as support it gives me something to obsess over.                                                      When I sign off from most of my emails, messages and I think even some of my previous blogs, I say “Love, light and happiness!” Love because everyone deserves to be and to give love in return, love in all its forms is a basic human need. Light to illuminate this darkness we call life, even just a suggestion of positive light turns the shadows of negativity into a familiar shape. Happiness because it is something we all strive for and perhaps we need to be reminded sometimes that its right there in front of us we just have to reach out and take hold of it. At this point in my life, I feel only contentment and peace, my heartaches as I watch a good friend struggle against what must feel like indomitable hurdles and yet I know patience and perseverance is the key. I cannot provide either of these virtues nor can I fix the problems my friend must face. I do not like the fact that at times like these words completely escape me. Saying things like “Stay positive” or “Hang in there” and “Keep at it,” sound hollow they have been said too many times. Yet at times like these, what can I say that will have any meaning or encouragement? The truth is my friend has to go through the process alone all I can do is check in with them regularly, try to make light of a bad situation. All I can be is a sympathetic ear or someone who may see things from a different perspective. All I can be is a positive friend bringing only love, light and happiness where and when it’s needed.
I shall do this because I am truly grateful for this year to just be, and for the memories that are waiting to be made in 2014.