Have you ever swallowed a monster?

*  I have a Peruvian friend, who instead of saying

“sister – in – law” says, “sister in love”

24 April 2010

I have never been one to count the days, work out the cycle nor to blame it on hormones. From time to time though I would have a peculiar ache here or a funny feeling there. Upon enquiry one day my “sister – in – love*” answered in amusement and with her arms resting on her hips “how many times do we have to go through this?”

Last night the light finally went on…

I was busy working on something, but I was not alone. See, there has been this other creature lurking around the last two days. Uninvited and with a very unpleasant character.  Around 7 pm European time and early morning South East Asian time I sent out a distress signal to my close friend and confidant.

“Has it ever felt as if you had swallowed a monster?” Read my skype message.

Sharing various similar beliefs, theories, frustrations and the harvest of an entire Eritrean coffee plantation, we know how each other’s minds tick … or not tick for that matter.

However, this once – his reply did not match mine.

It was an honest: “uhm…. no?”

“Ok, then it is hormonal” I replied in an instant.

“Ask your fiancé – if it ever felt as if she had swallowed a monster” It took less than five seconds for her, also a close and trusted friend, to reply. I sighed in relief when he typed on her behalf: “She says – yes”

Big sigh.

“great !!! “ I answered.

“Swallowing monsters is great? – Women” he replied.

“Ask her if she then feels like a natural born killer with the urge to walk around and go  – hands up everyone this is a robbery –“

I imagined him poking his head out from behind the computer screen looking at her reading on the nearby sofa asking: “E wants to know that when you have swallowed a monster, do you feel like a natural born killer?”

“Once again yes” he typed.

Yeah, I cried out loudly and virtually high fived her.

I replied: “crisis diverted, everything under control, back to work”

Sincerely he wished my monster and me a good evening.

This is how it feels when I swallow a monster. It just happens. Without warning and no prior informed consent from the hosting body. It is like swallowing a bug. The one moment you are laughing, talking, eating and the next moment – in goes the bug. The only thing is, that a bug is much easier to digest than a monster.

Now that you have swallowed the poor thing, well let’s not feel sorry for the monster because in fact it counted the days, consulted with the moon and your female anatomy and once it got the “ all systems clear, ready to launch signal” from fellow conspirators it launched shamelessly, but since it is in – you want it out.

I start off with the following chant: “uuuuuuuuuuuuurggggggh, aaaaaaaarrrgh,uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhh” whilst shaking my arms with my fingers dangling from my hands and my spine contracting in a very peculiar way. Nope, doesn’t work. Monster is still there.  Having a personality of its own, it refuses to give up and with every convulsion it fights back, proving that there is just not enough space in this body for both of you fighting.

The monster feeds on grim weather, people not responding quickly enough to your messages, coffee served cold and long queues at the post office. All you want to do is speak monster to everyone. All you want to say to the poor waiter that asked you if he can replace your coffee is a growling “uuuurrrrrrg” When you walk into the post office you want to “uurrrrrrgggggggh” everyone in front of you. And this idea the monster loves, because it wants you to speak monster to everyone. But you refuse to because you do not speak monster to others. This is between you and your monster, innocent bystanders needn’t be exposed to your monster, which has been my primary reason for never blaming anything on hormones. Deal with it, don’t take it out on others and hide behind a visiting monster.

The longer you feed your monster, the more it enjoys its stay. Why wouldn’t it? All its dietary requests are being met and it is having fun on your expense, sucking up your energy, making everything seem unproportionally complicated.

Since I have realized that from time to time I swallow a monster, I feel less anxious about it. Knowing that the world is still spinning on its axis, that Mars is where it should be, so is Venus (in the kitchen right?) that the moon will settle down and that all is in perfect harmony with nature. Knowing all of this I decided that the best thing to do is to make peace with my monster. I acknowledge its arrival, I tire it out by continue doing what I need to do and never ever speak monster to others. This is between you and your monster.  Sadly you can’t “urrrrrg” it out in an instant, you need to digest it, which normally takes a day or two. The monster easily gets bored when acknowledged but ignored, and leaves. But sadly it will come visit, again and again, attempting its best to bring out the monster in you.

Life is a status update

Life is a status update

It is late Wednesday evening, or early Thursday morning – depending on how you look at it, almost like the glass of red wine that is either half-empty or half-full. I either went to bed very late or got up very early. Then again – if you haven’t slept, can you claim that you have gone to bed or that you have gotten out of it?

After updating my cyber-status, which is almost just as important as brushing your teeth and turning the lights off before going to bed in this cyber – social, virtual – exhibition, digital – teasing, stranger – poking world that we now live in, I climbed into bed. Let’s face it, not only is our head bone connected to our neck bone and so on, but you and I are connected to a modem that connects us to someone random and so on.

We share, upload, download and poke shamelessly. Will there soon be FB anonymous?

“Hello, I am Peter and I poke strangers”

“Hellooooo Peter” (Sorry Peter for however you are. Disclaimer: All names are fictional, any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental … or something like it)

Then again, if I had to be pen pals with all of you that I have crossed paths with, can you imagine the size of my carbon footprint? I would be responsible for cutting down a forest or two, sending several planes across the globe with envelopes addressed to you safely in cargo, the fumes emitted by the local post office scooter etc. So, sorry for tagging and nagging but it is the greenest way of communicating with all of you at once.

All of you at once? Wouldn’t that be great? To have every single great person in your life in the same room. I then decided to organize a party and invite all of you from across the globe.

All of you at once.

All of you at a party, together on the same continent, arriving at the same time and in the same time zone, hanging out under the same roof.

Due to logistical issues this party will be held nowhere else than in my head. However, our specialists are working on the details to arrange this party in a more suitable venue and invites will soon follow to all of you.

But for the time being, we are all together in my head and in my heart, about to arrive at an awesome party. At this party, you can wear whatever you want, as long as you come as the great person I remember. You can bring whomever you want, as long as they contribute to others as much as you have contributed to my life. You can speak whatever language you want, as long as we talk about the spectacular things we have done together. You can stay as late as you want, as long as you stay.

At this party we will talk about Dragon Boat races, we would all try to remember the name of the 6 foot Taiwanese coach, laugh about how some of us could never run up that mountain. We will compare dive logs, and be surprised how many of us shared the same dive instructor and remember nights at Fu Dog. We will talk about the Lighthouse, the swimming pool that closed, leaving us without a mutual Sunday meeting point.

We will talk about existentialism, conventionalism and other isms. We would eat pizza and watch profound parts from old movies. We would drink as many cups of coffee as we can.

We will remember the balcony and the BBQ, moon festivals, lake parades and a wine tour that started in Switzerland and ended in France. Particles that collide and Europeans playing soccer, we will meet at Gate number 7.

We will recall a time in a yellow truck, all 20 of us on African soil. We will remember the outfits and nail polish of the wild guide. We will talk about lions, tents, bush toilets, jamieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and a wine tour, and with some shame remember how we ended up on my mother’s lawn.

We will exchange photos from Paris and smile at how we didn’t stop talking about diving instead of shopping.

We will wonder what happened to “hoefies” and if it is still in section 18.

We will dream about Arniston’s white sand dunes, a blue beach buggie, the Strandloper, Bob and Basel, how to bring in a yellowtail, the waves, but most of all the color of the ocean.

We will dance to  “I’ve got a feeling”, exchange emails in Barcelona and walk in the rain in Prague.

We will play Kaptein Span die Seile, and Italians will sing along to Kurt Darren. We will eat blue cake, have cupcakes and champagne as well as chocolate pudding and maybe some baby tjoklits. We will eat home made Italian dishes, braai as much as we can and ask, “who brought chicken to a braai?”

We will talk about the speed at which our Maths teacher explained Algebra, the fastest of them all, but also the most adored teacher, friend and mother.

We will laugh about how we hid in a closet and how all 100 plus of us cross dressed our uniforms on the last day of school, remembering how hot the rugby guys looked in our skirts.

We will talk about section 2 and wonder if it is too windy for the outside section, noticing the clouds rolling over Table Mountain. We will throw ice cubes in the back of the kitchen and have some dessert when no one is watching. We will have great conversations next to section 3 waiting for the band to finish and dream about koeksisters.

We will talk about times that we drank red wine instead of preparing for our admissions exams, and times we went down a river instead of studying environmental stuff. We will ask what time Doris is arriving.

We will talk about that blue run, laugh spastically when asked “what’s up?” and remember that we still need to send the system a screen shot.

We will talk about all the weddings that took place, and those planned, we will look at baby photos and we will celebrate loved ones that could not join.

We will take a group photo with a cow, all of us to be tagged.

We will all  sing along to Felicita and dance until the sun comes up and decide to dance some more, because we will only have this one party together. In my heart, I carry the names of the guest list for this party, the greatest souls around the globe.

Substance to the max

Substance to the max.

First, I have to set the scene. It is Thursday afternoon, 11 February 2010. They say it is cold outside and I believe them. From where I am sitting on my sofa, overlooking the old town square situated in the heart of Geneva, it looks cold. My living room is comfortably warm and my washing almost dry. The battery of my computer is about to run out. All I hear is the clock in the kitchen ticking and people passing by. Earlier, music was coming from my room, my “wake – up happy tunes” playlist. Going through a rock phase for the first time in my life. Great playing air-guitar early in the morning. Neighbors agree.

Normally, I would have been at work, today, yesterday and the day before – but it turns out that I am working on something that is close to a shift list. At the UN of all places. If it was some emergency response shift list, it would have been great, but it isn’t. Why is it that we feel guilty when we do not form part of the majority that wakes up in the morning to go to an office? I don’t even like the idea of an office.

Making the most of my time off, and since there is no ocean to dive in, I am attempting  …. do I dare say it …. finishing my book. Oh dear, now it is out there. Seriously, if it wasn’t for my mother’s non-stop “write your book”, “finish your book” I am not so sure if I would be sitting here right now trying to finish it. In fact, if it wasn’t for my mother and father, I would have never even made it through my 6 months unpaid internship in Geneva. My mother also has four folders of all the emails I wrote when I lived in Taiwan, and I am sure that if I don’t finish this book – she would finish it herself because thanks to her those four years are well documented.

I have lost track of what I wanted to say. Right, substance. An unknown reader left a comment earlier about substance. I have always liked the word, the meaning. Substance to the max – that is what our lives should be full of. Meaningful substance, in the form of events, people, experiences, good stuff, great stuff, wild adventures, stories – all to the max.

This weekend I went skiing with a friend. I cannot ski. I am in the process of learning. At one point I kept on falling over, at a reasonable steep slope, or so I thought. Every single time I got up, I would fall over again. After knocking my chin really hard, my friend gave me one look and decided to sit down besides me in the snow, “let’s have a candy” she said. She opened her pocket and took out some sweets and handed them to me. Both of us now sitting in the snow, not sure if I wanted to cry our laugh, the two of us just started laughing. I have to interrupt myself to add, that when the two of us are together we laugh non-stop, no matter the circumstances. After a couple of jellybabies we got up and made our way down. Despite the fact that I was white knuckling my poles, I loved pushing myself beyond a physical and mental limit, a limit I haven’t crossed before.

Then yesterday, while I was in a yoga class, I realized something else. Once again, I need to interrupt. I cannot touch my toes. Never could. Never would. The yoga teacher says that my hamstrings are very short, she says it in a manner that I think grants a note, one that I can keep in my pocket in case people laugh at me (again) for not being able to touch my toes. I will then merely take out my yoga teacher’s note in defense. During some twisted but aligned position, which was explained in French (I don’t speak French) I said to myself: No wonder you find yourself out of depth sometimes. You spend most of your life in unfamiliar surroundings. I am not used to the cold, to snow, I do not understand French and I will never be able to touch my toes, yet – I give it a go because it is substance. Great substance.

It has been a while since I have been in a position where I can say – stand back, I know what I am doing. I am not near the ocean where I can lead others to depths,  instead I am wrapped up in layers, hidden from the cold where only my blue nose is visible – but it is worth the ride down the slope and the breaks for comfort candies in between.

Tears, tremors and joy


I must admit, that I don’t write as often as I should. I know the reason why – most likely because a blog is very public. You can find anything and everything about a person on a public domain, read and interpret as much as you want, without even knowing the person and with no opportunity to ask a question for the sake of clarification. True, that is what writing is all about – we never meet the author, we read, digest, and move on. But still, I would argue that being the author of a book is way different then being the author of your own blog. This is a blog, therefore I can use the phrase “way different”

Judgement, I would say is the biggest reason why I don’t blog that often, the fear of being judged. Not judged for what I do, and what I say – for those who know me personally will testify that there is very little that I hide. I say what I think, I show what I feel – but at least then I am there in person to take responsibility for it. To place yourself out there on any public domain is different. You expose glimpses of your life to an audience that you have no control over. Anyone can read what you think, feel or fear. So why share it? What is it about judgment that I fear ? Well I know what it is, and maybe I should add it as a disclaimer to my blogs: “The author does not claim that she knows more than others, the author does not claim that she has the answers and the author most certainly does not claim that her life is perfect”.

I haven’t done anything to save the world (yet) Other people do great things every day– but I am in a position to contribute every single day.

I haven’t done anything major adventurous (yet) Other people sail around the world, run the Great Wall of China, conducts research at Antarctica. However, I have swam with elephants, sharks, seals and dolphins. I have been down the Zambezi river on a boogie board once and a long time ago I got on a plane, flying to the east not knowing if Taiwan even has a sea. Clueless indeed but made it my life.

I don’t dive as often as I would like to – in fact it has been 18 months. Does that make me and ex-diver?

I don’t have a husband to turn to when I decide to go on strike because twice in a row there has been a glitch in the system and I didn’t receive any form of salary for 9 weeks. (see now this is the kind of thing you don’t want your boss to read) but during my strike I met these awesome guys that taught me how to wake board, and now I have something to do at the lake when I miss diving.

I don’t have children to care for, and I seriously think all women were born with an inherent need to care for others.

I see my parents once a year, and I realize that they are getting older.

A big bulk of my relationships are skype- nurtured

I don’t have a circle of friends that I have known from school or varsity with whom I share life long memories, because I don’t live in the same country as them for long enough to see them get married, to be there when their children were born.

I come from a country where we have two oceans. I currently live in a country where we have non.

So, before you judge me – I really don’t mean to create the impression that my life is better than yours.

But I do want to express my gratitude for that what I have.

I have a life that I have been living without borders. Don’t ask me how it happened. Once again, not claiming that I am special, other people live without borders too. Thousands of humanitarian aid workers leave their homes for months and cross borders and help others. I wish I did too. Seriously I wish I did. I don’t. (not at this stage) I buy a ticket, fly in a fancy plane, sleep in a hotel, go to souvenir shops and eat in restaurants. True, I see a lot – but still as a tourist. It doesn’t really count for anything extraordinary. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I am ungrateful for the opportunities and experiences, all that I am saying is that I am not claiming that “my life without borders” is because I do all these amazing things, no – I buy a ticket, I go. Anyone can do it.

But – whenever I go, I stay. I start all over. On my own. I have to construct a social life, find outdoor activities that I could join, build work relationships, get to know people, invest in all of that knowing that one day I will leave. Trust me, after you have left all of that behind once, you become more conservative with your emotions and invest carefully.

To live a life without borders you have more freedom than others – you can pack up and go when you want. No house to sell, no mortgage to worry about, not kids to uproot from their schools. I only really started thinking about all of this when my dad suffered a stroke and I was sitting on the other side of the world. It was then when I realized – this is why people have structures, boundaries – to know where they are when bad things happen. (Let’s face it, when it goes well, we don’t really think about anything much) I realized that people have structures in order to feel safe. To know what to expect. To know where home is (I never know which address to fill in, and have to save my own mobile number on my cell phone) When you have family and work structures around you, it creates safety (If we were having this conversation in person, I would say – it is an illusion, but be that as it may)

When you do not have structures around you, you  feel the tremors severely. And it makes you think about your own life. What have I accomplished? Why am I in a country with no ocean? Why did I, not like my friends from school, marry the guy from school? Where are my safety structures? I walk around for days with these questions buzzing through my head. Only for me to realize, yet again what I have always known – this is me. This is the life that I want, and it is a choice I that have made, and I refuse to sacrifice it for fear of being without structures when the earthquake hits. I would rather have the world tumble upon me than to surrender my dreams for structures of security. According to my illusion theory – not even the strongest structure would protect you from an earthquake, it will only damage that what you have built. So why place all of what you are in a secure structure thinking it is going to keep it safe?

We all feel the tremors – we all live them. Yes, often I am very exposed to the tremors and they hit hard. But then when the dust settles – you look around you and see what you have. Family that care for you so dearly that skype is just an extension of a phone conversation that you would have made over your landline to your mom’s. You go Cray fishing with a dear friend only to find a school of dolphins. What greater gift could I have ask for, than to jump in and swim with them after months of missing the ocean so much. Memories and friendships, that stretches over continents that is what I have. Friends that you met whilst travelling in Africa for a month, who you meet three years later for a weekend in Paris, with one saying – hey, I will be in France soon, come ski with us. And there I went skiing for the first time with my ski-instructor friend in the Alps, who I met in Africa. Soon I will be the MC at the gay -wedding of one of my best friends from Taiwan. I will go on a wine tour with two other Taiwan friends, whom I have only seen on skype these last couple of years – but yet they know all my joys and sorrows, in fact this blog is being maintained by the one. I have friends back at Geneva, who helped me find a new apartment, single girlfriends who helped me move all my boxes to storage.  I arrive back in South Africa and have a beer with my friends from my waiter-days and it feels as if I have never left. I have friends across all borders and I take them with me wherever I go, because that is the thing about memories, they are in your heart. You do not need structures to protect those you love because memories protect them, and if you are as lucky as I am – you survive the tremors and you do see them, no matter in which continent – but you do get to be with them, and you keep on pilling up the experiences and memories.

We need to live our life with our heart and not hide in structures, because the  tremors will bring always tears but living your life outside your structures – more joy that you could ever hoped for. Swimming with dolphins after mourning the loss of the ocean in your life – no one can ask for more than that.

Tears, tremors or joy – take your pick.

Should have been Italian


“Home is where they love you” – I once read this on a fridge magnet a couple of years ago in a home in South Africa.

Over the years that phrase would pop back in my mind….. if home is where they love you then we might be able to have more than one home, in more than one country – and just maybe we might be able to have a home away from home…

Fortunate was I to go to Milan to visit the Bottigelli’s. I arrived at a house and left from a home.

This one is for my Bottigelli family – for the love and care I needed xXX