Twaddle & Twak

Rants, Raves and Everything Else!

Bring on the Figgy! December 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — natalian @ 7:30 am
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The presents are wrapped – well most of them, and as is German tradition I am starting the prep work for our evening meal and the arrival of the Kristkind.

There will be potato salad, but I am substituting the traditional roasted goose with chicken and just to add a bit of “SAFA Style” to the mix – a stuffed beef fillet on the braai.

I am deriving a huge amount of pleasure seeing the expectation and excitement on Eldest’s little face as he has counted the days on his Advent Calender till the 24th!

My house is going to be busting at the seams with family and friends staying over, even the lounge floor will be occupied with sleeping bodies. Will I have enough food? Will there be enough drink? I’m not sure, but welcoming family and friends from near and far all under my roof is a Christmas blessing I am thankful for. (The clearing and cleaning up afterwards, well that I may not be so thankful for!)

Wishing all of you light and love over this festive period.


Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Christmas December 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — natalian @ 1:12 pm
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Just about every December glossy mag this year is referring to a ‘greener Christmas’.  I suppose Christmas is a time where we mere mortals do tend to bow down to the gods of consumerism.  I am banning my Eldest from watching any kiddies channels that allows advertising, right now he ‘needs’ everything, (he even went so far as needing a “Polly in my Pocket” doll).  It is a time where excess is at its peak and one would think with all the financial doom and gloom predicted by our economists we would heed their warnings to save for a leaner 2009.   But after a trip down to local mall I think the saying ,”Making hay while the sun shines”, is the motto being practiced by many.

I probably have a carbon footprint from here to Alaska and back and have fallen short of a totally “Green Christmas” but some of the suggestions for a greener Christmas are : –

  • Recycle old Christmas Cards, make your own from recycled paper or alternatively send e-cards which can be recycled with  a mere push of the ‘delete’ button. (I like the last point.)
  • Reduce the amount of lights you decorate your house with.  In past years South Africans have slowly embraced the tradition of having your house look like an airport runway but due to our ESKOM (supplier of electricty here in SA) induced powercuts we need to start conserving this energy source.  I like the more traditional way of lighting candles in you windows but naturally with caution! A safer way may also be to use energy saving LED lights.
  • A ‘real’ tree is fabulous but make sure it is recycled correctly in the New Year!  Mother Earth would love the mulch it can provide for her soil.
  • One of the suggestions was to wrap your Christmas gifts with newspaper – as much I like this idea, I also would not like the headlines that are printed in our newspapers here in SA on my gifts, however the comic section may make a fun alternative.  I do like the idea of using recycled paper and decorate the paper yourself to give it that Christmas cheer!
  • It is also suggested that you buy gifts with little or no additional packaging materials.  This has proven a little difficult for me as Eldest’s Christmas wish list has been very specific and it comes with the packaging I’m afraid.  However, we will ensure that this makes it way to the recycling bins!
  • Use your talents as gifts for friends and family instead of buying things.  Make, bake or craft.  I unfortunately do not have time for the latter but I have offered my babysitting services to my close friends so they and their significant others can go watch a movie or have a meal –  sans kids.

I definitely won’t be winning my “Earth” badge this year but in my small way I will try and atone for my environmental sins.  Maybe I have found my first New Years Resolution?


Contemplative Thankfulness December 15, 2008

Filed under: Motherhood,South Africa — natalian @ 5:24 am
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It has been a tough week.  Both my little guys have been ill, Eldest with an ear infection and Wee One with an ‘Acute Respiratory Tract Infection’.  My kitchen counters are scattered with little bottles of homeopathic remedies, spoons and sprays.  My ironing pile has once again reached Mount Vesuvius proportions and the dust bunnies are taking over.

Exhausted, I collapsed on the couch, bemoaning my week of sleep deprivation to Hubby while he flicked through the channels on TV.

It was seeing pictures on Sky News like these that I found humbling.  My children have access to medical help, food and clean water.  I, as their mother, although I feel helpless at times know that I am able to provide the best care I can for them.  Imagine being a mother in Zimbabwe?

The Red Cross states that Cholera is easily treatable by ensuring it is caught in time and by rehydration. A simple glucose solution is what is needed but in Zimbabwe there is no clean water and to be able to access or even afford sugar and salt is near impossible for many.

South Africa borders Zimbabwe and it is reported that in the town of Musina more than 664 cases of Cholera are being treated.  The UN has reported that there are approximately 16 000 cases of Cholera and deaths in the region of 783 in Zimbabwe.

On the 11th of  December, 2008, the international community were astounded to hear Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, state that Cholera no longer existed in his country!  He went on to slam international leaders like Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom and George W. Bush of the United States of America as they called for him to step down as President, indicating that they were using cholera as a basis for their claims.  Once again, Robert Mugabe, has found a new scapegoat for his governments inability to manage their country.  Pity the man can’t look in a mirror and point at himself.  Cholera would not be at its high levels in Zimbabwe if the people were given access to clean running water but that is one of the rights the Zimbabwean people have been denied, including medical care, due to the collapse of its infrastructure.

I am still trying to understand why my own government has not taken a stronger stand on the Zimbabwe crisis, especially now that there is a chance that Cholera can pass into our country across the border and put further strain on our already stretched medical resources.  Gwede Mantashe has probably given the most plausible explanation, that Robert Mugabe is scared.  Surely a man must face his demons, especially if he has danced with the devil?  At what point is South Africa finally going to wash their hands of their old ally and realise that he has become similar to the monster that they fought so hard against  in the apartheid years?

Wee One woke again in the middle of the night, his temperature had spiked again, but as I held him and gave him something to keep his fever under control to make him comfortable, I was no longer bemoaning my fate….. I was thankful.


A Life Lesson….not learned December 9, 2008

Filed under: family,Holiday — natalian @ 6:44 am
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The expectant arrival of St Nikolaus on the 6th of December was met with great excitement in our household.  I think this was the first year my Eldest understood the whole concept except when I told him that if he was naughty he would not be receiving sweets in his shoe but sticks.

“Sticks!  I can play with them Mommy!”

Okay, that was not the response I was looking for.

On the night of the 5th of December our Eldest chose his very cool “Spiderman” trainer to impress dear old St Nick and placed it outside the front door, toddling off to sleep with dreams of “E” numbers dancing through his head.

To his delight St Nick had produced a shoe filled with chocolates and the much awaited “candy cane” !

Later in the day, I found his wellington boot at the front door and upon questioning my Eldest why his wellie was not in his cupboard he told me that he had put it there just in case St Nick came past again.

So next year I will have to up my candy stocks as I don’t think he will try and impress St Nick again with his taste in shoes but rather the size, which puts pay to the saying “Quality is better than quantity.”


Dual Culture Christmas December 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — natalian @ 6:57 am

As a little person I lived and loved Christmas time.  The expectant joy of writing my list to Father Christmas.  The delight of buying our tree and decorating it with tinsel and lights.  Leaving a glass of milk and cookies for the man in red and snuggling down in my bed believing I heard bells and hooves up ahead.  I would wake up before the crack of dawn and drag my sleepy brother from his bed, tapping my foot impatiently outside the bathroom door as he insisted he “hadda go” before we could approach the tree and open gifts galore!

Unfortunately that childlike magic wanes as we get older but I always knew I could recapture it when I had my own children. What I didn’t realise is how difficult it is to keep “the secret” alive!  I have presents stashed in far to reach places and trying to come up with explanations why my Eldest’s toy inventions can not be made by Santa’s Elves, has taxed the brain!

My next Christmas hurdle has been to try and balance my children’s Anglo/German heritage.  My husband’s family traditionally celebrates “Heilige Abend” (Holy Night) which is the eve of the 24th of December.  All the celebrations happen on this evening with the arrival of the “Kristkind” who magically leaves the gifts under the tree.  It is special but I still clung to my Christmas memories of Santa in his sleigh, arriving on my roof and waking up to my presents on Christmas morning.

So I devised a way that we could celebrate Christmas with our dual cultures.  The German”Kristkind” would arrive on the eve of the 24th of December bringing us the gifts from our families.  Father Christmas would arrive while we were sleeping bringing the gifts the children requested.  This way I could still experience the joy of a Christmas morning!

Driving home from school yesterday Eldest was once again reviewing his “Christmas List”. (Note to self: Insist on a cut off date for “The List” next year!)

“Mommy, I think … I would hope for a quad bike for Christmas!”

“Darling, Father Christmas can only bring one BIG present and you already asked for a scooter.” (…. and it would be a “White Durban Christmas” before he would ever be allowed to ride said quad bike!)

(A moments silence.)

“I know!  I have a good idea!  Father Christmas can bring me a scooter and Kristkind can bring me a quad bike!”

The wisdom of a 4 year old!


“J” December 1, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — natalian @ 7:58 am
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We were saying our Christmas goodbyes in the office, I had bought each colleague a little gift which I had handed out and all was merry at the prospect of a week off work till the new year!  As everyone bounded out the door I started closing down the office, my eyes fell on the one solitary gift that lay on my desk.  It was to be given to my Manager who had once again not pitched for work.  His behaviour over the past few months had become erratic, he would fall asleep at work and his absenteeism had increased.  I was about to leave when he walked through the door, still sporting his 100 watt smile but he was different.  He was sweating profusely and as he hugged me to thank me for my gift I was hit with the smell of alcohol on his breath.  I wrote it off to the silly season and kept my silence from our Superior after all it was the last day of the office year.  If only I had known what he was hiding behind his smile.

The new year rolled in and we were all systems go except for my Manager – he was AWOL.  Not even his family knew where he was.  It was so out of character for this man who had been so committed to his job and his family.  We started to get worried as the days became weeks. 

Eventually his family contacted us – he had been found wondering the streets of one of the outlying towns and had become very sick but as soon as he was better he would return to work.  We waited.

Another telephone call and this time it was a desperate plea from his mother, he needed to go to hospital.  We rode out to his family home and my Superior got out the car to access the situation.  I remained in the car and out the corner of my eye I saw how two friends were helping our Manager to get into the car.  It was the day I saw death.  I smelt it before I saw it.  I turned to greet the 100 watt smile and I was met with the face of a stranger.  He was skeletal, his face gaunt and his lips had receded back over his beautiful white teeth.  I didn’t know this face.

We rushed through to hospital to admit him, phoning our company medical aid to ensure he could be admitted.  We stood around his wheelchair as he sat with his big blanket wrapped around him waiting for our Superior to process the paper work with the administration.  The blanket slipped and his knobbly knees protruded from underneath, I reached to cover him and saw strange markings on his body.  He lifted his head from weak slumber and dropped off again. 

Three days later we were back at the hospital, he wanted to see all of us and his family had come to visit.  Around his wrist was a piece of goat skin – his friends shook their heads – it was put there by a witchdoctor in the hope that it would ward off the evil muti which his family believed had been put on their son by his ex-girlfriend.  “Only God can help him now.” they said.

He requested Coke, his favourite drink and ice-cream, which we bought for him from the vending machine in the hall.  His close collegues held the can for him and fed him spoons of ice-cream.  For a brief moment a glimmer of the soul we knew shone through his eyes and I think for him it felt like a moment of normality.  It was short lived.  His body rejected the precious treats and he requested that his friends help him to the toilet in a bid to retain his dignity in front of the men he use to work with but the nurse ushered us out the room and not long afterwards she walked out with a bedpan.  I knew how humiliated he felt at that moment. 

We entered the room once more while our Superior spoke to his family, in our ignorance we urged him to get better and that we missed him.  He raised a finger and pointed at me and another colleague and indicated that we had to carry on without him.  With his head slightly arched to the heavens he started to kick the foot board of the bed involuntarily, his body acting out on it’s own accord. His friends stared and a realisation hit me.  He wasn’t going to get better, he was not going to come back to work and his round bubbly baby boy was going to grow up without a father.  His body was shutting down.  I called the nurse who once again ushered us out into the hall.  We were allowed one last goodbye.

Two days later as we entered the office we were met with the tear stained face of our Superior. He was gone.  The death certificate listed the cause of death as dysentery and we were told to say he died of TB.

The day I hugged that seemingly happy, healthy man was the day he found out he had contracted the virus HIV, it was the explanation for his fatigue and constant illness.  The sad part of this story is the fact that he felt shame and that he gave up.  He did not want to be a burden to his family, funerals are expensive, so he took to the streets, starving his body, welcoming disease and hoping to speed up the process of dying.  He succeeded.  He begged his current partner to test herself and their son but she refused.  The family choosing to believe that they had lost their son to evil muti.

I met AIDS that year.  All that I had read and been told about HIV/AIDS were just words until I saw it ravage the body of a man I knew and respected as it delivered his soul to deaths door too soon.

So today, World AIDS Day, I choose to remember “J”.