Shake That Thang

Over the weekend, my family accompanied my brother to the “umembeso” of his bride in Lesotho. This involved meeting her family, dressing her in our cultural attire and welcoming her to the family. The journey was long and eventful. It was there that we learned that every road had has a potholed lining.

 Part of the escort involves traditional dancing, “kutshina,” and singing. When the moment arrives we dressed in our ‘nwandzhindzhani’(one variation of a traditional Shangaan skirt) and armed with a multitude of wedding songs, made our way up the bumpy road, yet smartly lined with neatly manicured gardens, to the brides house.

“Kutshina,” in my opinion, is a lot more complicated that it looks. I’m told by my aunts and cousins that the key is to move your hips and not your bum. I must not have been concentrating in biology class when we studied the anatomy because it seems to me that your hips and bums are pretty much in the same region. So how do you move one without the other? After hours of practice and actual performance, I still cannot move my hips without moving my bum.
At the height of happiness, one can jump forward; spin mid-air and cause the skirt to flutter. This is apparently where the bum plays a role as it is what causes the skirt to move? Not only do my hip shaking skills suck. My mid-air jump does too. I’m told it’s not pointy toed swan lake dance. I’m probably among the small group of black people who need dance moves explained to them. In fact, I imagine many black people reading this post are simultaneously effortlessly moving their hips and not their bums right now
Honestly, the best thing to do in a situation like this is firstly, ignore the bride and groom laughing uncontrollably at you. Rather revert to what you know works in every situation…the funky chicken, the robot and (my own creation) the turn around, where you simply sway to the music and turn around. You might as well laugh too.
My brothers friend overheard members of the brides’ family saying:
“Who is that girl?”
“That’s the grooms’sister, remember? The one who was living in China.”
“Oh! That explains why she is dancing like that. Shame, she must have forgotten how to their dances.”
It’s not your dance moves that count.
You came.
You laughed.
And most importantly…you danced.


Mr Ice Cream Man

As I prepare to have my supper after a long day, I hear the faint sound of music approaching the house. It’s a rather high pitched sound and at first I think it’s my annoying neighbour. However, as the sound draws near, I’m certain (from the genre) that it’s not him (well…not today). The sound slowly gets louder and nearer. I suddenly recognise this familiar high pitched melody.
It’s the ice cream man.
I look over at my clock, it’s almost 7pm.

There’s an ice cream man who drives around my neighbourhood in a traditional white van with a picture of a soft serve ice cream cone on the side and sweet, high-pitched tunes blaring out the loud speaker on the roof. All this is not peculiar of course, since there are a lot of children who live and play in the neighbourhood. So, yes; an ice-cream truck in a residential area is not out of place. However, the ice-cream man doesn’t usually come around until 6pm. Now I enjoy ice cream as much as the next girl. But even I must question the legitimacy of an ice cream man who comes around…after dark.
So my question:
What is an ice-cream truck doing driving around the neighbourhood trying to sell ice-cream to children at night for?
So, let’s think of some things that happen around that time
  • Children head indoors 
  • Parents return home 
  •  Families eat supper 
  • Oh and yes, it gets DARK
Who buys this ice cream? Who leaves their home in their pyjamas or apron, unlocks the gate in the dark and buys soft serve ice cream?
Let’s be generous.
Maybe he has a day job and this is the way he earns extra income to feed his kids
Maybe this is just a hobby
Yep … Maybe
Dear Mr ice cream man
Today was the hottest October day on record.
Where were you Mr Ice cream man?
I was home all day and not once did I hear your truck.
I see it’s now evening and without fail, there is the sound your truck crooning its song.
I want to give you the benefit of the doubt Mr ice cream man.
I’m sure you’re not luring little children out in the dark and I’m sure you really are selling ice cream. I’m sure its only ice cream.
But seriously, Mr Ice cream man, the fact is I don’t believe you.
Go home,
It’s late now!

The tailor shop

I have a skirt that’s an awkward length, it’s almost half way between my knees and calves and I’m always tripping in it. In an attempt to support local small businesses where I can, I popped into a small tailor shop to have it altered. I was in a bit of a rush; really I wanted to be in and out. I need to make it to the grocery store before they closed. However, the universe had other plans.
I handed the skirt over and explained my predicament. I suggested he take 2 inches of the bottom that should be fine. At which point I expected him to hand me the receipt and I would be off. But no such luck.
Instead, he responds by saying: “hmm, two is not much. I don’t see that it would make much of a difference.”
“No,” I said. “I’m pretty sure that two inches will be fine.”
He smiles, shakes his head, grabs a measuring tape and makes his way around the counter. He then proceeds to point out the 2cm mark on the tape.
“Oh no,” I quickly say, “not 2 centimetres, two inches.”
“Yes, I know,” he says as he lays my skirt on the table and marks of 2cm.
Perplexed, I reach out and turn the tape over.
“No, no,” he says. “Don’t use that side”
I slowly and clearly say: “Two inches, please.”
I’m beginning to feel like I should not leave my skirt here. Surely, this guy must know the difference between a centimetre and an inch. Surely, he must know that one side of the measuring tape measures inches and the other side measures centimetres. Am I missing something here?
Tailoring 101?
So much for my quick stop at the tailor shop.
“Ok. Ok, mister. Just 5 cm then… Just take 5 cm off.”
“Oh, now you want 5cm? Not 2cm? It looks like you are confused about the length you want.”
 It seems there a lot of confusion going on in this shop. I’m confused, mostly because he’s clearly confused. 
So, I’m wondering: What criteria should one use when looking for a tailor?
Is the confusion between an inch and a centimetre a deal breaker?
I don’t know how I feel about the tailor not knowing the difference between an inch and a cm. But I don’t want to be rude and like I said, I’m running a bit late. So I take the slip, leave and hope.
It’s alright, I tell myself.
I never really liked that skirt anyway.

Days Gone By

Gone are the days when shepherds were free to graze their livestock on the plentiful plains and valleys near their homes.
Gone are the days when horses could trot along make-shift pathways and stop to nibble on the juicy, green grass along the way.
Gone are the days when animals could haphazardly stop at fresh water springs to quench their longing thirst.

The plains are now populated with brick houses, the pathways are covered with tar and the springs run underground through intricate pipe mazes. Society has changed. Technology has progressed far beyond our wildest (well, depending on wild your imagination is) expectations.
However, I still find myself in contradicting scenarios. One moment sipping cocktails in the north; the next I’m stuck behind a horse and cart at a stop sign waiting for said horse to finish relieving itself while its owner picks his teeth with a dry twig. Part of me applauds the man on the cart for trying to make a living transporting scrap metal (legally procured I’m sure). The other part of me is wondering what the horse is doing on the main road and why it’s owner has stopped to poop it here.
I know those days are gone. I’m pretty sure the shepherds know those days are gone. Anybody who has manoeuvred their way around a certain stadium, narrowly avoiding very, very skinny cows as they dart across the road, knows those days are gone. All the neighbours whose flowers have been nibbled on know that those days are well and truly gone. If you’ve had the frightful experience of almost running over an erratic horse as you turn into a corner, then you know… those days are gone.
My question: “Who will tell the animals?”
I suspect they already know the truth but are not really fazed. They continue to poop where they will and drink stagnant water as if were from a fresh spring. This is either indicative of a fantastic, care-free attitude to life or serious denial of what you know in your gut. Sound familiar? I guess we’re all cut from the same cloth after all.
Gone are the simple days; replaced with a little contradiction. So, I see you Mr horse-cart man. You don’t need my permission to feel free to travel along the main road, and watch your erratic horse eat all the spring flowers. Nonetheless, I accept you presence on the main road. In return kind sir…
 Scoop your horses’ poop…cos it’s a mess out here!

Be your own accessory!

When I had long hair, my biggest problem was finding a hair band to tie it up. Every morning, I would search through my room for a hair band. I would spend a good fifteen minutes each time I had to go out. I would look absolutely EVERYWHERE! Exasperated, I would finally take a moment, sit on the edge of my bed and painstakingly retrace my steps from the previous night. Some days, this wouldn’t work and other days I’d get a lucky break as I headed out the door.
These days, I wear my hair short. Way too short to tie up. You’d think, as I did, that I would be freed from the hair band madness. But, no, it continues to hover around…mocking me. As, I am now flooded with hair bands. Every single corner has a hair band; every drawer; every shelf; every sleeve in my hand bag; every room, even the car.
My question: “How did they get there?!” “Where have they been?”
The answer is possibly (but I must declare highly improbably) me.
Seeing as the culprit won’t make him or herself known, I must go with the dreaded third force. Yep, creeping around like a hungry leopard in the wild; slick and agile, striking without a sound. Surreptitiously placing the hair bands where they need not be, on days when I need them, and where they need be when on days when I don’t.
I even bought a small, wire basket with the intention of storing the hair bands until my hair grows long enough to tie up. However, I am somewhat reluctant to put all the hair bands that I find here. Something about, not storing all your eggs in one basket? In any event, I’m quite certain that should I place these bands in one place, they just won’t be there when my hair needs them.
So, since it looks like my strategy of planning ahead is being thwarted by the unknown participants of this “third force”.  I guess I’ll just have to take life and its madness as and when it comes. After all, just like a pair of silver heels… you’ll never find them when you are looking for them.
The next time I plagued I’m by the presence (or lack thereof) of hair bands. I will not lose my mind, third force or not. Variety is the spice of life, each day is an opportunity to change it up!
Be your own accessory!

“it’s not how you fall but how you get up”

Wise people say: “it’s not how you fall but how you get up”. If you too are on this journey called life. You’ll know that this is very true. You’ll have no doubt experienced disappointment, loss and heartache. Following which, true to the phrase above you’ll have experienced: delight, success and joy. In its figurative sense, this phrase proves true each time.  It is also most true in its literal sense… as I discovered yesterday…
I have a beige coat with an extraordinarily large hood from Zara. This coat is my favourite coat. When I wear this coat, the words: ‘fabulous’, ‘gorgeous’ and, ‘rocking’, among other equally descriptive words, comes to mind. The only problem with this coat is that it can be somewhat complicated to button up, especially if you do so while you are walking. Yet another thing I discovered yesterday…

I hate being cooped up in the office so I often take a walk around the block. It’s a cold but sunny day.
The road is my ramp as I saunter down the road.  
Suddenly, a harsh brush of wind sweeps across my face and body.
I try to button up my coat but I can’t quite find the corresponding slots and the hood is thwarting my efforts.
A group of people call out to me… I ignore them.
I’ve been stopping to speak to people all day and at the moment I’m just too preoccupied to stop.
If I had stopped, I would have probably heard them say “Hey sisi, mind the pole!”
I didn’t stop.
Well, not until a few steps later. Not until, a tall, misplaced pole halted my fabulous strut down my ramp. The words: “ouch” and “****” came to mind but I said neither. Instead, I recovered.
I smiled, Flung my massive hood back, twirled around the pole and posed, to laughter from onlookers and thunderous applause from the people of my mind. They rock up there.
Yes. Indeed. You’ll trip and fall in life but it’s oh so true:
“it’s not how you fall but how you get up”.

Ignorance was bliss!

How much of what goes into flying a plane do you know about? Are you one of those people who merely travelling from A to B without really knowing what happened? Are you just pleased that you have arrived at your destination. More importantly, do you want to know? And how much would you want to know?
I teach English as a foreign language. Most of my students work in corporate companies or universities. Recently, management added Aviation students to my schedule. While I am pleased to know that pilots and air traffic controllers are learning to express themselves in English, part of me mourns the loss of blissful ignorance.
My class discussions went from “How to order at a restaurant” and “Using Small Talk” to “How to describe a holding pattern” and “Lost in the skies”. And as for tasks such as: “pretend your teacher is the air traffic controller. Practice how you would describe a mechanical malfunction or problem in a clam and precise manner”? The word: “distressing” comes to mind.
Last month, I didn’t know that when there’s a lot of congestion there’s a specific holding pattern that determines who lands where and when. Nor did I know “what would happen in the unlikely event of landing gear failing to lock” and I certainly didn’t know about handbooks in the cock pit. ‘Pan-pan’, ‘Burn off fuel’, ‘belly-landing’. These were all foreign concepts for me.
And you know what?
I was Haaappy!
I like being the passenger on the plane who when asked by the investigators after the incident simply says: “I can’t even imagine what happened, sir.”
Should I over hear any comments about a possible problem, I want to think: “hmmm…”
Then, I’d go back to my seat and happily marinade pool of ignorant bliss. I would know that there are no mechanical malfunctions, there are no near misses and no one ever, ever refers to a handbook. (I know that pilots are human beings but for some reason the words pilot and handbook in one sentence make me really uncomfortable.)
Aviation English stole my bliss!
Now…I know.
Now…I know more than I wanted to know because I’m the passenger who just doesn’t want to know.
Now…I’m informed…
“Oh goodie!”

It’s complicated?

As we grow older, life seems to become more complicated. The tests at school are harder; navigating through university is more intricate. Then the pressures of work set in, bringing their own set of complications and of course our relationships get more complicated. With so much happening, some things need to remain less uncomplicated. Things like switching on the kettle.
My mother bought a new kettle. It’s silver with a black handle and it’s a rather oddly shaped. All this is irrelevant of course because the point is… I couldn’t switch it on.  It took me ten minutes to work out how to switch it on.  There was no switch. I plugged in, I lifted it up, put it back down, turned it around and around but still no joy. There was no switch.
I noticed the box and saw the accompanying manual sticking out, daring me to take it for a spin. But I knew right then that there was no way I could read that manual because… IT’S A KETTLE! All kettles are switched on the same way- on or under or next to the handle. That’s how you switch on a kettle!
Then it occurred to me. This is a 21st century kettle not to mention its peculiar shape. I wouldn’t be surprised if it uses different commencement mechanisms. In my mind, I’m thinking maybe it’s like those fancy taps at the hotel that you tap to switch on.
“Wow ma, good buy!”
So I tap the Kettle.
I try a couple more times.
I tap the handle. I tap the sides. I tap the lip.
I’m all for new ideas and technology but please, can we leave the basics intact?  I don’t want to look for the switch on the kettle. I want it to stick out and be evident. Just like it has always been….
I discarded this exercise in favour of the old kettle. Battered but not broken. At which point, my mother finally comes in and turns on the space kettle, using a slim lever camouflaged at the base of the kettle.
“Goodness, ma.  Could you find a more complicated kettle?”
She smiles and responds: “It’s not complicated…It’s just different”.

A little bit of Yoda

Today I woke up to the theme song to Stars Wars, my phone was ringing. Yep, despite many protests from family and friends, it’s my ringtone and no, I will not be changing it, I love it.
 I met Yoda for the first time in 2007, long after he came into being. (Shocked, I was to have met him so late). What can I say, I’m a late bloomer. I watched Star Wars for the first time then and I was captivated. Since then I’ve loved listening to the pearls of wisdom. My favourite being: “No. Try not. There is no try. Only do or do not.” My friends shake their heads and roll their eyes each time I quote Yoda as a solution, especially when I imitate his voice, especially when we are in public. Then, I was reading Paulo Coelho’s blog the other day and his character of the week was Master Yoda himself. That’s right…Yoda is wise.
You wouldn’t expect wise words by just looking at him. He’s small and old but as he even says: “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.”

So, last week I headed out armed with words of wisdom; ready to share. I discovered that people can hear but are they listening? Firstly, while teaching the topic of “pop culture” to my English conversation class I noticed a slide with Yoda, I took the opportunity to introduce them to Master Yoda. As an example, I used: “Clear, your mind must be if you are to discover the real villains behind the plot”. The students all pointed out the grammatical errors. I tried to explain that this was the manner in which he spoke. They felt strongly that these grammatical errors where not fitting of a “Master”. So, I quickly changed the topic.
I then opted to say “may the force be with you” instead of goodbye for the day. This worked for a while until I got to town. Unfortunately for me some of the people in town thought I was trying to bewitch them.
“Why ngathi uyas’loya? (Are you bewitching us?)
“Wh-What? No,” I tried to explain: “No, I meant the universes’ energy… You know, Yoda, Master Yoda?”
Blank stares and raised eyebrows.
I stupidly continue: “St-St-Star Wars…the movie? No?”
Then a little voice in my head said: “leave here you must.”
I smiled and did so, opting for the traditional, and very quick, “good bye”.
I guess some people just aren’t ready to hear the message!
Luke Skywalker:     I don’t believe it
Master Yoda:           That is why you fail

Wherefore art thou winter boots?

Crispy cold mornings and darkened morning skies; Muted morning birds and chimneys streaming smoke into the morning and evening air; additional heaters in every store; the strong herb smell of hearty soups and fewer people in and around the gym as the annual work out hiatus begins. A sure sign that winter is indeed making its presence known.
I don’t like the cold but I do love winter fashion. I love the coats, scarves, gloves, hats and my personal favourite, boots. I love boots but unfortunately my quest for the perfect fitting boot constantly fails to yield results. Every winter I hope that I will find these elusive boots but alas every winter I fail. The scene usually goes like this:

I walk into the shoe shop and smile as the intoxicating smell of leather and newness drifts past me. All along the walls of the shop and all around the display tables are boots. Long, elegant, earth toned, pristine boots. I take a moment to browse around before locating my “perfect” pair. I happily turn to the shop assistant and ask for my size. She grudgingly nods her head and disappears into the back room emerging with a long, narrow box.
I slip my foot into the boot, gingerly zip it up and then, my hopes are shattered as I stare at my leg awkwardly sticking out of the boot like a long spoon stirring a large mug of hot coffee. Every time I have the same problem…Small and skinny calves.
“Excuse me, miss. Do you have any boots that are smaller around the calf area?”
“No” she responds in her monotonous voice. “Maybe you should try a smaller size.”
“Nah, the problem is not the shoe size. My foot is very comfortable it’s just that my calf is so thin.”
“It doesn’t look that bad. Just wear it like that,” she responds with a fake smile.
I stare at the gaping canyons surrounding my leg and take a step forward. I can almost hear the swishing sound of my leg stirring, stirring, stirring the coffee mug.
I then hopefully ask: “Do you know of a place I can get smaller boots or make adjustments.”
Blank stare.
Sigh, I won’t be getting any help here. I sigh again as once again my efforts have been in vain. I take the boot off and leave. May be next time will be different.
Yep, happens every time.
I can just imagine the conversation as I leave the store. Shrieks of laughter from the now suddenly animated shop assistant. “Did you hear her?” “My calves are just too thin” Hahahahahahaha…..
She calls the other assistants and continues in a mocking voice: “Oh, just look at my small legs” “If only the boots could fit my thin legs” “What a problem, to have- I wish I had her problems”
Oh wait, wait: “Can you make adjustments?”
“Skinny cow!”
No sympathy from the shop assistant at all. In fact, I struggle to find a kind word anywhere. This is my problem. Yes, it’s a major problem. I too want to be amongst the fashionable, strutting my stuff in my fabulous coat and putting my best foot forward in killer hot boots.
Come now people, be generous. Be a lover…not a hater. Make the circle bigger. Share the love, let’s all be fabulous together this winter.
Pray do tell, where can a girl find a pair of HOT, fitting, winter boots?