Sunday, April 26, 2015

No time for excuses!

It has been almost 5 months since I last updated my blog.  I could come up with at least 100 excuses why I have not written anything.  No time being one of them.  But in reality there is always time.  You make the time.  And I haven't so slap me.  Family dramas, no money, starting a new business are all energy-sapping.  They drag all drops of motivation out of you, wringing all creative energy until you are a half-built robot going through the motions of life incapable of independent thought.
That time has gone.
I wanted to sleep in today, it being a long weekend, but instead woke up with my veins transporting creative juices through my body.
I am alive.
My brain is pumping, I can hear the beat.  Boof, boof, boof.  Ideas are streaming through.
Two, no three novels I had semi-planned in my head over a year ago are knocking on that basement door wanting to be let out into the sunlight.
That recipe book which was 3/4 finished is begging to be completed.
Book marketing, what's that?
I haven't made time to market any of my books for probably 3 years.  I should be punished.  I should let that Grey fellah have his way with me.  Bring on that cat o'nine tails and the handcuffs.
This is the real me now that the zombie outer-later has been shed during the night.
Winter is coming in the southern hemisphere.  Maybe I am going through a reverse hibernation.  I hibernate in summer and am rejuvenated in winter.
I am alive.
Bring it on baby!
Cindy Vine is the author of The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective, C U @ 8 and Hush Baby.  All her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle format.  Cindy lives in Cape Town, the most beautiful city in the world.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The grass isn't always greener on the other side

After 15 years away I am coming home.  I’d lived away from home when I first started teaching, returned for a couple of years and then left again.  28 years of teaching and I’ve lived and worked in 11 different countries.  The world has changed quite considerably in that period.  South Africa has changed.  People’s perceptions of South Africa has changed.  But no matter where I have lived, I have always been proud to call myself South African.  Cape Town has always been my home.
Living and holidaying in a country are two very different things.  When you are on holiday you do not grasp the high cost of living and the problems facing the country.  Things might seem to be expensive but you budgeted for it when you planned your holiday.  In New Zealand I had to work two jobs to make ends meet.  A beautiful country with a high cost of living.  In China and Korea pollution was an issue and gave me throat problems.  Also the sheer amount of people, pushing and shoving, was sometimes claustrophobic.  Thailand with its great food and beautiful beaches, a fa├žade which hides the rats, filth, stray dogs, sex trade and poverty.  No country is perfect.  Every country has its own unique set of problems.

One is continually told about the crime in South Africa.  When expat friends would hear I was going back for a holiday, they would always ask me if I was scared or feel unsafe.  South Africa has always been where my heart is, no matter where I lived.  Let me tell you every country has crime.  I was in New Zealand two weeks when I had my first burglary.  My last burglary there, I opened my front door and there was just dust where my furniture used to be.  They even stole the sheets when they stole the beds, broke the kitchen bench top to get out the dishwasher.  In China I was pick-pocketed, had a laptop snatched, and a break-in where they even stole my cell phone that was next to my bed where I was fast asleep.  In Botswana my washing was stolen off the wash line.  In Tanzania they broke in and stole my laptop, portable hard drives containing 10 years of music, video camera, cell phones.  Maybe I just have bad luck.  But then again, a friend was burgled when I lived in Kyiv.  Another friend lost all valuables when his house was broken into in the UK.  My son had his camera stolen in America.  So it’s not just me who has experienced crime in other countries.  Despite what many South Africans think, crime is not endemic to South Africa.  Crime is worldwide.  Leaving South Africa to escape crime might be a hasty decision.  Sometimes what appears to be luscious green grass on the other side turns out to be toxic weeds hiding sharp poisonous thorns.
Unemployment is another factor which causes people to leave South Africa.  It is one of the reasons I left.  As a single mom of three children without any child support I needed to provide for them.  My children have all graduated high school and gone on to study further.  My eldest daughter graduated in New Zealand, my son in China and my youngest daughter in Tanzania.  The positive is that they all regard themselves as global citizens.  The negative is that they are third culture kids.  Buying a house in Cape Town a few years ago gave us all roots so that we no longer felt anchorless.  We have a place to come home to for holidays.

But now the time has come for me to return.  With a head full of memories of overseas friends and crazy adventures, it is time to settle down to life in South Africa.  Having not taught in South African schools for so many years, I realised that it would be virtually impossible to get back into the system.  The only way would be to start a business in the educational field.  After doing some research, I have opted to open an educational consultancy in Table View in Cape Town.  The Learning Vine helps students wanting to study overseas find the right university and course to suit them, and assists with the convoluted application process.  In addition, I’ve bought a franchise for the GoFocus Remedial Programme which will run afternoons and will run a home-school for children in the mornings who are struggling with being in a mainstream school.  With my youngest still studying I have to generate an income.  Creating my own employment was a necessity but it is doable.  Moving home means setting up new accounts, getting another tax number and heaps of things that you don’t think about when you make the decision to return.  Being back in South Africa for good is worth the tough times that will lie ahead as one struggles to get a new business off the ground.

Having travelled the world, I can evocably state that South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world with the friendliest people and an acceptable cost of living by world standards.  Don’t take what you have here for granted.  It’s not always greener on the other side.
Cindy Vine is the author of Hush Baby, Not Telling, C U @ 8, The Case of Billy B and Defective.  All her books are available on Amazon in kindle and paperback format.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Introducing a wonderful new author

For those who love reading laugh out loud books, my friend John Brook has just written a great book, very entertaining read! Check it out!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Being Brave

I listened to a song this morning which, besides making me cry, caused me to reflect on my cancer journey.  I was one of the lucky ones.  My cancers were caught relatively early.  All I needed was surgery to remove the problem.  But what about those who need more than surgery?  What fear do they experience?  Cancer is such a nasty word.
I have been told it three times in my life so far.  December 2003, September 2006 and December 2010.  The moment you get told that word the fear you feel is incredible.  Overwhelming.  People try and comfort you but their words don't dissipate the fear.
Cancer is scary.
People tell you that you are so brave and you think, "Do I have a choice?"
I didn't choose cancer.  For whatever reason cancer chose me.
And you fight it with everything you have got.  You take on that fear and overcome it.  You do it because you are not ready to die.  You do it because you want to live.  You don't have a choice.  Fighting cancer is like an innate reflex action.  After the initial shock your mind just goes into survival mode.  Fighting cancer is all about survival.  For those not suffering from cancer it might seem like you are brave.  If being brave means pushing back your fear and fighting to survive, then I guess we are brave.
But at the time you don't feel particularly brave.  You feel terrified.
And sometimes being brave is not enough.  No matter the fight you put up, the cancer forces advance and slowly take control of your body, reducing you to a diseased shell.  There is no dignity when this happens.  Dying has no dignity.  It is the end.
Everybody who gets a cancer diagnosis fights it. We all believe we can beat it.  But it is a luck of the draw kind of thing.  For some the belief you can beat it is not enough.  And you never know until you get the all-clear if that lucky person who beats it is you.
Cancer is scary.
Early detection is your best hope of beating it.
Bravery is instinctive.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Standing at the Crossroads

Life is a network of paths.  Some lead you in the right direction and others turn into detours that take you way off tack.  There are occasions when you get a little lost and you waste a lot of valuable time trying to find the right path again.  But is there a right path?  How do you know if the path you chose is the right one?  You just have to stumble around in the dark side-stepping the thorny branches and pray like mad that you are heading in the right direction.  Hoping against all hope that there isn't a big boulder blocking your way, or sharp stones that might trip you up.  Navigating life's network of paths isn't easy.  Every now and then you hit a crossroads.  Left, right or straight ahead?  It might take months or even years to know if you chose the right direction.
Having been teaching for 28 years I am now at a crossroads.
Writing is a passion and I could try and do it full time.  There are always jobs going for teachers but is that what I want to do?  Then there is the idea of starting my own business, an educational consultancy where I can put all the experience I have gained working internationally to work.  But starting a business is a risk and I have financial commitments.
My life has shown that I am not scared of taking risks.  I have often opted for the road less traveled.  Sometimes it has turned out to be a good choice and other times there has been a huge crocodile waiting to devour me with a quick snap of its jaws.  So this time I am trying to do it right and arm myself beforehand with weapons to knock the crocodile off the path if it suddenly appears and tries to block my way.
But am I choosing the right path?
The unknown can be frightening.  It can also give you the best adrenalin rush ever.  Which would be good if I was an adrenalin-junkie which I am not.
Previously I've put on a blindfold and have headed down the path blind to all the dangers lurking around me.  Oblivion can be a good thing.  If you don't know what can stop you then you can soldier on.  Well in theory anyway.  Because when you can't see the boulder in the path you walk into it headlong and knock yourself unconscious, and end up lying in the dirt waiting to be rescued.
This time I want to be prepared.  No blindfold.  I want to see where I am going.  I want peripheral vision.  Throw me a pair of night goggles.  I am going to take on the crossroads and not be indecisive.  No 'what if' and 'should I' for me.
My mantra is going to be LET"S DO THIS.  So I am making a choice.  I am heading in a different direction.  My head is full of plans, brain cells are popping, creative juices flowing.  Bring it on!
Cindy Vine currently lives and works in Ukraine and is the author of The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective, C U @ 8 and Hush Baby.  All her books are available on Amazon in both print and kindle format.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Time for a Rant

I know there are people in the world who have lost their homes due to mortar attacks and shelling.  I know I should be grateful for a lovely apartment and a roof over my head.  I know I should be thankful for running water.  I know I sound like a complete whinge-bag but I can't deal with cold showers.  I really can't.  I need to wash my hair and the thought of a cold shower is making me procrastinate.  So this is a warning.  Until they turn the hot water back on I shall be washing my hair once a week on a Sunday.  I shall of course have a quick shower and clean the other bits each day, but the hair on my head shall be reserved for a Sunday.  That way I can spend Saturdays psyching myself up for what has to happen on a Sunday.  I cannot wash my hair before school during the week as I used to, as I cannot deal with icy cold water on my head in the cool of the morning.  I cannot deal with icy cold water on my head when I get back from work in the evenings when the air is already chilly.  Sundays I can sleep in and muster up my courage for that cold shower.
They say that cutting off the hot water is a way of saving gas supplies for the winter ahead.  Russia has cut off the gas and Ukraine has to be careful to conserve what they have.  I understand all this and it makes sense.  But that doesn't make it any easier to wash my hair in cold water when temperatures are already starting to drop.
Food prices have gone up and the Ukrainian currency is not doing so well.  My heart goes out to the average Ukrainian who must really be struggling financially.  How are they able to buy food?  Does the rest of the world even care?
The mood has changed in Ukraine since before the summer holiday.  It is far more somber with fewer smiles.  I guess people are really worried about the future of their country which is understandable.  Nobody knows Russia's big plan.  Rumours and conjecture abound.  It is not a happy place to be as you really don't know what might happen next.
On Friday I went to apply for a short stay Schengen visa at the Latvian Embassy.  My Schengen visa is only valid from the end of October and I need to go to Latvia for a school visit in 2 weeks.  This proved to be an exercise is frustration.  I'd thought downloading the English application form off the embassy's website and filling it in beforehand would be proactive.  Big mistake.  After taking my number and waiting to see the embassy official, I got to the window only to be told it was the wrong form and I had to fill in another one which happened to be all in Ukrainian.  The same form, but with one word different on the top of the first page.  After filling in the new form I had to get a new number and start the waiting process from the beginning.  Thanks goodness all my documentation was correct but then the next problem arose.  The official asked for the fee to be paid in Euros and I only had Ukrainian money.  Nowhere on their website did they say only Euros was acceptable.  They directed me to a bank down the road to change money.  The bank said they sold Euros.  As I got to the front of the queue both tellers put up signs in Ukrainian.  I asked them what was written on the signs.  "Wait ten minutes," they said as they chatted to each other.  After ten minutes they took down the signs.  When I asked to buy Euros the teller said, "Sorry no Euro."  I tried another four banks and none of them had any Euros.  The sixth bank had Euros but said, "We don't sell Euros to foreigners.  You have to have a Ukrainian passport to be able to buy Euros."  I couldn't budge her from this stance and I trudged back to the embassy to tell them I couldn't get Euros.  But first I had to take another number and wait...
The embassy official became friendlier.  "I know it is impossible to get Euros," she smiled.  Inside I seethed.  If she knew it was impossible, then why did she sent me out on a futile exercise?  "But instead of trying the banks, try the money exchange down the road in the subway.  They will definitely be able to help you."  I thanked her with a fake smile on my face and left to find the money exchange.
"You not Ukraine people.  Nyet, nyet, go, no help.  You not Ukraine people."  You guessed it.  That was the response from the money exchange place.  I guess that foreigners are no longer allowed to buy foreign currency or change Ukrainian money.  So I walked back to the Latvian Embassy, my mind doing somersaults as it tried to come up with a solution to the problem.
The embassy official became even friendlier.  "Don't worry all your documentation is in order so if you spend the weekend finding Euros then you don't have to take a number and queue Monday morning, you can hand in everything and pick your passport up on the 8th."
Feeling a mixture of forlorness and ire, I called a taxi to take me back to work.  Luckily I managed to change money with another teacher when I got back to school.
So hopefully Monday all goes well as I head back to the Embassy.  But today is Sunday.  And I still have to wash my hair in a cold shower...
Cindy Vine is a South African author and teacher currently working in Ukraine.  She is the author of The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective, CU@8 and Hush Baby.  All her books are available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format.