Sunday, December 25, 2016

Last One Standing, my thoughts on Christmas

My earliest memories of Christmas are of pretending to be asleep and watching my Mom, Aunts and Granny fill the Christmas stocking at the end of my bed in Gordon's Bay.
Christmas was always family time filled with love, laughter, noise and good food.
Family came from all over, there were people everywhere.  Christmas was the day people put aside differences and were a united loving family.
As I grew up and became a teenager, I became a part of a blended family.  Christmases were not always on Christmas Day, but it was still devoted to quality family time, catching up with each other, enjoying each other's company.  There would still be a big group sharing lunch on Christmas Day itself, and you would always eat way too much, but love being a part of a big, loving family.
When we had Christmases overseas, we opened our home to others, although I remember a Christmas in Goa and another in New York, where it was just myself and my son Tony and daughter Siobhan.  It was awful not having Kerri with us, as if a vital part of our family was missing.  In Goa, we joined together with other holidaymakers.  In New York, we went to a Mafia Family Italian Restaurant, got way too much food and had it wrapped up and gave it to a homeless man sitting in his wheelchair on the street.
That's all Christmas is now.
Memories of what it used to be, a time focused around family.
Now I feel like the last one standing.
The rest of my family spend Christmas with their new families.
Tony and Kerri are working overseas and not home for Christmas.
It's just Siobhan, my mother and myself trying to make Christmas feel like family time, just the three of us, alienated from the world.
I feel sad.
Christmas has now become a time of sadness, a time of anxiety, a time of loneliness.
The last couple of days my eyes start to well with tears every time I think about Christmas.
Whereas in the past I looked forward to this day with excitement, now I can't wait for it to pass.  It has become an agony for my soul.
People say but Christmas is the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Historically it has been proven he wasn't born on Christmas Day.  Christmas is and always will be a day to celebrate being a part of a family.  Well, that's what it means to me anyway.
I feel like I am no longer a part of a family.  I understand that things change over time and the family breaks apart and forms new families and have new family traditions.  It just hurts that I am not part of that.
For me family was everything.
Now it is nothing.
As everybody celebrates with their new families, I am the last one standing.  The last one to remember when being a part of a large family celebrating Christrmas was everything.
So I'll make the traditional Christmas meal, way too much food as now we only feed three.
I'll shed my tears for the times gone by.  Treasure my memories of the shouts of excitement as the children dug into their Christmas stockings, the anticipation as we all gathered around the tree and handed out gifts to each other.  I am grateful that I have those memories of family Christmases.  The times when I used to agonise over what would be the best. most original gift to buy someone.  Because in those days, you bought gifts for every family member, no matter the cost.
I'll wish all a Merry Christmas as that is the expected thing to do.
But this what I have now isn't Christmas.  Christmas is about family.
And as the last one standing I'll cherish my memories of family Christmases, love, laughter, joy and togetherness.
Cindy Vine lives in Cape Town, South Africa.  She is the author of Not Telling, C U @ 8, Defective, Hush Baby and The Case of Billy B.  You can buy her books on Amazon in Kindle or Paperback format.

Monday, December 12, 2016

When an Old Woman goes Backpacking

I haven't felt as old as I did when I went backpacking in Amsterdam recently.  Amsterdam is an awesome city and I loved it.  Lots to see and do, great restaurants (and coffee houses), fantastic public transport.  A great place to visit.
However, not having the money to blow on luxury accommodation, I decided to stay in a backpackers that was amazingly cheap.  Unbelievably cheap.  Only 21 euros for 3 nights kind of cheap.  It was really cheap.
When I arrived, the fire truck was loading a stretcher through a window across the road.  The taxi driver explained that as the stairs are so steep and narrow, sick people often need help to get to the doctor and that's where the fire brigade comes in.  This should have warned me about what was to come.
I paid the taxi driver and wheeled my suitcase to the entrance of the backpacker.  What I saw made my hair stand on end.  Stairs so steep and so narrow, I thought I was climbing up Angkor Wat in Cambodia!  I looked at my big turquoise suitcase and looked again at the stairs.  There was no way in hell I was going to make it up the stairs with my suitcase.
I looked right and left but there was nobody I could ask for help.  I was just going to have to adjust my big-girl panties and do it myself.  These stairs were not for the sick or inebriated.  I could see why a sick person had to be lifted out the window.
The steps were so narrow only your ball of your foot could fit on them.  Thank goodness I did not take my Crocs on holiday with me.  These stairs are not made for people who wear Crocs.
The stairs were not for peole like me either.
I mentally calculated how many times I would have to navigate the stairs during my stay there and quickly decided that I would limit myself to going down the stairs in the morning and going up the stairs at night.  I would just have to amuse myself during the day.
Taking a deep breath, I managed to glide up the stairs dragging my suitcase behind me, rather like a hippopotamus trying to fly a kite in a cyclone.
I nearly cried with relief when I made it to the top.  The young man in Reception looked at me as if I had just landed from an obscure planet in a distant galaxy.  The young people sitting around the reception area all managed to avoid eye contact.  Some even whispered and pointed in my direction.  It took about ten minutes before I could speak as I was rather out of breath.
I think that I am the oldest person they have ever seen in this backpacker.
Just as I was about to ask for a room on the first floor, the young man in reception smiled sadistically and handed me a key card for a room on the 4th floor.
More steps.  Lots more steps.  Even steeper than the ones I'd already climbed.  ""Bastard," I muttered under my breath.
I felt like Thomas the Tank Engine as I dragged my suitcase up another 3 flights of stairs.  By the time I got to the top I thought I was having a heart attack.  My chest cramped and I struggled to breathe.  I had to sit on my suitcase for ages before I was able to stand.  But I had done it and it was an achievement to be proud of.  I had dragged my suitcase up 4 flights of the steepest stairs I had ever climbed!
I opened the door to the 8 bed dormitory.  Now I have stayed in Backpackers before, had even backpacked through South-East Asia with my kids.  But we always stayed in a family room, not in a dormitory with random people.  Looking around the room, I quickly decided that this was a once in a lifetime experience, something I could tick off a bucket list and never repeat again....ever.  There was no way I was going to climb up onto a top bunk and all the bottom bunks were taken.  Two girls looked like they were packing up, so I sat on my suitcase and read a book on my Kindle while I waited for them to go so I could claim a bottom bunk.  The girls took their time but eventually they left and I lugged my suitcase onto a bottom bunk and then left to explore the city.
After a fun day out, I arrived back, climbed the stairs and waited for my breathing to settle down and normalise before entering the dormitory.  Much to my shock, everybody was asleep.
In the middle of the night I had to use the bathroom, as old women do.  The toilet facility was the smallest, tightest space I had ever encountered in my life!  To sit on the toilet with the door closed, you had to swing your knees to the right.  To wash your hands in the doll-sized washbasin, you could not stand up but had to swivel your body around to the left with your knees still jammed in to the right.  A contortionist would have been proud of me!  Then I realised a horrible, terrible, frightening realisation.  I had not taken my key card with me to the toilet.  I was locked out in the middle of the night, barefoot in below zero temperatures.  After an initial moment of panic, I thought about options.  I could wake up the sleeping strangers to ask them to let me in.  Or, I could make my way downstairs in the dark, barefoot, to the Reception area and pray that there would be someone on duty in the middle of the night.  I was too much of a coward to choose the first option, so I padded downstairs.
Luckily, a young man was on duty.  He gave me a spare key card and I headed back upstairs, waiting the customary ten minutes for my breathing to slow down before opening the room and tiptoeing to my bed.  I spent the rest of the night clutching the key card in case I needed to use the bathroom again.
The next morning young muscular men covered in tattoos walked around in their boxers.  I decided to pretend I was sleeping until they got dressed and left the dorm.  The shower proved to be just as small as the toilet.  There was no place to put a towel or your clean clothes without them getting wet.  I was not going to pad around half-naked like the rest of the youngsters staying there.
Throughout my stay there, everybody ignored me and avoided eye contact.  I truly believe that they had never seen someone as old as me stay there before.  I was definitely out of place and was made to feel so.  This is not something I would repeat again in a hurry, no matter how cheap it was.
Leaving, required manoeuvring my suitcase down four flights of narrow stairs again.  Somehow I made it down without killing myself - quite a miracle!  Young men stepped aside to allow me to pass, never once offering to help.  Maybe they thought if they offered to help me I'd want to come again!

Cindy Vine is a teacher and author living in Cape Town, South Africa.  She is the author of C U @ 8, Not Telling, Defective and Hush Baby.  All Cindy's books are available on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback format.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Donald Trump - Genius or Clown

Let me start off by saying that I am not American.  I don't live in America but I have visited there once.  Of course that does not give me the right to comment on these presidential elections and I accept that.  But I am going to give my opinion anyway.
In previous elections, I have to confess, I have neither followed them or particularly cared who won them.
US Elections to me always seemed like a lot of money spent on campaigning that could have been better spent on education or enriching lives.
But this year it has become better than any Reality TV Show currently on TV.  I find myself watching the news to follow the election, getting up early to watch the debates and what I see is unbelievable.
Who would have thought that America would have a presidential race with characters straight from a Hollywood movie about a tinpot African Republic?
The intrigue, the scandals, the corruption, hacked emails, derogatory comments, calls of rigged elections, and there are still ten days to go!  What more can surface?
Americans want change, that is evident.  But do they really want trumped up change?  Clinton does not bring the change they want, she is too same-old, same-old for many.  Her husband cheated on her in a very public way, yet she forgave him.  Most women would never have been able to support Bill like she did.  Which begs the question, is it because after all the years she is still madly in love with him?  Monica Lewinsky would not have been his first.  She's the first one that made headlines.  If a man is a cheater he'll always be a cheater.  The same goes for Donald Trump.  Why did Clinton turn a blind eye on her husband's infidelities?  Was it because she already had her eye on the bigger prize - becoming president of the United States?  It does prove that she has stickability though.  Donald Trump has been married three times.  No signs of stickability there.  And the rumours of his groping and derogatory comments about women - he's a cheater.  Of course he did and said those things.  He has an inflated view of himself as being a sexy beast.  Seriously?  With that fake hair, fake tan and make-up.  Swamp beast more like.
I do believe that every time he steps onto a public platform, his Republican puppetmasters cringe.  They have no control over what comes out of his mouth.  Actually, it is evident that neither does he.  Whereas, Hillary is always carefully controlled and contemplated which is what puts people off of her.
So is Donald a clown or a genius?  Personally, I believe that he is a clown but his Republican puppetmasters are genius.  He has time and time again exaggerated and lied about facts.  He has consistently made himself a laughing stock.  He does not have well-thought out policy.  He is so full of his own self-importance he doesn't believe he needs to.  He honestly believes people will vote for him because he is great.  He has to be one of the most thick-skinned, self-absorbed people on the planet.  So how on earth did the puppetmasters in the Republican Party let this uncouth, obnoxious, unfit clown get this far in the election process?
Well, as Shakespeare would say, therein lies the rub.  People want change.  He says what people think but would never actually dream of saying out loud because it would be deemed racist, discriminatory or politically incorrect.  Donald Trump doesn't care.  He's a showman.  He deliberately antagonises to get a reaction.  Bad press is better than no press.  His party opposition all fought against him using traditional rhetoric focusing on the issues.  Exactly what Hillary does.  The people don't give a shit about clever political speak.  They want change.  They think Donald Trump is a joke.  Can't believe the things he says but they continue to watch and secretly support him because they are being entertained.  And, they believe that he will shake up things in Washington.  Whereas Hillary won't be shaking anything.  Don't get me wrong, I like Hillary.  If I was American I would probably vote for her as try as I might, I just cannot take Donald Trump seriously.
However, the puppetmasters believe they are onto a winner and they may be right.  The Republican puppetmasters are the real geniuses behind Trump.  They want him to go out there and make an ass of himself.  They want him to entertain and say the wrong thing time and time again.  Because if Hillary Clinton wins, they have used Donald's snide and sarcastic comments to undermine her before she even steps foot into the White House.  They have sewn the seeds of discontent.  People are going to believe she is corrupt and just as unfit as Donald.  They might vote for her as they think she is a better option than Donald, but they will never support her.  The Republican puppeteers are thinking longterm.  Create a sea of discontent, anarchy and mayhem and then step in when the presidential term is over with a real candidate who will clean up the mess.  Like Donald, Hillary is being used.
Oh and I do agree with Trump on one thing.  I do believe that CNN is very biased against him and very pro-Hillary.  They downplay the Hillary emails and capitalise on anything negative about him.
Whatever happens, the next few years are going to be very entertaining viewing as this Reality TV Show unfolds.
Cindy Vine is a South African teacher and author living in the beautiful city of Cape Town.  Cindy is the author of the page-turning novels 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.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

When you are your own worst enemy

Sitting in my car waiting for a friend, I noticed something I had never seen before.  A bird attacking its reflection in a car's side view mirror.  Now this must be something that actually happens quite often, as when I put into Google search 'Bird fighting its reflection', heaps of photos like the one in this blog came up.  Unfortunately as I no longer have a smart phone to take impromptu photos with (it accidentally fell out my pocket and smashed when my cardigan snagged on a chair, but that is a whole other sad story), I was forced to grab a photo off Google images.
But I digress.  So back to the bird fighting its reflection.  That got me thinking.  How often are we actually our own worst enemy?  How often do we blurt out stuff and think immediately, "Oh crap I shouldn't have just said that!"  Our lives are so busy we are forced to make on-the-spot decisions and choices and sometimes they aren't always the best option.  We are our own worst enemy when we react to situations based on our fears, irritation or annoyance levels or our lack of willpower.  Or when we have no idea what it feels like to walk in the other person's shoes.
Today was a prime example.  I love baked cheesecake.  So my friend and I went for coffee and cake.  There was a whole row of little restaurant/coffee shops opposite the beach.  We picked the one which advertised cakes on their blackboard at the entrance.  The waiter told us it was 'Banting" cheesecake.  All I know about Banting is that it is some kind of a diet invented by some kind of health nut sports medicine guy that works at a university.  (I think!  I am probably wrong.)  So we ordered the Banting cheesecake and I felt extremely health-conscious ordering what was probably diet cheesecake.  It arrived with a mound of cream next to it.  My stomach dropped (literally) as I don't do cream in any form.  My stomach has an instant aversion to cream.  As a child, anything rich, creamy or oily would make me throw up.  As an adult it gives me instant runs.  I tried to avoid the cream but I definitely ingested some as I could feel my tummy begin to gurgle.  Now this is not a happy baby kind of gurgle.  This is a gurgle that causes hair-raising moments.  The hair literally stands up on my arms.
All my life I have had a fear of performing certain body functions in public bathrooms or at other people's houses.  There are some things I can only do in the privacy of my own bathroom.  So I didn't go at my friend's house when I needed to, instead I sat and let my tummy gurgle quietly.  Then I made a very bad choice to stop off at the supermarket on the way home.  I was definitely my own worst enemy, as by that stage my tummy was ready to erupt.  The hairs on my arms were on high alert and standing at attention, but still I refused to go to the public bathroom.  Hopefully, nobody noticed my strange walk as I clenched my butt cheeks together and pushed the shopping trolley around that supermarket in double quick time.  By the time I got to my car I could barely walk.  My gait had changed to a strange one-legged gallop as I dragged my other foot along the ground, too scared to take a proper step as my butt cheeks stayed clenched together in a mild panic.  While the shopping trolley man unpacked my shopping into my car, I jumped up and down as I could not stand still.  With teeth clenched I made it into the driver's seat and all the way home.  Opening the gate and front door were the next death-defying missions that I managed to complete before mincing my way down my passage to my bathroom.  I really need to go when I need to go.  This fear of others' bathrooms must be overcome.  There was no need for me to go through this horrifying ordeal.  I am truly my own worst enemy.
Cindy Vine is an author and teacher currently living in the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa.  She is the author of Hush Baby, Not Telling, Defective, C U @ 8 and The Case of Billy B.  All her books are available on Amazon in both kindle and paperback format.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Things I've learnt over time

There are times when there is no logic to things people do
When I recently checked into the Lutheran Mission Guesthouse in Iringa, Tanzania, the guy at reception put me in a large room with the biggest bed I had ever seen.  I could lie sideways, upside down, it didn’t matter, as the bed was so huge it made no difference.  The next morning as I was heading out to my workshop, the same guy who checked me in the day before informed me that I must give him my luggage as I was moving to a new room.  “Why am I moving?”  I couldn’t hide my irritation.  “Because your room is booked by some other people,” he replied with a smile.  “So why did you put me in that room if you knew I couldn’t stay there?”  I thought that was a reasonable thing to ask.  He shrugged, “I don’t know.  No reason.”  What can you say to that?
Being back in Tanzania, albeit for just a few days, made me remember some of the strange laws that defied logic.  The traffic police dressed like sea captains in their white uniforms that would be covered in a layer of red dust by the end of the day.  The road blocks to check that buried somewhere in your car’s trunk would be a fire extinguisher so that you could put out the flames if your car suddenly randomly caught fire.
Going to Iringa Airport, I was surprised to see that they had upped their security.  Drivers of the vehicle have to step out of the car and be body-searched, while the people actually traveling and boarding the plane are left alone to sit and wait in the car for their driver to be allowed back in.  That defies logic.
At Dar-es-Salaam Airport I noted that my departure gate was Gate 7.  However, there were no signs anywhere for a Gate 7.  They only had Gates 1-6.  So I asked one of the staff there if they could tell me where Gate 7 was.  The response, “There is no Gate 7.  You must go to Gate 5.  We just say Gate 7 so you can go to Gate 5.”  Sometimes there are no words!
If you show compassion people will take advantage.
By the grand age I am now, life should have made me more cynical than I am.  But despite my cynicism, I know that people will continue to take me for a ride.  I am a Giver and people just cannot resist a Giver.  They spin you a story so that you will help them.  What annoys me the most is that they believe I am so gullible and stupid, and that’s why I help them.  The fact is, I see through their bullshit but there is something in me that compels me to help them.  Whether it’s the desperation in their eyes as they spin me a line or the fact that they have children, I don’t really know.  But I will do what I can to help them.  This is self-destructive behaviour.  I think I need therapy.  Because you give them a hand and they grab all of you in until you start drowning in their mess.  You give all you have until you have nothing left for your family.  And you know that nobody is going to help you.  You just have to work your way back up until the next person asks for help.
People are well-meaning but invariably let you down
Everybody has good intentions.  They make kind offers because at that time it makes them feel good.  However, because of time constraints or lack of resources, they let you down the majority of the time.  So when people offer to help, you need to have a back-up plan in case they don’t come through for you.  At the end of the day, the only person you should rely on is yourself.
24 Hours in a day is not enough
In fact 7 days a week is not enough.  A two day weekend is too short.  Time is the biggest enemy.  Time also has a special friend called Procrastination.  The amount of things that need to be done does not leave much time to follow your dreams.  Eat Work Sleep becomes my mantra.  Often it is just Work and Sleep.  However, recently I have decided to make time for reading and writing, my two loves.  Cooking is another favourite past time, but cooking costs money, so that is on the back-burner for a while.  Sometimes I think a 36 hour day would be better.  But then I have to ask, would I have the stamina to last that long?  As it is I start work at 5.30am and leave my office at 6pm feeling shattered and dreaming of an early night and sleep.  Then my brain can only do something mindless like watch the Crime Channel or Reality TV.  Serious thinking is beyond reach.  I really think we need to start protesting for a four day work week and a three day weekend.  That would definitely give our lives more balance.
Traveling gives your life an added dimension
For the life of me I cannot comprehend people who never leave their home town or city.  As a person who travels a lot, and by a lot – I mean more than most people, I have to say experiencing different cultures and seeing different places others just dream of, makes your life richer.  Seeing a place in a photograph is not the same as embracing it with all your senses.  Although endless traveling can be exhausting, the benefits make it all worth it.  One day when I am old and senile, I can look through all my photographs and remember the places I went, the food I ate, the things I saw and the amazing people I met.  I can honestly say, that I have lived my life to its fullest.  If you can travel, do it.  If you don’t have the money, find it and travel.  The world is out there waiting to be explored.
Being Happy and Healthy means more than being Rich
I have come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be rich.  Money is not my friend.  I get it in and I give it away.  While money can buy you lots of cool stuff, and means you can go on amazing holidays and also pay your debts, money can’t buy you happiness.  I know that sounds like a cliché but it’s true.  For the last two years I have let the lack of money cause me such stress that it’s affected my sleep and aged me considerably.  How stupid to give Money that kind of power!  So the last while I have decided to focus on being happy and healthy.  To start doing the things that I love.  And to not let well-meaning people try and dictate to me what I should and should not do.  This is my life, my decisions, my choices.  And the choice I am making is to be happy.
Your Family will always be your Family
Every family has their ups and downs.  You may not always agree with what each other does, and you may say things or do things which hurt each other.  But the bottom line is that they are your family.  They are a part of you and you are proud of their achievements and saddened by their disappointments.  No matter what, I will always be there for my family because I believe in family.  I look at my three children and I am overwhelmed with feelings of love.  If I didn’t do much right in this life, my three children are definitely something I got right.
It’s okay if you don’t like everybody
And it’s really okay if everybody doesn’t like you.  So much of my life was wasted trying to please people and make them like me.  I was the eternal people-pleaser.  (Read doormat)  I worried about what people thought about me, and tolerated people I disliked.  As I’ve grown older, I am more concerned about liking myself and not letting myself down than being concerned about what other people think.  There are some people who, when they walk into a room, make the hair on the back of my neck rise.  There very presence causes me irritation.  Therefore it is understandable that for some people, my presence and personality might annoy them immensely so that they can’t stand being around me.  And that is okay because we are all unique.  If we were all the same the world would be a very boring place.
I am finally comfortable with how I look
For years I wanted to be anorexic model-thin.  No amounts of dieting or exercise would ever make me look that way and I have accepted that.  In fact, I have embraced that I am overweight and have discovered that I can use it to my advantage.  Today I asked for a special seat as I am old and fat.  So they bumped me up to First Class and gave me three empty seats!  Bonus!  Of course, squeezing down narrow aisles will always be a problem.  And as much as I would love to climb to the top of Kilimanjaro it ain’t going to happen.  A helicopter flight to the top will do me just fine.
Strange things happen to me
Whether it is a young Maasai dentist offering me cows for my young daughter while having root canal treatment, or falling backwards into the bath of a hotel in Moscow in the middle of the night and getting wedged with my legs sticking into the air because I mistook it for the toilet in the dark, these sorts of things happen to me all the time.  Besides giving me a wealth of stories to tell, and making my life a rich tapestry of hilarious and sometimes dangerous adventures, it stops me from being bored.  I can never say my life has been boring.  From smuggling money out of a country in a sanitary pad, to making an emergency landing in rebel-held territory, I have experienced a lot and for that I am very thankful.  At the time you wonder, “Why me?”  But afterwards you feel special that you are always the one chosen to land up in disastrous and often extremely funny situations.
For example, my first night in Iringa I was way too tired to head into town to forage for food.  The Lutheran Mission where I was staying did not sell dinner.  So I dug in my backpack and found a bag of two minute noodles and a berry-flavoured teabag.  I asked the man at Reception if I could get some boiling water, a cup and a bowl.  He brought me a flask of boiling water, a cup and a side-plate.  I patiently explained that I needed a bowl as I had to pour the boiling water on the noodles.  He went back to the kitchen and returned with a dinner plate.  My patience was now starting to grow thin.  I showed him the noodles and modeled pouring the water onto it so he could see a dinner plate would not work.  He returned to the kitchen and came back with a very large stainless steel mixing bowl.  I smiled and thanked him.  However, I must have looked quite a sight eating my noodles out of a large mixing bowl with a teaspoon!

Yesterday flying on a little 8 seater Cessna as it bounced and bumped its way through dark clouds, I had an epiphany.  Life is a bit like the flight I took.  You have smooth bits where you can see the ground below and know exactly where you are heading.  Then you fly into a dark cloud and are blown around the skies, unable to see anything above or below.  To make matters worse, you discover that the seatbelt does not work, so if the plane does plummet to earth you will have no chance of survival.  But you trust, you trust that the pilot who appears to be sleeping in the cockpit, will fly the plane safely through the dark clouds until you come out the other side.  You can’t let those dark clouds overwhelm and panic you.  You can’t let the air pockets, sudden drops and being blown around the skies frighten you.  You have to focus on getting to the end of the cloud and letting the sun shine on you once again.  And trust that the pilot wakes up in time to land the plane!

Cindy Vine is an author and teacher living in Cape Town South Africa.  Besides writing, she runs an NGO which helps children who don’t cope with mainstream education.  Cindy is the author of Hush Baby, Defective, Not Telling, C U @ 8 and The Case of Billy B.  All her books are available on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback format.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Hidden Advantage of Having a Big Bum

For most of my life I thought that having a big bum was a curse.  Two large bags of fat to sit on.  Jeans that never quite fit.  A mission to walk sideways through a narrow space.  Although there was one boyfriend many years ago that said I had a sexy bum but if I remember he was quite drunk at the time.  So in all probability his vision was blurred and he thought he was seeing double, when actually he wasn’t.  Sad but true.
Don't get excited, that's not my bum but it could be after watching Jamie Oliver's Sugar Rush on the plane.  I'm thinking twice about my sugar intake now and the sodas I drink.  This Coke I am drinking might be the last.  This is just a random Google bum.  But this is what my bum feels like on airplane seats.
Bums have suddenly come into fashion thanks to the Kardashian sisters.  Big is now beautiful in the eyes of the masses.  Some people are even getting butt implants. ( If you contact me I reckon I can give four people butt implants from my bum.  You can get them for free, just pay for my surgery to remove my slabs of lard.)  I have to say bumless bums are quite unattractive.  You know the ones where people are completely flat in the buttocks area so that their jeans sag.  It looks almost as if they were jumping onto the Metro and the doors closed on their protruding butt slicing the excess off.  Hey, maybe I should try that?
Besides being a slave to fashion and having a big butt, what could possibly be the hidden advantage you are probably asking.  Well, it's not to rest your backpack on and spare pressure on the small of your back.  (Mind you, a big bum does help with that!)  Let me tell you a little story that will illustrate the hidden advantage of having a big bum.  This was something I had never previously considered.  
When I checked in online for my flight to Vienna, it did not give me the option to select my seats.  On my boarding pass it said "Seat - None.  At first I found this quite distressing, then I thought maybe it was because I had been randomly selected to sit with the pilot.  So when I went to the Online Check-in Counter to drop off my bag, the flight attendant said, "Sorry the flight is full so you have to have a middle seat."
Then he smiled his simperingly sweet fake smile as if he really cared that I would be spending 9 and a half hours doing my sardine-in-a-can impersonation.  "I'm afraid on both the flight to Dubai and the flight from Dubai to Vienna you'll have to have a middle seat."  It had just got worse.  Now the 6 hour flight to Vienna would also be cramped.
I flared out my butt cheeks like an ostrich fluffs out their feathers before they attack.  "I'm sorry but I have a really big bum.  Can't you find me an aisle seat?"
He glanced at my posterior regions and reached for the phone.  "Hello, we need a disability seat," he communicated with his supervisor, nodding at me as if we were in some kind of secret conspiracy.
"I can give you an aisle seat on both your flights.  Enjoy your trip!"  And he handed me back my passport with the two boarding passes.
For a minute I stood there staring at him, not sure whether to be insulted or impressed.  Although I have often cursed my over-sized bum in the past, I had never really considered it a disability.  Now I am wondering if I qualify for the disabled sticker for my car so that I can get the good parking!
Cindy Vine is an author and teacher who lives in the beautiful city of Cape Town.  She is the author of Hush Baby, C U @ 8, Defective, Not Telling and The Case of Billy B.  All her books are available on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback format.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Give them enough rope

You can guide and advise people up to a point, and then you need to take a step back and let what unfolds, unfold.  My Granny used to say, "Give them enough rope and they'll hang themselves."  Now I am not a psychopath who enjoys being surrounded by decomposing bodies hanging from all the trees in the neighborhood like funeral flowers sticky-taped to the branches.  I actually do want people to succeed and not end up as a corpse in a tree.  Imagine all the flies they would attract?  But I digress.
You can advise your children until your face turns blue and you look like a not so distant relation of the Smurfs.  But at the end of the day, some of your advice will sink in, others will get flung back at you as an accusation, and your children will make their own decisions.  As a parent you can only do so much.  You can't watch over them every second of the day as you have to work so you can afford to buy them all the stuff they want.  Sorry, need.
This whole thing about needs and wants.  When we lived in NZ we often used to go to a shop called The Warehouse.  ("The Warehouse, The Warehouse.  Where everyone gets a bargain." Is the catchy jingle I hated.  No bargains when you take your children with you into that shop!  And what is it when things are cheap or marked down that we feel compelled to buy them even though we don't need them?)  Anyway, initially my young son always 'wanted' the expensive toys.  When I always responded with "Those who want don't get."  (You can see what a nice caring mother I was.)  He changed it to "Mommy I need it."  And then there always followed a justification of why he needed it.  Then I would say he could pick one toy.  He would come with a toy that cost over $300.  Obviously, as a single mother always on the bones of her arse, I would respond with something like, "Put that back are you crazy or what?"  He would then come back with something that cost $100 and get the same reaction.  Then something for $50.  Finally, he would arrive with something that cost $10 and I would agree to buy it, only too relieved it never cost $300.  Not forgetting that I had said that I would not be spending more than $5 on a toy when we pulled into the parking lot.  It took several months before I realised that it was the $10 toy he wanted all along.  And the $300 toy he would be bringing too me was part of his elaborate selling technique.  (Interestingly, he has made a career in sales.)
So when they ask if they can have a barbecue party and you explain that as you live in a tutor centre where you also work, the place is not set out for entertaining.  Like we don't have a lounge or a dining room.  Those are classrooms.  But because you don't like being accused of being unsupportive, yadda, yadda, yadda, you cave in and say "Okay but any mess and you clean it up."  Walking out this morning to make myself a cup of coffee, I noticed a) the state of the kitchen b) all the bottles and glasses lying around two of the classrooms c) bottles outside.  Looks like it was some barbecue!  My initial thought was, "Thank God I don't have to clean up this mess!"
Give them enough rope hahaha.
This works with all relationships.  People you live with, work with etc.  And also people who try and destroy your good name or people who enjoy spreading stories about others.  The story-spreaders are a perverse lot.  They take a small glimmer of truth, or something they think they heard, and they twist and turn it so that it is manipulated into something you don't even recognise.  Like someone who systematically steals your possessions, these people steal your truth.  They fall into the same category.  Your initial reaction might be to defend your honour, make people aware of the truth, confront the person stealing your stuff.  But if you give them enough rope they will hang themselves.  The thief will get too clever and slip up, and the rumour-monger will be found out and exposed.  The truth will out.
So instead of buying a sword or a gun to attack with, rather just buy some rope and leave it there and walk away.  Their behaviour and decisions are their choice, not yours.  They have to take responsibility for their actions.  They have to live with the consequences and you have to move on.  Don't try and own what they've done.  Don't let the injustice of it all hurt you.  You know the truth and that's what matters.
Cindy Vine lives in sometimes sunny Cape Town South Africa.  She 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.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Confessions of a Perpetual Traveler

When I lived in New Zealand I was amazed at how many people had never left Auckland.  To never move from one area your entire life boggles the mind.
I could never be that person.
For me life is made up of a series of adventures. Granted, not all of them are good.  Some are downright miserable.  But travel is always a good adventure.
As a child I was a bookworm, and would read into the night.  I lived vicariously through the characters in the books.  Through them I traveled to exotic destinations and ate amazing food from all around the globe.  Those characters' lives planted a seed in me that was to grow over time.  It was not enough to just read about the different cultures and cuisines, I wanted to experience them first hand.
Danger and living life on the edge became a part of me.  The easy route through life is so mundane that it puts you into a comatose state where you just go through the motions of being alive.  Little house, white picket fence, loving husband, 2 children and a dog.  (Not a cat as I am allergic to them.)  I have to confess, I did try that but kept swerving off the well-trodden path, until my life became one detour after another with many side roads.  No cul-de-sacs for me.
Although it was never part of the grand plan (I had wanted to become a farmer or a vet), teaching proved to be an excellent career choice.  It opened doors for me to see the world.  Living in different countries and becoming absorbed in their cultures is different to going there on holiday.  Immersion not a quick flit in and out.
Nowadays, my part-time job (which is actually my sole source of income) takes me to many different countries.  I can sometimes travel to three different countries in a month.  Some might say I am lucky.  Those are the people who don't travel a lot.  Those who do travel will know exactly what I mean when I say that continuous traveling gives you a sore bum.  Airlines really need to do something about their seats.  No jokes.  Yesterday's flight had me struggling to get comfortable.  I think my coccyx is permanently bruised from bad plane seats.  When it is more comfortable to sit on the toilet on the plane, then you know there is a problem with airplane seats.  Hopefully, some airplane designer will read this and design seats for the frequent flyer.
Last night at the passport control, I watched two people completely lose it.  The queue was long, I have to say.  We had been standing in it for over an hour, shuffling forward every so often.  Then a Filipino woman started shouting, "You jumped my line!  You jumped my line!  You are not a man!  What kind of a man are you?  You jumped my line!"  The man in question first tried to respond in a friendly manner.  He had a wife and about 4 children and a granny with him.  But the irate woman kept shouting, "You jumped my line!"  So he started shouting back.  And then it was a very loud, full-on shouting match.  Airport security arrived.  Removed both the woman and the man and his family out of the queue and made them sit down for a while.  More security arrived and escorted them all to some offices in the depths of the airport.  They hadn't re-emerged when I finally went through passport control.  It shows you have to be patient and just wait in the line.  No matter how annoying it is.  And use your elbows to protect your place in the line.  That is something I learned in China.
Two weeks ago I was in Poland and managed to visit Auschwitz, a lifelong dream of mine.  Two trains, three planes and I was back in Cape Town.  Now I am in Doha, Qatar, looking out my hotel window on the 35th floor, wondering where I can go to forage dinner for tonight.  Cheap food, not over-priced hotel room service.  And what is it with hotels and restaurants all wanting to serve Italian food?  Seriously?  Why are they so ashamed of the local cuisine that they have to steal someone else's?  I choose the local cuisine ahead of Italian every day.  Not that I am anti-Italian.  But eating the local food definitely enhances the travel experience.  And makes you forget about your sore bruised bum.
Cindy Vine is an author and teacher currently living in Cape Town, South Africa.  She 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.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Looking for the Me I used to be

What happened?
Today is exactly one year since I last posted on my blog.  One year since I last wrote anything of significance.  I was once a prolific writer, brim full of creativity and out the box thinking.
Somehow or other I allowed myself to become swamped with other people's dramas, until I was drowning in exhaustion caused from sleepless nights of working out solutions to their problems.  Then my life became one huge problem.  Looking forward became a no-go zone, as problem after problem blurred my vision and killed my creativity.
Somewhere in this lump of flesh that just exists and no longer lives, must be the me I used to be.
I need to find it.  I need to find me.
That spark must still be there somewhere.  The humour that was pushed aside to make way for a seriousness that is both life-threatening and demoralising.
Existing is not living.

My nails are chipped and cracked from clinging onto survival.  If I am only here to just survive then I would rather not be here at all.
So, take back your dramas.  Remove your problems from my portfolio.  Let me renew my spirit.
I was put here to create.  Do not hinder me.  Do not block my path with inconsequential things.
Do not block me from myself.
You might not like me much, but I like the me I used to be and at the end of the day, that is what counts.
Don't distract me from my quest.  Because when I find the me I used to be, you'd better watch out.
No more character's dialogue echoing through my brain when driving the car, only to be forgotten when I return home.
I am removing your drama from where it has been in residence in my mind, clearing out the compartments, making room for my creativity to return and take back control.
Where it is supposed to be.  In the me I used to be.  And like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, the me I am again.
Cindy Vine is the author of Hush Baby, Defective, Not Telling, C U @ 8 and The Case of Billy B.  All her books are available on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback format.