Monday, December 24, 2018

Rude people are a part of a holiday

You plan your holiday, researching finer details, checking out weather forecasts.  But one thing you never factor in is the rude people you encounter on your trip.  I have to say, invariably they are taxi drivers.
Take for example, my recent trip to Fort Lauderdale.  My plane landed at about 8.45pm.  We had to wait on the runway for over an hour for a gate to be free for the plane to pull into so we could disembark.  Then another hour for the bags to slowly get spit out onto the conveyor belt.  Factor in a ten hour flight and as you can imagine, my patience levels would not be the best.  Finding a taxi was not the easiest, which was surprising.  Signs for a taxi rank were not noticeable.  When I asked a staff member to point me in the drection of the taxi rank, she gave a big sigh and pointed me in the direction of the 'shared ride' area, irritation seemingly dripping off her finger.  I trudged all the way there and waited a while, eventually noticing that taxis were driving past and stopping off where the irritable lady was standing, still sending people to the wrong area.  I headed back to where the taxis were stopping and managed to grab a taxi.  All was well until we went through a toll and the taxi driver turned around and held his hand out, "Gimme $1.50 for the toll."
I replied that I had only just arrived, it was nearly midnight and I didn't have any American money on me.  He shouted at me.  Yes, you heard right.  The stupid taxi driver shouted at me!  He asked me how I dared climb into his taxi cab without cash!  I was shocked.  I pointed out that he had a card machine in his cab.  "It's not *!#* working!" he shouted, "Now I have to take a detour to find an ATM so you can draw out cash!"
To say I was gobsmacked, was quite an understatement.  I had encountered rude people on all of my travels, but this guy was definitely the worst!  He stopped at an ATM, I drew cash, and when he eventually arrived at my hotel, I saw that the meter said $43.50.  He turned around to face me, and said that with the toll added on I owed him $50.  Now I am no mathematician, but I know that 43.50 + 1.50 does not equal 50.  But, it was midnight, I was exhausted so I gave him $60, as the ATM only issued twenties.  He then told me that he didn't have $7 change!  In my exhaustion I shook my head to make sure I heard right.  "$7 change?" I asked.  Somehow, the $50 which was already an overcharge, had changed to $53!  He pulled out some notes, showing me a $5 and a $10 and said he didn't have $7 and would have to drive off to get change.  I knew when he drove off that he would never be coming back again.  Ripped off!  What a welcome to America!
The other taxi drivers I encountered were much friendlier, although there was another one that tried the cash only thing, saying his machine was broken.  When I asked for a receipt, suddenly his machine was fixed.  One taxi driver said I was hot, and wanted to fetch me with his personal car the next day to take me around the city.  When I told my son, he said "Don't do it Mom.  Remember Dexter.  He came from Miami."
In France we found the waiters to be extremely rude.  But on a return visit, they were exceptionally friendly.  So even though the rudeness of some locals might be disturbing at the time, you have to balance it with the friendliness and helpfulness of others you meet.  I guess in busy holiday seasons, one can get easily annoyed with tourists asking the same questions, making the same silly comments.  And there will always be taxi drivers ready to take advantage of tourists whom they might view as easy money.  I guess we just have to accept that encounters with rude people are just a part of every holiday.
Cindy Vine is a teacher and author currently living in Norway.  She is the author of Defective, Hush Baby and The Freedom Club.  All her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook format.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Mistakes you make when Traveling

Have you ever ordered a meal off a menu because the picture looked like the meal would be delicious?  Did the meal live up to the expectations you had from the photo on the menu?
On a recent visit to Istanbul, I went to a local restaurant in a shopping mall.  They had posters of a delicious looking steak that was on special displayed all around the restaurant.  Of course all the writing on the posters was in Turkish.  As I can't read Turkish and the waiter couldn't speak English. I had to go by the picture.
When the steak arrived my immediate observation was that it wasn't actually a steak, but rather thin slices of meat placed on flatbread.  I shrugged and decided if it tasted good, then all was fine in my world.  Before I could shovel the first forkful into my mouth, the waiter arrived with a pot filled with melted butter which he proceeded to pour over my meal.  I was aghast!  I have never been able to handle anything too oily and fatty.  Even cream makes me want to throw up.  Looking at my meal swimming in a sea of melted butter, I could feel my stomach heave.  Not wanting to waste money, I managed to pick off the slices of meat to eat, while trying not to look at the flatbread which was now sodden and soggy with the melted butter.  I bravely ate that meat while glaring at the misleading posters, fighting back the nausea.  For several hours afterwards, I felt physically ill.
The lesson to be learned, don't pick a meal based on a picture on the menu.
I guess another lesson could be not to order from a menu not written in English.  On a visit to Gabon, I went to a cute beach-side restaurant in Libreville.  The menu was in French, and the waitresses only spoke French.  My French is limited to words like 'restaurant' and 'bureau.'  I thought 'poisson' was the French for chicken, and was shocked to be served a very fishy stew with fish heads!
Maybe I'm a slow learner.
A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting Frankfurt.  Knowing that I would be arriving at the airport in time to board and I would't be able to check in luggage, I took a small carry-on and left behind my face cream, deodorant and toothpaste.  My thought was that I could buy toiletries in Frankfurt.  Also, as my residence card was about to expire, I didn't want to have any products in my bag that might draw attention to me, causing someone to ask me for identification.  One of the great things about traveling through the Schengen region, is that you aren't often asked to show identification.  But, I wanted to avoid chancing my luck.  However, on visiting the supermarket near my hotel in Frankfurt, I found identifying face cream to be a problem.  Toothpaste and deodorant were easily identifiable.  Browsing through the products on display, I decided to go with something that sounded familiar.  It said 'Creme' and 'Body Butter.'  Now I have to state, I use body butter from The Body Shop, as I find it works well on my sensitive skin.  The first time I tried the 'creme' on my face, it felt tight afterwards and stung a little bit.  The next day it stung even more and my skin started going red.  Stupidly, I used the 'creme' a third and then a fourth day.  By the fourth day my face was very red and burning.  I decided to wash my face to remove remnants of the 'creme.'  To my horror as I wet my face it started to foam.  It was at that point I realised that the 'creme' was not what I thought it was.  A closer look at the bottle showed the word 'douche' after the word 'creme.'  A German-speaking friend confirmed my worst fears.  The face cream I had been using on my ultra-sensitive skin for four days was actually Shower Gel!  No wonder my face felt tight, turned red and foamed when I washed it!
The Frankfurt visit influenced decisions I made for my Finland visit the following week.
I made three bad decisions.  The first one was to pack in my toiletries so that I didn't have to risk buying a wrong product in Finland as I can't read Finnish.  I didn't want a repeat of the 'creme douche' incident.  The second one was to send my passport away to another embassy to get a visa.  This effectively meant that I would be traveling to another country without a passport.  I didn't see this as a problem as nobody had wanted to see my residence card or passport when I left Frankfurt.  The third mistake was deciding to check-in my bag because I had packed in toiletries.
Well, the airline lady asked me for my passport when I tried to check-in my bag.  She refused to accept a certified copy of it or my now renewed residence card.  Instead, she canceled my flights right there and then.  This should have been devastating as I was leading a workshop the next day and people were counting on me.  Instead, I went to the airport Starbucks, not for a coffee, but to use their table so I could set up my laptop.  I quickly bought new plane tickets on a different airline.  I did not check-in my bag, but took it as hand luggage, my toiletries setting off the alarm.  Luckily, all I had to do was remove them from my bag and put them in a clear plastic ziploc bag they gave me.  Thank goodness nobody asked me for identification on the two flights to Oulu in Finland and the two flights back. 
Desperate times call for desperate measures. 
I blame this all on the toiletries!
Sometimes I think these kinds of things only happen to me.  Maybe it's because I am a risk-taker, who knows.
Cindy Vine is a South African living and working in Norway.  Cindy is the author of Hush Baby, The Freedom Club, Not Telling, CU@8, Defective and The Case of Billy B.  All her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book format. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Confessions of a Solo Traveler

I like traveling and I'm lucky that I get to travel a lot.  However, my solo trips are usually ten days max.  This is the first time that I have traveled for such a long period by myself.
I'm not sure if I like it.
I think I might have made a few mistakes this trip, which has impacted on the success of it.
Have I seen a lot of different places?  Yes, definitely.  But, part of me feels that when planning the trip way back in March, I went for quantity rather than quality.
A person goes on holiday to rest, relax and recharge.
I forgot that in my initial planning of the trip.
I looked at a map and thought, it would be cool to stop off at these places.  Then I planned one day for traveling and 2 days to explore.  That was my biggest mistake.  While you can explore a city in 2 days, you need more time than that to factor in relaxation time.  Rushing from tourist sight to tourist sight leaves you exhausted, and then you have to pack up and move onto the next destination.  And, when I planned the holiday I didn't look at how one can get from one city to the next and the cost that involved.  Maybe it would have been better to visit fewer places and spend a week at a time in each destination.
Sometimes, it's not a matter of just jumping on a train or a bus.
Take getting from Valencia to Malaga for example.  A train trip would involve going via Madrid, with a few hours stopover, and another train to Malaga.  This would have taken about 8 hours and cost over 100 euros.  A bus trip was also over 100 euros and would take close on 12 hours.  I opted for catching a lift with someone who advertised the place in their car on Blablacar.  This only cost me 30 euros so I thought I had secured a bargain.
The car was small, had no air conditioning, the driver didn't speak English and had 3 paying passengers squashed onto a back seat that could only fit 2 people comfortably.  Because I had a carry on suitcase as well as my huge suitcase with the broken wheel, I had to hold my carry on suitcase on my lap the whole trip, with my face pressed against the window.  6 hours.
I did not have a fun time.  Never again.  That's all I'm saying.  Loud Spanish rap music with driver and co-driver rapping the whole trip.  Fun times.  Not.
Malaga more than made up for the disastrous trip to get there though.
Dragging my big suitcase with the broken wheel to catch transportation was another nightmare.  Next time I need a suitcase that does not develop Popeye-type muscles in my right arm.  I need to travel lighter, although washing clothes on a 6 week holiday isn't the easiest.
By the time I got to Sevilla I was starting to get tired of my own company, and dare I say, tired of exploring.  I just wanted to chillax, but the trip I had planned way back in March allowed no time to chillax.  It was go, go, Go!
It took 3 buses to get from Tavira to Portimao.  By the time I arrived at Portimao I was so pissed off with traveling, I was ready to call it a day.  It was at that point I decided that it was okay if I didn't see everything and it was acceptable to spend the day sitting outside eating gelato.
Portimao to Lisbon took 2 trains, the second one delayed over 2 hours because of technical difficulties.  Lugging the big suitcase with the broken wheel, my smaller suitcase and backpack was no joke in the extreme heat.
The first train I had to stand for over an hour because a mother and her two teenage daughters thought it was acceptable to each sit on one seat and have their bags on the seat next to them, thus depriving three people of seats they had paid for.
I am still not amused.
I spent my time on that train thinking of suitable curses to put on the three of them.
This trip has given me way too much time for personal reflection.  It's quite depressing actually, when you look back on your life and the many mistakes you've made.  When you travel with someone you don't have time for thinking about your life.  But when you are alone, there is too much time for introspection.  I think a solo trip longer than 10 days might not be good for my mental health.
I feel compelled to record my trip with photographs.  I realise that few people will bother to look at my holiday pics, but it is important for me to do.  You see, I have noticed that my memory is going one word at a time.  It might take me a while to remember a particular word.  The other day it was 'bouncer.'  I had to say, "The person who is like an armed guard vetting people who go into a club."  And the person I was talking to said, "Oh you mean a bouncer."
Yep, it's like that.
So my hope is that when my memory is completely gone, some kind person will direct me to my Facebook where I have all my holiday photo albums, and I can look through the photos of the places I've been, things I've seen, people I've met and I can remember.
I was here.  I did live my life to the fullest.  I existed.

Cindy Vine is an author, teacher, mother, currently living and working in Norway.
Cindy writes the kinds of books she enjoys reading.
Books with real life issues that are thought-provoking and take you places you never thought you might go.
The Freedom Club is Cindy Vine's latest book.  It deals with the sensitive subject of high school bullying, teen suicides and school shootings.  You can buy it here.
All Cindy's books are available on in both paperback and kindle formats.
You can find some of Cindy's other titles here. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Let the adventures begin!

It can only happen to me!
I was originally going to write a blog post about how not to pack a suitcase.  For all my traveling, I have not mastered the art of suitcase packing.  I'm a shover.  Find a hole and shove something in it.  When you have a Star Wars carry on suitcase inside your main suitcase, it makes packing more difficult.
Don't ask.
But then one of the wheels on my wheelie case seized.  So now instead of each wheel moving like a ballet dancer so that I only need to direct my suitcase with one finger, I now have to drag it along as the one wheel has stopped turning.  I could feel my right bicep increase several sizes from the effort I had to put in to drag a heavy suitcase.
Not a good start.
My original intention was to take a train to my hotel from the airport.  However, changing trains and walking to the hotel dragging a suitcase, carrying a carry on suitcase, handbag and my laptop case on my back, made me think that plan might not be my wisest.
After all, I am an old woman.  My hair is grey.
I dragged my suitcase through Charles de Gaulle until I found the exit to the taxi rank.  A kind gentleman asked, "You want car taxi or motorbike taxi?"
Always thinking of the budget I asked, "Which one is cheaper?"  In my mind I imagined the motorbike taxi to be like a tuk-tuk which I used to travel on in Thailand.
I tried to smile pleasantly to disguise my shock when I saw the motorbike taxi was just a large-as motorbike.  The biker gave me his leather jacket to wear, put a disposable hairnet on my head before plonking a huge helmet on me so I had to strain my neck to see out the visor.  He put my laptop bag and handbag into side compartments, and tied my big suitcase with deformed wheel onto the carrier on the back of the bike, then he indicated for me to climb on up.
Let's get one thing straight.  I haven't straddled anything for many years.  My joints have seized up like the wheel on my suitcase.
But, pride was at stake.  So, completely disoriented with the heavy humungous helmet on my head, I managed to make my right leg lift and swing and got myself comfortable on the seat.  The biker man then passed me my carry on suitcase and I realised that I would have to hold it on my lap for the journey, making a wall between me and the biker.
The trip was exhilarating, if not a little frightening, as we weaved in and out of the traffic, going way past the speed limit when the freeway was clear.  My driver liked driving on the dotted line and I was sure I would lose both kneecaps or maybe knock off some sideview mirrors.  However, he was very good, even though he shouted and swore at cars that came too close, and even gave a few cars the finger which of course meant that he had to let go of the handlebar.  My nerves!
So today I am Bikergirl Cindy.  I was pleased when I climbed off that I didn't walk like a cowboy.
This wasn't on my bucket list but I'm pleased I had this experience.  And that it only took 20 minutes when if I had gone in a car it might have taken almost 2 hours in the heavy traffic.
So let the adventures begin...time to forage for food.

The Freedom Club is FREE on @amazon until Saturday! A group of teenagers decide to stand up to the school bullies, but what they uncover is nothing they expected.
Cindy Vine is an author currently living in Norway, but traveling in Europe for the summer holiday.  She's the author of The Freedom Club, Hush Baby, Not Telling and The Case of Billy B.  All her books are available in both ebook and paperback format on Amazon.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

99c Summer Sale on Backlist Books

With the release of The Freedom Club, I decided it would be part of the celebration if I put a whole lot of my backlist books on a 99 cents Summer Sale Special.
Summer holidays are here for some and fast approaching for others. There is nothing better than reading a good book next to the beach or swimming pool.
I don't know about you, but I devour books when I'm on holiday. It's the best way to relax after a busy school year. I stock up my Kindle so that I don't run out, and I make sure I include some new indie authors I haven't read before. Let the summer holidays begin!

Not Telling summer sale price of 99c on Amazon.
Some books and stories stay with you long after you've read them. Not Telling by Cindy Vine, is one of those that will stay with the reader for a long time. It's not always a feel good book, the warm and cuddly kind, but a very real gutsy piece of fiction that by the time you've read the whole story will get under your skin. Rape is a difficult subject matter for any author to handle. However, Cindy Vine handles it expertly in unfolding a tale, although fiction, that resonates the very real stories experienced by many women around the world everyday. This is a story we all need to hear

Defective summer sale price of just 99c on Amazon
Although Defective is fiction, it was inspired by real events in 1974 in the Western Cape in South Africa.
Reviewed by Bob MacKenzie for Readers Favorite
"Quirky and intriguing, this story is clean and tightly written. For readers who prefer their books to be intelligent, thought-provoking, and challenging, "Defective" will be an ideal choice."

What I love most about this book? No matter how you expect it to end you'll be shocked when all your ideas are for naught. This story haunts you long after you finish it and you don't know exactly how to feel about the outcome, which keeps you thinking. You feel so many different emotions for the individual characters it's simply astounding.
Cindy Vine is an excellent writer and I cannot wait to read more from her. This book had it all; murder, mayhem, insanity, phobias, abuse, manipulation. It's a feast of the worst qualities that makes people so vulnerable and you get an idea of just how dangerous the human mind can be when pushed to the limits. This is a true must-read book! It will leave you with your jaw hanging open at the end.

-Kitty Bullard / Great Minds Think Aloud Book Club

Survival Tips for the Suddenly Single summer sale price of 99c on Amazon
I am so happy I came across this book. It answered a range of questions about relationships, men and women that bothered me for long time. Lots of things described in this book were wide eye-opening for me. It made me actually look at my previous relationship from a completely different angle.
When we are in love we very often tend to overlook lots of important signs in our partner's behaviour that literally tell us to run away which could save us from another heartbreak. The great thing is that this book helps us to identify those signs on early stages to prevent us from falling into a trap again and suffering for years. What I also love about this book is that it gives you real life practical strategies on how to pick up your pieces after a break-up, get ready to date again, boost your self-confidence, sex tips and other valuable advice on how to get back on track.
If you are suddenly single and feel really down, this book will definitely boost your mood as it is full of humor! )
I appreciate the author of this book Cindy Vine for covering so many aspects of relationships, for wisdom and humor and great practical tips I needed so much. This book is easy and fun to read and I would recommend it to anyone without a hesitation.

CU@8 special summer sale price of 99c on Amazon
Fenella and Suki are two single middle aged mothers. Best friends since the age of two. There children are all grown and have left the home to start their own lives and careers. But Josh Suki's son is a cocaine- addict who has supposedly fathered a baby when he visited the U.K, and Kirsty Fenella's daughter has just been dumped once again and is miserable. Suki and Fenella decide to step in and help their children. They hatch a plan to get Kirsty a new man someone suitable, and to sort out Josh's mess . After trying to interview some suitable men for Kirsty at Waves restaurant and bar, they discover a good man is hard to find. I truly loved this book it's a fun light read. A real page turner i couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I look forward to reading more books by Cindy Vine

The Case of Billy B now on summer sale on Amazon for 99c
This book was pretty good, I could not put it down, I loved the way his dad stepped up to take care of his son, when his mother didn't care about anyone but herself. Billy was very smart for his age... he was a good kid, who never complained, just went with the program... Until his dad moved in with the devil READ THE BOOK YOU WONT BE DISAPPOINTED.
I found this book sad and couldn't help but feeling sorry for Billy B from the beginning . What chance did he have even though his dad tried to be there for him and no doubt will go on to have a difficult life because of whom he was born to. Its a book that makes you think about life and the children in the world and how easy it all is to get caught up in a system .It was not depressing though.
Hush Baby will be on Amazon Free Promotion from the 
26-30th June
Hush Baby by author C. Vine is a gripping tale surrounding Kyle Rushton and his sour relationship with his live-in girlfriend Marlene. They have a son, Max, who is three years old. Max means the world to Kyle. Unfortunately, Kyle's see-saw relationship with Marlene was taking a toll on him and Kyle made the difficult decision to leave Marlene and Max and move in with his sister Sylvie. 
Hush Baby is an interesting read about personal relationships. Author C. Vine did an excellent job developing the plot. The story began at a slow pace, however, it quickened in the latter half of the novel. I love the unexpected twists that were included in the story. In my opinion, the story literally took on a different feel and transformed into a suspense thriller. This tactic is very cleverly orchestrated by author C. Vine. It propels the reader to become more engrossed in the plot. I did not want to put down the book! The language is simple and easy to understand. What was refreshing was that the novel was written from the viewpoint of a male as opposed to a female. Normally, most stories outlining relationship woes are slanted in the favour of females. This welcome diversion from the norm speaks well for equality of the sexes. I loved the descriptive passages in the novel. I applaud author C. Vine for keeping her readers on their toes, wondering how the story would finally end. The staccato formatting of the final chapter was a good move. It suggests that the reader should accept unpredictability in the plot. I recommend this book to all readers who love suspense.

The Freedom Club Latest Release!
There will be an Amazon Giveaway from 26-30 June!

Follow the Book Tour from 2nd-27th July

This is a thought provoking read , on the angst and challenges that teenagers face on a daily basis within the school system. It is a book that will speak to adults and children alike. 
The unpredictable ending is brilliant.
Highly recommended.

Watch the Book Trailer here.

Cindy Vine is a South African author currently living and working in Norway.  She is the mother of 3 adult children who have inherited her love for travel.  Cindy has been in education for 30 years and has seen  and heard a lot of stories about the challenges children face which has inspired her writing.  It's hard to believe the hardships many children have to go through, while those in control turn a blind eye.  And this happens worldwide in places you would never expect.  All Cindy's books are available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback format,

Sunday, June 10, 2018

13 Reasons why there needs to be this conversation

The Netflix series '13 Reasons Why' might be a controversial series, but what it did do was heighten awareness and start a conversation about the issues facing teenagers today.  Issues like bullying, cyber-bullying, sexual assault, rape, suicide, cliques, under-age drinking, drugs, homosexuality, school shootings and the adults who are supposed to be in charge having no control.  All these issues in one television series might make it overwhelming for the viewer.  But what you have to remember, is that the majority of our teenagers are overwhelmed by one or more of these issues every single day of their lives, either as a victim, perpetrator or a witness to the events.  Saying, "Kids will be kids," will no longer cut it I'm afraid.
What are we doing to help them?
Teenagers are notoriously bad at sharing what is really going on in their lives with their parents.  There are many reasons for this, but a big reason is that they don't want to disappoint their parents.  So teenagers keep secrets that sometimes they don't have the emotional maturity to deal with.  This leads them to make some bad, ill-informed choices that complicates a situation even more.  Then before you know it they are in so deep and drowning, and that's when the really bad choices are made.  And often all of this happens without the parents having a clue.
But, the school is aware 9 times out of 10.
Somebody on the staff always knows something.
I can almost feel the earth shudder as millions of educators shake their heads simultaneously in denial.  Subconsciously you know I am right.  I have been involved in education for over 30 years and I know that I am speaking the truth.
You see, in every situation there is always one or more children who can't keep a secret.  That child will pick a teacher they trust to confide in.  They might not tell you the whole story, or the story might be their truth and different to others' truth, but they will tell you something.  These children would have been the tattletales in elementary school.  Teachers will share what they were told with other teachers in the staff room.  But many times it will just stay as gossip and nothing will be done about it.
Don't say the school was unaware.  Somebody on the staff would have known something.  However, school management often choose to try and bury it as they don't want it to be known that their school is unsafe and they can't guarantee the safety of their students.  They have this attitude that if they pretend these issues are not there and not happening in their school, then all will just blow over and the issues will just fade away.  Kids will be kids, right?  Kids exaggerate, so it is never as bad as it's meant to be.  Wrong!  It's often a good deal worse.  What might seem silly to an adult can be devastating to a child.  And teenagers are still children.
As an educator, you need to know your students.
We have to take these issues in our schools seriously.
We have to give our teenagers a voice.
Nobody should feel alone and overwhelmed by life.
Dark times pass.
Support just needs to be there to help each other get through the dark moments.
We are in this world together, not alone.
The suicide rate in the United States has seen sharp increases in recent years. Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.
Bullying in all its forms is a very big problem that largely goes unaddressed.  Bullying, sexual assault, rape are all connected.  If there is a culture of bullying in a school, chances are there will sexual assaults and rape happening in the shadows.  Sweeping reported incidents under a carpet and pretending they never happened shows the bully that there are no consequences for their actions, and that what they are doing is acceptable.
School management needs to step up and address the bullying that is going on in their school.
It is not just going to go away.  If there are no consequences it will get worse.
Our children are our future.  What kind of a future are we planning, if we are sending broken children into the world?
This is why we need to have this conversation.
The Freedom Club highlights some of the bullying that goes on in our schools.  It is a story about a group of teenagers who are tired of being victims.  They form a club to offer support to each other, so that together they can stand up to the bullies in their school.
But standing up to the bullies is not easy when you have no support from the school itself.
And it is even more difficult when the two biggest bullies are the principal's children.
And when the principal himself is a bully, you might have to go over to the dark side to get justice.
The Freedom Club continues the conversation started by the engaging, often controversial series 13 Reasons Why.
We have to do something.
Bullying must stop.
School shootings must stop.
We must do more to prevent teen suicides.
More must be done to make our children realize that sexual assaults are not just fun pranks.  The victims are hurt and emotionally scarred for life.
Rape is not only a crime committed by a man wearing a mask that breaks in through your bedroom window in the middle of the night.  
Rape is when you have sex with someone without their consent.
Many rapes go unreported.
The majority of them actually, so we have no accurate figures.
People tend to report stranger rape, but not rape by people they know.  Because somehow, even though they are the victim, they feel guilty.
As if they must have done something to cause the rapist to have sex with them.
Non-consensual sex is not okay. 
Not Telling highlights the very difficult issue of being raped by someone you know.
And if you are sexually assaulted or raped, should you tell?
Even if it will hurt someone close to you.
Do you protect them or protect yourself?
How might keeping it secret affect you for years to come?
Cindy Vine is a South African author and teacher who currently lives and works in Norway.  
She writes reality fiction, stories about the darker side of humanity.  Stories about issues many of us face each day. 
Issues that are hard to talk about.
But we have to get these conversations going.
If we are to be saved.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Teachers LOVE writing reports -not!

It's that time of year again that teachers hate - Report Writing!  If you are living in the Northern Hemisphere it is summer and the sun is shining and you are inside working on reports.  Aaaarrrggghhhh!
How to write end of year school reports...
How to write end of year reports when the sun is shining, the birds are singing and everybody who is not a teacher is at the beach or relaxing next to a swimming pool.
The correct response is 'with great difficulty.'
Look at me, writing a blog post instead of writing reports.
I am trying to build up some motivation.
How do you try and be subtle in your comments so that the parents know what you mean, but are not too subtle that they miss the point?
That is what I am mulling over in my mind over a coffee or two.  Maybe I should take a break and make breakfast?  But oops, I haven't actually started yet.  So maybe taking a break before you start might be termed procrastination.
And I never procrastinate, ever.  And there goes my nose growing longer by the second!
So here are some subtle ways you can use to inform parents about their child's progress.
Meghan has a beautiful smile which detracts from the vacant look in her eyes as she attempts to come to grips with the content.
William tries hard in everything he does, and especially tries the patience of all around him.
Britney lacks confidence in her own abilities and asks for reassurance every two minutes.
Michael has excellent sensory perception and is confident using the five senses, especially the sense of touch.  He enjoys touching himself while he completes his tasks.
Jessica is not afraid to express herself in class.  She has an extensive vocabulary that would make a sailor proud.
Roberto is a very physical little boy with an exceptional right arm, which he is able to swing with great force and connect with others throughout the day.
Ferdinand has the exceptional ability to sleep with his eyes open.
Maria is a great inquirer and loves to ask questions throughout the school day.  Her goal next year is to expand on her questions and not just ask if it is home time or if she may go to the bathroom.
Felicity excels in all areas except Math, Language, and anything that involves reading, writing and concentration.
Matthew is a lively young man who has the attention span of a retarded ant.
Should Don pay the same attention to his schoolwork as he does his hair, he will achieve a result of which he can feel justly proud.
Although Carla tries her best, she sets very low standards for herself.
Tatiana has learned about body parts and is able to make connections between the body part and its use.  She has inquired into teeth and has discovered that they leave pretty patterns on her peers when she explores their use.
James has found his voice which he uses to maximum benefit whenever things don't go his way.
Now that I have the report comments flowing in my mind, I best get started on the reports.
But first, I might need another coffee and to make breakfast...

Cindy Vine is a teacher and author currently living in Norway.  She has just released a new book called The Freedom Club which is available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback formats.
“We could be anybody and everybody. A group of high school stereotypes with one thing in common. Every one of us has a story.”

Every high school has the bullies, the freaks, and the weird kids that make you feel uneasy. Rourke High has more than their fair share. A few months before the end of their senior year, a group of seemingly mismatched kids get together to form The Freedom Club, hoping that they can support the victims of bullying, before they graduate. As they uncover secrets and lies they plot revenge - and discover love, friendship and truths about themselves, building up to a shocking climax that will leave you reeling.
Are children safe at school?
“We could be anybody and everybody. A group of high school stereotypes with one thing in common. Every one of us has a story.”

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Why do People Bully?

Statistics show that 1 out of every 2 people will have experienced bullying of some kind by the time they turn 20.  That's a frightening statistic!  Unfortunately, bullying doesn't miraculously stop when a person turns 20.  Many adults are bullied by their spouse, so called 'friends' and even at their place of work.  Bullying is not limited to children's school playgrounds.  Bullying is everywhere and little is being done to stop it.  Bullies are not being held accountable for their actions.
And it starts at the top.
Which brings me to Donald Trump.  He's the epitome of a bully and it seems to be okay.  Calling people names, giving them nasty nicknames, belittling them, and posting it on social media is nothing more than cyber-bullying.  Imagine a whole generation of children using Donald Trump as their role-model and mimicking his antics on social media. 
Scary stuff, isn't it?
So why do people bully others?
Are they all just sadistic sociopaths?
Or is there an underlying reason for their behavior?
These are the ten top reasons why people bully
1.  Jealousy.  The bully could be jealous of your popularity, your relationships, something you own or wear, your intelligence, your looks - basically anything you have that they feel they don't.  Therefore, to compensate for their lack they'll put you down or make you pay.
2.  Sucky home life.  Some people feel the need to share the suckiness of their life with others.  If things aren't going so well at home, they might inadvertently create that same environment at work.  Or they might feel if their life is a misery they may as well make everyone else's life a misery.
3.  Low self-esteem.  There are those who feel that they are not good enough.  So they try and crush all those around them to make themselves look better.
4.  Power-hungry narcissists.  These are the control-freak types who are addicted to power.  There is no reason for them to bully other than the power-rush it gives them.  They just thrive on lording it over everybody.  It's all about their ego.
5.  Stress or trauma.  Some bullies start acting out after they have experienced a traumatic event in their life or are under stress.  They project negative behaviors to try and disguise what is going on in their life.
6.  Aggression.  Some people are just mean and they enjoy hurting others.  No other explanation needed.
7.  Attention-seeking.  Then you get the bullies that just want people to notice them and want to be the center of attention.  The attention junkies.  They will do anything to get a laugh or to get noticed, even if it involves putting someone else down.
8.  Victims of bullying themselves.  Many bullies were once bullied themselves.  Their parents instructed them to fight back, so bullying others is a kind of a defense mechanism to protect themselves from ever being a victim again.  Bully them first before they bully you.
9.  Acceptance.  Some bully others so they can be accepted into the popular group, or because they think it might give them a higher ranking in their clique.  This is a kind of pack-mentality.
10. Lack of empathy.  These bullies pick on people who are different in some way.  Often they don't understand how it feels to be a little different, so they will ridicule others out of ignorance.  They pick on others because they think it is funny.
Whatever the reasons behind the bullying, it must stop.  The long-term effect bullying has on a person's psyche is phenomenal.  It will impact current and future relationships.  It might even become so bad, that the bullying victim decides to seek revenge.  If you are being bullied, then you need to report it to someone.
Cindy Vine is an author and teacher who has experienced bullying in all its terrible forms.  She is the author of Not Telling, Hush Baby and Defective.  Her new YA novel, The Freedom Club, has just been released.  All her books are available on Amazon is both ebook and paperback format.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

When will School Shootings stop?

With all the hype of the Royal Wedding, it seems the latest school shooting might hide in the shadows behind photos of the royal couple.  10 People dead and the 22nd school shooting in the US in 2018!  Definitely not a statistic to feel proud of.
It's uncanny that the day The Freedom Club was released on Amazon, is the same day there's another school shooting.
Having started a school for children who struggle to cope in mainstream education, I heard many terrible stories about bullying on a daily basis.  In my over 30 years in education teaching in schools all around the world, I have heard many stories about bullying.  It seems to be an ongoing problem, despite schools saying they have zero tolerance for bullies.
My own children have been bullied.  I can vividly remember the day one of my children came home crying her heart out.  Freddie Mercury had just died and a boy in her class told her that she gave Freddie Mercury AIDS.  She was devastated, fully believing that because of her, he would never sing again!  Children can be cruel, very cruel.  They say what they want without thinking about the consequences.  Words hurt.
Teen suicides and school shootings are an alarming trend.
After the Las Vegas shooting on 1 October 2017, even though it wasn't a school shooting, I got the idea for The Freedom Club.  My thinking was, what if some high school students get tired of being victims of bullying and do something about it?
Now I am not saying that all school shootings happen because of bullying. 
Some school shooters have histories of mental instability.  For others it might be attention seeking or out of anger.  But the one thing all school shootings have in common, is that those left behind are completely traumatized.
After the Parklands school shooting there was a lot of publicity, marches, protests, walk-outs, debates.  Students were unanimous in wanting change.  They wanted to feel safe at school.  That's not a ridiculous request if you think of it.  Children go to school to get an education, not to be shot at.
But so far, nothing important has happened.  There's been no big change in legislation.  There's been a ludicrous suggestion that teachers should be armed to stop school shootings.
Many years ago, just before Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, there was a lot of rioting, protest action and the burning down of schools.  Apartheid had not yet been dismantled.  I can remember, together with the other members of staff, being taught how to use an RN Rifle so that we could defend the school in case the protestors came to burn it down.  Thank goodness the protestors never came and we never had to defend the school.  However, I can remember feeling uncomfortable that we were expected to use a gun on the school premises if the situation called for it.  I had become a teacher to make learning fun, not to be a gun carrying educator.
The Freedom Club tells the stories of the children.  Stories that all those who have been bullied can identify with.
“We could be anybody and everybody. A group of high school stereotypes with one thing in common.  Every one of us has a story.”
Every high school has the bullies, the freaks, and the weird kids that make you feel uneasy.  Rourke High has more than their fair share.  A few months before the end of their senior year, a group of seemingly mismatched kids get together to form The Freedom Club, hoping that they can support the victims of bullying, before they graduate.  As they uncover secrets and lies they plot revenge - and discover love, friendship and truths about themselves, building up to a shocking climax that will leave you reeling.
Do you ever really know the person next to you?

(Click on this link to get your copy!) 

Cindy Vine is an author and teacher living and working in Norway.  She is the author of The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective, CU@8, Hush Baby and The Freedom Club.
All her books are available on in both Ebook and Paperback formats.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Things I learned being a Mother

I was 21 when I had my first baby, turning 22 the very next day.  No matter how many books or articles you read on the subject, nothing prepares you for it.  From that first cry, you are thrown into the deep end and there is no other option but to swim.
As a single mother I learned how to be resourceful and always have a Plan B or Plan C to fall back on, because very rarely did Plan A work out.
Carrying a little life inside you for 9 months creates a bond that is unbreakable.  The love you feel for that child will always be there, even in dark times when they turn against you and say the meanest things ever, you will always be ready to forgive because you are their Mom.
When they achieve success, you watch from the sidelines and it feels as if your heart might burst from pride.  You share in their disappointments and heartaches and it feels like your heart may break.
No matter where in the world they may be, they are resident in your heart and will never face eviction.
Mother's Day memories of little feet tiptoeing around the house, plates and pans banging in the kitchen before being served breakfast in bed.  Those memories I'll forever hold dear now that I am alone and my nest is empty.  The handmade cards, smiling happy faces, family times dominate my memory bank.
A mother will sometimes have to make difficult choices, will take risks, leave her comfort zone if there's a chance it will benefit her children.  They won't always know why you did what you did and made a certain choice.  You have to remember that only you knew the big picture, and the small piece they have is seen from their perspective.
The family squabbles and laughter will ensure the house is never quiet, until they have grown up and left the nest and the silence will echo through the empty rooms.
Being a mother isn't always easy, the responsibility of shaping young lives is huge, and doing it all by yourself is even harder.  But boy is it worth it!  The little grubby hand in yours, the head against your chest, the voice saying, "I love you Momsy," all make the most precious memories to cherish for the rest of your life.
My children gave me the Gift of Love and made me who I am today.  A mother first and everything else second.
To my children, I am so proud of every single one of you.  We might hardly ever see each other, all of us in different countries, but we'll always be a family and you'll always be loved.
Thanks for the memories!
Cindy Vine is a South African living and working in Norway.  She is the author of Hush Baby, Defective, Not Telling and CU@8.  All of her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle format.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Romance Scam Alert!

Most people are familiar with the TV Show Catfish, and how the hosts expose young people pretending to be something they are not and fooling some gullible person online.  People fall in love with someone who seems to be the only person in the world who understands them.  All they have is a photo or two, and a range of excuses why they can't actually meet, can't video chat, can't talk on the phone.  We see the show, know how it's done, so why do we continue to fall for these scams?
We have all been warned about the scams involving a Nigerian prince, Ghanaian politician, an heir to a fortune, all needing your help in getting the money out of their country.  People attracted to the prospect of making easy money by helping someone, find themselves with their bank accounts emptied.
The scary thing, is that some of these romance scammers are targeting elderly women, and conning them out of their life savings.  And they are repeatedly getting away with it.
You might be wondering, how does someone fall for one of these scams?  What you have to remember, is that the people they are targeting are not as technology and internet savvy as we are.  They get a message on their Facebook or Linkedin, (that one of their children probably set up for them) and they open it and have no reason not to believe the sender isn't genuine.  Picture this, a lonely widow/divorcee over the age of 70, living alone with lots of time on her hands, gets a message from a man telling her he`s attracted to her smile.  Nobody comments on her smile anymore, and she's flattered.  Right there and then she's hooked and takes the bait.  What follows is an online romance that will end in tears.
The Nigerian scammers, in particular, use a tried and tested formula.
1.  They set up a fake profile on Linkedin or Facebook, use an alias, and have a stock of photos of a real person they have stolen off the internet.  To make themselves more appealing, they will have a desirable career or profession.
2.  They trawl through Facebook and Linkedin looking for potential targets, older women who were professionals in their day, who look like they might have money in the bank.
3.  They send the woman a private message with a flattering comment.  If she replies, they follow up with more flattering prose, much of it copied and pasted off greeting card websites.  The woman can't believe her good fortune, someone is finally paying her attention again.  They send her a stolen
photo, and she is pleasantly surprised that such a good looking man is interested in her.  Photos of men in US Military uniform is quite common, but if they are not targeting someone in the US, then they tend to use the photos of Joe Cross.  Joe Cross is a health food guru in Australia.  Unfortunately, his photos have been stolen off his website and social media pages, and are being sent out to unsuspecting victims.
4.  Once the woman is hooked, they will tell her to rather do voice chats on Whatsapp.  This is better than email, they will say, and also so they can hear her beautiful voice.  Of course, this means that when they start asking for money, there will be no written trace of it.
5.  They will explain that they can't do video chats or skype because their phone doesn't have that capability.  They can't phone as they are based overseas and that would be too expensive.
6.  They will call the woman several times a day, and every night to build up that love connection and to prove that they really care.  Eventually, that poor old woman is just waiting for their phone calls.
7.  They will spin the woman a story about how it's their child's birthday and they can't afford to buy a present because all their money is tied up in a big project they are working on.  The woman will be cunningly manipulated to send money so that they can buy their child a phone for their birthday.  But they are not planning on using the money to buy a phone and there isn't a child.  This first request for money is the taster.  If the woman falls for it, then they know that they have landed themselves a winner.  If she doesn't, they dump her and move on to the next victim.
8.  They will keep on with the daily phone calls on Whatsapp, supposedly sharing intimate details of their lives while encouraging the woman to do the same.  They will tell the woman about a big project they are working on in a foreign country, like a bridge they are building, and how as soon as they have finished the project, they will come to the woman's country and marry her.  They will start referring to her as Wife.
9.  Unfortunately, they have to put the wedding on hold as they aren't able to finish the bridge as they have run out of money.  But when the bridge is finished, they will get a huge payout.  If the woman can just lend them some money to finish the bridge, they will repay it with interest when they get their payout.
10. They can't give the woman their bank account details in a message or email as they are scared of getting hacked.  So their instructions are simple.  When the woman arrives at her bank branch, she has to call her 'husband' on Whatsapp.  He then gives further instructions over the phone, including amount, bank details and account number.  He then instructs the woman to destroy the deposit slip.  By this stage, the woman is so under his spell that she no longer questions anything.  The amounts needed to complete the bridge get more and more, as does the frequency of the requests for more money.  When the money dries up, the romance is over.
The reason why I use 'they' is that this is very rarely a scammer operating on his own.  It's generally a whole syndicate of scammers working together.  The syndicate have this scam down pat.  They know just who to target and leave virtually no paper trail to follow.  You can't trace their phone number because the Whatsapp number they use is a foreign one and is not the same as the local number they are obviously operating on.  Their email address links to a fake IP address.  These guys are very clever.  Everything they do is so that they won't be found.
If you suspect you might be a victm of this romance scam, or know of someone who is, then the best bet is to report it to the police as soon as possible.  If the language in the initial emails is overly flowery, copy and paste it into Google search and if it copied from a greetng card site it will come up.  Definitely investigate further if the language used in the emails alternates between poor English with spelling and grammar mistakes and overly flowery language.  The photo they sent, you can upload into and it will tell you where else that photo has been used on the internet.
So if a man randomly contacts you on social media, telling you how beautiful you are and he's in love with your smile, be warned.  If he's a Portuguese or Italian living in London but building a bridge in Jakarta be very afraid.  If he says his name is Gibson Wayne, or he uses a photo of Joe Cross like the one on this post, start running!
Cindy Vine is a South African currently living and working in Norway.  She is the author of the novels Hush Baby, Defective and Not Telling.  All her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle formats.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Just an average Saturday in Norway

When I went to sleep last night it was snowing.  When I woke this morning it was still snowing.  Needing to do some shopping, I decided to wait for the snow to stop, before trudging down to the local supermarket.
With my backpack filled to the brim with school supplies for our house-building exercise with Grade 1, a pack of toilet rolls under my arm and my old lady shopping cart bursting at the seams with groceries and baking goodies for a school bake sale, I headed back home. 
How I cursed as I slipped and slid and dragged the objecting shopping cart through the dirty snow on the road.  Fresh snow and car tyres are an evil mix.  Pure white snow turns into filthy brown sludge.  It's a bit like walking in a caramel slushy.  Only it's not as sweet and you're not at the movies.
If I was an inventor, I would design 4 x 4 off road wheels for old lady shopping carts.
Light snow started falling as I arrived at the start of my road.  The snow on my road was white and fresh, unsullied by car tyres.  As I dragged my shopping cart up the incline, I heard the snow crunch under my supposedly non-slip boots.  My shopping cart was like dragging a dead body up the hill.  (Not that I know what dragging a dead body is like, but I have watched enough Homeland to have an idea.)  Why oh why did I buy the frozen fruit smoothie packs, the container of ice-cream, the cans of apple cider?  How was I going to get all of this up the stairs to my attic apartment?
I stopped to catch my breath, looked back at the grey lake covered in sheets of ice and small mounds of snow.  And then it hit me!
I am truly blessed.
I am heading to a warm apartment with all the creature comforts.  I have unlimited water.  I earn enough to buy whatever groceries I want at the shop.  I have children who love me.  I am safe.  I am not hiding from snipers or running from bombs raining down.  I have access to good medical care.  I have friends.  When there is so much hardship in the world, how dare I sulk over dragging a shopping cart through the snow.
Cindy Vine is the author of Hush Baby, Defective and Not Telling.  All her books are available on in both Kindle and Paperback format.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Here's why you should thank Shithole countries in Africa, Mr Trump!

Donald Trump has always been known to open his mouth to change feet.  The words pour forth from his Parson's Nose lips before he engages his brain.  My Granny always told me to think before you speak.  This is sound advice that Trump should take.  Referring to African countries as 'Shithole Countries' belies him being a stable genius.  Voicing his ignorance shows that he is not very smart at all.  He has no idea of the achievements that have come from the African continent over the years.  Achievements that show the resilience, creativity and indomitable spirit of a people who rise up and make a difference despite where they have come from and the odds against them.  It doesn't matter which country you come from in Africa, in some respects as Nelson Mandela so succinctly said, "All Africa is one." 
Even though America has far more financial resources available than the Shithole African countries Trump so despises, there are certain inventions and discoveries that America, with all the resources at its disposal, was not able to make.  These remarkable feats have made life better for Americans and are helping to make America Great Again.  Mr Trump, you should be honoured that people from Shithole Countries in Africa want to immigrate to your country.
Here are some discoveries and inventions that came from countries in Africa.
1.  The world's first successful heart transplant was performed in South Africa.
2.  The CAT Scan was invented and developed in South Africa.
3.   Scientists in South Africa developed the technology to extract oil from coal.
4.  The swimming pool vacuum cleaner was invented by a South African.
5.  The special glue used to hold together the landing craft in the first moon landing was invented by a South African.
6.  Those 20 ton concrete blocks used in harbours all around the world to protect harbour walls and break up wave action were invented by a South African.
7.  The special spray you put on car engines to help them start easier in cold weather, and to ease squeaky door hinges was invented by a South African.
8.  The Retinal Cryoprobe, a new form of cataract surgery, was developed by a South African.
9.  The Smartlock Safety Syringe which prevents contamination was invented by a South African.
10.  Ancient Egyptians invented and developed so many things that make our lives easier today - Mathematics, Medicine and Surgery, Architecture and Engineering.
11.  Historians reckon that the first speech and language used by early man emerged in Africa.
12.  Mining of minerals and metallurgy originated in Africa.
13.  There is evidence to suggest that Africans sailed to South America and Asia hundreds of years before the Europeans.
14.  The oldest art objects in the world were discovered in Africa.  Africa isn't known as the Cradle of Humankind for nothing!
15.  Coffee as a stimulant, originated in Ethiopia where it grows wild..
16.  Picasso was inspired by African Art.
17.  The mineral used in rechargeable batteries in mobile phones comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
18.  Nando's flame-grilled chicken, loved the world over, originated in South Africa.  There's even a branch in Washington DC, Mr Trump, should you decide to eat something other than a cheeseburger.
19.  The concept of Ubunthu - a shared humanity, originated in Africa and was used by Nelson Mandela to help heal a country after apartheid.
20.  Freeplay foetal heart rate monitor which is power free was invented by a South African.
21.  Jazz is based on African rhythms and melodies.
22.  Shea butter used in creams and lip balm was developed in Africa.
23.  The first ever penis transplant was performed in South Africa.
24.  A Nigerian created a device that can detect explosives and cancer cells.
25.  Two Ghanaian women developed an app which is fitted on waste bins to direct the public on proper waste disposal.
26.  A group of Ghanaian scientists and IT professionals developed an Artificial Intelligence Healthcare System.
27.  In Kenya they are making electricity grids that provide power for a whole village.
28.  A Ugandan engineer has designed a biomedical smart jacket which can diagnose pneumonia 3 times faster than a doctor.
29.  A man in Cameroon invented the Cardio Pad, a handheld medical computer tablet which reads a patient's heart function and then sends the results to the heart specialist in the big city via a mobile phone connection.
30.  The founder of Paypal was a South African.
I could go on and on Mr Trump.  Personnel carriers that can drive over landmines, shark shields to protect scuba divers, a military attack helicopter than can make a 360 degree loop, radar system used by professional golfers and the whole concept of prepaid mobile phones - these all came out of Africa.  So the next time you open your mouth to change feet, take a minute first to think about what you are saying and the implications it might have on others.
Cindy Vine is the author of Not Telling, Defective and Hush Baby.  All her books are available on in both Kindle and Paperback format.