Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Revisiting Jane

As I have mentioned before a couple of times, I am a big fan of reading, and I have been doing a lot more of it lately. But after finishing with the David Mitchell, I didn't know where to go. Should I pick up another of his books? Should I go for a lighter read and pick up a Meg Cabot or Sophie Kinsella? Or should I put aside my preordained notions of authors and go by category - comedy, thriller, suspense or drama? As I was wondering about this, I stumbled across a book that was lurking in Michael's room and decided that it was time to give a classic a try.

I had one of Jane Austen's novel as a setwork in my third year of University, but I never really got into the language of Mansfield Park, and so it ended up gathering dust on my shelf, occasionally been paged through when it came to writing essays but ignored by and large. I had, however, heard great things about her writing and always intended to come back to her one day - maybe not through Mansfield Park, but maybe through Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, one of those books that has had a movie put to them so that I can picture the movie while I read the book and can understand the storyline better. I always figured that I would need the support of a movie to understand Jane Austen, you see. Her language just seemed to complicated otherwise. And then I stumbled across Northanger Abbey. There was no movie put to this work as far as I could tell, or at least not one starring a notable actress like Keira Knightley or Emma Thompson. I was completely on my own for this one, but I decided to take up the challenge.

I was less than five sentences into my reading of the novel when I came across a sentiment of the author that made me burst out laughing (leading to Michael staring at me from across the room with the look of someone worried about another's sanity.)

"Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard..."

Anyone who knows me and my experience with men named Richard, will have heard me say (possibly on more than one occasion) that the only sensible nickname for these men is Dick. There is none more appropriate, and the fact that Austen seemed to agree with me led to my already deciding that the two of us would get along. I paged through the rest of the novel, trying to even out my reading of it so that I could enjoy Austen for longer, and would regularly interrupt whatever it was that Michael was doing at the time to inform him of some witty or quirky comment that Austen had made. I found that there was no need for a movie to guide my reading, as I could picture all of the scenes in my mind, could hear the characters voices in my head, could read of the comings and goings of Catherine as though a dear friend were telling me about them. I suddenly found myself swept up in the lifestyle of balls and tearooms and didn't want to leave!

Unfortunately, the novel came to an end all too soon, and I did find bits of it a little predictable, but that didn't take away from my entertainment of the novel in the slightest. On conclusion of the novel, I made a number of decisions. The first was that I would have to read all of Austen's works, next in line being Pride and Prejudice (not because of the movie this time, but because I can imagine how humorous she must have made some parts of it). One of them is quite a bold decision, and it is one that is likely to flop completely or one that I may give up on along the line.

Upon reading the last few pages of the book, it dawned on me that this could very easily be made into a modern adaption for teenagers, something along the lines of 10 Things I Hate About You, as the characters themselves are teenagers (or young adults) and I can just picture how the story could relate. And so, as April is the month for Script Frenzy, I have decided to try and write the screenplay for it myself.For those of you who do not know what Script Frenzy is, you basically have to write a 100 page play, screenplay or anything of the kind in one month. I will update you all on how that goes.

Friend Making Monday

I love quizzes, and I tend to be addicted to them. Whenever I see someone put up a quiz or whenever someone forwards me questions via spam e-mail (and yes, I do recognise that it is spam), I can't help but fill them out and send them along. So when I saw that my friend Shaina had posted a miniature quiz, I couldn't resist reposting it myself.

You are supposed to copy the quiz, answer it yourself and then leave a link in the comments at the bottom to your answers so that the world of awesome bloggers can be known and explored. But I understand that these types of quizzes might not be everyone's cup of tea, so feel free to leave a comment sending me to your answers, or you can just read mine or, at this point, you can decide that this is just a load of rubbish and remove me from your blogs-to-read list. You can do whatever you like, but my answers are as follows:

FMM: A Few More Gender-Friendly Questions

1) What is your favorite physical feature? My hair - I may get annoyed and frustrated with it at times and I may not treat it very well at other times, but when I love it, then I truly LOVE it.

2) List three adjectives that describe you. Bouncy, Giggly, Crazy.

3) How old were you when you had your first kiss? 13 years old.

4) Do you believe in God? This is a very difficult question for me, because I am not religious - far from it really - but I still have a sense at the back of my mind that there is a God. I don't think that he is the all-knowing, omnipresent being that is depicted in religious texts, but it soothes me to think that there is someone out there keeping an eye on me and checking on me every now and then to make sure I am okay.

5) How often do you watch the news? I used to watch and read it far more than I do now. I still tend to scan the headlines and read articles that interest me, but I am not big on watching the news, mostly because all of my studies have taught me just how subjective news channels are and while watching them, I can't help but remember how the positioning of the presenters and the choice of stories reflect on the kind of station that I am watching and whether that is the kind of watcher that I want to be.

More of these kinds of questions come out every week (which is why this is referred to as Friend Making Monday), so if you want to check out the previous posts, check out All The Weigh. Remember to link me to your answers in the comments if you are one of the few who are likely to repost this.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Road Trip for One

One of the things that I missed most while I was in Korea was being able to drive. I love driving! I find it therapeutic to drive and just take in the world around you, sit back and put your foot to the floor for a little while. I also love to have the windows open with my hair down, the breeze making it dance around me, turning up the radio so high that I can't hear myself singing over it and just spending some time on the open road. Of course, these are the kinds of things that I can only do when I am driving on my own (or with a friend who enjoys the same pleasures - love you Robyn!!) and I can only really stand driving on my own for an hour or two at a time. After an hour, your throat tends to get sore and your hair whipping your face doesn't seem nearly as good as it did at the start, the wind has brought all sorts of leaves and dust into your car and you get a little over it. But hey, it's fun while it lasts!

This weekend, I had to make the drive from Cape Town to Grahamstown, and I had to do it all by myself. There was no way in hell I was looking forward to that - while my singing voice does have durability, there is no way it was going to let me belt out my favourite tunes for ten hours straight. There was also no way that this drive was going to be therapeutic, unless I looked on the bright side and saw it as anger therapy. Driving for ten hours on a road that constantly has work being done to it, that is traversed by trucks, lazy Sunday drivers and maniacal ones all at the same time meant that I had to be constantly alert, and waking up at 5am to start the trip at 6 was not a step in the right direction. It did, however, mean that I would be getting to Grahamstown by 4pm. At least, that was the plan.

Leaving Cape Town went smoothly enough. It was still pitch black outside when I waved goodbye to my parents and Michael, and my first glimpse of the sun only came after I had gone over Sir Lowry's Pass (left). Travelling along Sir Lowry is a bit of a hair-raiser at the best of times with it's cliff faces, hairpin bends and the constant temptation to take your eyes off the road and look at the pretty view of Cape Town. This time was even worse, as the wind picked up as I neared the pass and started trying to throw Bella off the edge at times, into rockfaces at others and, most often, into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, I managed to make it over without any problem, though I didn't even try to look at the view, and was treated to an amazing sunrise for my efforts. I couldn't decide which looked prettier - the oranges, blues and yellows that I could see without my sunglasses or the slight purple tint that the glasses provided everything with, turning the white clouds violet and the light around them spectacular shades that I will not even try to explain. My joy at the sunrise was not longlived, however, as the sun was soon blinding me - a problem since the hairpin turns that Sir Lowry's is infamous for do not stop at it's summit.

Having mastered the hairpin bends and being on the open road once more, my speeds slowly started rising from 70, to 100, to 120 and a little beyond (especially the downhills of the wave-like hills that the road travelled along.) And then came to a dead halt as I reached the first of the roadworks that spanned 29 kms (supposedly 29, although I am fairly certain that they went on a lot longer than that.) As I meandered my way from stop-and-go to stop-and-go, I listened to my music to help the time pass and flinched at the loose gravel that kept hitting my car. As I was flinching away in the right hand lane (going at 60km an hour btw - a perfectly respectable speed), I happened to pass a truck going a little slower, who happened to fling a particularly large piece of gravel straight at my windscreen. As I stared at the crack that it left (not the one in the picture, thankfully), I was thoroughly unimpressed, and was tempted to turn around and let him know, but decided that it was no ones fault, really. These things happen. By the time I got through the roadworks though, I was already getting pretty tired of my music selection, and the desire to sing along had passed me by completely.

By the time I reached Plett (left) I was tired and stiff, was over my music and my foot had started cramping from being in the same position for two and a half hours (I had already stopped once along the way for a stretch and to grab a drink). I stopped at the Engen and prepared for lunch with my two Plett friends, only to discover that they could only stop by for a minute or two to say Hi and Bye before going off to a lunch that they were in the middle of eating. A little disappointed, with four hours of travelling ahead of me and already being an hour and a half behind schedule, I decided to only have a quick snack, long enough to stretch out my foot, and get back on the road.

I left Plett expecting the worst - for five years the roadworks between Plett and Port Elizabeth have been unending: 40km speed limits with cops hiding in the bushes with cameras to enforce them, detours that involved more 40km limits and ten million speed bumps, more stop-and-goes (leading to traffic almost as bad as the picture on the right). As I drove along at my leisurely 120kms I wondered when the roadworks were going to start. I seemed to recall having to slow down a lot earlier than this. As I passed the notorious traffic cop spot and was still travelling at 120km, I realised that there were no more roadworks on this part of the road. I travelled through without any issue and arrived in PE an hour earlier than I had planned for. The Grahamstown road was also the same as ever, and I ended up driving into town only half an hour later than I had planned for.

As I drove into Grahamstown (left) I felt a little nostalgic. I stared at the students driving, cycling or walking around, trying to see if I recognised any of them, but it was to no availl. I am back in Grahamstown, but I am the only one. There are still a couple of people that I recognise - the guys and girls at Grant's work, the people at Grocott's Mail, the lecturers and a couple of the masters students, but for the most part, all the people that I love, and the reason why I had such a good time at Rhodes to begin with, have left and despite the new wave of students, Grahamstown seems hollow to me.

The only thing holding me down and keeping me pinned to the ground (and this is a good metaphor, though I can see how it would be a bad one - picture a balloon about to get lost in the abyss) is Grant, and coming home to him was the highlight of my day - it certainly made the 10 hour drive seem worthwhile.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

All dogs should go to heaven (or Uitsig)

One of the dogs waiting to be adopted at the Uitsig Animal Rescue Centre

"Why are you going so slowly?"
The car is moving at what feels like less than a kilometre an hour and the combination of dust penetrating our lungs and the sun beating down on our heads is giving me a bit of a headache, making me rather glad when Jayne pipes up from the backseat.
"Because I don't want to ruin my car!"
A hollow echo can be heard as Ash says this, reiterating her point. This is certainly not a pleasant road to drive along, and the dilapidated houses that we passed a little earlier didn't really help my impression of the area.
This place is going to be a total dump, I think to myself, but keep the thoughts silent. The rescue centre means so much to Ash and Jayne that I don't want to ruin the trip before we can even get there.
We turn onto another road, less rocky this time around but covered in far more dust that flies into the air as we drive through it and tickles the back of my throat making me want to cough. I am wondering when this hell will end when we round a corner and come face to face with a gated farm with a sign reading Uitsig Animal Rescue Centre.

We open the gate with a little difficulty and suddenly find ourselves surrounded by dogs, all running free and all excited to see us, greeting us as though we are old friends rather than strangers to them. Compared to the last animal shelter that I visited, this place is like heaven on earth - instead of concrete cellblocks, there is plenty of space here for the healthy dogs to run around. Chicken wire separates some of the dogs from the others - the anti-social and the not so well off (which make up a large number of the dogs that come in) - but even these can hardly be called small. Regardless of where the hounds are situated, they are guaranteed to be much happier than where they were before they arrived at Uitsig - most of the dogs are brought in from abusive or neglectful homes or are found wandering the streets. Though none of them can speak, the stories of abuse are written all over their bodies - in the amputated leg of one dog, in the backing away of another as soon as any human comes close to it, and probably most noticably in the mange that plagues so many skins and coats.

Ash calls me over to introduce me to her puppy, Sunny Snapper, who she rescued off a traffic circle near her work. With too many pets to handle at home already, she can't keep Sunny herself, but insists on visiting him on at least a weekly basis and checking up to make sure that things are running smoothly. They always are. Ash and I decide to take Sunny and his sister on a walk, and I make my way through the farm towards the gate, holding onto the dog that I decide to name Mashi (short for mashisoyo which means delicious in Korean - my own personal joke), so that the other dogs can't attack her. She is smaller than the rest and can't defend herself properly, but she shivers in my hands, uncomfortable and untrusting of the human hands holding her. She seems to warm to me as we walk though, and by the end, as we return to the compound and I need to pick her up again, she isn't nearly as nervous.

After our walk, I decide that it is time for me to check out the other part of the shelter - the cattery. The cattery is separated into two areas: one with the younger cats and kittens, many of whom appear to have some form of snuffles, and the other with the older and wiser cats. As I step into the room of kittens, I hear the tiniest of meows and look down to find a grey and white one practically standing on my feet. Soon a couple more come closer, their curiosity getting the better of them, and I give them some attention before making my way to the next room - if I stay with the kittens too long, I won't be able to resist taking one home! As I walk towards the second cattery, the kitties see me coming and start storming the door, about twenty of them wailing for my attention and begging me to take them home. They swarm me as I step through and I can't take another step for fear of standing on one of their tails. I wander through the room, taking in all of their beauty before tearing myself away and returning to the real world.

It is time to go, and Ash, Janey and I all pile into the car without any joy - all of us wish we could stay there forever or, at the very least, take all of these wonderful animals home with us. But we can't. That would be taking away the opportunity for others to find the pet of their dreams, because I can almost guarantee that if you go to Uitsig looking for a pet, you will fall in love with at least one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reach For Your Dream

A Cobra waiting to be started at Killarney, Cape Town.

I love children. This much should be fairly obvious given the fact that I travelled halfway across the world to teach them. I feel the need to say it, however, just in case it wasn't obvious and you didn't know. I will say it again. I love children. I love looking at them, but most of all I love the good feeling that I get from helping them, whether it comes from helping them learn English or helping them across the road; helping entertain them or helping babysit them. What can I say – I just like helping people. This is why, on Sunday, when my dad mentioned that he was going to Killarney to help some children, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved.

There may be a number of questions that you are asking yourself right now.
What the hell,
you might be asking for example, is Killarney?
There may even be Cape Townians asking this question. Killarney is a race track situated along Plattekloof road where you will find all sorts of races (classic cars, motorbikes, go-carts and more) on just about every weekend. Going to Killarney was one of my favourite pastimes as a kid as I would stand on the side of the track with an ice-cold Coke in my hands, listening to the engines roar, bouncing up and down and from foot to foot from excitement and nerves whenever there was a crash and trying to spot Dad's green and yellow in the blur of colour that was the cars drifting around the bends. This pastime fell by the wayside as shopping, movies and friends became more prominent and the roar of the engines started sounding like nothing more than noise. It has been years since I had been to Killarney, and I felt that it was about time that I returned. And what better reason could there be than helping the children?

This is where your next question may come in.
How does going to Killarney help children?

My answer to this one is short and simple. Reach for a Dream. Well, perhaps that's too short and simple for some. Reach for a Dream is a foundation that helps children with life-threatening diseases reach their dreams, whether that dream is owning your own computer, being a princess for a day or even, as was the case this time around, being a professional race car driver.

Now sure, the kids weren't allowed to drive the cars. That would be a little reckless and I am not sure that too many people would hand over their cars to the hands of children. Instead, the kids were brought to Killarney and were provided with a number of cars to ride in – from Dad's classic Lotus to a stylish Ferrari and about 20 others in between. But they don't mind someone else driving – they just have the need; the need for speed. One by one the kids lined up to get a chance to ride in the cars as the drivers were given strict instructions: Be careful; Don't drive too fast; No drifting; Yada-yada-yada. No one was really interested in the rules – everyone wanted to get out on the road and the kids could hardly stand still – their anticipation getting the better of them.

Car after car was brought forward as the stewards and assistants helped the kids into their helmets (another must) and into their cars of choice. Wide eyed, they sat as the cars sped towards the starting line and, with a seemingly obligatory revving of the engine and squeal of the wheels, made their way onto the track. Round and round they went with the onlookers leaning over the cement divide and practically falling onto the tracks themselves to see what was happening and who was coming around the corners. With each whoosh of a car passing by, the waiting children became more and more eager for their turn to come around. Each car that returned saw a face grinning from ear to ear and a child running out of the car to stand in line once again.

Boerie rolls, curry and rice; fruit juice and Coca-Cola; eyes glued to the track as cars overtake each other, cringing at how close they came to colliding; jumping as a car's engine revs unexpectedly or a tyre squeals in the distance; noses stinging at the smell of burning rubber, dropped oil and used petrol. Nothing like a race at Killarney to take me back to the good old days of no-cares living. Now if only I could have hopped into one of those cars too...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Please Let Me Go!!

Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield on the movie poster for Never Let Me Go.

I love Keira Knightley. She is beautiful (albeit a little cringeworthingly skinny) and an amazing actress to boot. Whether she is portraying a swashbuckling pirate or an outspoken but downtrodden lady, I find her highly entertaining to watch. I think it speaks a great deal to her character that she chooses good movies to do, and it has gotten to the point where I always know that a movie she is in is one that I should see. That is why, upon hearing that she was in it, I felt that I had to see Never Let Me Go.

For those of you who have not seen the movie or have some kind of inkling to watch it, I suggest you skip the next paragraph, as I am about to go into a little detail as to what the movie is about.

The storyline for the movie sounded intriguing enough - it revolves around clones who are born and bred to be donors for their "human" counterparts ensuring that said counterparts can live a longer, happier life. The movie follows the lives of three of these clones from their boarding school days where they are forbidden to leave the premises of the school and eventually discover their lot in life; to their post-school days of living together under one roof and attempting to find meaning for themselves; and finally to their first, second and third donations until they finally reach "completion".

Now, I won't lie, I can see how that plotline could be exciting. I am picturing it in my mind and thinking to myself: Why didn't I like it again? Oh, that's right - It was completely and utterly boring. There were a number of times during the movie when I just about fell asleep. After our own "completion" of the movie, my friend and I looked at each other and were in complete agreement. Jess was the first to say it aloud.
"I want a clone just so that I can get those two hours of my life back!"

I cannot say that I completely blame Knightley for choosing to act in the film - as I said earlier, the plotline sounded so promising! The book was a bestseller! Who was to know that the movie was going to be an utter flop? Well, a flop in my opinion anyway - critics seem to love it and it received a rating of 7.3 on IMDB. But apparently Knightley seems to agree with my assertion - if you look at the cast, it would seem that she is removed from the initial list despite being one of the three main characters of the movie, certainly far more important than the unnamed Doctor who is prominently listed. I cannot imagine any reason why a popular actress like Knightley, certainly the star of the show which included a largely unknown (at least to me) cast headed by Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan, wouldn't be at the top of the list of cast members, unless she insisted on being removed or placed in a far less prominent position (19th on the list, below Delivery Men 1 and 2). What reason could she have for doing this other than being embarrassed to have acted in such a dull, wrist-slittingly boring effort of a movie?

In any case, the fact that she chose to act in such a movie does not diminish my love for her. Everyone makes mistakes at one point or another. I just hope she doesn't make a mistake of this magnitude again any time soon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Unpronouncable but Pleasant

“Look out for The Wagon or something,” Mom announced from the front seat.
“The Wagon?” we all ask just about in sync with each other.
“Wagon, Wagen, Wedding, something like that!”
We drove down Dorp street in Stellenbosch, squinting at the signs that we passed trying to spot any street starting with a W.
“Maybe we're going the wrong way.”
“You want me to turn around again?” Dad is getting really frustrated by now. I'm just looking at the clock and thanking heavens that Mom put aside 45 minutes for a half hour drive.
“What's the place called again?”
“De Volkskombuis.”
“Die what?”
A squealing of brakes, a holding-up of traffic, a complicated u-turn and a right turn later and we were driving into the parking lot of the sought after restaurant. Dave stands outside, shaking his head in awe and confusion having been voice-conferenced in to the whole conversation. After a quick hug in greeting, we shuffle along to the indoor seating area to find Tandy seated at our table for six.

Hugs, how-are-yous and compliments are exchanged as we settle in and the menus that the waiter handed us are forgotten in our hands as we catch up on news and chit-chat. Each time I almost open mine, something is said to catch my attention, and my intention is lost in the midst of questions and comments. The atmosphere is certainly conducive to conversation – the room is filled with the conversations of all its occupants with a hint of something classical playing beneath. I can see it all from the wide mirror behind our table – all of the couples holding hands, all of the friends chatting away just like us. I remove my eyes from the mirror and concentrate more on whats going on at our table – two conversations, one about food the other about racing, diverging into one as people pick up stompies and run with them. The waiter returns to fill our glasses of wine and we realise that none of us has bothered looking at the menus yet. We all open ours up and glance at the treasures hidden within.

What will it be for starters? Some snoek samosas? Maybe an African salad (made African by the addition of biltong). Perhaps some ostrich carpaccio or a quail terrine. No, no. Tonight I am living large and going for the potato gnocchi with a blue cheese sauce and a sprinkling of biltong. But knowing that the meal is likely to be huge, I choose to share it with Michael rather than keep it all to myself. And it's a good thing that I do as, though the starter was rather smaller than I had imagined (only seven pieces of gnocchi between two of us), when my choice of Oxtail arrives, my eyes bulge with the size it – a small potjie to myself along with mashed potatoes topped with caramelised onions and a selection of veggies for the table on the side.
I can almost hear the saying that Dad used to use when I was a little kid: “Where are you going to put all that? Under the table?”
“No, silly,” I used to retort. “In my stomach of course.”
This time I was almost tempted to look under the table and see if there was room for it. But, from the first bite of the melt-in-your-mouth meat and the creamy, smooth mash with a hint of sweetness from the onions, I know that there would be no hiding this anywhere. It is going straight to my stomach, whether I regret it later or not.

Maagies vol, oogies toe (Stomachs full, eyes closed). We're one bottle of wine down and I can hardly imagine eating another bite until the waiter returns to offer us dessert and some coffee. I don't know how I manage it, but no matter how full I get, the idea of dessert never fails to excite me. I look at the menu and decide on a trifle, nothing too fancy, just a simple, easy dessert that I may not even finish. And then it arrives in its glass, the layer upon layer of cream, jelly, spongecake and custard, and I take my first bite. Once again I am left wondering what on earth I am going to do with myself. I cannot stop now, it's just too good, but oh am I going to regret this tomorrow when I step on the scale!

We finish our desserts and our coffees, chatting away without any lapse in the conversation until it's finally decided that it's getting a bit late and we should probably go. The chatting doesn't stop, however, and we are standing in the parking lot discussing blogs, recipes and experiences until Dad and Dave honk their respective horns and it's time for us to part ways. I practically fall asleep in the car on the ride home, but the food and the company was certainly worth it.

Was it a dream?

"Meh," I exclaimed slamming David Mitchell's Number 9 Dream down on the kitchen counter. "Meh meh meh!"
It had taken me months and months to get through it, not because the book was boring or because I was trying to take my time reading it, but simply because whenever I picked it up, I was distracted by something coming on TV or by someone wanting to have a chat or by the bus arriving at its destination. It had taken me months to get through it and it had spiraled to a closing point far too quickly leaving my head spinning with everything that had happened in the closing page and cursing David (yeah, we are totally on a first name basis) for leaving me hanging in suspension without any hope of relief. What the hell, David?

My journey towards Number 9 Dream started about a year and a half ago when I picked up another book that David had authored and flipped through it frantically, giggling like a little school girl at parts, tearing up at others and bugging my boyfriend by reading him little tidbits whether he wanted to hear them or not, as I am prone to do. After putting it down, I had a craving for more, and made my way to the local bookshop only to find that they didn't have any more or, as was the case in the few that did, were selling them for some ridiculous amount that I couldn't afford to pay on my student budget. When, after a few months in Korea, I finally made my way to the English bookstore in Seoul, David was the first author that I searched for in amongst the chaos that was What The Book at the time. I scoured the secondhand section fruitlessly and finally gave in to the new books that stood gleaming on their polished shelves. There I found a small treasury of David's works, in amongst them Number 9 Dream. I hmm'd and haa'd about whether to fork over the cash and eventually decided that, since I had the cash to fork over in any case, it would be worth my while to use it on something I had been spent an age searching for. And so I dutifully paid for the book and lugged it back to my apartment in Cheongju where it then spent another age sitting on my bookshelf, looking at me wistfully, begging me to open it up and just glance at the treasures hidden within. Sadly, I wasn't feeling myself and wasn't in the mood for reading at the time. I decided that any book by David needed more than just my half-hearted attention - it needed my all, and I was going to wait to read it until I was prepared to give it that.

About two months before my swift departure from Korea, I opened the book up, intending to turn the pages as I had before. But, as I explained a little earlier, life tended to get in the way, and so Eiji's fragmented story ended up being twisted and intricately wound with my own fragmented life and reading of it. Nevertheless, I swooned over the unheroic hero, describing him and his exploits in detail to anyone who dared to ask what it was that I was reading and thoroughly enjoying every moment that I could spend reading the book. I opened it at every opportunity that I got, mentally encouraging and supporting Eiji both on his quest to find his father and in his efforts to hook up with the woman with the perfect neck - I just about jumped for joy when he finally mustered up the courage to phone her, and came very close to tears when he almost ruined everything. I giggled at the way he wove his words, cringed at the horrifying accounts of his dubious dealings and wept as he fondly remembered his sister and as the blame he felt for her death swept over him like the ebb and flow of the tide.

I could have read the book forever, slipping away into Eiji's dreamlike reality whenever the occasion called for it, but no. David had to tear it all down, leaving me with no hope for the future and no return to Eiji's world. Oh well, I suppose I will just have to find another of David's books to lose myself in. What a shame.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sting or Stink?

“What about How Do You Know?”
“It's already started.”
“Morning Glory?”
“You've already seen it.”
“I know,” I say, shifting around uncomfortably, “but I wouldn't mind seeing it again.”
I wouldn't mind seeing anything but this
, I think to myself, but know better than to say it aloud.
“Nope, Green Hornet it is!”
I let out an audible sigh and step up to the counter to pay R65 for a movie that I don't particularly want to see.
Like throwing money down the toilet

We all get our tickets and make our way up the final escalator at Cavendish Square, arriving at the top of the shopping centre, and stand in another busy line for popcorn and drinks. I'm going to need something to distract me from the boredom, and food seems like the only option. After paying another R35 for snacks, rounding off the outing to R100 spent, we make our way into the theatre with it's armchair-like seats and I prepare myself for the ordeal.

The trailers start and Natasha and I chat loudly about which movies we want to see and those that we don't.
This is a horror movie,” Natasha whispers as the preview for Never Say Never flashes across the screen, leading to uncontrollable giggling that doesn't stop until the movie is about to start.
Here it goes
, I tell myself. No turning back now!

It starts off much the same as any other super-hero movie with a flashback to the past of the main character, some traumatic event that occurred to turn him into the person he is today. Typical. And then you catch a glimpse of the hero that he has become – the handsome, dashing, debonair, amaz... what a minute. Was that Seth Rogen? What's he doing there?

Before I knew it, what I had thought was an action movie has been turned into an action-comedy, a parody of the typical super-hero movies that I had come to fear, with a villainous hero, a far more super side-kick and a leading lady who is hardly wooed by either of the heroes and, in truth, hardly seen throughout the movie. What convinced Cameron Diaz to take on the role, I will never know, aside from her probably being paid a bundle of cash for a grand total of about 20 minutes on the screen.

Overall, the movie was hardly what I had expected. There were some genuinely entertaining bits spread amongst the tongue-in-cheek humour that just made me roll my eyes more than laugh out loud, but I enjoyed it in general. That isn't to say that I would pay to see it again, but I certainly felt like my money had been fished out of the toilet and put to a more deserving use – perhaps given to a car guard who would then go and spend it on some alcohol?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More than just a burger

Candy-floss-pink and white flamingos, a pale-pink piano and top hats in every colour imaginable (including more pink, of course) greet us on entrance into Beefcakes.

“Table for two, please.”

“Take your pick.”

I look around the empty fifties-style diner, hidden amongst the tirade of buildings on Green Point's Main road, taking in the bar complete with stripper figurine, the staircase leading down to the club below and all of the empty light grey couches. I pick one for the two of us to sit at. On Saturday it had almost been impossible to find a seat, but in the middle of the week we have our run of the place, being the only customers and all. On one hand it's a bad thing – who wants to come to an empty restaurant? On the other, I know what it was like being the only straight girl in a bar full of gay guys, and it can be a little overwhelming. Beefcakes doesn't only refer to the burgers, after all.

We hardly have time to take in the disco-balls that cover the ceiling before our waiter sidles over.

“Good afternoon,” he gushes, filled with the kind of enthusiasm that made me feel exhausted. “I'm Dwayne. Can I get you a drink?”

I consider getting myself a watermelon Cosmo, remembering how good it tasted the last time, but reminding myself that A. it is the middle of the day and B. I might be driving home, I opt out.

“Just a Coke, please.”

He sidles on back to the bar and we take the chance to scan our menus and decide on something to eat. What will it be today? I flick past the 'Bugger the Burger' section and look at the burger selections. What about a 'Buffy the Hamburger Slayer'? 'Chilli on the Willy'? Maybe a 'Beach Boy Burger' will hit the spot. Eventually I decide on the 'Greek God' burger, but now I have to decide on what kind of meat I want – each of the burgers can come with a beef, chicken, lamb or ostrich patty. By the time Dwayne has returned, I have decided on the recommended lamb (realising that it will go best with the tzatziki on the burger), a combination of salad and fries on the side. I sit back to relax with my ice cold Coke in it's truly diner-style glass and a fresh breeze from the open window rustles my hair – the perfect way to spend a sunny day while still being indoors.

As we wait for our burgers to arrive, we let our eyes wander, taking in everything from the decorations to the wallpaper to the rest of the menu.

“Look at this dessert,” Mike announces, pointing out the Strawberry Seduction – strawberries with a combination of vodka, black pepper and cream to dip them in.

“Vodka and black pepper?” If I could have raised a single eyebrow, I would have. “And anyway, I doubt we'll have room for dessert.”

“I think it'd be divine. And I always leave room for dessert,” he says with the air of a food critic, “even if it means not finishing my main.”

We're interrupted as Dwayne bustles back over with our burgers in hand and places mine in front of me. The smell of garlic fills my nostrils and I involuntarily lick my lips before digging in. I carefully watch Mike as he does the same and, as his eye meets mine, I know we are both thinking the same thing.

“It was a goner from the first bite,” I say minutes later, looking longingly at my empty plate and wishing there was more. Not that there's any room for it, of course, but I could always find space for a meal like that! Mike nods his head in agreement, his earlier idea of not finishing his main forfeited as his plate is as clean as my own.

But that won't stop us from sharing a dessert. It won't be the strawberries, sadly, as now is no time for vodka. We opt for the chocolate brownie instead, at Dwayne's suggestion. When it arrives, Mike can hardly wait to dig in, and just about does as I snap some shots. Once I join him, it's gone within seconds.

As Mike pays the bill, I take a final look around, capturing some more of the decorations on my digital film, and then it's time to go. With one final look at the original-esque Coca Cola poster on the wall, we are out.

“Take a shot of the building,” Mike insists. “Just to remember.”

I catch Dwayne grinning in the distance as I snap the final shot.

I don't need to take the shot to remember. I'm sure I will be back all too soon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


My whole life I have dealt with people telling me that I look younger than I am - from being asked up to six times for my ID at Grand West Casino, to being checked at clubs or refused entry point blank. And then I arrived in Korea.

Being in Korea was a nice change for me. Being surrounded by people who look younger than they are led to people being shocked that I was actually around the age they thought I was. There were always ooh's and ah's whenever I told my students my real age (even when that age was in Korean and was technically two years older than my actual age) and they realised that, yes, I was that young! The idea that I should be older was also compounded with the number of foreign teachers who arrived, most of whom were upwards of 24 (Western) years old. This meant that I was always hanging out with people who were at least two years older than I was, most of whom were even older. Whenever my age came up, there would always be a comment along the lines of: "Oh, right... I forgot you were young."

By the time I came back to South Africa, I was used to people thinking I was older than I actually was. This is why it came as a bit of a shock on Thursday when I was test-driving cars to have the salesman climb in behind me and say: "Now, young lady. You do have your license, right?"
Well, of course! Why else would I be climbing into the drivers seat? Why else would I be buying a car? Why else would I... oh, never mind. So he thought I was a high-school or early university student. So what?
Most of the sales reps that we spoke to commented on what a lucky girl I was to have my dad buying me a car. And I am lucky. But I am also contributing. This is not one of those instances where a daddy buys his little princess a car and pays for her petrol, insurance, licensing, etc. I offered to contribute half and pay the rest off, but my dad has luckily offered to help me out in the interim. Anyway, enough with that rant.

I was reminded of the fact that I look young once again yesterday when I went with my friend Ashlea for a massage. We arrived at the place and were escorted to the back where we were each offered a glass of wine.
"You're having one too, right," the masseuse, one of Ashlea's friends, asks.
Before I can answer, her friend chips in.
"How old are you anyway?"
I think for a moment, still used to replying in Korean age and also around the corner from my birthday, before replying "23."
"Yes. Why? How old did you think I was?"
"My age!"
"And how old are you?"
Now, I know that I look young, but I really didn't think I looked that young. I like to think that I have grown up a bit from the years of being refused entry at clubs, but apparently not!

In any case, my humiliation at being called 18 was shortlived, as that evening my family came over for a braai.
"Lara," my aunt exclaimed when she saw me, "you're looking so grown up!!"
This sentiment was shared many times over the night as my aunt, cousin, grandmother and grandfather all discussed how much better I was looking - thinner, taller (though Daron may disagree on that point) and generally more mature. Mom was quick to point out, however, that she too had recently had a bit of a compliment.

You see, when I went to the bank last week, the teller took one look at my drivers license and asked, "Do you have an older sister?"
"Yes," I said with what must have been a confused look on my face. "Cherie. But she doesn't bank here."
"No, not Cherie," she replied. "Beverley Salomon."
My mom rejoiced when I told her the tale, marvelling in the compliment, but I was quick to pick up that it wasn't such a compliment for me! Do I look old enough to have a 50-something year old sister?!

So my question for you today is this: Would it be better for people to think you are older, or for people to think you are younger?

Choices, Choices

I am a little bit of a weirdo at heart, and I am the first to admit this. I have no qualms about being a little odd or, as I prefer to refer to it, quirky - it's part of what makes me the person that I am. But there is one aspect of my oddness that even I hate admitting to and resent about myself.

I hate making choices. I always prefer it when someone makes a choice for me. This hatred is extended to subjects as simple as choosing what meal I want to eat. I cannot count the times that I have sat down at a restaurant, looked at the menu and then asked whoever I am eating with what it is that I want to eat. This is simply because I hate choosing something. What if I make the wrong choice? What if I choose the beef when the chicken was better? Then I will torment myself for hours wondering why I chose the beef instead. I would far rather have someone tell me to get the beef - that takes the choice out of my hands and it will no longer matter if the chicken is better: it was not my choice to make!

Most of the time this hatred only extends to simple subjects - subjects that do not have life-altering implications. For example, I wanted to choose my majors at university - that wasn't up to anyone else. In the same way, I was happy to choose to go to Korea - it was something that had been decided on long before I was merely following through with an earlier choice. However, I was recently faced with a more important choice that was not so easy to make.

This week, I have been car-shopping. I have been thumbing through Car Magazines, checking them out on the roads and even test-driving them. In the end, my decision came down to two cars: the Ford Figo or the Volkswagen Polo Vivo. Though the basic Vivo is cheaper than the Figo, when you add on the bits and pieces they are around the same price (by bits and pieces I mean power-steering, ABS brakes, air conditioning, radio and alarm). The differences in the ways that they drive cancel each other out: the Figo is quieter, but has to be revved higher; the Vivo is louder but doesn't need to be revved as high; the Vivo can go 2km/hour faster, but the Figo's brakes are 2 seconds faster. After test-driving them both, I was at a loss. Choosing between the two was like choosing a pastry at a patisserie - they all look good, they all taste good, they're all going to have ridiculous numbers of calories; it just comes down to personal taste. And in this case, I couldn't for the life of me decide which one I wanted. I liked the look of the Figo, but, for a reason I couldn't explain, the Vivo seemed like the more sensible choice. I hmmed and haa'd, going back and forth between the two over and over, eventually phoning Grant to discuss the situation. And it was during this conversation that I really realised which one I wanted. As soon as Grant uttered the words "I think you should get the Vivo", I immediately started fighting him on it, spouting the virtues of the Figo for all to hear. This, I decided, could only mean one thing - my mind had made itself up.

And so, despite my dad's teasing (I hope) and jokes that he wants to sell me his Volvo station wagon instead (my mom couldn't even keep a straight face for that one), I believe that in the next two weeks I will be coming home with a brand spanking new, Chill coloured (you don't want to know how long that decision took) Ford Figo. Expect pics.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Anyone who has come into contact with me over the last year or so would be shocked to hear me say this, but I love cooking. That is not to say that I am very good at it, nor is it to say that I do it often. But on the occasion that I do, I absolutely love it!

One of the things that I missed over my year in Korea was being able to cook. Sure, I had a mini-kitchen decked out with pots, pans and a hub of two stove tops; sure, there was a grocery store or three up the road from my house; but cooking for one just isn't the same as cooking for others. When it came down to it, ordering in or eating out was just so much easier and, in the end, so much cheaper as I never ended up eating the leftovers that I ended up with after cooking for myself.

One of the first things I requested for when I came home was a home-cooked meal. Of course, I never got it, but that doesn't take anything away from the point that I am trying to make – a hard-earned meal that has been cooked through blood, sweat and tears just tastes so much better than something that requires as little effort as phoning the pizza-place and reciting your address and phone number.

Now that I am home with a world of cooking-equipment and groceries at my fingers, I am already contemplating all the meals that I am looking forward to cooking. In fact, I have put together a list made from my recently acquired cookbooks (click here to see it). I highly doubt that I will cook all of these dishes over the next year, as I only intend to do the cooking about twice a week and will not always want something so rich or so expensive, but I do intend to get through the list over the next few years. So check it out and if you see something that you would like to try, let me know – maybe I will make it the next time you visit!

So my question for you today is twofold: which of those recipes do you most want to try and what is your favourite recipe?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I have an addiction. It is a problem most serious, and it is almost impossible to cure. You see, everytime I walk into a bookstore, I have to leave carrying something. It may not be something you have ever heard of - it may not in fact be something that I have ever heard of – but it will be something. Fiction, non-fiction, romance, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy – You name it and I can almost guarantee you there is one of every genre sitting on my bookshelf at this moment in time.

My addiction started off fairly small. I had few friends growing up and most of my time was spent delving into the worlds that books provided me with. I could be an it-girl at Sweet Valley High one day and a treasure-hunting teenager travelling the world another. The highlight of every week was going to the library where I could choose three – THREE – worlds to explore without ever having to pay a cent (unless the books were late that is, which they often were).

As I grew older, I started making more friends, but I still made time to feed my imagination. My reading pace sped up and I suddenly found myself racing through books faster than ever. Many of the friends that I made shared my love for reading, and suddenly books were being recommended to me.
Have you read this?”
What did you think of that?”
What about these?”
My trusty library started failing me as it couldn't keep up with my demands for the newest, latest and bestest books on the market. Slowly my bookshelf, which had previously held only children's books and collections of stories and poems, started being built up with newer models, far more appropriate for my teenage self.

When I got to University, there was no doubt in my mind that English literature was going to be one of my subjects – how could I pass up this opportunity to turn something that I loved into a more serious path that would possibly even lead to a career? I was given the list of books and excitedly made my way to the store to buy them. I stroked their unworn covers, I breathed in their unread scent... and then I never opened half of them again. At university, for one reason or another, I stopped devouring books in the way that I had in my younger years. I found myself too busy doing other things and without the desire to pick up a book to read. Yet, though I wasn't reading them, my desire to own books would not relent.

At this point in my life, I have a rather large collection of books, and probably the vast majority of them have never been read. I am sitting with 40 books on my shelf and more packed into boxes on their way back to South Africa, and yet I am still buying them. To be fair, I have started getting back into reading, but I think that the privilege of owning books has surpassed my desire to actually read them. I think that someone needs to send me into rehab, and I think that rehab should be known as a library – a place where you can read all the books you want without having to own them.

In any case, I thought I would share with you some of my haunts in Cape Town – the shops that I have discovered feed well into my addiction.

Book Wise: This shop in Durbanville is run by a family friend. There are a large range of good quality second-hand books here, and you can always be guaranteed to find something to walk away with. The shop has a credit policy where if you bring them a book, you can take one with you or else you can sell the books for cash credit and come back at a later stage to buy to your heart's content.

Exclusive Books: This is, of course, where I go when I want the newesst of the new or the best of the best (basically, the books that I wouldn't be able to find at a second-hand store.) They do have an online ordering system, but there is just something special about walking into a bookshop and browsing through shelves, the special feeling that you get from finding something you have been searching for amid the shelves and shelves of books that are just not it. Unfortunately, with their rather steep prices, this is not where I do most of my book shopping.

Bargain Books: While this shop does not have the same reputation or sell books in the abundance of Exclusive, I have found myself wandering in more than once to glance through their '3 for R90' books. These are usually the fairly trashy sorts of novels that are not particularly intriguing reads, but it just so happens that these kinds of books are just what I need at times – no brainers that just solidify my love for reading and get me back into the swing of things.

Kafda: This shop in Sea Point is an absolute treasure trove of second-hand books and magazines. Sold for as little as R4 or as much as R50, I have found some of my favourite books at this store. These include The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (R10) and a number of other interesting authors like Kundera, Ondaatje, Archer and more. What I particularly like about the store is that all of the takings go to charity. This means that you shouldn't expect to be paid for any books you bring in, and the staff are purely volunteers, not paid for their efforts. It also means that you are contributing to something good everytime you buy a book there, even if it's as small as a R4 contribution. I highly recommend that any serious reader pay a visit to their sstore on Main Street. You won't be disappointed.

Finally, I have put up two lists: a reading list and a read list. Feel free to browse through them and let me know what I should read next or else comment on what has been read.

What have you been reading?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Time for a Treat?

Treat Cafe in Hertex design studio

Cape Town

“They're so pretty!”

Deep brown sugar smothered upon decadent chocolate cake; buttery icing sitting atop another spotted with dark poppy seeds. speckled eggs sprinkled across a third cake oozing spice and another beside it bleeding red. It took all I had not to just whip out my camera right then and there.

“Can I help you?” I gave the woman beside me the briefest of up-and-downs, taking in her lime-green and black striped shirt and wondering where she might have gotten it. This was our waitress? I thought she was a customer.

“Do you have a table for two?”

Looking around the room at the tables filled with women sipping cappuccinos and sharing gossip, it didn't seem likely. Evidently Treat is a popular place for the middle-aged gossipy women of Durbanville, but our waitress didn't skip a beat.

“There's one at the front of house if you don't mind sitting there.”

We weren't there to socialise anyway.

“That will be perfect.”

We were quickly shown to our seats - a table, a good way away from the rest of the cafe, that I had thought was part of the display when I'd walked in. Hidden amidst the comfortable-looking couches and the swabs of patterned material that lined the wall of Hertex design studio, placed directly beneath a chandelier that looked like something out of a hotel, we sat ourselves down and waited for our menus. I took advantage of the first few minutes to grab my camera, as I am prone to do, and shoot away. But when, a few minutes later, I sat down again, we still had no menus.

“Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.”

We'd been seated for a good five minutes longer before the waitress remembered us.

“Are you ready to order?”

“No. We need menus.”

“Oh.” A flush of pink came over her cheeks and she rushed back to the cafe entrance to fetch us some. We didn't have a problem with her service again.

Looking at the menu, I couldn't help but wonder how much everything was going to cost. When a 170ml can of apple iced tea cost R17, I wasn't holding out too much hope for a cheap meal. But that wasn't going to stop me. I was a girl on a mission.

The food arrived quickly, beautifully presented, and we dug in only to discover that there was nothing special to it. Not bad, but nothing to go out of your way for either. But then, this wasn't a restaurant, not somewhere you would go for a lunch – this was a cafe, a place for tea and cake, and the cake was what had brought us here in the first place. Those beautiful cakes that had wowed me at the start. Nevermind the mediocre lunch, it could be overlooked as long as the cakes tasted as good as they looked.

We ate as much of the lunch as we could, neither of us cleaning our plates, and prepared ourselves for the glory that was awaiting us. What would it be? Chocolate? Lemon meringue? Red velvet? No, no. We decided to share two slices so that we could get a taste of each – the intriguingly decorated cinnamon cake and my favourite lemon-poppy. Minutes later, the slices were placed before us and we held our forks in awe before finally digging in. There was a moment's silence as we chewed. Revered silence perhaps?

“Does yours taste like butter?”

I nodded in agreement, the taste filling my mouth and suffocating any other. Our first impression didn't improve over the next few bitefuls. Eventually we gave up on the cakes, not finishing them either and decided to pay and leave before we could be disappointed by anything else.

“That will be R165.”

I fished around in my wallet for some cash and walked quickly through the beautifully decorated cafe to the exit. I couldn't get there quick enough.