Monday, April 25, 2011
I open the electric gate that borders our house and hers and step through to find her side gate wide open. Something isn't right.
"Grant," I shout, running back into my own house. "Can you come with me?"
"To feed the cat? You can't do it yourself?"
"The gate is open."
It doesn't take much more convincing than that. Grant gets up from his seat, his father following, and together we go next door. Once we are through the side gate, our worst fears are confirmed. With the car not in the driveway, there's no way that Kim has come back from her holiday early. More open gates greet us, all with their locks missing, and splinters are scattered on the floor around the front door. We open it carefully, not knowing what we will find inside - they could still be there for all we know. But, as we step into the house, it's obvious that it has been abandoned - clothes litter what was once a neat lounge; cupboard doors are flung open, the cupboards themselves empty; the couches, empty of cushions, are covered in bits and pieces that have been scavenged from the house: empty cellphone boxes, more clothes, a small TV and a candelabra are scattered between numerous other items.
"Crap," I whispered as we glanced at a life of belongings strewn across the house without a thought for their owner. A doll torn apart upstairs, closets stripped bare, a fridge emptied and left wide open. This isn't what I would want to come home to.
"What do we do?" I am frozen, not wanting to move, not wanting to touch anything in case I destroy evidence, smudge fingerprints. I take out my cellphone, but realise that I don't even have Kim's number.
"Should we phone the police," Grant asks, turning to his dad - the two of them keeping their heads far better than I can.
Moments later, the cops arrive and start asking questions.
"Who are you?"
"Why are you here?"
"Where is the owner?"
"When did you arrive?"
I answer them one by one, trying to explain as much as I can, but there are questions that I can't answer. I cannot tell them what is missing, I cannot tell them whether the alarm works and I cannot tell them exactly what is out of place. Some things are obvious - the burgular bars hanging off the windows don't exactly scream safety - and other things are highly suspicious - the pitchfork with its bent prongs lying in the grass beside the window seems to scream "look at me!"
After my interrogation is over, once the fingerprinters have been and gone, once the landlady has been dealt with, the alarm has been set and the house has been locked up as well as we can manage, we head back to our side of the house, separated only by a garage door and a wall, and return to normalcy. I can't explain why, but our side of the wall just seems safer, as though nothing can touch us. And yet, as I drift off to sleep, my dreams are permeated with images of robbers and thieves, taking my stuff and destroying my piece of mind.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Let's start with one of the biggies. When I went out with my friends in Cape Town, a lot of them were shocked that I had a midnight curfew when I was almost 23 years old. They were even more shocked when I told them that my 28 year old sister has the same curfew. A little understanding came in when I explained why. After a serious break-in two years ago, my parents are extremely worried about crime. They have put up laser beams and electric fences around the house, jacked up their alarm system and implimented a number of security measures within the house as well, including burgular bars over every door, mobile panic buttons and nails holding in the sliding door (where the burgulars came in the first time around). My parents will also wait up for us to come home to make sure that no one stole our remotes and we aren't being followed by some dodgy characters.
When I first heard that Grant doesn't set the alarm at night (I heard about this because he came home to find the alarm on and had no recollection of the code), I was absolutely horrified.
"I don't want to live in a house that can't be alarmed," I practically shouted down the phone.
And then I remembered. This isn't Cape Town. Though crimes certainly do happen here, they are rarely of the serious nature that crimes in the bigger cities tend to lend themselves to. There are muggings, there are smash and grabs (I had more than enough of those), there are break-ins, but these are usually crimes of opportunity - someone sees a laptop easily grabable and decides to snatch it. They are rarely premeditated.
A lack of serious crime is a big reason for wanting to move away from the big cities, especially after living in Korea for a year where I got used to not locking my door at night (it had an automatic lock, but I also never had any problems) and walking around on my own. But there is more to it than that. Another big part of wanting to come to Grahamstown, and a big reason why Grant has stayed here as long as he has, is because of all the friendly faces that we have come to know and love. I feel the need to burst into song here - Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came. This is definitely the case in Grahamstown. Though most of my friends from my university days have now moved on to better places (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Alfred), I am always pleasantly surprised when I walk down the street and hear my name being called or when I walk into a bar to a warm reception from the manager. I can walk into any bar in Grahamstown, any restaurant, any shop and can practically guarantee that there will be at least one familiar or friendly face.
Familiarity is another big reason for wanting to stay in Grahamstown, and here I don't mean the familiarity of people. It is nice to live in a town and know exactly where things are without having to look it up in a mapbook. It is nice to stay somewhere that you have spent some time getting to know. The fact that Grahamstown is small certainly contributes to this - I have lived in Cape Town for most of my life, and will still have to look up directions to places. It is great when you can talk about a place with someone and they know exactly where you mean. It is great to know the hidden treasures of a town, and yes - even a town as small as Grahamstown has hidden treasures. Ask anyone about Grey Dam and you will see what I mean.
More than just the familiarity of the town, I love the simplicity of small town living. I like being able to park my car and take a walk around the town. I like that there are only two areas to do shopping in, and everyone knows exactly where they are. I like being able to do everything in one go - go to the doctor, then walk next door to the pharmacy, then walk next door to do some grocery shopping and finish it all off by walking next door to do some clothing shopping (or window-shopping as the case is for me at the moment). Everything is so close and life here is so simple. There are few stresses (the lack of crime and the lack of traffic taking away some of the more serious worries of big-city living) and the few that they are are fairly easily solvable.
I mentioned this earlier, but I feel the need to mention it again - the fact that Grahamstown has no traffic is a HUGE plus. Not having to sit around in a car for half an hour to get to work and another half an hour to get home (and I am being incredibly lenient here) is an absolute pleasure. As I said before, a majority of the people residing in Grahamstown itself (and I am not talking about the outskirting townships here) are students, and a vast majority of these don't have cars. There is no need - in a city where you can walk everywhere you need to go, why do you need to have a car? This essentially means that the most traffic you will get is five minutes waiting at a four-way stop when people are confused as to where to go.
And, though there are a number of other reasons why living in Grahamstown is great, there is one more reason why I love living here in particular. As I drove into Grahamstown after my ten hour drive from Cape Town, it hit me just how beautiful this city is. As I drove past the dam by the Botanical Gardens and through the streets lined with Jacarandas, I remembered how much I love this city and what a pleasure it is to be back. It is everything that I missed in Korea - green, wide open spaces; elegant, historical buildings, towering cathedrals. As I said to Ashlea when she visited last week, everything in Grahamstown has a history, and it is oh so easy to read that history from the faces of the houses and buildings that you see all around you.
So basically, despite the soul-destroying job-hunt, it is wonderful to be back in Grahamstown! My question for today: What is one of the fondest memories of a place you used to call home?
Monday, April 11, 2011
Personally, I think that experience has become more valuable than education. A person can spend four years studying or they can spend ten years studying, and that will not necessarily make them any more comfortable in a working environment. Studying is not the same as working. When you study, you are being safe. Your environment is controlled. You are not thrown to the masses and expected to fend for yourselves. Your life revolves around lenient deadlines and if you miss a deadline, your career path is not at stake - you will certainly be penalised, but you will not lose your job.
Once you are thrown into the real world, you start to realise what a pleasure university was. You still have deadlines to meet, but they are not necessarily set out from the get-go and they are certainly far shorter than they were in university days. I fondly remember the days of week-long deadlines for essays or articles, and then consider the articles that I wrote while working at Grocott's Mail (a relatively calm and controlled environment in itself compared to most newsrooms) where articles often had to be written, researched and published all in the same day. And Grocott's Mail only comes out twice a week. Imagine the deadlines that would be given working on a daily paper like the Times or the Cape Argus. That is when you really start to realise just how cushy you had it before. And now imagine missing one of those deadlines. Imagine not handing in the article that you were assigned delving into the dealings of the President. Imagine mispelling a name in an article of real importance that is read by hundreds if not thousands of people. A mistake like that would result in more than just a reduced mark. A mistake like that could lead to your having to start the job hunting process from the start once more.
In an example like this and in the journalism world in general, I can completely understand how experience pays more than education does. Journalists need to be able to work fast and efficiently, and while part of their education often revolves around teaching them to do that, a large part of it also involves the study of media history and such things that will never really play a part in the day-to-day field. So, you may have studied for ten years and may walk into a newspaper spouting the value of objective reporting and quoting any number of theorists backing your opinion, but that will not help you to go out into the world in the slightest.
The trouble comes in when it is difficult to gain that experience. Something that I noticed when looking at all the job advertisements out there is that everyone is looking for someone experienced. There is no place for a person just out of university to fit in. Requirements tend to include a minimum of a degree and two or three years experience in the field or eight years experience if you have no degree. Where on earth am I supposed to get this experience when there are no entry level jobs available? Sure, I worked in a cake shop on and off for five years of my life. Sure, I spent a year teaching English in Korea. But where does all of that fit into the grander scheme of things. More specifically, where does that kind of experience fit in when I don't want to be managing a store or teaching.
I find myself adjusting my CV to make my experiences fit with the jobs that I am applying to. This leads to the following kinds of descriptions finding their way in:
I have to try and make the minimal tasks that I was charged with seem like the most important things in the world. Suddenly spending five minutes cleaning up the shop at the end of the day becomes synonymous with cataloguing student records. But what else can I do when there is no entry level job that would allow me to gain that specific experience in any case?
During my time as a Guest English Teacher and during my time at Just Delicious, I was required to deal with students and customers as well as other staff members in a friendly manner and assist them in any way that I could including answering any queries that they might have. As a Guest English Teacher I also became familiar with an office environment and with the use of office equipment such as photocopiers and scanners. At Just Delicious, a main aspect of the job was cleaning, tidying and generally keeping the shop ordered, the stock supplied and a general atmosphere maintained. Though the job did not involve cataloguing specifically, I was charged with keeping things in a very particular order to keep the owner happy and I succeeded in this effort without complaint.
Anyway, enough of my ranting for now. What this blog post essentially boils down to is that when you are job hunting, your education suddenly becomes almost completely irrelevant, and my question for today is: Do you agree, and what job hunting experiences have you had?
PS. I was recently informed that it is just about impossible to comment on my posts. I have tried to fix this. If it is still the case, please let me know so that I can try harder. If you are trying to comment and it isn't working, feel free to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, April 8, 2011
I remember it well, the first time that I picked up Apples for Jam. It was the first time that my mother and I were eating out at Cafe Delicieux - a cafe that had opened up the road from our house. I sat down on a grey pouffe in amongst the delicate paper pattern decorations (depicting gardens filled with fauna and flora) and chandeliers. This was not somewhere to come for your everyday cuppa Joe. This was a treat in itself. We opened the menus and scanned the delicious sounding options before setting on some drinks and a sandwich to share. While we waited for our meal, Mom picked up a magazine and I, not really in the mood for a magazine, picked up the first book that appealed to me. I think it was the cover that perked my interest, the bright red shoes on little feet, the delicately detailed embossment on the cover that could only be seen when you looked at it out of the corner of your eye. I picked it up and opened to the introduction:
The line captured me. From that moment I was hooked. I wanted to page through the recipes and memories at a frantic pace, try to take it all in and remember everything word for word, but before I knew it, our food had arrived and I was not even halfway into the Red section. I reluctantly put the book down, but remembered the name so that I could look it up the next time I was in Exclusive Books. Apples for Jam became my personal motto. Apples for Jam, I repeated to myself over and over again. It became my aim, my philosophy, my ideal. If there was one cookbook that I was going to buy, I said to myself, Apples for Jam would be it. And then I entered Exclusive Books and, amazingly, came across the book almost immediately. It stood out from the rest. It called to me. I gingerly stroked the spine and carefully removed it from it's shelf. And then put it straight back after a momentary glance at the price. There was no way that I could afford to pay R500 for a cookbook, especially since I didn't do all that much cooking.This is food for families, for young people, for old people, for children, for the child in all... for life.
Over the next few years, I searched for Apples for Jam in every book shop I went into. I found sales on other Tessa Kiros books (Tessa Kiros, of course, being the woman responsible for my addiction), but never Apples for Jam. Years passed and I could never justify buying the book for myself. And then, before I left Cape Town to come to Grahamstown (after my year in Korea), I got given a gift voucher for Exclusive Books. It was a particularly generous voucher, a birthday present from my grandparents, and within moments I had decided what I would spend it on. It wouldn't cover the whole book, no. But I was prepared to put in the difference and made my way to Exclusive, straight to the cooking aisle, and there it was, where it had always been, still calling me and drawing me towards it. I took it to the counter and, after a bit of rude service from the sales assistant that fortunately didn't manage to deter me from my purchase, I left with the book in hand.
It was still a good few hours of shopping, window shopping and driving before I could finally be alone with the book. I gingerly opened the cover once more and, skipping the introduction this time, wanting to jump straight in, started devouring the pages that the book had to offer. The book itself is divided into colours rather than food types - Red, Orange, Yellow, Pink, Green, Gold, White, Brown, Monochrome, Stripes and Multicolour - to symbolise the colour that the food will turn out to be. In Red, for example, you will find a number of recipes that use a large amount of tomato or berries; in Orange you will find foods that use pumpkins, butternuts, oranges, apricots and numerous other orange ingredients; while in brown you will find a number of baking bits and pieces - cakes, breads, etc. Though it does make it a little difficult to find specific recipes if you know what it is that you are looking for, I thought that it added a childlike, sweet quality to the book. At the start of each chapter you will find a memory attached to that colour, and Kiros weaves stories at the start of each individual recipe, turning it into more than just a cookbook, but a small window into her own world.
I have not yet endeavoured to cook any of the recipes that are hidden in the book. I am saving that for a special occasion or for a very specific craving. But I completely intend to indulge in almost every recipe in the book, as I haven't found a single one that doesn't make my mouth start to water - from Chocolate and Cranberry Biscuits, to Wholemeal Apricot and Apple Pie, to Angel Hair Pasta with Zucchini, Mint and Feta and beyond. I can hardly hold myself back!
My question for you today is this: What one book have you been eyeing for ages?
Thursday, April 7, 2011
From the moment that Jamie (Jake) meets Maggie (Anne) while pretending to be a doctor, you know that they are going to hook up, but you have no idea how since Maggie almost instantly realises the truth and seems repulsed by Jamie's audacity. And yet, even after Maggie practically beats him to within an inch of his life (OK, so I'm exaggerating, but only by a little), he still perseveres and they quickly end up together in a relationship based on lust and fueled by Maggie's scramble to live life to the fullest while she can.
The first half of the film is packed with one-liners that got me every time and had me in stitches for a large part of the movie. I thought that the writers were absolutely brilliant and played on the fragility and fun of the relationship very well. The fact that the movie had a large amount of nudity did surprise me quite a lot, as I had never really pictured Anne Hathaway as the type to go full-frontal for the camera, but as long as you go in there expecting it, it tends to add to the hilarity rather than take away from it, and the fact that a large part of the movie revolves around sex (what with Jamie's job being to sell Viagra and Maggie stipulating that their relationship should remain purely physical), it seems kind of appropriate. My favourite part of the movie was the list of puns that Maggie comes up with when Jake comes home to tell her about the new product that he is selling (Viagra). I wish that I could find a quote for this on the internet, but for some reason or another, there seems to be no account of it anywhere, If you watch the movie though, you will know exactly which part I am referring to.
The seriousness of the movie starts to set in around the halfway mark when Maggie's condition starts to deteriorate and their relationship starts becoming more serious, which is exactly what Maggie was trying to avoid. As she is forced to come to terms with the idea of living with Parkinsons and the idea of having to rely on someone else for the rest of her life, Jamie steps up to the plate and offers himself to her, just about giving up his job in order to help her find some kind of cure or preventative measure. This leads to their relationship falling to pieces, something that Maggie had predicted from the start. Of course, no romantic comedy would be complete without a happy ending, and this one is no exception. The happy ending is, in fact, what I believe keeps this movie classified as a romantic comedy, as without it, I think the movie could only be defined as a romance or a drama despite the comedic relief throughout the first half of the film.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Love and Other Drugs and would certainly recommend it as a girls-night or a couples movie, as there is something in it for everyone. As I said earlier, do be prepared for a large amount of nudity (I, personally, had no issue with oggling a naked Jake Gyllenhaal and I am sure many men will say the same of Anne Hathaway) and a fair amount of crude humour, but also be prepared for a fun-filled movie with a large splash of drama spread throughout.
My question for today (just for fun): Which actor/actress would you want to see doing a nude scene?
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
One of the places that I feel I haven't gotten to know nearly well enough is Johannesburg. When people think of South Africa, the first two cities that generally come to mind are Johannesburg and Cape Town, and yet I have only ever been to Joburg twice, and have never done any real exploring on either of those occasions. The first time was spent driving through the outskirts of the city to get to Sun City and the second time was mostly spent in Benoni and the towns that lie just outside of Johannesburg. This is why I was kind of looking forward to heading there last weekend.
It was Sam's twenty-first (Sam being Grant's sister) and Grant's dad had been kind enough to buy us each a ticket to come down for the occasion. The event itself was on a Friday, which meant that Grant had to work a half-day and we started on our way to the airport at 12:15. The check-in for our flight closed at 13:35. We could totally make it. We all climbed into the car and started on our way to the highway.
We needed to fetch Grant's jacket from the drycleaner.
Slam on brakes.
12:30 and we were back on the road again, speeding a little but not too badly. Just trying to catch up on some lost time. The tunes were pumping, we were all singing along. Everything was hunky dorey and we were making good time. And then...
Slam on brakes.
Procession of cars in front of us held up by two different trucks, both going ridiculously slowly.
This procession lasted for at least half an hour and when we finally managed to overtake, there was no doubt about it. We were going to be late.
Shaun (Grant's brother) tried to phone the airline and check-in over the phone, but alas, no such luck. 1Time does not allow for check-ins over the phone. We had no choice but to hightail it there and try not to get caught by any of the notorious Port Elizabeth speed cameras. Thankfully, we arrived at the airport with about five minutes to spare and Shaun ran to the queue to hold our places while I carried the luggage and Grant parked the car. With about a minute to spare, we checked into the flight and went straight through security and onto the plane.
Sighs of relief were breathed.
The flight to Johannesburg was quite an entertaining one in itself as Grant and I eavesdropped on the argument that Shaun started with the religious girl sitting next to him about how stupid and pointless and unreasonable religion was. Shaun is, of course, an atheist. We merely sat behind him shaking our heads and trying to pretend not to know him, giggling at the look on the flight attendant's face when she realised what they were talking about. Evidently, she agreed that this was not a conversation that should be had in the middle of a flight with no way to leave.
Once we had arrived in Joburg and were on solid ground once more, we made our way to the venue for the 21st and immediately started setting up - blowing up balloons and placing them at all of the tables; setting up the main meal, dessert and tea areas and getting the spit-braai started. A couple of hours later, we finally arrived at the house and had to start getting ready immediately for the party that was to come. Dressing up in the dress that I had worn for my own 21st (since the theme was the same), we quickly got ready and made our way back to the venue to carry on getting things ready. Once the guests started arriving, the birthday girl started calming down. The disaster of the chocolate fountain and the DJs who had neglected to bring her music and had replaced it with their own doof-doof alternatives were quickly forgotten and she slowly started having fun. The rest of the night went smoothly with dinner being served (a perfect spit), toasts being made and alcohol being drunk. Needless to say, Sam and her boyfriend both ended up getting completely sloshed, with the boyfriend taking the brunt of the beating at the hands of his father who wanted to "raise the boy's tolerance." He ended up spending the night hugging the toilet in Grant's spare bathroom and retching non-stop until about 9am.
Saturday morning greeted a number of hungover individuals (me not being one of them) and Grant and I sat around playing Boggle with Shaun and Rob (Grant's dad) until about 12:45, when we decided that we should probably start getting ready if we were going to meet my cousin for lunch at 1:30. We quickly got showered, dressed and freshened up and were on the road by 1. Unfortunately, we hadn't been on it long before we hit some major traffic. Traffic on a Saturday morning? That's Joburg for you apparently! We hadn't been in the traffic for long when Grant noticed the little orange light blinking out of the corner of his eye.
"Uh... we have no petrol."
Forty-five minutes later, we were still well stuck in the traffic with no sign of it relieving and the car was starting to feel like it would stall any minute. After an hour in traffic (and being half an hour late already) we finally found an exit and only just made it to the petrol station on time.
Phew. One less thing to worry about. Now we just had to get to the restaurant where Daniel would have already been waiting for half an hour.
After driving through the centre of Joburg only to turn onto a different highway and go in the opposite direction, we finally found ourselves nearing Waverley and quickly found the restaurant that Daniel was waiting at. After a quick introduction to his friend, Danielle, we went into the restaurant to get some food from the buffet only to find that (thanks to the late hour) there was hardly any of it left. Despite this, we paid R200 for a couple of small plates of food and then went on our way. Not wanting to go our separate ways quite yet, we decided to head to Zoo Lake where we had fun watching the geese (and the people attempting to feed them) and went on a boatride on the lake where Grant decided it would be HILARIOUS to row us into the fountain. None of us were particularly impressed, least of all Daniel who practically jumped out of the boat to stop himself getting wet. When we got off, we decided to go for a quick walk around the lake and then headed back to our cars.
On the drive back to Grant's house, we couldn't help but notice the number of Jews that we were passing, walking on their way to shul (synagogue).
"Wouldn't it be funny if Gina lived in this area?"
We were going to be seeing Gina later that night so that I could see where she lived, meet her fiance and get the material for my dress (me being a bridesmaid and all). We shrugged off the question, figuring that Joburg was a big place and she probably stayed in one of the other Jewish areas - there had to be quite a few, we were sure. When I phoned Gina after sundown and she told me that she lived in Oaklands, I figured it probably wasn't the place we had driven through earlier. I had seen numerous signs there telling me that we were in Glenhazel, not Oaklands. As we got into the car and the Garmin started pointing us in the same direction, we started getting suspicious. When we started seeing sites that we had passed hours earlier, we knew that our earlier suspicions weren't too far off. Oaklands was, in fact, pretty close to Glenhazel. It was too bad that we hadn't been able to contact Gina earlier and spend more time with her during the day.
After meeting with Gina at a petrol station (she didn't know her address, having recently moved), we travelled together to the apartment that her and her fiancee will be living in when they get married in two month's time. As she had only moved in days before, the apartment was in a bit of a state, but that was to be expected, and it didn't take away from the awesomeness of the place itself. Grant immediately fell in love with the giant TV that Joel had insisted they buy, and while he studied it carefully, Gina and I slipped into the bedroom where she showed me the material and design of my bridesmaid dress. I instantly fell in love with it and can't wait to have it made! After showing us around and changing out of her shul clothes, it was time for some food and we headed to Great Burgers - a Kosher burger place in Glenhazel itself. It was only the second time that Grant had had a Kosher meal, and despite his teasing on the way that he was just dying for a cheese burger (Jews cannot eat meat and milk together, so cheese burgers are a serious no-no), his Kosher burger did seem to exceed his expectations. After dinner, we had a quick tour of the neighbourhood, seeing where Gina's old apartment was, where she works, driving past the Yeshiva Academy that I heard so much about during my high school years and finally showing me where Joel works. Since Joel caters events like batmitzvahs and there was one happening that night, he was at work and I got a chance to go in and meet him even though he was ridiculously busy and not too up to chatting. In any case, it was nice to finally meet the guy that one of my best friends is going to marry, even if it was only for a minute or two and even if it did feel excessively awkward standing amongst people in their Saturday best with me in a pair of tracksuit pants and a t-shirt. As we drove Gina back to her apartment, her and I discussed some of the wedding plans. Since I have to make my way to Joburg for the event, I needed to know when to book my flights. Gina calmly informed me that her bachelorette is being planned for 8 days before the wedding, which set me into a bit of a tizzy since I will hopefully have found work by then and can't really take off that much time, nor fork out that much money for accommodation if I don't have a job. But despite this little hiccup, I am really looking forward to coming down to see my HSBFF (High School Best Friend Forever) get hitched. We arrived back at Grant's place without too much difficulty and before his parents did, as they had been at a Neil Diamond concert, and chatted abit with Shaun and Grant's dad and stepmom (when they arrived) before calling it a night and heading to bed. We had to be up early the next morning after all.
Sunday morning dawned and we all packed into the car with the bags that Grant and I had shared at the back and started making our way to the airport. After a quick breakfast at Mugg and Bean and a hurried goodbye, our trip to Joburg was drawn to a close. Even after spending a weekend properly travelling around it, I still feel like I hardly know the city, and I don't think I am the only one. I think you have to have lived in Joburg for a long time to consider yourself knowledgable enough to say that you know the city. But I can tell you what I do know - what with the traffic and the size of the city itself, I am rather glad that I don't live there.
Monday, April 4, 2011
I always look forward to birthdays. I am not one of those people who believe that a birthday is just another day. If anything, I am one of those who believe that everyday should be like a birthday - everyday should be a celebration of the fact that you are alive! Of course, no one has the time or the patience to make everyday a celebration, so when my birthday comes around, I tend to look forward to putting in the effort on this one day of the year.
The days leading up to this year's birthday were a little different. I wasn't getting excited. I wasn't looking forward to anything. It was as though I was trying to keep my expectations low so as not to be disappointed when things didn't work out. Because you know, of course, that nothing ever works out like you had imagined it. I also could picture my birthday turning out like last year's - with me lying in bed, sick and alone with a cake to eat and no one to eat it with. Needless to say, it completely sucked, and I didn't want to get all excited only to have it suck again. And so, the night before my birthday, despite Grant's attempts at cheering me up, I happened to be a little depressed and not the best company at all. I had an early night.
I woke up ridiculously early in the morning for no apparent reason, and my waking was shortly followed by Grant waking up beside me to sing me a happy birthday.
"Do you want to see your present?"
"Ooh," I said, perking up a little. "Yes, please!"
I was pretty sure that I knew what I was getting. Months before, I had pointed out a boardgame (Mind Trap) that I thought would be cool but that I could only find online. When, weeks before, Grant had told me that my birthday present had arrived, I knew that it had to be something that he had ordered online and prepared myself for the inevitability of getting this game as my present. As Grant passed me the present, I couldn't help thinking that it was rather smaller than I had imagined. And rather lighter too. As I carefully peeled off the sticky tape and revealed the cardboard box underneath, I was utterly confused. This wasn't what I had expected. I stared at the plain cardboard for a good minute or two before I noticed the black label on the top that read: "Amazon kindle". I doubt that you have ever seen anyone get as excited as I did in that moment. It was honestly the last thing that I had expected to get, and the prospect of bringing it with me to Johannesburg and showing it off to everyone that I passed was just too much to bear. Needless to say, my birthday was off to a good start.
After seeing Grant off to work, I took my time getting ready for the day, choosing a dress to wear that I wasn't able to fit into when I left South Africa in order to celebrate the day in a bit of a special way. Then it was off to the bank. Not the ideal place to spend a birthday, but the world doesn't stop when you want it to and there were people to be paid and arrangements to be made. Thankfully there wasn't too much of a queue and the teller, though a little rude, I thought, was mostly helpful. After finishing up there, it was back home with me, and I had barely gotten there when I got a message from Grant saying that a package had arrived for me. A very special package. A package that I knew was supposed to have arrived in Grahamstown before I did, and had chosen this very day, my extra special day, to pitch up. This package was my birthday present from Korea, sent from my awesome KBFF Amy. The contents included, but were not limited to a most awesome t-shirt that read: "And when you smile the whole world stops and stares for awhile because you are amazing". As I said, this was not the only awesome thing in my package, but I still think that it is my absolute favourite part of it!!
After picking up my package, it was back to lounging around for awhile. I couldn't really make any plans for the day itself, as Ashlea was coming through to Grahamstown and I wasn't sure what time she would be arriving. And so, a few hours were spent doing nothing much around the house until Grant arrived home and I simultaneously received a call telling me that Ashlea had arrived in town. After attempting to give Ashlea some terrible, TERRIBLE directions (and reminding myself that I should no longer count myself as a local after not being in the town for a year and a half), Grant and I went to find her and bring her back to our place where she was to spend the night.
A couple of beers for Grant, Jono and Ash and a couple of glasses of wine for me later, we were off to the Rat and Parrot for a celebratory drink with Mike. We arrived at the Rat to find it absolutely packed with no tables available for us. Thankfully, we do have some pull with the manager, and Doodoo secured us two small tables placed together with the promise of attempting to find us one upstairs (in the smoking section) should one open up. Ash, not used to such crowds or to waiting so long for a drink pounced on the poor waitresses bearing our beverages before she even had a chance to put the drinks on the table, and this led to one of the beers crashing to the floor leaving us with a very angry waitress, a very apologetic Ashlea and a very thirsty Grant. As Ash said, however, this was probably the best way to start the night, as she was unlikely to have an accident like that again and at least it was now over and done with. She was all too right, and the rest of the night was spent eating delicious food, getting involved in brilliant conversations (even between Ash and Mike who I had pictured butting heads on more than one occasion despite Mike's remark that he was sure they would get on splendidly) and drinking. Though a headache threatened to ruin the night for me, Doodoo saved the day once again by securing me some Aspirin, and before long I was back to drinking happily.
Once dinner was done, Ash insisted that we move upstairs where she could smoke to her hearts content, and we found ourselves some seats at the bar. This was possibly not the best idea, as it meant that Ash could quickly order shooters without my even noticing what was going on, and by the end of the night there had been Susans (Tequila, Cape Velvet, Blue Cuarico and something else), Ponchos (coffee tequila), Pina Coladas, Malibu, Purple Turtles (Apple Sours and Potency) and an assortment of other shots that I do not know the names of and do not care to remember. I was also taught a number of new ways to say cheers and a new way to drink shots that I am really rather fond of. By midnight I was utterly out of it and we all decided that it was about time to go home.
We arrived at home and Ash and I made ourselves comfortable on the couches while Grant passed around another round of beers. Music played in the background and we all chilled around with none of us really being ready for bed. Suddenly, Ashlea pulled from her bag a nightmarish device known as a lip-tint stick and the worst part of the night commenced. When I woke up the next morning, with a headache and a full memory of the night's events, it was to legs and arms covered in lip-tint (which was rather harder to get off than either of us had imagined) and Ash was far worse off with her stomach and back also having taken a beating at the hand of the red stuff. Each of us spent a good half hour (at least) in the shower trying to get the stuff off of us, and even after scrubbing at it with exfoliant, a red tint still remained on my skin to show where the marks had been. Ash had it far worse off - even four days later, her stomach still read "ET phone home" and her belly button looked like it was a giant bruise.
In anycase, the day ended up being a rather perfect birthday celebration, made extra special by Grant, Amy and Ashlea and their mutual awesomeness. Thanks so much guys! I thought I would end this post off with my favourite of the new cheers that I was taught.
The furthest, the nearest, the highest the lowest. I watch it, it doesn't blink. I smell it, it doesn't stink. So who the fuck says I may not drink it?