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Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

 

“Congratulations! You’ve reached the next step in the citizenship process.”

This was the email that suddenly appeared in my inbox late yesterday. It came from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. There was an initial rush of excitement. We were almost there. It meant there was just one more appointment with the authorities.

Within the next month we would be singing…..Oh Canada!

I slept badly which surprised me as I thought the news of the previous day would send me into a soporific dreamland. Somewhere through my wakeful periods and my jumbled dreams came these uncomfortable thoughts. They were thoughts of failure, abandonment and being disloyal. Was I being disloyal by taking on the citizenship and culture of another country? It seemed fortuitous but I then received a message from a dear friend to say she was standing outside what she thought was my family home in Stellenbosch. The tears just rolled down my cheeks. So many happy family memories and the faces of the people that I love filled my mind. I still love South Africa and the Western Cape and all that goes with that…..

Please don’t think that I need you to feel sorry for me, I certainly do not. This was all my own doing. But have you any idea how hard this is? I have knowingly left behind 60 years of all that is familiar, my history, my dear friends and estranged family members. Family often take strain with this whole process too as they feel that you have run from your responsibilities. But my responsibility had to be firstly to my immediate family. Fortunately I knew my parents understood that and they gave me their blessing.

I have allowed myself to be sad today. I mourn the life I once had in South Africa and the people that I love back there. When the time comes, I will sing the Canadian Anthem with pride but the gentle words of Nkosi Sikeleli will play a soft tune in the background of my mind.

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I never thought it would come to this! The art of serving up a culinary delight that you could feast your eyes on, is no more. No salivating over the presentation of a delicious plate of pasta dressed with olive oil and fresh basil. No, this is to be a thing of the past.

Do you recall the Science fiction thriller Soylent Green? It was produced in 1973 and it won 2 awards for its brilliance. While I am not partial to anything ‘Sciffie’ myself this movie however, had a profound effect on me. Way back then issues like the Greenhouse Effect, pollution, overpopulation and depleted resources were all part of this thought provoking movie. It was definitely a movie way ahead of its time. The one aspect that haunted me over the years was the substitute used for food. It was a tablet that had been produced from euthanised people!

What a frightening thought that the human race might have to resort to this!

A whole new experience….

I gingerly put my hand up to my mouth. Can I do this? ‘It’ had been disguised in a round ball filled with safe ingredients like oats, honey and coconut. But the ‘it’ bit was the worrying part of this suspicious wannabe truffle.

I had to remind myself of the many benefits of the ‘it’ ingredient in these deceitful little morsels. They have twice as much protein as beef (gram for gram), contain vitamin B12….which I am assured is excellent for my brain health. This is comforting as the threat of dementia looms…..a real concern as one starts to forget all the proper nouns in your vocabulary. ‘It’ also has plenty of calcium, far more than milk. That should please all the celiac sufferers out there.

So what is this magical food? I hesitate to tell you but here goes. It is none other than CRICKETS!

My skin crawled when I thought of dangling this six- legged creature into my mouth. I could hear the crunch of the exoskeleton and could feel the spikes on their back legs rough against my tongue. The idea of putting an insect into my mouth made me crawl!. As an ex Biology teacher I have spent hours studying and observing these little creatures. The last thing that I ever contemplated was popping one into my mouth! Oh how we need to adapt to change!

But all is not lost. This amazing new food source has produced a consumer friendly product. It is available in powder form and can be added into many different recipes to boost the protein content.

Imagine your favourite biscuit recipe with the added bonus of this extra nutrition. It certainly lessens the guilt. Greenies will also be pleased to know that using crickets as a source of protein is environmentally friendly.

Yes, crickets are easy to breed and are happiest in a confined space. Condo-like structures are used as breeding stations. These undemanding creepy crawlies also require less water and eat very little. It makes for a cost effective business venture as well as a highly nutritious food source.

All I am left to do is put past prejudices away and is to sneak some past my family and into the morning smoothie…….

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Sitting in the morning sun……

Sun, glorious sun has finally arrived here on the West Coast! We have had continuous sunshine for over 2 weeks! We revel in it and the excitement is tangible. Everyone is outside. I soak up every opportunity to feel the warmth on my back. There is nothing better than a morning stroll along the boardwalk at the seafront. I watch the sea traffic out in the bay…..laden tankers, sleek yachts and majestic ocean liners. They glide by through the first narrows of the Burrard Inlet. Cheeky seaplanes swoop overhead and make their presence felt too. I have almost…..not entirely…forgiven Vancouver for the awful winter that we experienced this last year.

Watching the ships roll by….

Today was to be a different experience as I fancied to get closer to the water. I pulled my dusty bicycle out of storage and donned my ravishing helmet. The descent from our house is long and steep so I decided to NOT test the quality of my brakes. On the North Shore I jumped on the ferry.  My helmet irritated me as I hate the ‘hat- hair’ that it gives me. But this was definitely something that I was going to have to conform to. I tried to appear nonchalant, as if I done this many times before. But I stuck out like a sore thumb with my European Stroller with the basket on the front……in retrospect I am sure no one even noticed me! I must add that the cyclists I encountered that day had either rugged or very sleek bikes along with the most up to date bike attire. This was obviously a very serious sport!

On the seawall at Stanley Park

“You are being ridiculous!” I chastised myself and turned my attention to the view from the ferry across the bay.

It took me 2 hours to get from the city around Stanley Park and back with a few pit stops along the route. The pathway followed the seawall for most of the way. There were plenty of other bikers as this was obviously a favourite outride.

“On your left.” The cyclists shouted as they appeared from behind me. This unnerved me at first but I soon became accustomed to the ‘rules of the road.’ It was heavenly to breathe in the fresh sea air and to feel the cool breeze on my face. The bay was a hive of activity. I had to concentrate on where I was going as I was distracted by all the sea traffic.

The noon horn blew and it was time to stop for lunch. I sat at a sidewalk café with a wonderful vista over the yacht club. It was a sensory overload with some people watching thrown in for good measure.

Two thousand miles I roam just to make this dock my home….

There are times when I have to pinch myself. Where am I living? Yes, I am in Vancouver. During these times I reflect back on my life back in South Africa……for a minute on that seawall, I was racing down the hill from the Lonehill Koppie down to my school. But I return to reality…..

“It is time to head home.” My new Canadian friend had kept a watchful eye over this newbie on her bike adventure into the city. Thanks for showing me ropes! Little did I know there would be more to learn. I still needed to work out how to get my bike from the ferry onto the front of the bus. I was not about to attempt the hill ride up to our house.

There were limits to these exploits!

My bike has a new experience too……

 

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I got these fresh eyes, never seen you before like this…..

It is January and a time for a few New Year’s resolutions or just plain turning over a new leaf. I have never been partial to drawing up a list and then going on a guilt trip when one falls by the wayside. So instead I hope to look at my life and the people and places in it with a pair of ‘fresh eyes.’ I am not even sure what it could entail although I have a few ideas up my sleeve.

One thing I hope to keep fresh in my heart is the gratitude I feel for my family. The Morkel clan are a strong group of individuals with definite opinions and ideas. One is reminded of this when they all come together over a holiday and we get to live under one roof. The family dynamic takes time to formulate as everyone has been living and running their lives independently. Then suddenly they are all back home and I have to remind myself that I have grown up children. I look around the table at our gorgeous brood…..and know that my job is done.

Time to look with fresh eyes......

Time to look with fresh eyes……

It’s like the first time when we open the door……

Those of you who follow my ramblings will have walked the road through our recent move to Vancouver and the rejuvenation process of a long in tooth 70’s style house.  Well this door is still open! The creative juices were fired into action when our new car began to slip down our steep driveway and into the garage! That was all we needed! We had only just replaced the two cars that had met their demise after their collision with a gigantic moose! The men rushed up to the road and came up with a plan. The wooden ‘chocks’ were brought out and our precious vehicle was propped up against them. Discussions ensued and plans of heated driveways, steel ramps and raised levels were bandied about. So there is sure to be a fresh look at how we access our house in the near future.

My God, you’re beautiful……..

We have a beautiful piece of riverine forest here in Vancouver but it comes with its responsibility and needs constant attention. There are branches that fall and leaves that block drain pipes. I would not have it any other way though…..As part of our revamp of the property, we called in the assistance of an arborist to assess our handsome trees. Regrettably we have to fell two old Hemlocks. They stood tall at the entrance to the house for the last 80 years. These stately gentlemen are diseased and threaten to fall on our newly renovated house. Can you imagine it? After all the toil of these last few months, I shudder at the thought. Hopefully we can honour them in some way. Possibly a useful bench made from their wood positioned in the place where their roots once grew. So I will be needing my fresh eyes and possibly a fresh back as I tame and enhance my forest garden.

Its human nature to miss what is under your nose……

The beauty of the Vancouver mountains still makes my heart leap. Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and the Lions Peaks are all in my view as I drive back up from the North Shore. I see their rugged snow-capped peaks and I have to pinch myself. I actually do live here.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

 

 

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I got this feeling inside my bones……

Starting again is a great leveler. It takes courage to try something new whether it be a new career path or to move to a new country. But if you need to be brought down a peg or two, just move countries! All this newness makes you feel like a kid again. Whether it be in acquiring the rudimentary skills of making new friends of a different culture or learning to drive on the other side of the road. I still jump into the passenger side of the car and then creep out in case someone has spotted my idiotic act. It infuriates me that so much patterning has taken place in this brain of mine. Now I have to spend hours trying to reprogram this geriatric head!  So in order to survive I have had to learn to laugh. I laugh at myself and the mistakes I make.

Exploring our new terrain armed with the newly acquired 'big boy'  rain gear.

Exploring our new terrain armed with the newly acquired ‘big boy’ rain gear.

It goes electric, wavey when I turn it on….

As part of the LETS MAKE IT NEW AGAIN campaign we decided to buy an old house and to blow new life into it. Would I do this again if I had the choice? Not easily…..but I have learnt some home truths about myself through this whole process. I have mastered the art of just GETTING ON WITH LIFE while the walls tumble and shake around me. I find a small unused space and just get on with ‘it.’  Bear in mind that at times there are at times 4 different workmen here all going for it in various corners of the house. Once settled into my little cocoon I am able to shut out the world, turn on my computer and just get on with my writing. I do have the odd day when I just feel crazy and cannot handle another buzz or clunk. I grab poor old Josh and go and pound the pavements. Thankfully there are not too many of those days.

The other art that I have mastered is the one where there is A LACK OF PRIVACY. I am gregarious by nature so I do enjoy having people around me. On one particular day last week I had found refuge from all the clanging and banging in my bedroom. It was cold as the central heating was also part of the upgrade and had not been hitched up yet. I tucked myself up under a throw with my long suffering canine companion. He is taking major strain with all this noise and sometimes just sits and whimpers. Softie that I am, I now have him sleeping at the foot of our bed and at times he lets out a yelp. Who knows what those dreams are about……a bear chase or possibly a pneumatic drill?   Anyway to get back to my solitary pursuit. I managed to bash away on my computer for a while. But it was too good to be true, my tranquillity was to be invaded. This was all in the name of the barn door installation and was to be placed between the master suite and the bathroom. I was excited by this as I could see some of my ideas being implemented. So much energy had been put into more of the manly interests like a workshop, heating and lighting. I did see the reasoning behind all these upgrades and I was not wildly enthused by it all. So the installation of the said door continued. Before too long the other members of the team arrived and I had 3 young men in my bedroom. They admired the new addition and chatted about the building plans for the coming weeks. Suddenly my eyes noticed my black feather boa that I had tossed across the mirror when I had unpacked yet another box that morning. I am not sure why but I felt a hint of embarrassment. I had used it for a fancy dress occasion a few months before. I then wondered what else might be lying around in my bathroom…. My laundry basket was overflowing as the washing machine had been disconnected to attach a few more pipes. What secrets were about to be revealed? They were all young enough to be my sons so I shrugged this one off quickly.

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My girlie laundry in the process of transition searching madly for her inner beauty!

I got that sunshine in my pocket, got that good soul in my feet…..

The most important art that I feel I am well on my way to mastering is the one of PATIENCE. I think the builders might differ on this one. There are days when they can sock it to me with all the sorry tales of delays and I am gracious and understanding. Then there are other days when the ‘ crazy’ just rears its head and I just can’t handle another mishap. Then the inner child escapes and I go off at a tangent. But all too soon we reach a compromise and things are brought on track again. Thanks go to Adrian, Nico and Angela. I think I will have to invent some award for this category as I feel I have earned my stripes!

I am practicing my happy dance………the end of this renovation is in sight.

Nothing like a cup of coffee and a croissant when the going gets tough....

Nothing like a cup of coffee and a croissant when the going gets tough….

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Life is older than the trees…..

My canvas bush hat is pulled right down over my eyes. I peer up at the grey skies and the drizzle wets my face. The hot water swirls up against me and the warmth soothes. This is hot tubbing Vancouver style. Sometimes we resort to the protection of a golf umbrella. We jump into said hot tub and prop up this useful apparatus. There is some skill attached to getting the angle just right. This alleviates the possibility of icy rain drops trickling down one’s back. Then all that is left to do, is to indulge in our daily medicinal ritual. There has to be a way of beating this weather at its game!

Here's to acclimatisation....

Here’s to acclimatisation….

The wild storm had raged on through the night. We lay and listened to the pine cones that crashed and hit the skylights.  Our forest succumbed and branches flew off and tumbled down the embankment. The eco-friendly ‘green roof’ was thick with its carpet of leaves.

 

“Please tell me, honestly……does it rain like this all the time?”

My new friend looked at me long and hard. She drew in a deep breath and paused. I think she was trying to decide whether she should give me the information in the form of a ‘white lie’ or whether I could handle the truth. It was to be the latter……

“It rains pretty much all the time….. till March.”

My heart sunk. Minus temperatures are one thing but soggy rainy days are another!

Almost instantaneously I felt a surge of energy. Survival mode kicked in and ideas rushed into my head. How would I manage these endless soggy rainy days? But a plan began to formulate…..

I am always partial to a spot of clothes shopping. I had recently eyed a rather fetching shiny navy spotted raincoat. I could envisage it with the rain drops sliding off its gleaming surface. I had pushed this rather frivolous idea into the far reaches of my brain. After all the recently acquired sensible khaki one would have to suffice. But that was 3 weeks ago, before the harsh reality of the Vancouver winters had set in.

So it is off to the shops for me. I do hope that the little spotted number is still around. In fact I think my green fishing wellies could do with an update!

Fishing wellies ready for an update....

Fishing wellies ready for an update….

Our creek is filling up after the rains.

Our creek is filling up after the rains.

 

 

 

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I must stay conscious
Through the madness and chaos…….

 

“You do know that the rain never stops in Vancouver!”

It was move- in day and true to form, it bucketed down. Soggy people and boxes filled the front doorway. The movers lurched down our four flights of stairs and the piles of boxes steadily climbed towards the skylights.

“Where would you like this?”

I looked up from my pile of paper in the kitchen.

“I really don’t know! Find a space……anywhere.” I wanted to weep.

Boxes,boxes everywhere and no inch to spare....

Boxes,boxes everywhere and no inch to spare….

So I call on my angels….

I lay and listened to the loud squawk of the Steller’s jay and the deep blast of the cruise ship’s horn that resonated from the harbour. My brain was still trying to process ‘all that is new’ from my unfamiliar environment. These sounds sooth the jaded unpacker’s weary muscles. I decide to lie just another 10 minutes. I can see down to the river from my uncurtained bedroom window. I jump up and open the door onto the balcony…..just a fraction. Enough to keep the cool morning air out and to let in the sounds of the bubbling stream. It is still too early for our grey heron who has regular fishing trips along our banks. He must be having a lie in too! I have begun to recognise the clicking hoop of his call and the enthusiasm of his flapping wings through the giant cedar trees.

Our resident Stella's jay...the national bird of BC.

Our resident Stella’s jay…the national bird of BC.

The ceremonial placing of my African pot that has traveled the high seas....

The ceremonial placing of my African pot that has traveled the high seas….

I won’t just conform
No matter how you shake my core
……
My days disappear as I fill them with trying to create some order out of this chaos. I am making headway with the unpacking of boxes and am slowly becoming an expert at discarding unwanted clutter. Yes, I am still at it! My heart has hardened and am able to toss that favourite scarf or special ornament. This is round two of my clear out session! Hopefully the thrift shop will find a home for all these once ‘special things’ that have no place in our downsized abode. Fortunately we still have a Black Hole which runs under the house. It is slowly filling up with the camping gear, Christmas decorations and seasonal items like the skis. I hesitate to place anything there. It is dark and awful and I hate going down there! It feels like any piece of furniture or box that gets put down in the hole, is being committed to a stint in solitary confinement.

Josh on his morning fishing expedition....

Josh on his morning fishing expedition at our river.

Victory is in my veins…..

Nature reminds me of the rhythms that surrounds me. I feed off the familiarity in the sounds of the birds and the consistency of the flow of the river. Some things don’t change.

The view across the bay from the north shore quay...with some tech assistance.

The view across the bay from the north shore quay…with some tech assistance!

 

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