25th May 2014, the Stewarts arrived in Cape Town.
Pronounced “shore,” without the ‘re’ bit, said quickly, with exhalation of breath. Don’t tell me you can’t learn Afrikaans on this blog. It means… geez, wow, jeepers, crikey Moses, good grief, oh my hat, blimey, golly, crumbs! One year. Can you believe it. It is very surreal in that it seems we’ve been here a lifetime at the same time that it feels like we just arrived. Winter is beginning and the vineyards are in their fall colours; oranges, reds and yellows, beautiful. When we arrived in Cape Town, the vineyards were all stumps. Not a green thing on them, let alone a juicy grape. That full circle is very similar to our year here. I feel like we arrived as stumps. Yeah, not very poetic, sorry. Not a lot of life in us, but a whole lot of potential, given the right conditions. And at the end of the year, I feel like we are producing life again. At last! And to celebrate our very first anniversary in Cape Town, herewith an analysis of Things We Have Learned. (Not in order of when they were learned, or importance either.)
Walking around barefoot will not (always) kill you.
This is a big one for us city folk. Harare was still a city, you know, and because we could never afford the bush holidays at tourist rates, we weren’t really ‘bush’ people. So to go into a mall, a bank, or (horror of all horrors) a restaurant barefoot, struck our hearts with mortal fear. Except for Aiden. He thinks it’s the coolest thing, and will get away with it whenever
he’s bloody disobedient we’re not looking. Cape Town is not just casual. It is Super Casual. My two pairs of heels, trousers, and jackets have remained unworn for one year. It’s all tracksuits, trainers, sweats and zipper hoodies here, dude. All day, at church or mall. The mindset of rather be overdressed is in reverse…rather go in flip flops and jeans/shorts, dude, so you blend in. Anyway, this leads to the fact that a lot of the time, people don’t even bother to put shoes on. I have evidence. And in obtaining evidence, I have become a very good photographer-without-anyone-knowing.
My most unthinkable, however, happened in a beachside restaurant. Heath and I were on date night, and decided to do an evening walk (lean into the wind and move your feet) on the beach followed by a trendy, casual (duh) restaurant with live music and draft beer on tap (for him, not me). It makes us feel young. The live music, not the beer. ANYWAY, it was a great vibe (pron. vaaaaaaaaarrrb) and we were having a fantastic time. THEN a Dad came walking through the restaurant with his 3 year old-ish son. Barefoot. Both of them. THEY WERE GOING TO THE LOO. We happened to be sitting in the section near the toilets, and the whole restaurant fell quiet. I even saw jaws drop on other tables and everyone in the place stopped to see what would happen. The little boy stood on something squishy with his heel, and looked back to see what it was. It was a UFO (Unidentifiable Food Object) and yet he carried on…… The tension remained until they came out the swing doors again, still looking like humans, and they made it all the way back to their tables without convulsions, or an outbreak of lesions, or scales growing out their backs. So I figured, not all barefoot people will die from being barefoot. Amazing.
Toenails take time.
When you drop a couch on your big toe when moving into your new home, it will take a full year to turn black, look gruesome, fall off, look weird, grow back looking gross the whole way, and then begin to look normal. See, vineyard analogy would apply here too. No photos, you’ll be pleased to hear.
Little fish will be okay in a big pool.
When you take them from their tiny, comfortable, protected, minimal exposure environment and put them in the turbulent sea, filled with mean fish and little-fish-eating predators, and demand of and expect from and pressurise them, they will be okay. Their parents, however, will spend much time praying and crying. But I think that when the parents swim closely by, guiding, talking, reasoning and getting in their faces when they spend too much time on their phones, or dare to use sentences at home that the bullies are using, then everyone grows, and adapts healthily. The one word I can use to describe this whole process of adaptation for the Stewarts is BATTLEFIELD. We have had to fight for our rights to paaaarrrtyy. No, sorry, that’s not what I meant to say. We had to fight for our kids. Yes, that’s it. DEEP, hard ‘well, what-do-YOU-think’ discussions about why we believe what we do, why other people are like they are, the horror of seeing so many broken homes, abuse and neglect around us, the terror of peer pressure and hoping you’ve put enough in your kids for them to STAND, 50 shades of nastiness, and the shock of girls on manhunts. Jeepers. Whilst it has not been easy, I have without doubt come to the conclusion that fighting is necessary. Yes, in prayer, but also in conversation, in fierce love, in pursuit; to ensure their hearts are doing okay, and they’re coping, and they’re doing what they should, and they’re growing up to be responsible and principled. Aiden has had to leave whattsapp groups simply because of the content some of the kids send (I was restrained from calling the kid and screaming at him, where’s your MOTHER??!!); Luke’s teacher has had to fend off several girls in the class who are keen on him (Grade 6?! Lord, help me) and he’s oblivious; Ethan is universally cute to everyone who meets him, and so we work on humility with him. Joshua has had to examine many principles he’s learned in theory and see if he really believes them enough to live by them.
Little fish can even do well in a big pond.
Aiden began High School at Fairmont his year, and has adapted so well. He excelled in the discus throw, beating huge Afrikaans boys (who weigh 3 Aidens and ate their first piece of boerwors at 4 months old) and placing 2nd in Interhouse competition, and then 7th in the Interschools. He overcame his paralysing nerves, and we are so proud of him. He’s joined the Adventure Society at Fairmont and went surfing last term, such a blast.
Joshua came 2nd in long jump at Interhouse competition, and in Interschools placed 1st in triple jump, and 2nd in long jump. He qualified for Inter-provincials where he placed 7th out of 38 in triple jump and 9th out of 25 in long jump. We LOVE those long legs!!
Ethan began hip hop lessons. This child has rhythm from on high, without a doubt. He is homey, cool and swagga rolled into one. Anyway, he had his first lesson at the beginning of the year, and I, his rhythm-less mother, full of trepidation, sat in on the first lesson to ensure there was no explicit music or crotch grabbing. There were about 40 kids, so it was circus-like, but fun. They asked if anyone wanted to try and freestyle a robot dance. Ethan, quivering with fear and nervousness…yeah, right. Ethan was 1 of 5 to volunteer and
swaggered went up to the front. From the 5, he was singled out to do a solo, which I’ve posted on FB. Can’t put it here, I’m not paying, you see, so I can’t load videos. I used my discreet filming ability once again, and restrained myself from running across the shiny polished dance floor, sliding to my knees, and yelling, that’s my kid!!(https://www.facebook.com/lea.stewart.73/videos/vb.100001974020110/829503890458737/?type=2&theater)
Luke knows just about every other child in Kenridge, a school comprising 1600 kids, and he knows their names and their stories, which we have to hear every day for a minimum of about 20 minutes. He loves school, and is doing so well. He even passed Afrikaans for goodness’ sake.
Rugby is addictive.
If you didn’t know that already. Luke and Ethan have begun to play this winter term, and it’s both terrifying and exhilarating. I mean, the words ‘gum guard’ are enough to put any mother over the edge. They are already covered in bruises, but so full of fire, and every weekend is spent watching rugby on TV in order to learn the rules, positions, etc. I am a rugby fan, yes (or I would die), yet I am struggling to NOT BE the tannie* who’s running up and down the sidelines screeching at the tiny children. I am almost popping out of my skin when they play. Even Aiden, after watching a match of Luke’s with me the other day was ready to run onto the pitch and plough through some kids in a mad frenzy of tackles, because it’s so frustrating watching your kid play, and get tackled or shoved. Heath has managed to come to a few matches too, and he is very self-controlled and calm. Maybe that’s because I’m digging into his arm with fear for my children, and he’s gritting his teeth through the pain. But he has helped the boys so much, and they go down to the fields on some afternoons to practice rugby skills. Luke is excellent at kicking and Ethan has natural rugby talent. Not natural rugby size, but talent plus zeal is more anyway. Sigh. What happened to my resolve that it was violin and piano for my boys instead of rugby?
*tannie [tunny] An Afrikaans word meaning “auntie”, but also used to refer to any older female of authority. It is common for these women to weigh a tun(ny).
Sea, clouds, nature, weather, and the surf report. I’m in awe.
Yup, every morning we get to hear the surf report. Still so novel to me. I had to write down so that I could actually quote what the dude said the one day. “Some okes even score waves on that side of the coast…” He needs his own version of Google Translate for Surftalk. He is the epitome of what a surfer dude sounds like. And they also talk about things like the carp derby. Who knew? I still scream when I see the sea. (And not an inside scream.) The wind is so funny to me, that when my car door nearly gets ripped off when I open it, I fall about laughing. It’s like a roller coaster ride here every day. Each day is different, and we’ve learned to completely ignore the weekly forecast. Trust only the one day forecast, everything else is guessing. The rest is in pictures. Never a dull day.
Cape Town is First World! No, I mean Third World. Wait, no….
They repaint the road names properly when they start to fade. You can still read them, but they repaint them anyway. And they plant lavender gardens on the street corners… First! Then they give you rolling blackouts (the fancy name for you-will-not-have-power-for-two-and-a-half-hours-its-your-turn-now) and you can’t cook or have tea… Third. And they had huge bush fires near the mountains, and in Stellenbosch, but amazingly the emergency services worked brilliantly for days, (including the 42ºC/108ºF day) to put the fires out. One helicopter pilot tragically died, but the response and organisation was First World. Except that the fires were started by vagrants, forensics show. Errrr, Third world. And xenophobia, plus idiotic immigration laws, and a second visa denial for a wonderful Zimbabwean woman married to a wonderful South African with 4 wonderful South African children makes it definitively Third world. Grr. We are going through the process of another appeal. Time, effort and money, yes, but better than a 3 month stint in Zimbabwe right now. Please pray for us.
Fortunately, we’re still Third World enough to have some domestic help. We have a cleaner who comes once a week (I live for Wednesdays, baby!) and she is a darling, the sweetest lady. She adores the boys, and if Ethan ever goes missing, we’ll check her home first. She clicks over him, and says, You’re the leeeettle one, hey? Aaah, mummy’s boy. I am very grateful to have her. And then once every 2 weeks we have a gardener come in, whose English is not great, he speaks Afrikaans. So Google Translate, thank you. But he can’t read either, so it’s down to my pronounciation. One day I needed to tell him to trim back a tree. A LITTLE bit. My mouth went mmmm and my brain said ‘mbichana!’ then my head spun, and then my mouth said ”n bietjie!’ and the gardener smiled and nodded and ‘n bietjie, ja, ‘n bietjie, we agreed. I was so proud of myself, saving the woodlands of Durbanville. I’m more Afrikaans than Shona, now. Bietjie. Pronounced biccie, like the ones you have with tea, for those of you living outside of the Boerwors Curtain (their term for the northern suburbs, where we live).
Cool people have concerts in Cape Town.
In October last year, I bought tickets for a Michael Buble concert, and then managed to keep the secret until Heath’s birthday in February. It was such a great experience for us. Our last concert was over 20 years ago, poor, underprivileged people that we are. What a vaaaaaarrrb.
An even better vaaarrrrb was a Bethel Worship Night that we went to. I can honestly say that I have never experienced worship like that in my life before. No show, no performance, just plain presence of God, and it was incredible. We took all the boys with us, so it was an awesome family memory.
One of my favourite Bethel songs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ykLMilX1CU
There IS a culture difference.
We have grown up with many holidays to South Africa, so we knew it well. However, sitting on its beaches and living in its suburbs are two very different things. We live in the Northern suburbs- more Afrikaans people, more orientated towards raising families, as opposed to the Southern suburbs which are more artsy, eclectic, cliquey (clique- a small close-knit group of people who do not readily allow others to join them; snobs). We have found that the friendliest people, the ones we have clicked (clicked, not cliqued) with the best are, for the most part, not original Capetonians. Port Elizabethans, Durbanites, even Johannesburgers (!) are proving to be really nice people! We have often found original Capetonians to be quite unfriendly. I’ve deduced (psychologist that I am) that we are so friendly because we are making a go of living here, making the best of things, making new friends, rejoicing in pink clouds and the bread aisle of grocery stores, and enjoying the beauty of life in general. I guess that’s what a move does for you. So it’s probably not a Capetonian thing as much as it is a fresh perspective on life in Cape Town. I do have frustrating days, where I’m in the supermarket and I come round the corner, and nearly crash trolleys with someone. I smile, laugh, make eye contact, say Oh, I’m so sorry! and expect the other human being to show similar human tendencies of relating. But alas, this is often not the case, they don’t say a word. Then I get to the till, where the chickadee answers my greeting in Afrikaans. She asks if I have my card thingy; she asks in Afrikaans. I answer in English (Hello?? Now she knows I’m English, right?) Next, she asks if I want bags. In Afrikaans. I want to poke her in the eye and say, I’m English. Be nice to me, then you will give South Africa a good name. Or go and get a job where you don’t see people, because you clearly don’t like them. Sigh. It drives Joshua mad as well, when people he knows from school completely ignore him in another setting. I tell him not to worry, but sometimes I think in order to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ we should actually poke people in the eye and say, hey, hello. I want to be your friend, dammit. Are you okay? Can I pray for your grumpiness? Not sure if that will work, but I’m willing to give it a go. Then there have been times where someone begins a conversation with me in Afrikaans, and if I can’t get the gist of it, I smile and politely say, I’m so sorry, can you speak English please? Then they’ll repeat what they said, and I realise they WERE speaking English, but that accent!! YOH. My brain has to put the words through a filter before they make sense again. Eish. That’s like the play date that Ethan had at Kyle’s house. I had tea with his mother and she kept talking about another child called Carl. Luckily I did eventually figure that Carl is Kyle, just his mother is from Joburg, doll.
And they braai, yoh, do they braai. EVERY weekend. Yes, we used to braai in Zim, but this is Obsessive Compulsive Braaing. If you’re invited for a braai, eat before you go, because a lunch time braai will be dinner and a dinner braai will be a midnight feast. The Boerwors Curtain universal joke is ‘Ons gaan nou braai,’ We are going to braai now. In the context of just now and now now, it’s anything from 2 hours until tomorrow. And if the weather gets cold? Why, that’s why everyone has indoor braais. I told you it was OCB.
We have adjusted from ‘Buy Supplies for a Year’ to ‘It’s Here, Keep Calm.’
Although when Woolworths have a sale, I don’t keep calm. They reduce their luvly juvly quality clothing by huge amounts, and yes, you’re buying summer stock at the beginning of winter, but….but…. So yeah, maybe I haven’t quite adjusted from my Zim binge shopping mentality, where we would drive to SA to stock up on everything for the next year in Zim, from tinned foods to underwear. But I did find some lovely t-shirts at lovely prices. That’s what you gotta do when you shop for 6 people. I had to take a picture of these, because I couldn’t believe they were selling them.
We are grateful.
This morning on the way to school, we were talking about our anniversary of being here and I told the boys to thank God for something they were grateful for- something about Cape Town, the move, the change, that they were thankful about. Ethan began. He thanked God that our president is not mad, and that Cape Town has nice people. Honestly. Aiden thanked God for friends. Socialite, of course he did. He thanked God for mom and dad’s friends, that invite us round and have braai’s (! yes, we are grateful!), and for good friends for all of them, even though it took some time. Joshua thanked God for the schools they’re in, the level of education, the cheaper price, and the opportunities that they now have. Luke thanked God for the beautiful surroundings, that the roads don’t have potholes and are safe, and for our home- that’s it’s not too big, not too small (I would argue…we could really do with another toilet. Boys all have bowel movements at the same time and it can get a bit hairy), but it’s just right.
It was a precious time.
These are the last of the summer photos, before we head into winter. Brrr!