Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Muiden

This week we are staying in Muiden. Not too far from Amsterdam, but it is still country living at it's best. At least this time there is no neighbour rooster!
Muiden is a beautiful village, with a famous sluice and a castle! There are gorgeous restaurants, all within walking distance and I must say, I do feel happy here. Still - Amsterdam is where I want to be.


Not long now. The renovations are going well. EXCEPT for the incorrect bathtub that was delivered and almost installed! This is a MAJOR problem as the company who we bought it from in the first place and made the mistake are not being very helpful in taking it back. It is an ugly bath and I would never have chosen it! The Dutch are not very big on customer service. Hopefully we can sort this out today!
Besides that, the sun is shining and Kai and I are going to the little beach here.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Country living!

Naarden-Vesting
We are staying in the country - Naarden to be exact. This is only for a short while until our renovations are finished, but it is a totally new experience for me, being a city person.
Naarden  is one of the most beautiful cultural monuments in the Netherlands. The unique Vesting (the great fort), surrounded by a moat,  is one of the best preserved defensive works in the world and was built in the 14th century.
Naarden-Vesting boasts the famous "Het Arsenal" - a historic part of the town, filled with top end designer interior shops. Incredible fixtures and fittings  and hugely inspirational, if only that, as the average price for a bath tub was around the 9000 euro mark! The town centre is full of attractive small shops with a wide variety of caf├ęs and restaurants. Really gorgeous.
  
Beautiful surroundings, and it's wonderful to go on a cycling tour through the country lanes and meadows. Holland is a flat country, so it is really easy to cycle everywhere. You don't even need gears on your bike! There is an attachment so you can put the baby car seat on the back of the bike, and off you go. All the farmers sell cherries and delicious things en route. Amazing system - you put your money in a little box and take a bag of cherries, for instance. No-one steals the money already in the box and no-one takes more than what was paid for. This system would NEVER work in Africa!
So much for country tranquility though! The neighbor's rooster woke Kai up at 5am, after we got home from a dinner party at 1:30am. No wonder there are always fewer roosters than chickens! I think neighbors always find a way of silencing a squwaarking rooster in the end! It is STILL carrying on.
I am enjoying my time here, but in the end, I know I will be happier back in the city, with all the vibey things that Amsterdam has to offer...


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Monday, July 19, 2010

Disgrace - finally!

At last I have managed to get round to reading J.M. Coetzee's "Disgrace".
As a South African, this is WAY overdue. I am not disappointed. It is much easier reading than I expected and the descriptions are so spot-on, that it is like watching a movie. Couldn't put it down last night and I am almost at the end. It combines very real human behavior and emotions with the reality of life in South Africa.
Disgrace: A Novel

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Renovations...

We are in the midst of renovating our home! Hard to believe this is ACTUALLY our home when you see it in this state! Great progress in one week though. We seem to have found a good set of builders - which is such a blessing as past experience with renovating and building has mostly not been good. Renovating to this extent is not for the fainthearted. It is stressful, but it is also fun. I love the creativity behind it all. In a few months it will look fabulous!

Monday, July 12, 2010

An emotional end to the World Cup 2010

Amsterdam was a massive sea of orange last night and I believe, most of South Africa was too. Once Bafana Bafana were out of the tournament, most South Africans decided to adopt Holland as their country to support. Probably to do with our Dutch roots?
Tension was in the air and it was the most stressful and nerve-wracking game I have ever watched.
Holland is in mourning today. Our boys in orange played like heroes and didn't let the constant stream of yellow cards phase them. In the end Spain won - by the skin of their teeth. It wasn't a glorified victory. Perhaps just a lucky streak at the end? Maybe it has to do with Octopus Paul's predictions? Who knows?
Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima were in the stadium and Madiba was present for the closing ceremony. The Dutch fans kept their cool and maintained dignity and support, even though hugely disappointed. Walking home through Amserdam, we noticed fans still singing and blowing their Vuvuzelas.

HUGE accolades to South Africa too, for hosting such a fabulous and  successful World Cup 2010. Despite predictions of negativity and speculations of crime and organisational failure, South Africa showed the world their true essence. It was the most positive and heart-warming experience for South Africans and visitors alike. The hospitality, warmth, enthusiasm, interest and gratitude that came through during the World Cup was so humbling and South Africans from all walks of life and all race groups banded together and showed their true colours. I am so proud to be a South African. It is the beginning of a new, hugely positive era in South Africa.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Go Holland!

We're through to the FINALS!!!! Yooooohoooooo!!! What a match last night - what a party! I don't think there can be much beer left in the Netherlands by now! Nerve-wracking, exciting stuff, but our boys in orange are on the ball! SUNDAY is the day... Germany or Spain???? Mmmmmm?
http://www.worldcupblog.org/world-cup-2010/preview-germany-vs-spain.html

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

ORANGE fever!!!

Tonight's the night. The Netherlands vs Uruguay. Amsterdam is Orange country at the moment and the bars are getting set to have a wild party tonight. The tension in in the air and if you're not wearing ORANGE, you'd better get out there and buy a T-shirt or hat or something from one of the vendors selling football gear. On the other hand, you could wear a Makaraba - see : http://www.makaraba.co.za/, which is the official 2010 hat to wear at the WC! Heinken are doing fabulous ORANGE ones and I have seen many Dutch folks walking around sporting one, along with a Vuvuzela - those horns that make that rather annoying, but at the right times, festive, trumpeting sound! Most of South Africa is supporting Holland and Uruguay is being supported by the whole of Latin America. It's gong to be nerve-wracking and the outcome interesting!! GO HOLLAND!!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

South Africa and the World Cup

As a South African living abroad during the Wold Cup Soccer, I have been humbled and at the same time, feel enormous pride to hear the stories coming out of my beloved country during this incredibly exciting and never to be forgotten time. It saddens me that I am not at home to share in the spirit of things and of course the fun. Bafana Bafana gave it their best shot and remained good sports to the end, even if things aren't always completely fair.
One article stands out from the rest. It is about the fifth time someone has sent it to me, but it brings tears to my eyes every time. It describes the true South African spirit, which one only knows about if one has spent some time in Africa. Read on. It is beautifully written and it fills my heart with pride to be a South African!

The Huffington Post
Shari Cohen
International development worker in the public health sector
Posted: June 15, 2010 11:35 AM
South Africa Rolls Out the Ubuntu in Abundance
I went on a rant the other day regarding the cost of the 2010 World Cup
versus all the critical needs South Africa is facing and whether or not the
most vulnerable of this country would gain anything from having the World
Cup hosted in their country. At that time, I also had some very positive
things to say about our hosts for the 2010 World Cup and I wanted to
share that side of the coin as well, because it is equally important.
To say that I have been blown away at the hospitality South Africa has
shown the rest of the world would be an understatement. I think back
on recent Olympics and struggle to remember much reporting in the
USA of athletes from other countries. I remember when a Togolese guy
won a bronze medal in kayaking and NBC reported it and I thought to
myself, "where are all the other fascinating stories like this one...like the
Jamaican bobsledding team." In today's America, sadly, we have drifted
so far towards being so US-centric that we only seem to root for the
Americans.
Not so here in South Africa. I've been here since early May and each week
I have become more and more impressed with the global embrace that
South Africans have offered up to the world. On the way to the airport a
couple of weeks ago, I heard a radio program that said each day they
would focus on one country that would be coming to South Africa for
the World Cup, and they would explore not only that sport's history in
soccer, but also their politics, religion, and socio-cultural practices. On the
television, I've seen numerous programs that focus on a particular country
and it's history of soccer and how the history of that country is intertwined
with their soccer history. I've seen programs on India, exploring why India
enjoys soccer but hasn't really excelled at the global level... yet. And I've
seen shows on soccer in Muslim countries. Maybe it's planned, maybe it's
unplanned, maybe it's by chance, but it is happening. It's not just about
South Africans showing off their varied and multifaceted culture to their
global guests, it's also about using this opportunity to educate South Africa
on the rest of Planet Earth's inhabitants.
As I moved through my work here in the provinces over the last six weeks,
I had a pivotal meeting with the Board members of a rural NGO. They were
explaining their guiding program philosophy of Ubuntu. No, not the Linux
program. I'm talking about the traditional African philosophy of Ubuntu that
essentially says, "No man is an island."
I found a better explanation from Wikipedia:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human.
Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human
being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be
human all by yourself, and when you have this quality -- Ubuntu -- you are
known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated
from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects
the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of
humanity.
To me, Ubuntu is the acceptance of others as parts of the sum total of
each of us. And that is exactly what I have experienced during the lead
up to, and the initial days of this World Cup. There is nary a South African
citizen that I've met on the street, or in shops or restaurants or hotels,
that hasn't gone out of their way to greet me and make me feel like I am
home. And I don't mean that in the trivial, "Oh, aren't they nice, homey
people here... " sort of way. I mean real, genuine interest and questions.
People seriously want to know where I come from. What it's like where
I live. How does it compare to where I am now. What do I think of South
Africa. Oh yes, and what do I think of Bafana Bafana... The questions
and conversations are in earnest. They are honest. And they are had with
enthusiasm and a thirst to know more. South Africans are drinking deeply
from the cup of humanity that has been brought to their doorstep. I would
never imagine that an American World Cup or Olympics would ever be this
welcoming to the rest of the world. And that saddens me for the state of
my home country, but it also makes me feel the pride of the South African
people.
I have been truly humbled on this trip. And while I have my gripes
regarding development here, I cannot say one negative thing about how
South Africa has handled its duties as host and hostess to the world. If
I could say one thing to sum up being here during this once-in-a-lifetime
experience, it would be that I've learned the value of Ubuntu, and that
when found and offered in abundance, the world is indeed a better place to
live in.
So, if South Africa accomplishes nothing more on the playing field, it
will still have won as a host country. I am a cynic, no doubt about that.
And yet I have to admit, I'm a little teary just writing this because I leave
for home next weekend and I will be leaving a little piece of myself here
in South Africa. I just hope I have learned enough to bring back a little
piece of Ubuntu to my homeland, where perhaps with a little caring and
a little water, it will take root as naturally as it does here, in the cradle of
civilization. It's funny, many people in America still ask me, "are the people
in Africa very primitive?" Yes, I know, amazing someone could ask that but
they do. And when they do, I usually explain that living in a mud hut does
not make one primitive, however, allowing kids to sell drugs to other kids
and engage in drive-by killings -- isn't that primitive behavior? I think it is.
When I think of Ubuntu and my recent experiences here, I think America
has much to learn from Africa in general, in terms of living as a larger
village; and as human beings who are all interconnected with each other,
each of us having an affect on our brothers and sisters.
As the 2010 Cup slogan goes, "Feel it. It is here." Well, I have felt it,
because I am here. Thank you South Africa, for giving me this unexpected
gift. I am humbled.