My first entry for the April A to Z Challenge. A is for Australia, the country we call home, and Africa, the continent of our birth. Also for Afrikaans, my mother tongue, Albany (a scenic town in the southwest of Australia), Australind (another town in southwest Australia, this one where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet), Anzacs (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps in WW1), Arabia, Abra (water taxi) and art.
Our book club has been running for nearly 11 years now. Once a month we meet at someone’s house, enjoy some nibbles and a glass or two of wine and catch up on what’s been happening in each other’s lives. Just before we get ready to go home, we talk about books and end up only going home about an hour and a half later. We don’t all read the same book – it’s the hostess’s choice which books she buys that month. This means we have a large variety of books and there’s always something for everyone. We’ve ended up with over 700 books in total and regularly have to “cull” and take older ones out.
We have a list of books (with numbers) that gets updated monthly and a book (the blue book) in which everyone writes down the numbers of the books they’ve taken for that month. Usually by the time we start talking about books the blue book does the rounds with nobody in particular putting their hand up to take it because the scribe of the blue book for the night is the person making sure all the books get returned for that month (which usually requires some stern throat clearing because conversation inevitably takes over and we digress) but the person on whose lap the book eventually settles also usually gets teased quite a bit for having to be solemn. All of this done in the best of humour, of course.
Over the years some of our book clubbers have started wearing reading glasses and if someone happened to forget theirs there’s always another pair handy, but not without a few of us taking the mickey out of them. There is always much laughter. Over the years some have left and others have joined but the core group has been unchanged for many years. Most of us are immigrants but we’ve managed to hang on to one Aussie member and taught her some Afrikaans – she says “Nommer asseblief” (Number please) beautifully when it’s her turn to check off book numbers in the blue book – and one of our English members loves her rooibos tea (a South African tea).
When we started this book club all of our children were still in primary school or younger. Now none of us have kids in primary school anymore and some of our kids have left school. We’ve literally seen each other’s kids grow up and lived through all the ups and downs of daily life with its struggles and joys. We’ve shared challenges and jokes and never pass by an opportunity for some banter. Our taste in books vary and it’s great to have lively discussions, different opinions and perspectives and also not be forced to read something you may not like. Some months we read so much that we forget what the books were about and sometimes a month will go by where someone hasn’t read a single book.
We’ve had end-of-year dinners, picnics, celebrated milestone birthdays and partied well into the night and after only one year in book club we were brave enough to do a belly dancing class (something none of us had ever done before). It was inspired by Liz Byrski’s “Belly Dancing for Beginners” because at the time that book was newly in circulation in our book club. Some of us were better at it than others – I was hopelessly uncoordinated – but we had lots of fun.
And now one of our founder members is moving away from Perth and leaving a massive hole behind. It’s just not going to be the same without her, and I know we all feel the same way. We’ll miss our cheerful reader-of-magazines-only (as she was 11 years ago) and now reader of several books every month with her great sense of humour, beautiful smile and loyal friendship. From her and her family’s point of view it’s so much harder of course, having to uproot themselves again from the life they’ve built over the past 11 years. Kids have to go to a new school in a different country, they have to get to know a different culture, build new relationships and settle again.
Since so many of us are immigrants our close friends have become like family in Perth and after having moved here, made new friendships and formed close bonds it’s so hard to farewell one of those dear friends again. We had a bit of time to get used to the idea but somehow I managed to avoid thinking about it too much until it was time to face reality. The morning I received her text message saying her husband’s visa had come through and he’ll be leaving in a week’s time the reality hit hard. It felt like a close family member was moving away. Our life as we know it was about to change again.
Meanwhile life had to go on with her having to also deal with the logistics of winding up their life in Perth and preparing for a new life in the Middle East. I felt terribly inept at trying to support her.
Her and their kids’ turn to go was approaching fast. Next it came to the first friends to farewell at book club. My heart broke as I watched two of my close friends hug each other good-bye. That hug said so much that was unspoken. “Thank you for your loving friendship over many years. I’ll miss you. Your place in our lives will never change. We wish you all the best.” I couldn’t say a thing. Just felt a bit raw. I turned around and walked out, unable to face it yet.
And so my turn to say good-bye inevitably came around much quicker than I thought or was able to prepare myself for. All the emotions I managed to suppress came to the surface. Needless to say I didn’t cope well. Perth just won’t be the same without them. I feel so selfish feeling as I do, knowing that it’s much, much harder for them.
But all that aside, know, my dear friend, that we will miss you terribly, but this is about you, not us. We wish you only the best for your Arabian adventure. May this be a time of fun, exploring new places, making great new friends who will make you feel at home and having an adventure that you’ll look back on fondly one day. Know that your place in book club (and the blue book) will be waiting for you upon your return. Enjoy the sights and sounds and all the wonderful exotic things Arabia has to offer – fresh spices from the Souk (market), sunset tours in the desert, camel rides, Bedouin style dinners in the desert, learning about the culture and history, shopping for traditional artefacts or at Marks & Spencer, the endless cheese and olive selection at Carrefour (I still miss that), warm weather and belly dancing. And when you dance, dance freely and barefoot in the sand, happily and with your whole heart knowing we carry you in our hearts and thoughts, wish you the very best of happiness and will soon dance with you again.
With love from Book Club
(Please scroll down for the English version.)
My suster bak elke jaar die heerlikste Duitste kerskoekies. Lebkuchen (gemmerkoekies), pfeffernüsse (peperkoekies) en allerhande enes. Ek het dit nog nooit gemaak nie maar eendag jare gelede terwyl ons by my suster en swaer gekuier het op hulle plaas, het my man besluit om self te probeer om dit te bak. Met Duitste herkoms het hy grootgeword met baie van hierdie koekies vir Kersfees. Nadat hy met hierdie boeremeisie getrou het (wat nog nie eens op daai stadium probeer het om haar Hollandse ouma se botterkoek of spekulaaskoekies of Afrikaanse ouma se suurdeegbrood te bak nie), het hy besluit om dit doodeenvoudig self te doen.
Hy stap toe een oggend in my suster se plaaskombuis in en kondig vol brawade aan dat hy zerubskuchen (stroopkoekies) gaan maak. Die snaakse ding was dat hy nog nooit by ons eie huis geïnspireerd gevoel het om dit te maak nie maar uit die bloute daai oggend besluit het dat hy dit in haar kombuis gaan waag. Sy aankondiging het ‘n huiwerige en effens skeptiese ontvangs gekry want die kombuis was pas skoongemaak en die vloere gewas. Dis nie maklik om ‘n plaaskombuis in die Kalahari skoon te hou nie. Sand word voortdurend ingeloop en plaasbehoeftes kry voorkeur bo ander maar die kombuis was silwerskoon toe my man besluit het dis tyd om te begin bak en brou.
Hy het in sy lewe tevore nog nooit iets gebak nie maar vra toe my suster vir die resep en maak reg om te begin. Hy is ook nooit tevore geleer om die gemors wat hy maak te beperk tot ‘n hanteerbare area nie. Hy het al die bestanddele op die kombuistafel gerangskik en begin. Ek het saggies weggesluip, sodanig om na die kinders te gaan kyk, en weggebly van die kombuis af. Toe ek dink dis veilig om terug te gaan is ek begroet deur ‘n gesig wat ek nooit sal vergeet nie. Dit het gelyk asof vyf sakke meel op en rondom die tafel ontplof het. In die pas skoongemaakte kombuis nogal. Te midde van dit alles het my man gestaan met ‘n brëe glimlag om sy mond – baie trots op die koekies wat hy besig was om te bak. Die ergste was dat die meel nie net oor die tafel gestrooi was nie. Dit het deur die gapings van die houttafel op die vloer geval. Orals.
My arme suster het net agter my ingeloop, die gemors een kyk gegee, daarin geslaag om darem nie haar sin vir humor heeltemal te verloor nie en met haar onwrikbare diplomasie hom mooi gevra om skoon te maak. Sy entoesiasme was geensins gedemp nie. Dit was amper asof hy nie die gemors kon raaksien nie. Hy’t klaargemaak en begin opruim maar selfs met sy altyd teenwoordige optimisme het hy hulp nodig gehad in hierdie department. Hy sou dit net nie op dieselfde standaard kon skoon kry as wat dit voor die tyd was nie.
Sedertdien het hy nog nie weer probeer om kerskoekies te bak nie maar maak wel sy ma se mieliebrood – ‘n soet weergawe wat nie my gunsteling is nie – maar hy is mal daaroor en maak dit nou self. Ek is net verlig dat dit nie nodig is om ‘n klomp meel oor die kombuistafel of –toonbank uit te sprei om mieliebrood te maak nie want dit blyk na die jare steeds dat die skoonmaakdeel van die proses nog onder opleiding is.
Ek het toe die ander dag my suster se lebkuchen en pfeffernüsse gemaak (maar ek sou nie sê hulle is so lekker soos hare nie) – die pfeffernüsse (wat so klein soos neute moet wees) het ek reggekry om amper so groot soos golfballe te maak. Ten minste proe hulle darem beter as iets wat ‘n mens in die winkel sou koop. Hopelik sal my man nie voel dis nodig om hulle te maak as ek aanhou om hulle te bak nie…
Kerskoekies of te not, ek wens almal ‘n baie Gesëende Kersfees toe gevul met vreugde en liefde.
My sister bakes the most divine Christmas cookies every year. German ones. Lebkuchen (ginger bread cookies), pfeffernüsse (pepper nuts) and all sorts. I’ve never made them but years ago once while visiting my sister and brother-in-law on their farm, my husband decided the time was right for him to try his hand at it. Being of German descent, there used to be lots of these Christmas cookies around every Christmas when he was growing up. After marrying this Afrikaans girl (who hadn’t even tried to make any of her Dutch grandmother’s butter cake or speculaas cookies or her Afrikaans grandmother’s sour dough bread at that stage), he was just going to do it himself.
He walked into my sister’s farm kitchen one morning and declared that he was going to make zerubskuchen (syrup cookies). The funny thing is that he’d never been inspired to do it at our own home but decided out of the blue on that day that he was going to make it in her kitchen. His announcement was greeted a little skeptically as the kitchen had just been cleaned and the floors washed. It’s not easy to keep a farm kitchen in the Kalahari clean. Sand keeps getting trodden into the house and farm needs take precedence over others but the kitchen was sparkling clean when my husband decided it was time for him to try his hand at baking.
He’d never before baked anything in his life but asked my sister for the recipe and got started. Neither had he ever been trained to contain the mess he makes to a certain limited area. It was just always done by someone else. He arranged all the ingredients out on the kitchen table and got stuck in. I slunk away on the premise of having to look after the kids and kept clear of the area. When I deemed it safe to venture inside again I was greeted by a sight to behold. It looked like five bags of flour had exploded on and around the kitchen table. In the middle of it all stood my smiling husband. Quite proud of the cookies he was making. To make matters worse, the flour wasn’t contained to the table. It had fallen through the gaps in the wood on the table and was all over the floor as well. Everywhere.
My poor sister walked in after me, took one look at the mess, managed to hold back her sense of humour failure and with her unwavering diplomacy asked him nicely to clean up. His enthusiasm wasn’t diminished at all. It’s almost like the mess was invisible to him. He finished up and started to clean up but despite his ever present optimism he needed help in this department. He wasn’t going to manage to clean it to the same standard that it had been done earlier.
He hasn’t attempted to bake Christmas cookies since, but he has been making his mom’s mealie (corn) bread. It’s quite sweet and not really my favourite but he loves it and now makes it himself. I’m just relieved that mealie bread doesn’t require a lot of flour to be spread out over the kitchen bench or table because the cleaning part of the process seems to still be in training.
I tried my hand at my sister’s lebkuchen and pfeffernüsse recipes the other day and (though I don’t think it’s to her standard – the pfeffernüsse which are supposed to be the size of nuts turned out more like golf balls) but at least they taste better than something you can buy in a shop. Hopefully if I continue to bake them my husband won’t feel the need to do it…
With or without Christmas cookies, I wish you all a Merry and Blessed Christmas filled with joy and love.
I’m very excited today. My post about celebrating our 10 year anniversary in Perth has just been published in the on-line edition of a South African magazine after I translated it into Afrikaans. This is the link:
The original English version is here: https://searchingforironman.com/2015/01/23/10-years-in-this-great-southern-land/
(Apologies to non-Afrikaans readers.)
Ons gesin is ‘n douvoordag gesin. Nie soseer die kinders noudat hulle tieners en jong volwassenes is nie, maar toe hulle klein was het hulle ook lekker vroeg opgestaan. Omdat ek en my man gewoonlik vroeg aan die gang is word daar selde baie laat geslaap in ons huis bloot omdat daar vroeg soggens beweging is en dis gewoonlik nie stil roeringe nie. Ek het al vantevore geskryf oor my man wat al die jare al bitter vroeg wakker word (dis dan seker voor-douvoordag) en die eskapades wanneer hy vergeet om die wekker af te sit want ek staan darem nie heeltemal so vroeg op soos hy nie.
My verhouding met die voordag kom uit my eie tienerjare toe ek probeer laat slaap het en my pa – wat self nog altyd ‘n vroegoggendmens was – my kom wakker maak het om die tuin nat te maak of te kom help met die kliëntestormloop in ons plaaswinkeltjie sesuur op ‘n Saterdagoggend. Daai tye het ek maar lekker my voete gesleep maar oor die jare het ek die goud wat vir ‘n mens wag in die vroëe oggendure leer waardeer. Ek het lief geraak daarvoor om die dag te sien breek wanneer ons die langpad gevat het met vakansies, van die eerste stadige verkleur van die horison wat die aankoms van ‘n nuwe dag aankondig, die sagte pienk, pers en blou lug wat volg en uiteindelik die son wat kop uitsteek en helder sy verskyning maak met al die belofte van ‘n nuwe dag. Deesdae is dit steeds vir my die beste en ‘n wondergevulde tyd van die dag – dis gewoonlik stil van stadsgeraas en –verkeer wat dit rustig maak en lekker om buite te wees, die voëls te hoor sing en die varsheid van die nuwe dag wat soveel hoop en belofte inhou diep in jou longe in te trek – en vir ‘n kort tydjie elke oggend voel dit asof die tyd ‘n bietjie stadiger beweeg terwyl ek my gedagtes orden en regmaak vir die dag wat voorlê.
Wanneer ek vroeg begin werskaf is ek altyd aangenaam verras oor hoeveel ek gedoen kan kry voor die dag werklik met erns begin. Dis asof daar sommer ‘n paar ekstra ure by die dag aangelas word, en dis gewoonlik produktiewe ure. Vroegmôre hou soveel verrassings in wat net wag om ontdek te word, soos die volmaan wat sak oor die oseaan of oor ‘n watergat in Etosha, om te luister na die geluide van die veld wat wakker word terwyl ons rustig koffie drink by Brandberg waar ons in die veld gekamp het of in die Kalahari waar die tyd teen sy eie pas loop of die lafenis vir die siel om die heuwel alleen uit te klim op Woody Island (naby Esperance, so 800 kilometer suidoos van Perth) voor vyf in die oggend om te kyk hoe die son oorkant die water oor die land opkom. Daar is iets omtrent die sonsopkoms (en –ondergang) wat ‘n mens dwing om vir ‘n oomblik stil te raak en een te wees met die natuur rondom jou en dit te respekteer sonder om ‘n indringer te wees met ons menslike geraasbesoedeling en die belofte van ‘n nuwe begin wat elke dag aanbreek te waardeer. Vir iemand wat foto’s neem by dosyne en werklik hartseer is as ek vir een of ander rede ‘n mooi potensiële foto nie kon neem nie, bied die vroëe oggendure soveel geleenthede en dis my gunsteling tyd van die dag.
Met die dat manlief so ‘n vroëer-as-vroeg opstaner is word ons naweekuitstappies ook gewoonlik beplan om douvoordag te begin, gewoonlik vroëer as wat ek sou verkies, want teen die tyd dat ek opstaan is sy dag al ‘n uur of wat aan die gang en trippel hy al rond om weg te kom, met die gevolg dat ek dan ook maar vroëer as gewoonlik opstaan. Soos ‘n dieselenjin wat eers moet warm word neem dit my brein ‘n tydjie om behoorlik wakker te word en nog meer so wanneer ek in die donker op manlief se verkieslike uur opstaan. Vir wedlope moet ons ook vroeg-vroeg aan die gang kom en veral vir Ironman wanneer ons omtrent drie-uur in die oggend opstaan om reg te maak en betyds te wees vir alle laaste-minuut voorbereidings.
Net die ander dag het ons twee ‘n daguitstappie na Dwellingup (so ‘n uur en ‘n half se ry suid-oos van Perth) beplan en hy wou graag sesuur die oggend in die pad val, wat beteken het ek moes vyfuur opstaan om wakker te word en reg te maak want hierdie ou dieselenjin spring nie net uit die bed en begin die dag teen ‘n honder kilometer per uur nie, dit neem ‘n koppie boeretroos of twee voor ek behoorlik funksioneer en stadig spoed optel en ek het so effens tëegeskop want dis winter en dis baie koud in die voordag-donker maar op die ou end het ek maar vyfuur opgestaan, my koffie rustig gedrink en ons het sesuur in die pad geval. ‘n Uur later is ons verras met ‘n ongelooflike sonsopkoms wat my weer van voor af laat besef het dat ten spyte van die vroegoggendkoue, moeg en slaap in my oë stel die sonsopkoms nooit teleur nie en die Afrikaanse voorvader wat hierdie gesegde uigedink het, het geweet waarvan hulle praat: die môrestond het werklik goud in die mond.
10 Years ago we boarded a plane from Africa and landed at Perth airport about 9 ½ hours later, walked out the airport into the late January heat feeling quite insignificant. The realisation that we knew no-one made this family feel a bit lost and it hit home as we walked into the “Arrivals” hall amidst people being welcomed and greeted by family, friends or business associates, not knowing anyone and subduedly making our way out the door to find a taxi. Arriving at our short-term rented apartment in the city the exhausted and jet-lagged kids fell asleep sitting up in chairs in the middle of the day while Ironman went out to organise a rental car and so our first week went by in a blurr of organising all the logistics of settling down in a new place with my husband having started his new job and the kids and I driving from one possible rental house to the next looking for one that would meet our requirements. We’d timed our arrival so the kids would be able to start the new school year which left us with 10 days to find a suitable school as well as a house to rent in the same suburb which proved to be a challenge in the middle of a mining boom and accommodation shortage but we managed to sign the lease for a nice house on the Friday afternoon and on Monday morning the kids started school on the first day of the new school year together with all the other kids. Two big and very important boxes were ticked.
As we’d said our farewells to friends in South Africa they would jokingly talk about the “honeymoon period” of a move to a new country such as we were doing being about three months, but having moved to Dubai just under a year prior and absolutely loving the adventure of that I felt like the honeymoon period was over when our plane landed in Perth. Being uprooted twice in under 12 months to move continents, settle down, make friends, ensure the kids are happy and doing well at school, finding substitute products in the shops to the ones you were used to, finding a hairdresser who cut my hair the way I liked it and all the rest of it, didn’t come naturally for someone who loves being in their comfort zone but I knew that this move was best for my family so I was determined to make it work. During our visit here in August 2004 while I was still grappling with the idea of having to move away from Dubai where we’d just settled a few months prior and the exotic adventure of which we were thoroughly enjoying I was under so much pressure from my husband to like Perth that I broke down in tears one day telling him exactly that: “You’re putting too much pressure on me to like it” but walking down Hay Street, Perth, another day during that visit I realised that I would be able to live in this city and that I would be able to make it work and knowing that was enough for me at that stage. I knew that the lifestyle would be better for the kids and the whole family in the long run.
Looking back, the first year was definitely the hardest but we made good, lasting friends who became our “Perth family” over time. We found the people of Perth to be very friendly, welcoming and accepting with a great sense of humour and got used to driving on the left-hand side of the road once again, everyone driving strictly at 100km/h on the freeway (after the manic speeds on the roads of Dubai), the green of the Eucalyptus which was very different to the bright and lively green of the oaks and plane trees in Stellenbosch which was one of the things I missed at first, the idea of not knowing when exactly we’ll see our family again, hearing many different accents around you every day, total fires bans during summer because of the extreme bush fire risk, and Vegemite. I only made one illegal U-turn (in my defence, I didn’t know it was illegal) and got pulled over for it by the police – much to my absolute distress, being someone who likes to do the right thing – but they accepted my explanation that in Dubai U-turns are the order of the day and a very large part of the traffic system. Having given up a work-life of accounts, financial statements, various types of tax returns, payrolls, monthly financial reports, spreadsheets and intricate cash flow forecasts built on different variables to being a stay-at-home-mum in exciting Dubai where everything was new and interesting and something as simple as picking up the kids from school was an excursion because of the distance, traffic and some crazy road users to contend with, to being a stay-at-home mum in a quiet Perth suburb where everything worked in an orderly manner as it should, it quickly felt like my world had shrunk to a triangle of going from home to school to the supermarket and back home and repeating the same day after day, and it didn’t take me long to feel a bit claustrophobic but after a weekend away in beautiful Yallingup and Margaret River after about four months I felt like my horizons had expanded and I could breathe again. With all of Ironman’s travels for work he didn’t experience this problem but instead found interesting places of exquisite natural beauty for us to visit as a family which we started doing as soon as time and budget allowed and before I knew it I’d fallen in love with the splendour that the Western Australian coastline and bush offers. The beautiful, clean beaches; colour of the water whether it be the crisp, clear Southern Ocean around Esperance and Albany or the warm, turquoise waters of Broome; the unique charm, beauty and magnetism of Rottnest Island that makes you never want to leave there; the red pindan sand of the Kimberley, age-old forests of the South-West and the vast open spaces. I love being in the countryside and still have the need to get out of the city every now and then and breathe some fresh air and I’m lucky to have the opportunity of so many great places to visit and many more gems of places yet to see. I discovered that one could actually live anywhere as long as your family was safe and healthy. I also realised that I only missed certain things (other than family and friends of course) about our life in South Africa when I actually stopped to think about those particular things (which didn’t happen every day), but when I did a deep yearning for some of those things and places would overcome me and I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d ever visit a specific spot again and I’d miss the very distinct vibe that is so colourfully part and parcel of the rainbow nation and I learnt that a photo of an African dawn or sunset still pulls at the heartstrings like no other, but life keeps us busy and there was no time or point in longing for something that wasn’t a part of my daily life as it was at that point, dwell on it or mope about it. I have been very fortunate in that my family (near and far) are all in good health but we do miss them and have to remind ourselves that lots of people live far away from their families nowadays. We have so much to be grateful for living in a safe and beautiful place that offers the kind of freedom of amazing lifestyle that it does, and the privilege of so many opportunities. One cannot but love a country that offers you the opportunity to put on your shoes and head out for a safe morning walk on your own on a quiet country road you’ve never been on and to just follow the road to see where it takes you and to keep going to see what awaits around the next bend and then as a bonus to stumble upon views such as this:
A landmark moment in my memory was the first day of the kids’ second school year, one year after arriving. After having gone through so much change during the preceding 24 months and constantly feeling like I was doing something for the first time and still learning my way it hit me on that day and I thought: “I can do this. I’ve done it before.” Such a simple thing but it meant so much at that stage. After a while we started to feel like we’re not the newcomers anymore and that we really belonged here and embraced many things about the Aussie lifestyle such as gas barbeques (after having used coal for our braai all our lives) which meant that the barbeque was ready within minutes and also that I was able to cook something on the barbie without fuss when the man of the house was away; blower vacs (a blower and vacuum combo perfect for the garden); having a bread machine and making our own preservative free bread within two hours or less; the concept of “suck it up” (just get over it); driving for hours and then looking at the map and realising that we’ve only covered a small portion of this vast country, and to say “No worries” (no problem), to stop calling a traffic light a robot as well as lots of other descriptive sayings and acronyms. We wrote the citizenship test and became citizens on Australia Day in 2009; I’ve swallowed a fly – I think that should count for at least a 50% credit towards the citizenship test – and had many more near-misses like that; started a book club together with friends which has become a close knit group of us who treasures and looks forward to book club night on the calendar every month; I’ve given up the stay-at-home-mum status and took a part-time job in 2008; I now struggle to say phone numbers in Afrikaans which had been my first language for 30 odd years (I now feel like I have two first languages); come to appreciate the Freo doctor (cool sea breeze) on a warm summer’s arvo; we’ve enjoyed lots of sunset barbies at the beach with friends; have an annual “moving to Perth” anniversary dinner with friends who arrived within a week of us and whom we met at school on the first or second school day; done many a road-trip and love the vast beauty of this great southern land but I still catch myself sometimes as we drive home after a long trip away nearly saying we’re going back to the Cape (Cape Town) and not Perth, it must be so ingrained in me, and also discovered that it’s still heart-breaking when the Springboks lose a test match. Especially in Perth. I have a number of favourite places in WA though, from Denmark to Rottnest Island, Coral Bay and Broome, and love each one too much to choose it above another. After 10 years in Perth it’s fair to say that our experiences living in both South Africa and Australia (and throw in Dubai for good measure) have all shaped, formed and influenced us as people and I wouldn’t change it for a thing. This child of Africa will always have an unbreakable bond with Africa but is undeniably also Australian and loves living in Perth. Fair dinkum.
I have the highly amusing (for others of course) knack of mixing up vowels or consonants in words sometimes, and it’s usually out and said before I’ve realised or had time to think about it, in other words Spoonerisms. It’s usually quite entertaining and I can only laugh along at what my brain has come up with. One of my best ones happened a while ago while I was talking to a friend at work and I meant to say “antioxidants” but came out instead with the pearler “ontiaxidants”! What?!! I can’t even imagine where that would have come from! There was no hiding it or pretending it came out right at all as she’d heard it clearly, and we both burst out laughing! The fact that it sounded a lot like “aunty accidents” just added insult to injury and we’ve since got a great deal of entertainment-mileage out of that one.
Another thing my brain (yes, it sometimes feels like my brain operates as a separate entity to the rest of me as it causes my mouth to come out and say the weirdest things) loves to do is accidentally combine two words and coming out with one that’s not a word but my brain must have subconsciously decided that it’s more time efficient to make the two words into one and, as is the case with the spoonerisms, it’s out and said before I’ve even realised it. Our family doesn’t usually pass up an opportunity to tease, so this always ends up being cause for some mockery. My latest one was “cream cheese” that became “creese”, but my brain exceeded itself at work the other day (after a hectic and exhausting day I might add, in its defence) and I managed to do something I haven’t done before: I combined two words into one accidentally while I was writing. I wasn’t even talking. I meant to write “near pearl” but instead wrote “nearl”. I couldn’t believe it! It was like watching someone else do it – I realised as I was writing it but it happened so quickly that it was too late to stop my hand! Quite economical use of words if I may say so myself.
I’ve often, in cases where I’ve caused my family much mirth, reminded them that I didn’t grow up with English as my mother tongue (although I learnt it from a young age), but my excuses fall on deaf ears. Living in a house where we’re trying to keep speaking Afrikaans so the kids will remember it we’ve ended up developing our own curious mixture of Afrikaans and English that language purists would frown upon, but since it’s only spoken amongst ourselves and we’re all able to speak, read and write fluent English my husband and I are just content knowing the kids will always be able to understand Afrikaans. Whether they’ll always be able to make themselves comprehensible in Afrikaans remains to be seen. If you live in an English-speaking country it’s only natural that you’ll speak English most of the time though. As for myself there’s been a slow and subconscious shift in which language I think in which has caught me by surprise a few times. I always used to think and count in Afrikaans but whilst doing a stocktake at work a few years ago I suddenly realised that I was counting in English which came as such a surprise that I stopped and tried to count in Afrikaans and found that it was easier to do it in English! Nowadays I really struggle to give someone my phone number in Afrikaans because I’m just not used to doing it any more.
As is to be expected my language mix-ups extends to text messages as well and autocorrect keeps causing me endless frustration. I have issues typing on my phone as it is because I keep on typing the wrong letter, and I can’t for the life of me work out how some youngsters type so fast on their mobile phones. To make matters worse, when I text in Afrikaans I’ll have autocorrect trying to correct my typing when there’s nothing wrong with it and if I don’t notice it in time it will substitute my typing for what it thinks I should have said forcing me to go back and re-type it (sometimes twice) and I end up talking to this inanimate object in exasperation saying to the phone: “That’s not what I wanted to say!” My son, child No 1, suggested to me a few years ago that I change the default language on my phone to Afrikaans but that would never work since I also type in our peculiar mix of languages, and of course English. I can only imagine autocorrect’s confusion at that. My messaging is probably autocorrect’s worst nightmare as it is – it’s probably in a constant state of confusion attempting to decipher what it is that I’m trying to type!
I let slip another beauty a little while ago when I wanted to ask child No 2 whether she was going to warm up the leftover soup that she was about to eat, but instead my brain decided that it was better to ask her if she was going to wake it up (the mix-up is more justifiable in Afrikaans (honestly!) as the two words sound very similar, but it’s equally funny), which was of course cause for much laughter as well as child No 2 leaning forward over the bowl of soup and calling out: “Wake up! Wake up!” They show me no mercy, this family of mine!
With child No 2’s month-long student exchange trip to Reunion Island we’ve had some French being thrown into the mix as well, which presents its own challenges and some language mix-ups as is to be expected. I admire people who are fluent in several languages because some of us struggle with only two. When Ironman sent her a message the other day to ask if she was enjoying speaking so much French and her reply came back: “Oui! Oui!” (which means: “Yes! Yes!”), he asked me: “What does this mean: Oi! Oi!”? Basics! I just laughed. For a welcome change the joke was on someone else.
One thing I can say in my tongue-twisting defence though, is that I’m not the only one befuddling things. Ironman had us on a little wild goose chase the other day on our way to friends of ours’ new house. He’d looked up the address (two weeks prior I think) but when we were nearly there he couldn’t remember exactly where it was and so I looked it up on Google Maps but the only street with that name was two suburbs away. He was quite adamant that it was called “Windward Loop”, but Google Maps insisted it wasn’t there, and there’s no arguing with Google Maps. We ended up having to pull over so he could check the invite again on his phone, and it turned out that we were actually looking for “Woodland Loop”. Hmm, shall we say spoonerism or man-erism?