Belly Dancing for Book Club

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.

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A small selection of current and old book club books

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.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.bellydancecris.com/ (our lovely belly dance instructor)

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

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A few shared memories

Confessions of a Non-Shopaholic

People rushing around. Filling shops and malls. Never stopping. Determinedly hurrying somewhere. Like ants on a mission we’re scuttling to get what it is that we need and take it home. Others leisurely going about their business with all the time in the world. It’s just not something I’ve ever considered relaxing or fun.

I’ve never loved shopping. Even as a child the hustle and bustle of lots of people in confined spaces that make shopping malls soon got to me. I’m not claustrophobic, I just don’t manage to be very patient in shops. Short, sharp and efficient trips to the shops are the solution. Go in, find what I need and get out is what works for me. I’ll admit to serious shopping-impatience and aversion and lack of perseverance in this department. Especially if there are lots of other things to be done. Spending an entire day going from shop to shop without finding what I’m looking for always got on my nerves, and still does. To complicate matters, I’ve always been very specific in what I like, so finding just the right thing can sometimes prove to be challenging and my mum used to show lots of patience as I’d inevitably get over it all long before we’ve found what I needed. I don’t have an aversion to buying something I like if I happen to cross paths with it though, such as gorgeous crystal or stone jewellery, I just don’t want to spend endless hours looking for it. Shopping for beautiful things in the fascinating Blue Souk (market) near Dubai was actually enjoyable, I have to admit, because you could buy the most exquisite and interesting things, from antique Omani silver jewellery (a hit for me) to Syrian tablecloths, Persian rugs and belly dancing outfits – I never did buy one of those – at very negotiable prices without it ever being packed with people. The Spice Souk in Dubai was amazing simply because of the alluring fragrance coming from sacks upon sacks packed in rows filled with spices that seemed to hold the key to take you to far away places and distant times. Browsing the odd craft market in a foreign place while on holiday or buying beautiful desert stones dug out by the local people in Namibia I manage to tolerate as well and I’d even go as far as to say I enjoyed it. But I’m definitely not cut out to be a serial shopper.

The Blue Souk In Sharjah (near Dubai)

The Blue Souk In Sharjah (near Dubai)

A tiny corner of one shop in the Spice Souk (Dubai)

A tiny corner of one shop in the Spice Souk (Dubai)

Crystals and stones for sale near Brandberg, Namibia

Crystals and stones for sale near Brandberg, Namibia

Grocery shopping is its own form of torture with people milling around, leaving their trollies mid-aisle and wandering over to the other side of the aisle to look at something while they block everybody else’s path and impatient me has to take several deep breaths and wait until I can pass. When we were first married my husband used to do the grocery shopping – from a very specific list that also included brand names where applicable – which was great except when he phoned me to tell me that something I’d asked for didn’t exist, and nowadays online shopping saves me spending so much time negotiating the supermarket trolley traffic. I don’t mind going to the shops before it gets too busy and getting a few things I need and getting out though, I just don’t consider wandering around shops to be a relaxing pastime.

It goes without saying then that I avoided going shopping with my babies in tow whenever I was able to as it all just ended up being too stressful but now that they’re older and actually able to help it’s a different scenario and it’s great having their help. Sometimes Child No 3 will go along to the supermarket to help me and at other times Child No 1 might hop in his car and nip down to the shop if I need something for dinner. Roles have started reversing in some cases and when they have to go shopping for something in particular they’ve already worked out that I’m not much help after about the second shop that we’ve been to because I’m too impatient, and sometimes they go on their own and search the shops for what they need, call me when they’ve found it and I’ll meet them, pay for their items and then we head home – everybody happy! These are the tricks of the trade for me.

Trying to find a year 12 ball gown for Child No 2 was a different kettle of fish though, as ball gown shops aren’t all conveniently located in one mall – so inconsiderate – and it meant driving from shop to shop, finding parking, paying for parking, walking between shops all on a day when it was 36°C by 9:30am. Not my idea of fun. To add insult to injury, my poor girl is also very specific in her taste and listed her requirements (no shiny fabric, no sequins, no pleats) before we left home. The only problem was that this year the going trend is shiny fabric, sequins and pleats but we stuck it out in a gutsy performance and after an exhausting marathon of patience and shopping, by the end of the day we found a beautiful dress that she loves and which makes her look like a million dollars.

My funniest shopping incident yet has to be the time I was trying on a dress and got stuck in it as it was halfway over my head. I was in a hurry to get dressed and out of the fitting room since there was an electrician working on the lights in the ceiling and he was making his way towards my cubicle. I had a very anxious moment or two as I had this frock stuck around my shoulders and then decided that as long as I was stuck, he wouldn’t be able to see my face so it didn’t matter that I’d made a complete spectacle of myself and suddenly I was free of it, changed back into my own clothes and rushed out at the speed of light. I never found out why the fitting rooms weren’t closed at the time – there were other shoppers in there as well – I was in too much of a hurry to leave the shop, and I can’t even claim to have been scarred by the incident, it was just too funny. I can’t help but wonder which one of us would have been the most embarrassed though, had I not managed to get myself unstuck!

My fondest shopping memory is of going grocery shopping – yes it’s true – with husband and Child No 1 tagging along when Child No 1 was a tiny little blonde-haired cheeky-grinned boy of about 3 and the two of them had wandered off and didn’t know where I was until our little boy put one of his hands on his head with the fingers sticking up and forward like a headlamp, swivelling it around and said: “I’ll put my Mamma-finding radar on” and looked for me with his hand on his head like that until they found me.