No Jane of the Jungle: Part 2

2 years ago while in Korea I decided to put my big girl panties on and venture out into the jungle. The dating jungle that is. I really don’t know what possessed me to do such a thing. Perhaps it was one too many nights spent cuddling up with a book or some misguided fear of missing out.

Even though I had heard some nightmarish stories, I felt strangely brave and excited. I mean, how bad could it really be?

Let’s just say, that it was disastrous an eye-opening adventure. An adventure that led me to one realisation: I am No Jane of the Jungle.
I decided at that point to stick to my books, movies and numerous dates with chocolate cake.

As a result, my curves are now amp-ler, my cleavage is lots-er-er and my butt is cushioned-der-rer. I am packing in all the right places.

Luckily for me, I have since left the Land of the Skinny and am now living in a Place of Undulating Foothills and Mountainous Terrain (my home South Africa). I feel like a normal part of society again and not some alien fatty inhabiting the shores of a shapeless race.

With this new sense of normality came a false sense of optimism and confidence. Whilst not actively seeking to date I have been out.

Now, how can I put it to you? Ummmm….let me put it this way; I’m no longer in jungle territory, more like the open Wild.

In the jungle, I wasn’t sure what was lurking around, it was all foreign to me, including some of the animals. Now I’m in familiar territory. I can spot a baboon a mile away. I can see the vulture swooping in for the kill and I can hear the laughing hyena.

While the animals are now identifiable the behaviour is not. You think you keeping company with a lion in the meantime it’s a fox. You think you’re conversating with an elephant in the meantime it’s a parrot. You think you dining with a giraffe in the meantime it’s a pig.

I mean it’s very confusing. The evolution in the Wild is taking a different turn. I can’t keep up. So what I’ve now realised is that I’m no Jane of the Jungle nor am I a Winnie in the Wild.

So what am I?

I don’t yet know. What I am thinking though, is that I may have to stay indoors…….

and start collecting cats?

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A Very English Girl Passing Through A Very Afrikaans World

If you are from Bloemfontein and are sensitive or defensive, PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS.

All Afrikanerism definitions from Wikipedia. I did not make them up. I promise.

Traveling is a wonderful thing. I love it. I love my country. I love traveling in my country. I love the diversity of the landscape and the people.

Sometimes though, just sometimes, like when you’re sitting in a sports car, and your face is Vogue ready and you’re wearing your Karl Lagerfeld’s and you’re looking pristine, and some moegoe (silly/stupid person) sticks his face through the car window and says, “Heita ousie (hello maid/black female)”, you just have to wonder whether you passed a border post and didn’t realise it.

These are just my thoughts, the thoughts of a very English girl passing through a very Afrikaans world, Bloemfontein.

If there is one thing traveling has taught me, it’s the good sense to differentiate between a language and an attitude. I have no issues with Afrikaans as a language; it’s one of the easiest and most expressive languages in the world.

I do have issues though with the attitude of some Afrikaans speaking people.

On entering the city, of roses, mind you, I felt like I was in a 1980’s South Africa, like someone had pressed rewind on the politics, culture and clothing. Like Nelson Mandela had never happened. Like vellies (veldskoens – traditional Afrikaans outdoor shoes made from hide) were still in fashion.

I felt like Posh Spice in the heart of Boerfontein (farmer’s land). Jislaaik! (Oh the horror).

But at least I cracked a smile.

Sometimes, just sometimes, when you travel, and you find that you’ve crossed the invisible border post, and you are in the middle of some sort of time lapse, you just have to pull in the bum and push out the boobs, and “gooi” (throw your weight/attitude/bitchiness) with the best of them.

When I was out in public, my laaitie (younger person, esp. a younger male), kept saying to me, ‘get ready for the stares’ and I said, ‘Don’t worry, 2 years in Korea prepared me for stares’.

Sometimes, just sometimes, when you travel, and you find yourself in an adverse or annoying situation, feel it, deal with it and move on. It’s the Universe preparing you for another situation. And because you have already been prepared for it you won’t feel the need to skop, skiet en donner (kick, shoot and beat people up) over it.

Just march on like the laanie (boss) you are!

If it sounds like Bloemfontein is a kak plek (crap/shit place), ag shame man, it’s actually not.

Sometimes, just sometimes, when you travel, you need to get past certain things and focus on the positive, and then you’ll enable yourself to just enjoy the experience.

Bloemfontein does have the most amazing skyline. It feels like you can reach up and touch it.

The streets are clean and the gardens pretty.

I got to run, walk and hike in a beautiful, quiet and peaceful wildlife estate.

 

Photo: The wildlife estate

I got to enjoy some quality time with family (great conversation, good laughs and lots of delicious food)

I satisfied my craving for pap ‘n vleis met a bietjie chakalaka on the side

 

Photo: Boerewors, lamb chops, pap and chakalaka

Bloem is mos a ander plek maar ‘n goeie plek. (Bloem is an ‘other’ kind of place but a good place)

This ‘ousie” may not be back in a hurry, but still, one love. We cool. Like that.

Ons sal weer om dieselfde vuur sit. Miskien.

Photo: Sunset Clouds

 

Goodbyes

In war, innocent casualties are a given. It is unfortunate, it is sad, it’s better to be avoided, but it is a given. People who have no voice, no quarrel with the status quo and no involvement in the disagreement, die. It is the same with divorce. While nobody dies, hopefully, there are innocent casualties. The children.

As a child of divorce, saying goodbye is a painful process. Whether its to a friend, a loved one, a country, a home, or a way of life. Whether it’s temporary or permanent it still bears the same emotional weight. It’s deeply, heart-breakenly heavy.

It’s a reminder of the first and worst goodbye we ever had to say, to a bond broken, a union separated and love dissolved. To the back of a parent walking out the door and out of your life.

My parents have been divorced for 25 years now but I still sometimes struggle with a simple goodbye. I still get emotional, I still cry and I still get sad.

I’m far into the last stages of a life lived in a foreign country. And I’m in the beginning stages of saying my goodbyes.

As I enter the last 4 days of a 2 year life lived in Korea I look back at all that was foreign – the land, the people, the language, the smells, the food, the culture, the weather – and I marvel at how familiar it has now become.

So familiar that I consider it my home away from home, that I consider my friends here my family away from home, and I consider my colleagues here my friends away from home.

As I start to say my goodbyes and I start to acknowledge that this is the last time I’ll eat at this restaurant, speak to this student, catch this bus, walk to this school, smile at this lady and see this person, I feel the weight of the goodbye lighten. I feel happysad.

I made the most of this opportunity. I embraced the change. I travelled. I met wonderful people. I laughed. I ate. I drank. I celebrated. I cried in frustration. I made mistakes. I dated assholes (that’s my father speaking right there). I expanded emotionally and spiritually. I lived.

I realise even more now in saying my goodbyes the importance of staying in the present moment. In savouring it. In absorbing it and in enjoying it. Days, weeks and years seem to be flying by. 2 years seem to have gone by in a flash. And in that flash I have accumulated an infinity of fond memories and adventures. Moments caught in the forever of my life.

And it’s for this reason, as I change lanes for the next part of my journey, that I leave feeling content, happy and free.

Thank you Korea, with love and gratitude,

GOODBYE

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Why is everyone running?

Last night a crazy idea popped into my head and for a reason unknown to me, I followed through with it this morning. Needless to say it had rather unexpected results.

I generally don’t believe in getting out of bed before the sun rises. I like a lazy wake up. I need at least 30 minutes to drink my coffee and think. And then I like to stretch and yawn and throw the covers off and roll out of bed.

I’m currently on holiday. There is nothing but lazy days to look forward to. So you can imagine my alarm, when my alarm went off at 4:30am this morning. And you can imagine my shock and horror when my body jumped out of bed and my mind had to follow suit.

No, I wasn’t going on a road trip. No, I wasn’t waking up to watch the sun rise over the ocean. And no, I wasn’t waking up to catch a flight to an exotic location.

I set my alarm at 4:30am to go for a run. And I actually got out of bed and did it. Who is this person I hear you asking? Yes, I’m wondering the same thing.

Let me backtrack and explain how I got to the crazy notion of waking up at 4:30am. I’m still in Korea and its summertime here, which means it steaming, as in 26-28 degrees Celsius steaming at 5:30 in the morning. And that is when I normally head out for a run.  I’ve been struggling for weeks to run in the heat.

Now let me backtrack and explain how I even got into running. I had been planning for years to become a regular runner. These plans were all in my head of course and that’s where they stayed. Why? Well, because I have the ability to make up the most imaginatively convincing excuses.

Then one day out of the blue, I mean, I don’t even know how these things happen, my brother-in-law started running. And then my sister started running and next thing I know my niece and nephew are running. Suddenly I’m back in South Africa on holiday and the whole family is waking up early to exercise, my mother included. So what’s a girl to do but fall in line?

After this semi-active holiday I headed back to Korea and forgot about running until my brother-in-law invited me to join a World Wide Fun Run on facebook. You know that awkward second after you’ve accepted something and then you immediately think, why did I just do that? Yes, well I could’ve not done it and no-one would have known but I gave my word and if you can’t honor your own word then who can?

That first 5km was run run walk, run walk, walk run run, walk walk, run walk, run walk. I’ve kept going because the overachiever in me wasn’t happy with the run walk situation. I gave myself 2 big goals. Get to a point of running 5km without stopping to walk and then get to a point of running it in 35 minutes minimum.

Each morning that I’ve subsequently gone out to run I’ve made small goals for myself. Small goals like increase my run to walk ratio by a few hundred meters more than the last run. Or try to increase my pace by 10 seconds with each run. These small goals have kept me motivated to keep running.

Last night I got this crazy idea to set my alarm for 4:30am. This morning I shocked myself by getting out of bed at that ungodly hour. I stepped out into a cool morning breeze. Much cooler than any other morning and I just started running. In the dark. In the quiet.

After running for 2.5km I told myself I could do it for 3km. Then when I reached 3km and still felt good I told myself I could do 4km. Then when I got to 4km I told myself, you’ve got this, just 1 more, you can do this. And then when I got to 4.8km I remembered what I wrote last week about digging deep and pushing yourself. I managed to sprint the last 200m to my own surprise. I didn’t know I still had that in me.

This morning I achieved both my goals. I ran 5km in less than 35 minutes. When I woke up I had no idea I was going to do this. I didn’t know I was ready. I got a crazy idea and I followed through with it. I went out into the dark and focussed on enjoying the cool quiet morning without any expectations for a particular outcome. It just so happens that I achieved my goals along the way.

When you think big and set goals for yourself, take action. Small steps. Get into motion and the Universe will too. One day you’ll find that the accumulation of all those small steps and little actions will lead to the achievement of that big goal.

Sometimes you might think you’re in the dark with no idea of where to next. Sometimes you need to trust that crazy idea that came from nowhere because sometimes that is the Universe whispering that you’re ready, that it’s time. Sometimes you need to be quiet to listen.

5 Years 3 Continents and 2 Drama Queens Later

I had my first encounter with “blogging” in 2007 when I was in New York. My friend’s cousin’s wife, a mouthful I know, was an actress.  Or aspiring actress depending on who you asked. In any event, sitting around the kitchen table one morning she started talking about how she was going to perform a one woman play based on a blog written by someone living in Iraq. Maybe I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet but this all seemed like some arty- farty-aspiring- actress-figment-of-the-imagination-I’m-trying-to-get-into-Hollywod-type-thing. I mean what the heck was this thing a “blog” anyway?

And that’s where I left it until 2010 when I was sitting around another kitchen table, this time in South Africa, with my sister, having a discussion about her starting a blog. Still clueless, I thought, oh boy, here we go again. Another kitchen table, another woman known for her dramatics, another blog discussion. Whatever this blog thingy is, it can’t be for me, I thought.

I have always loved writing. At school and at university my favourite part of English and History studies was always writing the essays. Quite the nerd, yes. Anyway, when my sister finally got round to explaining what a blog actually was, I got a little excited. Writing. About anything. In my own time. In my own space. I can do that, I thought.

So I started a blog on some site in South Africa for about a day. It died a quick and painless death. It froze. Like me. Eeeek! Put my thoughts and feelings and opinions OUT THERE. For strangers to read and comment on. You see, a few people responded to that initial blog and it did not impress me. It scared me. No, this is not for me, I thought.

And that’s where I left it until February 2011. This time I was in Korea and I got a message from my sister about this wonderful site she found called WordPress, and anyway she’s created an account and started a blog (Leanne Tee) and its so easy and quick and easy, did I mention that already? I should create an account. I should start a blog. That was her message. So being the obedient sister that I am I created an account, and I snooped around the site and I thought mmmh I dunno about this. I could maybe kinda sorta do this. Maybe?

I didn’t write a thing on the blog. Not even the “about” me page. Fear. Doubt. Lack of confidence. Lack of self worth.  However you classify that thing that holds you back. I had it.

And that’s where I left it until February 2012. I was still in Korea but now my sister was living in New York. I got another message. “I want you to write a guest post for me and I’m giving you a deadline. Monday”.  A bloody cheek, I agree.  So I sat and I mulled over it. I thought, I brewed and stewed and I procrastinated. Mainly I procrastinated. Sunday rolled round and then boom the thought of an impending deadline got the creative juices flowing.

It took me all day to write that first post, I’m No Jane of the Jungle. And it probably took me 2 hours to press the send button. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I obsessed, fretted, panicked, double-checked, triple-checked, read it a million times in my head, read it out loud and then settled into worry. What if it wasn’t good enough? What if no-one liked it? Worse yet, what if no-one read it?

I thought I was finally losing my mind that night panicking over that first post. Obsessing about it. Getting paranoid about it. Becoming all ‘bunny-boiler’ over it. I was cursing my sister for putting me in this position. I felt vulnerable, like I was up in the docks waiting for a jury to pass judgment. Needless to say, I survived the experience and so began my blogging journey.

Although I managed to get over my fear of putting my words and thoughts out there in a public sphere, the ‘bunny-boiler’ lingered. I immersed myself in WordPress and “blogging”.

Suddenly there were things like ‘being part of a community’, ‘growing your audience’ and ‘publicising’ your blog to think about. As much as I was obsessed with writing a good story I became even more obsessed with the stats and how many people were reading my blog and how many people were liking it. I felt like I was being sucked into this popularity contest yet I was the only contestant. I didn’t like myself for it but I also couldn’t stop it.

In the few months that I’ve had this blog I’ve done a fair bit of experimenting. I believe in dipping your bread into the sauce of life and tasting different flavours. Otherwise how else will you know what you really like?

This blog has taught me that sometimes the things you start with the greatest of intentions can cause you the most amount of suffering. Staying grounded takes work. Writing authentically takes presence. Being true to your art takes soul.

Writing the I Am blog series was really about me exhaling and saying I’m re-turning to MY voice. I know what I like and I know what works for me. I’m clear with what my intention for this blog is now and that is storytelling with a purpose.

I’ve been in the process of re-building, re-moulding and re-shaping  my  life for a while now. It is a constant journey that has taken turns of fits of laughter, tears, mistakes, rubbish choices in cavemen, adventure and friendship. It has all ultimately led to a very happy place.  And if in some way my story touches just one other person that is enough for me.

So after 5 years, 3 continents, and 2 drama queens I feel like I’m finally onto this blogging business. As it turns out it’s not a figment of the imagination nor is it an arty-farty-I’m-trying-to-get-into Hollywood- aspiring- actress thingy. It’s simply an open platform for people to share and create communities. And sharing and creating are very powerful platforms. You never know where it may lead, right?

As it turns out, my friend’s cousin’s wife, the aspiring actress from New York, is now a Bollywood star with a big Bollywood blockbuster behind her name.

Life is full of delicious surprises. Keep dipping and keep tasting.