A Rustic Charmer Called Belvedere Estate

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A short 30 minute drive out of Johannesburg lies this rustic little charmer called Belvedere Estate. It’s mainly a hub for European tourists who spend a night either before or after embarking on South African guided tours but for me and my friends it was a mini-break within the city that we live.

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The Good
It’s easily accessible from OR Tambo and the Gautrain station for your convenience.
It’s in a quiet enclave surrounded by lush gardens making it ideal for relaxation.
The rooms and bathrooms are spacious and comfy.
There’s an outdoor braai area near the pool so you can make the most of your summer evening.
Most of all there’s a feeling of go at your own pace and just unwind. There’s no-one popping their head around the corner every 10 minutes trying to force a conversation or checking in if you’re ok.

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The Not So Good
I’m a foodie and breakfast is important to me so for me it was just average.
Maybe for Europeans finding a pitbull chilling at the front entrance with no owner in sight is ok but for my friends it was “WTF”. Beware of the dogs roaming around.
The service could do with a little polishing up.

The Bad
The pool table was in a room that logistically made it impossible to play pool.
The evening braai was overpriced and underwhelming.
The toilet paper was 1-ply. Surely, it can’t be for a 4 star establishment?

My tip for fellow travelers:
If you’re South African opt out of the braai option unless you’re doing it yourself because braaing is a skill and not everyone has that skill.
Be wary of anyone offering an authentic, local experience that you have to pay for because it rarely is.

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You can find more information about Belvedere Estate at http://www.belvedereestate.co.za

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?

Soul Searching

“Out of suffering comes creativity. You cannot spell painting without pain.” John Lithgow

South Africa has been gifted a canvas of such natural beauty and diversity it leaves you breathless at times. Breathless at the sheer audacity and grace of the Artist and his/her depth of vision, generosity, and creativity.

If you’ve seen, heard or read anything in the news lately about South Africa that would be easy to forget. For, if you scratch a little below the surface what you’ll find is a strong undercurrent of powerlessness, and it’s close ally, hopelessness.

At some point, most, not some of us, have been knocked off our feet by that current, and by those, who feel the need to claim their power through senseless acts of violence.

It’s not as if we have ever denied that this country was built and sustained historically and politically through violence but perhaps we have been in denial about just how much it has spread through the veins of our social structures and about just how much it has become so every day.

So every day and so endemic.

So many questions and so few answers.

My personal beliefs are perhaps those of a small minority. I believe in energy, in flow, in tides, in seasons, in new ways of doing things, in new levels of consciousness, in sustainability, in community, in creativity, in the feminine, in forgiveness and in living in love.

I have referenced my father many times in this blog, and believe me, if he had just read the above paragraph, he would be saying by now, “What crap is this?”

Like my father, you and I may not believe in the same things and that’s ok but what would not be ok is if we collectively did not believe in hope. Hope for South Africa. Hope for re-discovering our collective soul. Hope for humanity.

Soul searching does not often happen in times of great joy and happiness. It happens in times of deep, dark despair. It happens in times of an achingly painful state of being. It happens in times when the stench of decay becomes unbearable and the rotting hatred of life too much.

For a country like South Africa where smart, strong, honest leadership is missing, it’s up to the small steps of one and giant leaps of many to claim it’s soul back.

“In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.” Ernst Fischer

If you still have it in you to dig a little deeper, to go into the depths of our complexities, to go beyond the violence and the depravity and the inhumanity, what you will find is communities.

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Communities of artists and of activists, groups of people who’ve stepped beyond the threshold of commercial gain and into the realm of agents of change. People who are quietly leading the way in re-generating, re-birthing and re-energising parts of the city and country that have been left for dead, so to speak.

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People who are using design, fashion, food, art, music, theatre and comedy to re-suscitate this ailing heart that is South Africa. They are proving through cultural endeavours that we are still here. That beyond the corruption, the fraud, and the violence, those who believed in what freedom would bring post-1994, those who were inspired by the humanity of Nelson Mandela and those who believe in a bright future for South Africa, are still here.

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They are proving that there is still a heart beat in this country, and however faint or weak it might be, as long as it is there, we have hope.

Hope that one day the beauty of the canvas will be matched by the beauty of the collective soul.

 

 

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I see her Rise!

As I sit in my makeshift office drinking green tea, I look out from the mountain top view of the city, and I ponder the state of my nation.

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From where I sit I see green. Lots of it. And scattered amongst the greenery I see buildings.
And in those buildings I see people.
And amongst those people I see women. Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins and aunts.
I see faces of every race, of every culture and of every age.
I see a swollen lip, puffy eye, and a bruised upper arm. I see the burn mark, the choke mark and the horrific bite mark.
I see the slap, the punch and the kick. I see the shove into the mirror, the push against the wall and the throw to the floor.
I see bruises, cuts and blood. I see fractured, I see broken and I see dead.
I see the heartache, the pain and the suffering.
I see the guilt, the shame and the blame.
I see fear.
Turn to anger. To outrage. To protest.
On the horizon from where I sit, I see a sea of blue sky and soft marshmallow clouds. I see birds and I see sun
And I see change.
I see her power, her body and her country
Re-claimed.
On the horizon from where I sit, I see her. Un-shamed. Un-blamed. Un-tamed.
I see her.
Rise.
I see her Rise!
I see her Rise!

If the statistic is true that a woman is raped every 4 minutes in South Africa, then in the time it has taken me to write this post, 60 woman have been raped. Are we angry yet?

It’s My Party

And I’ll cry if I want to. That’s how I feel about every birthday. It’s your day, your date, your cake, your chosen arrival into this world, your celebration, yours, yours, yours…. and it’s your time to own it.

For me it’s the best time to reflect. To look back on a year that’s past and take into account everything that’s happened: the beautiful, the average and the ugly.

More often than not, when you do this, you marvel at everything you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve come (even in the failures) and it gives you that extra oomph to tackle the next year.

This morning while drinking my tea in bed I took some time to think about the last year and I reflected, I remembered and I let go.

In a year I’ve:

  • Lost some friends and made some new ones
  • Holidayed in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Beijing and New York
  • Knocked off an item on a childhood bucket list (the Great Wall)
  •  Re-discovered my passion for writing
  • Lived, a life of charm
  • Cried in buckets, laughed in buckets and puked in buckets (too many Long Island Ice Teas, it happens)
  • Evolved emotionally and spiritually through some heartache and heartbreak
  • Stayed the course on steering and manifesting a life of my choice, my liking and my responsibility

It’s easy to dwell on these things, to gloat in a sea of achievement and get stuck in an illusion of glory. But it’s also dangerous.

I’m proud of myself for the journey I’ve travelled thus far but I also realise that this list does not by any means reflect my biggest blessings for the year.

While I would say that receiving my father’s birthday gift in the post after 36 years of waiting, is right at the top of the list, it doesn’t quite top the list. Sorry Dad.

My biggest blessings this year are that I get to spend Christmas and New Year in my own country, that I get to celebrate it with my family, and that I get to do all this in summer.

In being away from home, I realised that we can climb the highest mountain, make the most money, drive the fanciest car, live in the biggest mansion and travel to the most exotic places but it all means nothing at the end of the year, at the end of your life and at the end of time.

The only things that really matter are those you love. And it was at this time of year, my birthday and Christmas that I really missed my family and friends. You know, the ones who put up with your bullshit and still offer a shoulder to cry on, the ones who give you everything when they have nothing and the ones who love you no matter what.

So after spending 2 summer’s away from home, from family, and from friends, I treasure all the calls and the messages I received today, I treasure the laughter and tears I’ve shared with all of you, I treasure the support but most importantly I treasure the love.

I hope that when you get to celebrate another year of your life, you reflect back on your list, give yourself a pat on the back and move on with a tidal wave of love and gratitude for the ones you love and who love you back.

Be blessed. Be thankful. Be love.