Bye bye Bryanston Pre-Primary School

Wednesday, 4 December was your last day at Bryanston Pre-Primary School. Wow. I remember doing the school tour to find the right one for you and walking into Bryanston Pre-Primary for the first time after seeing countless others I just knew it was the one for you.

The warmth, community spirit, caring and sense of well being I felt on that first day have been present throughout our time there.

You entered the school a tiny tot in January 2012 and are leaving a little big boy. In your time there you have grown in so many ways but the one I want to single out is the friendships you developed.

You and teacher Angie celebrating your birthday at school
You and teacher Angie

For the first time you got to choose your mates based on how you connected and formed close bonds. Your closest friends over the two years have been Rosco and Zak. With them you have got up to untold amounts of mischief, spent time in Lucille’s office, exchanged countless hours of toilet talk but most importantly laughed and created special memories.

Other special friends were Tristan, Axel, Tyler, Mifi, Ababalwe and Kieran. From each of these little people you have learnt different things and we see how they have helped to shape you and build your funky little character.

Of course the person who has had the biggest influence this year was Teacher Angie. A wonderfully gentle soul who has worked tirelessly in helping to develop your fine motor skills and your sensory quirks.

Saying goodbye was tough. You went to give Lucille, or as you like to call her ‘Wacille’, a hug goodbye and as you snuggled in to her shoulder you said “Goodbye Wacille I am never, ever going to see you again.” Well that was the end of myself and Lucille.

All these goodbyes are difficult for all of us, but especially for you as your little world gets turned on its head. I know it’s tough my monkey but you will come through it all a little stronger and a little wiser, it is all unfortunately part of the process of growing up.

Something you are doing far too quickly.

The times they are a changing

On the 10th of September we made a decision. A big decision. Not one that you make often, or in our case, one we have made together before. We are moving, and by moving I mean really moving, away from everything we have known and loved. January 2014 will see us leave the hustle and bustle that is Johannesburg to move into the quiet country town of White River in the Mpumalanga province.

But that’s not all, we will be moving onto the Uplands College school property into a staff house which is nestled in a valley overlooking a small dam. This is a first for you and me and will require some getting used to on our part but we are excited.

With all the important conversations had, key decisions made and a million and one thoughts now better aligned in our heads, I can finally put this all down. See, as much as I am excited I am also fearful. Scared of the change and the unknown.

For the first time I am going to be freelancing, giving me the opportunity to spend more time with you while you still want me around, letting me take a break from the rat race and providing a chance for me to explore new avenues.

We are also leaving our families that we love and share so much quality time with behind. I haven’t begun to contemplate the impact this will have on us, as it is just too big. Even writing this brings tears to my eyes. This wonderful network of people have had such massive role to play in helping to raise you. They have always been there to support us in so many ways and although they won’t be too far away in distance they will be in other ways.

The last, but certainly not least fear, is saying goodbye to our Connie. She has been your second Mom and a key member of our family for the last five years. She has seen us all at our best and worst, has guided us, helped us in so many ways but most of all has loved us, you most of all, just as much as we have loved her.

But the pros far out weigh the cons and the signs so far have all pointed to us having made the right decision. We have sold our house, Dad has got a promotion before he even started and I have some work lined up which will help to ease me in.

Most importantly though we are moving into the most beautiful area. A place where you will be able to go to a fantastic school, have your Mom and Dad close by and grow up surrounded by natural beauty in a secure environment.

Really what more could we ask for?

Happy 95th Birthday Madiba

Today, 18 July 2013, marks the 95th birthday of Tata Madiba, the Grandfather of this beautiful and diverse country we call home. What makes the occasion even more auspicious is that it is in all likelihood the last birthday this great man will ever celebrate.

Let me take you back to why Madiba means so much to us all. You will no doubt learn about what he did, his selfless actions and ability to unite a nation in history, but what you won’t be taught is about the personality of this icon.

On 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after serving 27 years. At this time I was on a train (EduTrain) with a number of other scholars from Johannesburg and Pretoria in what was my first time of interacting with kids from other race groups. Government schools had yet to become inclusive so I was at schools with only white kids. It was an amazing experience for me and there were many moments where previously held racial views were broken down. The most memorable was of a white Afrikaans boy who was a rugby player breaking down in tears and apologising to the black kids in our group for the how badly he had treated black players on the rugby field, something his father had told him to do.

Madiba showing off his playful side
Madiba showing off his playful side

I remember us disembarking from the train at Pretoria station and forming a massive circle on the platform and holding onto one another, not wanting to go back to the reality of the unreal world we were living in. We had gone through a life-changing experience together and were leaving into a very different world than the one we had left. Appartheid for all intents and purposes was over.

Fast forward to 27 April 1994, Freedom Day, the first ever free and fair elections to be held in South Africa. It was my first opportunity to vote and I queued outside Bryanston High School in the almost carnival-like atmosphere with Gagga, Grandpa, Uncle Ryan and Aunty Kristy to cast my vote. We didn’t get to vote that day as the queues were too long but we went back the next day and I voted for the first time on my 20th birthday along with over nineteen and half million other South Africans. What an amazing feeling it was and what a way to celebrate a new decade!

Nelson Mandela receiving the notebooks from Donald Card
Nelson Mandela receiving the notebooks from Donald Card

In the mid 2000’s I was privileged to work on a project with the Nelson Mandela Foundation for the handover of two of Madiba’s notebooks from prison by ex policeman Donald Card. It was an incredible experience as not only did I get to work on this historic occasion, but I also got to briefly meet the man. This took place on 21 September 2004 at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. I cannot describe the aura he has around him or what an impact he had on me by just meeting my eye. He had a twinkle in his eye, a genuine warmth and magnetism.In true Madiba style at the handover ceremony, he thanked Card and said to the crowd, “What you have just witnessed could be described as one old man giving another old man two old notebooks.” What a moment it was and I have the newspaper cutting saved where my arm is next to his in the picture, a reminder to me that it really did happen!

I count myself extremely lucky to have met this amazing man and hope that, although he won’t be around forever, his spirit and dedication to righting the social injustices in this country will live on for yours and future generations.

It’s been two weeks…

On Friday 17 May we heard the unimaginable, our colleague and friend had lost her little boy Hudson who was just over four months old. I wrote the following on Facebook on the day: A devastating day as we bid farewell to a little boy who was a fighter from birth and taken far too soon. Our hearts broken for his Mom and Dad, our souls shaken, with no words to express the pain we feel. Today I will go home and hold my little boy close, breathe him in deep and just be thankful for every moment we have together.
The blog post I have included is from Hudson’s Mom Andrea.

whatiwastryingtosaywas

It’s two weeks today since I last held my son.

I have no real learnings for you. I couldn’t write a book on anyone’s grief but my own. I can tell you it still feels surreal. I still wake up wondering why he’s so quiet. I still feel the universe was unforgivingly unfair on both Hudson and us. And I still miss holding him close to my chest. I can also tell you that we haven’t touched his things, except to smell them and rub them against our faces. We haven’t even discarded the milk we’d prepared so diligently the night before he died.

It’s hard. I can go all day feeling drier than the Sahara and then I feel the longing and the emptiness in our home or I look at one of his photos, remember the time I took it and the flood of tears comes.

The only…

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At the time of Phak’s passing

 

A poem written by your Dad today on the passing of Phakama Ndlovu which he is sharing with his classes. He was Phak’s English teacher in Grade 10.

At the time of Phaks’s passing

Who would have guessed you could touch me

Touch us

In the way that you have

A boy I knew so briefly

A man I never met

Your absence is a pit

Of questions and of longing

It is dark and vacuous

It makes no sense

But here together we live

On the sneering lip of its swallowing expanse

To lean over and peer below

Hold hands so as not to fall

To toss a coin into its depths

And hear its hollow chiming clink

As it vanishes into the huge abyss

I think, there is nothing I would wish than this

I do not believe in everlasting

There is only now and it is passing

Yours has added to the weight

Your passionate life, Phaks – a war cry leader

Has become a different threat

A reminder of our united debt

A chant for victory over senseless death

That this is where we live

In oppressive perpetual dread

Until the voice of violence

Is muted, silenced, spent

Our country is not a home

I tell my son, there are no monsters

It’s time to sleep

But for the rising shadow

Of fear and greed

And shame in deed

Of shots that ring out

And echo in the chamber

That once held your vital heart

That beat

And beat

And beat

By David Goodwin

A snappy outing

On 12 March you went on your first school outing ever. What a watershed event and one of those milestones which will never be repeated, so sad.

So, the build-up to the Orange (your class) and Yellow Class field trip to Crocodile City just outside of Fourways started the week before with much confusion between the Moms of just when you were off as you all were so excited that you confused the days.

The excitement levels remained high and just like your Dad the night before golf you had a restless night on Monday. But the day dawned and although overcast there was luckily no rain around.

Mom was lucky enough to get to experience some of the trip as I took you along with Axel and Tyler Piehl to Crocodile City. The car ride there was entertainment enough for me for the day and I did, I have to admit, have a guilty thought that I was indeed getting off lightly by not staying for the full morning.

On arrival you all scattered like cooped up chickens and getting you along with the other class into the video viewing room was a bit like herding cats! The guide knew his audience though and had you all entranced with a Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter episode.

At this point I had to leave you but on all accounts the day went really well.

Image
The ‘puffadder’ you held

You got to go on a tour of the facility and see all the crocs and other creatures and you were one of the brave ones who held the baby crocodile and snake!

Sharon, Axel and Tyler’s Mom, gave you a lift back to school and you all behaved like tiny little crazed people throwing juice, talking nonsense and generally just being monkeys. We put this all down to you being over-excited and stimulated by the whole experience!

We forget sometimes just what a little guy you still are because you were absolutely beside yourself when you got back.

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Brave boy holding a baby croc!

When I asked you what you enjoyed the most about the day your answer was: “Mom it was AMAZING the crocodile had his mouth open so that he could cool down. Also the ‘nelectric’ fence was struck by lightning when he was biting it and his tooth came out.”

I love your imagination and can’t wait to experience all the other trips you will go on through your eyes!

My dash through Dubai

As I write this I am sitting in our Dubai office. I came on a whirlwind visit to work with our team on the ground on a new business pitch. It’s my first visit to the city my previous attempt being thwarted by the volcanic ash cloud that saw me stranded in Paris in May 2010. That however, is a story for another day.

Truth be told as I am here for business, I haven’t really had time to have a full Dubai experience but from what I have been exposed to, I have to say I have been underwhelmed. Yes there are amazing buildings, the biggest mall I have ever seen in my life, great infrastructure and a show of wealth – I haven’t seen one beggar on the street! But what is missing is soul.

I have been surprised by how few nationals there are and a colleague informed me that the Emirate make up around 20% of the total population of Dubai. Being used to the warmth and culture of home and our unique ‘africaness’ I feel like everything is shiny and new but somewhat lacking.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Dubai has done a great job of positioning itself as a key business hub and shopping hotspot for the region, you only have to look at the companies and brands who are here to see how successful this has been. It’s just not my kind of place.

I am a sucker for history and culture and want to feel like I’ve grown a little through a connection with humanity.

Looking at the city from your eyes though as I always try to do when I am away on business travel, I am amazed by the buildings and infrastructure that fill the Dubai skyline which weren’t in existence 20 years ago. The most unbelievable of these is the Burj Khalifa.

A bottom up view of the Burj Khalifa
A bottom up view of the Burj Khalifa

I took a taxi to Dubai Mall to go and get a closer look at this incredible tower and wow it is incredible in design. At 828 metres it is the tallest tower in the world, has the most number of floors (over 160) and has the elevator with the longest travel distance. Standing and looking up, I was blown away not only by the sheer height of it but by the beauty of its design. I think if you had been there monkey you might just have been speechless, well for at least a minute or two, and then you would have babbled non stop with excitement!

The more I travel the more I recognise that we have something unique to our make up as South Africans. We have warmth and culture and well, just a certain ‘africaness’ in spirit that I think helps makes visitors here feel so welcome. My boss recently attended the final of the African Cup of Nations, he also attended the final of the Soccer World Cup in 2010 and he said that for him the African Cup experience was just that much more special because of this African spirit.

As much it is great to see the world in all its glory there really is no place like home.

So, I won’t be rushing back to Dubai for a break any time soon, but will definitely have to add the city as a stopover destination on a family holiday just so I can get to see your face when you see the tower!