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 life unlived

I write this post with a heavy heart and as a departure from what up till now have been lighthearted stories about our journeys together, today’s is not.

On Saturday while away at Zebula, your Dad received a message from school to say that one of the matric boys had been in an armed robbery and was in hospital on life support. Given the level of crime we have come to live with on a daily basis we imagined the worst, fearing not only for the life of the boy but for the rest of his family.

Although we hear awful, heart breaking stories about senseless crimes all the time, we have, I think programmed ourselves to become immune in a way. I don’t believe that we would be able to continue our normal lives if we had to take in the pain and suffering of the inhumane acts that are committed.

For some reason, even though we weren’t close to the boy, his story touched us, and both Dad and I were awake in the early hours of the morning thinking of him and his family.

On Sunday evening we heard that in all likelihood his life support was to be turned off. There are two bullets lodged in his brain and there is no hope of recovery. We learnt too that his mother was killed in the robbery which took place at her offices. 

I cannot express in words how this tragedy affected us. 

The reason I am writing about this is because I held you close, breathed you in and thanked God for every precious moment I have with you praying a silent prayer that we would never have to face anything like it in our lives. You asked why I was crying and I explained that one of Daddy’s ‘boys’ had died telling you that he had been sick not wanting to expose you to the real truth.

This morning it was confirmed that they were awaiting his next of kin’s return from overseas to make a decision.

The senseless killing of this boy at the start of his journey into life shook me to the core. Here he was poised to become the man his family and school career had moulded him into and in a split second that was destroyed. No chance to become the father, doctor, community man, role model he was meant to be.

I hope that by the time you get to read this, the crime situation in this beautiful country of ours has improved and that we no longer have to live behind high walls fearful of the criminals who rob us of our freedom and our children’s futures.

I would like to call them animals but only humans are capable of inflicting senseless pain and suffering.

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.

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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!

All set for Jupiter

As someone who cannot go to sleep without reading, no matter what the time, the need to develop a passion for reading in you was critical. You have been read to every night of your life from six months onwards. What started as us or your Gagga or Granny Lyn choosing stories for you has now developed into you picking at least two stories a night.

The choices you have are endless with at least 50 books in your selection. You have over the years had your favourites, we’ve been through an extended Pooh phase, 1000’s of readings of Mickey Mouse, Noises at Night, Goodnight Baby Animals, Colour Me Happy, The Gruffalo which at one point you could recite, Albie & the Space Rocket, Under the Ground, The Circus Ship with Mr Payne, Eliza and the Moonchild to mention a few.

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You got this really special set of Ladybird books from your Aunty Carrie in October to help you to develop your reading skills. We have had hours of pleasure reading them and learning so many new things – all three of us!

Your favourite book of the set is the one about the planets and you have learnt so much from it amazing your ever doting parents and Teacher Angie with your knowledge of the planets.

What has amazed me is just how much the knowledge you have soaked up in such a short time. You know all the planets and can tell us about the big storm on Jupiter, how it’s freezing on Pluto and that Mars has the biggest volcano.

What I love even more is how this knowledge is coming through in our conversations. This is what you had to say before bed earlier this week:
Oliver: Mommy I love you so much. All day long.
Mommy: Thanks my baby I love you so much too every morning, day time, evening and night time.
Oliver: I love you even at school. I love you so much I am going to take you in my space rocket to Jupiter.
Mommy: That’s nice.
Oliver: Mommy do you have a rain jacket.
Mommy: Yes I do.
Oliver: Because we have to take our rain jackets with because there is a big storm on Jupiter and we will get wet. We mustn’t go in the brown spots because that has got gas and that is poisonous and we will die.
Mommy: Good thinking monkey.

I look forward to many many more book inspired moments and to traveling through space together literally of course!

Our December getaway

So it’s already the 22nd of January and this is my first post of the year, yes it is a little late but truth be told it has been a conscious decision, a break from all technology, a self-induced time out if you like and I have to admit it was so worth it. Old school is cool!

We enjoyed our holiday so much as we had quality family time together. The curse of not having cellphone or Internet connectivity where we stayed turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

But enough of that. Let me fill you in on what we got up to.

Princes Grant

Oliver the dinosaur hatching from his egg
Oliver the dinosaur hatching from his egg

After the whirlwind of school closing, your big 4th birthday bash, the last minute dash to close off on everything at work, we left in the early hours of the morning on 15 December and headed down to Princes Grant on the Natal north coast. Here we spent almost two glorious weeks with Gagga, Grandad, Uncle Ryan, Aunty Jen, Aunty Kris, Uncle Quintin, Nathan and Gemma. Luckily the house we hired had six bedrooms and enough space for all of us to have our own space.

It was an absolutely spectacular setting with a deck that gave us a view of the lagoon, beach and golf course. There was a pool and jacuzzi which was a massive hit. But I think the two golf carts that came with the house were what caused the most excitement. We were so spoilt with fabulous weather and so lucky to have a Grandad who gave us this wonderful gift.

Asking Father Christmas nicely for a race car track
Asking Father Christmas nicely for a race car track

Highlights of our time there included: quality time with family, dam building on the beach, nature walks, loads of fun rides on the green golf cart, bum sliding down the dunes, hours of canasta and backgammon, golf for Dad and some for Grandad, visit from Cara, Kyla and Gabriella, bike rides, early mornings with Gagga, swims in the sea, chasing and catching crabs, time with the Kaufies and the Snow clan, stories about Stan and Herman the bucks, a visit from Father Christmas on a yellow fire engine plus a ride on the fire engine singing songs through the loud speaker, driving the ‘car’ at the clubhouse jungle gym and so much more. 

Over and above all of that, is that you reached another milestone monkey – you started diving and swimming. It was amazing to watch your confidence build and your abilities grow daily. We were so proud of you.

 

Dive in action
Dive in action

Salt Rock

From the luxury of Prince’s Grant we moved on to ‘squat’ with the Kaufies at Zane and Debra’s house in Dunkirk Estate. Here the three of us slept in the kid’s room with you on a cot mattress on the floor and Dad and I each in a single bunk bed. We had a wonderful time with our special friends and their Gogo and Popsy who are so dear to us. We spent three nights with them with visits to Sage where you loved playing in the mini sheriff’s office and houses, trips to Grannies tidal pool, a walk down memory lane by visiting Salt Rock Hotel and lots of laughs.

Casa da Goodwin in Kamberg

Wading in the beautiful clear waters of the Little Mooi River
Wading in the beautiful clear waters of the Little Mooi River

The last day of 2012 saw us on the road again heading towards our final destination, Uncle Dave and Aunty Tish’s farm in the Kamberg where we went to ring in the new year with them, Uncle Lloyd, Aunty Carrie, Uncle Brian and Emma-Kay. I would love to say we partied the night away and saw the new year in but sadly not; some managed to stay up till just after midnight but we weren’t amongst them.

IMG_1424From the heat and humidity of the coast we welcomed the cooler, wet weather that is so common to the area. After two days of rain though we were happy to take the break and spend time at the beautiful Kamberg national park.

You and Dad had a ball hiking up the hills around the farm, picking blackberries, exploring the pine forest, keeping the beagles Chelsea and Bentley in line, looking for baboons, and having special boy time.

The farm is a wonderland for you with the dam, kiwi plantations, stream, Uncle Brian’s attic room, muddy patches, bridges – everything a little boy could wish for! You made me laugh so much with your constant questions of ‘why?’ to Uncle Dave who wasn’t prepared for your inquisitive mind but I think loved the interaction.

We have had such special times at the farm as a couple and as a family and this time again was no exception. How lucky we are to have family on both sides that we love spending time with, have common interests, challenge our thinking and keep us grounded.

Finally our holiday drew to a close and we headed home after three weeks away feeling more connected, much more relaxed and even more blessed than when we left.

Happy 4th Birthday Oliver

Hip hip hooray today’s your birthday! A very, very happy 4th birthday to you today my darling boy. As Daddy says, today marks the greatest day of our lives, the day you changed the world for us forever, the day you were born.

How very blessed we are to have you. You have given us so much joy and through you we have learnt to see the world in a different way. To take things a little slower, or faster, to stop and smell the roses, to always question, to allow our imaginations to run wild through your creative play, to enjoy building Lego again, to find joy in the little things but most of all how to love unconditionally. Thank you for all that you give us every day. You are our superstar!

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Bye bye dummy
Today marks a watershed moment in your little life. Forget all the wonderful gifts you received, your amazing fire station party (more on that in another post) and all the love and best wishes given by so many special people. Today you say goodbye to your dummy, or dum dum as you prefer to call it. The last standing vestige of babyhood.

We had spoken about this at length ahead of today and the agreement was made that at four you become a big boy, and big boys don’t have dummies. So, this morning you took your dummy and through it in the dustbin ‘all by yourself’. How proud we are of you. How long it lasts who knows but tonight will be the big test!

Who you are today
In building up your memory bank, I asked you some questions yesterday that we will repeat every year to see how you change and grow. They went something like this:
What’s your name? Oliver Stuart Goodwin
Your age: 3
What’s Mommy’s name: Aunty Penny
What’s Daddy’s name: David
Favourite colour: Blue
Best friend: Rosco and Zak
Who’s your teacher: Teacher Leigh
Favourite thing to do: Cut the grass (thoughtful pause) with scissors
Favourite food: Chippies
Food you don’t like: Meat (strange as you are a complete carnivore)
Favourite song: Kaptein (thanks to Aunty Kris’s wedding CD)
Favourite story: Winnie the Pooh at the Dr
Favourite toy: Blocks and Lego
What do you want to be when you grow up? 4 and a dinosaur to scare Teacher Leigh

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We so look forward to learning and growing with you over the next 12 months but part of me just wishes you would slow down as it is all going by too quickly. Each day we spend together is a precious gift and Dad and I look forward to spending tens of thousands more with you.

A very happy 4th birthday my sweet special boy.

I love you