Thursday, September 27, 2007

The pros and cons of cycling

(I wanted to call it the ups and downs, but being in the Netherlands it would be more the flats and flats)

Pro: You get from A-B faster than walking (and public transport).
Con: I equal the time out by getting tangled in my locking mechanism.

Pro: It's a good way to warm up for hockey/football.
Con: It sucks to cycle home afterwards.

Pro: You can point and laugh at the suckers stuck in traffic as you sail past.
Con: The suckers stuck in traffic can point and laugh at you when it suddenly starts to rain.

Pro: It's safe. Bicycle paths and dedicated traffic lights mean you don't need to dodge cars.
Con: It still gets confusing as to which side of the road I should be on.

Pro: Drivers are assumed liable if a cyclist gets hit. No matter what the circumstances.
Con: Regardless of who'll be paying the medical fees, if you get hit by a car it's guaranteed that the vehicle won't be the one taken off in an ambulance.

Pro: Lots of fresh air gets the brain into gear on the way to work.
Con: Lots of fresh air usually comes in the form of very strong gusty wind. (Also, some bugger in a van insists on spritzing his windscreen wipers down the same stretch of road, at the same time every morning - resulting in a face full of watery cleaning agent for me. Fortunately I don't cycle with my mouth open any more. It used to be very unpleasant.)

Pro: I can cycle with my phone/mp3 player on.
Con: I still can't cycle while holding an umbrella.

Pro: My sixth/seventh hand bike is still considered 'new-ish'.
Con: Parts of it are held together (literally) by cellotape.

Um... that's all I can think of for now. I'm sure there'll be more. Actually haven't been able to do much cycling lately, what the lashing winds, heavy rain and wintry temperatures.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Frolicking around Europe

Oh my shattered poepstring, the game on Saturday nearly ended my heart. We did not drive to France just to watch SA lose to Tonga! On the upside, we were sitting in the chicken run seats in the corner of the tryline, just where Bobby Skinstad went over in spectacular fashion in the second half. This meant that we missed Steyn's punch up on the other side of the field - as apparently, did every TV cameraman. Did he bite Faka? I wonder. Of course, when Mah BOY Bryan was warming up in the same corner, right under our seats, I was in the queue for the toilet. Of course.

In other news, Mills managed to book us into the same hotel as the Tongan team, which was really cool. They're a charismatic bunch - even though they treated us to knowing nods and smiles when we crawled in (in full SA regalia) after the game... saying with out saying it... "we almost ended your team." I got my picture taken with the man of the match, Finau Maka. We cornered the poor bugger while he was requesting ice for a his black eye - I'm sure he was thrilled to be accosted by an enthusiastic South African, a Dane and an American (Mills hung behind, trying to pretend he wasn't with us). In the picture, I'm the one looking intimidated by the size of his biceps, and his hair. I know a good 'fro when I see one, bro.

Speaking of Bro... there were obviously lots of drunk SA fans on the town that evening. What a mess - mildly embarrassing when one dude from Centurian did the nation proud by drooling on our Texan acquaintance and having the following conversation with the Dane:

Dribbles: "ssshoooo... wheres you all from?"
Dane: "Denmark."
Dribbles: "wait... don tell me. Yous from Ireland."
Dane: "Nope. I'm still from Denmark."
Pause as Dribbles tries to absorb the information, drools a bit more. Conversation continues without him. Five minutes later...
Dribbles: "ssshoo where you from?"
Dane: "I'm sticking with Denmark."

Go SA.
Now... Barthelona:

Very cool city - awesome architecture. Can't say I knew much about this Gaudi dude before our arrival, but I'm sure he had real special recreational drugs at his parties. Enough sightseeing, here's something that you won't find on a walking tour:

The Catalonians have a tradition at Christmas. They like to hide a little Caganer character in amongst the shepherds, the angels and the three wise men. What's a Caganer, I hear you question? It's a figurine of a Crapper. A person taking a poo. The reason for this tradition is a little hazy.

You think I'm making this up? Read here. Suddenly, South Park's character "Mr Hanky the Christmas Poo" makes some sort of sense.

Finally: birds. Uncontrollable, all around the world.

And that's my life over the last two weeks. My job here is done. Now I need to download the 400-odd pictures onto facebook... Next on the list of priorities: get the Dutch computer working so I don't have to use Mills's laptop any more.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Time out

It's a tough life... just back from Barcelona. Hardly time to catch my breath or download pictures, because we're off to France this weekend to watch SA play Tonga. It's a tough life, but I'm prepared to do it.

Watch out for me on TV, I'll be the one trying to tackle "Mah BOY" Habana on the bench.

Tot strakjes!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stomme idioot

I know I shouldn't, but I do. I judge her for being thick - the Sheltered South African kid. I know it's not her fault that she has no idea about the atrocities committed by South Africans on South Africans. I blame her upbringing - and the fact that she went to a school called Voortrekker High.

It irritates me beyond words when she tells people that all South Africans are sheltered and unworldly, but I don't argue, because that would be like screaming at a four-year-old for being naive. Most of the South Africans I know can at least name a country and point to its rough location on the map.... unlike Americans, Brits and even Aussies. When it comes to all-round education, Saffers tend to be leaps and bounds ahead of the western world - along with Eastern Europeans and Asians. First world countries tend to think that knowing the bus route to work is general knowledge.

I judge her because she judges her father for marrying an Indian lady 10 years ago. She thinks that once you choose to marry, you stick by that decision. Regardless. And the man is always right. Unless he's your father and has chosen an interracial second marriage.

She tells me how much she misses South Africa, but she can't go home because her boyfriend doesn't want her to go on holiday without him and he doesn't want to go to South Africa because he's been there before - once, when she went home to visit her mother, two years ago. It gets better. He's still studying, so she's the one working in the relationship. Yet he controls the finances and puts a pittance into her account as pocket money. I want to tell her to tell him to shove his opinion where it's dark and warm, but it's not my place and I bite my tongue.

She tries to include me in her ignorant opinions. Like, "I haven't watched South African rugby in the last five years, but don't you think we're going to lose against England?" No, you lobotomised goldfish, I think Bryan Habana is a god and I'm actually hopeful that we're going to do quite well. The Brit in our office is a betting man... and you know what, he's betting on SA to win on Friday. Any further idiot opinions at this stage?

Why don't I verbally attack this gullible and misled lump of charcoal?

Because I really think it would be like elbow-dropping a toddler, screaming "you like that, punk? HUH? DO YA?" I can't do it. And she sees me as her one link to South Africa, except that I actually get to visit South Africa and see my family when I choose to. So even though I want to grab her by her shoulders and shake her until I can see the veins bursting in her dull eyeballs, I tolerate her comments. I take deep breaths and let her idiot ramblings wash over me. Because I pity her.

Gawd, I feel so much better after this rant. Now I can face another day of the SSAK.

In other news, I walked a Japanese granny to her flat in the old-age centre this evening. I like to think this cancels out all my bitching in this post. And now I must go clean the fishbowl.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Sheltered example 1: I work with a lovely lady. She's white, South African and Afrikaans. She loves everything about South Africa and misses it dearly... and she is not the brightest member of the light brigade.

Over the weekend, she watched Cry Freedom, with Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington. Had I seen the movie, she asked me. Yes... I watched it at school. You know, when the teacher was too lazy to force us to pay attention in history.

You see, my colleague had never seen the movie. In fact, it upset her terribly because... and I quote... "did you know how the blacks were treated during Apartheid? It was horrible!"

Um, yes. Did you know that sometimes white people sleep with black people? I didn't actually ask her that, I don't think she could handle two shocking truths in one week. I suppose it's possible that she missed every episode of Carte Blanche, Special Assignment, Third Degree, all the BBC documentaries and CNN broadcasts (who never seem to show footage outside of Soweto). Maybe she didn't catch the few newspapers that covered the TRC hearings. I suppose it's possible to grow up in South Africa and not notice that Apartheid may have affected a few people.

Sheltered example 2: Metric Martyrs. First, I love the sentence, "his scales were confiscated and he earned a criminal conviction for selling a pound of bananas." Second - ounces, yards, miles... let it go. And yes... you were on the winning side (but noticeably NOT the winning factor) in a war 60 years ago. LET IT GO.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Princess day

For those who didn't get the memo (and are subsequently OFF the Christmas card list), last Thursday was my birthday - or Princess Day, as I prefer to call it.

I must say, turning 21 gets better every time I do it. Mills earned massive brownie points by paying attention and getting me the camera that I've been subtly hinting at ("see that one in the window... that one.. the Nikon D40... I want that camera... the Nikon D40. Are you writing this down?"). I honestly didn't expect to actually get it for my birthday, some money towards its purchase would've been nice - but receiving it on the day was even better!

At work, my work desk looked like a festive hazard zone, with birthday decorations, coloured chevron tape and balloons covering every square inch of work space. I got a huge bunch of flowers (complete with proteas - nice touch); a selection of Mama Africa curry and spices (because as much as the Dutch ran the spice trade, they certainly forgot to add any to their cuisine); and a BEEG bottle of Amarula.

How much more attention can a girl get on her fifth 21st birthday? Oh yes, and then Mills's parents arrived for a visit, bearing more gifts from my family, and took us out for celebratory supper.

Full princess treatment. No tiaras though - which is always disappointing.

Sorry about the lack of regular posting. I'm too busy being busy - and waiting for a new computer that actually works. What a novel idea.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

To the god of gadgets

Dear Sir

I hope you and the latest model are keeping well.

Pleasantries dispensed with, I suppose you are wondering why I am contacting you in writing - as all my previous interaction has consisted of less-formal descriptions of the four-lettered kind. Well, dear Sir, you can crack open a bottle of lubricant or pump up the circuits - or whatever you crazy nuts are doing to celebrate these days - because I am writing to inform you of my surrender. I give up. You win.

I won't fight it any more. Like a petulant toddler, you have worn me down. I had long ago accepted that interaction with anything involving a power cable would be testing, but today you cracked me. In the battle of wills between good and evil, the dark side has won. I'm sure you and Darth Vader are having a good laugh.

You see, Mills and I bought a computer today. We just needed a standard desktop, check-email, upload-holiday-pics, computer. That's all. Walk into shop, point at computer, pay for computer, walk out.

But you know the story already, don't you? You know how it ends. Please tolerate me elaborating anyway. I need the cathartic therapy and I'm sure you'll enjoy reliving the moment.

We bought the computer - the PC, monitor, the keyboard and the mouse. It came in a big, prepackaged box from a reputable dealer, with a one-year warranty. We got the heavy box home on the bus on a Saturday afternoon (you must have enjoyed that viewing pleasure, you sick f...). Sorry, I'll control myself I promise.

Like I was saying, we got the computer home and read the English instructions (that was a nice touch... it gave us hope. False hope is always entertaining). We attached the monitor and the keyboard and the mouse to the computer and we turned it on. There was power on the screen for a second, followed by a "No signal" error and then nothing.

We tried again. Nothing. We admitted that we may have connected something incorrectly. We tried switching cords/plugs/power points and cables. We called the computer shop. The computer shop asked us if we had plugged in the computer. The computer shop transferred us to the central helpdesk. The central helpdesk told us that we would have to take the PC back into the shop.

Were you watching this the whole time or did you change the channel while we navigated the public transport back into town?

We got back to the computer shop and explained that our same-day purchased computer wasn't working. They set it up to have a look. Oh, this is where your beauty broke me, Your Perniciousness... the computer switched on without a problem. The artistry of your work almost reduced me to tears.

I particularly liked the touch of having your human minions patronise us. And we're foreign too. Pity we're not American, otherwise we would've had the full stupid label. Oh dear... you're not American are you? No offence meant, I've just always pictured you as a god of the Indian-persuasion.

Back on the bus and home again. Plugged in the monitor and the keyboard and the mouse to the computer. Low and behold, it worked! Again, the false hope was a tweak of perfection. The ups and downs of the emotional day have exhausted me, and I commend you for it. Masterful, truly masterful.

Now Mills and I sit and stare, dear Sir, because we don't have the energy to take the computer back to the computer shop to find out why we cannot change the working language from Dutch to English. Again, nice touch. Especially as we asked if it was possible to change the language selection, and were assured that it would be the first option on the installation process; especially as we phoned the helpdesk to point out that there was no such option; especially as the helpdesk got a second chance in one afternoon to check that we had plugged the computer in.

So now, bearing my pitiful capitulation in mind, please can you stop tormenting me? I am sorry that I thought I was stronger and more resilient than you. I am sorry for thinking that being human means that I am mightier than a computer. I am sorry for my arrogance.

You know all those times that I threatened to dropkick an appliance out of our second storey window? Well, I know that probably irked you somewhat. I apologise for that too.

Now, please... please... can you find someone else to mock for a while? I'd love to set up a computer and have it work on the first attempt. I'd love to be the person at work who does not call IT every single day because the computer has forgotten my profile. I would love to be the one on whom the train doors do not slam shut.

(I realise the latter may be an indirect request, but I'm guessing you're in touch with the god of public transport, so perhaps you could share this letter with him? It'll save me the postage and give you something to talk about at the next god-like social event.)

In short, Your Nefariousness... I'm tired.
Please can you cut me some slack?

Yours in miserable deference,
Twisted Koeksuster