Sunday, June 26, 2011

English is not English


Ok, I know, I know, some of you are thinking...but she was BORN American, she knows American English!

I was, and I admit, I spoke like an American before...but after living in SA for 13 years and dealing with the public in the job that I did, I had to train myself to speak like a South African so that I could be understood especially on the phone.  I couldn't go into a restaurant and ask for 'wadder' because I would get 'eish, hey?'  So I taught myself to say 'wahTer'.  Also admittedly since being back my American accent has come back with a vengeance but  I do still say 'half past 5' not '5 thrity' and I end a question with 'hey?'

A small aside:  Now the entire time I lived in SA I was 'the American girl' and everyone always commented on my accent.  When I spoke to anyone in the US they always commented that I had an which is it?  I either have an American accent or South African accent...hmm.  I was told once that I was Northern Irish by a woman that was Northern Irish - she insisted that I had lived down the road from here there years before and that I didn't need to either American+South African = Northern Irish or she was a bit touched.

Moving on

So now that we are here and I catch myself asking for 'wadder' in order to get exactly that...water...I do find it interesting and slightly annoying that Americans as a whole do not speak English.  No seriously, you don't!
There is so much slang here that it has become accepted as normal conversational English, but to someone that has had proper English spoken around them for quite sometime, it is a bit hard on the ears.  And it seems to me that people tend to resist understanding something put in a different way.

For example, I was making an appointment and I said 'half past five' the person on the other end said 'five?'  I said no 'half past five'.  'ok' they said 'five o'clock it is'.  Now really, you can't tell me that even though Americans do not use this terminology you can't figure out that half an hour after an hour is half past?  Or is it a bit of a stubbornness to make the rest of the world succumb to American English?

T's have become D's...spadder, badder, boddle, wader, madder, etc..
Vowels have been made longer...sahrry, cahr, dawg, dooer,
Seperate words have been merged...oerdare (over there), waddchasey (what did you say), gimmedat (give me that)
And if all of those are not hard enough when they all get combined into one statement.....waddchaseyyernahmewahs (what did you say your name was) it is a wonder that I look at my husband and say 'What did they just say?'.

And THAT is something that is odd.  How is it that my Afrikaans husband can understand the American speak better than I can?  I mean really?  I should be the one 'translating' instead I often stand in stunned silence while he whispers in my ear the English translation.

It takes me back to my first few years in SA, I would stand in stunned silence while trying to figure out 'eish mama, eh, in tehrms of dha soogar, we ahre ouut.'  I finally got that down.

So here I sit, trying to learn English AGAIN! 
Hearing 'High yawn done. Two spray?' instead of 'Howya'lldoin'taday?'

Thursday, June 16, 2011

You can take the Saffer out of the crime, but you can't take the Paranoia out of the Saffer...

SO! Clearly there are somethings that take a while to work their way out of your system when you move countries.
Last night is a good example.
One of the many things you find yourself without in a new place are friends.  Obviously we don't know people here (other than my family) and so we have to make new friends.  J has been much better at getting out there than I have, I have reconnected with a few friends from high school, but no one really lives nearby and well really, I guess I figure I'll start hanging out with moms when our kids get older.  Ok, perhaps Facebook helps too, I have kept in touch with friends in SA and all over, so if I need to vent or share I have them.  Ok I am getting off topic!

SO! J met this guy about a month ago when he was out with one of my cousins.  They got to chatting outside while polluting their lungs. (Guess smoking is good for something.) J told him how we had just moved here and he was looking for a job and blah blah blah. (I wasn't there and frankly, men don't really tell details about stuff like that so blah blah blah isn't meant to make it sound like I do not care about what was said it is just that I have no idea and getting the details will be just short of an interrogation so it's just easier.)  This guy gave J his number and said for J to give him a ring the next day, he was quite connected and he would see what he could help with blah blah blah (see above).  J did so the next day, got voice mail, left one saying blah blah blah, and never got a call back.
Well yesterday out of the blue this guy sends J a text/sms.  It said he had been out of the country on business and was sorry, that they must get together soon. (no blah blah blah, I read the text) The conversation ended with them actually meeting up for a beer last night.  Pretty cool!
Off J went after dinner to a new bar (pretty cool thing, all the bars, pubs, restaurants are all new when you immigrate) to blah blah blah.

Now here is where the paranoia sets in.  I went to bed and was reading when I was overwhelmed by this weird feeling, I started to think about how strange it was this guy would contact J out of the blue and then they met THAT night.  That he seemed like a nice guy, but what was his deal?  I mean, if he was SO well connected, why would he need to meet a new person?  Why did he want to 'help' J?  What did I really know about this place they went to?  What if he was a member of some gang and he was luring J into a trap where he was going to kidnap him (I know, if you know J, that is a hilarious notion, but go with me...) where his gang would over power him in the parking lot, take him for some sick torture session.  My mind was racing through all these 'true crime' TV shows, CSI, Without a Trace...
I grabbed my phone and started to text J, just saying that I had a weird feeling and could he let me know he was safe.  Then I realized that this 'friendly guy' could easily have J on a metal table somewhere in a warehouse near the docks (ok so no docks here in Dallas but that guy in Law Abiding Citizen had a warehouse near the docks) and he could just text me himself saying J was fine.  So I texted that J should reply to me in his 'native language', this way I thought, he could send me a secret message that he was really 'op die tafel' and 'stuur die polisie'.
I sent it.
I waited.
I reread the text to make sure it was clear to J he could get me a message.
I waited. - He must be trying to think of the best way to get me the message without tipping off the gang....
The phone rang.
It was J.
'Hey babe, on my way home.  I'll tell you all about it when  I get there'
Hmmm. I thought.  Maybe they tried to jump him, but my husband being the awesome guy that he is must have head butted them and then round housed them, to give him enough time to get into our (amazing) car and drive around losing any tailers to get home.
I waited.
I started to think I was really losing now. I mean really!  A gang out to get my hubby!  ha ha ha...I started to calm down.
By the time J got there I was ready to drift off to sleep...until he told me about his meeting.

SO! They met and chatted, blah blah blah.  Then this guy gave J a most unusual 'trinket' and told him he could have it as a memento.  J was shaking it to hear what was inside and he couldn't hear what you should inside this, memento.  He said he thought it was a bit strange this thing, but he did mention that they had a conversation the first time about how J like weapons etc.  This guy told J about how he was in the military etc.
But still...a memento?
J expressed his thoughts on how he felt it was a strange thing.
Then, I said it, I just let it go..I couldn't help it.

"Maybe it's a GPS tracker?" I said
"You know babe, I thought the same thing" he said.
We were silent.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I have been remiss..

I must apologize for not blogging these past few months.  I was so caught up in the whirlwind of the new world and all that had to be sorted that I didn't, and that is exactly when I should have been!
I will start again and make it a priority and hopefully we'll get this thing going!
So - let me try to go over a few things that you have missed.....

First stuff relating to the kids, of course my most important thing.
Preschools- well, we have moved the kids from their original school to a new one.  Not that there was really anything 'wrong' with the first one, but it ended up being quite far from home and S seemed to be getting bored in class as he knew all his colors and shapes and that is what they were covering.  His behavior took a turn for the worse and I think it stemmed from him being bored.  I researched actually sending him to Pre-k this next year, but because his birthday is in October he would have had to repeat either pre-k, kindergarten, or 1st grade, and I felt the possibility of him feeling a bit left out or held back was too great and confidence destroying.  Besides, I found a great school less than a mile away, with a fantastic curriculum and for less money too.  All around a pretty good thing!  They have been there for a little over a month now and are very happy, and I am very happy with what they are learning and the behavior.
We have enrolled S into a dance program, yes I am sure the men out there are saying "what? a boy in dance?" Bu,t he asked to go, and I have read that it actually assists them in their sports endeavors and can improve their balance, agility, and body awareness.  He has gone to two classes so far and absolutely adores it.  I get reminded on Wednesdays to pack is dance clothes as the school is right near the dance studio and they get walked there and back.  This Thursday he will begin his sports classes that will cover the general rules and how to play, hold equipment, and sportsmanship of a few sports.
O is still too small to do these things but they are willing to allow her to enroll in dance in the fall (the beginning of the school year here)  even though she will only be 2 in October.

We were speaking the other day about how it is a bit sad that the kids left SA so early in their lives, that they probably won't remember much from living there, especially O.  Though S seems to remember quite a bit and often asks me about something we had in 'Souf Af-ri-ca'.  He doesn't comprehend the distance between there and here but he knows it is where he use to live and that his Ouma and Oupa live there and he misses them.  He also misses our neighbors and their girls, he had such a close relationship with them.  He speaks of them often and we are trying to keep those memories alive so they are long lasting.

I still miss their school, I honestly believe it is the best school in the world.  I don't know of any other school that cares so much about the development of their kids.

Medical care here for kids...shoo...have we had a lesson in that these past weeks.
O has had a few ear infections, bronchitis and S has had the same.  We have learned that they do not have Bisolvan Lintus here (a medicine that is an expectorant and bronchial dilator in one).  You have to have a prescription to buy a nose spray other than saline here, and you can't get StoPyn (stilpain, panado with codeine, Tylenol with codeine) without a prescription either.  The doctors here for the most part, though supposedly more educated in the 'latest' things, seem to be too bothered with making money than to care for their patients, and/or have their hands tied from the government watch dogs to be able to use a wide range of medicines.
That said, we have been so very lucky to find a fantastic ENT who makes an effort to get you in the same day and (believe it or not) a South African immigrated GP doctor, literally about a mile from our house.  We found them via word of mouth after visiting a 'walk-in clinic' that was purely a money making racket, and not too friendly either.  It was a lesson and an expensive one at that!  Not again!
We do not have medical aid/health insurance, so we have been throwing money at the doctors and medicines, but here the medical aid comes with most jobs so I keep thinking J is going to get a job and we can just use that instead of getting on a private one to have to cancel when he does get hired.  I am getting scared though and really thinking of just doing that to avoid any problems.
I must interject here that we have also been lucky to find a pharmacy/chemist 4 stores down from the dr, that is run by two Russian immigrant sisters.  They too seem to understand the value of knowing their customers faces and names and families and have really gone out of their way to help us save money on medicines.

Here every weekend there is some kids centered 'thing' happening.  That is one thing that seems to be better here than it was in SA.  We have gone to a 'free day' sponsored by a chain store called Target (sort of a Dischem meets Pick-n-Pay meets Game, though of a much better quality)  at a sculpture museum where the kids were able to do art project, walk around a sculpture garden, and spend time around other kids.  It was nice.  They do it once a month.  There are also events at the arboretum, zoo, natural science museum, etc.
We have also gone to an art festival in the neighborhood where they had a special children area and the two did pottery, and sand molds, and made paper hats.
It just seems that here they are very good and having events for parents to take their kids to in order to enrich their experiences.
One thing that does seem to lack compared to SA is the kid friendly restaurants.  They have nothing like the few places in Joburg (Tres Jolie, Bambanini, Serendipity etc) where there are actually kid playgrounds of varying degrees, petting areas, and jumping castles.  Here, kid friendly means they have a kids menu.
I find it fascinating that one country would excel in one and the other in the other facet.
It's just a difference..

So that is pretty much it on the kids front..I have a few other topics to cover before catching you all up, but I don't want you to get bored with this too soon so I will stop for now.
Please feel free to comment or ask any questions you want about what we are dealing with, going through, or the differences or similarities of each place.  I am happy to follow your lead.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Things are just different...

Ok, so I know I am American, and I lived here for 26 years before going to SA, but having lived there for 13 years and it being the ONLY place I have raised my kids, it sort of feels like that is the base of my beliefs in raising kids.
Yesterday was the kids first day at their new school, and they did wonderfully!  Both teachers gave reports that they adjusted well and had a great day and neither cried at all.  Well they have been in school since they were 4 months old so it must feel normal to be in a school.  With the little one a note comes home to tell me how many times her nappie (diaper) was changed and how she ate, her mood and any notes from the teacher.  They don't have books like we used at Snuggles where I could also send info to the teacher, so I stopped in to chat to the teacher about the note she left for me on O's sheet.  It said that O would need hard soled shoes to play outside in so the pebbles didn't hurt her feet.  I asked Julian to go with me to make sure that I didn't sound hard or unreasonable because as those that know me know, I like to discuss things, I like to go through different ideas and I like to understand the thinking of the other person and take what I can and come to an agreement.  Whether it is me moving to that point of view totally, them moving to mine, or a meet in the middle kind of thing, it is all good and everyone involved in raising my children have a new outlook.  Well, I started to speak to the teacher and she was quite open to discussing, I asked if I could see the pebbles that she was concerned about and we spoke about how it's just on the cement where the pebbles get scattered that it is in an issue etc...Then the teacher over the divider - well she is the office assistant that was helping out in that class this morning.  She pipes up that it is 'state law that they have tennis shoes in the classroom in case something falls on her feet it will bruise them'  And of course this was done in that very loud very condescending voice that people have when they believe they are right and not willing to have another point of view given.  At this, my claws might have reared their ugly little heads a bit more than I wanted.  I have certain beliefs in how MY children are raised.  I am old fashioned in many respects and I do not judge other parents for how they wish to raise their kids.  We are all doing what we feel to be right and doing it the best we can.  However, these are MY kids and therefore I have a say in how they are raised.  So I slowly turned my head to this loud woman and said in quite a clear precise (as the exhubby would say I enunciated my syllables) way that it has been proven in independent studies that hard soled shoes do not allow for the proper development of their feet and that my son wore these shoes for the first two years of his life and I assured her that he never acquired bruising on his feet at his previous nursery school.
I just feel frustrated that here in the 'land of the free' the government or some office clerk wants to tell me an unsubstantiated requirement for my child.  No not here, no thank you.  I will have a look for other shoes, perhaps a very soft harder sole than the shoo shoes she has, but truly this is going to take some getting use to on my part.  I need to figure out a way to communicate with other people here as well that will not be considered offensive when I want to gain a better understanding of some rule or law.
....And ok perhaps I am a bit defensive on this too...perhaps...I am maybe feeling a bit superior to the sheep herded masses here that believe what they are told and not do their own research or question the validity behind the 'rules' given to them....perhaps I am a lot less American than I thought...and a bit more South African than I planned....
I miss Granny...and Snuggles....

Monday, February 21, 2011

The daycare, school, or preschool...

So today we enrolled the little darlings into a school.  I must tell you that this was the hardest decision I have done.  We looked at 3 VERY different schools.  This is what I narrowed it down to from phoning, one wrong word or phrase can put a mom off - yes a bit OTT! The first one sounded so great all the reviews I read raved about it and they were written by parents and they sounded like I would have described Snuggles, obviously my favorite, ever.  So we went to look and they were unable to accommodate us right away, but I would expect a good school to be full, right?  We walked through and it was nice, but it didn't feel right.  They took the kids out once a day (ha ha ha, never met mine clearly!) and it seemed nice but just something didn't feel - right.  On to the next one, the Tzu Chi Buddhist Preschool. Ok, this place was cool, however, they wore a uniform and it was duel medium - English and Mandarin!  I think Mandarin would serve the kids well but I think they have had to adjust to a TON of things already...perhaps another language is not such a good idea right now.  Oh and they didn't take O's age so it would have been just S....hmmm....nope would rather they were together.  Finally, we looked a school that is run by a mother/daughter team (hmmm...sounds a bit familiar? I even started crying when she told me...what a cry baby!) has been there 16 years, teachers have been there for 10 except for 2, fresh food cooked onsite. 15 to 1 kid teacher ratio, breakfast before 0800, lunch at 1130, nap at 1200 - 1400, play outside twice a day, disciplined lessons with play, they can do gymnastics 4 times a week (balance beam work included), secure code access....ok so how did it feel?  O wouldn't leave the classroom and S wouldn't leave the playground...ok we'll take door number 3!
So tomorrow they will attend their new school.
 *SIGH*  I hope I don't cry this time!

Catch up:

I have only started this 'into' the adventure so let me catch you up a bit.  I'm not going to go into the entire moving saga - to me that would be an entirely different animal, and frankly, I would not like to relive it.  Let's just say that I organized group travel and did large groups one over 1000 people, this surpassed that group on so many levels.  All I can say is that if you are going to move house, neigh, if you are going to decide what in your house what is worth shipping, and what price you want to sell what you can, and what you are willing to give away and to who, do it quickly, like ripping off the band aid and know that there will be that ONE thing that  you will think you did the wrong thing with no matter what.  Then, when you are done - move on!
So this is more about what it is like to go from having a settled life and all it contains to literally starting all over again.
So we arrived on the 10th of February, we flew via London, and again, I'm not going to get into the travel with small children adventure, but my suggestion is to get a good sleeping aid for them, it makes them more comfortable for the long night flight, and allows them to sleep easier and longer so they can keep as close as possible to their schedule. 
10th of February: We arrived in DC.  Now here I am going to digress a bit and go into the immigration process. When we phoned for information on how to get Pappa's immigration visa we were told that the process could take up to 6 months.  I thankfully had been collecting documents from Home Affairs such as unabridged birth certificates (for kids) unabridged marriage certificates etc.  I would suggest that for any document that you can get unabridged you get it before you need it as these can take up to 6 months themselves!  The first step is me as the US citizen to petition for him to be considered an immediate relative.  We dealt with the consulate in Johannesburg and we dealt with a man named Vinesh, seriously a painless process.  We were told exactly what we needed, why, how to supply those details and when, all with a professional and kindness that was so refreshing and really made us feel like we were doing the right thing.  This took about 2 weeks and once approved we then started the second process which is the immigration visa process. Also a well handled process, this took about 6 weeks in total and we had the visa.  So if you are thinking of this process, get all the documentation that you will require before you start, then hang on to your hats, it goes quick!
Sorry - 10 February - again.....
We arrived, tired and a bit smelly.  My mom and her man live in the area and helped us quite a bit with the visa, we stopped for a visit with them.  It was a good idea, we had a break from moving and the stress of leaving our home and starting the process of getting our lives in order.  Besides the fact that it was nice to see them both and spend time with them.  But this blog isn't about all the emotional good to be home family stuff.
We stayed with them for 5 days and then flew to our new home city Dallas.
Here my dad and step-mom live and have a house for us to rent, so I don't know the whole stress of finding a place to live etc...
So now we are here and what on Earth do we do school? furniture?  what is the thing you need to do first?  Well we quickly decided that being independent was top, closely followed by a school for the kids!
We started shopping for a car and looking for a school simultaneously....
While searching for a car we quickly discovered that me being away for 13 years basically eliminates my credit this could be a good thing, but it is also a bad thing.  No one will loan me money to buy a car nor will they lease me a car because basically for the past 13 years I haven't existed...this makes lending agencies a bit nervous, go figure!  So then we had to ask Daddy to co-sign on the 39, I had to get a co-signer.  See this is the 'back to school' part...we had a fantastic credit is SA, we were independent, we could have co-signed for other we are 0.  Sobering.
We started looking and realized that we couldn't even be reached or find one another if we got seperated on the massive car lots here.  SIDE TRACK....telephones.  Hey here we should be able to do this on our own!  Right??  NO!  In order to get a phone contract we would have had to have put down $500 per  
Ok so phones sorted we resumed the car search...found some great deals on leasing a new car (we are safety obsessed so new was the safest option) Kia - good deal...VW...good deal...we weren't in love with the cars...Chevy Traverse...loved the deals...then Pappa THE MAN found a Dodge Durango...OH YES THANK YOU!  On Friday we drove away in our Dodge sweet!  Of course since I started this blog after the fact, you have been saved from them process of shopping, dealers, me losing it on one, and the fact that we were at the Dodge dealership from 0900 - 1330 and still had to go back for the car.  AND I still have to take it back this week to have the EPP done - protection coating on the outside but more importantly the inside to protect the car seats from 'small' mishaps..
So now we focus back on the schools...