Thursday, 31 January 2013

Coping with changes in 2013

Skimming through my previous post, the 2012 holidays seem like a lifetime ago. I had prepared further posts (which are now just lying in my Drafts folder), but could not focus. As the end of the school holidays drew closer, my anxiety levels rose. Until I could focus on nothing else.

Sadly I think that my kids picked up on my anxiety and stress - and it affected the way they handled the beginning of the new school year.

On the morning of 15 January I attended Aisha (3)'s Orientation Day for the daycare she was to attend. I was scheduled to attend Shakeel (13)'s high school Orientation programme the afternoon.

At the creche, Aisha spent the morning clinging to me; refusing to interact with anyone else. I told my older kids, who were forced to accompany me to her school, to stay out of her sight as she cried after them each time she saw them.

Later the afternoon Tharaa (11), Nuha (8) and Aisha stayed home with my mum-in-law while I dropped Shakeel off at his Orientation programme. He was nervous, since there were no other boys from his primary school attending his new high school. I tried to calm him down; to convince him that everything was going to be fine, while feeling like a total hypocrite - completely ill-equipped to offer reassurances and comfort while I suppressed my own silent panic.

Since then we've had bad days and not-so-bad days. As is to be expected, Aisha still cries a bit each morning as I hand her over to her teacher. If offered the choice, she still would prefer to remain home with me instead of going to school. But at the end of her school day, she acknowledges that school was fun. And that makes me feel less heartbroken about leaving her there.

Shakeel's time at high school varies from day to day - from being okay on some days to being absolutely awful on others. Every morning I pray that he will adjust easily, that he'll find a good friend or two and that he'll start to appreciate the amazing opportunities with which he is being blessed.

Thankfully Tharaa and Nuha are enjoying school. They are both happy with their new teachers and their old friends. I am so grateful for that.

I, too, am slowly starting to adjust to the uncomfortable changes in my life - to new routines, duties and relationships - while trying to overcome my longing for what was , i.e. my older kids happily at school and spending long days at home with my baby.

But I must look forward. And deal with the sadness, the loneliness and my own feelings of directionlessness and purposelessness.

I will elaborate more in future. Right now it's time to pick up Shakeel from school. I say a fervent prayer that he had a better day today than he did yesterday.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

We visit Knysna Elephant Park on day 4 of our Garden route holiday

I love animals. But on Day 4 of our holiday, when Mo informed us that he wanted to take us to the Knysna Elephant Park, I was a bit reluctant. It was a hot day, and for me, the summer holidays - especially to that part of the world - signified long lovely days on beautiful beaches enjoying the temperate waters of the Indian Ocean.

Upon arrival at the Elephant Park, we got the opportunity to examine a few exhibits...

Part of elephant ear

 ...after which we spent a few minutes listening to a very short, but interesting presentation. We were cautioned as to the do's and don'ts to which we had to adhere in order to ensure our safety, with our guide wisely informing us that although the elephants were well-trained, they remained wild animals and had to be respected as such.

The guide showed us where the elephants sleep. They are kept in these enclosures for their own safety, since there is a strong chance that they will find their way to the neighbouring farms to feed on the fruit grown there. Needless to say, should that happen, the consequences will be dire for all involved. But he assured us that the elephants are very comfortable sleeping in these enclosures, as is evident from the fact that they actually spend a few hours per night lying down while sleeping. (In the wild, elephants usually sleep standing up, which is a protective mechanism they possess to ensure that they are always ready in the event of danger). Also, in these enclosures they are assured of adequate food, as they are fed throughout the night. In addition, buckets of fruit are lowered from above, within reach of each respective elephant. How clever!

After being driven into the veld we were divided into groups and assigned to guides, to whom we would listen and who would, in turn, be responsible for our safety.

The elephants were lined up behind a horizontal bar, from where they would be fed - by us. We were told not to feed any elephant who stepped from behind the bar, as they had to be taught that they were only to be fed by visitors while behind that bar.

Also, we were cautioned not bend down to pick up any food which may fall out of our buckets, as the elephant would most likely send one hurtling through the air with just one swoop with its muscular trunk; most probably resulting in injury.

I was very keen to experience feeding time. My kids, however, were less keen. Shakeel (13) eventually agreed to join me in this wonderful experience, while Tharaa (11) and Nuha (8) hid behind us, visibly terrified. Aisha (3) clung to me and twisted her body away from the elephant each time I went closer to place the food near its trunk. Mo's excuse was that he was capturing the entire experience on camera, so was unable to join us.

Left: I timidly hand the elephant a fruit from our bucket

Shakeel's turn to feed the elephants

A terrified Aisha wriggles and writhes, trying to get as far from the elephants as possible

What an incredible feeling! My heart raced as they slurped up the fruit from my palm leaving my entire hand covered in slime and goo. I would love to do that again.

Later we walked among the elephants, with our guides ensuring that everyone was safe and abiding by the rules.


 However the wonderful guides were also really concerned that we were all getting the maximum benefit and enjoyment from the experience. They coaxed scared children, encouraging them to touch the baby elephants.
Tharaa eventually agreed to stroke the baby elephant
Nuha (under Shakeel's protection)

I have to commend our guide for all his efforts in trying to get my terrified girls to bond with the elephants.

We were surprised by the texture of the tail hairs

My brave son

The guides also took photos of the various families and groups, ensuring that no-one was left out.

And then it was over. I was absolutely blown away by the experience. Never again will I view these gentle giants the same way. I'm glad my children were so affected by the part of the presentation which focused on the need to protect these majestic creatures in order to ensure their survival for centuries to come.

Friday, 4 January 2013

More Noetzie pics and a short video

I forgot to include these in my previous post - thought I had to upload them in the event of me losing my memory card or my laptop crashing.

Happy memories of a wonderful place...

Shakeel, Tharaa, Nuha and Aisha splashing about in the little river (with one of the Noetzie castles in the background)


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Day 3 of our Garden route holiday - Noetzie splendour, chilling on Plettenberg Bay whale tail bench and fun on the Goukamma river bridge

On Sunday (Day 3 of our Garden route holiday) we headed off to Plettenberg Bay.

Since the day was already promising to be a scorcher from early on, we thought we'd spend the day at the beach and simply grab something to eat (from KFC or McDonalds) which were the only halal establishments of which we knew on that side of the world.

We checked out the Knysna Lagoon and caught a brief glimpse of the Knysna Waterfront.

And then we were on our way.

While driving toward Plett, Mo suddently caught a glimpse of the Noetzie signboard and promptly made a U-turn, insisting excitedly that this beach was something he had to share with us. We grumbled and groaned - none of us felt like enduring scenic detours; we simply wanted to get to the Plett and immerse ourselves in the ocean as soon as possible.

But off to Noetzie we went. I found the road to our new destination to be disturbing. There were corrugated iron shacks on our left, clearly indicating the severe poverty prevalent in that area. The dirt road to took a gentle curve to the left when, to our surprise, we saw this guy

and this one

and this one.

A km or two further, in sharp contrast to the poverty, one finds the luxurious Pezula estate. The secure opulent properties had us in awed silence as we surveyed the little we could see of the playground of the incredibly wealthy. Check out their rates here - just for laughs.

Imagine this being your holiday house...!!!

On the walk down toward the beach, one can see this beautiful river with its splendid surroundings.

And then we encountered what the kids describe as ''the best beach in the world!!!''
Shakeel (13) later described it to my mum as being one of those beaches one sees on postcards or in magazines which makes one long to be there. I knew exactly what he meant. I could not believe the beauty before my eyes. The pristine exquisite beach with its soft powdery sand and clear blue waters had me overcome with emotion. I did not know what I had done to deserve the wondrous experience of being in immersed in such beauty. I felt so blessed. At that moment I really wished that my mum and brothers were there to share in this experience with me as well.



The Noetzie castles on the beach !!!!!


Clear blue sky - exquisite

Funnily enough, the kids chose to spend more time in the river which runs onto the beach, than in the sea.


We spent most of our day at Noetzie and it was indeed splendid. But, Mo was determined to show us Plettenberg bay that day, so we headed out to the same spot where he remembers having spent many pleasurable hours in his childhood. But sadly, it was not the same. The place was packed and not as clean and beautiful as he remembered it to have been.

So off we headed to a different part of Plettenberg Bay, where we took family pics (without Aisha (3) who was sulking in the car next to us).

Overlooking Lookout Beach

Chilling on a whale's tail


On our way back to Sedgefield, we stopped off to admire the absolutely magnificent beauty of the Goukamma river. And, of course, we snapped some pics from (and on) one of the bridges passing over it.

The river borders the Blackwaters River Lodge

Having some fun on the quiet bridge


And then off we headed back to Sedgefield, exhausted from an entire day of fun and wonder. How blessed I felt at having had the opportunity to witness such beauty and splendour.