Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Thinking about the past while the future looms...

So I opened up this new window with the intention of writing an entirely different post, and then while looking for an image on We Heart It, I came across this little quote (thanks Christy) that really resonated with the way I've been feeling at the moment. With this whole Korea move looming, I feel as if I'm really on the edge of a precipice. Like I'm about to cross over a very distinct line between my past and my future. Like my life is truly about to begin. And whenever I am in these moments of great change, moving from one space to a completely new one, I always seem to get incredibly contemplative. I can't help but think about the past couple of years of my life, how I got to the point I'm at right now, and how I've changed over the last few years. 

The last 4 years were obviously my university days (which I sincerely hope are not over, but return again in some new and wonderful form later when I can actually afford to study again). I say this all the time and it is absolutely true that going to Rhodes really was the best decision of my life. I had both super wonderful times and incredibly difficult times there. I made some of the best friends I have ever had, and experienced the greatest heartache I have had to face (so far, at least). In the whole process I have learnt an incredible amount about who I am as a person. And I imagine that journey of self-discovery (as completely corny as that sounds) is going to continue and be exponentially more challenging and more rewarding in this new phase of life. But while I had amazing times at Rhodes there are a lot of things I wish I had done differently, and a lot of things I still don't really feel I've maybe gained complete closure over. As mentioned before I stress out about everything and tend to over-analyse situations and people all the time. So when a certain decision has - let's just say - a less than favourable outcome, I often struggle to accept or understand it in any other terms other than there must be some inherent flaw within my being that caused things not to work out. And that said inherent flaw is going to subsequently follow me around for the rest of my life and cause future endeavours of a similar nature to fail too. (I realise at this point that this is turning, once again, into one of those incredibly vague feelings-rants which make very little sense but I shall push through it none the less.)

And so its really hard not to let the baggage of my past get in the way of my future. This has been a problem of mine in relationships - letting the doubt instilled in me from previous experiences impact on the relationship I was in at the time, in a negative way. And even though it would be the exact opposite of what I wanted to do, I couldn't help but always carry the shadow of my past failures into all the undertakings which followed, to their detriment. A very big reason why I felt like I needed, at this point, to do something this bold - to go to another country and start a completely new life away from everything I know - is because I feel I need to be reminded that there is so much more out there. Sometimes one can get stuck in these little bubbles in your mind which really restrict what you feel is possible for yourself. And no amount of positive thinking or pep talking can convince you that its ever going to be otherwise. Until you actually go out there, experience something new, and can no longer deny that things are in fact not the way they seem, and that life will constantly surprise you - in challenging and amazing ways. I need to see that there is new and there is different and there is exciting and there is more - and most important of all, that I can thrive within that. (This is not, for a second to say that I am not leaving behind an incredible amount of amazing, because I am - in my special family, my wonderful friends, and my beautiful country. But for my own personal growth, I just feel like I need a paradigm shift.)

I'm not sure if any of this rambling will make any sense to anyone else out there. I just think sometimes we need to be reminded that we are not the sum of our past experiences. And that past experiences sometimes need to stay just that - past experiences. Take all the good that you can from them and then move on. Because if previous bad times are going to linger over the rest of your life they could prevent you from fully embracing all the great ones to come. 

Peace and love and new beginnings to all the wonderful souls out there <3

++ Insta-diary ++

So the one little silver lining to the whole robbery ordeal I went through a couple of weeks ago (which I'll be writing about in my next blog post) is that my awesome brother of major awesomeness gave me his old phone which had just come back from being repaired, to replace mine that was stolen. And this lovely little Samsung creation can do one thing my old phone couldn't - Instagram! Overwhelmed with excitement at this fact I quickly became obsessed with this little app (so far behind those who've been abusing it for like ever already). As those who know me know all too well, I am obsessed with photographing the fun times I have with my friends. And I am super particular about the photos I share and upload on Facebook - usually taking ages to go through them, edit them all individually and carefully think about their grouping in albums. The thing I love about Instagram is being to capture the moment right while you're in it and share it with the world. (Although my control-freak self still takes the time to edit them myself before uploading cause I'm a weirdo-perfectionist like that, but oh well.) 

Recently I discovered the insta-diary vibe on the blogs of some exceedingly lovely human beings, Zoella and Sprinkle of Glitter, so I thought I'd do the same. I'll do it on a monthly basis, I think - so here is my first month's snaps...

++ July Insta-diary ++

From the top, left to right, row by row: 
++ Catching some rays in my floral Cotton On sunnies, Shark & I at my b-day vibe, My first ever McFlurry (oreo, of course)
++ Bro & I eating brains at a DIFF zombie flick, My plushy family growing courtesy of Gelly, Farewell with my Katez at Love Coffee
++ Random find - new coffee-themed crop top, My first ever Singstar experience, After watching an incredible DIFF doccie with Gelly 
++ Funny faces with lotsa lovelies at my b-day vibe, Blatant selfie on a good hair day, Medal winning with the sis
 ++ All my spoils from attacking the sales, New mint green sandals, Rocking the floral headband & loving it
++ Bro & I looking like cool cats on our way to check out another DIFF movie, Heading out for a beachfront run - fitness yay!, Shoe sales this time

And the winner is. . . 

The snap that got the most likes in July was this one - lovely shoesies of loveliness ^_^

Follow me on Instagram - if you want! :P - chirping_cricket ^_^

Peace and love and lots of photo taking to all of you!! <3

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Fears for Korea

So as I mentioned before, in a few weeks (just about 3 now, to be exact) I will be jetting off to South Korea. And as I also mentioned before this is HUGE for me. Most of my friends have had at least one or two international holidays by now and have at least some experience of travelling overseas and all that entails. But I have not been so lucky to have had any experience of such WHATSOEVER. And the prospect of this big move is FREAKING ME OUT. (Yes, there is probably going to be a lot of caps in this post - be prepared.) As anyone who knows me will tell you – especially my friend Ari, who, after spending just one morning with me in my house while I was trying to get ready for nothing but a simple little weekend away, couldn’t help but noticed just how amazingly stressed I got over every little thing I had to do. I am very anxiety prone and I over-think EVERYTHING. And under situations of extreme pressure or stress I can really take it to a whole nother level. (One of my most extreme anxiety inducing times was always my exams and during university exam times I was known to just constantly spontaneously burst into tears at any moment simply at the sheer pressure of it all.) Now its not that I’m a weakling in any way (I have actually been through a hell of a lot in my time) and often I even like to be under a bit of pressure because it can be really motivational, if it’s the healthy kind. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a huge toll on me. Now, in this situation, anxiety levels are beginning to sky rocket and the amount of things I am scared of cannot even be counted! But I am going to try anyway – count them, that is :P

From the most miniscule to the more profound, here is a list of 10 things I am scared about for my journey to Korea:

1. International flights and airports – Airports scare the hell out of me. I have flown very few times in my life and the idea that I could not check in on time, miss my flights, lose my tickets or my documents, take too much luggage, take something in my hand luggage I’m not supposed to, not see my luggage on the carousel, do something I’m not supposed to on the plane, not know where to go or where to walk or what to do and look like a complete idiot – the list is endless. I know it’s silly and that in airports there are plenty of ways to find out what you’re supposed to do and how, but it's still stressing me out to no end. The entire process feels like a disaster waiting to happen. At least I’m not afraid of actually flying. That I find quite exciting actually! Yay for cloud gazing!!

2. My initial arrival in South Korea – I am pretty good at getting around independently here in South Africa, as long as I have enough info of where to go and where. We don’t have a car at home so I have gotten very used to public transport and such, so this is not something I’m worried about here. But when I first go to a new place (especially one where most things WON’T be in English! Eep!!) I get really anxious about getting lost! When I arrive in the airport in Seoul am I going to know where to go and how to do it, how am I going to manage with money and communicating and handling my stuff?? Those initial few days I think are going to stress the hell out of me just figuring out how to get from point A to point B and such. And the money situation! Having to convert the currency in SA then again when we get to Korea and all that jazz - gosh just TYPING about it is stressing me out. 

3. Being a good teacher – Now I absolutely love teaching. I love little children and I love preparing things to teach and I love interacting with them on a student teacher level. How much I love it is something I don’t doubt. But, I am worried about being good enough in this completely foreign environment. What if my lessons aren’t exciting enough for the kids or not in line with what the principal or co-teachers expect of me? What if they don’t like my teaching style? What if the kids don’t respond to me well? What if I am super nervous and awkward? I am always super anxious about how people receive me and if I’ll do a good enough job in everything I do, and being a full time teacher is no different.

Volunteering with underprivileged pre-schoolers in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape
4. Being judged on my appearance – I have watched A LOT of Youtube videos of people in South Korea who are working or have worked as English teachers, and from what I can tell the women in South Korea are generally rather small and for the most part, rather thin. I have also heard that South Korean people, especially the children, are quite blunt in pointing out that a foreigner is ‘plumper’ than they apparently should be. And I would say I will probably fit into that category. In fact, if I think of myself as “rather plump” in South Africa, then I shudder to think how they will view me in South Korea (I’m assuming just as plain old FAT.) Now while I’ve heard that any comments made will for the most part not be mean spirited or rude at all. South Koreans just have different kinds of filters about appearance issues and what we as Westernised people seem to deem appropriate to talk about regarding them. Talking about people’s weight for us is pretty taboo unless you’re quite close. So Koreans are not meaning to offend at all, its generally just more of an observation - or so people seem to say. But it's still something that worries me because my weight has been an issue for me most of my life and it is something I am quite sensitive about. Generally here in South Africa most people who would bring up my weight in public would be people praising my rather ‘generous’ bum (something considered desirable, especially in many African cultures). And even when it was being pointed out as a compliment it still really gets to me because being overweight – even if it was in the ‘right place’ - is not something I want to be. And let me just emphasise here – its not at all that I think that women of all shapes and sizes aren’t beautiful and shouldn’t love themselves for who they are. I know that what you weigh doesn’t make you who you are and all that jazz. My weight has just personally been an issue I have battled with through the years. So it stresses me out to think that people may be pointing it out to me a lot, or worse, judging me for it, more openly than they would here.

5. Learning the language – Now, generally I have been known to be pretty good at learning languages. In school I was always top in Afrikaans (one of SA’s indigenous languages) and I studied French, which although much harder, I still did pretty well in (although having not spoken any for so long, I can barely remember most of it now). But Korean – especially the Hangul (the Korean alphabet) - is completely different to anything else I have encountered. And even just having started, I am struggling. And there is a big difference between studying a language and actually having to communicate in it and use it to navigate through a place. This I have not ever had to do, so I know its going to be a great challenge. I really hope that I will be able to take a class while in Korea (on top of what I learn through self-study) to be able to properly become fluent in the language. And despite it being difficult, it is a challenge I am certainly up to because not only do I obviously want to be able to effectively communicate in the country I'm living in, but I am one of those weirdos who, once they’ve hit their mature years, would really like to be able to just off-handedly say, "Well yes, I’m fluent in 5 languages and have the basics of another 3..." – or something like that :P

Present from my book store manager brother Greg - McGraw Hill's "Read & Speak Korean for Beginners" ^_^
6. Communicating well with my co-workers – I have always felt anxious in work situations, although I may not show it that much (or at least I hope I don’t!). I worry about saying the right thing, phrasing that right thing in the right way, following the correct protocol for the work environment, being proactive enough without being too overbearing etc. etc. And this environment being so new to me will make these things even harder to navigate. 

7. Making friends – Again, this ties in with my fear of people liking me. Now, while I have always been lucky enough to be blessed with a LOT of amazing friends, I do suffer from a lot of social anxiety, especially amongst new people. This would surprise most people because I am super sociable and love being around lots of people – and probably even come across quite confident to most. This confidence is quite a farce though – used to try and quell that awful anxiety. Despite this though - I am definitely a social person though and through. I certainly need lots of friends and don’t really like being alone at all, especially not for extended periods of time. And another thing I have heard a lot in the Korean teacher videos is that being a foreign teacher, especially in the smaller towns or more rural areas, can be quite a lonely experience at first, with you having a lot of time to yourself. I think this will be a good lesson for me for the future because I am sure it will be an environment a lot closer to real life than I have experienced so far (going from high school where I had my super close friends close by to university where I had hundreds of friends, a lot of whom were literally metres away from me at all times.) But I do hope I meet and make friends with as many people as possible and get to be super sociable like I love. (At least I will always have the confidence of having my beloved Claire just a couple of hours away though, which does reassure me a lot!)

One of my first nights out at university - Street Party 2009
8. Messing up – Now though there are many ways in which I could, and probably will, mess up – I am talking in particular here about culture wise. There are a lot of small, very particular things which are major no-no’s in South Korea and so things which may not seem at all rude to me, may be perceived as incredibly bad-mannered there. For instance, speaking too loudly or not bowing (or not bowing deep enough for a person of high stature) or not taking things with two hands – or even sticking your chopsticks upright in your bowl of rice. I hope I will learn all the little customs quickly and won’t make too much of an idiot of myself!!

9. Enjoying the food – I wouldn’t really call myself a picky eater – I can eat most things really. But there are a few things which I just really don’t touch – most of them things I term “burny” (including raw onion, ground pepper, green peppers and excessive chilli). Now, I do hear that a lot of Korean food can be pretty spicy. And their food really is going to be something completely different to what I have experienced before – not even ever having had much Asian food at all (aside from sushi that I love, of course), never mind Korean! But I am open to anything (except dog of course!) and am sure I will find things that I love.

10. Putting on weight – This one may seem silly but like I mentioned before weight is somewhat of an issue of mine. And after starting to lose weight properly this year (so far I’ve lost 7kgs and would like to reach my goal weight by the end of next year.), I would really like to maintain it. I am known to go rather off the program with my eating and exercise habits when I am thrown into a new or foreign environment. So I really hope its not gonna be an environment where I start putting weight on again! This is one of the things I do have quite a bit of control over though, so as long as I keep myself disciplined I suppose I should be ok! :P

And that’s just the tip of the great iceberg that is my anxiety for this upcoming adventure. I am sure I will be writing about a lot more, but for now wish me luck and peace of mind!

To all you lovely souls out there I wish you love and joy and lifetime supplies gummi bears!! <3 

Mom, people wear this stuff! I promise!

So I have always been a little bit of a weird one - but now adays aren't we all? I mean in this age of hipster-dom its kinda the in-thing to be different (creating that paradox we 'clever ones' are all so quick to point out - everyone's trying to be different, to not conform so being different becomes what everyone does, making it conforming). It is inescapable :P

Anyway - I am getting side tracked here. What I was going to say right from the start is that I have always had a somewhat unique sense of dress - one that has certainly evolved over the years into something tangible and uniquely my own, I think. And it has not always been something all have bought into. I mean I had a boyfriend who was not exactly thrilled by my excessively girly dressing. Once when we where walking through a store, I was trying desperately to get him to agree with me on how this little polka dot bikini I'd seen was completely adorable, and he exclaimed in a huff something like: "Just because you're a girl doesn't mean you always have to wear things covered in flowers and polka dots!" So from then on I had a pretty good idea of what he thought of 90% of my wardrobe. And although I didn't really let him know in that moment, it kinda really upset me. Because, while I certainly don't think that appearance is everything, I do feel like the way I dress is a big part of who I am because its an expression of my personality (as for most people). And further more I didn't like flowers and polka dots just 'cause I was a girl - I liked them because I was me!

Anyway, cut to now and I have a new person who doesn't really 'get' what I wear. My mother. Now, university allowed me to be bolder in the way I dressed and for the last few months that has increased even more as I have wanted so badly to embrace certainly elements of fashion I see overseas (but which aren't exactly super common here in SA where I live). Now my mom certainly doesn't hate everything I wear, but as I have tried to make these new changes to my wardrobe, her reactions have been wrought with constant furrowed brows, looks of confusion and just a general disdain for my strange taste. And as a result I have repeatedly felt I needed to prove to her that I'm not crazy in liking what I like and wanting to wear these things - and that in fact LOTS of people do! So I took to scouring We Heart It to find said proof and even once or twice making these little collages, full of images which inspired or represent my own little quirky wardrobe elements. After I had collected quite a few of these I thought it might be a fun thing to do a blog post about it (one rather similar to the "Trends I Love..." post I did a long while back).

So here are some "I-promise-you-people-actually-wear-these-things-mom" collages. (I've also added in some of the bloggers and volggers who do these trends so well and one or two pics of me rocking them myself ^_^)

Firstly, the one that kicked off the whole thing big, bold bows. My mom actually said some of the most shocking words she possibly could to me one night when I was getting ready to go out and trying to decide whether or not to wear a bow-topped alice band - "Don't you think you're getting to old for bows now?" I gasped in horror and exclaimed that I would never be too old for bows! And in response showed my mom pictures of the amazing fashion blogger who in fact did actually inspire me to go bigger and bolder with my bows - the stunning Betty of Le Blog de Betty

The bow thing took a lot of convincing with my mom - even the top knot with the bun at the back thing which is huge now. here are some gorgeous ones I found...

Next there is the crop top thing. This is a trend I absolutely adore and I have started building up a cool collection. Its a little hard to find them here unless you're willing to pay quite a bit, so I have also taken to fashioning my own crop tops by tying other sorts of tops shorter and making them into ones. I most often pair them with maxi skirts, as you'll see below. Here are a few of my crop top outfits ^_^ 

Black & white spotty crop top from Cotton On worn at the Lola Malone's Life On the Pedal Party at The Upstairs
Peach sheer knit crop top with wooden heart brooch from Mr. Price
Floral crop top from Cotton On 
Now, its pretty easy to understand why my mom wouldn't be immediately on board with this look. One day when my mom and I were on our way to the lovely I Heart Market, me sporting one of my now many crop tops, I weirdly had the Bare Necessities song from the Jungle Book stuck in my head and when I mentioned this to my mom she immediately (and hilariously) responded with the quip - "It's because you're WEARING the bare necessities." Now she was joking, of course, but she does view the whole crop top thing as pretty risque, and I do get it. Although I really don't think that showing a couple centimeters of bare midriff is worse than wearing super short mini skirts or teenie-tiny shorts with your butt cheeks hanging out - neither of which I wear (probably mostly just cause I can't pull them off, if we're honest, but still! :P)  Also I know that the crop top style has evolved a lot, with most wearing a longer version with a semi-high waist vibe - but I prefer shorter crop tops with super high waisted things because they just work better with my figure.

One of the latest things I've had to convince my mom about is the flower headband. Just last week when I wore my thin vine style flower headband (below) with my hair up in a bun my mom kept telling me all day that I looked like a flower girl - so out came my phone to show her the array of flower crowns other girls my age wear these days. 

It took me AGES to find the one I have (which I got at the Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay) because most of the others I've seen in shops have looked quite gaudy and often really plastic-y, and I like more natural looking ones. And I have neither found nor had the bravery to wear the larger festival-style proper flower crown but would love to be able to rock one one day. Two of my favourite beauty vloggers to watch Zoella and Dolly Bow Bow rock beautiful floral headbands and flower crowns. 

Zoe Sugg
Kate Murnane
Here are some really pretty versions of different floral headbands and flower crowns I found. 

Last but not least there is a trend I am yet to actually do - but mostly cause I haven't been able to find these in South African shops (if anyone knows where I can find them - let me know!) - and that is frilly socks!! I love the look - especially with boots ^_^ Just look how adorable they can look with all different kinds of shoes!! 

In light of my exciting new adventure coming up - my relocation to South Korea!! - I'm hoping I'm going to be able to find lots of super cool fashion finds. I have heard South Koreans are uber fashionable and I'm really excited to see  for myself!

Peace & love & exciting fashion choices to you all! <3 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Exciting adventure time begins!! (Well, almost...)

So I'm not sure if I have even mentioned this in a previous blog post because I have been such a slacker with this blog thing for so long - but I AM GOING TO SOUTH KOREA!!! 

Yes, little old me, who has never left the country is going to pack up her life (well as much of it as I can fit in a 30kg suitcase! eep :/) and flit off to a foreign land. I will be teaching English (as so many do these days) in Jeokseo Elementary School which is situated in Gyeonggi province (in the northern part of South Korea). My initial contract with the school is for a year - a super big commitment!! 

I have been working on getting a teaching job in South Korea for a few months now - even having to make an incredibly awkward and dorky video of myself pleading my case of wanting to be a teacher there and giving a little example of my demeanour as a teacher. It is privated on Youtube but I will reward you with the link here - because you are one of the probably VERY few people actually reading this - simply for the pure enjoyment of my embarrassment at anyone seeing it. (please forgive the awful picture and sound and editing quality and my general awkwardness - I had to make this thing really quickly so its rather shoddy. :P) 

Finally, after my 5th interview (despite the fact that by this time I could not possibly hate interviews more and was on the verge of gauging my eyes out with the nearest sharp object at having to answer the question "Why do you want to teach English in South Korea" for the hundredth time) - someone finally wanted to employ me! And this was when the the terror really set in. :P While I am so, so, SO excited to go, and in such desperate need of change and an adventure (this being the perfect opportunity to have this while earning decent money too), I cannot explain how truly terrified I am. This is by far going to be the most challenging and scary thing I have ever done. I will be setting off all on my own into a country completely different to my own, full of people speaking a language I don't (although I am working on that!) - and not just for a little fun holiday trip, but to live and work for AN ENTIRE YEAR (at least). But fear aside, I really do feel ready for hurling myself completely outside of my comfort zone and just doing this thing already. The last few months of being back home have been crazy hard for me. Don't get me wrong - I love Durban and always will - its just after being away from home for 4 years and being independant and in a place where I was so free and always surrounded by friends, going back to being dependant and being rather lonely a lot of the time (with all my Durban friends having made their own lives here and not always being able to hang out quite as much as we'd all have liked to) - was kinda super sucky for me. But it was always the plan for me to come back and put all my energy into going to Korea - which I have now done -- woo hoo!! 

I leave in exactly a month - which means I have just a few short weeks to sort out my paperwork, book my plane ticket, get my visa, buy a huge-ass suitcase, get everything I need AND spend as much time with my friends and family as I can before I leave. That last part is what makes this whole thing super bitter-sweet for me - because I am going to be saying goodbye to my amazing friends for SUCH a long time!! Not only do I have THE most amazing friends from high school but I have also met people of seriously epic awesomeness over the last few years too and it really makes my heart hurt thinking I am going to be away from these gorgeous souls for such a long time. But life must be lived and to travel is to be far away and this is something I am going to have to get used unfortunately. :( And I know the friends I have made are going to be around for life, so I'm sure we'll be together again eventually and in the mean time we will also find numerous ways of annoying each other from across the world too. :) 

And all is not lost becaaaaauuse - my amazing friend Claire is going too! 
**Us having awesome fun times together!**
We have both been working on getting placed in South Korea and she leaves next week for her placement (SO exciting!). We are not too close to each other sadly (she's quite a bit more south than I am). But the public transport in Korea is amazing apparently so it shouldn't be any problem for us to spend our weekends together which will be so much fun! (And it will probably be even cooler because we'll get to explore eachother's parts of the country together.) I am so glad I am going to have one of my best friends just a train ride away, both as a support through this super scary time and as an adventuring buddy to explore this amazing place with. I can already see us going on shopping sprees for cool and quirky clothes, eating weird and wonderful things, exploring ancient spiritual monuments and, of course, consuming a fair (read: excessive) amount of soju along the way ^_^ I cannot emphasise how much my heart fills with joy thinking about being able to share this experience with her. You can follow this adventure from her perspective via her awesome blog dedicated especially to it - Keen for Korea

I am PROMISING, publicly here for all to see (well the all who are actually seeing this) that I will write at least one blog post a week and keep this updated with both my exciting adventures and my random musings - because we all need a space to put our weird, right? 

For now I wish you all love and rainbows and new experiences!! <3     

Friday, 17 May 2013

Don't Gaze at me, bro...

So I was feeling super deep and decided to broach a subject a bit more serious than usual... But still - don't expect anything academic or intellectual (my academic writing is for no eyes other than my professors! :P) - this is just my personal experience relating to a topic of great interest and importance to me, the objectification of woman. So here goes...

I first heard this dubious term "the Male Gaze" 5 years ago in my first year at uni in a Sociology class. Now I don’t want to get too far into the academics of it all, but what it basically is, in layman's terms, is that omnipotent presence of judgement women experience everyday – that feeling of constantly being under surveillance, of being on display, of being judged (by members of the opposite sex around you) and the way in which this objectification results in the woman’s loss of a degree of her autonomy. The resultant effects of the male gaze on the female psyche, cause most to feel a (most often sub-conscious) constant need to adjust our appearance and behaviour to meet the standards of the gaze, an ever present sense of anxiety and insecurity at living up to its’ expectations – not to mention the effects of being reduced to nothing more than an object for appraisal and consumption by all men around us on our sense of self-worth, our capabilities and our possibilities. The male gaze exists all around us, in many forms of voyeurism enjoyed by men in private and in public and is demonstrated most obviously in advertising, and as argued by feminist thinker (pictured below), Laura Mulvey, in film.

Now all these years after that fateful Sociology class, having been a political philosophy scholar with a keen interest in gender studies issues (and now proudly calling myself a feminist, however complex and often misunderstood that term is), I have, in my university career, covered a fair amount of theory relating to this subject. And while small instances in my life could most certainly be related to it, I found that it wasn’t until I had left uni and taken up a temporary job waitressing to try and save up money for my working gap year, that I really felt the full force of this oppressive force weighing down on me in my own personal life in terms of the people around me.

As a waitress it is quite literally your job, naturally, to wait on people, to serve them and attend to all their needs while they are in your care in the restaurant. Little did I know that this being the nature of the job, would put me in the most compromising of positions when I encountered what would become the many ‘romantic advances’ from the male patrons. At first, of course, it’s sorta flattering when strangers off the street give you compliments, or (as was most common) asked how much you’d like for lobola (the traditional form of dowry paid by the husband to the wife’s family ‘in exchange’ for marrying her, in many of the local cultures within South Africa, where I live). But that wore off incredibly quickly, let me tell you. Now I don’t wanna be one of those annoying girls who sit around complaining about how guys are just absolutely fawning over them and its “oh so terrible,” while loving every minute of it – to whom most people roll their eyes and respond with something like “Sure, sure – awful to be loved, hey!” And I actually did get this highly annoying response from some people to whom I tried to express my dismay. But seriously, it really is not fun. And it did a lot more, psychologically, than give me even more reason to hate wearing skinny jeans. (Being much more of a floral summer dress kinda gal to begin with, I wasn’t a big fan of pants in general, but this job made absolutely loathe the required uniform item of jeans, which hugged and highlighted what became my most appreciated body part by said male customers.)

Imagine a man, in about his late 40’s say (I’m 22 by the way), walking into the restaurant, spotting you bustling back and forth serving your tables, and asking HIS waitress to call you over. He initiates a conversation about how he just HAS to get your number/take you out sometime/MARRY YOU etc. etc. You need to be serving your customers, are exhausted, and quite frankly pretty grossed out by this guy and his advances. But, the mere fact that you are in this position of service, forces you to have to smile coyly, and desperately try to turn down his advances while still appearing cheerful and flattered by them – often having to make up excuses like imaginary boyfriends or restaurant policies, just to try and get said guy off your back. And all the while you are just thinking: “Firstly, you don’t stand a chance in hell and what I really mean to say when I say ‘aw, that’s so sweet’ is that is so damn objectifying, please could you just stuff right off, thank you very much.” Which of course, you can’t show.

And now imagine this is actually one of your customers! Once you have turned down the repeated advances, painfully trying to maintain a convincing smile through it all, you have to constantly return to the table another 10 or 20 times while they persist with them. And imagine that this happens ALL DAY LONG. And when especially explicit comments have been made about your appearance (most often to the other waitresses in Zulu, which they in turn relay to me, and most often involving my bigger-than-most-white-girls’ butt) I have to then literally feel their piercing gaze every time I am forced to walk back and forth past their table, simply trying to get on with my frikken exhausting job. All the time never forgetting to flash that award winning smile but still trying to strike that balance between being a nice, polite waitress, and desperately not wanting to encourage any more attention. Such attention even coming from people as “high profile” as one of the president’s sons, a notorious business man often mentioned in the news, whose first words to me were that “I had the body of an African woman” and that it was for this reason that he just “HAD to take me out.” And who, when I did my usual trick of stating the obstacle of the imaginary boyfriend, responded with “Well, he doesn’t have to know.” So sleazy, right?

The feeling of literally being reduced to nothing but my ample behind by so many men walking into the restaurant really started getting to me after a while (and not a very long one). I mean, not one of them actually tried to ask any real questions about me, or try and ascertain if I was a nice person, if I was smart, if I had any ambition or even any personality to speak of. Maybe if any of them really seemed interested in any of that I wouldn’t have felt so bad. But that’s just it. Who I actually was didn’t matter. And you would think that for a girl who has been plagued all her life by crippling self-esteem and body issues, who most, I am sure in describing me would put me in the smart-nice-sweet-pretty-face girl category (rather than the oh-my-goodness-she’s-so-drop-dead-gorgeous one) – would appreciate some good unadulterated appreciation of nothing but her looks. But, you’d be wrong. It really did make me feel like shit (excuse my French). The fact that man after man who walked into the place simply felt they had the right to give me such an unrequested appraisal on my appearance right off the bat, the right to look me up and down, to very obviously nudge their colleagues with a creepy smile on their face and discuss my “assets” with them over their meal, the right to so explicitly make their interests known – was mind boggling to me. And that fact that all these pot-bellied, balding old dudes would actually think that I would, what, simply fall into their arms, that they actually stood a chance, was even a little insulting.  

All my discomfort at these constant advances, at this quite literal male gaze I was exposed to for hours on end while at work, culminated in a really rather nasty experience with one customer in particular. This time it was with a younger guy, probably in his late 20’s by the looks of it, who strolled with what could only be described as some attempt at white-boy swagger on a Sunday morning, and while I was serving him innocently slips me a completely inappropriate and lewd note (the contents of which I won’t repeat here), after not even having said more to me than pointing out which breakfast he’d like. Having been handed this note and instructed to read it in private, I walked back to the kitchen, I expected it to simply be his number or something (having had numbers handed to me countless times before) – but oh boy, was I wrong. I was so shocked and taken aback by it that I immediately tore it in half and threw it in the bin, not knowing what to do next. Should I go and tell the manager? Should I throw the coffee I was about to take back to his table in his face?

While I certainly would have liked to do the latter, accompanied with some choice words on what an awful pig he was, I was literally paralysed inside. I took him his coffee and then asked one of the male waiters to finish the table for me, ‘cause I didn’t know how to react when I went back. I didn’t tell my manager until much later when he’d already gone. And I didn’t show anyone the actual note. The shock just took over me. And while a little scribble on a piece of paper from some low life should really be something I could easily shrug off, I had the strangest reaction to it. I was in a haze all day, feeling gross, and strangely violated by it – even though nothing really happened. And I even felt quite ashamed. Like somehow this was a reflection on me. I didn’t want to tell people because I felt they’d somehow make assumptions about me based on it – “maybe she had been flirting with him, somehow indicating such an advance would be appropriate.” Now obviously this is utterly ridiculous, I know, but is very obviously, in hindsight, a reaction stemming very clearly from the victim-blaming culture of gender-based violence today (even though this was such a minor little case of harassment). It really affected me. And the powerlessness I felt (as someone who has been known to speak her mind quite openly, even when it was unpopular or unwanted) to deal with this situation was crippling.

I quit that job a few weeks ago (not because of this constant objectification, although it certainly contributed to making this work environment really unsuitable for me). And the relief of not having to deal with this on a daily basis, at least not at that concentrated level, is immense, I must say. But the experience did really open my eyes to just how much our mere presence, our physical being, is quite literally owned in spaces filled with men like these. We are walking objects to be examined, judged, consumed, acquired. And to downplay the significance of the effect of this objectification on one’s sense of self really cannot be underestimated – most importantly by men. I think most guys really struggle to understand how these daily encounters make us feel like (whether they are themselves sexist or misogynistic, or not). Even my own big brother, when I tried to explain it to him, nonchalantly said “Well don’t think about it like that, just don’t let it affect you.” But what people don’t understand is that the emotional effect that this male gaze has on us simply is NOT our choice. We cannot control how we feel about it just like we can’t control when we’re going to encounter it and from whom it is going to come. It is all around us, it is pervasive, it is present in all forms of media and in all our encounters with people in all situations. And because of its omnipresent external existence it is imbued upon our being and becomes unconsciously and uncontrollably self-imposed from the inside out. It is not our choice. And that is the whole point. We, as women, are once again thrust into a space of choice-less-ness. And this space is our whole world. 

Whew... Enough intense-ness for now! :P 

Here's wishing peace and love and better times ahead to all you lovelies out there <3 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Random rambling about love and stuff…

So I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. About how it happens. About how we fall in love and when and why. About what it does to us, how it makes us feel and act. And about how we even know that that’s what’s happening, that that’s really what we’re feeling. I have felt very differently on the subject at various times in my life. Depending, I suppose, on where exactly I sat with love at each particular moment.

Like, for example, how do we really know that we are not duping ourselves into this magical fantasy borne by a need to fulfil our desperate longing for comfort, for company, for acceptance – and ultimately to be loved back? I know, that I, for example, have an abundance of issues (daddy issues, abandonment issues, insecurity issues, body issues etc. etc.). Basically, I am a basket case. And at times I have worried about these things both perhaps making it too easy for me to fall in love, and at the same time, making me too insecure to accept the reality of someone actually loving me back. (You know the old “we only accept the love we think we deserve” thing.)  

The first time I realised (decided?) I had found this amazing, wondrous thing called love – as in I had FALLEN IN LOVE with someone, it was simultaneously the most exhilarating and most terrifying thing I had ever felt. It was a reality that had been creeping up on me for a while, but which, once I had allowed it to take over me, did just that – latched onto every ounce of my being, refusing to dissipate.

I also remember, admitting this to the person with whom I had these oh-so-overwhelming feelings for, and it being one of the most awful experiences of my life. It’s something I haven’t thought about in such a long time, and even know, my chest is physically tightening just at the memory, welling up with anxiety recalling how I felt that momentous night. Now, I realise now, although the delivery could have admittedly perhaps been a tad more tactful, that the person in question was in fact doing the right thing in being honest about where they stood in the grand scheme of this while love deal. (Even though, it was perhaps not the most conducive space for that person to be in for my very first declaration of such feelings from my side – though this was no fault of their own). But basically, the response I got consisted of two things – 1. I didn’t really know what “being in love meant” and 2. He couldn’t promise me that he would reciprocate such feelings (due to past issues in this area). The first thing infuriated me (how could he presume to tell me what I was and was not feeling), and the second thing very nearly shattered me (being an already incredibly insecure girl to begin with, with a mortal fear of having no one ever falling in love with her). I remember, running in tears to friends and sitting crying my eyes out for what seemed like ages at having received this response, after having made myself so vulnerable to this other person.

Obviously, this memory is such an ancient one, and it barely seems to factor in the grand scheme of that relationship – for we both did go onto having an incredibly intense connection in the end, and undoubtedly both fell very much in love with one another (despite it not ending in the greatest way). And as first loves go, despite the eventual pain caused later on, I certainly did experience something magical and wondrous. I truly did learn what it felt like to get completely consumed by this powerful force, and what it felt like to truly and unshakably (however fleetingly) loved by another human being.

But this memory does make me wonder so much about this intangible, unquantifiable thing that we all long for so much and yet which we cannot define or explain with any kind of certainty. How much of love is a decision? How much of it is steered by our past experiences, our deep rooted needs? How much do our scars hinder or heighten our ability to even fall in love in the first place?

The only other person I have had this real love experience with provided me with an admittedly much more positive “declaration moment,” if you will. It actually is one of the loveliest memories I have of our relationship and still makes me smile to this day. After weeks of us saying other silly things to each other while really knowing what we meant, but not daring to use those actual three little words, I finally felt the time had come for me to pluck up the courage and just say it. After my first experience of doing so, I was understandably super nervous about repeating this experience, it not exactly having been something which had imbued me with much confidence. But I was going to do it anyway, I decided. And as I sat there in front of him on the bed, my nerves absolutely killing me, I thought I should start with a little disclaimer, you know – I want to say something but I totally don’t expect you to like reciprocate or anything, etc. etc. – which I rambled off rather incoherently and at lightning speed. And realising exactly what I was obviously about to say he quickly interrupted and said it first. Of course his flippen competitive self had to beat me to it. :P But it wasn’t just that, I’m sure. I think he knew that that was exactly what I needed – to hear it as a first offering rather than a response, to quell my ever doubtful and insecure self. It truly was a one of those movie type moments, too adorable to feel real, and filling me with a kind of giddiness I cannot explain. (And now I am tearing up just writing about it! I am hopeless, I know.)

How is it that, even though these experiences of love happened so long ago, and even though so much has happened since them, they still touch me to my core when I think about them? Both my experiences of love ended in quite soul destroying ways I must say, though both very different from one another. And some days the pain caused lingers more than the love does. But mostly it’s not actually the bad things that happened that hurts the most – but rather the fact that these things meant the loss of love. They meant I had to give up something I was desperate to hold onto, something that was so precious to me that I had found in this other person – that exquisite and magical and wondrous feeling of love.

Ultimately, I don’t have answers to any of these questions (like most of my blog posts – this one is utterly void of any real use :P), but in saying that it probably doesn’t really matter that much in the end. Don’t get me wrong – from really, really young I have always thought that it is extremely important to be self-aware, to understand who you are, what you have been through, and how your past experiences have an effect on the choices you make later on in life. But really, no matter where this love thing comes from it is something beautiful – a feeling which really can’t be compared to anything else in the world. Of the many negative effects of being in this space of in-love-ness, I shall not speak now; this is perhaps another blog post for another day. For now I just want to say, I really cannot come anywhere close to adequately expressing how much I appreciate those people in my life who gave me the opportunity to love them, and to be loved by them.

To all those in or out of love – I wish you peace and love like you’ve never felt before (even if you have to wait a little while for it to come along), and in the mean-time – there are always chocolate chip cookies! :)

Hellogoodbye - Oh, It Is Love
Your heart may long for love that is more near
So when I'm gone these words will be here
To ease every fear
And dry every tear
And make it very clear
I kiss you and I know

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

I want to fly away

So, I finally gathered up the courage to quit my AWFUL waitressing job that was making me utterly miserable and am now on the look out for a new job to tide me over until I (hopefully) hop on a plane and fly off to South Korea in August. But in the meantime, I must say, I am getting cabin fever of note… I haven’t even been back in Durban for that long, I realise this. But still! The monotony of everyday life and the extreme FOMO of seeing all the wonderful things other people are doing all over is starting to get to me a little. Ok, a lot.

I do feel somewhat like a big unappreciative baby, I should just suck it up, make the most of this down time I have, and generally just CALM THE F**K DOWN. But I am having a whiney moment and I’m going to make the most of it in this space – because after all, I do moaning sessions so very well on this thing. :P
I just want to be shot of here! I know it’s gonna be crazy hard, and crazy scary. And I know the hardest thing of all will be to leave my friends behind indefinitely – because they absolutely mean the world to me. But I feel like my life hasn’t started until I have actually left. I need this to happen and I need it to happen soon. A complete life change. Something to mark the beginning of things for real. A real job, a new place, complete independence. A real adventure!!

So for now I will continue to long for new, unseen places and feel sorry for myself :P Hopefully not for too much longer though. Still got a ton to do to actually make that adventure happen…

Forgive me, for I know despite my unappreciative impatience, that I am very blessed.

Peace and love and new adventures to you all <3 

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

My Superman-Florence-Nightingale, where are you?

So while most of the time I fight through minor illnesses by ignoring them stubbornly and getting on with my life (often doing more damage than anything else, but oh well :P), when I do come down with something particularly bad I go into full grumpy baby mode. Right now – I have bronchitis, and let me tell you it is no fun at all. Aside from the block sinuses inducing horrendous sinus headaches, the painful sore throat, the awful cracking coughing fits and all the rest of it – comes a healthy dose of feeling incredibly sorry for myself. And I must say, it always is when I am at my lowest – my absolute sickest and grossest – that I feel the loneliest.

I don’t know if this is one of those universal things (I am desperately hoping so, so I am not the only silly sad thing out there) but it something I started feeling more and more acutely ever since I left home and went to uni. Moving from the lovely temperate coastal climate of Durban to the rather temperamental inland climate of Grahamstown (where, as everyone says, “you can experience all 4 seasons in one day”), I found myself getting sick way more often than I used to. The first time I got really sick and found myself having to trudge, all on my own, all the way into the doctor in town, and then to the pharmacy, and then all the way home, only to sit in my room feeling crap still all on my own – I realised how shitty it is not having anyone to look after you. Now – I am perfectly capable of looking after myself like 99.9% of the rest of the time, don’t get me wrong. It’s just when I’m really sick that all I want is constant attention and someone to wait on me hand and foot. :P Then I discovered, a little way down the line, that there is a perfect person to perform such tasks – your boyfriend!! (When you had one of course.) I have super distinct memories of being looked after by boyfriends when sick and never appreciating and loving them more for going out of their way to make what must have been a not very great person to be around (to say the least) feel better. I remember in first year, my first ever real boyfriend, having been given a list by his mom of all the things that would help me recover from whatever illness I was suffering from at the time, and him driving all over town just trying to find me real cranberry juice (because the retardedly small town of G does not just stock such things in every store, you see). And in 4th year when my boyfriend at the time went to pick and pay (because the chemist was already closed) to try and find me anti-nausea pills (me being so nauseous I could die) and when he found they didn’t have any, didn’t just come back empty handed to tell me this (like most would have done), but rather Googled natural remedies for nausea on his phone – the answer being ginger – and proceeded to buy ginger in every form he could find it in the store (ginger tea, ginger ale and even actual ginger pieces). So I guess one could say that, while in relationships, I had experienced being super spoilt while in my state of woe-is-me. And while it was awesome then, it now makes me feel about a million times worse every time I am ill again, because not only do I get all the symptoms of the disease, along with the being-reduced-to-an-infant syndrome, but I also get the incredible loneliness of being single and completely without a Superman/Florence Nightingale hybrid as I had had before. All I want is to be brought tasty things, and handed my meds one by one while someone stands by with a glass of water, and to be cuddled off to dreamland in my pill-induced sleepy times.  

For now, I will remain feeling sick, sorry for myself, and like I will be ‘forever alone.’ :p

Love and peace and healthy vibes to all you lovelies out there <3  


So, I pretty much loved being in Cape Town for about a month. I went down there to do my TESOL course (which I need to go and teach English in South Korea, which will hopefully still happen in August, fingers crossed!) and ended up having SUCH a great time – not to mention a super contemplative one.

Being in Cape Town properly again was quite strange for me. So much of what I saw, despite a ton having changed over the years, brought back tons of memories for me. Whether it was seeing the adorable ducks at Groot Constantia where we went wine tasting (having been there on a school trip back in the day) or walking along the promenade in the early evening time (something I mom and I would do on a daily basis when we lived in Sea Point back then) – it all was quite overwhelmingly nostalgic, and an experience that was both strangely fun and exciting, and really, really sad at the same time. It made me realise how much had changed in me since that time. How much I had changed. And also made me toy with the ever-dangerous notion of “what-if”. What if I had never left this place that I had loved so much? Would things have turned out differently? Would I have been spared the heart ached that resulted when I had returned to Durban to live with my father? Or would I have just experienced heart ache in a different form? It is frivolous, I know, to think in this way, but rather inevitable I suppose. The nostalgia came in another form as well, reconnecting from someone really important from my past, a reconnection which too gave me a heck of a lot to think about. But this is a post for another day…

Being back with Claire and Gabi made me once again appreciate how much they mean to me (along with my other besties from Rhodes). I really have made the most amazing friends over the years, and leaving them all behind is going to be so difficult. :/ Which is another reason why I was so grateful I was able to do this trip and spend all that time with them - from tanning on the beaches of Camps Bay, to getting hit on in strange CT clubs, to entire days spent huddled up in Claire’s bed with nothing but junk food and hours of Glee and Geordie Shore to keep us busy.

The (so-called) real reason I was there, of course, was to do the TESOL course - which was an interesting experience to say the least! I had a great time, met some awesome people, and was lucky enough to feel really validated in the whole thing. Not only was it great to actually use my brain again (it had been a while) but I realised all over again how much I really adore teaching. And I must say Cape Town is a wonderful space to be a student in. When I was staying with my long time high school bestie, Katie, in Rondebosch, I fell in love with this gorgeous little café called Cocoa Wah Wah, where I spent many a day studying and planning lesson (helped along with delectable shakes and tasty treats). And while I was in Sea Point I of course tried to make the most of the invigorating sea breeze by working on the promenade.

And as if in some battle to the death for my attention – the weekends certainly provided much distraction from work in the form of much, much Rhodent style partying from Obz, to Claremont, to Stellies. This was also peppered with cultured things (I was in Cape Town after all so such was necessary) in the form of wine tasting (in which Gabz and I got rather tipsy and said inappropriate things rather more loudly than we should have), champagne and nougat tasting (which was absolutely delectable, even if done while I was hanging like no body’s business), and market trawling (where we looked at pretty things we couldn’t buy). And no Cape Town trip would be complete without feeling like a kid again with a visit to Ratanga Junction.

Overall, Ieaving this place balling my eyes out, I realised how lucky I was to have the friend’s I did to make a trip like that possible. Not only to Claire, Katie, Gabz and Brad for all housing me at one point or another – but to all of them and others (including the crazy Max, the lovely Miss Es, and the best dmc partner ever, Yolande) for sharing part of their lives with me and going out of their way to show me a good time. I truly am blessed. ^_^