Monday, November 30, 2009

If Only Every Day Were Like This

I am completely used to driving on the left side of the road except when it comes to drive-throughs, of which there are thankfully few. It just baffles my mind that the drive through goes clockwise around the building instead of counter-clockwise (yes, I know it's completely obvious and logical, but I still can't figure out which way to enter the drive-through).

Today I was early for work because the morning commute was miraculously fast-flowing, so Dan and I stopped at a McDonald's drive-through for some coffee. When we drove up to the speaker a man's voice said, "Hello?" Dan ordered the coffee, but the voice again said, "Hello?" So Dan ordered again. "Hello?" Ordered. "Hello?" At this point he was yelling so loudly into the speaker that I started laughing and quoting old Dr. Demento lyrics "I'd like a cheeseburger, some onion rings, and a LARGE ORANGE DRINK!").

Dan gave me a dirty look, gave up and just drove up to the window where you pay. Only no one was there. So Dan says, "Hello?", and that's when I started laughing hysterically. Finally a guy came to that window and asked Dan what he wanted. Dan ordered coffee. The man just looked at him and said, "Sorry?" So Dan ordered coffee again. And again, the man said, "Sorry?" Dan said, "COFFEE!"

At this point my stomach hurt from laughing. The man finally understood, we got our coffee, and handed us several packets of sugar and cream. The brand of the cream packets was called "Tastes Like Fresh Milk." Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if something tastes like fresh milk, that means it isn't fresh milk.

Dan wanted to throw them away but I insisted on keeping them; they make me smile (I love bad marketing!)

The good news is, I made it to work with plenty of time to spare, plenty of bad coffee, and a huge smile on my face.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Small Taste of Heaven

I love love LOVE what I do. I'm getting ready for a Christmas concert next Friday and Saturday at Hatfield Christian Church in Pretoria. I'm in the choir, and the orchestra is made up largely of Pretoria Symphony members. There's also dance, drama and video, but what's really cool about the whole production are the people.

Our church is extremely multi-cultural. At rehearsal tonight there were people from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Holland, Namibia, Brazil, Germany and the U.S. Of the South Africans, just about every culture is represented as well - Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho, etc. We all come from such different backgrounds and bring something unique to the table, so to speak.

I just got home from rehearsal - it's ridiculously late and I have to get up early in the morning, but I'm dancing in my seat as I type. I love music, and though I sometimes feel like an outsider here, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Mosquito Bites and Mince Pies

It's mosquito season. I am covered in mosquito bites despite the plug-ins, sprays, sticks, wipes, candles, etc., that all guarantee to rid my house of mosquitos. Today I'm sure three mosquitoes bit me through my socks. Aaahhh! I would like to say that South African mosquito bites itch more than California mosquito bites, but that's probably not true. Sigh...

The only thing that makes mosquito season tolerable is that it's also mince pie season. Mince pies are yummy, individual tarts filled with a gooey dried fruit filling. I think it's a British-influenced Christmas dessert (I've never seen them in the States, at any rate). But if they're filled with fruit, then can I justify eating two of them for breakfast?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Today's Take on South Africa

Some have said that South Africa is a strange mix of First World and Third World - or Western and Non-Western, to be more politically correct. I would have to agree on many levels, but that's also what makes South Africa such a vibrant place to live.

So many inventions are South African - the CAT scan, producing oil from coal, the first heart transplant... even the swimming pool vacuum cleaner all had their origins in South Africa. But just the other day I met a woman who didn't know how to use a microwave oven. To me that is mind-boggling. (In retrospect, she could probably teach me more about life than I could ever teach her)

I am the queen of bad analogies, so let me retain my title and come up with another one: South Africa is like a lava lamp. Beautiful, mesmerising, you could watch it for hours, but unpredictable, always changing (albeit slowly), indefinable... dare I say impalpable?

Every time you put a label on South Africa or stick it in a box, it rises up to prove the world wrong. I love that. The people are so innovative, so creative, so resourceful, so inspiring.

The next time you read a bad report about South Africa on crime, violence or inefficient infrastructure, remember this- it was probably written by someone who doesn't like lava lamps.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Things That Live in Our House Besides Us:

Currently there are:
  1. About 7 extra guys in the other room eating snacks, playing games, watching movies, and having interesting philosophical conversations (it's guy night at the Erickson house)
  2. Ants - both the crawling kind and flying kind (aka termites)
  3. Shongololos - big black millipedes that love our garage (but why?)
  4. Christmas beetles. About this time every year they come out in droves to the point where you don't want to take a walk in the evening or open your windows because they're literally everywhere. Right now there's one in my bedroom that is buzzing around like a chainsaw.
  5. Mosquitos. It's also that time of year.
  6. Neighbourhood children. Sometimes I find extra children in my house. Especially the ones that love my cooking.
  7. The occasional gecko.
While I'm not keen on the bugs, I hope our house will always be one in which people feel welcomed. I haven't been so great at hospitality lately as I'd like, but I'm working on it. And maybe one of these days someone will feel comfortable enough to raid my fridge before kicking off their shoes and curling up with a good novel on the couch. That would be the ultimate compliment.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thoughts on Worship

I know I blog about church a lot, but I can't help it; church is just funny sometimes. Today there was this guy sitting behind me who sang with - how shall I say it - GUSTO (and badly at that). It's really hard to sing on key when the guy behind you isn't. I used to get distracted by this, but (well actually I still do) it doesn't bother me anymore. It rather makes me smile.

One of the most important lessons I learned about worship was from a guy who couldn't hear. I used to sing on the worship team at my old church. And this guy clapped off-beat, made loud noises, danced and was just... different. If you were sitting behind him - if you didn't know he was deaf - I suppose it would be terribly distracting. But I had the advantage of being on stage and seeing his face, which was beautiful because it was absolutely full of joy.

This guy could feel the rhythm of the music through his feet and when he worshiped it was so pure, so holy. He didn't care what anyone else thought. He was just expressing his love to God. And here I was, on stage, worrying about getting the notes right and the harmonies just so, coordinating outfits and generally obsessing about things that don't matter when it comes to worship.

"Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.' " - John 20:29

Turns out that as long as you can feel the rhythm in your feet, it doesn't matter if you can't hear the music. Worship is more about making a fool of yourself as only lovers do than getting the notes right.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bedtime Story

For all of you who have ever felt worn and threadbare....

"The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nanna came to tidy the room. "does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
~ From The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

Monday, November 2, 2009

Purple Purple Everywhere!

Most of you probably know that Pretoria is called the Jacaranda City and that Jacaranda trees are originally from Brazil; they're not native to South Africa. But what you don't know is what the street I work on looks like at this time of year, so without further ado, I present the view from my office window:

I love it how, when the blossoms fall, they create a carpet of purple that covers the red soil. It's such a beautiful contrast. Unfortunately, the colour of Jacaranda blossoms is one that is nearly impossible to capture on camera. So if you want to see what they really look like, I suggest that you buy tickets for next year's World Cup and then stay for four extra months! (I'm serious, by the way)