The Lost Treasure of Storytelling

Women drinking tea

My Weekly Musings #13/2017

 

I am from the lucky generation who still grew up without a TV. Well almost. TV arrived in our town in South Africa in 1976, when I was in Grade 2. Or it might even had been a year earlier. I can’t remember. My dad didn’t buy one, “because they didn’t show the rugby”.  Actually that was his way of saying that he didn’t have the money to buy one. Not that I held it against him. We never had money, but we always had food, shelter and clothes. And love. We, television-less children had to gather at a house that had a TV every Tuesday at six to watch Haas Das and Heidi. I had to wait until my oupa sold his second-hand TV to my dad years later to have the privilege of staying at home to watch it alone.

I only realised much later in life that not having a television set in the house was actually much more of a privilege than having one. We ate together at the kitchen table, where we talked about our days and then listened to the aandgodsdiens (Bible message) and the ten minute story on the radio. And then we washed the dishes and we all retreated to our rooms to read.

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology to a point where I have to admit that I am addicted. I struggle with it and hope that when our living arrangements change in a year or so, that I will be able to be less dependable on social media and will thus use my phone in a more constructive and balanced way. But for now, I have to live with the addiction, because when you live abroad, that piece of electronics is your life-line to family and friends back home.

One thing that technology killed in our day, is the treasure of storytelling. It’s no shock anymore that when you go to restaurants, you find that people are there to work on their laptops. If they aren’t working, you find big or small groups sitting together, but conversing inwardly via their phones with other people than the ones they are physically with. The same thing happens when children visit each other. They ‘play’ with each other through phones and gaming equipment. Parents prop iPads and tablets into two year olds’ hands to keep them busy, instead of teaching them to play and use their imagination. We had become a strange lot.

When we grew up we still knew boredom. We had no entertainment at home or at school. If we wanted to be entertained, we had to do it ourselves. I came late into our family, so I didn’t really have siblings to play with. My dolls became my friends and all the trees in our garden had names. I could sit for hours in my tree and watch people in the neighbourhood go by – without them spotting me. I loved it. I even packed rations to spend afternoons in my tree. I also made a ‘saddle’ for my tree trunk ‘horse’, because otherwise my bum got numb. And I always had a kettie (slingshot) with me, because the Sering tree (I don’t believe the word I found in English is the correct one) provided me with green, round, hard seeds as ammo. (As the only young girl living in the street I learned to be prepared at all times.)

In that tree I dreamed up stories by the hundreds. My mother was the busy sort, so I don’t remember her ever telling or reading me a story. But there was a lot of storytelling around me – not as much as I wanted it to be, but nevertheless. I went to the farm on some Tuesday nights with my grandparents, where my grandfather, grandmother and uncle played cards. Nothing fancy – just boring Rummy. But they played while drinking very, very strong coffee. I drank with and was always sorry afterwards when my stomach cramped. But I loved it, because I loved sitting there, listening to the old people talking.

My brother, Willa, was the first one to read me stories. He read to me from the Bible and he preached to me and my dolls after school in the sitting room. I loved listening to him and the stories he told me. I think I became a Believer because of him. He practiced so well, he became a pastor in real life.

My Grade One teacher, Juffrou Ieta Boshoff, was the first of the great story tellers in my life. She had the most soothing voice and some out-of-this-world stories. She would let us lie down on the carpet in the classroom and tell us a story. And if some fell asleep, she let them. But I never fell asleep. Stories awed me too much to let my brain go to rest. Instead, it triggered my imagination and I would later play out the stories in my room or in the garden with my dolls, my trees and characters who eventually took permanent residence in my head.

Both my primary school teacher – who later became my sister-in-law, Hessie (De Clerq) Breytenbach, and my high school teacher, Attie Saunders, were good enough storytellers to get me interested in history and to this day I still love the subject and it had quite an impact in several of my life choices.

I started writing my own stories and in high school a few of my friends and I even had our own little ‘library box’ with self-written stories, which could be borrowed by others. I’m not verbally good at storytelling, so I am in awe by people who are natural oral storytellers. But they had become very few. And if they still exist, there is no real place for them to practice their art in everyday life anymore, because story time is now watching-TV or spending-time-on-our-phones-time.

Today, we live in an instant world, where entertainment is literally at the tip of our fingers wherever and whenever we want it. We don’t have to go somewhere to a social gathering or wait until it is dark. We push a button wherever we are and have choices. Too many choices. We actually have so many, that we can’t always make up our minds.

I’m not against it. I do it too and I enjoy it, but I think that we have lost something very important with the way we are entertained in our day. We don’t need our imagination so much anymore, because all the imagining is being done for us already. That book that we should have read and the world in it we should have imagined, is now a movie and we don’t have to go through the trouble, because someone else have decided for us what it looks like. We just have to sit back and watch without any effort on our behalf. And then forget it again. Because tomorrow I will have some more choices and I will be bombarded with some more special effects and I’m getting so overly stimulated, that my brain didn’t have any time to enjoy and process the last thing I’ve watched, watching the next.

Our friend, Abri, is a good storyteller. He can entertain one in such a way in telling one about something happening to him that it feels as if you have experienced it with him. He also tells his sons stories. One of the ‘series’ he tells them is about Buks, a farm dog. Buks is an awesome dog. He can make plans and fight lions and nothing ever gets the better of him. The stories are entertaining and get made up as Abri goes, which sometimes are very, very funny. When he goes away, he records a few stories, so that his sons can listen to them. They love it! And not only does it stimulate the boys’ imaginations, but it tightens the relationship between a father and his children.

In South Africa, as I believe in other cultures too, we still have a few storytellers. They are mostly humorous and are limited to a few TV shows and yearly cultural festivals and people have to pay to hear them, but at least they still exist. Are there still people telling ghost stories for fun and for free around a camp fire like we did when we were children?

God is a great storyteller. He created billions of characters throughout history and has ‘scripted’ their stories for them. I wonder how many of us live out our stories as He has originally plotted it out. Or how we deviated from His script for our lives to instead live our own, ‘better’ versions through the choices we make? He also made sure that a lot of His stories got written down for us, so that we can learn from the lives of Adam and Noah and Esther and ultimately, Jesus, and that we can have a ‘compass’ to live our own stories by. Luckily it is also electronically available…

I sometimes ponder on how much we miss out on because of the entertainment we choose thanks to our technologically advancing lives. I wonder how many unsaid words there are between us because we choose to live virtually with our eyes glued to a little electronic devise in our hands, instead of looking around in awe at the world and playing out the ‘scripts’ we have with our loved ones.

Unless we switch off that little device every now and then, we will probably never know.

 

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egyptian Street Cat Chronicles Part 2

Egypt Chronicles 2/2017

It was quite something to experience the ginger cat’s transformation from that shy, scared in-survival-mode creature to an animal that would lovingly come and rub her back against your leg and even allow my husband to pick her up and hold her. It took a long time, but she learned to trust us and to feel save around us. The more we learned about her, we realised that she was a fierce fighter with a soft heart. We named her. Sort of. That’s even more dangerous than to start feeding them! We called her GemmerGat (in English literally Ginger Butt). She became happy and quite relaxed when she realised that she could rule our yard.

So, on a not-so-cold winter January day in Cairo, GemmerGat brought a camouflage coloured kitten (which we saw since that December in the flower pots in front of the building) into our yard to be fed. We weren’t very impressed, but we couldn’t refuse GemmerGat’s generosity to reach out to the little street cat and thought that maybe it was her way of ‘paying it forward’.

The kitten wasn’t very pretty and yet it was. We called her Camo. We soon realised that she doesn’t have the same likable personality as GemmerGat. She was only eight months old when our son, Michael, heard some faint crying sounds outside his window and found Camo with three little ones! We were terrified! We didn’t want more cats in our yard!

Camo was a terrible mother! She clapped her babies through their little faces if they wanted to eat and bit them. We liked her even less. We were away on a trip and when we came back the two kittens that were left (the third vanished earlier) were gone too. I am ashamed to say that we were relieved. So we kept feeding GemmerGat and Camo and kept chasing away the male cats. A few times we thought Camo looked pregnant again, but fortunately no more kittens appeared. Then one day, two months ago, Michael heard a noise again and there, from behind the big bag of charcoal, the little blue eyes of Camo’s latest offspring peeked at us.

We weren’t happy with another addition to our yard, but as it goes with baby animals – they steal your heart. This time around though, Camo is a model mommy! Instead of clapping and biting her baby, I was the one who got clapped when feeding her! Talk about haughtiness! (I don’t like that cat!) But she looks well after her baby, feeds him well and even shows affection. So, I have to commend her for that. She got so protective that she started scaring away GemmerGat – to our dismay! What a rotten attitude! GemmerGat brought her to our yard to be fed and she chased her away! I am so angry at her! And I’m even more disappointed in GemmerGat to let her without even fighting for her territory! We saw GemmerGat in the vicinity for a while, but then she disappeared. I’m still trying to come to terms with my feelings about that.

I can’t believe I miss an animal that doesn’t even belong to us! It’s just a building cat after all. I’ve even cried a bit over her. OK, I was actually crying over a situation friends of ours are having, and then I thought about GemmerGat and then I found that I had more reason to cry. Now, I’m just really worried about her and quite sad too, that she just abandoned us like that.

Maybe she is still around and just eating elsewhere, because we are not the only ones feeding them. The bohabs (doormen), policemen and other tenants also put out food. But what worries me is that while we still saw her in front of the building before, we haven’t seen her for weeks now. And that worries me more than I am willing to admit.

I can’t believe I’m writing about cats!

I can’t believe that I miss a bloody street cat!

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©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Egyptian Street Cat Chronicles Part 1

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GemmerGat (GingerButt)

Egypt Chronicles 1/2017

One phenomenon everyone living in or visiting Egypt are guaranteed to encounter is the presence of street animals, be it dogs, cats or other animals – like horses, donkeys and camels, which are used for work and/or entertainment.

Although the work animals are looked after by their owners, most of the time they look a bit different than the well-nourished farm animals one would be used to seeing in your native country. For various reasons I won’t elaborate much further on the subject of Egypt’s work animals.

One has to learn soon that you can’t rescue every street creature you come across. In fact, you have to learn to become a bit thick-skinned in your approach to these animals – something that is very difficult for an animal lover. And there are phases to this process.

In the beginning you feel terrible for the dogs running in packs, looking for food. You feel worse when you see that almost every female bears the ‘Baywatch’ look as our son calls it – with their milk giving ‘tools’ swinging around their undernourished bodies when they run through the streets looking for something to eat and drink. What makes it even worse, is when you stumble upon a thin, dirty litter of puppies or kittens stowed away somewhere where the mom though it to be safe.

The terribleness develop into a depression of sorts when it seems that all you see are stray animals looking for food and you realise that you can’t do that enough to help.

Eventually you hear about angel people, called veterinarians, who try to at least sterilise some of the dogs and cats at own cost.

The next phase is when you walk in the street in the summer heat and you get that familiar smell in your nostrils and see the decomposing evidence and you think: Ah, thankfully you don’t have to suffer anymore.

The next phase is the most dangerous one. On a hot day when all the different smells of human sweat hangs in the air, mixed with the smell of blood washed off the pavement after a Ramadan slaughter, you find yourself standing in a little shop, checking out the cheapest cat food. Because by now, a very nice looking black-and-white had started following your neighbours’ son back from the gym, your friend down the street had picked up an almost dead kitten and nursed it back to life and when you get home from a function one night, a ginger living in your building had shyly followed you to your front door and after you have checked each other out a few times, you have fetched a bowl of milk one night and rapport had been established.

And after a few more weeks, the once scared, shy, in-survival-mode cat, greets you at the building door and show you to your front door as if it is the bohab (doorman) and cheekily sits and waits for her treat. And when you open the door, she only slightly rubs against your leg when pushing past you, and runs perkily ahead, through the house to the other door. And before you know it, you fill an empty butter container with the cheap cat food from that little shop in Road 9. And when you go to the plastic shop the next time the butter containers get replaced by plastic bowls. And almost without you realising it, you have become a cat carer.

You shush the male cats away because they spray and it stinks and the stink gives you headaches and they fight with ‘your’ ginger. You know this because you hear the unearthly cries at night and you see the ginger fluff rolling past your bedroom window in the slight breeze in the mornings. And you feel surprisingly relieved when you open the door and she sits there – battle scarred, but alive.

I never thought that I would become one of those crazy persons filling the Internet with writings about cats. I’m a dog person, after all.

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©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Ek bepeins dié week in Afrikaans

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Foto’s: OFM News

My Weeklikse Bepeinsing #12/2017

So, gister was die groot ‘It’s Time’ gebedsbyeenkoms in Bloemfontein en daar was ‘n mag der menigte Suid-Afrikaners wat gaan bid het vir verandering in Suid-Afrika. Hier is net drie Skrifte (van die baie) waaruit Vader ons uit die Bybel leer oor gebed.

…en (as) my volk, oor wie my Naam uitgeroep is, hulle verootmoedig en bid en my aangesig soek en hulle bekeer van hul verkeerde weë, dan sal Ék uit die hemel hoor en hulle sonde vergewe en hulle land genees. (2 Kronieke 7:14)

Waak dan en bid altyddeur, sodat julle waardig geag mag word om al hierdie dinge wat kom, te ontvlug en voor die Seun van die mens te staan. (Lukas 21:36)

…terwyl julle met alle gebed en smeking by elke geleentheid bid in die Gees, en juis daartoe waak met alle volharding en smeking vir al die heiliges… (Efesiërs 6:18)

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So is ons land al vir baie lank al op die afdraende pad en toe hoor ‘n gewone, onvolmaakte  man (soos wat die Mosesse en Dawidde en Elias van die Bybel ook maar was) dat hy ‘n gebedsbyeenkoms moet hou waar mense van Suid-Afrika hulleself kan verootmoedig, Vader se wil vra en bid vir die omstandighede in die land. As ‘n mens die boonste Skrifte lees, sou jy dink dis heel  eenvoudig. Bid vir almal en oor alles en te alle tye is die basiese boodskap. Maar o, wee! Ons is mos (Suid-)Afrikaners en oornag was die land in rep en roer!

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En so analiseer en kritiseer en oordeel dit te lekker vir ‘n klompie weke lank.  En dit gebeur toe gister:

Een groep gryp die geleentheid aan, ondersteun dit en gaan bid. Die wat nie Bloem toe kon of wou gaan nie, het op hulle eie gebid of byeenkomste gereël waar hulle saam met ander kon bid – selfs in die buiteland.

Sommiges het gewonder of hulle kerke darem vandag ook vol sou wees en ander het die inisiatief uitgekryt as “nie van Christus nie”, as ‘n “die mekka van satan” vanweë “die oorvloed vals profesieë” wat daar uitgespreek is en so meer. En die onvolmaakte man wat dit gereël het, was volgens baie onder andere “geldgierig”, “net agter getalle aan” en “die anti-chris”.

Dan was daar die natuurlike reaksie van die ateïs dat mense net gaan om goed te voel oor hulleself en dat niks gaan verander nie.

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Ek reken in ons quick-fix wêreld sal baie die hele gebed-ding as ‘n flop sien as daar teen môre niks verander het nie. Ek wens ons kon almal saam met dieselfde energie saamstaan wat deur sommiges gebruik is om te kritiseer en verdeling te veroorsaak. Dink net! Maar ons is nog hierdie kant van perfektheid. En dis hoe dit is. As ons dit tog net kan onthou.

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Gister se gebeure het my beide hoop gegee en hartseer gemaak, maar dis maar net nog ‘n teken dat ons in onvolmaaktheid leef. Deur Vader se genade is ek nie deur al dié dinge verwar nie, maar ek dink die optrede van baie Christene die afgelope tyd kon tot redelike verwarring by jong/nuwe gelowiges lei, wat ‘n jammerte is.

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Die Skrif uit Openbaring het weer gister telkens by my opgekom. Leef ons reeds in dié tyd?

Wie onreg doen, laat hom nog meer onreg doen; en wie vuil is, laat hom nog vuiler word; en laat die regverdige nog regverdiger word, en laat die heilige nog heiliger word. (Openbaring  22:11)

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As jy ‘n gelowige is, besluit maar self volgens die Skrif oor gister se gebeure. Te veel ‘geloof’ word in ons dae op opinie gebou.

 

 

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

The Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan and Times Forever Gone

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My Weekly Musings #11/2017

As a lot of authors and would-be writers, I am fascinated by the writers from the past. I read up on them and read some of their works to try to learn from them. I have great respect for the way they wrote and how prolific they had been in a time before the technology we have today to make writing and publishing easier, was available. (Although I haven’t personally experienced this ‘easiness’ of getting published in the mainstream yet.)

I am a huge, huge, huge fan of Agatha Christie. She wrote wonderful stories that are still enticing today. I have read many of her books and watched more of her stories onscreen and just when I think that I’ve read or seen everything, something ‘new’ pops up. Here, where we are currently living in Egypt, bookstores stock her books and I indulge. She wrote so many stories, that one day if I manage to get through them all, I can just start over and read them again if I want, because they will be as good as new to me.

Another fascination of mine is Ernest Hemingway. (I’m currently contemplating naming our next dog Hemingway. Or Blue. Or something totally different.) I love his writing – some more that others, because let’s face it – in the times that he wrote, not too much happened in most works of fiction and it took a long time to happen.

Although a fan, I’m not blind to these old writers’ weaknesses. There was a lot of drinking and substance abuse involved in the lives of some of these authors and though I don’t condone it, I also don’t judge them. (Today it’s well known that writers and other artists are prone to mental illness and substance abuse.) And in Ernie and his friends’ case I suppose they were pretty much products of the war they survived.

So, even though Ernest and the Fitzgeralds and Gertrude Stein and the likes lived their lives as if there was no tomorrow, I can’t help to romanticise the period and circumstances they lived in just a little bit. Although conditions were still volatile during and after the war, things got simpler after that. There was class and style and ambience and boredom about the way they did their day by day routines.

A few weeks back while on a Nile Cruise, we visited the old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Egypt, for the third time since we live here. Being there, walking through the big corridors, riding the old, slow wooden lift and sitting in the stylish library, makes one daydream about a time and innocence gone forever. In my mind I can see Aggie sitting in her suite, with her desk moved to in front of the open double doors, feeling the desert heat breezing into the room, stroking her cheeks and causing tiny drops of perspiration on her forehead underneath her neatly waved hair, while she is tapping along passionately on her typewriter – creating the circumstances for Hercule Poirot to solve the four murders in Death on the Nile.

In my mind’s eye, I can see Mister Hemingway standing alongside the chest of drawers, hammering the keys, thinking of rather having a cold beer down in the garden, whilst the current woman in his life is still in bed, nursing a hangover and moaning about him not attending to her immediate needs – to his utter dismay.

I can imagine the buzz in the dining room when the famous well-dressed Who’s Who whom chose to cavort in Egypt at the same time appears one by one or couple by couple in their evening best. They would look way different than our group of whom only some had bothered to follow the smart/casual dress code.

I hear Aggie and her hubby converse about the newest archaeological finding at a site nearby, contemplating from which dynasty it might originate. Over dessert, she wonders if she shouldn’t have stuck to only one murder in Death on the Nile, instead of the four, because “you know, Darling, I don’t want to contribute to the world becoming a more violent place”.

With war clouds still hanging over Europe, Winston Churchill decides that he has to come up with a strategy for the coming Armageddon.

And in another few years, Mrs Fitz frowned upon her husband’s alcohol intake, wondering aloud if it was Ernie’s bad influence on him or the other way around, while she remarks how she can’t grasp why she came to feel so lightheaded so swiftly.

Fast forward to a time the world became enchanted by the people’s princes, who, while smiling her shy smile to the world, is crying within her heart over her broken dreams and recent divorce and wonders what the future will bring as she listens to her Arab lover’s plans for their next holiday together…

Sitting on the lawn, having coffee at sunset with a group of people from all over the world – some of whom we know and more that we don’t know – it is so easy to being translated into another era filled with well-clad creatives looking at the same sun setting where cataracts form down under in the river. Watching the falloukas with their majestic sails on Egypt’s Nile of the Bible passing by, I sat back and dreamed that one day my name will be mentioned as a famous writer who loved visiting the old Cataract Hotel and that a book of mine will sit there on the library shelf next to my fellow South African, Andre P. Brink’s book. Wink-wink.

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PS: Google the Cataract Hotel to read about its history and about the famous ones who frequented there. It is an interesting place and if your travels ever bring you to Egypt, make sure to put Aswan on your itinerary as a must-visit place. There is a lot to see, including the Aswan Dam/Lake Nasr, the Nubian Village, the botanical garden Lord Kitchener planted from trees soldiers brought from all over the world and the Philae Temple – the youngest building from old Egypt’s history. It is also a four-hour drive/50 minute flight to the temple at Abu Simbel.

Cataract Hotel

© Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Daydreaming

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My Weekly Musings #10/2010

 

I had a Writing Club for Children for years before we moved to Egypt. A few of you reading here had children attending, or may even have attended yourself. (I hope at least some of my old students read my blog.) I enjoyed it immensely and plan to revive the clubs when we are back home. Not only did I enjoy teaching writing to the children who were in my groups, but I enjoyed learning from them.

One of a series of workshops we did in in The Writing Club, was journal writing. These workshops were preceded by a lesson on daydreaming. My first two writing clubbers were home schoolers* who grew up on a smallholding and whose mom raised them to question things and gave them playtime. They made the lesson fun and easy and it became my favourite workshop of all.

With the next generation of clubbers it was a different ball game. They were only a bit younger than my first club members, but these days behaviour can change very quickly. The main difference between the two groups was that technology became more advanced and more easily available – and was quickly becoming popular toys for children rather than only work tools for adults.

I found this workshop to become more of a challenge every year. My first group simply listened to what I taught them and followed my guidelines to go home and spend some time deliberately doing nothing, while daydreaming a bit. But with the next groups, l suddenly found myself looking into pairs of eyes looking at me in confusion and perplexity. I got reactions like “How do you daydream?” and “l don’t have time to do nothing, because I have too many schoolwork and activities.” It saddened me that these words came out of the mouths of ten and eleven year olds.

Initially, when these children from the second ‘wave’ started writing stories, l could identify their story lines from the movies they watched. They couldn’t dream up their own stories. Thankfully that changed with time, practice and skill development.

I was shocked at these little person’s reaction, because as a child, daydreaming came as second nature (or in my case – first nature) to me (and all of my friends), but of course times and circumstances have changed and I can’t help to feel a bit sorry for our privileged children today. It is not all their fault. Technology is fantastic. I love it. I love gadgets and apps. And I have to admit that I too am addicted to my phone. Even if I try to spend less time using it and more time doing ‘real life’ stuff, I struggle to get out of my virtual reality. Because these days, one’s whole life is in your phone. My books are on there and so is a lot of my entertainment. And there’s a camera and some memories and – because we live abroad – my family and friends are in there too. It is difficult not to lose oneself in the virtual world. And with that, l realised that I struggle to be creative if it is not on an electronic device. My hands had become impractical. My imagination had become useless as a pencil with a broken point. Maybe that is why I reverted to writing weekly blogs instead of finishing my novel.

I sometimes wonder if people still daydream? Through daydreaming we learn a lot about ourselves. When I look around and see young people (and older ones) hovering over phones, worsening their bad posture, I can’t help wondering if this wonderful technology we have, will not do more bad than good. If one reads statuses and comments on social media, you have to wonder where common sense had gone. The more knowledge we have available, the less knowledgably we seem to get.

I sat behind a family at a wedding in The Netherlands last year. The seven or so year old boy was glued to a phone, playing a game during the service, his neck eerily bent in a very unnatural way. I could imagine him at 19, walking like an old man. While waiting at an optometrist’s room in New Zealand a few weeks ago, a boy younger than two years was playing games on an iPad, so engrossed in the little device that he almost fell off the chair he was sitting on. Whenever one sits in a restaurant, you see people having coffee with one another, while in conversation with other people elsewhere through their phones. What is the point of going out with someone if you are conversing with someone else the whole time?

We are certainly living in a strange world that is getting stranger every day. It is a world where the real makes room for the virtual increasingly. It is becoming a place where I can testify first-hand how I am becoming less and less social, while spending more and more time ‘engaging with’ a little device that doesn’t love me, can’t talk to me or listen to my feeling and cannot hug me. And it quite scares me, because even if I try, I fall back into the bad habit of spending hours per day on it every time. I keep telling myself it will be better when we are back home again and closer to everyone and everything we miss. I really hope so. In the meantime, I will try my best to spend less time in the virtual and more in the real. I miss my daydreaming and my creativity. I want my hands to become usable again.

Do you still daydream? Do you take time to just sit and do nothing? Or are you also a victim of your busy schedule and the little thing in your hand that keeps you awake at night and can’t hug you back? Tell me if you feel you want to. And in the meantime, read a book printed on real paper, plant a herb (and don’t forget to water it regularly), talk to your spouse while having a glass of something special over a home-cooked candlelight dinner, look in your child’s eyes when he or she talks to you and go lie on the grass somewhere and stare at the clouds and dream…

* In case you thought that those first home schoolers were idlers: They moved to England with their parents for a while. The boy joined the British Air Force teen cadets. They moved back to South Africa, went to public schools and the girl went to work and travel abroad and is now back and studying in Stellenbosch. The boy had become an engineer, got married and builds and flies those little drones (or quad copters I presume they are called.) The little sister who later joined the club with our son, was a good daydreamer too and is finishing her public school education this year.

You can like and/or follow The Writing Club/Die Skryfklub on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thewritingclubdieskryfklub/

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I’m not sure if it really was his words, but if it was, he was a true prophet 😉

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

 

My children’s’ book, Yeovangya – a Princess’ Quest for True Love, and short stories are available at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=riette+de+kock&rh=n%3A154606011%2Ck%3Ariette+de+kock

Who is like God? 

Michael20i            

(This article appeared in the Today magazine of June 2007)

We were married for five years when our son, Michael, was born. Deon and I both led physically active lives when we met and the last thing on our minds was health problems. After our wedding we kept ourselves busy by playing golf, running 10km and 21,1km road races, cycling, playing tennis and squash and hiking occasionally. A year after our marriage, we thought it time to start with a family.

 

When I still wasn’t pregnant after a few months, we were advised not to be over eager. We tried to be patient, but after a year, we were wondering if something was wrong. The first doctor I saw was very rude and impatient. He didn’t seem to care much about me and even asked me if we knew ‘how to do it’! I was so furious and embarrassed – especially after overhearing him swear during a telephone conversation with a woman who had a miscarriage – that I left. After another few months I went back and saw another doctor. At first, no one could find anything wrong with me, so they decided to test my husband too. After that I was put on fertility drugs.

 

We kept praying, but nothing happened. We experienced all the emotions accompanying the process a couple goes through when struggling to have children. We were married for quite a few years by then and friends and family kept asking about our plans for having a family. We haven’t told anyone about our problems and decided to share it only with our church cell group. We started praying together about the matter.

 

In the meantime, we were becoming disillusioned and discouraged. I only kept going to the doctors for my husband’s sake. I was so worn out by the ordeal that I decided to stop the whole process. My husband supported the decision.

 

After eight months, a friend of mine convinced me to go to her father-in-law, who was a well-known gynaecologist in our city. We decided to give it one more try.  I was both surprised and shocked by his approach. My urine was tested only once before in the three and a half years I went to the other doctors at the military hospital. Never in that time did one of them listened to my heart. This doctor did both before he even started his examination. Within seconds he found that I had a heart murmur. He comforted me with the fact that although about three out of every hundred people have them, most don’t mean that something is wrong. Because mine was quite audible he sent me to a cardiologist.

 

With the help of ultra sound sonar it was found that I had a leaking heart valve due to having rheumatic fever as a child. It was shocking news, because I always considered myself a very healthy person. I almost never got sick since I had the fever when I was nine years old, so I haven’t make many visits to a general practitioner’s consulting room and therefore didn’t have anyone listen to my heart in ages.

 

The gynaecologist and cardiologist advised us to have artificial insemination and getting pregnant before having heart surgery. We went along with the plan, but after it wasn’t successful the first time, further examinations showed that the heart operation was first priority. It was quite a bit to chew on. We were faced with the possibility of never having children, because afterwards, being on anti-blood clotting medication, it would be difficult to become pregnant.

 

A month later I was in theatre, after enjoying a luxury boat cruise the week before! After eight weeks I went for follow-up examinations – first to the cardiologist and then to the gynaecologist. The cardiologist was impressed with my quick recovery. It was the trip to the gynaecologist, though, that changed our lives.

 

My husband normally accompanied me on these visits to the gynaecologist, but because he was occupied with work and the consultation seemingly being only a routine visit, I went alone. I changed into the pink gown and made myself comfortable on the bed, while the doctor and I chatted about the operation. I told him how wonderful I felt and I remembered him laughing about something I said. The next moment he opened the gown and his face straightened. Without even touching me, I heard him say:

“You’re pregnant.” He went to his next-door office and shouted: “Don’t get excited. It means problems.”

 

I was twenty weeks and three days pregnant already. There were no signs of pregnancy yet, except the absence of my monthly period, which wasn’t out of the ordinary for me, as it was my body’s normal reaction for up to five months after having anaesthetics.

 

The head of cardiology at the hospital advised us to abort our baby. He gave us a long list of what could have gone wrong with the foetus and gave us five days to make a decision. That day I fell in love with my husband forever. He rose to his feet and told the good doctor in no uncertain terms that we have no right to say ‘no thanks’ to what God has decided to give to us.

 

On 6 September 1996, we named our son, Michael, which means ‘who is like God?’ in Hebrew, to remind us constantly of God’s love, grace and faithfulness.

 

Michael was born without any of the abnormalities we were warned about. He survived the anaesthetics, the cooling down of my body during the heart operation, three days without food, because of a mistake by the hospital personnel, and the antibiotics and medication afterwards. I didn’t have to take the anti-blood clotting medication for nine days after the operation. It gave the foetus just enough time to develop fully before I had to start taking it. I had another heart operation in 2005 and I needed to start taking the medication the very next day after the procedure!

 

Michael is ten years old now. He is not just a survivor. He is a loving, sensitive and wonderful child. He is a little family man, a car fanatic, an amateur inventor, a cartoon and movie lover and a world traveller. Just by calling his name, we are reminded daily of the Creator’s hand in our lives. We know that our son wasn’t meant to become just another abortion statistic, but someone who is already making a difference in the world. And someone with whose life God has a purpose.

 

© 2007 Riëtte De Kock

The content of this article may not be used for any other purposes without the written consent of the writer.

Fielies/Riëtte de Kock is trying hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman, great lover, best mom, entrepreneur and successful freelance writer all at the same time! She lives in Pretoria with her husband, son, mother and four dogs.