The Lost Treasure of Storytelling

My 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 immediately, “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 in our street had to gather at a house that had a TV every Tuesday at six to watch Haas Das se Nuuskas and Heidi. I had to wait until my oupa sold his TV second-hand to my dad years later to have the pleasure of staying at home to watch it alone – which wasn’t as much fun as wandering down the street to Theunis’ house every Tuesday evening.

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

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love technology to a point where I have to admit today 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 dependent 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 big or small groups of people sitting together, 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 indeed.

When we grew up we still knew boredom. We had no entertainment to speak of at home and very little at school. If we wanted to be entertained, we had to do it ourselves. I arrived late in our family, so I didn’t really had 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 whole afternoons in my tree. I also made a ‘saddle’ for my tree trunk ‘horse’, because otherwise my bum would go numb. And I always had a kettie (slingshot) with me, because the Sering tree (I don’t believe the word I found in English for this tree’s name is the correct one) provided me with round, hard, green seeds as ammo. (As the only 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 my single oom Mieg’s 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, which ou Betta, his house keeper prepared before she left for the evening. I always drank with and was always sorry afterwards when my stomach cramped so much that my mother had to give me medicine and promised me that I will never go with Oupa and Ouma to oom Mieg’s again. Until the next time. 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 stories to me and he read from the Bible for me 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 on me, he became a pastor in real life.

My Grade One teacher, Juffrou Ieta (Mrs Boshoff), was another 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 of us fell asleep, she let us. 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 or my trees and with the growing number of characters who eventually took permanent residence in my head.

In Standard 2 (Grade 4 nowadays), we had a teacher, Miss Paul, who told us a story once a week. We nagged the whole week long, but she never gave in. We had to wait for Fridays. Her stories sometimes scared us, but they were never dull.

Both one of my primary school teachers – 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 time or binge-watching-series time or being-glued-to-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 literally have endless choices. We actually have so many choices, that we can’t always make up our minds – and not just about entertainment, but about other things in life too.

I’m not against this way of doing. 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 now. 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 of imagining characters and worlds, 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 we will have some more choices and we will be bombarded with some more special effects and we’re getting so overly stimulated, that our brains doesn’t have any time to enjoy and process and remember the last thing we’ve watched before watching the next.

Our friend, Abri, is a good storyteller. He can entertain one in such a way by telling you 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 makes grand plans and fight scary 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 father and sons.

We still have a few storytellers around. 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 much we deviated from His script for our lives to instead live our own, ‘better’ versions through the choices we make? Or how much living we are missing out on because we spend our days on our phones. 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 Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Esther and ultimately, Jesus, and that we can have a ‘compass’ to navigate our own stories by. Luckily even those are electronically available today…

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 people because we choose to live virtually with our eyes glued to a little electronic screen 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, I guess we will probably never know.

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest 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.

Uprooting

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My Weekly Musings # 9/2017

Recently, we have been visiting our friends who now live in New Zealand. They might or might not stay there forever. Or they might. I don’t know. They don’t know either. They live in an area to where a lot of Asians had emigrated to. And a lot of South Africans too. (I think for the South Africans, the choice has to do with the weather, because the north island’s weather is much warmer than the south island’s.) They live in the Auckland area which looks a lot like a mix between the Western Cape and Mpumalanga. That might have something to do with it too. In recent decades a lot of South Africans have immigrated to especially countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada. Very few had returned to their ancestral countries of origin, which were mostly The Netherlands, France and Germany.

The reasons for South Africans emigrating is mostly the unacceptable crime wave which are causing people to look for safer places to calm their nerves and also because of work opportunities, due to many people being laid off after becoming BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) victims. It is not only white people who emigrate though. The world is full of young black South Africans making their mark elsewhere in the world too.

We South Africans had become used to ‘losing’ friends to emigration. It is a touch phenomenon to get used to, because parents have to let their children go, adult siblings get separated and, with young children and new-borns growing up in a foreign country, young South Africans become estranged with their families back home. It is indeed a challenging situation. But, thinking about it, I also realise that migrating is sort of a ‘natural’ thing throughout history. It was after all how we got to South Africa. Our ancestors from The Netherlands sought new trade opportunities and the Christian French Huguenots fled from religious persecution, just as some South Africans now leave the country’s shores in fear of their lives and/or looking for jobs.

And of course the uprooting of families is not unique to South Africa. South Africans are at least still doing it by choice (although I blame no one who emigrates due to the fact that they had been high jacked in their own drive-way three times, or whose parents were brutally murdered on a farm or in a city house or whose daughter were raped and murdered when she went for a jog.) Our TV screens are filled daily with displaced people who flee for their lives from places where the blood hungry murderous make it impossible for them to live. One of the drivers we use when we go to Jordan told us that he is Libyan. He spent a few years working in South Africa (nogal!) and then ended up in Jordan. His brother lived in a few other places and currently stays in Israel. Across from our house in Cairo is a small Catholic church. The congregation is made up of expats working here, Egyptians – I presume and Sudanese and various other refugees. The international working force of Egypt is from all over the world. We lived in a displaced world full of displaced people.

So back to my pondering this week after a very long start. While we were in New Zealand, we saw lots of Afrikaans speaking South Africans in the streets, malls and on the beaches. Within ten minutes’ drive there are three shops selling South African products. We had wonderful boerewors (sausages) and biltong (dried meat – like jerky, but better)! The South African numbers are so many there that Browns Bay is referred to as ‘De Bruynsbaai’. And all the time we were there, I tried imagining how it feels to uproot yourself – knowing that it is going to be forever – and go and live in a strange place, building a new life so totally different than the one you had, away from your family and your friends.

We are only temporary living abroad. We are now here in Egypt for three out of a four year period. It had been wonderful and crazy and difficult and frustrating and emotional and a lot of other things too. I really miss our pets, our country, our food, our language, our culture, our ways and especially our people. Whenever we go through passport control at OR Tambo, I want just want to hug and kiss the person behind the counter, but I know I would probably be arrested for it, so I refrain from doing it.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone deciding to emigrate to New Zealand – just because it was the country many South Africans choose and we were visiting it. It is a wonderful, first-world, effective, beautiful place with nice, warm, down-to-earth people. It is also a very, very, very expensive country where some of the products are just plainly over-priced. I think it must be difficult in the beginning especially. I wondered if you ever stop missing the rugby fights, the fact that there is a joke minutes after any bad thing happening, the Nando ads, the excellent and the poor Afrikaans songs, the biltong, the South coast beaches, the clean, unique smell of Cape sea air in your nostrils, the shenanigans of politicians (okay, not really that, because now the rest of the world had caught up with us too) or the smell of fresh beskuit and bread of your aunt’s house. I wondered.

We met a young South African girl our son’s age who worked at the supermarket we went to. She heard us speaking Afrikaans with each other and immediately started a conversation. While ringing up our things, she told us that she was living  there with her parents for twelve years now. I commented that she must be full blown Kiwi by now, seeing that she was so young when the moved and probably didn’t remember ‘home’.  Her smile vanished and in a soft voice she said:

“I dream of Cape Town all the time.”

We met with quite a few emigrants from different countries. They told us that the divorce rate under uprooters is quite high. Listening to them a few things came out for people to consider before they make the decision to emigrate. These are:

  • Don’t emigrate to run away from your personal problems. If your husband has a wandering eye, it will be going with him. If he is an alcoholic, he will still be one on the other side. If your wife has a money spending problem in South Africa, you’ll have bigger problems living in a country where the currency is ten times (yep!) stronger.
  • Sort all medical stuff out before you leave. A lot of medical issues can get your visa delayed or even cancelled.
  • Don’t lie about anything on applications.
  • Plan. Plan. For everything.
  • You need a lot of initial capital to move to and settle in another country. (Hundreds-of-thousands-a lot.)
  • Moving countries causes immense stress – for every member or the family. Don’t underestimate that factor. Prepare for it. Change is never easy. Uprooting is up-there on the stress list. This counts even for ‘short’ stays abroad like ours.

My hope is that we will always have the choice to live in South Africa. I love my country. I miss my beautiful country with all its ups and downs. I hate the violence and the corruption. I hate it to be scared at night. (I sleep like a baby in Egypt – and everywhere else we go.) So, I know I will have to face my fears again. I will worry about Michael driving alone at night. I also realise that he might be forced to seek greener international pastures and leave us behind.  I’m not blind for all the challenges. But I miss the good of South Africa. The good things as well as the good people. And for that I hope to stay.

We will just cling to our Protector and remember that ‘Elohim has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and of love and of self-control’. I hope our faith and love and self-control will be enough in the end.

 

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping One’s Word – a Trait Extinct

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My Weekly Musings #6/2017

This is not a post about the new American president or on how good or how bad he is, so you can keep on reading. In order to get to my point though, he has to be mentioned indirectly. As I was writing something else this morning, the TV news was on in the background. I must have had finger trouble, because it was another channel (it wasn’t FOX though) as the usual (BBC). There was a panel on video call discussing the subject that I won’t mention in this post only due to the fact that you might already suffer from fatigue on the topic.

I wasn’t focussing, so I wasn’t sure if the three men were supporting the above non-mentioned person, or if they were making tongue-in-the-cheek comments. All I knew was that my head bobbed up by the one man’s words.

“He is doing everything he promised.”

Now, I know about the jokes going around about that same sentence, but it wasn’t until this man said it on TV this morning that the penny dropped.

I suddenly realised that I was ‘participating’ in something that I really thought I wasn’t involved in. I was accepting lying as ‘normal’ behaviour. Oh, I realised it somehow, but I don’t think it had ever really sunk in, because I thought that I was above that.

We are so used to people making promises when they are running for office and when getting elected, they do the opposite. And we accept it without much resistance, because – well, we knew it would happen! I heard the above non-mentioned person also making promises, but thought by myself, “Meh, he won’t do it.” and “He can’t do that!” and “He won’t be allowed to do that!” Now he is starting to do everything he promised and the world (me very, very included) is shocked!

We got so used to people promising us the sun, the moon and the stars, but instead delivering garbage to our front doors that we have accepted it almost with thanksgiving! We have learned to pardon it. Even those under us who see ourselves as not ‘foolable’, have gotten so used to being fooled that we accept it as the norm. And in the world we live in these days, we are being fooled by almost everyone  we are suppose to trust – politicians, business people, religious leaders and of course every person working on the other side of  an enquiry who promises to call you back.

So, when suddenly someone comes along and keeps his promises – how far reaching the consequences might be – we are suddenly reminded that we are not used to living in a world where people keep their word anymore. And we are fooled when they do. (Like the media and the pole analysers were after the particular election that the non-mentioned person above won.)

Thankfully, we learn from the Word of God that ‘whoever guards His Word, truly the love of Elohim (God) has been perfected in him’ (1 John 2:5). And we also learn that there is One who will always keep His Word.

“I shall not profane My covenant, neither would I change what has gone out from My lips.”

(Psalm 89:34 from the Bible)

 

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

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

46 Is not an ‘Appropriate’ Age to Die

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My Weekly Musings #5

This was a difficult week to be away from home. Our friend died. She was only 46. She had health problems since long before the 14 years that we knew each other. She had more than 30 operations and had been in and out of hospital all the time. We knew that her body took strain that no human body can sustain on the long haul. But we never wanted to acknowledge it. We got used to her being in and out of hospital and life going on in between.

So last week she was in hospital again. On top of her ‘normal’ problems she was fighting a resistant bacterial infection for over a year. She was sent home after treatment with strong, long-term antibiotics. But on Monday morning when her husband woke up, she had left this world quietly next to him during the early hours of the morning.

We were of course, in shock. Still are.

We were still trying to come to terms with Adri’s death, when I got a message from home that my loving godfather went into a coma and not long after that, that he too went to heaven – on what would have been my father’s 90th birthday.

Although any death is always difficult, I’ve learned in life that loss feels different when people die at different ages. My dad died at age 73. That is an acceptable age to die in my books, although it doesn’t make it any easier that one’s father dies at an appropriate age when you stand next to his bed watching how the artificial life orchestrated by machines, leaves his body. Two years later I learned that 49 isn’t an acceptable age for someone to die, when my beloved ouboet (eldest brother) was taken from us in an instant.

We were expecting Oupa Koos’ death. Both he and Ouma Mienie, his wife, was/is very sick. And they were nearing 90. Still, when he died he didn’t only leave a person that would be missed dearly in my and his closer family’s lives. He left and took a whole part of my life with him. A whole part of my history was intertwined with his. Fortunately, as long as I stay mentally healthy, I will have those memories to cherish. He was one of the few left of their generation in our family. And now we are becoming that generation. That is life. What a sobering thought!

We didn’t expect Adri to die young. 46 is an inappropriate age to die. But then – life and death isn’t in our hands. It isn’t ours to give or to take. God gave Adri a wonderful life, in spite of her struggles and she leaves a testimony of His great glory behind through the many lives she touched. She sang like an angel on earth and I believe she is having a ball worshipping the Living God with the real angels now.

Until we see each other again, my friend. Sing your heart out.

And say hello so long to Baas Wynie and Ouboet Piet, Oupa Koos. Tell them they are in my thoughts. Every. Single. Day.

 

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I return there. יהוה (the LORD) has given, and יהוה has taken away. Blessed be the Name of יהוה.”

(From the Bible – Job 1 verse 21)

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

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

Living outside of One’s Comfort Zone

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Just before having to get out of the way

My Weekly Musings #4

Last week, our American friends invited us to visit the camel bazaar outside Cairo (on the Giza/Sakkara road). We’ve been living here now for just short of three years and I have never been outside of my comfort zone so much in my life. It is literally a daily thing. It is good for me – especially for spiritual me. Not only does it teach me plenty about the world around me, the people of this country, their strange culture and their fanatic religion, but it also teaches me a lot about myself. Living in a culture where you do not understand the language and isn’t even able to read their alphabet or have the same traditions and customs or worship the same God, things can get quite uncomfortable.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing being out of your comfort zone. It confronts one’s own beliefs, upbringing, culture, customs, world view and lifestyle when you are thrown into a world where nothing is familiar or make sense to you. Not only do you question the behaviour of the people around you, but you question your own. It is not a once off thing, but an ongoing everyday introspection. And not only do you learn to value what is ‘own’ to you, but you also learn to embrace and appreciate diversity. Very early on in our stay here, I have decided that I don’t understand much (not even a reasonable bit) of this culture, but that I am not even going to try to understand it. It makes life here a little bit easier and less complicated to observe rather than to label.

Back to the camel bazaar. I’m sure that this place wouldn’t even exist in a Western country. It’s a raw experience. Camels, by their hundreds, maybe even more, are brought together on a Friday morning to be sold I was told, mostly for meat. Men and (some very young) boys herd the animals – hopping along on three legs as one of the front legs is tied with rope to keep the animal from running away – towards the various ‘auction stations’ with long bamboo sticks. It isn’t a pretty picture to see. On the surface and in the viewpoint of a foreigner like me, it is a harsh place for a camel to be. And also for the people involved.

Upon arriving there, we were only four females in a sea of males – something that already pushes the discomfortometer into the red. The sticks hitting the camels’ bodies – be it on the humps, legs or head – is another difficulty to deal with. Furthermore, none of the camels looked like they had the potential for dinner I would want to see on my plate.

But I realised that it wasn’t my world. It wasn’t my place to judge. With that I don’t condone the behaviour of the people or the suffering of the animals. Sometimes in life things just are what they are – people making a living, surviving the only way they know how to the way they did for centuries – maybe even millennia. My disliking it, my discomfort and the fact that I might disapprove of their way of doing as a foreigner in their country, is not going to change that. I’m not going to alter a country’s culture, customs and actions which are way older than my own culture. What I should do is learn to appreciate it for what it is.

I realised that I would probably be out of my comfort zone many, many, many more times in the period we have left here in this interesting, phenomenal country. How I handle my discomfort is what is important. If I can’t change people’s behaviour or world view, I can at least work on my own. I can learn to value the diversity of this place and the other countries we are visiting, as well as that of my own country when we go back. Hopefully, when we are back in our own culture – which is just as diverse – I will be able to feel less uncomfortable in the mixture, while still staying true to my own upbringing and beliefs and being more tolerant towards people who are different from me.

In the end, when one sees the bigger picture from a forever-living-worldview, we are reminded that we who confess Him as our Saviour are one body in Messiah (Romans 12:5). One day we will be immersed into His culture and all the discomfort of worldly customs, poverty and illness will be something from the past.

PS: I spelled necessarily correct without using spell check or a dictionary.

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

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

The Myth of Free Speech

My Weekly  Musings #2/2017

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

― George Orwell, Animal Farm

A lot of things happening in the past months and recent years made me think real hard lately. Life had changed in almost every way in the past decade, thanks to technology and other developments – some for the better and some for the worse. Our world had become used to terrorist attacks in the form of shootings, knife attacks, sexual assaults, cars and trucks ramming into people, people getting beheaded etc. This last year we saw laws, policies and governments change – strange changes that are still very difficult to believe or to get used to. I’m starting to think that maybe it is a totally natural thing that is happening. In history we had build-ups like these which led to the tower of Babel, the Flood, the Crusades, the First World War and WW2. Talk is that we might already be in the middle of a Third World War of sorts.

When a bucket gets too full of water, it overflows – naturally. There is a saying: Give a person enough rope and he hangs himself. Bucket overflowing or too much rope? It’s the same thing. Balance always needs to be restored somehow. The Western world is playing with its very, very long rope and so is the anti-Western world. And as individuals, agreeing or not agreeing with current directions, we are all steered into, hanged along and sacrificed in the process as collateral damage.

We live in a world where our words, our Twitter feeds, our Facebook statuses, our email (only normal people, not presidential candidates apparently) could get us fired – not only for big things like threatening state security or threatening people or libelling or acknowledging theft (except if you find yourself in certain positions in certain governments) or something immoral like that, but also for being moral. For having values and principles. For believing in the God of the Bible and the Word of God. And for having the audacity to have opinions about religious or any other fundamentalism, abortion, marriage, parenthood, crime, gender issues, sins and the likes. Defend unborn babies, marriage between a man and a woman and stand up for your rights if you are not a person of colour and whatever you say is branded as ‘hate speech’ – no matter if and how sympathetic you are towards these issues in general.

There is no room in the world anymore for a person to speak freely without being branded or bearing far reaching consequences. We are being told what opinions to have, what to think and what causes to support. Would anyone in the Golden Globe audience have had the courage to disagree with the actress’ speech the other night? Probably not, because she was speaking on behalf of the ‘trend’ right now and no-one with a reputation to uphold can afford to think differently? There was a time when, even if they were wrong, people could speak their minds in the democratic West.

We are navigated into believing that it is our right and even our privilege to live perversely. Consequences for our actions and responsibility for our choices aren’t relevant anymore. Sin had become a non-mentionable word. And where does God fit in? Well, He just doesn’t, does He? Modern man – oops, sorry! – Modern, genderless, colourless, faithless person is its own god now. All that matters are ‘it’, ‘itself’ and ‘its’ inner-god, and happiness is its ultimate goal and religion. Its behaviour, lusts and needs are to be practiced to ultimate satisfaction. Anything goes in our little ‘self-god’ world. And the little gods are not bothered for one moment that they are ignoring their Maker’s Instruction Manual. It is like a person trying to use a refrigerator as a washing machine. The plug will fit into the wall socket and the power will go on, but the water put in will freeze as the clothes stay dirty. Eventually, the person would have to reassess and use the appliances for the purposes they were manufactured for.

Life is like that too. Nature has to go its way and imbalances have to be addressed. If man doesn’t do it, God does. And His way is never the easiest way for man.

Be blessed and stay strong, because we are living prophesy.

The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:4)

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

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

High Above the Clouds / Hoog bo die wolke

English version

This will be recorded as one of my most beautiful memories ever. We are on an Egypt Air flight from Amsterdam to Cairo.

Deon and I always listen to Paul Wilbur’s ‘Shema’ together on shared earphones when they play the Islamic prayers on the small screen – something that is done before every flight. Normally I switch my phone off after this, because I want to keep it charged should I need to make a call after we have landed. But today I keep listening. The time between sitting on the tarmac and take off can be a bit boring sometimes.

It is a majestic feeling when a plane jets into the air with the forceful sounds of Verdi’s ‘Nabucco’ in your ears. Outside the lush green landscape of Amsterdam is left on the ground as the plane swoops through the thick clouds to glide above them. This is one of the most beautiful pictures my eyes ever had the privilege of seeing! The cotton wool-like clouds are bundled onto each other with no earth to see down below. The music is still playing while I hear my spirit whisper in my heart: “Thanks for beautiful things, Father!” and “Thanks for all the undeserved treats. Thanks for all the places we see that I’ve never thought I would see and thanks for seeing some more than once!”

And then I heard the Halleluja choir with ‘Ode to Joy’ and Susan Boyle sings ‘Then sings my soul’, while mine sings with. I ‘halleluYAH’ on with Leonard Cohen and Delaney en Bonnie’s ‘Never Ending Song of Live’ follows passionately. Then André Rieu’s orchestra played “Auld Lang Syne’ and I long to be with my family and I wonder what they are all doing on this spring Sunday afternoon in South Africa. While I’m still wondering Neil Diamond makes a ‘Beautiful Noise’ and on the note of ‘Hava Nagila’ I have to close the plane window a bit, because the son reflects quite sharply from the Alps down below.

My finger chooses Josh Grobin’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire’ almost automatically, because one always tends to feel closer to heaven so high up in the air.

In the aisle seat Michael sat cramped-in and reads his new book and in the middle, next to me Deon rests on his forehead against the front seat, trying to sleep. I trust on his cell phone today should we need to make calls on the other side. For now my phone’s battery will help Josh fly high above the clouds over Europe.

Afrikaans

Hierdie sal in my onthou opgeteken word as een van die mooiste memoeries ooit! Ons is op ‘n Egypt Air-vlug oppad terug van Amsterdam na Kaïro.

Ek en Deon luister altyd na die ‘Shema’ van Paul Wilbur oor gedeelde oorfone as hulle die Islamitese gebede op die klein skerm wys – iets wat voor elke vlug gedoen word. Normaalweg skakel ek my foon hierna af, omdat ek nie die battery wil pap maak nie vir ingeval ek dit nodig sou kry nadat ons geland het. Maar vandag hou ek aan luister. Die tyd tussen in die vliegtuig sit op die aanloopbaan en opstyg kan nogal vervelig wees.

Dis ‘n majestieuse gevoel as ‘n straler opstyg met Verdi se ‘Nabucco’ se klanke in jou ore. Buite het ons die lowergroen landskap van Amsterdam op die grond gelos en die vliegtuig het die dik wolke ingeswiep – na waar ons bokant hulle sweef. Dit is een van die mooiste, mooiste prentjies wat my oë ooit die voorreg gehad het om te sien! Die wolke is soos watte-berge op mekaar gestapel, met niks aarde onder ons te sien nie. Die musiek hou aan speel, terwyl ek my gees in my hart hoor fluister: “Dankie vir mooi dinge, Vader!” en “Dankie vir al die onverdiende voorregte. Dankie dat ons plekke kan sien wat ek nooit gedink het moontlik is nie en party wéér kan sien.”

En toe hoor ek die Halleluja-koor en ‘Ode to Joy’ en Susan Boyle sing ‘Then sings my soul’, terwyl myne saam sing. En ek ‘halleluYAH’ verder saam met Leonard Cohen. En Delaney en Bonnie se ‘Never Ending Song of Live kom tussen-in en toe ek weer hoor, speel André Rieu se orkes “Auld Lang Syne’ en ek verlang na my familie en wonder wat doen hulle op dié lente Sondagmiddag in Suid-Afrika. Terwyl ek nog wonder, maak Neil Diamond ‘n ‘Beautiful Noise’ en op die nota van ‘Hava Nagila’ moet ek eers die vliegtuigvenstertjie ‘n bietjie toetrek, want die sonnetjie skyn nogal skerp so hoop bo in die lug waar dit van die Alpe af reflekteer. My vinger kies so half outomaties Josh Grobin se ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire’, want ‘n mens voel mos maar altyd ‘n bietjie nader aan die hemel so hoog bo in die lug.

In die gangsitplek sit Michael ingeprop en lees sy nuwe boek en langs my in die middel, sit-lê Deon op sy voorkop teen die sitplek voor hom en probeer slaap. Ek vertrou maar vandag op sy selfoon, sou daar ‘n ‘vir ingeval’ anderkant die landing wees. Vir nou help my foon se battery eers vir Josh om hoog te vlieg bo die wolke bokant Europa.

© 2016 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt, with my husband, young adult son, the building’s ginger cat, her friend and two kittens (so far) – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function normally .

On Having too Many Ideas and the Pure Evils of Multitasking

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Just keep reading. The advice part comes at the middle of the article…

Struggling to Focus

I really struggle to focus when it comes to my writing. To focus – not to concentrate. I can sit and do the same thing for hours. Unless I’m on my phone. Then I have the intention span of a two year-old and I can forget what picture I want to open only half a second after I’ve made the decision. I don’t have a search for the reason for my problem, because I know what the cause is. Ideas. I have too many of them. While I am busy researching links for  my Writing Club Facebook page, I think of a new short story that I want to write and then I think of a great idea for my next blog entry and while still busy with that I’m struggling with the plot problem of my decade-old novel.

Multitasking towards Scatter Brain Syndrome

Every weekend I think of what to do the next week and plan it in my head, but come Sunday (when the work week starts where we currently live) I sleep too late, spend too much time on my phone checking Facebook, play Words with Friends or find something interesting that I have to do Bible study on. So by 10:30 I realise that our bedroom needs tiding, the building cats want food, our son wants to sound his view points on his latest university essay with me and while I’m listening to him, my mind wanders to have yet another few writing ideas on another few projects.

Am I too scatter-brained or do I have too many ideas? I can’t always determine, but I know that whichever it is – or maybe it’s both – it makes me unproductive. Having ideas as a (would-be) writer can only be good, can it not? I rarely have had problems with writer’s block in my life. That must be a good thing, mustn’t it?  Having lots of ideas is good. But it doesn’t help if any of those ideas ever get finished. Oh, I have finished manuscripts in my cyber Dropbox drawer. It’s not if I can’t finish anything. I can sit down and work on a long project to finish it. It’s just that I can’t finish everything that I want to, because I don’t know what to work on and what to leave.

I do something and then I leave it and then I do something else and then I leave it when a new idea pops into my head. I know I have this problem. And I have tried to overcome it many times. I am currently in one of those phases. I have decided to finish my Writing Club business idea. I have started well. Then I got sick. And now, a week later, I am writing a blog while still editing a short story whilst I should be busy with that instead.

The problem I find with my writing – as also in other areas of life – is that I try to multitask, in spite of being a hater of multitasking. Because I multitask in life too. I start tiding the bedroom, and when putting away some stuff in the bathroom, I see that the toilet need urgent cleaning and when I go to the kitchenette to fetch the cleaning products, I wash the morning coffee mugs and then remembered that my son didn’t have breakfast yet and when I take his breakfast to the TV room where we normally have it together, we watch the breaking news and I quickly do some research on some of the facts the reporter gave and then I see some interesting article that I have to share to my Writing Club Facebook page and while on the computer I see that there are some messages from my family group on WhatsApp Web and then I get involved in a who-looked-more-like-whom baby pictures debate and when it cools down I see more interesting articles on writing and read a few, and get new ideas for blogging and then my husband called to hear if I have started doing research for our trip and then I get into the mood to finish my short story and I write for an hour. And when I finally come to my senses again, the bedroom is still untidy, the toilet is still not cleaned, the coffee mugs are dirty again after having breakfast though, the breakfast plates had to be cleaned, there is new breaking news on TV, the family had decided that the baby looks like herself, my Facebook page have more notifications, my short story is still not finished, I haven’t done the research for our upcoming trip and I realise that I haven’t thought about what we’ll have for dinner. Then I leave everything I’ve been busy with and rush to the kitchen…

That’s my life. It’s not perfect. I frustrate myself. Days and weeks and months and even years fly by and I’m not getting done what I want to get done. In a few years’ time I will probably look back and ask my husband and son: “What have I done with my time?!” And they will probably remind me to read this blog entry to answer myself.

Having many ideas is a good thing. For creative people it is a wonderful thing. But if you can’t channel those ideas into some productiveness, they will always be just… ideas. Ideas means nothing if they sit in your head. They have to be acted upon – just like dreams. Ideas also have a tendency to get ‘stolen’. If you don’t do something with an idea, someone else, who is more focussed will and before you know it, another opportunity will be lost.

A Few Tips

Multitasking must be killed. We must live in the moment and concentrate on the task at hand – one at a time. Here are a few ways to try to do it. Let’s try it!

Focus

With the Olympics on, I couldn’t help to recognise again the athletes’ commitment to their respective codes. The archer’s focus on the target is a good example of how we as writers or other artists or people of any other career should learn to focus on one thing at a time. The archer can only hit one target with one shot. If his focus is on anything other than only his target, he surely will miss. Focussing on one writing piece at a time will eventually means that one project will be finished. And if that one is finished a next one will get finished and a next and a next.

Do Something Productive with those too Many Ideas – Make a List

Write down all the writing projects ideas you have in your head. By getting them out of your head and onto paper, you can start focussing on getting them done. Keep this list close and update it as you get new ideas.

Then Make a ‘To Do’ list

Now make a ‘To Do’ list. Decide what it is you want to achieve with your writing. Be very, very honest with yourself and focus on your strong points. Identify the projects that will be the most probably to get published and/or bring in some money. Prioritise you list. Then start and finish the first priority project on your list.

Don’t Move on Before a Task isn’t Finished

Don’t move to number two on your list unless number one is finished. In the case of number one being writing your novel, you can do blogging or other smaller projects in between, but always finish the allotted daily writing time for your priority project first, before going on to doing the smaller ones.

Plan your day – Have a Routine

You know the saying, ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail.’

If that archer didn’t practice for hours every day, he wouldn’t have made his country’s Olympic team and he wouldn’t have been able to win the gold medal. If he failed to aim at his target, he would have failed to hit it. If you want to go on holiday in Greece, you need to plan to take leave, buy plane tickets and book accommodation. Otherwise you will remain where you are. If you don’t plan anything, you won’t get anything done. It is as simple as that.

‘Go to work’

My husband gets up at the same time every morning, showers, clothes himself, takes his bag and goes to work. And he remains there for eight hours of every five week days – working. For that he is rewarded with a salary at the end of every month. Input equals output.

Some writers have a day job and write for an hour or so every evening and some more over weekends. Well-known writers had got published for the first time this way – by writing only for a short time every day. Every day.

Some writers have the privilege of staying home and have more time than others to write. If you are one of those and still struggle to fill at least a few hours every day writing, you have to become more creative with managing your time and the way you work.

  • Identify your favourite writing place in your house/garden.
  • Decide on what part of the day your writing hours will be.
  • When the time arrives, literally pack your writing tools (laptop, notebooks etc.) in a bag and walk out of the house, through the garden (if you have one), back into the house and to your working place.
  • If possible, leave your phone ‘at home’ or switch to silent.
  • Stay at your working space for the time you have allocated.
  • If you have a whole study or office as working space, close the door after you have finished and open it again at the beginning of your writing period. This way you know that you can shut down and have time to do things with your family without feeling guilty, because you have already done your writing for the day.
  • Be jealous about your writing hours. Allow no disturbances, other than real Don’t make unnecessary appointments for those hours and say no to appointments that can be made for another time.

These tips may seem like common sense and they actually are, but we certainly tend to lose our common sense when we get distracted. Keeping to a regular routine and staying disciplined helps to divide between your living and working spaces and may help you to get into the right mind for doing more productive work.

Keep a writing log

I’ve started doing  this years ago, stopped and started again. I make a simple monthly spreadsheet and write down what writing related work I do every day, including reading. (I also keep a separate yearly reading list.) My columns include, Writing, Editing, Reading, Blogs and Other (like time spent updating my Facebook Writing Club page or journal writing). I blot out days that we travel and on which it isn’t possible to write, although some travels can offer wonderful writing time.

Keeping a writing log shows you how many hours per day you effectively spend on your writing projects and it serves as a motivational tool to better your productivity from month to month. It also helps with planning your writing schedule, because you can see how much time you need to spend on certain projects.

Take Stock Every Week, Month and Year

At the end of every week, month and year, evaluate your writing effort. Check your ‘To Do’ list and see what you have achieved. Go through your monthly writing logs and see where you can improve your productivity. Make changes and stay focussed – one task at a time.

Keep a Personal Journal

If you don’t keep a journal I have a question for you: Why on earth not?! Apart from being a therapeutic tool to write down your emotions, problems goals, dreams and feelings, your journal can be a treasure chest of ideas. Many of my journal entries have become blog entries. It also serves as a reminder of the dreams and goals you have and is a place to blow off some steam – as you are the only one who reads it.

You don’t have to write in your journal every day or even every week. Write when you want to, but keep writing, even if there are two-month gaps.

On days that you really can’t get other writing done (for whatever reason) – just journal. At least it will help you to stay in routine and not get rusty. I write in both languages I speak, depending on the reason, subject or mood I am in.

Learn more about journal writing at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-journal-writing/ 

Go forward one letter, word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book at a time!

(OK, the bedroom is not going to tidy itself. Off I go…)

 

© 2016 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt, with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat, her friend and two kittens (so far) – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.