Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Bleak Days

Black Tuesday…or is it Black Wednesday?
It certainly feels black.
The weather’s been rainy here. When it rains many traffic lights cease to function, drivers become more impatient, many accidents happen, potholes fill with water making them deeper and hiding them. It doesn’t help when an ‘unknown’ element is also tampering with traffic lights, turning them to face the other intersections causing a fair amount of confusion and a whole lot of danger. I took a different route home yesterday because a truck had jack-knifed on the freeway blocking three lanes. That’s two lanes open and I could feel it in the traffic 5km back.
Tom Tom the GPS took me through what used to be green, beautifully maintained suburbs. They now resemble Maputo. I thought I saw one of those tampered-with traffic lights but I was mistaken. It was hanging skew out of neglect.
The ‘Secrecy Bill’ has taken a step closer to being implemented.
This is what the majority want. If they didn’t want this they would’ve voted for a different government. Perhaps the majority don’t know of this and didn’t protest against it because they didn’t hear it on the news because they didn’t have a radio or TV. It doesn’t really matter. They’ll vote the same government in next time anyway, their saviours and heroes, regardless.
There’s those amendments to the ‘Secrecy Bill’ too that sound fine and well but leave me deeply worried. That bit I heard on the radio yesterday about information not being made classified to hide incompetency, criminal or wrong doing. Who’s going to decide that? What’s the sequence here? Will it be deemed classified until someone can prove the incompetency, crime or wrongdoing and then that someone’s broken the law because it was classified?
Will it have to be proven before it’s classified? Won’t it be leaked to the public then making it no longer classified? What information could be so harmful or shameful that a tiny insignificant banana republic like South Africa has to keep it secret?
Our borders aren’t of use anymore. We have so many foreigners here that we may as well incorporate our neighbours and call the country Zim Africa. Are we keeping the secrets from them? Why?
No. There are things that need to be kept from the citizens and the best way to do that is gag the press.
On the up side I look forward to hearing less political news and hopefully less about ANY government projects. I’d like more weather and economics to be shown on the news.
I don’t agree with the majority and I’m tired of explaining to the infatuated. My little girl deserves better so we’re going where I can give her a fairer lot in life.
Ciao for now.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Our Home.

Our beautiful home.
What a blessing, what a burden.
Our house is probably one of the oldest domiciles in the neighbourhood and because of this is steeped in rumour and neighbourhood legend. The house is now over 100 years old and still sports many of its original fittings and charm.
We nicknamed it “The Haunt” because it’s said to have spirits roaming the halls. I can say “the halls” because yes, it is that big. The Haunt is rumoured to have been the dwelling of everyone from the mayor to a mining magnate. It’s walls are all double cavity, internal and external, and the floors are wooden. The house is built on a double stand and sports an entrance hall, four bedrooms (one part of the house but accessed from outside), one and a half bathrooms (toilet outhouse part of main structure but accessed from outside), lounge, dining room, kitchen, store room (which used to be the kitchen – remember that the slaves did the cooking and brought the food in), a coal cellar, a walk in cellar and crawl space for the rest of the house.
On the property we have a cottage with bedroom, lounge, kitchen and bathroom which used to be the coach house and is still labelled as such on the original plan. I’ve often imagined the four wheeler buggy standing in there, waiting for the Sunday trip to church.
One of the ghosts that haunt the place is rumoured to be a lady who was shot in the cottage by her estranged husband. The neighbours remember him piling her body into the car, wracked with remorse after the fact, and rushing her to hospital - too late.
There’s a ghost who arbitrarily presses a key on the piano every so often. It’s A# to the left of middle C. The room will be empty and the note will sound. Always when your back is turned to the piano, of course. The first time it happened I whipped my head around; lo and behold there was nothing visible there.
The ghost has also closed a tap for me. I was home alone and filling the dogs bowl in the kitchen and left the tap running while I rummaged in the fridge for ingredients for a sandwich. It’s a big tub of a bowl – enough water for two Rottweilers and a Labrador. I suddenly hear the water stop running and look over my shoulder thinking “Oh damn, the municipality must be working on the water again.
I went over to have a look and close the tap. I didn’t want the water suddenly turned on again by the municipality and have the tap running full ball with no-one noticing until a lot of water had been wasted.
The tap was already closed and had it run much longer the bowl would have been over-full.
As creepy as this sounds, the ghost…or ghosts have been quite amenable. There has been no rattling of chains, tearing of sheets or other horror movie type incidents. They don’t do things very often and as in the last incident have been helpful!
I’ll miss The Haunt, even though I kind of resent the place now. Had The Haunt been in a better part of town, just two blocks up, we could have sold it for over a million and I think a lot quicker.
There have been a few signed (and we thought sealed) deals on The Haunt, each of which has fallen apart because of reasons out of our control. It’s been very disheartening and frustrating standing at the starting blocks, hearing the gun go off and leaping forward for the race then moments later hearing another shot indicating a false start. Everything stops and returns to the beginning again. This must’ve happened about four times already – I’ve lost count. I now expect more of the same – great start and then return to the beginning. I don’t like being optimistic and having my hopes beaten around the head every time.
I accept and believe there’s a bigger plan (God knows what he’s doing) and I’m behaving like an impertinent child who can’t get his way. I try not to but I can’t help it.
I have no choice but to bide my time and be patient. We will move forward when we are permitted to: When the time is right. Even though I want to leave now! *stomp-stomp*

Waiting patiently impatient.

Ciao for now.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Guilt

Then there’s the guilt.
Perhaps this will be a cathartic release of the different guilt I have for fleeing.
There is the little guilt titbits that pop up like those chocolates that are left on the pillows of turned down hotel rooms; quickly seen to and disposed of. Nom-nom-nom.
Then there is the larger, Christmas dinner sized guilt that becomes bigger the more you eat. I have four of these that torment me for our decision to flee.
There’s the guilt that I’m depriving my parents of a very important part of their lives. That part where they get to dote on their grandchild, their first grandchild, my daughter who I’ll be stealing away to Belgium. I’ve wrestled and reasoned that I cannot sacrifice her safety, education and well-being on this. I’m not prepared to gamble on this here. The odds aren’t good – not now. Perhaps it’d be better in a few generations time but I doubt it’ll even become a fair gamble in her lifetime.
There’s the guilt that I’m taking someone’s daughter, Mrs. Black, and grandchild away from them. My wife’s parents are still both alive. Mrs. Black always vowed to stay here until they’d both passed on but since the birth of our daughter, Specoloos that’s her nickname, Mrs. Black’s concerns have taken a drastic left turn without indicating, flicker lights, hooting or any pre-warning! Mrs. Black hasn’t shown any wavering sign of ever turning around again. She has her sights firmly set on the horizon, waiting for the sails to billow with a stiff breeze so we may lift anchor and depart.

There’s the guilt that I’ve inadvertently coerced my family, through my cynical disposition, into leaving this place. This guilt doesn’t happen often, thankfully, but it does rear its head! It re-assures me to hear Mrs. Black’s thoughts on all the things she’d like to do when we’re settled in Belgium. As nasty as this is, it also re-assures me when she sees a terrifying reality in this place and expounds it to me.
Inevitably there’s the Catholic guilt. If you’re a practicing Catholic you may understand the next bit. To ensure my time-share in heaven, I should be looking after the poor, helping the needy and generally spreading and sharing goodwill. There’s enough of all the above right outside my house to swallow more than my lifespan of time and assets. I feel guilt for leaving the needy behind. I was the provider of music at the 11:45 mass at our church on Sunday for free and completely voluntarily. When we began our plans, I quit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give it the little attention I already was and the equipment I used would have to be sold. As with human nature I have a counter-argument for this guilt too. Why else would I still be in the throes of fleeing?
I made a promise, a vow before God, family and friends that I would remain faithful and loving in sickness and in health (that means no matter what) to Mrs. Black. Through the sacrament of marriage where we give ourselves to the other before all those witnesses, it is my responsibility through utter and undying love to do the best by and for my family. The best right now is to move them to a place where they’ll be safer, exposed to more opportunities and experiences that they can obtain here. I hope for a happier, safer and far less stressed family in Belgium.
I've come to realize that I'm relieved when I see them at the end of the day. Relieved that nothing bad and no harm has befallen them because it is a constant and real danger here.
That's not living.
Ciao for now.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Master

What to do about my employ?
Why am I concerned about my employer?
Simple; they’ve been good to me and I feel a certain responsibility due to the uniqueness of my position. I work for a massive international concern but each department is run as an individual business. In our unit there are six engineers, each running more than three projects at any given time. I used to be the only one doing their drawings then the projects became more and I was granted help. I am in the unique position in my company, at least the South African division, where I have absolute say on the standards, content, equipment library and who gets to work with our drawings. I’m in charge of the visual outcome of the engineer’s designs. Now that I’ve written this down, it’s kind of scary.
If there’s been a problem where a draughtsperson was having difficulty getting a certain result or the software wasn’t behaving as expected I’d be the “go to” person. Last week I got a call from a draughtsperson from another company entirely who heard I could possibly help them with a problem. I could and I did.
They’re also not stingy with their money. They pay me well for my knowledge and expertise as well as the amount of work I’m able to push out. Between you and me I think they also pay for entertainment value because when I get stressed the most unusual things come out of my mouth. When there are profits over and above what’s required, I’m given a chunk of that too. Aren’t they nice?

My manager balked when I told him of our plans. His immediate reaction was to ask if we (the company from here on referred to as “The Master”) had an office in Belgium because then I could simply transfer. I had considered this and investigated it. The Master has offices throughout Europe, but unfortunately the one place they don’t have offices is the one place I’m going to.
I hadn’t intended to tell The Master until plans were well under way but circumstances didn’t allow for that. The month we decided to put our plans into action was the month two of our engineers decided to resign. It wasn’t planned like that in any way, they simply both got opportunities to expand their expertise at the same time. Our business unit was suddenly struggling to swim. I’m not so deluded that I believe The Master couldn’t replace me, but I certainly believe they’d have swallowed a lot of water, choked and spluttered quite a bit and possibly even disappeared under the water for a while if I’d left at that point.
Not that I could have left at that point. We were still only planning but that kind of planning and implementing takes time. It would’ve been dishonest and mean not to divulge the route I’d decided to take.
The hunt for a permanent assistant, an *ass-man if you will, began.
It hasn’t ended.

Then there’s the unexpected and gracious granting of some serious software training that I’d been asking for repeatedly for about three years. I think they were hoping to entice me into staying.
They gave up after about two months with the enticing thing and then blatantly asked with the offer of more money and entitlement. It was like breaking up with a girl. I very gently had to explain that it wasn’t them, it was me. It’s the different lifestyle and the safety for our child and us that no money can buy that I’m after. I explained that I love working for them and would’ve gladly relocated but that it simply wasn’t meant to be.

I’m still with my Master and will be until our house is finally sold and we move out. The Master has commented “There’s no rush.”


I would divulge the terms on which Mrs. Black left her company, but that would raise my bloodpressure, heartrate and iRate far too much. Suffice to say it was far from amicable. Her company simply don’t appreciate the quality people they have.
In conclusion, here's a tiny bit of what I've done with the new shiny high-end software (Autodesk Revit MEP) I've been given.
A 2D representation of an outdoor HVAC unit (thats air conditioning unit in normal speak) and it's properties as related to design work.
and the 3D view of this item...

Pretty, no?

Ciao for now.

*this is not meant as a sexist comment in any way. I’d be quite happy for it to be an ass-lady!

Monday, 7 November 2011

My Navigator

My beautiful wife is amazing. How much trust she’s granted me with our decision I will never fully comprehend. I will need to be the money-maker in Belgium and with that comes much responsibility.
She’s dreading the inclement weather but on the flip side looking forward to parts of it. A white Christmas, making snow angels, ice-skating outdoors on real ice and not the fake plastic stuff they have in the malls here at Christmas. She’s given up and sold so much of her personal belongings and done far more than I’ve managed to in packing up the house for the journey.
Where I’ve lost hope, she holds firm telling me that we can’t simply give everything away. We have to try and turn as much of it into cash as we can.
She’s my voice of reason, the navigator who plots a sensible path. I’m the blithering idiot who wants to sail off in a straight line and maroon our ship on the first sandbank or tear it apart on the reefs that lie in wait in the waters instead of going patiently around them.
I’m often neglectful and don’t see that she needs my help and she ends up sacrificing things that are important to her, sometimes she sacrifices her very well-being that beautiful, lovely lady truly does love us and shows it so often!
We don’t hold hands enough. We don’t talk enough and that’s my fault. I’ve come to realize in this late hour of life that I’m terrible at the verbal thing. I don’t explain things properly and use poor language or my psychic ability to communicate. Of course I don’t have any psychic ability which is a little problem that manages to make huge problems later. I also tend to be a “yes” man to please people or uphold some perceived image they may have of me. I should really, really stop that and take the more “it is what it is” stance.
In essence I’m a pushover when I shouldn’t be and a stubborn mule when it’s not appropriate.

It struck me quite suddenly, this masterful blow, the kung-fu death point blow that could’ve crippled my ability to earn a decent wage in Belgium. I use the metric system in my work. What if they used imperial? I wouldn’t have a clue to begin with on the lengths, volumes and areas they would be referring to. I could get used to it but it would take much practice!
Upon some investigation I managed to parry the death blow and received only minor grazing. Belgium uses the Metric system. The grazing comes in with the notes I make on drawings. They would most likely be in Nederlands and knowing a little about what I do, I know they’d be pretty standard. My wife eased my mind here yet again pointing out that its jargon and once I have a handle on it, and understanding Nederlands the way I do, I’d be able to cope. She’s right again of course.

I wish I could do more for my lady.
She deserves far better than I’m able to give her.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Warmed Heart

We never anticipated having a child. In all honesty she has been the happiest “accident” we’ve ever had. There is nothing, NOTHING, on this earth that makes my heart melt like the satisfied sigh, the stifled giggle or the admiring eyes of my daughter when she watches me do something and has the impulse to copy the action.
When she was still growing and getting ready to join us out here, the decision was firmly made that she’d get her Belgian citizenship as she’s entitled. At that stage we weren’t planning this departure from the country, but when we decided upon it, it would be far easier to accomplish if she was a Belgian already.
At the hospital we’d filled out a full description of who she was, when she arrived and who’d been responsible for this new “people”. A short while later we received an official document that declared in an unassuming way that she’d been noted, slotted into the system and given a number. The paper also declared who the mommy was but I was nowhere to be seen on this paper.
Upon enquiry at the Belgian Consulate I found out that they required an ‘unabridged birth certificate’ as this would state me as the father and as I’m the Belgian here we need that, a translated transcript of this certificate by one of their approved translators and an ‘apostile’. From there these documents are sent to Belgium for processing. All this has to happen before she’s two years old. We jumped on it immediately and I’m glad we did because it wasn’t that easy.
We filed the application, paid our seventy South African Rands to the government and waited the obligatory three weeks we were told it takes. Week three came and went and we enquired on the progress and were curtly told “When you get the SMS that it’s here at our offices, you can come pick it up.”
Week four and five floated by without any notification and I began to get agitated. We got hold of a telephone number for a hotline and spoke to a lovely lady there who escalated our request. After a further three weeks we finally got a response from her that the document was in for transcription. Great, so another three weeks hence we should have it. I didn’t trust this and phoned again after one and a half weeks to check on the progress.
I was told that my expectation of three weeks from the initial phone call was ludicrous! The document was indeed in for transcription, but that merely meant that it was in the queue (a pile on some arbitrary desk somewhere is what I read into it) for them to draw the original hospital records from the vault and enter in the data on their system to enable them to print the official government document. What to do? Do I lose the little patience I have and the request for the transcript ‘disappears’? Do I wait patiently in the hopes that one day a clerk somewhere decides to do a day’s work and hopefully my application is among those done?
I’ve had acquaintances tell me that they filed for an unabridged birth certificate more than three years ago and they’re still waiting.
Thankfully I had a backup plan.

There are government departments that the general public use where you pay the regular tariff. This tariff entitles you to not much more than a raffle ticket. You may get nothing – ever, you may get a consolation prize like my friend’s little brother – an Identity Document with the right name but wrong ID number and wrong photo. The best prize is the first prize – a correct, complete document within the allotted time.
Then there are the government departments that are ‘semi-private’ where the wealthier go and where the price of an unabridged birth certificate jumps from 70 South African Rand to 1000 South African Rand. The documents are genuine, produced from the same government departments, but the difference is the price. I’m certain that a large percentage of that money goes to ‘lubrication’ for the wheels. As much as it goes against my principles, I needed the practical, I needed that document and I paid the piper.
The piper sent in the guy that beats the drums, the large whip brandishing slave driver and a bucket of lube and within two weeks of drumming, whipping and lubricating (sounds kinky) within the chaos of desks and paper piles that I’m sure are government departments, I had the document.

I won’t waste much more of your time because the Belgian side of this is boring. We handed in the documents requested from us to the Consulate, one and a half weeks later I was contacted via e-mail to make an appointment to sign my consent that my little girl becomes a Belgian which I cordially did. We both went because this was quite an occasion for us and the Consulate General himself did the honours of reading the docket to us and made sure we understood. He also advised that my wife get the free visa entitled to her as soon as possible and simply renews it. It was four weeks from first handing in the documents to my little girl being a Belgian and obtaining a passport!
Sorry government of this country. You have failed the millions who pay your salaries and who trusted you to make things better.
Belgium, you have my trust and loyalty. Belgium, you will have the pleasure of hearing my daughter’s satisfied sighs and stifled giggles. You will have her loving eyes watch you and you will show her beautiful things.
This experience once again affirmed our decision to flee. I’d rather have my talents and skills used in a country that will care for its people than where I am now.