Monday, 31 December 2012

Sprint to the Finish

The months from September to now are a blur of activity.
On reviewing the last post I see that much has happened!

On my fourth interview I got employment. The company was looking for someone with my particular design software experience. They're one of the very few companies in Belgium who are looking to start using the package I have experience in and were dead-keen to have me aboard.

A hint of what I do...

The Apartment - it's the white one.
After that crucial step in the plan, I was able to set everything else in motion. Next was getting an appartment and finally purchasing the tickets for my family to join me.

I am pleased to say that all this has been accomplished. My family now reside with me in Belgium in the beautiful, clean city of Antwerp and all with the help of my extended family - my aunt and my parents.

I'd resolved to fetch my family myself - flying back to South Africa and returning to Belgium with them. Before this epic journey, I was surprised at how bitter and angry I was inside. Not at a particular person or thing, but at the circumstance. I was born in South Africa, worked hard there to obtain what I thought was a secure home, work and society. To find out that my work and input was worth nothing and scoffed at by an arrogant, corrupt and ignorant society hurt and angered me. Perhaps it's just that. There's no face to vent at, no person to rage at, no one who will react, no one who will look at this situation and say "Something's wrong here in South Africa".

This anger came as a surprise. It wasn't something I foresaw and I'm still not sure how it was sparked.
After all, we're here in Belgium! We're finally in a better place without the inconvenient death bit in between! We're where we planned to be and we're all settling in nicely - no regrets in fact quite the opposite. We're all very happy here!

So there we are.
Finally, FINALLY we're all here in Belgium! What a fantastic start to a New Year!

Ciao for now.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

In-between Dreams

“In-between dreams” is apt.
I am now residing in Belgium, as a Belgian. The experience at the “gemeente huis” which is the local government office where I had to register to be plugged into the Belgian social system was a uniquely pleasant one! The place was clean, I was served quickly and the facilities used by the employees there were in perfect working order. The employees also knew how to do their work!
That very evening the “politie” – the police – arrived to make sure I was who I’d said I was and was living where I’d said I was living!
As predicted, I miss Mrs Black and my little girl terribly and seeing parents in the streets of Belgium with their little ones makes me tear up. Its at these times that I must stiffen the barricades and harden my resolve to fight on to establish myself here so they may join me soon.
I feel guilt again. Guilt that I’m experiencing all that Belgium has to offer, guilt that I’m far safer and at peace here than I ever was in South Africa and Mrs Black & Speculoos (my little girl) can’t share in that yet.
In South Africa things finally came to a head, there was no more time, and what wasn’t done would merely have to remain so and be an inconvenience for later. Things like making sure my clothes were properly packed away for shipping and sorting out my family photos simply didn’t happen.
I left on that plane on a Thursday evening with numb emotions and as few tears as I could manage. My emotions are still numb thankfully or the burn of loneliness would creep through and I’d be hurting badly. I’ve also thrown myself thoroughly into finding employment and forcing myself to take breaks every so often. Since my arrival about a week ago, I have managed to attend two interviews and keep pursuing more.
The faster I can get work, the faster I can get Mrs Black and Speculoos over here and show them all the wonders and peace and sublime tranquility of life in Belgium. I can now offer them far more than I ever could in South Africa and its so close…so close to fulfillment! So close for the “In-between dreams” era to end.
My aunt has been lovely, showing me all the things I need to know along the way and looking after me.
I stay with her and her family in this adorable home.

After my first interview we went to the museum a block away.

On our route to the Central Train Station in Antwerp we went through the Grand Market area in “Old Antwerp”.

Finally we reached Antwerp Central Station.

Tomorrow I do all this touring on my own. I have another interview!
I need to land employment. The sooner I get that right, the sooner Mrs Black and Speculoos can join me here.

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Punctuation Marks

It’s done.
There is a full stop in my chapter. I have the airline ticket.
 Now I must find fiery hoops to run, jump, tumble and fly through so my family can join me as soon as possible in Belgium.
There’s a little red tape for Mrs Black to do before she and Speculoos join me.
There’s a lot of red tape for me to comply with before they can join me on a more permanent basis.
Some of this red tape involves getting original documents from our current Home Affairs Government Department which is no easy feat! We’ve tried applying through the ‘normal’ routes before but I’ve learnt my lesson. I didn’t even bother this time. We went through this in A Warmed Heart and then it cost me 1000-00 South African Rand. This time round it’s cost me 1500-00 South African Rand multiplied by two since there’s two documents I need. When Mrs Amazing and Speculoos need to do this exercise I expect it’ll cost 2000-00 South African Rand for each document. Too high a price to pay?
No price is too high to pay to have my family safely and legitimately with me!
Soon I go out into the world homeless and unemployed. These are scary times but also exciting times. We get to start off fresh! We can un-do the little nasty things that crept into our lives and improve other things.
First example – no hoarding! Never again will I own things that I do not use, think I may use later or other such possessions.
Second example – I will live close to work. I always thought I would consider my workplace as hated as school and the thought of living close to school was abhorrent but it turns out I love what I do and wouldn’t mind living closer. Maybe not across the road, but closer and that seems to be ‘The Belgian Way’.
I’m wrapping everything up at work this week and ten years is a lot of wrapping up to do. I didn’t think it’d take so much time and effort but it is. One week almost isn’t enough to get it all done, but it has to be.
Next week Speculoos is on holiday and I get to spend that one precious week with her. I’m looking forward to it and I’m going to miss her terribly. My awesome wife, Mrs Black is also going to be sorely missed over in Belgium during that limbo I shall call the ‘In-between Dreams’ era. Her reassurances, hugs and love have kept me going and her hard work has made this possible for all of us. She has done the most work in planning and packing that I’ve ever seen to get here. I love her with everything in me.
There are a few things that are going to keep me extremely busy during ‘In-between Dreams’ but I can guarantee that missing my family will be there like a constant weight on my shoulders. A cross I must bare if you could excuse the cliché.
Ciao for now.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Moment Lost

In a week’s time, I no longer work here.
After 10 years, more than 10 years I will not have an occupation. I will be completely free for a short while or as free as one can be with such big plans. There’ll be two weeks of crazy running around preparing those ordinary things for the trip to Belgium and then three to four days in Belgium getting more ordinary things in order.
What concerns me is that I should be enjoying this more but I’m not. It’s not anyone’s fault either. I keep getting this really bad cold and I haven’t been able to get rid of it for months again. It’s really bad now and completely distracting. It’s always different though, never the ‘same’ cold. This time I’m coughing, having night sweats and generally feeling bunged up and miserable.
It’d have really been good to go to a friend’s BBQ tonight – impromptu – and be able to socialize before the crunch of time makes it harder before I go but there’s no way. Not how I feel now. All I want to do is crawl up in bed and be a snotty mess. Hopefully I can get better and enjoy the time left to me here with my family and friends.
I’ve been loading up on the vitamins, minerals, aspirin, natural antibiotics & antivirals and colds & flu medication and it only seems to be getting worse. I’ve even upped my food intake in case it had something to do with over-training. Nothing thus far has met with good results.
I’m sick of being sick.
I was hoping that next week – my last week at work - I’d be happy, healthy and alert. Able to take it all in as I wound down, packed up, packed in, did admin, made sure my desk was cleaned off and made sure all was in order for my exit.
Let’s see what comes of that.
Ciao for now.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Scout

Inevitably I will have to leave my ship, set off in a little boat on my own and venture into new territory alone armed with little more than the clothes on my back and the skills I’ve gained through years of study and work. We can see the land on the horizon. It’s that land I need to venture to and plant our flag on the shore – steak out our spot.
I’m procrastinating until the last minute but in the end it’s inevitable. It has to happen for me to get my family safely to Belgium. I have to book the plane ticket. I have to put that full stop at the end of the last sentence of the last chapter in the book that was “Survival in a Crumbling South Africa”.
The date I choose is a date of heartbreak and sacrifice on all our parts – Mrs Black, Speculoos and me. I have no misguided notions that I am most likely not going to be present for Speculoos’ second birthday. I’ll be very sensitive that day if I’m not able to hug her and tell her how much I love her.
Chances are I’m not going to be able to give my awesome wife, Mrs Black, a hug and snuggle on our wedding anniversary either. There’s another day where I’ll be emotionally rubbed raw and under the weather.
I now see how sacrifice is love and love, sacrifice.
It’s because of love that I’m willing and able to bare these pains. It’s out of love that we do what we’re doing. Mrs Black will let me leave because we’ve agreed that ultimately it’s for the best and when this very hard time is done, we will have gained far more than we could ever hope both for us and our little Speculoos.
Even with this in mind, it’s a hard thing to do.
I’ve had a date in mind for a long time now and yet I still toy with it, pushing it back in moments of weak procrastination and brining it forward when I know that the sooner I set out, the sooner I can do what needs doing and have my family stand next to me on our new homeland – our new home territory.
I need the courage to make that full-stop.
I need to book that ticket.
Ciao for now.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Land Beyond The Horizon

Our home is no longer ours.
Hmph. It’s funny that I still call it ‘our home’ and I suppose it will always be our home. It was a very bitter sweet moment when I handed the new owner the keys and relevant documentation. I was quite numb when I pulled the car out of the driveway loaded with the last of our possessions. I left quickly and quietly and didn’t look back over my shoulder out of fear of regret.
It was a wonderful home – our dream home. It had everything we wanted and more but it was in the non-popular part of town. The estate agent admitted that if it were a block or two up the street it would have sold for millions. It didn’t matter to us. We loved our house. I will also admit that I hated it for a while when we couldn’t sell it and all it seemed to do was hold us down and prevent us from our organized flee of the country.
It was necessary. We had to relinquish it because tenants in our country are savages and would have destroyed it leaving us with a useless investment and even worse emotional scarring than this way.
That’s also why I do not wish to ever, EVER return to that street or even drive past to see how our home is doing. I’m too afraid of what I’ll find. I have the original plan to reminisce over. It’s funny how nostalgia makes everything look so rosy and pretty.
Our organized flee. It doesn’t sound like a ‘flee’ at all, but trust me it is. We simply have the time and means to do it without complete abandonment of assets and the accompanying running and screaming.
To continue the metaphor from previously, we are now far beyond seeing land and out in deep, sea-green water. Our dreams are the sextant that we now navigate by and our hopes are the stars we follow.
The terrible delays I so feared in the selling of the house vanished at the 11th hour! On the very last day at the very last moment the house was registered in the new owner’s name and I was able to retrieve the month I thought I’d lost! Had it been mere hours later, I would have had to put my resignation in at my company a whole month later as they only accept notice for a calendar month. Effectively one can only resign on the first of a month.
I’ve updated my Curriculum Vitae on two employment-seeking sites hoping to line up interviews in Belgium and already an employment agency has had a telephonic discussion with me about my skills and sent me a list asking which companies I would be interested in working for. This makes me hopeful that I’ll be able to get employment very quickly once I’m there and at least line up appointments while I’m still here in South Africa!
There’s much red tape I’m going to have to work through before and after I depart before I can be re-united with my family. This is definitely good motivation to hit the ground running in Belgium.
At the moment we (Mrs Black, Speculoos and I) stay with my parents in a cottage in their back yard. It’s small, cramped and I’m feeling awfully claustrophobic. Our previous home had pressed ceilings 4 meters above us (that’s approximately 12 foot to you who use the imperial system) and this is pretty precise. I carefully measured it. The ceiling in the cottage is only about 2.5 meters high. It feels cramped.
I’m beginning to dread the day I have to say goodbye to my family for an extended time while I’m in Belgium and they remain patiently in South Africa. Songs like “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Janise Joplin and “Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye” by Leonard Cohen almost have me in tears every time I hear them.
It’s going to be a hard goodbye at the airport. If you want to see a grown man cry, neigh, reduced to sobbing snotty mess, well, you should be there.
The only reason I’m putting us through this is the sextant and the stars.
My family, I love you.
Ciao for now.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Shelf Life

There are three lives on the shelf…well…two anyway. The little life that’s started we’re trying to keep off the shelf. My little girl, Speculoos, is amazing.
Our journey has begun in earnest but there have still been awful delays. Soon the shoreline and home will be gone, no longer visible and no longer relevant. My family and I will truly be adrift with nothing below our feet but open, undulating water and we’ll have to navigate by our dreams. It’s horribly frightening and exhilarating all at once.
For this to happen, we’ve packed up our lives as compactly and neatly as we can. Everything that’s important to us is stowed in a box. Even the things we do that are important to us have been stowed away. Gym for instance has been packed away for the foreseeable future but it has to be so. Just for a little while. We’re living on almost nothing and by that I mean that our beautiful mansion of a house is empty save for 3 rooms. The bedroom, the kitchen and Speculoos’ play room. Those are the only rooms we’re using at the moment and the only rooms with “living items” in.
The delays, only a few days’ worth, have put our plans back a month. This saddens me because with all my heart, I was hoping to have my family with me in Belgium by the time Speculoos turned two. This won’t happen unless I get work very quickly and this is what I’m wishing for most of all. My skills are sought after and I should be able to get work easily enough but I hope it’ll be quick enough.
The laws in Belgium governing the amount of people living in a home are very strict. The size of the home governs how many people may stay there. Unfortunately my aunt’s home, and my first port of call, can only accommodate one extra person. As I’m the legitimate working age Belgian, I have to go first. This means I leave behind my beautiful wife and little girl until I land that employment.
I suppose that’s also good incentive to hit the ground running from the moment my feet strike solid Belgian soil! Those Belgians won’t know what hit them – they’ve NEVER seen the likes of me!
I will wow, stun and kick overall bum with my skills. King Albert II and Queen Paola will wonder how Belgium ever managed without me!
Ciao for now.

Monday, 14 May 2012


Then suddenly it’s over.
One heartfelt Rosary, one sincere and silent plea and months of agonizing limbo are undone.
The winds fill the sails sure and strong. At first I suspected that the wind would die and fail again but it has remained and our journey has begun. The ship cuts through the water with uncanny speed, the bow throwing up salty spray and everything becomes frenzied action!
There are goods to stow away and secure, there’s excess to be thrown overboard and a destination to prepare for!
The Haunt has been sold! Our dream home given up for a different, better dream. I won't lie through a brave smile and say I don't feel regret and sorrow because I do. I was hoping things would be different but things change, people change and with that countries change. My hopes and dreams are different now and (excuse the pun) so I move with them.
Now there are new fears and different anxieties which aren’t unexpected or unwanted. With every motion forward, my stomach drops and my heart soars! It’s an unusual and conflicting feeling.
Every time I see a jet plane high up in the sky I become excited and nervous because I know that when I board that plane I depart on, that everything’s come to a head. When I hear strains of the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, I feel the tears welling up because I know that day is inevitable. The day I leave my family for a while and I know my heart will barely remain intact but it must be – neigh has to be - done. It’s everything we’ve planned towards – heartache for a greater reward.
For the first while when we are homeless, we’ll live with my parents. They’re so excited it’s funny to see. My mother’s looking forward to having a ‘big family’ again and I think seeing their only grand-daughter daily has massive appeal!
Our ship will dock in those friendly waters for a few months while I prepare and travel ahead to Belgium.
For now though, the winds are hard and strong. Everything is frenzied action and moving forward fast!
Ciao for now.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

When the air stirs.

The air stirs. Is this what we’ve been waiting for?
Limbo is its own type of hell. The same day on a different day where the sun rises, the sun sets and everything in between is no more different to yesterday than an orange is from an orange.
There is one thing that changes: Hope. It’s whittled away month by month, day by day and finally minute by minute, the slow flailing by despair. The drinking water has turned bracken, the ship floats dead on a glassy mirror of ocean and the sails are flaccid, empty cloth.
There are moments when hope returns but quickly fades, when a teasing breeze fluffs a flag and momentarily ruffles a sail but then dissipates to nothing. Bitter disappointment filling its void, all hope once again gone and my soul sinks further down from where it previously sat.
We long for the winds of change, a stiff breeze to fluff the flags, fill the empty cloth and billow them into full-bosomed sails and the creaking of the wooden deck and rhythmic swaying. We look for the signs of a journey finally underway again and a future pregnant with hope and full of possibility.
The air stirs. Is this what we’ve been waiting for?

Friday, 17 February 2012

Bump in the Night

When cleaning up, certain things get disturbed. Dust gets kicked up into the air, emotional dust, physical dust, perhaps even ghosts.
I happened upon a load of paperwork, a massive stack of poems, scribblings and writings. Evidently I expounded quite prolifically when I was an angst-driven teenager. I’m surprised my psyche didn’t kill me back then. I’m surprised I didn’t kill anyone else back then!
Admittedly, I’m fairly narcissistic now, but I’ve definitely mellowed with age! Back then it was really, really bad! I felt quite shocked at my own writing! Who I am now is definitely not the same person I was all those years ago.

The ghost (or ghosts) have been quite active at The Haunt (our home) recently. I’m hoping this is a sign that they’re saying their good-byes and that The Haunt will be sold soon.
It’s also a bit freaky when they’re playing so close to my daughter. We have a baby monitor. When baby doesn’t move (breath) for too long, it makes a hell of a racket. It also kicks in when baby cries or there are other sounds in the bedroom. On this particular evening Mrs Black and I were sitting outside having a cup of tea after putting Speculoos (baby Black) to sleep. Next to her crib is a table with the monitor on and various other items. One of the items is a wind-up doll that plays a lullaby tune when wound up. We used it to put Speculoos to sleep earlier and it’d run down, becoming slower & slower.
Quite suddenly we heard the tune over the baby monitor! It was playing hard and fast like someone had freshly wound it up!
We quickly went through to the room and yes, the doll was playing with ghusto. I quickly picked it up while it was still playing and removed it from the room to examine it and so that it didn’t disturb Speculoos. It was far from unwound. It played for a good minute before it slowly wound down to the dying strained playing again.

The Haunt is still not sold. Another deal fell through. The buyer didn’t get the bond they applied for and that, again, is the end of that.
Perhaps I should approach our president and enquire whether he’d like to re-appropriate our land. At least we’ll get market value for the place and be able to settle the bond.
Most importantly we’ll be able to move on. The waiting’s getting infuriatingly frustrating.

Ciao for now.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Small Steps.

There’s an advert on our TV at the moment that advertises that out of three people who’ve left South Africa, two return. I’d really like to contact them because I have a house for them to buy…
Mrs. Black’s sister and family visited South Africa for Christmas. They moved to Ireland for work like so many South Africans moved abroad for a few years to earn Euros or Dollars and come home. The plan (as far as I’ve heard from those who’ve done this) is to put everything in storage, live and work abroad for two years whilst renting out the domicile and paying it off then come back triumphant with a wealth of experience and money.
The reality appears to be different. Nine years later and they’re still living in Ireland with no thought of coming back except for the odd brief visit to family and friends every second year.
When we went to meet them at the airport, it struck me how the place had deteriorated in just a few months. From when South Africa was the golden child, hosting the Soccer World Cup and each and every elevator and escalator was working and all processes were running smoothly to now, where only a few escalators and elevators were working and getting out of the paid parking area was a nightmare. We had to take two elevators to get to our desired floor – the floor in the middle. We had to find one that went two floors up and then one that was capable of going one floor down. Nice.
What was worse than this? The tiny seed of knowing that had been hiding deep in my mind that suddenly sprung into being as a shrub - knowing that more than likely the next time I am to visit the airport is the time I’ll be separated from my family for a few months. Will my little girl recognize her daddy when she sees him again? Will she cower away coy and shy or be ecstatic and shrieking as she’s prone to do with sheer joy?
 Either way, my months away are going to be lonely and it already saddens me but I must take heart! It’s all for a greater cause!
I now have short hair. Belgium, I understand, is extremely conservative and having long hair won’t do in my field. I decided over Christmas that it’d be better to cut my hair sooner than later, another small step towards the turning away.
All we can do at the moment is take small steps until the house is sold.

Ciao for now.