Thursday, November 6, 2014

Searching for animals in Zululand

As I sit here trying to write while workers in the downstairs apartment drill into the concrete ceiling making noises that sound like two elephants mating, I am trying to think of something positive to say about South Africa. God knows I've whined enough about what I don't like. The head splitting noise at present is not helping.

So, I'm going to talk about four glorious days that made this trip worthwhile. A couple of months ago we decided to take a road trip to Zululand and stay at one of the parks board places. A huge game reserve where you can see the big five if you're lucky. We spent two nights at Hluhluwe which was my idea of heaven. We saw a herd of elephants (not mating) but they were eating leaves. You'd be surprised how enthralling that is to see in real life. One large female used her tusks to push down a whole tree and her family gathered around to eat the green leaves. Sigh... It was beautiful.

We also saw giraffe, all types of buck, Rhino, the list goes on. Zululand is such a magical place and it's really not that far from where we are living. Three hours and you are surrounded by wilderness and wild animals. What could be better?

Plus there were BABY animals. It's spring here so all the animals have babies now and I'm telling you, if that doesn't warm your heart, you are a robot.

So I came back from that trip filled with goodwill toward everyone and that lasted a day or two. As soon as I saw the trash piled up on the beach where we live I started hating again but I'm trying to be philosophical about it and do what I can and not worry about the rest. So about a month ago we went back to Zululand. This time we drove farther into the wilderness to a place called mkuze.

As you can see from the picture it's a glorious dirt road to nowhere and that is a good thing. We spent two nights in a tent that was kind of permanent in the sense that there was a wood floor and a shower and bathroom which was awesome. We even had an outdoor kitchen.

Our routine was to get up around five am and have a nice hot cup of tea and go out driving looking for animals to gaze at. There are thousands of acres of wilderness so it's not always so easy to see the animals which are sometimes hidden in the bush. Sometimes you drive for hours before you see anything interesting. On our second day my husband and I saw something that I've never seen on any of my trips to Zululand, a wild cheetah.

As you can see, he is exquisite. We were so excited and watched him for about half an hour stalking through the bush, scaring birds and swishing his tail. It was a moment I'll never forget and one that reminds me to be thankful that I'm here in a place where it's still possible to see a cheetah in the wild.

He crossed the road in front of us twice. We were snapping pictures like crazy people and then finally I just put the camera down and enjoyed watching him. He really was a true thing of beauty.

So, I just have to remind myself that there is much to be thankful for still in this world and that I'm blessed to have this unique experience.

My new book just came out today and I want to talk about that as well but I might put it in another post. It's called The Secret Lives of the Harvested and is a drama. It's on Amazon. Okay, cheers from South Africa!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

You Always Take the Weather With You

So part of this trip is learning how to accept things as they are. I posted a photo album on facebook the other day and to look at it, you’d think my trip was this magical fairyland of beautiful sunrises, sunsets, walks on the beach and loving life.

If I were someone else that might be my experience but as I am me, I carry all my baggage along with me. There are moments I’ve enjoyed, don’t get me wrong. I’m not ungrateful. There are also many moments that I’ve been homesick, missing my sister, missing my dog, missing my house and all my stuff. I’ve been wishing for a long time now that I could get back to work. Start another shop and do something rewarding and useful.
For a long time my identity was tied up with being sick. I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease eight years ago and my world imploded. I lost my business and bounced between anxiety and depression. I discovered Reiki and it changed my life in ways that are still unfolding. I have been fortunate to find a Reiki teacher here who can give me the rest of my training and it has given me a sense of purpose, a feeling that this year isn’t for nothing.

As I’ve gotten older, I have gotten better at accepting things but sometimes it seems harder than usual. I was doing alright in Charlottesville. I enjoyed my home and my books and my office. When you’re married, it can’t be all about what you want and for the last few years my husband has been feeling pulled to spend more time in South Africa with his family.

The upside of that is getting to see beautiful places and travelling. The downside is the upheaval of everything that I find comfortable and safe. I’ve decided that this is the last trip for awhile. I want to work on getting my life back and playing to my strengths instead of hurling myself into these situations where I feel like I’m being thrashed about by a washing machine (which matches today’s weather by the way. I walked out on the beach and it’s blowing a gale and the sea is churning and the sand is blowing across the beach pelting anyone who dares to walk near with tiny grains of sand.)

My experience in South Africa is always mixed. On the one hand you have incredible beauty. The plants alone make my heart sing. I’ve never seen such variety of flowers and palms and indigenous plants as I see here on a daily basis. There is also the open friendliness of the people and the beautiful climate and the ocean.

On the other hand this is a place with a lot of suffering. The crime rate is high, the poverty rate equally high. Some days the beach is filled with trash and it’s hard not to hate people for behaving like pigs. Other days, people gather to pick up trash or maybe I do and then I feel better about the way things are.

Another example of the way things are here is the slowly failing infrastructure. As the years go on and funds get scarce you see things starting to fall apart. The life guard tower has been shedding glass windows and parts of its roof since we’ve lived here and with the high wind, there is always a sense that it’s going to fall on someone. The inside of this huge building is held up by makeshift beams. The lifeguards are probably taking a chance with their lives by staying in this building. There is also the regular practice of illegal dumping of sewage into the rivers that join the sea. The air quality is poor due to the lack of simple things like catalytic converters on cars. It’s a third world country and I guess these things are to be expected.

To be fair, looking at the other side, I have probably seen more happy people here than I see back home. Almost everyone seems to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors. There is less complaining here than in the States. People make the most of what’s here and I admire that. When there is a holiday, people have fun.

There is also a thriving artist community here. Many creative people know each other and there is a love of art and craft here that I used to see back home before the recession and the wars made everyone more cautious and less likely and able to spend money. Hopefully that’s changing because I want to go back to my art and jewelry making and all the things I love to do.

I know there are lessons for me to learn here and I am trying. I’m sitting here looking out to sea. It’s wild but beautiful. I’d never be able to afford to have a view like this back home. I’m trying not to make missing home a reason not to enjoy what this place has to offer. Today I’ve made fresh juice with carrot, celery, cucumber, apple and lemon. It’s delicious and just that is something to be grateful for.

I also just found out that my latest manuscript has been accepted by my publisher which is also a big reason to celebrate. It gives me something to work on and I feel a sense of accomplishment that helps when I feel overwhelmed by anxiety and depression. I’m trying to practice acceptance. That’s really all I can do since all I have is this moment right here.

Cheers from South Africa

Friday, September 26, 2014

Blood Brothers

If you read Behind the Closet Door and enjoyed it, check out Blood Brothers, the sequel.

Monday, August 25, 2014

South Africa sucks when it comes to used cars

So Rog and I are trying to find a car. Four months with no car is getting old. Real old. Sure, walking is good for me. Yes, I know I'm at the beach and I'm blessed and blah, blah, blah but it's been windy as hell for the last two weeks and walking to the store is like some kind of endurance test. In some ways, this whole trip is. Yes it's beautiful here and there are many things to be thankful for but I miss my dog and my sister and my home and my stuff and wah...

So, back to the car situation. We sold our Subaru back home before we moved. I loved that car. We figured that we might be able to get something similar here. Not as nice but just a decent little car to get us around. Easier said than done. For starters, a lot of the cars are little foreign rust buckets. A stiff breeze might blow them away. Still, those little rust buckets are expensive. The rust bucket we are looking at now is a brand called a Toyota Tazz. It's a Toyota-lite but still a Toyota and that's the only reason I'm considering one of them. We've called about a couple of them and they have either been sold or they are hours away. Ironically it's hard to go car shopping with no car.

Some other little rust buckets available to us are, Fiat, the Mazda Drifter (free homeless person with purchase) Opel, the Ford Icon, Renault, The Ford Bantam, (yes, here there is a Ford named after a chicken...) the Toyota conquest (with an extra large back seat), the Chevrolet Spark, (Insert joke about car going up in flames here ___________)the Citron (which has lemon built right into the name) and so on...

Here is a picture of a white Kia. Probably one of the most common rust buckets available here. I hate Kia's. Still, I'd buy one if it were affordable.

Couple the lack of familiar brands with the high prices and also the high scam factor and it's enough to make me take the bus. If only our town had a bus. It doesn't. You'd think I would have researched that before we moved here, right? I did not.

What about this little beauty? Makes me think of Breaking Bad. You could cook meth in this, right?

This hideous little Ford Fiesta, a brand that I owned when I was nineteen, is selling for $25,000. Can you believe it? Why does this souped up version of a Fiesta even exist? Who would buy this? I spit on you, $25,000 Fiesta. You and your little bow too...

At last, something in our price range.

Well, this was not a productive day. We tried to walk on the beach but the wind has brought in an unusual amount of trash and debris and there is a sewage leak in the Umlanga River which has blown down to our town. There is a couple we see on the beach each morning and we pet their lovely Staffie dogs and the husband said that he thinks South Africa has been downgraded to a fourth world country. Today I might just agree. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow is full of possibilities. And, once we do get a rust bucket of our very own, there is an even higher possibility that one of the tomorrows in my near future might include an elephant in it or a Rhino or a baby giraffe. So there is hope. Hope springs eternal, just like sewage...

Monday, August 11, 2014

The death of Otis and my sanity

I'll start this with a photo Rog took of last nights so called Super moon. I think that might have something to do with my more than usual jumpiness. This is going to sound more like a rant than a blog but so be it. I'm feeling homesick and the death of Otis isn't helping.

In case you don't know, Otis is the elevator in our building. We rented an apartment as close to the Indian ocean as humanly possible. Thinking back, it would have been better to be a few streets off the main beach and have a nicer place. The view is spectacular but the apartment is ancient and fragile, like my nerves. Not to mention that the sea is surprisingly loud. I often wake up thinking we are in the middle of the biggest rainstorm ever and then I remember that I'm living at the beach.

When we moved in, I blogged about the elevator and the fact that it was acting weird. Somehow I didn't have the good sense to realize that it might actually die, cease to be, finito. We don't have a car either so what used to be a simple walk to the store is now more difficult.

Rog and I are on the fourth floor and we hardly see anyone in this ghost ship of a building. There is a handyman who doesn't speak much English but he told us enough to let us know we won't be getting a new Otis any time soon.

We contacted our real estate agent who rented the place to us. He's been less than forthcoming and distracted with other clients I guess. So, fighting this homesickness just got harder because every time I leave my house it's 77 steps to the outside world. It's beautiful here but I want to make a point of saying that a beautiful place alone isn't enough to make a life fulfilling.

I think what I really want is to go back to having a shop again. Shop keeping was what I was best at and I miss it. So, at the end of our stay in South Africa, I will be anxious to get back to America and start doing something productive. I want to start painting again and making jewelry and I want Rog to get back to making his pottery.

On a positive note, I am making the most of my time here. I am trying to get the third book in the Closet Door series finished and I'm also going to be taking a master level Reiki class to round out my education in that area. After the course, I'll be able to teach if I want to.

Cheers from South Africa

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

African Adventures volume 8. Siberian South Africa

You can’t really complain about the weather in South Africa. No, most days the sun shines over the amazingly diverse landscape filling me with awe at the natural beauty of the place.
The houses however are a different story. I really think the South Africans could learn a thing or two from American building techniques.
It’s not that the houses aren’t beautiful, just woefully impractical. Made with heavy concrete, stone and brick, most of the houses are designed with no insulation. The thick walls, reminiscent of Adobe are fairly good at keeping the cool in. That’s great when it’s ninety degrees. The fact is that most days it isn’t.

Most of the time the temperature seems to fall in the 70’s 80’s in summertime and drop to the 50’s and 60’s in fall and winter. That all seems very pleasant until they have what they call a berg wind which is a hot dry wind that feels awesome, like warm weather is moving in but it actually means the opposite. A cold front usually follows that can last anywhere from a day to a week.
We are in the middle of one now. We stayed with Roger’s mom for a few days and the cold weather blew in and there was no respite. The tile floors were like ice blocks, the walls have air bricks. You know, like actual holes in the wall in which air comes in. You stare at it watching birds fly by outside wondering who thought that was a good idea?

Coupled with the fact that no one seems to have much in the way of heat, it’s weird. His mom has one little heater in the living room and I stood by it as much as I could. During the day it warmed up outside but the house was as cold as ever. I started to feel like Elsa from Frozen. Everything I touched seemed to be made of ice.

We’re home now and there is a second cold front assaulting us. It’s about 50 degrees I’d say and the sea is whipping furiously against the rocks. The wind is blowing with such force that when I tried to walk on the beach this morning I got pelted with sand until I was forced to run home.

So, that’s all fine. What’s the big deal you say? It gets much colder in America in winter. Yes, but in America we have central heating and insulation. Our little apartment by the sea has neither. I’m shivering as I type this. I can feel air currents moving around the house as if I was sitting outside.

I just got up to put a sweatshirt on over the layers I’m already wearing. As soon as I can get a ride to Hillcrest I’m buying a big-ass heater! The biggest I can fit into our apartment.

Cheers from chilly South Africa!
(Note the all tile floor. Ice cubes for your feet...)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

African Adventures volume 7. Fed a strange baby an orange.

It was a beautiful morning on the beach. Rog and I had heard that bad weather was coming in later this afternoon so we went on our usual pre-breakfast walk.

I had to walk to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. The no car thing is getting old but at least it was another hour of exercise under my belt.

When I got home we decided to go set up camp on the beach while the good weather lasted. A cold front is moving in and already Cape Town has been hit with freezing temps. It was in the eighties here though so we set up our mat and umbrella and I lay in the sun soaking in the rays like an iguana.

I took off to go swim, Rog wasn’t ready yet so he stayed behind. I jumped into the brisk yet beautifully clear water and stayed in almost an hour. I think my skin was nearly blue by the time I got out but it was worth it.

When I got back to our camp I noticed the addition of a little person. She was sitting on our mat next to Rog. I smiled at him and said, “What’s this?”

“A visitor,” he said. “She toddled over here and sat down and doesn’t seem to want to leave.”

I sat down next to her and said, “Do you speak English?”

“I think she’s too young,” Rog said.

“Oh.” I looked at her, she was really cute. She had hello kitty slippers and pink over-alls and a pink shirt on. She was really fascinated by the sand and kept scooping up handfuls and studying it as if it contained some hidden mystery to the key to life, which it probably does.

“Where’s her Mom?”

Rog pointed to a young girl who appeared to be about thirteen although I’m sure she was older. She was swimming and playing with a young boy, presumably her son. The son came out of the water and walked up to the child. I figured he’d take her away. He tugged at her and but she shook her head and wouldn’t budge.

“Hi,” I said to the boy who looked to be about six. “Do you speak English?”

He shook his head no. “Ah,” I said. He smiled and darted back to the water.

The mom came back up and I was sure she was coming to fetch her little one. She patted her on the head, said something in Zulu to her, smiled at us and took off down the beach.

I looked at Rog in alarm. He, as usual was totally chilled out. “Um, is she coming back, do you think?”

He shrugged, “I think she’s probably going to get her some chips or a snack.”

“Do you know if that’s what she said?”

“Not really,” he said.

The girl continued to study the mysteries of the sand and I said, “You think the mom thought, Hey, these two middle aged people are just sitting here doing nothing, maybe they can just babysit for the day?”

“Probably,” he said.

I sat watching the ocean as the tide went out. More swimmers arrived and the beach steadily filled up. The Zulu woman who walks up and down the beach heavily laden with hats, buckets and shovels and other assorted beach stuff that she sells to the tourists gave me a quizzical look as I sat there with the strange baby by my side.

After awhile the mom came back. She dropped an orange and a bag of cheese puffs in the sand and ran off down the beach to play soccer with some guys. “Okay, now I know we’ve been had. Right? This baby can’t peel an orange by herself and she can’t open a bag of snacks. We’re the babysitters, right?”

“Looks like,” Rog said.

I opened the cheese puffs and she opened her mouth obediently as I put one near her face and I popped it into her mouth. She ate a few but looked longingly at the orange.

I peeled it and broke each segment into two pieces. Her little hands were covered in sand so I popped the segments into her mouth one bit at a time. She seemed to like this and every now and then if I wasn’t fast enough, she’d turn her head and open her mouth and I’d pop another orange slice into her little face.

I was kind of ready to go have another swim eventually. Almost an hour had passed and while I was enjoying the company of this little person, I really did want to get up. Rog and I agreed that when she was finished with the orange, we’d go find the mother and hand her back.

Right as I was giving her the last segment, her mom came back. Rog and I got up and said, “We’re going to swim now, okay?”
She nodded and smiled and took the baby whose name I still do not know away.

We had our swim and as predicted as if a switch was turned on, the bad weather moved in. A howling gale swept the beach and the sand started pelting us and families everywhere folded their umbrellas and tents, gathered their things and quickly made their way off the beach.

I’m sitting inside now watching as the stormy weather approaches. The clouds have been soaring by at high speed shifting and changing into the most amazing creatures. Dragons, turtles, monkey heads.

So, it’s been a good day here. Cheers from South Africa

Friday, June 20, 2014

African Adventures Volume 6. Finding out that I can indeed do it, just like Nike said.

Today is day seven of a juice and salad diet that I want to do for ten days as a re-boot for my system. It’s been a challenge adjusting to living in a foreign country, even one I know so well.

It’s really beautiful here and I love being at the ocean. The hardest part for me right now is being alone while Rog does his GT climb. It lasts over two weeks and he’s been training for months. He left a week ago and is now almost half-way through it. He has managed to send a few texts to let me know he’s alright but most of the time there isn’t a signal.

I admire him for being able to do it and I’m trying to use him as an example for myself. I’ve lost 35 pounds over the last year so I feel good about that. Being here helps with that because we have no car so if I want something, I have to walk to go get it.
I have this weird thing when I’m alone where I wake up in the morning literally shaking with fear. I’ve always had an anxiety disorder so I get it but that only happens when I’m alone. I don’t know what I’m so afraid of. Usually once I’m up and moving the shaking subsides.

I keep thinking that at the age of forty seven I’d get over it. Sometimes we all have to spend time alone. My mother has lived alone for over twenty years. So, even though I have yet to conquer my fear, apparent by the crazy morning trembling, I still manage to talk myself into getting on with my day.

I sometimes think I’ve lead a very sheltered life. I’ve been a recluse for most of it only having a few close friends but having my husband around has always been the soothing balm that helps me deal with life’s problems. A good thing for sure but I also have to learn how to cope on my own. That’s what this time is all about.

When Rog is here he carries the groceries, no problem. I think over the years I’ve gotten spoiled. We always had two cars and drove anywhere we wanted. I didn’t even give it a thought. I even drove to the gym which was only half a mile away from my house.
Having the perspective of being here with much less makes me see how much I took for granted. Things like TV and cable. We didn’t use 80 percent of the channels but I felt like we had to have them. Here we have no TV and I don't miss it so it’s not an issue.

So, the biggest challenge with trying to do a juicing diet is that you have to have a juicer and stuff to juice. My mother-in-law was kind enough to lend me hers. When Rog left there was enough stuff in the fridge to juice for three days. When the fruit and veggies ran out I took the one mile trek to the store. I battled trying to walk home with the grocery bags. It wasn’t really the smartest plan. It occurred to me that I can do two things. I can carry a few things at a time, ant style, or I can use Roger’s extra backpack.

I’ve never carried a backpack before in my life. I know that seems weird but I don’t remember ever carrying one, not even for school.

I got it out this morning and spent about a half hour figuring out how to put the thing on. It’s got straps everywhere. Eventually I got the straps adjusted. I had to widen them quite a bit because Rog has the waist of a pre-pubescent girl… Anyway, I suddenly felt empowered. I had been feeling down, lonely, pitiful. Suddenly the backpack made me feel strong.

I got my money and my keys and I headed out into the world. Down the cranky elevator and the twenty five steps that greet you at the front of our apartment complex. Then down the sidewalk and all the way along the beach until you get to a turning circle. Up the hill, around the blind corner of doom where oncoming traffic threatens to squash you like a grape but there is no sidewalk, then up, up, up to the store. Whew. I made it. Then I remembered the backpack was still empty.

I went inside and thought hard about my list. Apples, carrot, celery, cucumber, pineapple. These things are all heavy but are a necessity if I am to complete this juice diet.

I bought my things and I went to a quiet corner of the store and I packed my backpack. I couldn’t believe that everything fit in. I zipped it up and managed to get it on my back and buckled in place.

I made the trek back feeling great. Yes I was carrying ten pounds of fruit on my back but so what? That is the mood I am trying to cultivate. The old Nike slogan, Just Do It. That’s really what it’s about whether it’s learning to spend some time alone or walking to the store or carrying a boat load of fruit on my back or dieting for that matter. It’s the doing that makes it all okay.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

African Adventures Volume 5. Otis

So the thing is, when you want to live at the beach cheaply, some sacrifices must be made. Our little place is really cute. It’s got some nice touches and a stunning ocean view and it’s really inexpensive. There are downsides such an only being able to turn on a couple of lights in the house or the circuit breaker will overload. It’s okay, I’m too busy looking at the ocean to care. It’s too beautiful here to complain but there is one thing that does cause me a tiny smidgen of anxiety.

His name is Otis or the Otis 2000 to be exact and he is our elevator. It says so right on the sign. We live on the fourth floor so it was important that we got on the right footing with Otis from the start.

When we moved in we were warned that Otis is temperamental. Sometimes he goes where you need him too and other times he just opens and closes his doors over and over again. On those days we take the stairs. All four flights of them. It’s okay, I need the exercise anyway.

My only fear is getting stuck inside of Otis. The other day the power went out unexpectedly. We were using the toaster and the stove so at first I just assumed the breaker was outraged at my audacity, trying to use two appliances at once but it turns out it was just a typical South African power outage. I looked out of my door at Otis and saw that the light was off. I looked at Rog. “You know, if we’d been inside that elevator we’d be stuck right now.”

He shrugged it off like most things and I said, “Seriously, can you imagine being stuck in there? Possibly for hours?”

“Yeah but it probably won’t happen.”

Somehow I didn’t find that a comforting thought. I ran into a fellow tenant a few days later who gave me some advice. “Don’t press any buttons until the lift (they call everything by the wrong name here. EVERYTHING) closes and only then press the number for the floor you want."

I tried it and it does work. I get in Otis every morning and greet him sweetly, as if he were the family dog. “Good boy, Otis, good job, you got me there, good for you.” On the days it doesn’t work I don’t wish him any harm. I’m not using up any karma points by being angry at Otis. The stairs are just fine.

The other thing about Otis is that for a brief moment when you get where you’re going there is a kind of mechanical wheezing and then suddenly the floor drops out from under you about a foot as Otis comes to a halt. The first time it happened I nearly fell over but now I merely brace myself for the impact and shrug it off.

One day Otis was clearly in a bad mood. I saw that he was up on level three so I pushed the button. It took awhile but he finally showed up. The doors flew open as they tend to do and then suddenly shut. I managed to get the door open again but when I pushed the button for my floor nothing happened. I wondered if it really was the smartest thing to do, standing there inside a temperamental elevator that might close its doors and still go nowhere and perhaps decide today is the day that nobody gets out... I decided to exit and take the stairs.

This morning Otis ignored my impatient taps on the button. I didn’t hear the familiar rumble or the crazed squeak that he does just before he opens the door. There was only silence. Fine, s’ok. Another trek down four flights of stairs won’t hurt me.
When I came back off the beach I noticed that Otis was on level two which was unusual because he likes to hang out at three unless summoned. I called him and he finally arrived but his door wildly opened and closed faster than usual as if he was having a nervous breakdown and didn’t know if he could handle giving me a ride or not. Usually this is the point where I sigh and go to the stairs but I was determined. I shoved my hand in to keep Otis from snapping shut and I got in. I pressed number three and he took me to one, opened the door and tried to shoo me out but I stayed put.

The door closed and then we went to two and it opened again. I folded my arms and waited. This time when the doors closed I thought, listen, you are really dumb. Is it worth getting stuck in this steel death trap just to save a few minutes of walking? By then Otis was ambling up to my stop. He did his usual lurch and then drop and I picked my stomach off the floor and then got out.

So I know it’s a bit of a Russian roulette situation with Otis. There may come a day when he decides to stop working completely, a day when he’ll say, “Enough is enough, no more rides for you or any of your kind!” That day might come but it’s not this day, at least not yet. So wish me luck as I get myself ready to take my afternoon walk.

P.S I have to admit I felt quite guilty taking the pictures of Otis because I had to press the button. When he opened and I didn't get in I could feel his palpable disappointment. The thought here's a taste of your own medicine came to mind but I didn't say anything.

Cheers from South Africa

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

African Adventures volume 4. The beach comber is back

Hi all. After a very pleasant few days away spending time with Roger's wonderful family, we are back. Yesterday was vile. Freezing cold weather (high of 63, I'm being dramatic) and gale force winds. I took a walk anyway but when I got down to the beach the sand was pelleting my legs and I literally had to run off the beach.

I've been a bit melancholy because Rog is leaving soon to do a two week intense climb in the Berg. It's called the Grand Traverse and I know he's going to love it but I'll miss him. I'm trying not to mope too much. Think of all the time I'll have to write. Yes, that's the way to look at it.

This morning I awoke to blue skies and pristine beaches. I took a walk and meandered around the rock pools. I love it when it's low tide. You see all kinds of fish, anemones, types of seaweed and best of all, shells.

After the stormy weather yesterday the beach was littered with shells and trash. I took out a bag and started collecting plastic bottles, fishing line, broken glass and among those I found three beautiful little cowrie shells which promptly got put into my cowrie pocket.

I walked toward the lagoon that lies on the left of Umdloti toward the next beach town called La Mercy. I love that name. Kind of like French kindness. Anyway, I found another cowrie glittering like a gem in a rock pool. It is solid white. Then I walked back towards our swimming beach. There is a natural rock formation that surrounds it making it a very safe place to swim. When the tide is out it's a great place to climb around and see what creatures are hanging out in the tidal pools.

There is a place that I call the natural aquarium. It's an odd shaped rock and behind it is a recessed area that fills with water. When the tide is out it's full of little fish of all shapes and colors. Stripey, spotted and solid. There is also a type of plant or algae that is a brilliant blue and another that is bright red. The water is crystal clear and it's mesmerizing to watch the fish swim around, darting here and there.

I found another cowrie on that beach. It is pink with orange sides. It's too chilly to swim now but South Africa is weird like that. It'll get cold for a few days
and then suddenly warm up again.

In other news, my new book Blood Brothers is now available on I don't know why but seeing it on Amazon always makes it seem more official to me somehow. Now I just have to market it. It's not really my strong suit but that's okay. I'm better suited for beachcombing anyway.

Cheers from South Africa.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

New book available and African adventures volume 3.

My new book, Blood Brothers is available now from my publisher at

I'm looking forward to finishing the third sequel this spring. Let me know what you think of the series.

Today was a beautiful day. I still find the time difference so weird. It's six hours ahead here. So, the day is winding down while back in Virginia, it's just getting going.

This morning we walked down to the South Side of town for the Quicksilver 'Takes one to know one' surfing competition. It was really fun and the waves were huge. I'm no expert as far as surfing goes but it all looked good to me.

There was no wind all day which is a real treat. We walked back and picked up a few groceries at the tiny grocery store under the stairs. We don't have a car so we are learning to combine errands when we are out and about.

We had a fantastic swim at the main swimming beach here on the North side where we live. It's awesome because there is a natural rock formation that creates a kind of mega swimming pool. It stays quite safe until the tide comes in and then it merges once again with the great ocean.

I'm still getting used to hearing the sea all time. Right now the wind has picked up and the tide is in so it sounds like a hurricane out there. It's warm so I have the door open and the wind is blowing that amazing smell of sea air into our tiny apartment. At night there is this sense that I'm sleeping on a ship. The sound of the surf is so loud. When I look outside I can see the cargo ships with their lights twinkling in the distance as they wait to go into the Durban Harbor.

Well, buy my book if you feel like it. If you don't, that's cool. It will be up on Amazon soon and there will be a free sample. Paperbacks will be available at the end of the month and it will also be available for Nook.

Cheers from South Africa!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Launch!

Tomorrow is the day the sequel to my thriller, Behind the Closet Door has it's first launch. It's called Blood Brothers and will be available from my publisher in e-book format.

Paperbacks and listing on Amazon and Nook will come later in the month but my publisher will have it tomorrow!

What is the sequel about you say? Here's a blurb:

Henry Peterson is trying to change his ways. After his escape from the nightmare he created in Virginia, He is turning over a new leaf. After committing one last crime as a favor to Rex Roland, he heads to Florida.
He meets a pretty girl named Shelby and they hit it off. He’s happy for the first time in ages and relieved that his tortured past is staying in the basement where it belongs. The sunny weather, Shelby’s friendship and her dog Misty, all seem to help Henry become a better person and keep his inner demons at bay. The voices have stopped as well as most of the nightmares.

Wyatt Courtland is an eleven year old boy on the run. He’s on a quest to find the brother that doesn’t even know he exists. Wyatt has always carried the burden of rumors and speculation that his Dad is somehow tied up with Tom Willin who later changed his name to Henry Peterson. Finally his Dad admits that Henry and Wyatt are brothers. Wyatt is an extraordinary boy whose lucid dreams sometimes predict the future. He uses these dreams to help him find the person he thinks will lead him to Henry, ex-cop Rex Roland.

Here's a review from Behind the Closet Door in case you haven't read the first book yet.

Behind the Closet Door

Henry wants to be with someone. That someone doesn't want to be with him. That's a problem. Under the backdrop of a never-ending rainfall, Henry takes matters into his own hands, imprisoning the love of his life, Michelle, inside a closet and spending every second afterwards, contemplating what to do next.

When I first read the premise, I wasn't sure how the author was going to get an entire story out of this and keep me interested for the duration. After reading the story however, I can say that I was blown away. The author really allowed her imagination to run wild and as a result, we not only descend into Henry's mania with him, we actually become Henry. We see what he sees. We hear what he hears. We suspect what he suspects. That connection allowed me to share Henry's fears and apprehension. It was uncomfortable: knowing there was something, eating away, both pushing us away from the closet door and pulling us towards it. The author did a great job of using time as a character. You could feel the clock ticking with each scene, barreling toward a conclusion you were never really sure you were ready for.

The descriptions in this book were alive and written with smartly chosen language. I felt that it was important for this type of story to have stunning details, and I wasn't disappointed. When the author takes us inside Henry's mind, it's a wild, chilling journey. The dark places she took us to, are rarely touched on without being overly gratuitous. Ms. Rood is a writer that knows when to push, when to tease and when to yell "cut!"

The book was also written from the POV of a small town deputy named Rex. To be honest, I could have used a bit more of Rex. I liked his character and either by sheer volume of words or by stylistic choice, Henry's narrative overshadowed Rex's so much that it sort of made it hard for me to get back into Rex's storyline and left me with a feeling of overall imbalance. I think there was more for Rex to do and tell.

As the story thunders toward the climax, you get the sense that nothing is what it seems and that the tension is about to boil over. The author leads us right up to several possibilities and keeps us guessing as to exactly how Henry's ordeal is going to play out. There was nothing predictable about this story. All at once, it was intriguing, inviting and uncomfortable. And if you love good dialogue, the exchanges between Henry and his captive, Michelle from the other side of the door, will be appreciated.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to any fan of the genre. Author Shari Rood is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. (Larey Batz, author, reviewer)

So grab a copy tomorrow and enjoy it! I'm busy working on the third sequel.

Cheers from South Africa.

Friday, May 30, 2014

African Adventures volume 2. Shell collecting and Trash collecting

We have been getting up early to walk on the beach while the tide is out. There are amazing things to be seen in the rock tidal pools that line the beach at that time of day.

The water is crystal clear and I’ve seen many varieties of fish swimming in the pools. My favorite place to watch fish is behind a giant rock formation that I call the natural aquarium. There are at least a dozen species of fish that congregate in the shade behind the giant rock. I’ve seen striped fish, spotted ones, yellow and black ones. I’m too lazy to research what they are but they are beautiful.

When we first started walking I noticed a fair amount of what I call dangerous trash. Broken bottles and fish hooks and fishing line kept popping up as I searched for shells. There is a crew that comes to the beach daily to pick up trash but they often miss stuff that is out in the surf.

The first day we arrived here Rog started picking up the rusty hooks and carrying them up to the trash cans that line the sidewalk. I didn’t really want to do that. Maybe I’m not naturally civic minded but I didn’t want the hassle of having to pick up other peoples trash.

After a couple of days I had a realization. I decided that if I was going to collect beautiful shells from the beach, the least I could do is remove a little trash. I know most of you are aware of how polluted the ocean is becoming so I won’t get into that. I’ll just say that it feels good to my little part even if it’s only a small thing.

Yesterday I was cowrie hunting and I saw a dip in the water where there were thousands of bits of shells and debris. I saw a cowrie at the bottom and practically dived in fully clothed to get it. It was such a rush as I grabbed it and fished it out of the sea.

Rog and I started darting in, grabbing handfuls of shells and carrying them out of the surf so we could look through them. We managed to find eleven cowries, all different from each other.

In our searching, we also found bits of plastic, sharp glass, rusty nails and the like and I started a second bag for trash. Now it’s become something that I do automatically.

This morning we found a beautiful little statue of the Hindu god, Ganesha. (He is the remover of obstacles and the patron of arts and sciences) He is now sitting in our apartment along with our cowries and other shells. Rog is now collecting lead fishing sinkers as well. They come in all different shapes and sizes and are surprisingly decorative.

Rog and I are definitely becoming beach combers. You never know what is going to wash up on shore. It’s a great adventure and I’m glad I’m here to be a part of it.

Cheers from South Africa

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

African Adventures Volume 1. The Goddess of Cowries

Living on the Indian Ocean is a sublime experience and I feel fortunate to be able to experience it. Roger’s family, his Mom in particular, has always collected shells.

The noble cowrie has been gathered for its beauty and also used as currency since, well long before I walked this stretch of beach in Southern Africa. To quote Wikipedia directly:

‘The shell most widely used worldwide as currency was the shell of Cypraea moneta, the money cowry. This species is most abundant in the Indian Ocean, and was collected in the Maldive Islands, in Sri Lanka, along the Malabar coast, in Borneo and on other East Indian islands, and in various parts of the African coast from Ras Hafun to Mozambique. Cowry shell money was important at one time or another in the trade networks of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia.’

Since we have been living in our little apartment on the sea, we have also been looking for cowrie shells to decorate our place. Roger’s mother always has a way with them. Finding them easily when I look for hours and come back empty handed. Rog says she once told him that you have to call the cowries.

I liked the idea of that, calling them as if they were children that needed to come home for lunch. I did a little more research and according to Wikipedia (I’m lazy) many African countries used the cowrie as money. Another quote:

‘In the countries on the coast, the shells were fastened together in strings of 40 or 100 each, so that fifty or twenty strings represented a dollar but in the interior they were laboriously counted one by one, or, if the trader were expert, five by five. The shells were used in the more remote parts of Africa until the early 20th century, but then gave way to modern currencies.’

The first day we had good weather I decided to go hunting. I thought that it was a quaint notion. The idea of asking and receiving. I tried it and I was rewarded with an exquisite little pink cowrie with spotty sides that gleamed like a gem stone among the rocks of a tidal pool.

I excitedly ran over to Rog to show him. It’s amazing how much I become like a little kid when I’m at the ocean. The idea of finding little treasures from the sea has me almost giddy with excitement.

As the morning wore on, we swam and came back for breakfast and later went back down to the beach because when you get those wonderful hot windless days, you have to make the most of them.

After having a swim, I grabbed my little plastic bag and started shell hunting. I did an invocation. I asked that any cowrie (or cowry, it seems that both spellings are okay) that would like to be a part of my collection to please make itself known.
I was wandering close to a tidal pool when I saw the most amazing one. Small and spotted, I picked it up with great excitement. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw something pink, like a rubber band disappear back into the shell.
I called Rog over who was amazed with the shell and I said, “I think something is living in here.”

“I doubt it,” Rog said and turned it over.

“Really, I think it’s still alive.”

We set it down in a tidal pool to watch and it started to move. He stuck out two tiny little feelers and made his way along the sandy depth of the small pool.

“Told you it’s alive,” I said. “But that means we can’t keep it.” He nodded in agreement. You can’t collect a shell if the inhabitant is still living there. It’s kind of like killing someone to get their apartment.

Anyway, we watched as the little guy made his way to a rock and promptly disappeared under it. I shrugged, happy to see him even if I couldn’t collect him.

Later I was looking for flat black stones to decorate the top of a pot which contains a palm tree my mother-in-law gave us. As I filled my bag I saw what appeared to be a decent sized stone and plucked it up. I couldn’t believe it when I realized it was a cowrie, a large one, bigger than a walnut. I was so excited that I raced down the beach to show Rog. He couldn’t believe it either. It was brown with a large purple spot on the top. He said he’d never seen one that size in all the years he’d combed the beach as a child. I was literally shaking with excitement. I now had the cowrie bug and bad.

I took it into the apartment and rubbed a bit of olive oil on it to make it shine and I stood back and admired it. I think I must have felt what others may have felt through the millennia when finding such a gem washed up, waiting on the beach.
We went back for another swim and soaked in the sun and water which is chilly but crystal clear. On the way back home I was humming and smiling, the influence of the beach is strong on me. I happily walked along the flat sand feeling very good about my day.

Rog and I were almost to the stairs when I saw a very large brownish stone the size of my fist, I almost tripped over it. I suddenly realized it wasn’t a stone but another cowrie, the mother of all cowries. We looked at each other in disbelief and I grabbed it up feeling the hefty weight of it in my palm. I’ve seen ones like this but only at shell shops.

I rubbed some oil on it and placed it with the others and texted my sister-in-law to see if she’d ever seen a cowrie that size. So far, no one I’ve asked has found one that large. Is it because I called the cowries? Is it sheer luck? Or maybe you really do get what you ask for.

Whatever it is, I’m hooked. I found a little book called Nautical shells of the Southern African Coast and I looked up my shell which is appropriately named the giant cowry.

I took one last look at Wikipedia (I told you, I really am lazy) and they went on to describe the sheer volume of shells that were needed to make up a large sum of money. I decided to check out a couple more pages and found one from the British Museum and they explained it like this:

40 shells equal a string. 40 = 1 string
2000 = 1 head = 50 strings
20,000 = 1 bag = 10 heads
(Cowrie counting in Nigeria)

After living here a couple of weeks we’ve now found eighteen cowries in total. I guess I’m not going to get rich anytime soon. Holy cow…rie that’s a lot of shells you’d have to find to get a gold coin or whatever they traded for in those days. Were there more shells back then or maybe just more time to look for them? I don’t know but for me, an hour of searching usually yields one or two at most.

They are delicate and small, none like the giant one that amazed us but I know they’re out there. I’ll keep calling the cowries and see what happens. Then I’ll report back to you.

Now it has become like a game to see who can find the most on any given day. Today I found four to Roger’s pitiful one. I took great delight in calling myself the goddess of cowries. Yes, I’m silly like that, don’t judge me… one day I’ll be the envy of all my friends with my wealth of coweries. Maybe I’ll start a museum or a shell shop or maybe and this is a strong maybe, I’ll just enjoy looking at them and collecting them.

Cheers from South Africa

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Working on the sequel to Behind the Closet Door

I can't wait for spring. Winter is not my favorite time of year but it is a good time to write. I'm almost finished with the sequel to Behind the Closet Door. I'm looking forward to getting that one published. I'm also doing a lot of reading. I have become a fan of Gillian Flynn's books. I also love Hyperbole and a Half and David Sedaris and Jenny Lawson. There are just so many good writers out there. I hope where ever you are, you have a good book to curl up with. If you want to read mine, here's the Amazon link below. Cheers!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Excerpt from Through the Cane Fields

As the rain started to pour, one of the servants left the room to close the front door. I could still hear it tapping on the clay tiles and running down the sides of the house. I ate in silence and pondered the significance of all this. Mother eyed me and I smiled and sat up straight. As soon as I could, I asked permission to leave the table and walked upstairs, listing to the sounds of the rain crashing on the roof. I found solace in my little room and I sat by the window for a long time, watching as the lightning strikes illuminated the sky before disappearing and leaving everything darker than it was before.

Excerpt from Behind the Closet Door

He watched the rain in
the halo of the motel street light. Mist was rising off the pavement; the whole place looked spooky, abandoned. There were only a couple of other cars in the lot. He took a long pull on his cigarette and watched the smoke curl out into the night and then disappear. He tossed the butt out into the rain and watched as it bobbed in a puddle of slick, oily water. He braced himself against the cold and thought about going inside but didn’t feel like talking to Loretta if she was awake. There was something inside of him, an itch he couldn’t scratch. It was more than just a longing for adventure or a new place; he’d tried that before. Plenty of places just like Caitland, some better, some worse. There was something in him that wanted to come out and play, something that had been submerged in the dark for too long. He was waiting for something to come along and unleash it, whatever it was and scratch that itch. In the meantime he supposed that Caitland was just as good a place as any, and Loretta was a decent woman. She was kind; she took care of people. She was a giver and he was taker, a perfect match. He’d hang on a little while longer.

Friday, January 17, 2014

My new book, Behind the Closet Door is now available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. It's winter... Not the best time for me to try and promote anything but hey, it's good to curl up with a book, right? So why not curl up with mine? It's sunny which is kind of important to my state of mind. I can handle most anything when the sun is shining. It's the only thing I have in common with my main character, Henry Peterson which is a good thing. Read the book and you'll see why. Here's an excerpt.
An idea formed in his mind, something about that last piece of the puzzle. He thought he knew how to make the fog lift, the skies brighten again. When he reached his apartment, the rain was coming down harder than ever. He doubted that anyone would hear Michelle, even if she was screaming like a banshee up there. He was already sopping wet, so he took his time pulling out the insulation board and all of the bags. He blipped the car alarm and made his way back to his apartment. As he opened the door, he heard a loud tapping followed by a clawing sound. “Henry, open the door, its dark in here! The light is off, turn the light on. Open the goddamn door!” Henry put down his purchases; he went into the bedroom to change into some dry clothes. “Henry, I can hear you out there, talk to me please.” He noticed a kind of desperation in her voice that hadn’t been there before. He looked at his watch; it had only been a couple of hours. It couldn't be all that bad, he thought. He undressed, piled up his wet clothes on the floor and went into the bathroom. It was dark and smelled vaguely of mold. Michelle had always jokingly called it his dungeon. He turned on the hot water and stepped into the shower. The steam rose up around him and comforted him. He felt raw after the day’s events. He had scratches on his hands and face…and they stung as the wet spray hit him. He stood there for a while, letting the warmth of the water seep into him. After he dried off, he put on a pair of sweatpants and an old sweatshirt. He felt better. It was quiet. Michelle wasn't making any noise at all. He knew he was going to have to say something to her eventually. He wasn't ready yet, though.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Behind the Closet Door

The book is finally out and I'm feeling relieved. It didn't take long for me to jump right back into it though. I'm polishing up the sequel right now. It was freezing last night and everything is dusted with a light coating of snow this morning. We took our minion, Bodie (the mini-schnauzer)on a walk and even he seemed cold. He does this 'snowplow' thing with his nose which is cute. So, I'm posting a picture of the back cover of the new book since I already posted a pic of the front cover the other day. You can get my books at Amazon, Barnes&Noble or from my publisher, Cheers, Shari