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!