Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Xmas Party - Lisbon 2004

Sitting on top of my bed in my white and pink pyjamas with my hair up and surrounded by the clothes that I needed to pack into my suitcase, all that I felt like doing was sighing. That moment that I was enjoying all by myself with my music and my candles was the bittersweet breathe before the plunge, that moment when the rollercoaster stops on the highest peak just before it thrusts down in high-speed.
Here I was packing for the grand Christmas party in Lisbon, the one that I’d been waiting all year for. This year looked promising, all my favourite people would be there and I’d finally found the ideal outfit after intensive searching with my best friend.
I knew without a doubt that it would be a weekend with very little sleep, intense emotions and a hell of a lot of fun. Anxiety kept me up long after my bags had been packed and the final touches had been added to the rest of the house. Closing my eyes I smiled in anticipation.

Regardless of the Christmas party, my colleagues and I had still been required to work the morning before catching our flight in the afternoon in time to arrive for the party in the evening. Everything was rushed in fast forward. All the last minute situations and clients were taken care of and thanks to the mad rush; I managed to twist my ankle whilst running down the stairs. I couldn’t believe it! What bad luck just before the event of the year! How was I going to dance? Biting my lip more in frustration than actual pain, I promised myself that I would dance regardless of this little incident and cursed the high-thin-heeled shoes I’d chosen to wear with my outfit. My feet were in for a beating… however, no pain – no gain and I wasn’t going to let my misfortune keep me from doing what I love to do best… moving on the dance floor!

Walking into the massive salon, I felt like Barbie in a sea of plastic. I’d walked into the salon with the head administrator of the company and being surrounded by strange faces drowned my self-assurance. Closing my eyes, I reminded myself of the fun I was going to have and just as I got a boost of confidence, it hit me full force with the vision of one of my closest friends in Lisbon. As always, she looked absolutely stunning and wore an amazing smile that has become her trademark. I immediately plunged into a heartfelt hug leaving my other local colleagues slightly intimidated. Grabbing my hand, I was taken across the room and introduced to a spectrum of new faces, praying that my memory wouldn’t fail me on remembering names and faces; I grabbed a Martini with the other hand hoping it would help shake the weak feeling in my knees.
Taking a quiet moment to myself, I looked around the massive salon, to the ocean of faces, the expensive suits and well dressed ladies and allowed myself to feel the spirit in the room… team spirit. Whether or not the people around me realized it, we all depended on one another. Each of us represents a significant piece no matter how small, to a complex engine, without it TMN would never run as car. For those moments, I relished in the pride of belonging.

Dinner was divine, the jokes told between us were hilarious and the atmosphere was the kind that made you feel like you wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Wine and Food were plentiful, each person had their fill and we were treated to a show by the Fingertips who sang one of my favourite songs of the moment: “Melancholic Ballad”. Everything about the evening was perfect… except maybe for the speech. I came the conclusion that my head administrator seriously needed a couple of lessons on how to write a brilliant speech. That or his secretary was one of those blonde ornament kind who doesn’t know how to put two sentences together but probably gets paid pretty well to work the Monica Lewinsky profile. Once the speech and show was over… the fun began!

Shy or perhaps intimidated by my most prudent and stuck of colleagues, my two contemporaries decided not to join me on the dance floor, however this did not sway me from letting the music invade my senses and allowing my body to respond to the beat. Being joined by some of TMN´s top party animals, I found myself letting loose… cutting off… feeling free. If there’s one sport that I love most in life, it’s dancing! It’s one of the best ways of letting go. Ignoring the pain in my feet, I allowed myself to be swung around the room; I danced with a million faces, faces that no longer felt strange or intimidating. Ranks fell away as so did numbers and statistics, the only thing that mattered on the dance floor is how well you shook your bon bon!

I danced with marketing, technical assistance, IT, Communications, Big Business, people from Porto, People from Açores, heads of departments, managers, administrators… my boss! I danced with them all.
I danced with anyone and everyone who called me to dance with them and then went out and got the non-dancers to join in the fun as well.
From the corner of my eye, I saw the office queen pouting. The others wanted to leave; she had barely danced and had barely crossed eyes with the people surrounding her. I felt sorry for her, being Miss Perfect has it’s disadvantages, the biggest being not being able to make friends when other people didn’t come up to her. Deciding that it was Christmas and to do my good deed for the year, I went and grabbed her hand leading her to the group of people dancing and having fun. She politely refused to dance as partner to every guy that tried, yet I’d like to think she still managed to enjoy herself quite a bit before retreating to the hotel with the others. I was pretty sure that my thanks would come in criticism, most probably for dancing with every Tom, Dick and Harry but I frankly couldn’t give two shits for her opinion.
What people don’t often notice, are the buzzing of self-doubt and insecure thoughts being thrown around in my mind. I hate feeling like I’m being inspected, dissected and evaluated which is how I feel when involved in a huge crowd of people. However I’m grateful to God (and Oprah!) for the inner -strength that I have, able to drown those thoughts in the music and allowing me to have a lot of fun with the other people around me. I guess I’m also always lucky to have amazing people around me.

End of the night, sitting down on the nearest stool, I decided that a crane was going to be needed to lift me up! I didn’t even dare taking off my shoes, knowing very well that once off, I’d never be able to put them back on. I had succeeded in dancing all my favourite songs, dancing with all my favourite colleagues, including a perfect meringue with TMN´s best Latin dancer. He managed every move perfectly even though he’d had one too many drinks. The only think I love about alcohol excess is some of the honesty you get with it. In-between the amazing meringue I was let know on how much my friendship meant to my colleague and was humbled at the words we always assume other people know so we never say out loud. I wanted to end the perfect evening with the perfect smile, however I was sentenced to one… (or a few) last dances with a cowboy. So ignoring the feet that were threatening to fall off, I once again took the floor and gave the best that my weary body could give. I get such a high from the dance floor. It’s one of the few times in life when you can let go completely and let the music and/or someone else take over. If I worked in the recruitment office, you could bet that I’d make sure every person in our company was a dancer! I thanked my two favourite colleagues for an amazing evening and made my way towards the car.
Next year I’d be sure to take a pair of sneakers with me!
Although exhausted, my colleague still treated me to a tour around the city before leaving me at my hotel. I was charmed by all that Lisbon had to offer, won over by its cultural essence. Looking to my left, I remembered to thank my lucky stars for meeting amazing people. I know that memories such as these are priceless and something no one will ever be able to take from me.

You know the party is truly over when you remove your make up, wash your face and get back into your pink and white pyjamas. Treating your feet to a mini-message you thank God for another year, another Christmas party and smile with that awesome feeling, that this year’s party had been the best so far!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Blast From The Past

Whilst trying to clean out my e-mail, I found a forward from SA-Reunited. A Site dedicated to reuniting old school friends: the South African version of And out of sheer curiosity, I decided to take a peek and update my profile.

Searching for new names, I was surprised to find that there was a teacher registered with the site. Normally teachers don’t like to add themselves to these sites (which is understandable considering that there are some hooligans, you’d rather not hear from again… ever again!) Curiosity instantly took over me and I scrolled to see who the brave teacher was! With my luck… it was probably someone before my time, someone I’d probably never even heard of.
Imagine my surprise on recognising the name as the famous art teacher! Oh yeah! There’s definitely no forgetting our art teacher. An outspoken lady with plenty of imagination! I recall us commenting on her daring outfits and our shock at her creativity. No matter whether you took classes with her or not, you were well aware of her presence and contribution to the school. Every student that went into her class… walked out an artist one way or another. She knew how to make people bring out the best in their work: this was her big talent.
Back when choosing my subjects, art was something placed on the backburner. Besides the fact that I couldn’t draw to save my life and that my stick mannetjies looked more like scribbles than actual people, I had decided to invest in Business Economics and Typing as my two supplementary subjects. I don’t regret taking typing, for thanks to those annoying sticks and the constant “keep those fingers on the home row!” reminder… I can know out-type anybody in my office and in a world where time is money; fast typing skills can become your biggest asset.
Business Economics however was one of the most tedious subjects I ever took, along with mathematics… I learnt formulas I’ll never again use and learnt theories that are far from the actual methods practised in businesses today.

I dropped both these subjects in Grade 10.

The reason I hadn’t considered art back then was because I thought that it couldn’t contribute to my future. I thought business economics and typing were subjects I could invest in a future career and that art did nothing for that growth. I wish I knew then what I knew now… I’d definitely made a few different choices.
Art and Music are subjects that can contribute to your future as much as other subjects. If they don’t contribute to your professional skills, they will contribute to your personal ones, either way; they leave some kind of seed for development, if you let them of course.

Even though I hadn’t taken art with that specific teacher, I decided to send her an e-mail in any case. Back then I was someone barely noticed, however I wanted to let her know about the difference she made in my life. Perhaps directly, she contributed very little but she belongs to a family in my past that helped develop the person I am today. I needed to thank her, give her the appreciation that I’m sure her salary, as a teacher never gave. Perhaps even remind her, of the true contribution of her profession.

Clicking the send button on the e-mail, I allowed myself to travel back memory lane. You never know, just how deep your footsteps are left when you walk into someone’s life. I wish I had the opportunity to give my column to my English teachers to read. I’m sure they’d probably have a great time correcting my grammar and sentence construction. On the other hand I hope they’d be pleased that I was inspired enough by the language they taught me, to keep writing. They taught me how to express myself and although English is no longer my first language, it will always be my preference. Did I remember to thank them on my last day of school?

Why conclude the obvious? We all want to be a pleasant memory in someone’s heart. This makes us special; it is this that makes us immortal. Some people spend their whole lives trying to find their mission in life. I’ve always known what mine is and it is my mission is life that I leave you with:
Life your life so that everyone that remembers you, does so with a smile.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Forgive and Forget?

Sunny Piccie

Never say never… especially when it comes to forgiveness. To hold something against someone is to carry excess weight on your back. However… it isn’t always easy to forgive… or maybe it’s the forgetting that requires the most effort. I was once told that not forgetting is a clear sign that not all is forgiven… I beg to differ.

After repeating the mistake of forgiving and forgetting repeatedly with the same person, I decided that there should be placed limits. How else was I going to avoid the repeated heartbreaks and disappointment? It was then that I decided to live my life like a baseball game: after two strikes you’re out on the third botch up. However, life proves that you cannot dish out the same set of rules to every person. Some people should’ve been given up on after their first major error, whilst others that made constant little mistakes proved to be very weak specimens of friends.

This made me realise that I had to start weighing the misdemeanours and chief errors when contemplating whether or not I should forgive. It was my father that gave me the perfect scale: I was told that it isn’t one’s words or actions that carry all the weight, but the intention in which they were carried out. Forgiving then became much easier once I discovered the true intentions behind the wrongdoing. In fact, I found that in most cases, almost all could be forgiven. Most of what hurts us, wasn’t intended to do so in the first place.

Does this mean I can forget all that was done?

Absolutely not! I’m all in favour of letting go of past mistakes; they only weigh on your shoulders. But to forget is the same as allowing an open road to be run over by the same word or action. This isn’t to say that people don’t learn from their mistakes (I should hope they do!), but it is to eliminate the chance of them disappointing you again. The beauty of time and true friendship is that it stands the test of time, and trust can be built just as it’s broken down. A true friend will fight for you and your trust and make it easier to move on. One of my true friends slept with my boyfriend. However, she ignored the comments and fought all barriers until she once again regained my trust. I have never regretted giving her a second chance… but I might not leave any of my future boyfriends alone with her again. The first mistake is your fault, the second mistake is mine.

I don’t believe in forgetting… your memory is a big part of who you are. But I do believe that once a person is forgiven you need to put the mistake and hurt behind you, to give time and life a chance to recover and grow whatever connection you hold with that person.

Pride is guilty for shadowing forgiveness. When two people are hardheaded and will not compromise, friendship simply cannot survive. You cannot force an “I forgive you” from the heart. Lips may move but they cannot fool what the soul is feeling. However, when the friendship is true, pride is a small price to pay for a priceless friendship. Those too stubborn to see that, miss out on the best things in life.

In my hysterical cloud of glee, I was caught off guard by the question she swung my way and before I knew what I was doing, I found myself answering her questions about the Christmas outfit I chose to wear this year. The minute I realised that my enthusiasm had carried me away, I tried directing my conversation to the other people around me and cut her opportunity short.
It’s been about six months since we’ve spoken about anything that isn’t work related. Our friendship ended with silence and all that’s left is professionalism. What happened? Well, when they say that love is blind they forget to add that friendship is too. I forgave many little mistakes that if they’d been analysed well enough, wouldn’t have passed through due to the intention behind them. I discovered that although this person is an amazing woman, she doesn’t know how to be a friend. Selfishness is her survival technique… perhaps due to not forgiving in her past. However, friendship comes with some sacrifices and compromise. Friendship is only true when you hold your friend’s interests on the same level as your own; the failure to do so is to risk losing a friend. You give a little, you take a little… you don’t take measurements or weigh what’s coming or going, but inside you know that your attentions are appreciated and that the person you care about, cares about you.
She thinks that it was the last straw that put the end to our friendship… what she doesn’t realise is that the last straw is the only the cherry on top of a cake; the last drop on a full glass of water and the reason for not forgiving the last of an accumulation of hurts. I could’ve told her, I could’ve explained my reasons for taking back my loyalty. But she didn’t care for my reasons, so I didn’t care to give her answers. Instead, she speculates about my motives for no longer depositing my trust in her. She wonders why I no longer laugh at her jokes or converse to her about any daily events. With the same consideration that she’d hurt me, I took everything that friendship stands for and left our relationship to pure professionalism.
For those brief minutes where my enthusiasm had run away with me, I’d relived a moment of what our friendship used to be like. Did I miss it? In a way… but the memory of the price of her friendship didn’t give me time enough to even consider carrying on the conversation. This is the importance of memory… it keeps you from repeating mistakes and reminds you of the consequences of your actions.

Will we ever patch things up? I’d like to think that there is nothing to patch up. After all, she doesn’t seem to need for any explanations I could give and quite frankly, a friend that doesn’t care enough about me to consider my feelings, isn’t able to swallow some pride and fight for a friendship isn’t a friend worth having in any case. I suppose if I thought about her, it would bother me but except on the days that she purposely cheeses me off… I confess that I don’t think about her much. This is my definition of forgive and forget… I forgave, I forgot to the point where I don’t think about it, but I set the limits so it doesn’t happen again.

Would I consider patching up our friendship? Perhaps… Why Not? If she cared enough to try and patch things up, what kind of a person would I be if I turned my back? Everyone deserves a second chance… However, it would only be under the condition that her intentions were true and for that to happen, she’d have to start caring about someone as much as she cares about herself.

We cannot select the fate that life hold for us… but we can select our friends.
Are you a friend worth keeping?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Shopping Blues and Bells

Being one of the rare women who hate to shop... looking for the perfect outfit for the Christmas party that I’d been waiting for all year… is nothing short of torture! Not to mention that I’d only managed one present out of a whole list of loved ones to by for.
Needing some professional help, I recruited the help of the two best shoppers I know… my mother and my best friend. Organising to meet after work, I needed five minutes in the bathroom in front of the mirror with the shopping survival mantra:
I will not criticise or ill-treat my body.
I will try the garment on before rejecting it.
I will not leave the mall until finding the right item of clothing.

Two hours, four stores and swollen feet later… I still hadn’t found anything that looked remotely presentable for the evening gala I’d be attending. The only garment I had found that had any kind of possibility was so tight that it squeezed every ounce of what the good Lord had given me. Should I be required to bend by any chance, no doubt would everyone guess my cup size thanks to the grand opening in front, and the two straps kept threatening to slip off thanks to the low cut back. My best friend thought it was sexy, my mother thought it was scandalous and I thought that it just wasn’t me…

As always… it was in the last store, just as I’d given up and resorted to recycling something from previous years that suddenly… there it was! Not one… not two… but three gorgeous tops that would look fabulous with any skirt or pair of trousers that I owned. By that stage my two shop-o-holics had given up on me. My mother was on the phone to Norway and my best friend was on a foot-massage machine mission somewhere on the other side of the mall. I began to whimper as I realised that I might just have to choose the three tops on my own and be held fully accountable for the decision! Grabbing my cellphone I sent out an S.O.S and had my two partners in shopping next to me in a matter of minutes. I don’t recommend shopping with two assistants. One will like the red top better, the other will like the Chinese top better and meanwhile you find that you like the one with the long sleeves most. The result? Well… let’s just say that I won’t be needing any party clothes for the next couple of parties.

Have you ever heard the sound of plastic squealing? Well mine screamed as it was passed through the machine. I tried not to look at it as it accused me of tightening it’s budget on three tops when I only needed one. I refused to no longer listen to it when I made it go through another two times for a new skirt and a black bra and decided that I’d only take a glance at my bank balance, AFTER the party, to avoid pro-shop-depression.

Half the mission was completed… I had the clothes… now I just had to figure out exactly what it was that I’m going to wear. Still in uniform at almost midnight, I distractingly boarded the wrong bus whilst trying to picture the up and coming events. It was when the bus took the wrong turn that I suddenly realised that it was going to be a long walk home! Trying not to cry, I wondered if it was too late to send a letter to Santa asking him for a car and a driver’s licence… and a great sound system now that he was at it. Hopes suddenly spiralled as I saw another bus coming from the distance but almost immediately my spirits sank as I realised it was off duty. Luckily angels are never off duty and the considerate bus driver became my knight in shining armour getting me back into town just in time to catch the last bus home. Approaching home sweet home… I decided not to go shopping any time in the next millennium! (Oh… except maybe the for the Christmas presents that I still hadn’t bought!)

Surrounded by clothes and still unsure what to wear… I began wondering why humans had invented fashion in the first place. Things would’ve been a whole lot easier (and honest) if everyone just walked around in their birthday suit. At least you wouldn’t be tortured by sizes and textures… everything would fit and look good… well… almost… did I forget to mention that the worst part about shopping is when you mates leave you alone in the dressing room with the full body mirror and you’re left to the awful torment of self-body-analyses! On second thought… maybe we should all walk about in potatoes sacks… one size fits all, no measurement fixes required.

Inspecting my outfit from every angle in the bathroom mirror, I came to the conclusion that what I had on, definitely portrayed a good picture of me. It wasn’t too tight or revealing, yet it fit well enough to hold both elegance and promise. I suppose clothes do tell a lot about a person and I can’t have my jeans and t-shirt do all the talking for me. There’s a lot more to me than my daily uniform and pink teddy pyjamas. I guess that revelations lies in the eye of the beholder and how deep they’re willing to look.

The fact that I could eliminate the need to impress made my decision much easier and this year I’m dressing up with the intention of dancing and having fun. They say clothes make the woman?

Hell No… I believe it’s the woman that gives her clothes worth.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Love for Sale…

My stomach churned as I watched the documentary on the Odyssey channel on a Sunday Afternoon. I watched as various women documented how Russia had become the place to fetch a wife. In a male chauvinistic country where women are degraded and sentenced to a future of either domestic or middleclass jobs, many are easy targets for rich American men promising them more. Besides being hard and chauvinistic, most Russian will never have the means to provide what we consider a decent home environment. Furthermore, their ancestral backgrounds confine them to their hard personalities which know very little of the sensitive attentions that a woman needs.

Not being allowed to study much further, either by their families or their educational facilities, a woman can only settle for a middleclass job reserved for women only. Executive women are rare and much criticised in a country like Russia. So when an American man comes along and promises a woman like this, a family, a home, freedom of choice and expression… how can such a proposal be refused?

Did you know that in Russia there are agencies that advertise women for marriage like the sale of an animal? Over the Internet you will find the pictures and profiles of beautiful Russian women at your disposal to choose from. These are not professional women; they are simple women like the ones you find walking on your streets or living next door, and they’re simply looking for a way out, freedom, and independence.

What would you do for your freedom of speech and opinion?

For my independence I packed my life and walked away from the country that I loved and was raised in, I left my parents and the roof over my head and eventually I earned a place that I call my own. I cried, I worked; I sweated and earned my independence. But would I marry for it? My mother did… she’s no longer married to my father. Their marriage and divorce affected four souls and surrounding family members.

Tears fell down my face as I listened to women document how they meet and marry these American men. Practically forced to fall “in love” with these men, these women see them as a future that Russia could never promise them. Most of these men, old and rich could not find a partner is their mother country so they go where they know the women are desperate for what they can provide… a stable and independent life. In return, these men are compensated with a beautiful bride, a woman that is feminine in the way she dresses and in the way she thinks. They know that these women will never ask too much of them and will appreciate everything they are given in return. Basically their prize is a beautiful Barbie Doll that does everything Betty Crocket does in the kitchen, Julie Andrews does with kids and Madonna does in the bedroom. They become instant owners to these women… but will they ever own their hearts?

At what price does one buy a woman’s heart?

On the documentary, one of the men asked his Russian girlfriend to marry him. She spoke alone to the cameras saying “I’m not sure that I love him, but how can I not when he provides me with all these things. He gives me an apartment and takes care of my clothes, he must surely care for me… yes, I must love him, I must marry him”
My heart broke along with the tears that ran down my face. A woman that loves would never ask herself that question. When you truly love, it is usually the only thing you can be sure about. Doubt everything about him except for the way you feel. To ask yourself if you’re in love is to admit that you’ve never known the feeling. My reason for crying was at the realisation that most Russian women, will never know the true significance of what makes the world go round. These women are left with very little choice, when their own men cannot give them the loving affection they deserve; it is little wonder that they see these Americans as the answer to their prayers. These desperate losers (for you cannot call anything else to a man who buys a woman) become their knights in shining armour.

Some of these marriages work out… after living with someone for a good amount of time, you might find that they are truly the soul that yours has been searching for all along. But what if they aren’t? What if you wake up each morning next to someone you know that your heart will never belong to? How can either party be satisfied with such an arrangement?

I believe that the worst torture a human being can put herself \himself through is to succumb to the illusion of love. To believe that one is happy living my society’s vision of happiness. Imagine waking each morning to the face of someone that you know will never fill your heart nor take your breath away. To do so, is the same as condemning yourself and your partner to a life half-lived. It is a tragedy when two people settle for sex and a friendship to try and fill that empty void. Don’t they know that it only makes the emptiness wider? Don’t they know that they only become lonelier and that they days that go past become time wasted?

I for one will rather live all my days alone and with a whole heart being broken than to condemn myself to a life of emptiness. If I really care about my partner, would I also keep them from going out and finding their true love? I may be alone, I may be without a partner, but at least I’m being honest with myself and sincere to the men who care about me.

I was told that I was being silly. That most of these women were given the opportunity to live like queens and would without a doubt be much happier. I somehow cannot grasp this concept. Of course they will much rather choose their American life to their Russian one but whether or not they will be happy will depend if they ever known love…
A woman cannot nor will not forget the power that love has over her heart. She cannot forget the magic in the touch of a loved one… the intensity found his words… the way his voice vibrates her soul and his warmth envelopes her body. No woman can ever forget the power of love. No woman who has felt it can ever settle for anything but love and she who does, can never feel whole. The heart of a woman is priceless, it cannot be bought. Prizing my independence as much as I do, I can still risk saying that I would give it up for love rather than possess it with an empty heart.

Any man can possess a woman’s body but only true love will possess her heart.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Sunshine’s Diary.

Which famous person do other people mistake you for? I have a friend that is the splitting image of Anastacia and another that behaves like Jim Carrey. Once I even met a woman that sounded just like Fran Drescher. Even though we are all individuals, there are similarities either physical or behavioural that will resemble us to someone famous... Someone that people recognise in us.

I always wanted to be compared to Sandra Bullock. Perhaps because she’s simple yet beautiful in every way. She uses simple language, but one that can be both accepted and understood by the ignorant and wise alike. She can look just as good in her tracksuit as she does in her ballroom gown. But perhaps what I like most about her is the way the sun shines from her face when she smiles.
However… I look nothing like Sandra Bullock and perhaps the only thing we have in common is our hair colour… although I’m pretty sure that she probably has less trouble with hers that I do with mine!

I once was told that I looked like Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore?!! The picture of the Charlie’s Angel looks nothing like the picture I see in the mirror each morning… except perhaps for our skin tones. Our skins both look like they’ve never been seen by the sun and the closest we’ll ever come to a tan is the shade of Lobster.
It was the fact that it was a small child that made the observation that encouraged me to actually look for the resemblance. On finding none, I decided to ask what it was that the kid saw that I didn’t. I was simply told that for no apparent reason, I reminded him of the girl on the movie “Wedding Singer.” Ironically… I thought that same little kid reminded me of Adam Sandler and decided that the comparison ended there.

About a week ago, I was told that my writing sounded like something out of Bridget Jones Diary… and immediately I was intrigued. I watched the first Bridget Jones movie with one thought on my mind: “Oh God, there’s the story of my life”. Through the botch-ups and bad choices, her every word sounded like the very stupid thing I would say. I had decided then and there, not to watch it again so not to become depressed at the idea that it would take me ten years to find a decent boyfriend.
I immediately knew on watching the trailer to the sequel of Bridget Jones Diary that watching it would be bittersweet frustration. However, I can’t resist a good comedy and I just had to find out what it was that made me resemble her.

Here’s the part where those who haven’t watched the movie close the window and return to it only after watching the movie… for those who’ve already watched it, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the movie was bloody brilliant! You sat glued to your chairs watching Bridget single-handedly turn a perfectly good life upside down and although you’d love to slap some sense into her, you can’t help but cross your fingers so that everything works out in the end.

So now onto the similarities…
* Excess body weight with plenty extra wobbly bits… Check.
* Always has something stupid to say right at the tip of tongue and lets it out before thinking…. Check.
* Always goes for the wrong type of guys… double check!
* Hates going shopping, never finds anything that fits… check
* Has the worse timing possible… check
* Owns a diary… There’s where I beat her arse by having my own column as well!

I wouldn’t say that we think alike but calling a bunch of rich, stuck-up lawyers snotty brings back a memory of when I did the same at an evening gala not too long ago. And for someone who has a diary and who’s job is to be articulate, she sure muddles words at the most crucial moments. Fantasizing is a small flaw to someone with a healthy imagination and the fact that she can think of marriage in the middle of a skydiving jump reminds me of the most inappropriate thoughts that I had the last time I was caught in the dentist’s chair. Perhaps the thing that she did that most made me relate to her was when she got an entire cell full of incarcerated women to sing Madonna’s “like a virgin” adding to it coordinated dance moves. I couldn’t help smiling when I recalled that just that morning, I’d made a complete ass of myself whilst singing to the bathroom mirror at work. My colleague that was standing outside, has made sure that I don’t forget the incident anytime soon. My only comfort is that I was told that at least I could rely on my singing talents should my boss be the one to have caught me and fired me.

The bad luck, the bad timing and exclusive originally stupid things Bridget Jones says and does can definitely resemble Sunshine the person, and the blonde hair is the only physical trait we don’t have in common. Once again I walked out of the cinema saying “Oh God… that’s me in ten years”. The similarities are uncanny and I began thinking that the author of Bridget Jones must’ve traded notes with my maker.


Even though I might look, sound and resemble the character to one of the best movies I’ve ever seen… I am nobody but myself. I prefer to think that someone dreamed me up, wrote about me in a book and called the character Bridget. For I could never be somebody else, nor would I want to be compared to anyone. Why would I want to be anyone else if I can be me?
I’d love to meet Bridget, I’d love to sit down to coffee and constantly repeat “Yeah, I know exactly what you mean!”. We could share the goofy chapters of our lives and she could tell me what a kiss from a lesbian will feel like (Like a good friend says… never say never). It will be good to talk to someone who knows exactly where I’m coming from. I feel that women around the world probably have an easier time to relate to her than they do to Nicole Kidman or Charlize Theron. She is perhaps, the most real character I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

All in all, I don’t think I’d mind living a Bridget Jones life, perhaps I already do live one similar to hers… the only difference, are the endings.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


Switching my body and mind on automatic pilot, my soul decided it needed a break. So while the world kept spinning, I watched my week go by from the sidelines. Avoiding anybody and any kind of talk that would remove me from my comfort zone, I gave myself the time-out needed to recover from the rat race. You’ll be surprised at the things you pick up, when you begin to watch your life as the audience of a movie. Things become more objective and emotions are forced into neutral, making you feel that in some small way, time for you has stopped. And those twenty-four hours that don’t seem to amount to much during any other time in your life suddenly seem sufficient for all the things you need to do.

I’m finally being educated on Portuguese music! A good friend of mine took pity on my ignorance and decided to make me a copy of some of his favourite Portuguese albums. Although I was given three CD´s… I haven’t gotten past the first one. An album called “Moments” by a character that sings, eats and sleeps in his sunglasses; has put the sound to my mood. Music that is neither sad, nor happy yet empowering is all I’ve been listening to since I got it. The artist seems to know how to add words to feelings that are hard to express. He sings of moments and time and eternity… a space of existence that every human being can relate to.

Have you ever forgotten a memory so special that when you’re reminded of it, you scold yourself for ever having forgotten it?
This usually happens when we pass a difficult stage or period of suffering, that we try and erase that time from our memories. In doing so, we often block out some of the good memories as well.

The dreams I love the most are those that you can watch from the sidelines like a movie. You’re not required to think or participate, your only function is to watch. Two nights ago, I relived one of the most significant moments of my life through a dream. I dreamt that I sat on the side of a swimming pool with my legs dipped in the water. Looking around me I recognised the pool and the house as belonging to friends from South Africa. There were kids around and the chubby little girl with long thick hair that was playing with them was none other than me at fourteen years old. It was clear by my tomboyish behaviour that at that stage, I still hadn’t noticed the “attraction” of the opposite sex. Making bombs and telling snotty jokes with the boys still came naturally to me at that stage and the scenery I observed was a hot day in summer where I’d spent the whole of my Saturday from morning to evening in the pool with the boys. Being the only girl between them didn’t bother me although I was the one most picked on and not cut any slack for being of the “weaker sex”. I was dunked and thrown in the pool like any of them and I enjoyed every moment of it. One of those boys was my cousin and another was my “worst enemy”. Being the son of my mother’s best friend, he was to be my childhood torment… and my best friend; I called him Scorpio due to his nature and astrological sign. As punishment or whenever I didn’t do what he wanted (which was most of the time… I was stubborn girl!), I would get punished. In the pool, I was dunked.
Definition of a dunk: he would grab me in the pool and pull me down into the water.
There was no use fighting against his brute strength (although that didn’t prevent me from trying) and in one day I’d be dunked approximately 50-80 times.
I watched myself play with the boys until finally the evening set in. At around eight o’clock and after being inside the pool the whole day, hunger finally set in and everyone got out the pool in the direction of the kitchen. Everyone excepting for me and Scorpio. At first he decided that I couldn’t leave the pool without being dunked another 15 times… and although I put up a darn good fight, he still got his way with me. I watched myself walk out the pool and reach for a towel but then suddenly stopping and turning around. Scorpio hadn’t followed me like he was supposed to; instead he smiled and asked me if I wanted to be dunked again. This time, he wasn’t threatening, he was simply asking me as if it were something I wanted to do. Maybe it was the full moon or the bright stars, for I watched myself drop my towel, look back at him and instead of putting up a fight I moved towards him agreeing to his proposal.
At this point, I stopped watching from the sidelines and decided to get into the pool move closer to the two people, oblivious to my presence. The younger version of me looked insecure, probably expecting to be violently shoved under the water at any moment. Instead, she put her arms around his neck without any resistance and he pulled them both up and down the water until they were dizzy! Finally coming up, I watched myself looking him straight in the eyes and feeling confused. Back then I thought that the funny feeling in the pit of my stomach was hunger, how could I possibly have forgotten the very first time I felt butterflies for the opposite sex?

I woke up with a smile of satisfaction of remembering a special moment that I thought I’d lost. That joy was replaced with melancholy after sitting up in my bed and remembering the road that had followed that memory and the destination I found myself now. Isn’t it funny at how things turn out? I recall a stage when we stopped talking to each other, and then the phase of reconciliation and then the separation. I remember that my mother took it upon herself to inform all her friends on the day I bought my ticket to leave South Africa and yet Scorpio’s mother and father had taken six weeks to try and find the courage to tell their son this news. The night before I left, they’d still hadn’t found the courage to tell him so when I entered his room to say goodbye, It took him a while before he realised that there was something different in this goodbye. When I finally found the words to tell him that I would be leaving for good, I had to fight back tears. His girlfriend left the room after an enormous pause of silence. And for the last time, he held me for the longest time and wished me good luck.
I remember the look in his eyes, the words that he said… even the cologne he wore.
I remember a phone call six months later where he asked me with a serious tone if I was happy.
I remember the first day I met him, the day he taught me to skate, the first English word he taught me and even the first time our mothers went shopping…
I remember songs, words, and conversations… moments, priceless, timeless moments that make up the person that I am today.

Not so long ago, I thought that I’d never be able to think in Portuguese… that I could talk but not think in Portuguese. I thought I’d never understand the language or appreciate its music. Nowadays, I find that it doesn’t matter either way. Whether the word comes in English, Portuguese or Afrikaans, I find that it’s the significance behind it that carries all the weight and the fact that we’re all human, makes emotions a universal language.

Two hours ago, if I’d been asked what I’d been up to. My answer would’ve been “Nothing much”. After reflecting, listening to some great music, spending some time with myself and counting down the days until Christmas… I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been busy: living my moments.

Live your present so that in future, your past becomes your most valuable treasure.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Judging A Book By It’s Cover

Have you ever found a book that contained exactly, or more than what its cover promises you? Have you ever looked at a piece of fruit and find that once you’ve bitten into it, it has as much flavour and texture as what it looked to have? There are people that are nothing more, and nothing less than what they appear to be.Disappointment is mostly not the result of deception from the source… disappointment tends to be a direct result of self-deception.

“With that angel face of yours, I’ll bet you’ve fooled and misled many people”

How I wish that were true cowboy! It would be a sure guarantee that I’d never spend another night lonely; I’d be able to turn the manipulation game around and I’d start getting out of people what I wanted.

What you see is what you get.

Sincerity doesn’t depend on the words you use. Just as you use different paintbrushes on a painting, so also do you use different words adjusted to the people you’re dealing with. What keeps them sincere is the honesty that you deposit in them and making sure your message comes across clearly. Whatever my choice of words, they do not influence or alter my meaning and this makes me the same person through and through… This means that the girl you see in leather is the same you see in pink pyjamas with teddy bears on them and the only difference between the two, is in the eye of the beholder. As I’m sure you will agree… Snoopy underwear does not define or alter the abilities of its contents. If a face is scarred, mutilated or even hidden under a veil, the eyes will still reveal the true nature of the soul.

How to blow four guys off in three days:

1. When he invites you to lunch, tell him that you have a colleague from out of town (in this case from the mainland) and that you simply cannot abandon him.
2. When he refuses to get off the phone and suggests a meeting where he’d only talk about himself and see you through pink glasses, tell him you have a colleague on the other line who is from our of town and probably needs your help because he’s lost and needs directions.
3. To get out of a movie date, simply tell him that your colleague from out of town made a surprise entrance into your weekend and you simply cannot let him alone during this time.
4. To keep guys from coming to close to you and from trying their luck when you simply don’t feel like drawing them a picture… grab your colleague and show off on the dance floor. (Not that you’d need a reason to do just that but it helps keep the cowards away)
5. Lastly… when you simply do not want to place any more blame on your plant… conveniently use your stomachache to split from the party earlier.

Angels don’t dance, nor do they admit to human failure. This is why at the age of sixteen; they changed my nickname to Sunshine. I don’t pretend to be what I’m not. And for those lucky enough to pay attention… they get to see everything that I am: An open book with a cover that changes depending on the perspective of the reader, but constant in it’s contents… even when translated in a different language.

For someone, who believes and defends love… you’d say I’m pretty picky, fussy and even stupid to afford the luxury of letting guys go. Not many girls have the luxury of having a great guy wanting to be with them… I have two. So why not just go with the flow? Thus the dilemma for the past two weeks!

Nothing happens by chance, everything happens for a reason. My good cowboy friend gave me a great piece of advice to carry with me always:

To be with someone you’re not in love with leaves you with two very difficult options:
1. Be sincere and hurt them or …
2. Allow yourself to be forced into doing and saying things you don’t want to or feel.

It takes weeks of suffering to get to a conclusion that someone can give you in two minutes. Confusion dissipated almost immediately. I realised that I’ve never been a woman to settle for second best… I will not be forced into trying. Love doesn’t grow… it simply is or isn’t. I’ve never fooled anybody into believing they could win my heart. I’ve never misled someone into believing that I’m an easy woman. I don’t pretend and I don’t delude. Every person that crosses my path is given at least two clear warnings… and ample opportunity to know what I’m about. To discover me, is in their desire to do so. Therefore my dear friend… I hope I’ve changed your mind about my “angel face”… and I’ll leave the subject for a future reference when we’re both a little older and drunker.

Make sure that you are born and die an original.

Friday, November 12, 2004

You Know Who You Are…

Never underestimate the intuition of a woman. You’d be surprised what a woman knows just from relying on her instinct. Just when you think she’s oblivious to you or your intentions, she’s in fact quite in touch with the full reality.

I knew it was you when you missed called me at that hour. I didn’t think twice about the identity of the anonymous call just as I switched off my computer. It’s been months since I’ve had Internet or even heard from you, and I bet you must’ve been pretty surprised to see me log in to MSN.

This entry… is exclusively to let you know that I know it was you. I considered miss calling you back the same way; surely you’d know it was I responding.
But I didn’t think your ego deserved the effort.
I’m disappointed in you and considering you couldn’t bother about my reasons, I won’t bother to recognise your existence.

Not wanting to “use” my column to say the things I only say in person, the only thing I’d like to let you know is that I know it was you… and that the coward ness of an anonymous call won’t fix things. I’m willing to listen and willing to reply, but only the day you can master the courage to ask.

As for the rest of you reading this…

There are some things in life that can never be resolved with a phone call, letter, email or vague “hints”. If you want to connect to someone, obtains answers or even just to let them know you’re alive… there’s nothing like a “hello” and a simple conversation. You’d be surprised at the miracles of conversation. And for those of you seeking answers or opinions from me… quit guessing… ASK!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Evaluation Results.

They say that you grow an inch when you face up to your boss for the very first time. As much as this may contribute to my maturity and growth, it somehow did nothing for my spirits that simply sank from having to defend vacation rights that not only were rightfully mine but also more than well deserved. Being the sentimental fool that I am, I always seem to expect people to be human beings along with being in higher positions. The fact that I already sacrificed my vacation rights three times for the good of the company simply does not compute to a manager that only understands numbers and doesn’t enter the words “consideration” or “recognition” in his system. I was dismissed with a another questionnaire that is meant to evaluate my work satisfaction. My vacation depends on my ability to lie… which is why although I’ve won the battle, I’ll probably end up loosing the war!

A week ago my manager asked me to fill out a different evaluation sheet on him. I couldn’t hide the smile that went from ear to ear when he informed of my task. Although he deserved a good wake up call, I was sincere and lenient and although he will never know who gave him which results I wondered what he would do with the knowledge that most of the people under him are unsatisfied with his performance. I didn’t give him the lowest scores… nor the highest and felt at ease with my conscience for being the as honest as possible. Feeling sorry for him when looking at some of the other really low scores, I decided that these kinds of evaluations couldn’t be held as extremely accurate. Not everyone agrees on the same points and I’ve always been of the opinion that although what is being done might not be the best option, sometimes it’s the best that the person can do and he\she should be commended and recognised for that. Having the opportunity to fill out such an evaluation did have a good effect on my attitude though. Besides getting to put my opinions on paper, on having to evaluate certain issues, I also had to admit to the really good qualities in my manager… qualities that I don’t always appreciate.

I did however feel like re-evaluating him when after working seven and half hours of my weekend, I only got halfway through the work I needed to get through! Extra hours that would never be paid for nor appreciated, I began considering reviewing my curriculum vitae one more time… Instead I stared at an empty office and thought about road that I had travelled that had gotten me there.

Ambition removes the ability to appreciate previous accomplishments.

Getting on the bus, I thanked God that it would only be taking me ten minutes to arrive home opposed to the hour or two that it would take in a big city like Lisbon or London. Once again, I felt pressured by my inner battle of wills. A part of me is perfectly capable of being content with all I have; another part feels the need to explore all my capacities, knowledge and experience to the limits. Is there really the satisfaction I seek at the other end of the rainbow? No amount of thinking and counter-weighing brings me concrete conclusions or confidence so I try and not worry about the things I leave up to God and Fate to resolve. This doesn’t mean I give up on them, this means that while I give and do my best, I put doubts like these out of my mind at moments which I can’t resolve them in any case.
The highway to journey of life also has refill stations, SOS-lines and pit stops along the way. Even when you know you’re far from your destination or in this case… resolve, a road sign can be equivalent to your peace of mind.

While trying to distract myself from my thoughts, I caught a pair of big brown eyes. They belonged to a very distinct face attached to a very attractive body. Taking measurements, I immediately calculated from the well-toned muscles that this stranger was no stranger to the gym. The fact that his hands weren’t calloused confirmed that six-pack that was well defined under his back t-shirt wasn’t from a construction job and the way he held himself told me that behind those eyes there was culture and education. Looking around the bus, I smiled as I realised that I wasn’t the only woman taking his measurements and looking back at him, I wondered how full of himself he really was. Men who are that much noticed, have a tendency to be arrogant and selfish so I searched his face and eyes for a hint of self-importance. I couldn’t tell if the confidence he radiated was arrogance but I did deduce from the deep look in his eyes that there was intelligence present, giving him the capacity of becoming a formidable man if he ever overcame the physical advantage (hence disadvantage) that he had. These days little boys rarely grow into full grown men and the more attractive they are, the less they seem to depend on their intelligence and capacities of thinking like a free individual.

Engrossed in my thoughts, I only realised I was staring when I was met with the same direct stare from across the bus. We would probably never see each other again so what did I care if he thought me rude for staring?! I dared to stare him deep in the eyes and waited to see which of us would look away first. It seemed like almost an eternity until he looked away but I decided not to look again, hence start another story for my column… I’d already won the staring contest, so I looked away outside the bus window until arriving at my stop.

Laughing as I got out the bus, I chided at myself for easily creating a new episodes to my soap opera life! Tired of the disappointments that usually came from these kinds of adventures, I commended myself on being to walk away from small temptations and put it out my mind as I sang on my way home. Halfway home the shopping bag with all the milk threatened to break my fingers, so I stopped to switch hands. I hadn’t noticed there was anyone behind me until I saw another hand grab the grocery bag next to me.

Great! I came all the way across the ocean to live in a safer environment to be robbed of my groceries! I turned around, ready to aim a kick in the lower region of my thief’s body when I recognised the eyes of being those that I’d stared at on the bus.

Wonderful! I’m being stalked by a hunk!

“Can I give you some help with these?”
Why not? You have a gorgeous guy offering to carry your heavy bags for you, why suffer? The worst that could happen is that he ran away with my milk and juice and I’d have to settle for toast and yoghurt in the morning instead.

“I’m sorry for being so direct, but I just have to know why you looked at me the way your did on the bus”

The accent gave it immediately away that he was no local and probably had very little time on the island. I thought twice about whether I should just shrug it off or be truthful to his question, normally men don’t understand my answers to these questions. However the directness and sharpness of his question told me that he was no meatball and the least I could do to thank him for carrying my groceries was repay him with the same honesty and straightforwardness.

“Well… other than rating you as you as a good looking guy, I decided that your eyes looked pretty sad to me and that your whole aura in general depicted a broken heart.”
The lack of a smile to my first observation told me that he wasn’t as full as himself as he probably should be, and my second statement was clearly extremely accurate from the way he closed his eyes as if I’d slapped him and then lowered his gaze to his feet.
He explained himself by telling me that he had only been on the island for five months and that it hadn’t been easy considering his mother had stayed behind. I heard all the explanations from the words that he didn’t say and my own heart reminded me of the pain of being away from the people I love.
After the usual introductory chatter, I discovered that he indeed did spend all his time in the gym as an instructor and that he worked two jobs to help maintain the apartment that he’d recently moved in to. Wishing my new neighbour brighter days and a good evening, I cut any conversation that would lead to any further socialising and practically ran into my apartment once again plagued by my earlier inner wars. Do I really want to go through all the hassle of immigration once again? When do I settle down? Why on earth do I keep meeting guys this way?

More than once I’ve been thanked for just being sincere and human… yet, staring at the sms from my new friend I wondered if he knew the good he did my spirits too. No one should live from the past, yet we need to look back to appreciate our present. Often I forget the strong woman that has brought me this far. Often, I forget my own value. Perhaps I need to give myself a fairer self-evaluation. Often I forget to appreciate the fruits of the efforts I’ve already put in. I’m still not sure of my future decisions but my present goals are to appreciate all that I have already conquered.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Man! I Feel Like a Woman!

“A train is about to crash. A frantic virgin strips and says “Can anyone make me feel like a woman before I die?” So a man walks up to her, takes his clothes off and says: “Iron these” (Thanks Joe!)

After a tough week at work, I felt pretty tired of being the executive professional with the technical know-how and problem solving profile. Along with the weekend came the chance to be somebody else!

Walking into my kitchen late on a Friday evening in a mood to cook is something really out of the ordinary. Normally exhausted from a hard day at work, the last thing I have patience for is exploring in the kitchen, making a dish for only one person. My grocery bags contained spices and herbs that I’d never tried before on chicken. I threw out the recipe book decided to create something on my own. So wrapping around me the apron and putting on some vibey music, I decided to be a gourmet chef! At first I felt insecure about venturing but then I remembered that I’d read somewhere that one should approach life and cooking with reckless abandon. So I did. I chopped, diced, mixed, squeezed, sliced and prepared the best chicken breasts with potatoes that I’d ever made! Beat that naked chef! And they say that men make better chefs… preposterous!

Waking up early on a Saturday, I decided that I was going to hire the best maid and housekeeper that ever lived… Me!
I cleaned, I scrubbed, I washed, I shined, I organised and reorganised my little apartment until I felt that the Queen of England would be impressed with how it looked spick and span. I enjoyed singing to the end of my broomstick. Dancing with the vacuum cleaner to Mango Groove was also a showstopper and if you were lucky enough to see me cleaning my windows… you’d get a preview of the new dance I invented called… the wipe!

Determined to try out more personalities, I woke up Sunday morning as the adventurer. I decided to go hiking with my group of nature adventure seekers and joined a seven and a half hour walk where I fully enjoyed the feeling of “stalking in the bundu´s (bushes)”. Along with the rain from the night before, came the adventure of sloshing around in the mud and then washing off under the mini waterfalls naturally made from the mountain peaks. Closing my eyes, I pictured myself stranded on a desert island (something not that hard to imagine!). I needed to walk… to search… to get away from the carnivores (society) and discover new territory and paths. So I have a big imagination! Being a woman requires it! And who doesn’t feel the need to let out the inner child every now and then?
My trip was packed with adventure… I discovered new plants, got pricked on their thorns but took home a pretty flower with me. On my way I also came across chestnut trees and spent a good deal of time trying to get the chestnuts out of their orifice. My fingers were calloused from the orifices´ pricks but I managed a whole bag of chestnuts to take home with me… this is what you call working up an appetite!
Once reaching the bus, my friend and I laughed at each other’s appearance. No way would people believe that these two scruffy women with mud up to their knees worked in uniform during the week!

On the way home, we stopped at a small village celebrating their chestnut season. On a natural high after walking all those hours and having a bag of chestnuts to show for it… we felt pretty proud of ourselves and got into the festive mood. Besides trying out their chestnut delicacies, we also tried out their chestnut liqueur… and ended up singing chestnut songs all the way to the bus! Pure folklore is what we experienced and the photos of us dressed up as nuns, would fool one from believing that we actually live in the “big city”.

Arriving home, I peeled off my filthy clothes throwing them into the washing machine. I took a quick shower and then realised that I deserved a little something more. Running up the bath with salts and bubbles, I put on my favourite slow music and lit up candles around the bathroom. Sinking into the bath, I felt the stress and tension of a really long hike leave my body… I took my time shampooing and conditioning my hair, making sure every inch of my body was carefully given attention to. Only leaving the tub when I was wrinkly, I wrapped myself in my big cuddly towel and proceeded on moisturising and grooming myself. Slowly dressing into my clean pyjamas and jumping into my sweet smelling bed… I thanked God for small miracles and fell asleep humming a song from Shania Twain.

To my manager, may my true intentions dawn on you should you ever read this. As much as I dissect and criticise you, I can never express my gratitude for the opportunities you’ve given and not given me; the admiration for your leadership skills as a manager and as a man and most of all for the life’s lessons I’ve learnt from the time I’ve worked under you which otherwise might’ve been taught but not fully understood…


What It Takes To Be A Leader.

“Of course you don’t know everything… if you did, you’d be an engineer”
This is what my manager considers to be a funny joke… personally I think it’s like of those black beer adverts where the black humour is only found funny by him and his fellow engineer colleagues.

How often are you lucky enough to evaluate your boss?

I couldn’t hide the smile that stretched from one ear to the other when my manager handed me an eight-page evaluation to do exclusively on his persona. Suddenly little horns grew on the sides of my head and the word “pay back” must’ve been plastered on my expression because he nervously picked at his collar and conveniently reminded me that if ever he was fired, I would be fired too… That didn’t deter my spirits though and I left his office with more enthusiasm than I had in weeks.

REVENGE Baby, here was my chance to put down on paper exactly what I thought of him! I rubbed my hands in sheer satisfaction…
Knowing that he would see my score but not know which was mine was comforting. This meant I could judge him any way I saw fit! I had nothing to lose and everything to gain from evaluating the man that leads my team.
However, it took my much longer to fill in than I expected. To be sincere, you have to counter-weigh many circumstances and I was surprised to find that it was much harder evaluating him than I thought.

Taking the dilemma home with me for the weekend, I decided to fill it in after a hike with my group of adventure seekers. Every two weeks on a Sunday, we take out our hiking boots and go adventuring into the greens of Madeira Island. We go with a team of men who organise these hikes not as a full time job, but as something on the side simply because they love what they do. Although they have a professional licence to organise these walks, none of them had been given any formal training besides the usual safety course required by law. Whilst contemplating my manager’s evaluation, I looked unto these men for hints of leadership.

Before we left town, everyone was checked for the right gear. Ladies with open shoes were sent back or told to put on boots or sneakers. Everyone was checked for water and impermeable jackets. Flashlights were checked and we were advised to take a candy bar in case of tension drops. We were reminded to stay close to a friend and to stop whenever we wanted to look around us this to avoid getting lost or falling over a cliff whilst chasing a butterfly (you’d be surprised at the trouble tourists get themselves into!). Equipment was double-checked, roll call was taken and a couple of safety hints were repeated on the bus. Once getting off the bus, hiking sticks were given to those who wanted or needed them and we were told not to venture off without a guide. Two team leaders lead the “faster” walkers, another two walked in the middle and the last two walked behind making sure that no one was left back. I was amazed at their “silent” organisation. The group in front walked at a speedy pace to satisfy their more fit members, however whenever they felt that they were too far ahead, they would “suggest” that people picked up nuts, stop to tell a story of this and that mountain or simply crack a few jokes forcing people to slow down. The medical kit was found with the two members in the middle who at a call of a colleague could run forward or backwards to give fast medical treatment. I was told that their kit was complete with everything from an asthma pump to allergy shots and bandages. “The brooms” are the nicknames given to the last two of the team who make sure that they walk with the slower members of the group. Making sure not to hurry them but making them fast enough to keep up with the group. Without feeling any kind of pressure, a group of 56 people managed a hike that took seven and a half hours at their own desired pace.

Where did these men get their organisational skills? With no particular training, they probably have what it takes to lead a major international company… and why not? Don’t they have the basic training that it takes to lead a team?

My manager doesn’t believe in the school of life. I was once told that even the worse of engineers leave school with the capacity to resolve problems and that the school of life leaves many bums on the street…

I was told that I should never disagree with my boss… I disagree with that.

If a man is a bum on the street then it’s because he happened to flunk Life’s educational system and should he choose to take the class again and learn, then he has every chance of making it out there as any of us. Being a college or university graduate doesn’t guarantee any engineer or doctor the capacity to resolve problems… with the education they received, they are obligated to resolve problems or their certificate is worth nothing more than an A4 white piece of paper.

A manager who is wise enough to motivate the younger and more ambitious of his group will walk at their fast speed and will know when and how to slow them down without cramping their growth or damp their enthusiasm. He will always have a back up plan in the middle and the stronger elements behind the company, making sure that they push the slower or weaker elements of the group to keep up the pace. No one is left behind and the strongest leaders go in front, taking the risks of putting their “foot in the mud” before anyone else. Strong motivation is needed when leading the group uphill, not letting the elements stop and quit but moving slow enough to let even the most exhausted keep up with the team. Sharing knowledge is the only key to immortality. Jokes are just important as the recognition and a good leader knows when to reprimand the member that needed a good shove in the right direction. At some stages, some of the faster walkers slow down or fall behind… but a true leader doesn’t slow down the other, nor does he worry about those who loose motivation. He knows that they still belong to the group and that at their own pace, they will get to the same destination as everyone else.

I wished that I could share my discovery with my manager at that moment, but he has never been a great fan of walking and all the leadership skills he ever learnt came from a classroom and textbooks.

Staring at a complete evaluation of my boss, I was surprised at the knowledge I had gotten from this opportunity. I decided to evaluate, not by my standards but by his standards… in other words, not thinking as “he should’ve done better” but “did he do the best he could”. Most of all, I was surprised at the qualities that I myself had not given enough recognition to. The fact that he isn’t a judgemental leader, that he tries to be comprehensive, that he isn’t one to yell or shout and that he isn’t one to pay attention to gossip or slander: are traits that should be commended. Not once has his personal life walked into the office with him, nor has he ever sworn or disrespected his team members. This of course did not make me overlook his lack of recognition, understanding of tasks, lack of control and need of organisation. However, I evaluated him accordingly and handed in my scores with a clear conscience.

It takes a lot to be a leader, perhaps much more than most of us are willing to give of ourselves. A true leader is the one who defends and protects his team whilst teaching and learning from them. A true leader is the one who takes risks and decisions thinking not of himself, but of the good of the team.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Unconditional Love

The one good thing about being on automatic pilot is that you become an audience to your own movie. Like someone on the sidelines, you stand back and observe yourself carry out your day-to-day, and repeat the necessary pre-programmed answers to the people around you. There are phases in life when you feel like a zombie… the living dead: when your body and soul somehow no longer co-exist. You take the time to rethink your life, to seek for answers and wait for this phase to pass.
Dodging another invitation to go out on the weekend, I sat staring at my computer screen hoping that time would quickly catapult me into the weekend, when an e-mail caught my attention. Nothing pleases me more than sharing ideas with great minds. Great minds don’t necessarily mean over the average intelligence, although it is a trait developed by curiosity. A great mind to me is one that is carried by an independent spirit: an honest and courageous free thinker who isn’t afraid to live and express himself… in this case herself. In her latest blog, my good friend posted a poem by a woman that asks her lover permission to love him. She threw herself and her pride at his feet just so that she may have the privilege to adore him. On any other given day, I might have thought that my friend had lost all her marbles, considering that a thousand suns will burn out before she ever throws herself at a man’s feet. And being the proud woman that she is, it intrigued me that she would post such a poem.

I dared to open my eyes and peek at the other people around me. Being spaced out like I’d been lately, I hoped that the meditation class would either bring me back to earth or take me even farther away. Either way, I needed something… anything.., to reconnect my mind, body and soul. We were instructed to close our eyes, feel the music and dance. Only when we could no longer think about anything could it be considered meditation. On any other given day, if I’d opened my eyes, I’d probably sat down and laughed my head off at the faces and movements that everyone else was making. One woman swung her arms dangerously, looking like an overgrown butterfly; to my right there was one who seemed to be running on the spot and in front of me was a lady who swung around so fast that just looking at her began making me feel nauseous. I searched for my cousin who wasn’t too far to my left. She swayed her arms and shoulders gently and wore an expression of pure bliss. They say that we all have moments of sheer beauty, I watched her as she had hers.
Taking one last look around, I saw a lady with a baby on in her arms. The baby laughed and giggled as she spun her around and the mother held her protectively whilst becoming one with her infant. I sighed as I longed for a connection… any kind of connection to help me feel alive. Closing my eyes once again, I blocked out my thoughts and allowed the music to take over. I’m not sure exactly sure how it was that I danced… but I considering that I was out of breath, it must’ve been something to see and laugh about!

The sound of silence. After forty minutes of dancing, we all lied down to twenty minutes of silence. At first I thought of humming Simon & Garfunkel to myself but then memories took over. Happy thoughts, sad thoughts… I took the opportunity to think once again about the poem my good friend had posted on her blog. It sounded preposterous to me that anyone would ever ask anyone for permission to feel. Had her lover given her a negative answer, would she have stopped loving him? When the floods of emotion are opened, how do you stop them? Can you stop them? It seems to me that you either give time a chance to diminish them or you learn to live with them, either way, you can’t stop your heart from feeling.
My lovely cousin told me a story about a wise man that used to say that inside him lived two dogs. One dog was vicious and angry; the other was a loving and gentle. The student then asked which of the two would prevail and the master answered, “Whichever one I chose to feed.”
Not long ago I was asked if I believed in destiny… my answer was yes but I made it clear that of the distinction between destiny and Fate: Both of which I believe in.
Fate is that which we have no control over, that which has already been planned or not… however, which cannot be escaped.
Destiny is something which belongs to all of us and that is controlled by the thoughts and decisions we make. Whilst Fate may bring about circumstances that we cannot control, Destiny is what we make of that fate by the attitudes we chose to have.
If our minds and thoughts are controlled by Destiny which we are the masters, our hearts are controlled by Fate… that which we have no control over. And so to love someone, can never be a premeditated step nor one that can be ended by will, choice or demand. How can you ask permission to love someone if your own heart does not give you that choice?
Unconditional love is the kind that simply is, even when it is wrong to be.
Even the most intelligent of people I know, have fallen in love with the wrong kind of people. Maybe he’s married, or he’s a drug addict, or he’s gay… maybe it’s the distance that makes it impossible or perhaps it’s the knowledge that under no circumstances are you capable of making each other happy. Maturity and courage is what makes a woman walk away from the man she loves. It’s the knowledge that love isn’t enough to make you happy that drives a woman on putting up the white flag.

It takes courage to stand and fight, it takes even more courage to know when the battle is lost and to surrender.

Even when the decision to give up is made, we’re always tempted to turn back and give in to bittersweet temptation. Just because you make the right decision, doesn’t erase the way you feel. Instead, you begin to see the other person from a self-created prison… always tempted to reach out but kept in by the bars built around your heart. It’s a condition so sad and depressing that it can drive some to madness while it slowly kills the souls of others. You fight the urge to run; to get on a plane; to dial that number or even to cry, while you feign a smile and tell everyone around you that you couldn’t be better. Your heart breaks down, not willing to feel anything else but the pain, your minds shuts down from the confusion created of the internal right or wrong war, and your body is left to survive on it’s own whilst the world continues to spin, oblivious to your suffering. However, you survive and you grow stronger and admit that maturity saved your soul… time heals your wounds and even though you might not ever stop loving that someone… you heart learns once again to live and love bigger and better than before.
I wondered if my good friend shared these thoughts when she posted her blog, if perhaps she too wasn’t screaming out in frustration to deaf ears. I wondered if I myself am not suffering from the same condition, thus the lack of colour in the world around me… if this is the case, then there’s nothing to be said and so… we wait, for time to pass, for the page to be turned and for the morning to bring forth a new day, a new chapter, a new life… a new love.

Monday, October 18, 2004

My Shitty Weekend.

You just know the weekend is going to be shitty when you wake up late on a Friday morning realising that the reason the alarm clock on your phone didn’t ring was because it went off, due to the low battery that you forgot to recharge the night before. Don’t you just love those mornings when everything else goes wrong when you’re already late? Besides having to change your shirt because you dropped toothpaste on it, you also have to return to the house twice: once to fetch your cell phone and the other your wallet. It’s no surprise that the bus also decides to arrive late and that just as you get on, you realise that you got a run in your stockings and that the old man standing next to you probably took his bath last Christmas.
Out of pure frustration, you concentrate on making faces to the toddler sitting in front of you who manages to get you smiling with his giggles and laughter.

You just know your weekend is going to be shitty when your boss decides to arrive earlier than you do and greets you with the wonderful news that you’ll have to make some last minute changes to his flight tickets, which need to be confirmed by the end of the day. The phones decide to ring right off the hook and all the exceptionally demanding clients decide that this Friday is the perfect day to check up on their tariffs. Your little tiff with the fax machine was nothing compared to the twenty minutes it took you to fix the photocopy machine that should’ve retired five years ago. Everybody has their on-the-brink-of-the-edge clients that appear to you instead of their therapist and expect you to listen to why their life is falling apart. Yours walks in just as you have the photocopy machine’s toner in one hand, and a rusty screwdriver in the other. As you watch her lips move, you thank God that you didn’t take that psychologist’s course after all. Once you realised that you can’t shut her up, you decide to listen more carefully and try to help her… Sometimes a stranger’s words can have more effect than a friend’s. Thirty minutes later and a million thanks, you’re invited to a dinner (where you will conveniently meet her youngest son). Instead, you “regrettably” fib involvement but somehow that doesn’t sway her… fifteen minutes later she’s back with her son who looks as confused as you do. Luckily you both laugh it off.

Twenty minutes before closing time, you finally managed to speak to the colleague that you’ve been trying to call all day and her answer just happens to keep you at work for another two hours to finish sorting the file you’d been meaning to sort for over three weeks. As soon as everyone else leaves: you pump up the music, take off your shoes and sing until you finished what you’d thought you’d only get half-way though.

You know your weekend is going to be shitty when your handbag’s wing breaks and all your belongings end up on the recently rain-washed-wet floor. The empty growl from your stomach reminds you that you have no leftovers that you can heat up and your only option is to cook up a meal. Ignoring the old saying that you should never go shopping on an empty stomach, you leave the supermarket loaded with groceries and swear at yourself when you realise that you forgot to buy that bulb that needs replacing in the bathroom. Walking into an empty house, you wonder if you really shouldn’t consider buying a cat but shrug the idea when you realise that it would only make your grocery bags heavier and that you’d be responsible for a furry face disappointed that you arrive home at such hours! You do however feel proud of the spaghetti bolognaise that you made just the way your dad taught you and mentally tell yourself that it’s the perfect way to impress that date that you haven’t had in ages.

You know the rest of your weekend is going to be shitty when you’re woken up on a Saturday morning at 9:30am by a client asking you if he can come in for a meeting. Trying to feign a sleepy voice you explain that you don’t work on weekends and assure him that you will call him on Monday. You swear at yourself for not asking him for his phone number and then at him for not identifying it. Not able to get back to sleep you get up and decide to start on breakfast. You burn your toast and take fifteen minutes to open the jam jar that you still hadn’t tasted since making it with your grandmother. After another three quarters of an hour of trying to swat a fly that just won’t get out of your kitchen you decide to give up and start on the cleaning. You break a glass while doing dishes, the shower curtain falls on your head when cleaning the bathroom and the trash bag tears open two steps from the garbage bins. You also prick your finger when trying to sew back the wing on to your handbag that you bought only a week ago. You then resume your cleaning and sing to the end of your broomstick along with the Corrs CD that you haven’t heard since high school, and develop a new relationship talking with all your possessions whose dust you wipe off. You spend another thirty minutes trying to swat that fly that has now conveniently found your bedroom and lay in bed convinced that you got him due to the ceased buzzing noise. You thank God for the opportunity to listen to your music, light your candles and meditate just before you fall into a relaxed sleep.

You know your weekend was a shitty one when you wake up to the neighbours fighting outside your window on a Sunday morning. You take a peek out your window and realise that almost everyone from your block was watching the spectacle outside your window and that they saw you peeking. Waking up with energy, you decide that on your last day of rest you will take the opportunity to pack your summer’s clothes and take out the winter’s. Not only do you get nostalgic from unpacking and packing suitcases, your desire to cry increases when you realise that all your winter’s clothes need ironing and that the fly from the night before is still alive in your bedroom. Deciding to make a quick stop at the supermarket, you buy all the things you’d forgotten to buy on Friday and think that your luck is finally taking a turn for the better… until you get stuck at the cashier due to the washing powder that was mistakenly rung up twice. You try to smile at the impatient shoppers behind you and sigh when you realise that outside, it’s just begun to rain. Not only did the cab driver take the longer way home, he was also as deaf as a door and almost slammed your fingers shut when removing your groceries from a grimy car trunk. Two phone calls announce expected visitors, one from your friend and another from your mother. Hopelessly looking at the clothes that need to be ironed and then at the groceries, you decide to take one thing at a time. However with Dido playing in the background you somehow manage to get almost everything done. Not only do your guests offer to make the coffee and do your dishes, they also keep you smiling and laughing the whole time through.

Taking a hot shower with all the essential herbs and essences inside my body scrub, I took just a little longer under the water and took my time in applying all those sweet smelling lotions that make me feel like a woman. I got into my winter’s pyjamas, thick socks and my purple robe with teddies on them. Outside the rain falls in sheets making the most relaxing sound known to man. Without a doubt I will sleep like a baby tonight! Pulling the curtain aside, I sit on my couch and decide to watch the rain for a while in the darkness before going to sleep. My last sms for the evening was of a great friend in South Africa that taught me the power of “choosing another emotion”. This is the art of looking at things in a different perspective, preferably the positive one. All I can conclude is that my shitty weekend was the greatest one I’ve had in months… And that I won’t go to bed lonely as long as that fly continues to be my roommate.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Journey

“Where do you think that will lead you?”

Does it matter? Does crossing the finish line really matter in life’s long marathon? When is all said and done do any of us really cherish first places and gold medals for more than a moment? The destination only becomes significant once you’ve worked towards a goal. If you’ve constructed an objective isn’t it the construction itself that makes the result worthwhile?
If so… then what’s the rush?
If the objective of everything that is born is to die then isn’t it the in-between the holds the true pure pleasure of living? No matter how beautiful a rose is, it will get thrown away once it dies and the appreciation it once held dies with it. Isn’t it’s worth in it’s blossoming?

The root of an impulsive nature is not always recklessness. He who finds the courage to live… truly live… makes the most of his existence. To accomplish this, one must learn to have faith. To have faith is to believe in oneself and one’s existence, to overstep the limits and respect oneself and one’s surroundings.

Everyday I see people running, hurrying, rushing to places where they really don’t want to be. Looking at your watch every half-minute will not make traffic go any faster, nor will swearing or pleading with traffic light. We worry too much about the things we cannot control. We stress to the point of losing the freedom of relaxation. And so we gym, jog and yoga: we rely on books, television and the radio to distract us and forget how to find pleasure in the small things we do daily.

The human being craves evolution but has lost the notion of how it is that he was do evolve. When did time lose its value, and things determined how happy you are? Have we been forbidden to enjoy the effort we make to accomplish our goals? Or have our goals become so meaningless that the journey has lost its worth?

All I ever wanted was to travel, to meet new people and see new places. My impatience fed my impulsiveness but time, experience and maturity taught me to enjoy the ride. Worrying and stressing will not take you to your destination any faster. Whatever your mode of transportation, learn to make the most of the ride. Nobody gets on a roller coaster just to reach the end. Your soul can only be enriched if you take the time to look around you add feel the wind in your hair, the breeze on your face or the warmth of the sun on your skin. Many of the answers we search for in life are right under our noses when were too busy looking everywhere else.
Life is about living today, appreciating the small things in life and in short: making the most of the journey.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Weekend in Lisbon

For someone with a lot to say, there are times when I stare at a blank screen and find it difficult to express the thoughts that go through my mind. Not because I don’t know how I’m feeling, but because they somehow don’t make sense. So instead of writing a column, I leave you with what I would’ve written in my diary about my weekend and the thoughts that go through my brain. There are no conclusions to be taken like my usual column entries but I suppose what you could say is that there are times in life when there are no answers and that’s okay too.

Thursday night was spent packing and unpacking clothes into my suitcase. It seems that even though my cupboard is filled with clothes… there is simply nothing to wear! I decided then and there that this weekend I was going to dedicate myself to shopping for a new wardrobe… something I haven’t done since January! I eventually finished packing besides the stress. Lately, most nights have been this way… getting home late, doing my personal things all at the last moment. I can’t remember that last night that I’ve had to myself just to relax. The pressure I’d been under had been immense and my soul begged me for some time alone. Some people fear being alone… I worship it. Time alone is the healing balm that allows you to think and re-evaluate yourself and the pit stop from the rat race we all run daily. But this would not be the weekend for the break my body desperately craved. The company Outdoor would mean a compact weekend of socializing: meeting new faces and catching up with the old ones.
When I boarded the plane, I closed my eyes as I always do and let out a sigh of relief. Though most people don’t understand it, the aeroplane is what I consider to be home. My colleague wrinkled her nose when I tried to explain to her why I felt this way. It’s the only time I feel that I have both legs on either side of the ocean… I can’t miss South Africa because I’m not in Madeira and I can’t miss Madeira because I’m not in South Africa. Some people think that “saudade”… missing something, someone or someplace is a feeling that becomes easier or that goes away with time. “Saudade” the only Portuguese word that cannot be translated, is a feeling that you carry with you all the time. It’s like a knife that is stabbed in your heart and never removed. It may become numb with time but just a little nudge of the memory and it will hurt just as bad as the day it was put there. My twist of the knife was upon arriving in Lisbon. Immediately I felt embraced by the “dirty” city and it’s polluted air. The tall buildings, wide roads and zooming traffic suddenly teleported me back to Johannesburg. I blocked out the conversations in Portuguese from my colleagues in the back seat and gloried in the illusion that I was back in “Joeys”…
Two of my colleagues stared at me in complete astonishment, being island girls I can’t blame them for not understand my pure joy just from being in what they considered the ruthless capital of Portugal. The oldest of the three looked at me with a wiser understanding. Coming from Africa herself, she knew the bittersweet torment that being in a big city represented to me.
Although this was a weekend for fun and relaxation… the pressure and tension had already begun weighing at the airport. Getting out at the terminal, I looked around at the expecting faces awaiting their loved ones… as silly as it may seem, I always expect there to be someone waiting for me too… he may not know it… but the cab driver will soon find out that I was the one destined to be his passenger.
Lunch was rushed as we had three big busses waiting to take us to Viseu were the games would take place. The taxi deposited us right in from of our mother branch. The massive building which we call “Marconi” radiated everything that makes me proud to work for the company that I do. I stared at it with respectful acknowledgement before getting out the taxi. For the first of many times during the weekend I felt like abandoning all my plans for London and moving to Lisbon instead. I quickly shook the idea from my head and fought my way against the wind to the main building where a colleague of mine was waiting to introduce me to some more of the kind of people that I often speak over the phone with but have never seen.
She looked good, different but with a healthier aura than when I’d last seen her. I was surprised with the atmosphere that each department had. My first impression was of tinned sardines but not soon after it was replaced by a more comfortable feeling of belonging. Would I feel more at home at a place like this? London will surely be this way… I felt more relieved.
New names and faces, I felt a stab of guilt knowing that I’d probably forget most of them by the Christmas party but then reminded myself that I wouldn’t be attending this year. Being in the heart of the company didn’t make my decisions any easier and I was thankful that nobody tried talking to me on the bus. I sat on my own and stared at the road, digging out all the good reasons why I was leaving all of this behind.
Phone calls from the office and clients who didn’t know I wasn’t in Madeira kept my mind off the pressuring thoughts.
I tried concentrating on the road and told myself that the long trip is just what I needed to help me relax. I looked out my window and saw a long and wide road, trees, hills and houses. I wanted to appreciate the surrounding beauty but all it did was amount to my growing tension. The road we travelled on resembled the road you take to Durban or Cape Town and I felt more and more homesick. Nauseous and “homesick”, I thought I was just about ready to crack when we finally arrived at our destination. The hotel resembled our main branch and most of us in the bus cracked jokes at the coincidence.
There was time to change for dinner, we put our suitcases in our rooms and chose the nearest table to the food. My stomach was still in knots from all the travelling but I convinced myself that I’d feel better after eating something. I relaxed within the start of dinner and took the opportunity to get to know the three new faces at our table. The first was a lady from the department of quality. In her I saw a strong face covered in feminine kindness. If I had to guess, I’d say she was a perfectionist and a professional at what she did… but with a human and caring side to her too.
The second face reminded of me of George Clooney… the charming man with the boyish spirit. He had a humorous answer for everything that was said at the table, conveying his point across without offending anyone and said it all in a t-shirt that I would’ve bought for my younger brother.
The third face caught most of my attention. I guessed that he was near his late twenties and probably an introverted person by the short, polite answers that he gave.
By the end of the weekend, I learnt that my first analysis of each was as near to the bull’s eye as could be.
When pouring cats and dogs, outside activities can be very hard to arrange and so our experienced team of entertainers drove us off to a building where we would be occupied with an indoor challenge… making a movie.
I was so excited when I found out what we were doing! I hoped that I would be put as a photographer, screenwriter or sound editor… my wish came true when I was announced as the photographer for the magazine that would be publicising the movie titled “Size does count”. The foundation we were given was that the movie was to be about company workers that froze themselves for ten years because they were sick of the clients and now we were to defrost them. The scenery team created a giant microwave for the specific task and wardrobe and make-up prepared our actors for their debut. I particularly enjoyed watching the results of inexperienced efforts. The dance team especially surprised me after making a dance lead by the most difficult of my colleagues. He actually managed to put the dance together well and I wondered if he wasn’t in the wrong profession. The way he put the team working together was out of character for him and the only time I could swear that it was actually him is when he told the director of the movie to wait because he was busy.
The marketing department got a sponsor from the microwave company and we all laughed as we watched a store manager dressed as an assistant having difficulties with his wardrobe. At least we all realised that he was no transvestite because he held up his hands as if the false nails he had on were sharp claws to be held up as weapons.
I ran around watching the chaos and had fun chatting and taking photos, I was exceptionally happy when I was told that I could keep the CD with the photos I’d taken.
Once the fun was over, we had a choice of either going back to the hotel to sleep or venture into the biggest club that Portugal had “Fora d Horas”. I was quite happy to go sleep off my jetlag… but my new colleagues would not hear of it. Compelled by the adventure of a new town, I ignored my exhaustion and joined the two for a shot of a cinnamon flavoured drink with gold pieces in it. The liquid burnt my throat as it went down, but loving the flavour as I do, I was only sorry that I didn’t get its name!
The club which apparently was only pumping on Saturday nights, had most of it’s rooms empty and since the dance floor didn’t contain either dancers or my kind of music I followed the boys to a hidden karting track belonging to the club. I couldn’t believe that the indoor racetrack belonged to the club but I guessed it would be double the fun after a few drinks…
Not having driven a go-kart before, I was afraid of making a fool of myself in front of my two colleagues who drove professionally… but since I never back down from a challenge, I got into the go-kart and told myself that I’d go slowly as not to make any embarrassing spins. After the first two laps, I began getting the hang of it and once realising that I couldn’t “crash” I began pressing for speed feeling the pleasure of letting go…
I didn’t make any embarrassing spins and had an amazing adrenalin rush. The two guys tried to boost my ego by telling me that I did well as a beginner. I mentally noted, that this was an adventure that I definitely wanted to try again!
The karaoke room was full with almost all the company employees. Chatting to the quieter of the two new colleagues that I’d met at dinner, we both agreed that it’s interesting to see the “other” side of the professional people we work with. Mr. Shy was a box of surprises himself. With the right questions, he was no longer quiet and I discovered that along with three cats, he also owned and shared a passion for motorbikes. The contrast appealed to me and I was so indulged on discovering more that by the time I looked at my watch it was nearly four in the morning. The evening ended with George Clooney singing Frank Sinatra´s “My Way” and deep down I fought down my inner battles of the dilemma “Should I stay or should I go?”
Mr. Shy walked me to my room. He had caught my attention in every way possible. Incredibly sincere and down to earth I couldn’t help wishing that I’d met him in another time and place. Looking him in the eyes, I felt guilty for allowing myself to get close to someone I’d have to say goodbye to. Would things have been different if we both knew I didn’t have to leave?
I thanked God for an amazing day and told him of my thoughts, sleep came slow.
The rain didn’t give in for our games and I was sure I was going to catch pneumonia. I lacked some of my usual excitement for play but it was mostly due to my lack of sleep. Deciding that I was going to get wet from the rain in any case, I opted for a challenge I’d never tried before: canoeing.
After the initial challenge of coordination – my two teammates and I eventually figured out the rhythm necessary for getting the canoe from one point of the river to the other. Laughing at our mistakes, singing in the rain and motivated by the awaiting lunch, we managed to get to the end of the river without the organiser’s help.
Proud of our achievements, we arrived at the lunch site like wet ducks. I could feel the water sloshing in-between my toes and the threat of another flu as the fever began rising to my cheeks.
“Go get dry clothes and go take a shower right now!”
I smiled as the colleague from the quality department proved my initial theory about her. Staying a little longer under the warm water, I asked all my angels for strength that I’d need for the trip back home. I knew from the lack of appetite and tight stomach that I was going to be nauseous and probably very sick on the bus.
Getting on the bus, I ignored my urge to go sit next to my newfound friends and tried concentrating on getting some sleep. At lunch a colleague from Porto had already insinuated that Mr. Shy and I looked good together and my colleagues were already inventing a million and one stories, true to their Madeirense gossiping ways. Having failed miserably in the “guy” department, I recalled the misery that distance brings to the heart and decided to stay away from a lurking possibility. Being a loud defender of the slogan “never eat the meat where you earn your bread”… I began imagining the smirks and commentaries that would originate from my standing up and walking to the back of the bus to go talk to him. Just as quickly as the thought came into my mind it was pushed out by my remembering that I don’t care what people think, so I stood up and went to sit next to him. Anything to get time to fly by faster.
George Clooney complained when we talked of work and went further up the bus to avoid listening to our conversation and get some sleep that came quite easy to him. I too grew tired of talk and bit the bullet by asking Mr. Shy if I could lay my head on his shoulder. The more I was getting to know him, the more attracted I became, so I decided that sleeping was the best way to shut the both of us up.
For someone who never sleeps on a bus, sleep came amazingly easy. I told myself that it had everything to do with how exhausted I felt and the little sleep I’d gotten the night before. However, I confess that a lot of it had to do with the sensation of the position I found myself in soon after…
Telling me that sleeping on his shoulder would cause a stiff neck; I was invited into the warmest embrace I’ve ever known.
Why resist? I couldn’t remember any of the reasons why that kind of intimacy was a bad idea… nor did I want to. I took his offer gladly and closed my eyes feeling more relaxed than I’ve felt in months. I sighed as I listened to the beating of his heart and felt the warmth of his embrace. Falling asleep, I dreamt of fluffy clouds and awoke wondering how it was that I felt like I was in heaven… Afraid of the answer, I decided not to look up. I’d had enough of hurting someone by starting something I can’t finish. I cursed distance for making people suffer. I simply couldn’t risk that, so I didn’t look up, instead… I allowed myself to simply feel. Feel safe, warm and happy… the way he was touching my arm almost got me purring and wishing that I were one of his three cats. Disappointment settled in once arriving at our destination, the trip that I had feared would be difficult, had ended up being the best bus drives ever. Goodbye was awkward. How do you walk away from that kind of intimacy? I was tempted to ask him to forget that I was leaving, join me for a movie and let things develop from there. We took each other’s numbers and I promised to call as soon as I was settled at the hotel.
Disappointment mixed with feelings of relief was my reaction when I got his voicemail. I was glad that at least one of us had some good sense. Fighting an odd sensation of hurt, I was quiet at dinner and walked around like a zombie in the biggest shopping centre in Lisbon. Although I had promised myself that I’d shop, I had no spirit for it. Abandoning my other colleagues on their fashion hunt, I decided to pamper myself in FNAC listening to Phil Collins and Bryan Adams’s newest albums. Venturing through the new books and music only made me a happier soul before going back to the hotel to sleep. This time, I fell asleep the minute my head hit the pillow. But although I woke up at eleven in the morning, it felt as if I hadn’t slept at all. My body was sore from the canoeing I’d done the day before and it took a hot shower and a couple of good yoga positions to make me feeling like a human being again.
Once again we hit the shops and once again I abandoned my colleagues. Not used to my silence, they immediately began making assumptions. I was neither happy nor sad, just tired. I lead myself to the place that I was sure would raise my spirits. The entertainment area was filled with kids and only they managed to extract smiles and giggles from me. I almost forgot my melancholy when a little girl abandoned her play area to sit next to me. She lad long straight hair and big brown eyes, she couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old. She confirmed that she’d just turned six once I asked her. Angela was without a doubt an indigo child… you could tell from the conversation we had:
“Why are you sad?”
“What makes you think I’m sad?”
“You’re here by yourself and you look like you want to cry”
Maybe a good cry is exactly what I needed but I was going to tell her that!
“Well now I’m very happy because you’re here talking to me!”
She wasn’t to be taken for a fool.
“Do you know what I do what I’m sad? I tell my mommy or my daddy.”
I bit back the urge to tell her that I couldn’t do the same. Instead I told her that I couldn’t do that because I didn’t live with them anymore.
“What about your husband? My mommy and daddy talk to each other about adult stuff”
I smiled at her innocence and explained that I didn’t have a husband and that I lived alone. Not wanting her to continue her torture on me, I suggested that maybe I should get a dog to keep my company. Angela took the bait and allowed me to change the subject but told me that maybe a cat was better since I lived in an apartment… a big orange one that I could call Garfield. Noting that I was being watched by security, I realised that I was a potential kidnapper and decided to say my goodbye. Just before I left Angela twisted the knife by giving me her final six-year old advice:
“You know, you’re really good with kids. You really should find a husband and have some, I think you’d make a really cool mum.”
Determined to cure my depression, I decided to shop. Unlike all the women I know, I walked into one shop and found everything I needed… in 15 minutes. A pair of pants, two skirts, a pair of socks and a handbag later I had done all the shopping I needed, telling myself I’d leave the jacket for another time and pay check.
Even though the food was great in business class, I was left with no appetite and it was just before we landed that tears began falling down my face. Years ago I cried when leaving Madeira… now I cry to come back.
I only managed to disguise my tears until the baggage department when my two colleagues finally noticed the river on my face. How could I possibly explain the turmoil I was going through? Instead I half joked that it was at the thought of having to work the next morning. And indeed the idea of returning to routine was enough to make me cry.
In a few hours I’ll be once again dressed in uniform to work, ready to face the day’s challenges and to sort out the work left over from Friday. Tomorrow I’ll tell everyone about the great time I had, show them photos and tell them that it was the best Outdoor I’ve ever gone to. But until then, I’ll brush my teeth, say my prayers and give into the reality that for the sun to really shine, there must be days of darkness too.