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The Milk Maid

The Milk Maid

In honour of World Breastfeeding Week, here is my #brelfie! I’ve fed her at home, at other people’s homes such as friends and family, at the tennis court, at a cafe, at church and now also online.


I’m not one of those mums. You know, the stereotype white middle class mum who wants to do it ‘all natural’, breastfeeds, wears her baby like it’s a cult thing, doesn’t vaccinate, introduces solids a la Rapley and basically makes a big deal out of everything whilst trying to convince everyone and -perhaps mainly- herself that her exhausting way of parenting is the way to do it perfectly. After all, there’s a chance she gave up her career for this. If that’s how she wants to do it, all peace to her. After all, she probably didn’t choose her perfectionism, just like I didn’t choose my ADHD. My only objection is that this fictional mother (with a grain of truth) tends to be part of the mum wars. (Check this video).

I am white middle class-ish, I do breastfeed, I do baby wear (because it’s fun and easy), I do vaccinate and while BB will be learning to eat the old fashioned mushy mushy way, it’s probably good for her to try and chew on a carrot from time to time. And I have muddled in mum wars, mainly to point out that there’s no such thing as the perfect way to raise your child. And because I’m impulsive and say things when I probably should just shut up. But there’s one thing I do want to ‘preach’ -also as a professional-… and that is breastfeeding.

It really wasn’t much of a ‘choice’. I never even considered formula. Babies drink breast milk, that’s just the way it should be. Formula is life saving stuff for babies whose mums can not breastfeed. But I see absolutely no valid reason for me to give my child a somewhat inferior substitute if I can give her the real thing. It doesn’t matter if we don’t live in a developing country. It doesn’t matter if there’s research stating that it doesn’t matter that much… My objection to almost every article I’ve seen is that the breastfed group was also receiving formula under the age of 2..
whats-in-breastmilk-poster-canada-640x330

But research and stuff is one thing.

Practice is the other.
So this is my experience after almost 5 months of breastfeeding with a difficult start.

  •  When she was 3 weeks old, I got sick. Something flu-like. Had she gotten sick as well she would probably have ended up in hospital. I was so worried! But nothing. She got the antibodies as I was making them.
  • Just a few weeks ago the other baby at her minder had a cold for a full two weeks. I figured BB would be sniffling soon. She was. It lasted a full day and a half, and wasn’t even bad enough to give her trouble breathing or drinking. She was just fussy and drooly.
  • She sleeps through the night usually. But when she doesn’t, I am forever grateful for not having to get up and make a bottle. I simply pick her up, put her next to me, support my back with a pillow and snooze until she’s done. Yes. That’s right. I sleep while feeding her.
  • I’m just going to say it again: I can feed her in my sleep. I am a very rested mum!
  • She doesn’t like drinking from a bottle. She can, but she won’t sometimes. She knows better, that’s all! No better place for a baby than their mum’s breast.
  • It’s the most natural thing in the world.
  • It’s a very loving act. Even the bible mentions nursing mothers as a comparison to God’s love. I mean, wow.
  • As long as she’s being nursed, I don’t have to worry about her nutrition. She takes care of that herself. I don’t have to worry about getting more time between feeds, I don’t have to worry about over feeding her… and with her bottle issues I don’t have to worry about that either because she can just catch up in the evening when I’m home. When she starts solids, I don’t have to worry about her eating enough either.
  • It’s easy, and I always have a hand free to read or play with my phone. And I needn’t even clean up.
  • It’s quick, after the first few months. Takes me 5-10 minutes unless she’s just suckling to calm herself down. Which, in itself, is also useful since she thinks dummies are chew toys.
  • I get a boost of feel-good hormones. Why would anyone pass on that?
  • You know those evenings with a very young baby? Bottle babies have hours in which they just cry. Breastfed babies can cluster feed. I used to hate cluster feeding time, but I am sure I’d hate having to deal with a crying baby even more.
  • It’s amazing to see how much she’s grown, and my body was fully responsible for that.
  • I can’t forget my boobs. I can forget my keys, my purse, her nappies, wipes, clean clothes, entire nappy bag, parts of my breast pump, bottles… possible even her… but I can’t forget to bring along two of my organs.
  • Actually, my nr 1 tip for future mums with ADHD would be to breastfeed. You just have to respond to your baby, no planning involved. Nothing you can forget.
  • The only down side is pumping at work…
  • …and it takes some time to figure it out. Just like everything does if you have a baby.
  • Edited to add: those moments when you can’t figure out what is wrong but the boob seems to fix it…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to feed the baby!

 

 

 

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Toad rage

Toad rage

Given that I drive a Nissan Micra named Padda (frog, remember…) I’m not going to correct the typo in the title…. I’ve driven beyond the first 1000 miles and then stopped counting because I had someone else drive my car for half of the trip to the Ardennes. I’ve gotten more confident behind the wheel and I love my car. Seriously, I want to hug it, but it’s not that small.  Padda got his first serious damage, a lady in a red Twingo had some trouble parking next to him. Her insurance is supposed to pay for the repairs, so I wait, but the side damage doesn’t influence the functionality at all. After a wash I still have red Twingo paint on my car. (And turns out it’s worse than I thought..)

I decided early on to just relax while driving and I am noticing that I am more and more relaxed while doing so. Traffic jam? No problem. Hopefully there’s something good on the radio. Stressing out about it is not going to make it go faster. Sometimes I’m still a bit nervous, but I remind myself to just relax. And it works, unless TDH is sitting next to me, going on about something I did 5 minutes ago. (For the time being he’s driving when we have to go anywhere together, being lectured about something I did or did not a kilometre earlier is not going to improve my driving skills but does contribute to my stress levels).

Anyhow.

Some people do make me mad though.

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Dear impatient driver,

Apparently I irritate you very much by, I don’t know, not doing things as fast as you (think you) do them Apparently you were a perfect driver right from the moment you got your licence. In your mind, at least. In your mind you apparently also have the right to have an opinion about those around you. Based on the colour of your hair, you’ve had about my entire life at least to gain experience on the road. Based on your fairly new Ford, Audi, Volvo or BMW you’re also doing fairly well for yourself at that job that requires that neatly ironed shirt. I find it funny how you’re very often male. Not sure how you can be a good driver if you have that little control over your Y chromosome’s influence, you know. I sometimes wonder if you just hate small cars.

Just because I slow down for a few seconds to make sure the truck in the lane next to me doesn’t slam in to me does not give you a reason to become impatient, it gives you a reason to watch where you’re going.

If you’re merging in behind me, you’re supposed to start merging when the car fits in the gap, not hoot at me because I’m going too slow for you and now suddenly your Merc is too close to my bumper for your comfort. I’m going slow because the three cars in front of me are going equally slow. If you hit me, it’s your fault. Simple as that.

Do not cut in line, do not use on ramps and off ramps to cut in front of traffic jams. You don’t have to show off having a small wee wee like that. I know your ego is big, but get over it. Also, don’t overtake me when I’m accellerating a bit slower than your car can, it’s an 80hp Micra. If you want to go faster, fine, stay in the left lane for a bit, but please don’t cut in front of me again because, well, I was accelerating and am now going a bit faster than when you were still behind me.

Get the hell off my tail. Tailgating will not make me go faster, it will just make you liable in case of accident. Tailgating makes me consider going even slower… Yes, I know your car packs more horsepower than 80hp Padda, but that does not give you more ownership of the road and the same speed limit applies to you. I’m not intimidated by the logo on your car’s nose.

Don’t hoot if I take one second to realise the light is green. We all have slow moments. Not a reason to overtake me either, especially not if I have to overtake you then.

Also, when I keep some distance from a slow car in front of me because there’s no gap in the left lane so I can overtake, it does not mean I’m the slow car. Thanks for using my prospective gap to overtake me, and good luck with the slow car. Now if you don’t mind, there’s another gap now, see you later.

And dear sir in the black Audi who got pissed when I wanted to park my car: if I brake and put my blinker on next to an empty spot, it means I intend to park. You can either wait patiently or calmly pass me. I actually wait a second before proceeding to give you the chance to pass while I gauge the distances. See, my car doesn’t park itself, and not everybody is super-quick when parallel parking. (I did it in one go, mind you, took me a few seconds!). Your aggressive hooting and then making a big drama out of overtaking me was really uncalled for. It’s a residential street, people park, doesn’t matter if you like it or not. Get over it.

I can go on for a while, but you get the point. Look, I know I’m relatively inexperienced, but I’m doing my best here. My skills are improving every day, remember, and you too were in my position once. Regardless of me and my driving experience, you’re an asshole and you tell me how that’s improving!

Just chill out for a sec, will you? All that rage is probably bad for your heart anyway.

And to the person in the green Toyota Starlet: did you actually try to outrun me on the highway? Let’s just consider this for a moment. You must have forgotten that it’s a Starlet…

Yours,

BD

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Dear Diary, society

 

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A Prayer for my Homeland

A Prayer for my Homeland

Please pray with me if you’re a praying person, and remember to live through love.

Dear Lord,

Today I pray for the country my heart still calls home, despite my long leave of absence.
Today I pray for that country, despite knowing that there are even more horrifying things going on elsewhere. I pray for those things too, dear Lord, but today my heart is aching for my land.

As I read the news, dear Lord, I see a lot of darkness there. I see how, 21 years after 1994, things are not going well at all. I see poverty, violence, corruption, illness, suffering… and cruelty beyond imagination. I know, not all is bad and there are still many things that are good, beautiful and true down there. Today I am praying about the darkness and the pain, about the fear and the raging hatred.

Hatred.

Lord, the situation is complex in that country where society still hasn’t managed to fulfil it’s own dream of a Rainbow Nation in which we could all be free, side by side. I sometimes wonder if people remember that dream from way back when… and sometimes even I start to wonder if it’s just a fantasy. Are we humans even capable of doing that?

I pray for the country where every time the national anthem sounds, the plea also sounds for God to bless Africa, though sometimes ‘God save Africa’ still seems as appropriate as ever. I pray for the country which seems to be burning in the shadows sometimes, because I know how it can glow in the light.

Lord, people are scared and threatened and seemingly more polarised. I am not sure what to make of certain us vs them groups, everyone seems to have their own truth. In the end, the polarisation seems like a bunch of time bombs to me.

One of them seems to have gone off with frustrated and angry South-Africans attacking and even murdering foreigners simply because they are foreigners. I pray for the suffering families, the wounded. I too am a foreigner, Lord, trying to make a life in another country. I know about the poverty too, Lord, but I fail to see how this is an answer. It is just so dark. I don’ t know where this will end, Lord, with the rest of Africa responding to the violence against foreigners in South-Africa.

The other thing that concerns me very much is the underlying internal polarisation. Right wing here and there, something happens and statues fall… and I’m not sure for what. It’s a symptom of darkness, Lord, I think. I don’t know what all this means, but I can no longer close my eyes to it. This is all on top of everyday crimes, horrors and suffering in that beloved country, Lord. I cry for it.

Lord, heal my broken country. Let love shine through, let the light win over the darkness. Let it be a wonderful place for all in it, a safe haven. Be with those who are dealing with the current events directly, give them strength to get through. Teach South-Africans to love and forgive. Heal the millions of broken lives.

Lord, in the end, if all is in Your will.

Amen.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/17/xenophobia-south-africa-brothers-violence-foreigners

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/18/south-africa-migrant-workers-protests

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/10/vandalism-of-apartheid-era-statues-sparks-fevered-debate-in-south-africa

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/20/students-attack-cecil-john-rhodes-statue-south-africa-university-cape-down-questions-race

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/25/south-africa-rhodesmustfall-statue

http://youtu.be/2uhYqvfm9Wc

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2015 in Dear Diary, society

 

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Third Culture

Who can relate?
Most of my life hasn’t been ‘standard’, as in: most people are born in, grow up in, marry (or not marry) in, work in… identify themselves in… and eventually die in their own ‘culture’, usually in their own country, usually within their familiar limits of normalcy. They know how life works, at least, most of them do. And if they get ‘out’, they can get ‘in’ and feel at home quickly.

Unless you stay ‘out’ for too long.

Especially if you stay out too long as a CHILD. Or adolescent. Anywhere in those years, really.

You find yourself balancing between sometimes clashing cultures, as a young one this is confusing. Nothing is clear, you don’t know which limits of normalcy apply..

Language proficiency has nothing to do with cultural identity any more. How are you supposed to be equally proficient in your ‘original’ first language if you have so little exposure to it? Meanwhile people expect you to bare your soul in a language you have no feeling in, how can you say how you feel if the language doesn’t have the words for it? And why do people judge if you pick something…. because it’s the closest thing you have to the ‘first language’ experience? It has nothing to do with cultural identity….

Speaking of which… growing up between cultures you never know who you are supposed to become…. somewhere between the two definitions of ‘normalcy’. You had no choice in being in this position, yet… one side expects you to completely adapt THEIR cultural identity if you want to be accepted, the other side wants you to remain true to your own people… and anything possibly different is met with frowns and/or grief.

The reality of life in between cultures is that
– you simply can’t be both
– things are never simple
– try answering the question ‘where are you from’.
– you never really feel like you belong, not where you are now because you’re a foreigner, not where you came from because you’ve been changed by where you went to.
– you become a sort of chameleon, but you’ll never be a leaf, or a tree. Leaves and trees don’t ‘get’ that you just can’t fit into their boxes.
– you almost never have the best of both worlds, you almost never manage to ‘please all’. What you choose to identify with will offend or hurt (depending on THEIR culture’s ‘normal’ reaction to someone not wanting to be 100% like them is) someone.
– ever tried intimate conversations in your second language? you just HOPE you said the right thing because it doesn’t feel like you feel like saying.
– you cherish the moments you feel ‘at home’, because there are so few of them. Not having to ‘pretend’ or ‘adjust’… sort of like playing a role… feels great.
– now… when you grow up in between cultures, fall in love between cultures, marry (or not) between cultures…. things are complicated. I mean, how many people have to face this difficult decision: WHAT LANGUAGE DO I RAISE MY CHILDREN IN?? Tough call.
For the record:
I grew up as an Afrikaner girl, and will always be that barefoot girl. I’m formally a ‘natural’ English speaker, I learned English outside of the home, Afrikaans inside of the home. I spent over half my life more or less in Holland. I don’t remember ever really feeling at home here, the why is complicated. My beloved boyfriend is half-Spanish, half Dutch (and that’s his preferred order). I’ve done all but the first years of formal schooling in a second language… which I wasn’t even fully proficient in for a great deal of the time.
I identify myself as South-African, Afrikaans, a white African, and perhaps as a third-culture child thanks to European influences. Not Dutch, never Dutch. There’s just too much about being Dutch that isn’t compatible with being me. I suppose I really am ‘undutchable’. I don’t want to be seen as Dutch in order to be accepted, I want to be accepted as I am. That doesn’t mean I’m not benefiting from the whole inter cultural thing, it does allow me to see things in a different light. I have gained wisdom.
As far as language goes:
I have no ‘first’ language, if ‘first language’ is defined as what you think in. I think in images, concepts. I have notes in which I used 3 languages in 1 sentence. Something about bilingual children’s linguistic development: they focus on the meaning of the word rather than on the actual word I think. If I HAVE to say which is closest to me, I’d say Afrikaans and English both are the languages my soul understand and speak. I’d get further on a formal language test in English perhaps, I have grade 5 in Afrikaans, but did as much as I could in English at university.
I did that because no matter HOW you define first and second language… Dutch most definitely is my second language. Learning in English is easier. My Dutch is excellent, on a good day I even get mistaken for a native speaker. But it’s not ‘mine’. My soul doesn’t speak Dutch, it remains a cognitive thing.
Oh, and I also speak a mouthful of French and German.

 

As for the future: I don’t know where I will go, what I will do. I just hope that I can find a place where I feel like I belong more often, maybe feel more connected.

The Dutch aren’t a very ‘connected’ people I suppose.

I am learning Spanish.

 

Because one thing I know for certain:
If we are blessed with a good marriage and some healthy very much Third Culture children…
They will speak Spanish, and I want to be able to at least understand them if they speak from the heart.

Even if there’s no real ideal language for me to raise them in. Whatever I do, it’s going to create distance.

 

But maybe, just maybe…
We can have ‘home’ together, regardless of how it fits in the ‘outside world’. What matters is who we are, and loving one another. And maybe we can find a place where the outside world values diversity over sameness. That would make life easier… and… MUCH more interesting.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2014 in Dear Diary, society

 

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Unacceptable heartache.

This is not a sob story.

This is not about pointing fingers, about being holier-than-thou or about anything like that.

This is simply about the pain I’ve seen so many times before.

It’s the pain I know too well, and although I have reached a point where I can live and breathe, it breaks my heart to see it in another person. 

It is a pain not acknowledged by the people around us.

I am absolutely baffled to learn that googling ‘eenzame immigrant’ (Dutch for ‘lonely immigrant’) gets me no significant results at all. A few book reviews, a book in which a lonely immigrant has a gold fish and a bunch of websites casually mentioning immigrants while actually going on about the poor lonely Dutch elderly.

I had another confrontation with it today.

If I say ‘she’, I might as well say ‘he’. If I say Africa, I might as well say anywhere in the world, except for where the large groups of immigrants to Holland come from. If I say they have children, I might as well say they were children or there are no children. If I say a few years, I mean anything from one to twenty. It doesn’t matter. Their story doesn’t even matter, I have found too few exceptions to the rule for their story to matter. It doesn’t matter from which walk of life…

It’s the pain of being an immigrant in the Netherlands. If it were only me, then maybe it’s just me. I thought I was the problem for a long time, to be honest. I think we all do, we fail. If it were only me I wouldn’t be so heartbroken. Being an immigrant in the Netherlands has taught me what loneliness is. Not the fresh-from-the-press first year immigrant kind of loneliness, but the loneliness of years and years of struggling to make meaningful connections with other humans… and being turned down for no apparent reason. I don’t understand why it happens like this. I honestly don’t, there’s not a fibre in my body able to understand this part of my host country. I am sorry. I absolutely do not see why this has to hurt so much, but I absolutely do think it is completely unnecessary.

I have been here for sixteen years, it does not feel like my home at all.  After ten years, I finally managed to begin to be accepted into society, albeit still not always fully. There’s a reason for that now: I refuse to pay the price. Becoming ‘one of them’ would mean committing treason against myself. While it is absolutely true that in the past years I’ve made some wonderful Dutch friends whom I really love… I still don’t belong here and I suspect I never will. Despite what I ‘have’ here: relative safety, a roof over my head, the opportunity to do the training I need in order to use my talents to the benefit of others, my friends, not having the ‘wrong’ skin colour….

I have been here for sixteen years and despite that… I only feel free when the wheels of that plane lift off the ground at Schiphol Airport. Or I cross whatever border. And I still cry every time I have to come back, even after a short trip. I cried when they started putting Dutch subtitles in BBC broadcasts: even though I’m not British watching the BBC was my small pretend escape where I needn’t be confronted with anything Dutch. (Why am I not in England: GP training. End of story.) I was away for four weeks in January this year. I’m not one for panic attacks, but I definitely came close to them while packing for the return trip. I felt like everything associated with this place was going to suffocate me. I was surprised by the emotional effect returning to Holland has on me, despite all these years. I’m sad to say I’ve been dreaming of the day I can be free for good ever since I was fourteen years old.

I never chose to come here, but I chose to stay for the whole doctor thing.  And I must add, part of why this is so hefty for me is because I am different, regardless of my passport(s). I was different in South-Africa but diversity is nothing foreign to South-Africans. Here, my being different made things worse for me.

I am accepted, not welcome. Not one of them. Just a girl in the world, foolish enough to think she has a calling, struggling to make sense of it all, struggling to find room to bloom and not grow crooked. I am strong.
I am accepted, not welcome. Not all of us are even accepted, I’ve stood up for the lonely immigrant countless times, only to be dismissed, because I don’t think like them so I can’t have a point. I was not accepted that day when I stood up, alone, explaining that I can not be forced to give up my cultural identity to take on someone else’s, that that’s impossible because where I came from made me who I am today.

This country also shaped me, and I pray to keep only the good.

Accepted is lonely.

And when I see the gratitude in someone else’s eyes, simply because I saw them, I know I am not the only one going through this pain.

The irony? Those who pop in mind when the Dutch think of immigrants (and please note generalisation is merely a sketch of an observed tendency and does not mean all are like that!) belong to immigrant communities, which actually have become Dutch minorities. Turkish, Moroccan, Caribbean, heck… even the Eastern Europeans have a group they can belong to. And yes, there are exceptions of happy immigrants (The Queen, for example, and my father-in-law).

 

She is the highly talented immigrant medical specialist who randomly ran into me, the med student, and through talking, learned that she’s not alone with this pain. Fifteen years, marriage to a Dutch man, and she still is seen as an outsider, still finds people simply not caring for coffee. She spends her days improving the lives of the Dutch. 

He’s a trafficked African young man, fighting hard to deal with the trauma he can not even speak of. A beautiful, intelligent young man, who had been here for a few years, partly as a fugitive due to threats to kill him, and police still trying to solve the case involving him and others. He had been working minimum wage jobs all the time, despite an African university degree. He is married, has a lovely one-year-old-son. His dream is to teach, to provide for his son, to be here with his family. An honest, hard-working man and intelligent man, the sort we need more of. Police dropped his case, he is no longer legal in the country and he is facing being sent back to where he came from. Detail: police dropped the case because the traffickers (and their threats!) are where he came from. Nobody cares about his family, nobody cares about how much he has to offer, what it did to him to be half-promised residence. He got on with his life, only to have it torn apart. Why? Because he is not accepted. A Dutch Christian with a university masters degree who wanted to work in developmental stuff respondend: ‘They always tell sob stories so they can stay  here, you never know what is true’. Detail: I spoke to this man, African to African, and he knew I had no influence in any immigrations decisions. And I’d actually rather let him teach my imaginary future children.

She is from India, but had been trapped here, illegally, with no passport and after all these years absolutely nothing to return to. As a member of a lower chaste, she had been at the mercy of ‘higher’ ones all her life but remembers how proud her father was of her. She can not read or write, the letters keep switching around so she couldn’t learn. Once upon a time she had been brought here by a diplomat family, then got transferred to a certain embassy who hold no respect for basic human rights. They ‘lost’ her passport, at some point ‘dismissed’ her and the letters they gave her, which she still carried around, read a bunch of fantastic lies. She had been turned down so many times when asking for help, been taken advantage of so many times when she asked someone to help her read… Turned down by her own embassy because she’s lower chaste. There is no reason in this world why this woman, who would do no harm and knows about hard work, needs to be illegal. She has no Dutch friends at all. Not because she didn’t try. 

She is Russian, dreams of a career in fashion and has the guts to show her self-choreographed, dance solo filled with talent and humour at an event where hundreds of people were present… because it was Women’s Day. They enjoyed it, they laughed, they clapped and she asked us to model her designs at the fashion show at the same event. She has a few Russian friends she sometimes sees, her main point of connection with others comes from her volunteering at an organisation aiming to bring social relief to the lonely, guidance to those who need it and such. I always wondered how she kept on giving, because the reality was that she was a single mother working in a shop, lonely. There simply is no space for an extremely talented Russian lady in people’s lives. (I was one of the volunteers too, kept contact with her till I graduated).

He’s the boy with the Armenian flag, explaining how even his name got mixed up when his family sought asylum years ago, this now is the place where he can be safe. The Armenian flag pinned to his school bag is an attempt to make clear that he is NOT Turkish. He goes to a Dutch school, learning in a second language and dreaming big because you don’t pass up an opportunity to get education. He lives a lonely life, having no peers. Being Christian and actually having done an excellent job at figuring out how Holland works, you’d expect he’d get along fine. The truth is that people rarely look beyond his dark hair and lightly tinted skin, and with a tinge of an accent he is instantly placed in the same ‘box’ as the Muslim kids with a Turkish background. He wistfully looks out the library window at a muslim-Turkish protest march going on, mainly school kids. He is not one of them, not one of the others either.

She is the single mother who left Africa years ago with her abusive husband. Something something his idea to come here. He left her but did not take his massive debt with him, and poof, he’s gone. She is now struggling to raise their daughter on her own, paying off the debt and dealing with the girl’s sickle cell aneamia leading to several hospitalisations. Trying to understand what some things mean in Dutch had people label her as ‘crazy’; attempts to build friendships or even just drink a cup of coffee didn’t work because everyone is just too busy with their own family and selves. She tries to make money, tries to make ends meet, but could really really do with some support, but that’s nowhere to be found in Dutch society because they only have eye for their own. This she can explain in fluent Dutch. 

 

 

Dear people, I see you, and I feel your pain.

All I am trying to say is ‘look, we’re people too’. And we’re NOT here for the clogs or the tulips, we’re here because somehow our lives turned out that way and we’re just trying to make most of it. We’d like to meet you, and allow you to meet us.  As people. That’s all.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2014 in Rant, society

 

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Mandela.

Yes, I am pretty sure the world has heard it by now. Nelson Rohihlahla Mandela died on December the 5th, Tata finally got to rest. Not another Mandela honouring post, you’d say. If I had time earlier, I would have written earlier.

The thing is, I DO get to write about it.

I am South-African.

And Mandela died.

December 5th is Sinterklaas evening in Holland. I was busy watching Law and Order and half a movie (recorded the other half), happily avoiding the white old man in a dress with his pitch black helper boy. (Off topic: that puzzled me for years… and now the Dutch are angry because the UN are equally puzzled by this. At some point I figured it must have been black FROM soot… until recently somebody pointed out it’s black LIKE soot… and I shall continue to be puzzled).

I was about to go to bed when TDH told me to check the news. I did, I checked the Dutch news as I assumed it would be something about around here. Apparently Madiba had died. I checked the South African news websites, as they at least knew the difference between Nelson Mandela and Morgan Freeman. It was true.

As it sunk in, I sung and I prayed, apparently like a proper South-African. What I remembered of the original Zulu version of ‘Nkosi Sikelel’i Afrika’ seemed most appropriate, given the meaning. I am thankful for Madiba, for what he has done for us all. And I pray our people will keep his legacy alive, and show the world what we’re made of rather than fight each other. There have been speculations about the effect of Madiba’s death on the country. Regardless of how far I am from it, and how long I’ve been away from it, it’s still my country with my people in it.

And I realised I owe my freedom to Mandela too. Nobody was free under the Apartheid rule, and Madiba also made it very clear that White South-Africans are South-Africans too… Apartheid was going to end, no matter what… Mandela allowed us to be free together with the others. I know, I know, not JUST Mandela. (There were more. He even shared the Nobel prize with F.W. de Klerk). While they were at it, women and the disabled were being empowered too.

I grew up in the middle of it. I remember my mum chatting to our domestic worker about Mandela being free. I remember the same air of uncertainty that has been hanging around my childhood in South-Africa in the ’90s. I wasn’t raised with Apartheid ideologies, on the contrary. I witnessed it’s tail, I witnessed what it did. I remember my mum casually chatting with the domestic worker about what was happening, no tension between the two at all.

I remember 1994, I was 8 years old. Our primary school teachers had to explain things to us, still trying to make sense of it all themselves. My school was white, my school was Afrikaans. We had a large picture of F.W. de Klerk and the flag hanging in every classroom. I remember my sister, 5, running around in the garden just before the elections, shouting ‘A.N.C.’. I remember not being able to make out what was right and wrong, having heard too many different views. When you’re 8, you want a right and wrong. I remember getting elections day off. They were voting in our school. I could see the queue from our house; it had to be at least 300m long.

I remember Nelson Mandela becoming president, and I remember changes. We had Mandela hanging in every classroom now, we had a new flag, look, it stood for unity, and we were high on the concept of a Rainbow Nation. One of the first changes I remember was banning physical punishment in schools, as it directly affected me, of course. I remember 1997 Environment day, my very white school and two very black schools decided to play together that day. Kids being kids, there wasn’t very much inter-school mingling. It WAS weird, because these kids seemed different from us and visa versa. We had been taught they were different for years. I was one of few who actually thought the intermingling was fun. I remember sharing food with two girls from one of the other schools.

And 1995 rugby world cup.

I remember listing Mandela as one of my heroes when I was 16. I hadn’t read ‘A long walk’ then, I just was old enough to understand. And I did believe, and still believe, that Madiba had the Lord on his side. I know he was a Christian. I was old enough to look back, and realise what he’d done and what he stood for. Our wise old man, who was prepared to die for OUR freedom.

We need more leaders like Mandela.

Tata, thank you, and see you in heaven. I WILL remember what you taught us, and I WILL live it.

 

Oh, and here’s the reason I don’t trust the Dutch news very much…

No, it’s not a hoax, yes, that’s Morgan Freeman being called Nelson Mandela. If I were Morgan Freeman I’d be honoured, apart from the dead bit.

They changed the photo soon enough…

But come on!

They look nothing alike! Black man with grey hair, that’s as far as I come.

Yes, Morgan Freeman played Mandela in Invictus. Because they look nothing alike, I spent the whole movie mentally filling in Madiba’s face every time Morgan Freeman was on screen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2013 in Dear Diary, society

 

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Doing it SA style!

I actually have no idea why my home country is in my head so much lately. Maybe I’m homesick.

Maybe it’s a coming-of-age thing.

Maybe I should have left this place a long time ago, maybe there’s still a hidden reason why I am here.

And right now, I regret letting the Dutch get to me like they did. I regret not staying true to myself.

For years I’ve been taught by those around me the Dutch way is superior. I was also trying to adapt to a new country.  It took me years to realise that the Dutch will consider their way superior, because that’s part of being Dutch. It took me less time to realise that there is no way I could fully become Dutch, and that I had very little desire to do so… and that it would be completely pointless as I’ll never be fully accepted. And that’s OK. I needn’t be fully accepted as Dutch. I’d rather not, actually, given the hell I’ve been through here.

I think it was an article I read in some women’s magazine. The point of the article was that women need to learn to let go or something in that line.  What struck me was this sentence, translated: ‘The current generation of 20 somethings and 30 somethings have grown up in an affluent time. Everything was possible, they could have anything, so they choose everything. Stress is a status symbol these days‘. In my mind, I saw my ‘peers’. The young women, raised by SAHM’s, who were taught the values if individualism, secularity and their own control of their lives. They’ve had it good.

Bam. That’s not my generation. My generation has experienced adversity. We knew what rape was before these Dutch kids got sex ed. We’ve seen our country change, we’ve known since our early years that nothing comes for free.  We know nobody who knows nobody who has never been confronted with violence. White South-Africans of my generation will never experience the elitist position our parents had, we’re just in there with the rest of everyone. And we knew that all along. We get on with life, shrugging ‘alles sal reg kom’. It will. Everything will be OK somehow, even if it won’t.  We, all of us, are building a new country and a new culture. And we’re in it together, yet most don’t realise it. (Most white South-Africans have no idea how African they really are. Distance allows for perspective!)

Well, I’m here.

And I am once again realising that I’ve grown up in a different world than the Dutch kids I was supposed to ‘integrate’ with. I regret how far I’ve gone before realising it’s futile, and I regret many of the choices I made. I regret not staying true to myself, but I can’t really blame myself. I regret allowing some Dutchness tempt me, but I do not know how I could have done otherwise.
These kids were affluent, grew up in an individualistic society and they were raised with all the ‘rights’ they have. They were raised to be individuals, just like everyone else. They had every opportunity available, yet never appreciated it and never had to do more than barely enough for it. I’m startled these days to see children whose parents are on social benefits walk around in expensive clothes, but they’re entitled to it. (Apparently off my tax money, but that’s a different story!)
I grew up in a rapidly changing country, and a relatively unsafe one at that. I was raised to consider myself part of the community, altruism being somewhat a given thing. (Let generalisations be generalisations please!). I was raised with the idea that I had to provide for my family one day, and at least be able to take care of myself. I never had the shiny stuff many other kids had, in South-Africa it wasn’t as bad. In Holland I had less, and they had more. When I was 14, there was no money for a new winter jacket for me, so I wore my rain jacket over my red-orange-yellow jacket, designed for a 4-year-old but made in a size I’d never grow out of. (My mum bought it when I was 9 or 10. She didn’t realise I’d be wearing it at age 11 until it fell to pieces somewhere in my mid teens). The rain jacked was stupid, but at least navy is less prominently visible than red-orange-yellow. My parents were stricter and any ‘personal development’ was aimed at my future. In fact, while many of the Dutch teens were allowed to do whatever they pleased after graduating with whatever grades they pleased doing whatever they thought would make them happy… I found myself caught in between parents -especially a father- who not only pressured me to make most of the opportunity I had to go to university, but to make sure I put survival before pleasure. …. and my Dutch school on the other hand who did not understand this at all and pressured me to pick ‘whatever makes you happy, it’s about you!’.

The same school that half marginalised me and my foreign friends – none of us here because we like tulips so much- probably because it was easier than dealing with cultural differences. Funnily enough, those I’ve managed to follow on Facebook turned out to be doing all right. And me? I’ve proven that Zaffa chicks don’t die. I’ve never had it easy, and I’ve had to deal with some pretty serious stuff I think. ADHD is the annoying one, the dangerous ones were depression and the eating disorder. Not only am I not on benefits, but I’ve graduated medical school, am working full time as a doctor and I am very much fit to practice. Thank you very much.

Side note: apparently the Dutch are one of the happiest nations in the world. This puzzles me. I rarely see them being happy. I see them being cognitive, sure, but if someone’s happy you can see that without asking!

Anyway.

Then the economic crisis hit. The Dutch responded by doing what they do best: discussing it.

I rarely stick around for Dutch discussions, as there rarely is an outcome.

I’m watching this whole circus go on. As a whole, they’re still better off than South-Africans. I watch the massive results being booked by Oliver’s House, with gifts from the community, in South-Africa. I watch the Dutch go on about how the solution is to basically give everyone the same income. MEANWHILE there ARE children here, living in poverty, but I’ve seen no community incentives to gather food for them, like I’ve seen at my relatively well-off primary school in South-Africa EVERY YEAR. I have stopped following the news, sometimes just scanning it on my app, just in case SOMETHING happens. Usually, it’s just talk talk talk. The minister of health SAYS. But what does she do?

Then there’s this new trend, mainly among Dutch women, of ‘consuming less’ and mindfulness. Flow magazine, anyone? Look, I’m a pretty creative person, but Flow magazine just makes me nauseous. It’s a middle class thing, sort of hipster I think. Main goal is to find depth and happiness I think, to each their own… I don’t understand the self-orientation in it. Doesn’t matter. Often it also involves being more of a housewife than they were before. Speaking of which, the ‘feminist’ magazine ‘Opzij’ recently woke up and smelled the coffee on sexism. Nothing I didn’t know at age 12, when I learned what being a woman in Holland meant.

Anyway. I’m watching. We have freedom of speech here, but I’ve also learned that there’s little point to voicing an opinion that isn’t mainstream: they don’t care.

And I’ve realised that this shit is not going to be over soon, and this society needs some massive changes if it wants to survive.

Nope. The Dutch way is NOT superior.

The South-African way definitely has it’s drawbacks. I mean, we’re still talking about a country in which paperwork involves actual paper and an hour long sit at the embassy or home affairs to fill it out. And we still actually DO have street children…

But still, I am doing things SA style from now on.  Why? Because, looking back, we’re a pretty amazing nation… and my dad was right about so many things the Dutch seem to be wrong about. And because it’s the only way to fix the ‘damage’ done by trying to be Dutch.

Lesson learnt. Never try to keep up with the Joneses if your last name isn’t Jones.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2013 in I believe, Random, society