Darling Daughters picked us up, on time, to take us to the airport.
“Do you want music?” asked Darling Daughter Two. “I’ve got Disney for you Mom,” she added digging around in her bag.
Aaah, how sweet! Anyone who knows me, knows that Disney is my favourite kind of music. Yes, yes I know you are all gasping in horror and shaking your heads, but it’s true … Beauty and the Beast, “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid, “I will show you the world, shining, shimmering, splendid … la la la …” from Aladdin. Followed closely by those old musicals … Singin’ in the Rain, Oklahoma and not to forget my all-time favourite; The Sound of Music.
But I’m getting carried away …
The music was duly switched on and Beauty and the Beast was selected. But, before I could even open my mouth to sing along, Darling Daughters had burst into song; they knew all the words and even sang in parts and harmony. They were so taken up with their own performance that I could not get a musical note in edgeways.
So I sat back and listened, thinking of the days when I was banned from playing a Disney song, or even saying the “D” word; Darling Daughter Two controlled all the car music and only sometimes allowed me to sing Aladdin (when we were nearly at home). And Darling Daughter One complained that when I was waiting for her in the school car park, everyone could hear my Disney songs playing. I was such an embarrassment!
And here they were now, knowing every word (and action) and, by the sound of things, enjoying every moment. It was a miracle!
After this entertaining car ride, Darling Daughters joined us for an airport coffee and breakfast, and then, still in good time, we headed for the departure gates. With a few photos and hugs we said our good-byes and joined the end of an very long queue. Forward and around, walk left, walk right and repeat, at a snail’s pace. Finally we reached the front. The ground hostess squinted at our boarding passes.
“This is the Domestic queue, International is on the other side.” She pointed.
I called up Darling Daughter Two.
“You won’t believe it; we were in the wrong queue!”
“You are so silly Mom!” she sighed. This was quickly followed by the beep-beep of an SMS.
“Kels says you have been travelling for over a year now, you should know how to do this by now.”
Ja-ja, I suppose …
We made our way through Security and Passport Control and had just settled into some seats outside our departure gate when I got a call.
“We can’t find the car Mom. We’ve been looking all this time.”
“It was near the lift,” I said trying to be helpful.
“We’ve looked there.”
“Are you on P1, the red level?”
“Yes, it’s gone Mom.”
“I really don’t think anyone would want to steal your car Darling One, too many dents and scrapes you know.”
“I suppose …”
“You’ll have to ask security to help you find it,” I suggested.
Fifteen minutes passed.
“We have looked everywhere Mom, it’s not here,” said Darling Daughter One somewhat out of breath. “Rix!” I heard her shouting, “Did you go the whole way to the end?”
“Yes,” came the echoed reply.
“Go to security,” I said.
Ten minutes passed.
“Mom, we’ve been looking in International Parking. We think we parked in Domestic, we are going there now.”
Ten minutes passed.
Beep-beep, I received an SMS:
“So you are sillier than us!” I SMSed back.
“Haha, no I’d say we are pretty much even. And Kels says her car is lighter without you guys … and your bags.”
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: 13-01-2015
I breathed a sigh of relief after our Police Clearance Certificates arrived, and I thought to myself; now we are ready for Thailand.
But that was before Stefan announced: “Maybe we should get our motorcycle licences for Thailand.”
I have come to learn that Stefan has many grand ideas, but somehow they always tend to sprout forth or be implemented at the very last possible moment. But he phoned around and managed to book the last available slot of the year to write our Learner’s Licence, in the small town of Malmesbury. We bought a K53 book, brushed up on the road signs and the rules of the road, drove out to Malmesbury and both passed the written test. But, having never been on, or driven a motorcycle before, I knew my difficulty was not going to be the written test but the practical one. And, once we had our practical test booked in January, three days before we departed, I realised, with horror, that we had less than one month to practice and no motorcycles to practice on!
My nightmares of being arrested on arrival in South Africa, were now replaced with nightmares of motorcycles, clutches and brakes, all accompanied by my father’s voice, warning me of the terrible dangers of driving a motorcycle.
Anyway, we duly set off for Billy’s Motorcycle School in Bellville. There were twelve beginners in the class and we all started on scooters, driving around and around the parking lot. Then we practised starting and stopping and even weaving between traffic cones! I felt relieved that I could manage this and, after a short break, was ready to get back on that scooter to practise some more. In my mind, I had decided to just learn how to drive a scooter, to avoid the intricacies of gears and clutches. But Billy had bigger aspirations; he wanted us all to immediately progress to motorcycles.
“Come,” he grunted at me pointing to a huge, black bike. “Get on.”
“I’m not ready,” I replied, my mouth turning dry with fear. “I think I’ll stick to the scooters,” I suggested in a small voice.
“No, come, get on,” he insisted, not at all interested in my feeble objections. He quickly showed me the gears, but fear made it hard to concentrate.
“Okay now … GO!” he said walking beside me. “CHANGE GEAR!” he yelled after me, as I moved off. And there I was, put-putting around the parking lot on a big, black motorcycle, going only just fast enough not to stall.
Stefan whizzed by. “Hey! go faster,” he called out. I did not respond. I sat transfixed, not looking left or right, not wanting to go faster or slower, not wanting to change gears … not knowing how to stop.
Stefan whizzed by a second time. “Accelerate, I can’t go that slow,” he called.
Then he made a third pass. “I’ll topple over if I go so slowly,” he encouraged.
“Do you know how to stop???” he shouted the fourth time around.
“No,” I finally squeaked, taking my first breath in twenty minutes. I had been desperately trying to recall the drawing of the motorcycle controls in the written test. I knew there was a brake that I should never touch if I was turning the handlebars, but which one was it?
“Use your foot break. Do you know where it is?!” Stefan yelled the next time he passed.
And so, finally, I stopped.
“You know, you were not the worst,” Stefan said afterwards, trying to bolster my confidence. “I had to help one girl when she rode straight into the pavement and the motorcycle kept going without her, and another girl’s bike fell on top of her twice, and she burnt her leg.” Oh? I had not noticed, maybe I was not so bad?
“You were only the third worst,” he added.
POSTSCRIPT: We both passed!
FRANSCHHOEK, SOUTH AFRICA: 26-12-2014
We have decided to take a year’s “sabbatical” based in Thailand; learn Thai, experience a different culture, explore the neighbouring countries and write. So our first priority was to obtain the correct visa for our stay and, after much debate, we finally settled on a retirement visa, as the main requirement is for one of us to be over fifty. One of us is, and it’s not me!(yet) This means that we can stay for a year without having to do a visa run every three months.
We also needed a Police Clearance Certificate and, never having run afoul of the law, this would seem to be a simple process. But, I did not factor in Darling Daughter, who I had left in charge of changing her car into her name before we left South Africa for our extended travels last year.
It came to my attention, just before I was due back in South Africa, that I had six warrants out for my arrest and thirty-two unpaid traffic fines against my name. Sister informed me that she no longer needed to fetch me from the airport as the police would be picking me up as I came though passport control. But she did kindly offer to visit me in jail and bring food!
You see, on opening my post box, Sister had discovered this large pile of notices and summons for me. She knew that these were not for my old car, so she raised me urgently on Skype (as I was in United States at the time) and we were both incensed by the fact that someone had stolen my identity. We devised plans and schemed how to catch the bugger, and the second-hand car dealership, where I had sold my car, was deemed to be the culprit. It was only by chance that Sister mentioned these fines to Darling Daughter a little while later.
“Are any of them for me?” Darling Daughter sweetly asked.
And why did Darling Daughter not pay these fines, you may well ask? Well, a student friend told her to just ignore them, and throw them away, (students can be very helpful in this way) and she happily did just that – for a year! And, because she received none of the follow-up notices, (of course she wouldn’t as her car was still in my name) she thought she was in the clear.
But by now it was late in the day, and Darling Daughter had final exams to prepare for and massive projects to hand in. It was no longer a simple task of just paying the fines, but required her going personally to more than one venue and queuing for a very long time, and time was a commodity in short supply.
In the meantime I needed to sort out our Thai visa, and could wait no longer, so I went ahead and applied for my Police Clearance Certificate, having sleepless nights that instead of getting Clearance, I would get Caught.
In the end the warrants and fines were all paid, the exams were passed and the Police Clearance Certificate obtained.
And, the upside of this story? Yes, there is an upside; you see in severing all ties with Darling Daughter’s car, I managed to snatch some valuable hours from Darling Daughter’s hectic schedule, meeting up with her at the local municipal offices to stand in long queues. Although this may not have been the quality time I had envisaged while travelling around the world, any time spent with Darling Daughter is always appreciated. And, for once, the lethargy of our S.A. Police was very much appreciated.
FRANSCHHOEK, SOUTH AFRICA: 19-12-2014
We have raced each other on previous occasions, but it’s usually a race to a finishing line. You see I am fairly (actually extremely) organised. I had planned, sorted, shopped, packed and re-packed carefully, paying attention to every detail. What I had not planned for, however, was my fiancé. He tells me he does not PLAN to leave things to the last minute but that it is just a “personality trait”.
I could sense we were heading for disaster when five days before we were due to leave, he still had to; fix up his house, sell his house, complete an important and difficult work project, sign a trust resolution, organise a Power of Attorney, shop for needed items and pack his bag. I could visualise what was about to happen, so I decided to take action.
The first step was to organise somebody else to cater for our farewell party. This was met with dismay, “So you want to take away all my fun now?”
The second step was to plead, “Please, please whatever you do just don’t, don’t be late for the airport. That would be the worst thing you can do to me, please.” The third thing I did was plead and the fourth, “Please…”
It was when there was only an hour to go before we were due to leave for the airport, that I witnessed “Panic Packing”. For those of you lucky enough never to have experienced this, let me explain. Panic packing can only happen if you have less than an hour to go. You need to use both hands, working them in opposite directions, as you grab and pull, then grab and throw. Remember to drop and bang items periodically, then push-push-push such items into a suitcase. It is essential that all of the above is accompanied by loud and forceful language. Be sure not to sort and definitely do not fold. Items must be piled in a disorganised heap in the middle of the suitcase as they need to be squashed downwards while using extreme force to zip it all up.
We actually checked in on time, and I saw we had 10 minutes before boarding. “We will have to go straight through.” I said confidently.
“Oh no,” he answered casually; “we still have time for a cappuccino with my family.”
“But there are queues at Passport Control”
“What queues, there are no queues here; this is Cape Town not Joburg.”
“I wish I had brought a tranquilliser for you Cathy. ” Stefan’s sister said, giving me a pitying look. “Stefan ek kan nou weer sien jy gaan die kind op hol jaag. (Stefan I can see you are going to drive her crazy) Aag shame Cathy.”
“Its fine” he said calmly sipping his cappuccino, “they can’t leave without us.”
“We have to go now!” I urged gulping down mine. “And I have to go to the toilet.” I said, in a desperate attempt to get him moving.
We sailed through the security check but on rounding the corner we saw it; the dreaded QUEUE at passport control. We had just joined the queue when we heard a boarding call for our flight, we were somewhere in the middle of the queue when the FINAL call came and a few people were ahead of us when the URGENT FINAL call came. We were met by harried ground staff as we left the passport counter and told to RUN while they frantically gestured towards the boarding gate.
And so we sprinted…
“You see we got here, “he said, panting from exertion, “didn’t I tell you?”
I gave him an exasperated look. We took our seats in stony silence. “Did you SEE the queue?” I asked.
“But you see my darling, if it wasn’t for me you would have nothing to write about. It would all be so boooooring.”
You can technically be on time at the airport, but still be late for your flight.
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: 26-05-2013
This is probably where it all started, the idea to travel, write and dream.