Hazy Days

the shadow of the life to come

Hazy Days

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Outing: Rhodes Memorial

Our June/July holidays were blessed with an Indian Summer feel.  Hot days, clear skies, lots of sun and loads of time to do all manner of outdoor activities.  Except the day we headed to Rhodes Mem of course.  A bitterly cold wind picked its way under all our layers and rendered this momma c-OLD.  Thankfully, the sun got warmer and the wind went to blow around some other monument in the greater Cape Town area (for we all know that the wind never disappears entirely from Cape Town) and we had a promising morning of fun ahead of us.

Ah-hem.  That is, until we realised what a logistical nightmare Rhodes Memorial is with small, medium and large children!  Well, really mostly with the pint sized versions.  Caren, Di and I decided to spend some time together that particular morning and, since Rhodes Memorial is a place we’ve not been to in absolutely AGES, I thought it was a great idea to head up there. 

For those in the dark about Rhodes Memorial, it’s a huge huge HUGE monument to Cecil John Rhodes, of the diamond mining, colonising, egotistical fame.  The very same guy who had an entire country named after him – Rhodesia, currently known as Zimbabwe.  It’s actually a lovely place, overlooking the southern suburbs of Cape Town from the side of Table Mountain.  Fronted by a larger-than-life statue of a rearing horse and rider, it has enormous statues of lions bordering its giant-sized steps, which lead up to a massive bust of the man himself.  I remember singing gospel songs up there at sunrise services when I was little.  I have good memories of playing on the steps and around the tea garden area.

I didn’t have memories of death defying acts of cliff hanging, or disappearing from sight and earshot, however.  But now… now, I do.

Within minutes of arriving our 12 kids together scattered like spilled marbles.  Keeping track of who was where at what point in time was an impossible task.  Eventually, I gave up – after remembering why it was that we hadn’t visited the place in a while: entirely unfriendly for little kids in terms of safety perhaps? It literally was a case of "freak out" in panic and head home then and there, or relax, ask God to take extra special care of our hooligans and just enjoy the beauty of good conversation with the other moms and the beauty of our surrounding.  So that’s what we did. 

And God was very gracious, because my little Micah decided that launching himself over the edge of the rocky ledge of the monument, with a five metre drop below, would be a good idea.  I was at the top of the monument by that stage, and he at the bottom.  I saw his little hands clinging to wall, with his body hanging off the wrong side of it.  It was scary.  I ran down those stairs yelling like a crazy woman, to no avail.  He couldn’t hear me.  I then just prayed.  It felt a little like one of those dreams where you run and run and run, but don’t really go anywhere.  While I watched the movie of Micah Is About to Fall Off the Mountain play out in front of me, I saw his little 2-year old buddy, who was standing on the correct side of the ledge, casually reach over and pull Micah back over the wall by the seat of his pants.  By the time I reached him, all was fine.  Well, my heart was still racing, but Micah was still grinning.  Yes, STILL grinning.  He had thought the entire episode was a splendid game.  So much so that he repeated his daredevil venture again on a much MUCH more dangerous spot half an hour later.  This time, the Falconer boys rescued him.  But a dad standing nearby got the shock of his life.  And I was the recipient of his outrage shortly thereafter.  The poor man went off at me about my lack of parenting skills and care for my child.  He was completely right.  It would’ve been much better if I had been a whole lot more vigilant with my monster.  But, given the circumstances, the fact that he was within eye sight was a minor miracle.  That boy is as slippery as all else and a daredevil of note.  In retrospect, perhaps I should’ve strapped him to my back in the Ergo.  Either way, I just nodded and agreed with him.  He had just got a huge shock after all!

So, I guess you can say that I learnt my lesson.  No – not to rather freak out and go home.  Nor to freak out and hover.  No no – simply not to return to Rhodes Memorial again until all my kids are of a more responsible age! 

We headed home soon after that.  It was a little crazy.  I don’t think I’d repeat it, BUT – the kids had an absolute ball  and they’ll certainly remember it for all the fun they had.

Snack time on the steps.

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This is Micah taking in the view when we first arrived.  An hour or so later, he was hanging by his fingertips off the ledge, feet dangling off the other side with nothing back a sloping hill of rocky grass five metres below.

Mr Micah early in the morning - before his ledge hanging episode - this would be said ledge.  yip, hanging off the other side with a 3m drop below him.  Ah! My shattered nerves!

Yes – this ledge.

Hmmm - grinning crazy ledge boy.  He is alive today by the grace of God alone!

And I ran from those pillars at the very top.

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A better moment – Tom, his buddy and Kiera adventuring about…

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Amy and 1 Samuel 🙂

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Kiera loved the lions – recreating some of the memories that I had as a child doing exactly the same thing!

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Can you see the ledge waaaay down there – that would be the one Micah jumped off, while I stood next to this lion before I noticed and ran like a banshee all the way down the steps.

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This is my favourite photograph.  All these bright and vibrant ALIVE young kids, sitting in front of the cold, dull, stone DEAD bust of a man long gone.  I love it, because the arrogance of the inscription below the bust is proven untrue simply by the presence of the children sitting on the steps…

some of the older kids hang out: note the juxtaposition of these vibrant ALIVE brightly clothed young people with the cold, dead, stone statue in the background - the same statue that claims to still be the soul of our land.  Hmm, not quite Mr Rhodes

The inscription reads:

The immense and brooding spirit shall still quicken and control. Living he was the land and dead his soul shall be her soul.

The juxtaposition is so obvious.  The inscription is so false.  It reminds me of Isaiah 2:17

The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men will be humbled.  The Lord alone will be exalted on that day.

The fact that we all decay, rot and then die (and rot some more) is proof enough that dear ol’ Cecil is not controlling and quickening and embodying the soul of our land.  Those children on the steps prove it too – they are children of a new South Africa where the racial oppression of Cecil’s era has passed and the life and soul of our country is governed by the generations that now live.  While it’s not perfect by a long shot, it’s what we have.  It’s alive.  And it’s vibrant.  And, one day this generation will have passed too. And the next.  And the next.  Only God continues to quicken and control.  And only He will be exalted on that last day.

Nelson Mandela Day 2011

67 minutes…

 cups Hot choc for FREE! cupcake hand

During the 90th birthday celebrations of arguably one of the best presidents this world has ever seen, organisers called for an international annual event called "67 Minutes".  The idea is that every year, on Nelson Mandela’s birthday, people across the world spent 67 minutes doing something that benefits others.  Why 67?  It signifies the number of years Nelson Mandela spent working, fighting and striving for freedom and change in our beloved land: South Africa.

Mandela Day

Since Madiba turned 93 this year, Mandela Day has only been "happening" for three years.  Yet, it’s catching on across the world!  I’m fairly sure that in 5 years time, it’ll be a day that most of the online world will celebrate – or at least be aware of. 

For the last two years, we’ve been a little slow on the uptake and Mandela Day passed us by.  This year I woke up to its arrival about a week before – plenty of time to plan something.  But my ideas were uninspired or simply too difficult to execute.  Thankfully, my friend Sue came to the rescue with a lovely idea about making cupcakes for our respective church staff to say thank you for all they do.  That, plus a more realistic version of my original plan to head to the train station to hand out hot chocolate to the commuters, made our 67 (+) minutes a wonderful time of sharing. 

Had I been a bit more on the ball, I would’ve checked out the official Nelson Mandela Day website where there are tons of excellent ideas of things to do to reach out to people around you – making a little difference in their lives. 

Our Mandela Day began with some cupcake baking.  Micah was my chief helper for this one.  Later that afternoon we went to Sue’s to ice and decorate the cupcakes. 

 Micah helps make cupcakes this morning time to decorate!

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We returned home to get stuck into our hot chocolate preparation.  The idea was to set up a table outside our gate and give away hot chocolate to passersby.  It’s winter here in Cape Town, and despite our Indian Summer weather, it still gets cold in the late afternoon.  I imagined a steaming cup of hot chocolate after work would be a welcome gift for those heading to the train station for the commute home. 

We had about 70 disposable cups left over from various functions, which the girls then labelled with "67 minutes" – or variations there of.  (Kiera enjoyed writing "who’s the winner?  Nelson is!" on some of hers!)

 making our "67" cups

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The kids all pitched it and soon we had our little stand all set up and waiting for our passersby. 

set up and ready to start!

Before long people came along and the reward was all in their appreciation.

Katie points out the "free" bit to a passerby

Averil, our neighbour came along and joined in the fun for a bit.  She was on her way to deliver 40 sandwiches to the homeless people in the Wynberg area as part of her 67 minutes initiative. 

love it!

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Most people were curious about our little stand – and then surprised that it was free – and then delighted!

Hot choc for FREE! 

lots of passersby - surprised and happy!

These women often pass our gate and chat to the kids, especially the lady on the left.  They stopped and had an animated chat with the kids, ending with a beautiful deeply moving birthday song to Mandela – imini emnandi kuwe – the Xhosa "Happy Birthday" song.  Really, I wish I could sing like a black woman.  God has blessed these women with a deep richness that is thoroughly absent in my reedy white voice!

these ladies sang

We stayed outside for a good hour and a half, enjoying the experience thoroughly.  The children had a bicker or two about who was going to do what – "it’s not fair, Sam is getting to hand them out all the time! " or "I want to pour them now!"  *sigh*  But, to their credit, they figured out a rotational system on their own where everyone got to share out the roles equally.  They were totally game to shout out "hot chocolate for FREE!" and to tell passersby that it was all in celebration of Mandela’s birthday. 

after some squabbling the kids decided to rotate duties - Sam is on pouring duty here

The reactions we got were priceless.  We had people running from the opposite side of the road just to grab a cup.  Children, adults, teens … black, coloured, white … walkers, runners, motorists and even cyclists – it was a wonderful representation of our rainbow nation!  A woman stopped to take photos to send to the local paper.  And several people were amazed that it was free.  One jogging couple came back along our way after having passed us on the opposite side of the road earlier.  They were so delighted with the idea of what the kids were doing that they interrupted their run for a cuppa hot chocolate.  It was almost comical waving them off and seeing them bedecked in their jogging gear, hot and sweaty from their run, yet casually walking away, carefully sipping their hot chocolate!  It was one of those days where you set out to bless someone else, but you end up feeling more blessed yourself. 

Katie - all smiles after job done :)

We had completely overrun our 67 minutes, but we still had to complete our first task – taking our cupcakes to the St James Church office to say a big THANK YOU to our staff there who work so hard to bring the truth of the Bible to the church.  With the day drawing to a close, we chose to set aside time on Tuesday morning to do just that…

the last step for the cupcakes - delivering them to the staff at St James (the other half are off to the staff at Tokai community Church with Tegan and her mom, Sue)

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The obligatory "before" shot.  Do NOT ask me what Sam is doing in this shot.  I took this shot three times and in each photo he looks like he needs to pee in the most excruciating way.  It was his attempt to grin & wink at the camera.  Hmmm.

getting ready to deliver

After that shot, he didn’t want to feature in any more, so he hid behind me while I took this one of our favourite children’s workers.  Jenni and Melissa have known our kidlets since they were born and have taught them the bible faithfully since they were tiny tots!

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We surprised a few more staff members.  Micah jumped into Scott’s arms with all the abandon of a little guy who digs his buddy’s daddy.  Dawn’s office (photo on the right) holds the scary monster paper shredder machine.  It has a scary photo of a shredded hand – courtesy of a terrible encounter with a shredding machine.  Thanks to the photo, my kids lost their appetite entirely and so they didn’t consume their own cupcakes right away!  BUT, it was a fantastic object lesson.  You see, they moan bitterly that their friends get to watch some movies that I won’t let them see.  Mostly, I’m concerned about violence and/or attitudes that are displayed in the movies.  Equating their yucky feelings of shock at seeing the gruesome picture of the shredded hand with how they would feel if they saw movies with violence that is too heavy for their little hearts, I was able to put things into perspective a bit.  And what perspective that was! 

Micah loves Uncle Scott! Dawn in her

Mervyn and Denzil taking a coffee break…

yum yum

Flo high-fiving Katie 🙂

 high five from Uncle Flo!

All in all – a wonderful morning doing fun stuff to benefit others that ended up benefitting us too. 

And, of course – all to continue the legacy of a great president and man: Nelson Mandela.  Happy birthday, Madiba!

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For another activity that my friend Debbie did with her kids and some friends, head to her blog and read all about their fun litter pick up day: Hutton’s Blog

Zambezia

Coming soon from South Africa, a great new animation movie with the music done by none other than our friend, Bruce Retief. Keep your eye out for it!

National Curriculum Statement: Education in South Africa

Fullscreen capture 20100916 120055 AM.bmpFor 15 years, our education system has been based on what was considered a radically different approach to education – namely Outcomes Based Education.  In my most basic opinion, OBE didn’t work as envisioned because we, as a country, lack the resources.  There just isn’t enough money for training, teachers, materials, smaller classes, discipline and more.  OBE is a system that flourishes in a small group context with a lot of teacher support in the form of teacher aids and administrative staff.  During the brief 3 years I worked as a high school teacher, I found the OBE assessment requirements to be overwhelmingly time-consuming and often detracted from actual good learning experiences in the classroom.

After 15 years of OBE in South Africa, the results show that it hasn’t been as effective as hoped. In fact, the results are not good at all.  This is just one of the many reasons more South Africans are choosing to homeschool.

But, this isn’t a post about homeschooling.  This is a post about our National Curriculum.

As of the 3rd of September, 2010, the South African government has announced the revised National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements.  Whether we homeschool or send our kids to mainstream schools, the government would like our children to be taught under the same umbrella – namely the National Curriculum.  And, with the perceived failure of OBE, a new curriculum statement has been formulated.  This new curriculum is the proposed way forward for education in South Africa as of 2011.

And you have a say.

All members of the public have the right to read the National Curriculum.  And all members of the public have the right to comment on the National Curriculum.  This is a time in history where what we say now – or don’t say now – may have a significant impact on the future of our children and our country.  I would like to urge all parents to read the National Curriculum Statement.  Decide for yourself whether you are happy with what the government will require your children to learn and whether it truly fits in under the umbrella of our constitution.

Head to: http://www.education.gov.za/CAPS.asp where you can get the entire proposed curriculum plus assessment policy statements.  And please note that the cut off date for comments is 24th September.  So the sooner we get reading and commenting, the better 🙂

For another former teacher’s perspective, head to Nikki’s blog.  She writes a very good, contemplative blog post about education in South Africa.  Her thoughts are valuable and insightful.

If you have any comments about the curriculum, or your experiences with the current curriculum, or curricula of the past, please click on the “comments” link at the end of this post. I’d really love to hear from you!  And I’m sure that others who are interested in our South African education system would value the input of others too.

Please note that the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Documents mentioned in this post can be found by following the links provided in this post.   Each learning area listed on the SA Basic and Higher Education and Training website for the National Curriculum Statement is hyperlinked so just click on any of them and it’ll take you to the PDF of the document.   Please remember that the National Curriculum Statement is open for comment until September 24th 2010 only.

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