making a point… he said, she said

24 07 2012

She says: 

All my life I have been a bargain hunter.  It may be the 25%Scottish blood, it might have been spending good amounts of time with my grandmother, who lived through both world wars, but I cannot endure spending too much for an item that I need, and especially when I could purchase it at a much better price elsewhere. 

Having lived alone for many years and survived on a teacher’s salary, I grew accomplished at finding how to save cents, rands and look for good ways to look after my cash.  The sweet relief of a global move to frugality, especially around the time of the financial crash in the world allowed me to at last go public… I am frugal, I look for bargains and I am proud of it.

The great thrill of loyalty programmes arriving in South Africa brought huge joy to my cent-saving heart.  Whoohoo!  At last!  Shops that recognize that I buy there, often (… only because the prices are so good, you understand!) and they want to see me regularly! Because I am such a nice person, because I bring joy to the cashiers when I pay (that’s my best time to practise Zulu!) and maybe because I spend my money there…

I just LOVE coming back to SA for shopping.  The malls are, well, malls (not individual crammed stalls in the market!), and there is the wonder of variety, choice, the world of the known, and POINTS.  It is wonderful going to a store where I have to buy medication, toiletries, household items, dried fruit for Deon, a chocolate, or even the day to day groceries that I would have bought anyway and know that I will not just be saying goodbye to all my sweet money.  I will be winning something in the exchange… I win POINTS.  Wonderful, delightful POINTS.  That get exchanged into money-back vouchers.  So I can go buy more, and get more POINTS. 

I know that it may get a little frustrating to be shopping with me: I cannot go into certain stores, even if they are nearby, because they offer no rewards. So I make my mental lists, head for the pointy-stores and spend with a far clearer conscience.  If I want a little luxury item, it is not so bad… I am getting POINTS for it. 

Aah.  And I save us so much money, because I get back all the money vouchers, that I use to buy really essential items. 

If I have fallen for the marketing baloney, then so be it.  As long as I get the winning feeling of points when I walk out that store…

He says:

All my life I have been careful with the use of whatever money was available. I learnt that the best way of saving is keeping the money in the bank. When you must buy something, pay cash and keep the transaction simple and straight forward – without any thrills or side shows. Do not fall for any marketing trick and buy only what you really need like a car that suits your lifestyle, a boat, musical equipment, a paintball gun, woodworking tools and of course good food – preferably at a nice restaurant.

I met and married a beautiful lady who is the love of my life. We get on very well and can discuss and laugh about all of life’s little jokes … except ONE…

Shopping for POINTS!!!!!!AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!! The hated evil retail giants at it again – leading our gentle, loving, docile, gullible women-folk into another financial trap. The worst is how they camouflage the trap – telling her that she gets money back that she can spend on anything in the shop. This of course sounds to her like a very good deal – money for shopping – how good can it get?

But then we sturdy, strong, unyielding (in any case not when it comes to the evil games of the evil retail giants) menfolk comes along and try to explain to our women that:-
1)you have to spend a LOT of money at the evil retail giant to get much back;
2)you then have to give it back to them by purchasing some useless item that you would never have thought of buying were it not for the evil workings of said retail giant;
3)if the evil retail giant had your best interests at heart they would simply have reduced the price by the amount they give you in points plus the amount they spend on administrating their evil scheme plus the huge amount they paid an actuarial scientist to design the scheme to their benefit.

But of course this is lost on our starry-eyed money savers who still believe that the world is good and that you can actually save money by spending it.

Please note: no persons were hurt in the production of this article. 

We take all these POINTS of discussion with huge doses of love and we laugh about it all… Dear Deon has not yet stopped me going into my pointy stores, and I do allow him to buy (a few) items at non-point awarding stores.  But it does not stop either of us from expressing our thoughts.  And we thought we might just share these with you.

So what do you say?  Do loyalty points make you all starry eyed? Or are you in the “bah, Humbug, it’s all brain washing ploys” camp?  It would be great to hear the thoughts of others.





aloe, aloe ‘allo again…

22 07 2012

There are amazing views to be seen all through the year in Limpopo (our home province).  Although winters are dry and trees lose their leaves, the scenery is not ever completely dreary. One of the amazing groups of plants that livens up a winter landscape is the aloe.

There are a number of routes throughout South Africa that look their prettiest at the time of the year when the regional aloes flower.  There are a host of different aloe species in South Africa, and they flower  in different floral patterns, at different times of the year and for varying lengths of time. 

We have at least sixty aloe plants around our house, so that our verandah view looks like this:

Numerous uses exist for aloe in the medical world.  Aloe vera is probably the most well known, but other  advice, such as using aloe on superficial burn wounds, or for warts, is heard of too.

Our garden aloes are just beginning to flower and we have seen a whole new sphere of use for aloes.  One poor little aloe has been stripped and chewed to the core: when things get very dry in the winter, even aloes (with a rather bitter taste) provide good sustenance with their fleshy leaves and excellent ability to retain water.

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We knew to look out for the birds, and have had some lovely sightings of both collared and white-fronted sunbirds.

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Common bulbuls, yellowbellied bulbuls, blackheaded oriole are among the other birdy visitors who seem to be paying our garden a lot more attention than usual while our aloes are blooming. We have also seen the birds ripping the blooms to shreds.  So not all appreciate leaving beauty undisturbed!

Insects frequent these useful plants: they are full of nectar, and we have seen ants, bees and a couple of other bugs hanging around the blossoms.

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We were completely delighted to see this visitor to our close-by aloe:

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He was looking for sun, food and yellow happiness-bliss.  Slipping through all the stamens, he was hunting bees.  The smallest things can bring such entertainment!

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I just love that there is never a time that things are totally lifeless.  There is always a spark of joy, such as a vibrant spear of orange-flame, which gives life to so many aspects of nature. 

There always remains a thread of hope, strong enough to cling to, even when hope is not apparent. Look for the small signs… one may be surprised at what you find!

Personally, we have a fondness for aloe-flowering season.  We got engaged at the Walter  Sisulu Botanical Garden, in their gorgeous aloe gardens, with sunbirds and a cape robin to cheer on the special moment.  The vibrant coloured  spikes point towards the One who makes all things possible.





farm, family, freezing

17 07 2012

We have successfully avoided Joburg winters for about two years. That is NOT the case for this year!  Ha HAA.  We arrived on the east rand just in time for the coldest snap of the winter.

Yes, Johannesburg DOES get cold in the winter.  Yes, we do feel it.  No, South Africans have not cornered the market on expert housewarming.

There were severe snow storms and floods across several parts of South Africa this past weekend.  The main highway linking Cape Town to Johannesburg had to be closed due to snow blockages.  The newspapers were full of pictures of snow: some places do get snow every year, but because it happens so seldom people do not know how to drive and there are several accidents as well as people who need to be pulled out of the snow. 

We did not get snow in Johannesburg, nor did we get rain, but the winds blowing in (and boy, did they blow!) brought very chilly weather to this part of SA.  Sunday’s temperature did not rise above 10C, and we reached freezing temperatures in the night.  This is very difficult for people used to around 20C on the average winter’s day!  We do not have double glazing, central heating and other clever systems to keep houses warm. Heaters and fireplaces are found in many homes, or perhaps under floor heating.  Deon’s Mom cannot use any form of heating because of severe asthma, so when we visit there we dress like eskimos and keep watch for the polar bears in the kitchen.    (Deon and I remain faithful followers of warmer climes!)

We spent a chill week at our Lissataba home before heading central again. (Although the Hoedspruit area is warmer than Johannesburg, we do not have glass in our windows, but only netting… it was chill, alright!)

It was great to be on the farm in the winter. The trees have almost all lost their leaves, vegetation is dry and sparse, and dull golden colours cover the landscape.

But there are bursts of colour to bling up the scenes: impala lilies and aloes are flowering and adorn drab, dry scenes with glorious hues.

The farm’s AGM was held while we were there, and the evening saw a lovely gathering.  First a talk about bush enjoyment, and then a delicious sheep-on-the-spit meal.  Bushveld evenings are crackling with character normally.  But put up a few lanterns, light the bonfire and there is an undeniable pull to sink low in the chair, pull the red wine closer and tell stories of wonder at bush life.

There is not much food around in the bush now, so we have not seen much game, but we enjoyed the birds gathering around our water supply.  What an amazing variety we get to enjoy everyday!  birds1 collage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The local hoodlums visited us too, one night.  Honey Badgers may be the closest object  of nature to a hoover.  These 2 gave the area a thorough working over, finding anything edible before moving on to the next home.  We ensure that anything palatable is locked in the kitchen: these tsotsis are known to take meat from off a braai! (for non- South Africans: these thugs take meat from a barbeque grill.)

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Look at those nails and teeth!  EEK.

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We are visiting with our family in Johannesburg at the moment.  Deon’s mom had an investigative procedure in hospital, my mom is on the mend, but is not good enough to move beyond the house yet. 

I had an amazing opportunity to visit with some special family, where family politics has complicated relationships so that two sisters have not seen each other in about 2 years.  How special to see them catching up with each other, and sharing the same breathing space for a while. 

There are several uncertainties still bugging us.  Uncertain job / home/ living circumstances plague our thoughts.

But I am filled with gladness and gratitude for so very much.  I also encourage others not to take for granted a long list of God’s mercies, if you have them.

Health

Warm houses

Family to be near enough to hug every day

Good relationship with spouse / siblings / friends.

 

There will always be challenges.  IT is not so important that you fly above each circumstance.  But what is important is knowing WHOSE you are and how He sustains in all uncertainties. 





Home again, home again, jiggety jig

9 07 2012

We are back in South Africa, on our farm, and my head is still spinning.  What we thought would be six months in Tanzania, possibly more, turned out to be six weeks.  What we expected to happen did not turn out that way at all. 

The farm offers a place to find rest, stillness, and possibly some licking of wounds.  We are uncertain of many things but completely certain of God’s sovereignty and leading into the future.

After an extended journey from SA to Tanz (African airlines are not the most reliable!) it was a great relief to be with Deon again.  We were together!  He had made the best of very rudimentary accommodation in Mwanza and we camped indoors sans curtains, stove, and stillness, sponsored by the lunatic monkeys – we made the best of the week in Mwanza.  Deon was overseeing analysis of samples, and I took a little time to sleep. 

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God answered some specific prayers early on in this week: Deon’s mom’s liver biopsy showed no cancer.  We also found some of the money we thought was lost: Deon and I split and hide the few valuables we have, and I had put some of the cash away safely.  The thief in Singida  (see last post)  got away with about $1300, not much more. 

We had a few lovely sunset suppers at Tunza lodge, where we had stayed on first arriving in Mwanza. The evenings here are just awesome!

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It was hard to say goodbye to some friends that we had made in just a few weeks, especially to Hannelie, who runs the lodge.  I had been looking forward to teaching the two young guys at the lodge, and will really miss their friendly chirps.    (Like 14 year old Z, who told me he was ‘taking a day off’… and we only ever saw him climbing trees, playing on the beach, swimming in the lake, playing on the computer… life is quite idyllic for these guys!)

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We hit the road for Big Road Trip #2, doing the not-so-scenic route back from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam.  We found out this is the route the truckers use regularly, and would not advise this route for regular tourists.  It was challenging at times.

With a few potholes to counter, and the totally insane way that drivers of buses and trucks overtake on the roads, prayer life improves radically, instantaneously.

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Again, I sat with camera in hand, snapping as we went by.  Windows were closed, so I apologise for delightful reflections seen in many pictures. 

We travelled through vast lands of tree-giants: the dinosaur of the tree world always fascinates me.  Baobabs abound in several parts of Tanzania, forcing attention to themselves.

The roads were filled with various vehicles, loads and many pedestrians.

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Our prayers paid off.  We experienced a blow-out, but thankfully there was not too much traffic about and we could sort it out without too much difficulty.  Even our Rasta driver said “Thank you Jesus”as he pulled the car to the side of the road safely.

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One of the fascinating things about Africa is the contrasts.  A huge satellite dish besides a rustic house in the middle of nowhere, bull-drawn carts compete with trucks… There is always something to keep one thinking.

 

From majestic mountains, massive rocks splayed across landscapes to small, delightfully coloured creatures to captivate the senses, there is seldom a dull moment in Tanzania.

Unfortunately we did find that many local people are becoming hostile to outside influences:  looking for opportunities to rob Mzungus have become common, and we always had to check that fuel pumps had been zeroed before a conniving attendant got us to ‘sponsor’ ten or so litres already metered on the gauge.

The UN has also recognised increasing difficulty for foreigners working in Tanzania.  It is heartbreaking for us to see this as there are few other countries which can compare with the incredible beauty and range of natural diversity in Tanzania (wild open plains, gorgeous beach resorts, rivers, adventure trips like climbing Kili).  Tanzania is also blessed with bountiful natural mineral resources and there should not ever be an empty belly in the country.  Unfortunately corruption is rife and many use their positions to take advantage of mzungus and not pass any benefit along to the inhabitants of the land. 

Africa would truly be a remarkable, safe, awesome place were theft dealt with severely, politicians honest (hmmph) and the populace understanding of the benefit of welcoming visitors warm-heartedly to really experience one’s country. 

We will have memories of gorgeous feasts for the eyes, like this

To remember the place. 

For now we are back on ‘our’ farm, enjoying some real quiet.  We are still awaiting further medical tests for Deon’s mom, and we are not yet certain how we will earn an income going forward.  I truly am finding that there is great grace in living day by day, living in God’s guidance for the next 24 hours. 

God remains good, we remain blessed to be His own and nature remains a wonderful balm.