Three months in, and it dawned on me that I haven’t documented our most recent travel very well. In fact, I have been less than forthcoming on most of our travel for the better part of 18 months. Appalling when this is primarily a ‘what are the Wuths up to now?’ blog. So, I am going to assume here that most people know we have made a rather sudden leap across half the planet and are now residing in Canada. A beautiful little seaside town (not that different from the one we left behind in sunny South Africa in fact) called Victoria, on the south-eastern tip of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Not to be mistaken with actual Vancouver, on the mainland, which is a 2-hour ferry ride away. Yes, that’s right, we have gone and holed ourselves up on an island, on arguably the most tectonically unstable piece of ground in the world, ripe for the ultimate in earth-shattering quakes to rock the planet in centuries. Because that’s how we roll. So I guess you could say we were ready, on some level, to be shaken out our boots. What we were not ready for however, was Covid 19.
It has become quite apparent to me over the last week or so, just how spoilt we are. I don’t mean this in an ‘I get everything I want’ kind of way, I mean it in an ‘I have such an easy life’ kind of way. I should probably just title this post “#blessed”, but I’m not sure if that is the truth of it. Read More
It’s always the people you meet that add the special moments to an adventure. The stories you hear, the cultures you learn about; they add the little bits of ‘real life’ to an otherwise beautiful yet foreign setting. We have spent the last 3 days in Etosha with a social calendar that rivals ours in Cape Town. It’s been such a lovely few days. Feels like we’ve been able to have a bit of normal in an otherwise bizarrely abnormal life arrangement. Read More
It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never lived in Africa just what it entails. How after weekends like this, Africa and its many complexities reverberate in your bones, the challenges right on your doorstep can shake you to your core. Cape Town is always plagued by fires at this time of year, having our annual rainfall in winter means summers are usually dry, but this summer is worse. We have enough water in our reservoirs to last about another 60 days, after that we are the mercy of the Rain Gods. Fires have been raging on our mountain sides like they normally do, but Friday night’s fire took hold in a far more devastating way. It started in a shack in the informal settlement Mandela Park, located in Hout Bay. With shacks built one upon another with barely enough room to walk between, let alone enough room for fire-truck access or even firemen with hoses, the fire wrecked devastation, burning roughly 1000 houses, claiming numerous lives, and leaving a yet unconfirmed number of people, but estimates are around 10 000, with virtually nothing.
Living in the Hout Bay valley has been a sombre experience this weekend. We watched as thousands of people covered in soot, carrying what few possessions they could carry out of their homes, amble their way down to the main road, as blackened leaves and ash rained down around us. Sometimes all people could carry was the young, disabled or the elderly, while they left everything else to burn. We are used to fires, we – sadly – are even used to homeless people, but this was so different. Listening to the sounds of exploding gas bottles every few minutes, which sounded like bombing, made me feel like we were fighting our own kind of war. It seems wholly unfair; people who have so little, losing what few possessions they have.
There is a huge disparity between rich and poor in South Africa, and a natural segregation that comes with it. One of the positives of living in Hout Bay is that our children grow up with their eyes wide open, aware of people who have less, and those that have more. We see their houses, we spend time with them and we share stories. When devastation like this happens our children are virtually on the front lines. They see the queues of people waiting for food and water, and we are forced to talk about these issues, the fact that we have so much more than so many people in the world, and there are things we can do to help. Sharing our clothes, our toys and our food with people who have lost what little they had seems the least we could do. As much as I want to protect my children from the big-bad-ugly world, I also want them to know how privileged they are, I want them to know gratitude, and I want to teach them that they have a responsibility to give back to people who need help. We are not alone on this planet; we are each other’s keepers.
It’s so easy to look past what’s going on next to you, think that someone else will deal with it, rationalise why it’s not your problem, but if we all did that who on earth would help? Thankfully Hout Bay seems to have a lot of people who don’t behave that way. There has been a spur to action to the point where there is no bread left in most of our shops, the shelves are being cleared by Hout Bay residents who are buying food and dropping it at designated locations where volunteers feed, clothe and medically attend to those affected by the fire. Organisations are rallying to collect funds to purchase new school supplies and uniforms for children who have nothing. The community at large seems to be doing wardrobe ‘clean outs’ and donating clothing to people with nothing more than the pyjamas they were wearing when they ran from their shacks in the middle of the night. It really is something inspiring to see, when your community and your neighbours stand up and do what they can to help. They give what they can give, and pass on all the love they can. I have seen more than a few onlookers in tears and heard parents talking about their children not being able to sleep because they are worrying about their friends from school who live in Mandela Park. Let us hope this care and concern carries on, because our community will need help for a while yet, with thousands homeless and many of them needing trauma counselling and support. We all need to do our part, whatever that part is, and we need to keep doing it after all the hype dies down. Thankfully the Hout Bay community has an incredible track record of pulling together. They are a beacon of light in a country that is still torn by inequality and racial differences. Despite our many problems, and we have them – make no mistake – there are few Hout Bay residents that will turn a blind eye on what’s going on around them.
After a heavy weekend, our own disappointments pale into insignificance when looking through the smoky haze of unfairness that surrounds us. Our own problems shouldn’t be ignored, but a disaster like this certainly puts them in perspective.
Love and thanks to all those volunteers out there who selflessly continue to give of their time and energy.
Thank you to www.sullivanphotography.org for the incredible images.
FYI – As of Monday morning there was still no electricity or water in the whole of Mandela Park, including the area that was unaffected by the fire. What most people consider basic human rights, are inaccessible for a large portion of the Hout Bay population. So while our attention is needed by those directly affected by the fire, don’t forget to check in with others from Mandela Park, make sure they have a way to prepare and cook food, enough water for basic ablutions, or offer those you know, at the very least, the opportunity to get clean at your house until water pipes are mended and electricity restored.
I’m not sure where to begin, it feels a little like I’m in a confessional; it has been many months since I last wrote an article on my training. But documenting my training each week got boring fast, I can just imagine how dull it must have been to read about it, except for a few sadistic friends who find their amusement in my discomfort – and fair enough. It’s laborious enough to actually do the training, writing about it every week seemed a little self-absorbed, and quite frankly lacked the passion with which I have tried to tackle this training journey. When I began all of this I wanted to give you a run down of what it takes to get an everyday mum to the point of ‘race ready’ for a half iron man, but you are going to have to settle for a nervous account of where I am instead… 2 days from the start line. I can tell you no amount of training takes away the nerves! Every niggle and twitch of a muscle begs for further inspection. And every free minute has your brain obsessed with logistics, nutrition, transitions and gear. I am all consumed.
But I will save you from my brains anxious misfires. There are things I have learned along this journey that might mean something to you. So instead of blabbing on about my current state of mind, here are my points to ponder and my lessons learned… Maybe some of it will resonate with you. Maybe even inspire you…
“We will never be as young as we are now.” These lyrics (from a song called ‘As We Are Now’ by Saint Raymond) rang more true than I wanted to admit. If we don’t grab today, and use it, we’ll look back on this time and say, “why didn’t I do … when I was young and full of energy?” I don’t always feel full of energy, but I am wise enough to know that’s not going to improve as I get older. This is probably the best I’m going to feel for the rest of my life. Scary right? So grab this moment, and the next, and do something you’ll be proud of when you look back.
Overcome the scary things; don’t let them stop you. “You swim 2km in the sea?? But aren’t you scared of sharks?” … I can’t tell you how many people have asked me this question. And the answer is YES, I most certainly am! But I am also scared of vehicle accidents and I still drive a car. It’s about focussing your attention on what matters. You can’t control everything, and this has been a great lesson for me. I was a nervous wreck the first time I swam any distance in the sea, to the point where I thought I would vomit from the nerves. The second time, it was better, much better. I panicked twice while I was in the sea and chuckled at myself when I looked at my heart-rate graph after the swim. There were 2 notable spikes and I know exactly what I was thinking when they happened. My third sea swim was better again. The spikes this time round were from pushing hard, not panicking hard. It’s about getting into a rhythm, almost a meditation while you swim. You focus on what you know will get you to the end, when doubts creep up you silence them by focussing on what matters. It’s an incredible exercise in silencing your thoughts.
It’s easier than you think to turn into a hypochondriac. I’ve always liked the fact that I have a pretty level head. I’m a good person to have around in a crisis; I don’t panic. When it’s not a crisis however, I know just how to get myself into a knot. Shaun has documented my transition from nonchalance to quivering wreck over something as commonplace as a shin splint. This little terror that took hold of my leg was enough to send my once chilled mind over to the dark side. Fear can creep up on you when you’re not looking, and most of us aren’t. Recognising your fears for what they are, giving them due thought and then dismissing them is an important part of the process. Letting every ache after a training session throw you into a fit of worry is unwarranted, and needs checking at the door.
It’s embarrassing to admit, given my age, but I have never really tried this hard or trained this much for an event. I am as much afraid of failing as the next guy, and for most of my life I have let this stand in my way, not wanting the judgement I thought trying might bring. What I’ve realised is when you start trying, and you actually get into it, the journey becomes enjoyable. It doesn’t make race day any easier, and I still feel compelled to ‘race’. I’m not sure exactly who I’m racing, I’m certainly not going to win, but I feel like I’m racing an idea I have in my mind of what I should be able to do. But what I’m trying to say is there is so much enjoyment around trying; in the preparation and the camaraderie, that despite being fraught with nerves, and having a stomach made of jelly, the experience is exhilarating.
Having said all the above, I might say something very different on Sunday after the race! But I’m hoping not. I’ve put a lot of myself into this training, but not more than I had to give, and I think that’s made for a balanced last couple of months, and a positive outlook on the experience. Here’s hoping the weekend is as fun as the training has been! …. I’ll keep you posted 🙂