30 March 2011

Missing Out!

I wish the world had a pause button! When I left South Africa for New York back in 2008 I begged everyone not to get married, have babies or die! These events could not take place without me around and even if I really wanted to, my visa would not allow me to leave the States for the next couple years. But of course, as they say, THE SHOW MUST GO ON! I lost a friend, my best friend gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and just last week my sister got married.

Visas and Immigration are so complicated that I am currently not permitted to re-enter the states if I ever choose to leave. I'm hoping that in a few months, one of my millions of forms I mailed off to the US government will return and grant me permission to travel back to South Africa for the first time in 3 years. This time last week my sister was standing at the alter in the beautiful Drakensberg setting saying her "I dos!" How heart breaking is it not to be able to be the maid of honor at your only sister's wedding? But despite queuing outside the USCIS building in the pouring rain and begging them to let me go, to them it was not a life and death situation and they refused to issue me the travel document I needed.

So trying to look on the bright side i organized my cousin to print out a life-sized photograph of myself so I could still "be there". The day worked out really well and I was able to read my speech via skype and drink champagne in my living room at 11am!

Its tough to be 10,000 miles away from home and family, but New York is now my home and I have a wonderful family this side too. But as soon as I get my travel papers I will be on the next plane home to Sunny South Africa!

27 March 2011

Welcome to Church!

When I think of going to church I am instantly bored. I think of dusty pews, outdated monotone songs and a retirement aged crowd. My parents are very religious (both being lay ministers in the Anglican church) but after Sunday school age I was never forced to go to church besides the most holy of days and since leaving South Africa I have probably attended more Jewish synagogue services (my last host family were Jewish) then I have Sunday mass.

A couple of my friends have started to attend a church service in NYC every weekend, so wanting an excuse to get out of Westchester I agreed to tag along. What have I been missing? Has there been this secret, super cool, underground church going on all along? For starters, this weeks service was held in Gramercy Theatre... where some pretty rocking concerts take place, and they hand out jelly beans!

When you first walk in to the nightclub vibe you are greeted by crowd of cool hipster-types all welcoming you to church. After socializing downstairs in the "buddah lounge" we take our seats in a darkened room with purple lighting and with a rock concert atmosphere the "show" begins!

In the place of the more monotone organ accompanied songs usually sung in Church, a band on stage jams out some awesome Christian rock with words projected behind them in case you want to sing along. In place of the regular pastor this week was a guest from the Sydney, Australia branch of Hillsong Church who recalled the story of Joseph returning to Israel from Egypt and how God is generally-specific about his plans for us.

Although I am still trying to figure out my own spiritual path and I did not necessarily agree or connect with the message of today's service, I defiantly had a blast and will certainly be attending future services.
If you are looking for a different church experience why not attend a Sunday Hillsong Church service? You can find more information on their website: http://www.hillsongnyc.com/

22 March 2011

My American Dream

I grew up in a tiny beach town back in South Africa called (and most often mispronounced) Scottburgh. Normal life was lived behind barred windows and electrified fences but the South Coast surfer's attitude always kept me relaxed. I had always dreamed of one day living in America and as a kid I would fantasize about attending an American high school with lockers, cafeterias, no uniforms and kids driving themselves to school. I used to read comic books and ogle over adverts for scented nail polish and marshmallow flavoured lip balm.

I remember my first trip to the US when I was 12. My aunt and uncle had immigrated from South Africa and we were going to visit them in Savannah, Georgia. From the moment our plane touched down I was in heaven. Post card houses, cul-da-sacs, kids playing basketball in the street, it was just like on TV! They even had real mailboxes... the ones with that red bit that sticks up. I remember being allowed to walk outside in the dark (it was probably only 6pm) by myself for possibly the first time in my whole life. You just didn't do that back in SA! After a mind blowing trip to Disney World and the phenomenon of bottomless soda and sugar loaded breakfast I swore to myself that I would be back!

6 years past and I was done with High School and the world was my oyster. I responded to a newspaper article on a youth work/travel programme and in December 2004 I packed my life up in a suitcase, kissed my parents goodbye and headed to Maine, USA where I was about to freeze my butt off for 5 months being one of the only girl ski lift operators at Sunday River Ski Resort. Although I made amazing friends and had wonderful adventures, being trapped in Bethel,Maine was not my idea of the American dream. It was small and suffocating with no transportation to get the hell out of there!
Another factor was I had just come of "party" age (18) in South Africa and then I moved someplace where I would have to wait another 3 years to legally lay my hand on an ice cold beer or hang out in a bar. So after a few months the snow began to melt as did the number of international workers... my number was up and off I headed to England for a few years.

After living in UK for 3 and a half years the rain and my dull life finally got to me and it was time to give USA another shot! My options were slim so I applied to become an Au pair (a challenge taken on amongst many young South African girls) not knowing where in the continent I would end up or who I would be spending a year of my life living with. Although I had first wished to live on the west coast, a nice family (with just 1 kid!) from Westchester, New York scooped me up and I headed for White Plains. I finally felt like I was living the American dream. I was young (but old enough to drink), single and living in New York! Isn't that every girls dream?

And here I am... more then 2 years after my plane touched down at JFK airport. I'm married,(WAIT! when did that happen?.. a story for another day) I live in an apartment just a 30 minute train ride from Manhattan and when I go to the grocery store there are 20 different choices of butter.

This is my American dream... what is yours?

21 March 2011

Understanding March Madness

As any South African will tell you, there is only one sport you need to care about... RUGBY! Whilst living in USA I have had to toss my green and gold springbok jersey aside and open my mind up to American sports. Namely football, baseball and basketball.
March madness is a phenomenon that sends millions of basketball fans into a frenzy beginning the first week of March, lasting until the first week of April. 68 college basketball teams go head-to-head in the NCAA tournament while people cross or tick off their team selections on the piece of paper which they have usually entered into a pool at work. To be honest... i still don't get it! Give me a few years and perhaps I'll be more informative. So for now I will just sit back and watch as the 7ft giants run from left to right on my 32" tv screen.
Spring has sprung and... WOAH! wait a second. Whats up with all that white stuff falling from the sky? After Friday's Summer sneak peak the last thing on our minds would have been winter's last little dusting. But with the temperatures climbing out of the freezing range (although still around the 50's) we can start to come out of hibernation and begin thinking about swapping our winter coats for flip flops.