Monday, April 26, 2010

Ten years ago

My oldest daughter was born exactly ten years ago.MC3When she was 6 months old, she and my wife were involved in a vehicle accident on a dirt road in Namibia.

After the accident, she seemed to be fine, but a while later my wife noticed that there was a dent in her head.  Something must have hit hard against her head – it may have been someone’s elbow, but we’ll never really know.

It looked like a golf ball had been pressed into the skull.  The size of this dent was roughly the size of a golf ball, although it did not enter the head that deeply.

She went for X-rays, MRI scans and all sorts of complex and upsetting medical tests.

Here is one of the MRI scans where they virtually “sliced up” the skull and checked different areas of the brain for damage.  This is the skull viewed from above:

scan0264 The dent can be clearly seen at the back of the head. 

When babies grow, their skull grows outwards as the brain grows. The growing brain pushes out the skull, which is still very flexible at this age. 

This injury could have been fatal, but the inward movement of the skull missed the crucial areas of the brain by millimetres, and did not cause any brain damage or bleeding.  Of course, at the time, there was no way to be sure of this.  The only thing the doctors could tell us was that the skull is still flexible while it’s growing, and that the brain would eventually push the skull back out as it grows.  She did not show any signs of brain damage, and responded well to the huge array of tests that are applicable to 6 month old babies.

It was basically down to a wait and see approach.

It would be an understatement to say that this was a stressful time in our lives.  You feel really helpless when your little baby has to go into big noisy MRI machines and no one tells you what’s going on.  And no one really seemed to know anyway.

The medical theory proved to be correct, and the skull slowly grew back to the way it was supposed to be, with the brain pushing it back into position.  I can’t really remember when I realised that the dent was totally gone, but it’s gone now, and we’ve pretty much forgotten about it.

We are very lucky and grateful today to have a healthy, bright ten year old daughter who excels in all she does, and who bares absolutely no sign of any damage.  She’s a great kid, and I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am.


God gave us a gift ten years ago, and when it was nearly taken away, He gave her back to us again.

Happy birthday, my Special!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The passport from hell

I had lots of fun travelling with my Namibian passport recently.

For those readers who are not familiar with this country: Namibia is a country in the south western corner of Africa.  This means that it’s in the left-hand bottom corner, just below a dump called Angola, and just above the Republic of South Africa, with Botswana to it’s right.  (That is, if you are holding the map the right side up with North showing up, and Australia being correctly positioned “down under”.)

Namibia is roughly about one third the size of Western Australia.

Map picture

Namibia used to be a province of South Africa during the apartheid years, and became a so-called independent country in 1990.  It was previously known as South West Africa (SWA), and before that it was a German colony known as Deutch Sudwest Africa.

I was born in this lovely dry region, and was therefore born a South African citizen.  After independence, however, I became a citizen of Namibia, as this was what my home was now called.  We boasted a new flag, a new anthem, and lots of other new things.  Among them was a new green passport:


The first time I got into trouble with this passport was in 1992 when I visited Lesotho.  Even though Lesotho is situated in southern Africa, the Lesotho customs officials were quite adamant that no such country as Namibia existed.  They spent half an hour chatting to their boss and looking at maps before they finally accepted the passport as real. 

They were however, very suspicious of the fact that a white man held a passport from somewhere in Africa.

When I recently visited Singapore, I received the same treatment.  The official looked at my passport as if it was a fake “Republic of Houtbay” passport or something issued by Disneyland.

He started discussing this with his female colleague, who called someone else to investigate.  Finally, they started talking to me, and the lady asked me “this place, what country is it part of?”

How do you explain this to someone?  I explained that it was an independent country in Africa, and then proceeded to show her the picture inside the passport of Africa with a little smudge in the left-hand bottom corner.  She seemed to understand, and they let me go.

scan0006When we left Singapore to return to Perth, the lady who stamped my passport commented that this was the first time she had ever seen a passport from this country.

Strangely enough, the Australian authorities never questioned this funny green Disneyland book.  They’ve probably been trained to be more discreet, and pushed some kind of silent alarm button while merrily stamping my documents.

Carrying this passport introduces quite a few obstacles and risks. 

At least there’s one benefit to travelling with this goofy little green book:

Mossad couldn’t care less to copy it.  They would have too much trouble explaining it when they try to enter a European country on a false German name. 

It would, however, be easy to get hold of a fake one – just contact the appropriate corrupt official at the Namibian Immigration department and collect your blank green books for a few dollars and a soccer world cup ticket.  Just make sure the name and the face matches up…

New Picture (2)

Friday, April 16, 2010

A long walk to freedom

I’m finally back after a trip to Singapore to get my Permanent residence status finalised. 

We flew with one of the low-budget airlines, called Tiger airways.  They’re so ridiculously cheap because they don’t waste money maintaining their aircraft.  They fly on only one engine and deflate their tyres to reduce weight.

Just kidding!  But you pay the price for these cheap flights – in comfort.  The seats are so small and close together that only the Smurf family would fit in there.  I am not a big person, but I couldn’t get my legs to fit in between my seat and the one in front of me.

Tiger airways on the runway The kids passed out in their seats

As we took off around 10pm, I tried to get some sleep, but I only managed to pass out from the pain about 30 minutes before we landed.

We landed just before 4am in the morning.  I was amazed at how busy the airport still was, and that even the money changers were still open at that time.  We got hold of a taxi and he eventually found our lovely little hostel after I corrected him a few times.  As if I knew my way around Singapore?

Or Sauna-pour, as I like to call it.

The place is extremely humid, and just looking at something else move makes you sweat like a pig.  Really.

Most public areas like buses, trains, stations, and shopping malls are air-conditioned.  But once you’re out in mother nature it all turns evil.  You actually go indoors to get fresh air into your lungs.

We stayed in Sauna-pour for ten wet days.  Not wet from the rain, but from sweat.  We walked a lot, with the three kids in tow, and had lots of fun though.

We visited Universal Studios on Sentosa island – this really is a must-see if you ever visit Singapore.  We saw live action shows, interactive donkey shows and lots of other fun stuff. 

Streescene at Universal Shrek in 4D

Waterworld action show

Waterworld action show

I had to make the most of this holiday, as I was spending a lot of money on airfares anyway.  But the budget was tight, and we got hold of some really cheap accommodation.

It turned out that this meant a backpacker’s hostel with a “family room” that looks more like a prison cell.  The website makes it look really shiny and clean, but it’s not exactly the Hilton.  At least we had an aircon in the room, which probably saved our lives - but the wife and I always disagreed about exactly how cold this thing should be.


We shared bathroom with tons of other people, and I had a few midnight encounters that ended in me screaming at people to shut up because it’s after 01h00 in the morning.

 The bathroom just across the hall from our lovely little room the stairway with some pink flamingoes...

the green stairway up to the 3rd floor

It’s located in an area called Little India – they call it that, because it feels like you’re in India.  Creepy little alleys and weird smells all over the place.  Smells of drains not functioning quite effectively, as well as smells of all kinds of food that are quite foreign to my nostrils.  And the smell of incense. 

A Muslim screamed us awake early in the mornings, and the Buddhists were burning incense at all hours.  The Church of the True Light next door also did their part on Sunday.

IMG_6199The little shops in this area sold food that reminded me of some of the stuff I saw in Africa.  Many of the shops sell exactly the same items as the shop next door. 

There are many small shops that sell little golden Buddhas for some reason, and they keep on burning incense and leaving all sorts of magic potions outside their doors.


It feels like you’re in the middle of one giant hippie colony.

The people are all very friendly, and always very considerate and helpful.  This part of their culture is really unique in a way.  Nowhere did I ever feel threatened or in any danger, even though this was obviously not the best neighbourhood in the city.

IMG_6793 IMG_6779 IMG_6781 IMG_6782A few blocks away, you walk into massive shopping malls with clean shiny floors and lovely air-conditioning. 

IMG_6214We visited the Singapore zoo, which provided a whole day of entertainment and fun.  The lovely water playground inside the zoo took up a lot of our time, as the kids were splashing around for more than 2 hours while I was sipping at cold Coke and wishing I also brought my swimming shorts along.

IMG_6526 Sentosa island is a lovely area with great beaches, although you get the feeling that everything is synthetic and fake.  Even the little islands are man-made.  There is, however, great entertainment and fun stuff to do in this area.

manmade islandsThe merlion - a massive structure View from the Skytower IMG_6710 IMG_6658

This sign was a bit of a bummer – why wouldn’t you allow a bbq at the beach?


This is a fun place to be – the nightlife is never-ending.  Coming from Perth where everything shuts down at 6pm, it was quite astounding to see even the small street-markets open at ten pm – not to mention the big supermarkets that are open till eleven.  The streets seemed busier at night than during the day.

People live in tiny pigeonholes in the sky, and they don’t go home after work because there’s no reason to cram yourself into a 3x2m area.


This lifestyle is not for me.  Give me Dullsville anytime – I love the open spaces, I love the laid-back lifestyle.  No worries mate, let’s throw somethin on the barbie...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

2000 years ago

Easter weekend is great.  Everyone runs off to some holiday destination, or spends time at home barbequing, watching footy and drinking till they pass out.  They look for chocolate eggs in the garden and tell their kids tall tales about the Easter Bunny.

Some of my friends wish me a happy Easter, because it’s a time to enjoy life’s pleasures.  Depending on what you mean by that, it’s a great message, but it’s not the real message of Easter.

All of us have to die sometime. Some of us die peacefully in our sleep at an old age, after a life full of special moments and joy.  Others die a violent death at an early age.  Some are killed even before they’re born.  Others die due to their own stupidity, drunkenly ramming their car into a wall at full speed.  We don’t know when it’ll happen, but it will happen to all of us one day.

2000 years ago, someone died.  He died a violent death at the hands of merciless people.  He had a choice to make – he could renounce some accusations that were made against him, and could go free.  But he chose to be silent, and died after being tortured for hours.  People divided his clothes amongst themselves and mocked him while he was hanging from a piece of wood like a slaughtered animal.  He was physically nailed to an advertising board like a plank - like some sort of cheap commercial for the local government.

We all deserve to die.  None of us are perfect.  Except for this one man, who was without sin, and who no one could truthfully witness against.

There were many witnesses that day who testified to this event.  Jesus was crucified on a wooden cross, and they confirmed his death by sticking a sword into his side and seeing blood and water pour from the wound.  Four of these witnesses even went so far as to write down an account of what happened.

They removed him from the cross, wrapped a garment around his naked body, and buried him in a tomb.  They posted two guards at the door, which was a massive big boulder that one man could not move by himself.

This man was truly dead and buried, and his followers and family wept and mourned his death.

And then something supernatural happened.  This man arose from the dead, and walked around for 40 days showing the wounds in his hands and his side to those who questioned his death.  Once again, hundreds of people testified to this event, and four of them even wrote it down.

This was not a normal man.  He was not just a politician, a military leader or even a prophet.  He was the Son of God, and he conquered death.

We all deserve to go to hell – whether you want to believe this or not.  But He died for our sins because He chose to.  He conquered death and gave us eternal life.  It’s a free gift that he gave.  You have a choice to accept this and believe it – no one is forcing you to believe or do anything.  We all will face the throne of God one day, and if you don’t have this free gift on your side – that was your choice.

That’s what Easter is all about.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Forcing the Storm

I had been looking forward to this day for a long time – seeing the Stormers play in Perth.  The previous time I watched them play was at Newlands, when they beat the Brumbies. 

I have to add that I still haven’t experienced anything like Newlands down here.  I watched Trinations and Super14 rugby matches at Subiaco last year, and the atmosphere didn’t even get close.

The Western force have recently moved to a new venue, ME stadium, and until today hadn’t won a single game this whole season.  The Stormers, on the other hand, were positioned at Number 2 on the log, and were sure winners in this battle.  Or so I thought.

But first, the story of my tickets.

I talked to a few mates and we decided to watch the game together.  I volunteered to buy the tickets.  I logged in on Ticketmaster, selected the game, looked for prices, and contacted everyone again.  When I had the final numbers, I selected 6 tickets, and pressed the button.  I was in a hurry to get the tickets finalised, and clicked through all the pages until I finally signed off $245 on my credit card and pressed the enter button.

Then I let everyone know we had the 6 tickets, and even sent them all a copy in an email.  We were all quite excited about going to the game.

That was on the 19th of March.  On Tuesday this week, one of the mates rang me up.  His voice sounded a little more squeaky than normal, and I braced myself for the news of a death in the family, or something worse. 

And it was worse.

It turned out that I had somehow managed to buy $245 worth of tickets for the Force vs Waratahs game that was played on 20 March 2010.  I checked, and checked again, and yes, there it was – Force vs Waratahs 20 March 2010.


I can’t remember ever having felt quite as suicidal as I felt at that moment.  Ticketmaster told me that under no circumstances do they refund tickets – not even if you didn’t turn up at the stadium to use them.

Great.  Now I had to tell all my mates that it would be really nice if they could refund me for a non-existing ticket.  If not, I had just lost $245 plus handling fees.

I told this story to one of my colleagues at work on Wednesday, and he suggested that I send an email to RugbyWA.  Turns out that they are extremely nice to spectators these days, because of the poor performance of the team.  Maybe they’ll be nice enough to help out.

So, that’s what I did.  Sent off an email and hoped for the best.  I wasn’t even expecting a response, to be honest.

The response came, however.  They told me that, yes, I’ve stuffed up, but if I sent them the ticket bar codes and the order number, they may just be able to pull a few strings.

I sent off my details, and waited until 4pm on Thursday, when I went home from work.  Still no news, and the Easter weekend was approaching, so I assumed that I was going to have to watch this game on TV.

And then, when I got home and checked my email again, there was an email from them saying that they managed to get hold of cancelled tickets, and that I could collect them at Gate 3.  I couldn’t believe my luck.

We arrived at the stadium – without tickets of course.  All I had was a printout of an email from this bloke at RugbyWA, and when I handed this to the ticket lady she sent me off to another ticket lady.

I explained and she frowned, and another bloke who looked like a CIA agent was talking into a little mike and listening to someone chatting to him.  I was getting really nervous.  After being called “the Legend” because I managed to save our tickets, I seemed to still be in for some serious embarrassment.  This one bloke’s father-in-law came all the way from Cape town to see this game, and it was starting to look like I’d stuffed it up.

Then, finally, the CIA bloke handed me my tickets, and the rep from RugbyWA came down to chat me up.  Man, I was glad to have those tickets in my hands.

IMG_5963 IMG_5976 IMG_5968 IMG_5988IMG_5962  IMG_6038 IMG_6005 Skalla

Too bad the Stormers stuffed up big time.  At least the Force won their first game of the season.  It was a good game, but not much happened down here in our little corner where we were hoping for Brian Habana to execute try after try right in front of our eyes…

No tries in this corner...

The Easter bunny was also there:


The winning point was scored after the final horn had blown, with the Force successfully executing a drop kick which turned the scoreboard in their favour.

IMG_6151This bloke next to us was blaspheming terribly.  He took it really hard, and I heard several expletives coming from his general direction…