Thursday, 28 August 2008

I Know You Like To Think Your Shit Don't Stink

I'm back bitches! Sorry, I've just always wanted to say that - now I take it back. I'm not really back. Haha, ok I am, but you're not really bitches! ;-)

I really am back, after what has been the most amazing holiday ever. Over the course of the next few days, I'll share a few of the highlights, lowlights and flashing lights with you, and hopefully you'll feel a little bit like you were soaking up those rays on the beach with me.

So today's story is about poo. Yes, you did read that correctly. I must apologise in advance for the topic of conversation, and for the inevitable bad puns that are going to ensue, but this story is very necessary for you to understand how my holiday was.

Rewind with me to Saturday night - the end of our second full day at Boom Festival in Idanha a Nova, Portugal. Shield your gaze through the clouds of dust being churned up by 30,000 feet on the dance floor. Keep going, your eyes skimming the reflection of the sunset in the river; past that cluster of tents with the scaffolding of twine holding up the multi-coloured trance awnings. Do you see the row of food stalls, and slightly to the right the rows of tables and benches where everyone is sitting down to supper? You can see us there, perched on our fisherman stools in the patch of ground in the middle. We're the ones all holding the big, fat, juicy burgers, inhaling them like they're pure oxygen. As you can see, we're quite hungry - it's our first meal in a good 6 hours. If you look closely, you'll see Neutrino has already finished his - he is always the fastest eater in our group.

Now fast forward with me to Sunday evening, 6pm. Where are we, you say? Don't panic, it's not a stampede - you're only in the middle of the dance floor for the festival's final show. 6 hours of non-stop dancing, incredible lasers, firedancers, hula hoop acrobats and light sabers. Incredible, isn't it? See how stoked everyone is. There are 20,000 people on this dance floor right now. Can you feel the vibe? The energy feels like a living thing. But if you look down to your left; you see Penguin sitting on her stool, a lone figure bent double in the midst of the heaving masses. She's not feeling well. I'm going to leave you here while I take her to the loos; there's no need for you to see what comes next. Now we're back, and she's feeling a bit better after throwing up, but not much. Look, she's leaving to go to bed. Fast forward again, just 5 hours this time. It's 11pm. The firedancers and acrobats are in full swing, jumping and tumbling and lighting up the stage like Christmas trees on speed. But I'm sitting down this time - over here, next to you. I'm feeling a bit funny. Scarf and I are going to leave now and go to bed - I know it's just minutes before the finale and end of Boom thank you speech, but I don't feel strong enough to stay.

And this is the point in my journey where I stop taking you with me, at least for the rest of this story. We woke up on Monday morning at 6am, set to leave by 7 so we could catch our 11am flight to Barcelona. Before we could bundle ourselves into the car though, we had to make a trip past the loos as every one of us had seriously dodgy stomachs. At this stage we all thought it was a combination of too much sun, too much booze and not enough healthy food. It can happen to anyone, especially at a trance party.

So we didn't think anything of it when, just half an hour later, we had to stop at a petrol station so we could all go again. Or when we got to the airport, and the first thing any of us did was rush for the toilet. Or when we touched down in Barcelona and did the same thing. But by the time we'd dropped our bags at our apartment and headed out for dinner at a local tapas bar, we'd started discussing the possibility of a stomach bug. When Eyes left dinner early to go home as he felt so bad, and I found that even though I was hungry I was struggling to find anything I felt I could eat, we knew something was definitely wrong.

To cut a very long story short, we got through the rest of our holiday by keeping these key pointers in mind at all times:

1) Never, EVER go anywhere that does not have a loo, either in the establishment (apartment, restaurant) or nearby (beaches, public transport).
2) Carry your own toilet paper with you, just in case.
3) Don't bother to take: the anti-cramp meds, the diarrhea stopping pills or the painkillers. None of them work. The paracetemol does help control the fever, though.
4) When you get up for the 6th time in the early hours of the morning to drop off friends, expect to meet a comrade either going into or coming out of the bathroom.
5) In afore-mentioned situation, the rule of thumb is, whoever's doubled over the most with cramps gets to go first.
6) Leave window open in bathroom at ALL times. It doesn't matter if the people in the flat opposite get a glimpse - it's preferrable to the alternative stench.
7) It will take at least 2 hours to get everyone out of the door in the mornings, as each person must visit great white telephone between 3 and 6 times before leaving.
8) Eat what you like, drink what you like - you think it will make a difference if you eat dry toast and drink water, but it WON'T. (Eyes finally made sense of this only in the last 2 days of our trip).
9) When the fever hits, there is nothing you can do. You must call up your inner reserves of strength and ride it out. Try not to steal the entire blanket from your partner / throw the whole thing on top of them.
10) Fresh air does not help.
11) Lying motionless on the beach in the sun is the only thing that will make you feel mildly better. Do not upset the delicate equilibrium once you find it.

Scarf and G-Days managed to avoid whatever "stomach bug" Shoes, Eyes and I had caught. We deduced that we got it in Portugal, as texts from Penguin, who was back in London, told tales of the shits from both ends. Neutrino was feverish for a week. The only one untouched was Scarf (G-Days joined us in Spain but was not with us in Portugal). It made sense when we found out on our return that it was food poisoning, as she had thrown up on Sunday morning after a particularly bad hangover. She basically got rid of the bad bacteria before it had a chance to do its damage. For the rest us, we had those big, juicy burgers on Saturday night to thank for our newly intimate associations with all the toilets across Spain & London.

As of today, we have been sick for 11 days and still counting. I'm at work; Eyes and Shoes can't face it and have been kept home by their cramps. I am on the whole ok, if you count a complete lack of absorption of food, weight loss and no appetite or energy as ok. But I'm soldiering on in the face of adversity, comforted that the nearest loo is but 10 steps away. I know because I counted.

I had an badass (sorry, I warned you!) holiday, despite the small bump (large pile of crap) in the road. What would my travels be without a little drama hey!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

There She Goes

Mass e-mail to Commercial Departments at all stations:

From: Account Manager
Sent: 12 August 2008 15:22
To: Commercial-Everyone

Please bring night shirts or pyjamas for tomorrow. You could wear them to work or get changed here. Up to you.

Any blankets you have at home will help also to create the scene.


From: Planning Manager
Sent: 12 August 2008 15:26
To: Commercial-Everyone; Account Manager

I perhaps we should do lunch first Account Manager.
Planning Manager

I am counting down the hours til we leave for our trip to Portugal and Spain; it is now 11:15am and there are exactly 18 hours and 15 minutes between me and the most anticipated holiday of the year. I am so tired today I am seeing spots. Last night (or this morning, if you live in China) was the team final of the women's Olympic gymnastics competition. I don't think I need to mention my obsessive love for gymnastics again - I'm sure I dedicated a post to it some time ago. Suffice it to say that I have been in ecstasy ever since the opening ceremony last Friday. I watch anything acrobatic related: gymnastics, diving, synchronised swimming (I don't care if it's not a real sport!), tumbling, trampolining and swimming. Ok, this last is because I am in perpetual awe at the anatomy of male swimmers, but I digress. The BBC has fantastic coverage of the Games. They have 6 interactive streams dedicated to 24 hour live coverage, and when there are no events taking place, they show highlights and news packages. However, the coverage on other stations, such as British Eurosport, is usually reduced to roughly half the actual event time. So in the case of the women's team final, Eurosport has an hour of highlights coverage later this evening, whereas the BBC's live coverage is over two hours. One small flaw in the BBC Master Plan - you cannot record interactive TV.

As I simply can't settle for anything less than the maximum gymnastic overload, it follows that I had no choice but to watch the full two hours of competition. At 3:30. THIS MORNING.

I set my alarm to wake me at that ungodly hour, and for a split second considered doing what a normal person would do - rolling over and going back to sleep. But the pull of my most beloved of sports was too strong, and somehow I rolled out of bed, blind (which I am without my contacts), deaf (I still had ear plugs in to shut out the drone of the fan) and dumb - no way was I going to speak and risk enraging Shoes anymore than necessary. To be fair, I had offered to sleep in the lounge to preserve his beauty sleep, but he felt sorry for me and said it was ok if I woke him up. So far I have not had any complaints, but he shot me arsenic-in-a-look this morning when I didn't get up to make his sandwiches and thereby made him 15 minutes late (15 minutes to make sandwiches? I guess this is why mothers and not fathers generally make their children's lunch).

It was completely worth it in the end. It was a drama-filled battle for gold between China and the USA, and I lived every second of it with the gymnasts. I would have been on my feet with the tension of it all, had I been able to rouse myself from my coma-like state on the couch. But let's face it, there are limitations as to how involved one can get at that hour of the morning. It was enough that I could see past the sleep in my eyes to root for my favourite - which kept changing from China, to USA, and back again. I would have been happy for either to take gold - both teams are absolutely phenomonal this year.

So I haven't exactly started my countdown to holiday on the best foot, considering sleep is minimal at a trance party at the best of times. However, despite my fatigue I feel strong like bull, and I reckon if I take last night as my first party night and go non-stop from now til Monday, I should be ok!

I will be loving and leaving you then until Tuesday 26th, when I return from my quest to chase the sun. Just to remind you, we're spending 4 days at the party in Idanha a Nova in Portugal, then flying to Barcelona for 3 days of sightseeing, and ending the holiday with 5 days on the beaches of Mallorca. I'll tell you all about when I get back!

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Boy Next Door

So.... those firsts. I have another one I'd like to share with you.

Nope, not "my first time" - let's just say that's never all it's cracked up to be, is it?

Instead, it's the first time I had my heart broken.

I was 11, and in Standard 4 (Grade 6, for those of less advanced years). I was in love with the boy next door. His name was Ryan, and he was just gorgeous. He was also one of the popular kids, and completely unattainable to a semi-nerd like me.

My best friend at the time, Elke, and I used to spend hours climbing trees outside his house and spying on him over the wall. He had an older brother (a free pass into the realm of Coolness), a dad who let him do what he wanted and no visible female presence in the house, unless his brother had brought one or more of his girlfriends home. In which case we'd also spy on the ethereally beautiful girls as they sunbathed by the pool in impossibly tiny bikinis. His house was the like the Holy Grail of Cool.

One time, we were perched in our usual position, waiting for (stalking?) our quarry to emerge in the backyard, when the most exciting thing ever happened. Ryan came out wearing shorts, and proceeded to strip them off next to the pool, leaving just a pair of white underpants between his boyhood and our virgin eyes. Then he dived in.... and to our tangled dismay and excitement, those wet white underpants suddenly revealed a whole new world. It was my first real glimpse of the male bum, and I think from that moment on I always knew I would be a bad girl. We never got a clear look at the front, but it didn't matter - our illicit thrill was more than complete.

The memory of the clingy white underpants only served to enhance my crush. I was obsessed. I would daydream about how he would tell the whole class he loved me, and we would walk down the corridors together holding hands. I would listen to him playing his music super loud (his family was known in my family as The Noisy Neighbours for about a decade) - Rush Rush by Paula Abdul and I Touch Myself by the Divinyls - and imagine Ryan was secretly sending messages to me over the wall through the songs.

Elke and I, together with another friend and my little sister, hatched a plot to get his attention. We invented a girl called Llem - an acronym of all our names. We wrote him letters in disguised (read messy) handwriting saying how Llem was a girl who lived near him, and who thought he was really hot. We described our virtual self as being a stunner with long blonde hair and blue eyes (clearly the influence of Barbie still held much sway).

It worked. Ryan brought the letters to school with him, and soon everyone was discussing the mysterious Llem. Since the field of girls Ryan knew who lived near him was narrow, the day came when he asked me point blank if I was Llem. I almost died from sheer joy at having him talk to me, but managed to keep my cool long enough to deny it. I even speculated with him on who it could be, and this opened a previously impossible channel of communication between us. Sometimes he'd pass me as we walked to school in the mornings, and he'd always smile and say hi. Once or twice he even walked with me.

I was in heaven. I finally knew what it meant to fall in love, and I knew it was only a matter of time before he went public with his feelings. It didn't matter that he had never told anyone he liked me - the only acceptable way at age 11 to let a crush know you're interested. I knew. And I was convinced that he did too.

The day of our school fete dawned bright and clear, and I was stricken with nausea from the combination of nerves and excitement. One of the most anticipated events of the day was the Dedication Booth. It consisited of a table with a PA system, and cds of the latest chart hits. The idea was to go over, write a dedication to someone and pick a song, and have the MC for the day read your note out over the microphone before playing the accompanying song.

At age 11, I did not have the confidence to make the first move. I would wait for him to dedicate a song to me - I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it would happen. My heart was a-flutter and my hands were clammy. When he walked up to the booth, I stopped breathing. I watched as he wrote his note and flipped through the cds, his mates gently jeering and egging him on.

He walked away, laughing coyly. Time stood still. A few other dedications were read out, a few songs played; I remained motionless and unhearing, frozen by hope. And then it happened.

"And this next dedication is from Ryan Watts, and it goes out to......"

I squeezed my eyes shut....

"Mandy Smith!"

My world stopped turning. For the first time, the sound of my heart shattering into a million pieces rang in my ears.

I vaguely remember dashing to the bathroom, tears stinging my eyes. My friends were concerned, but I hadn't told them of my lofty expectations for that day. I might have said I didn't feel well.

I will never forget how much that moment hurt. Of course, my heart has been broken since then, in far more cruel and adult ways. But there is something uniquely intense and bittersweet about your first.

Ryan never knew. But everytime I hear a Paula Abdul song, I think of him.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Purple Haze

Today's post is inspired by Mistakes and Thrills' post on Firsts. I'm not going to do exactly the same thing, mainly because there are certain Firsts that I do not care to discuss on this blog.... as much as I am open with my friends and family, sometimes it is better that they don't know EVERYTHING about me!

It is more about the memories that her post inspired; one memory in particular that I have spent the past few minutes laughing about.

It was 1998, the year my parents discovered I smoked. I was 17 or 18, in my first year at UCT. I'd been sort of social smoking when out drinking for about 6 months before uni, but at that stage I was still doing the Drag-Puff, where one sucks on the cigarette and exhales Bob Marley-style clouds of smoke without first inhaling anything. It's the teenage shoutout to rebellion: I am so damn cool right now, but I don't actually know what the fuck I'm doing. Anyway, by the time they found out, I was smoking properly. Camel Filters, no less. Yes, I know. My teeth and fingertips contracted jaundice later on, forcing me to change to a lighter brand. The momentous occasion came when I was walking up my driveway, and unbeknownst to me, my bag was open. The incriminating evidence spilled all over the tarmac - a poisonous yellow box and its radioactive contents, confessing to the world that the eldest angel child was on the fast track to hell. Or at the very least, lung cancer.

I will never forget my dad's face as he arrived home that night; pushing open the backyard gate with his shoulder, both hands gingerly cupping the fags as if they might explode and release toxins at any moment. I was in the lounge, and as I looked up to see him enter, my stomach dropped to my suddenly clammy toes. He had to cross the patio to come inside to where I was sitting - I had exactly 2.45 seconds to come up with a story.

He enters the lounge; I am staring at him the way I'd rivet my gaze to the gory bits on Rescue 911. I want to break eye contact, but his barely concealed rage just dares me to. Just try it. "Lopz," he says in that quiet, controlled voice that parents use when they are about to strip their moer, but want to do the right thing by giving you a chance to defend yourself first - so as not to land up in Parent Prison or reported to Child Welfare. No-one is denying him the bitter satisfaction of this moment. "Lopz," again with the quiet, deadly voice. "I found these strewn across the driveway. Can you explain how they got there?"

I am sitting on my shaking hands, hoping desperately that he can't see the beads of sweat lining my upper lip, or hear the thundering of my heartbeat. I frown in apparent puzzlement, and do the only thing a girl can do when cornered. I give up my best friend as the sacrificial lamb. "I'm not sure Dad. They could be Schmokkle's, I guess; she asked me to keep them in my bag for her last night. I must have forgotten to give them back to her."

The next few seconds last an age. Father and daughter face each other across a chasm of doubt and mistrust. He is not stupid, but he has no proof to dispute her story. She has newly developed wiles, but still has enough innocence to have a decent shot at acquittal. After an era of electric silence, he says the next words in the manner of someone who has been beaten on a technicality - an unfair and probably unjust end to the case: " Well, see that you give them back to her and don't ever bring these things into the house again. And you'd better not be smoking yourself."

I know enough not to exhale in relief - nothing says I'm Guilty like that post-apocolyptic sigh. " I won't Dad. And I'm not. I promise." These last two words slip out inadvertently - its my way of trying to prove I'm still Daddy's Little Girl. What I couldn't comprehend back then, but which I am savvy to now, is that when a teenager says " I Promise", it's the same as saying "Of course I'll wait til marriage" or "I won't be late." Whether they mean it at the time or not, these two little words are the greatest lie a teenager ever tells. Promises are like rules: made to be broken, but there to make your parents believe you're essentially still a good kid. As Chandler would say, Yuh-huh!!!

I have never asked my parents if they believed me that day. I'm pretty sure they didn't - I know I wouldn't have if I was in their shoes. When we eventually did discuss my smoking years later, they always made sure I understood their vehement opposition to it, even as they did their best not to judge me for essentially being a dumbass. But they were the first people I told when I quit, and they were the ones with the biggest smiles.