Sunday, 31 March 2013

Irish Pride

Being an Au Pair is amazing in that our Area Director’s go out of their way to find exciting things for us to do at our monthly meetings. For those of you who are not too sure what Area Directors are; this is the person in the United States who ensures that we follow the rules, have a great time and we are still living and breathing each month, kind of like a mom (except she can’t ground us when we misbehave, thank goodness for that because I would probably have spent my whole time in this country in my room without a cellphone). And the monthly meetings are the times when we see our Area Director in person. So being March what better way to spend it than at a St Patrick’s Day parade. Just a pity though we could not spend it in true Irish style with a keg or two in our hands singing about the good ‘ol days in our dear Ireland while dressed in green .

Morristown, a beautiful town in Morris County, New Jersey, was the place chosen for our monthly meeting. The weather that day was superb, the sun was shining and there was just enough of a breeze to make it bearable but not too cold. The parade started off with a group of girls dressed in colourful traditional Irish dress dancing to upbeat folksy tunes and skipping and hopping higher than should be humanly possible I thought about trying it but then thought I could come up with much better ideas, I think I will just put this down to the fact that they were young and not that I was certainly very unfit.

With the streets filling up with all sorts of people who had just discovered they all had some sort of Irish heritage, most though dating back probably a couple centuries, some wonderful Au Pair discovered a Starbucks. Now Starbucks is the very way of life for us Au Pairs, it is where we go to meet new friends, to fill our veins with coffee so strong it’s a sure bet we will not be sleeping for the next few days and it’s the place you go to gather your senses when your kids have frayed and dashed each last nerve you had. Starbucks is home. So in we go to gather our little comforts to make the most of standing outside. After all that it was back on the street to watch the parade unfolding before us.

The actual parade was a wonderful affair. Most of the people were men dressed in skirts, oh make that kilts (I never did understand the difference), walking to the beat of drums, flutes and bagpipes. Glorious red fire trucks passed our way filling up the entire street and amazing us at the sheer size of this monster machine. A mime artist walked by entertaining children in silence, and for two very amazing seconds we experienced that same silence from the children as they tried this imitation, I believe from now on I will be playing this game with my kids. There were a group of people and dogs from the Seeing Eye Dog foundation which is very famous in Morristown and then some more very famous Irish dogs. The Irish wolfhound left most of us gaping with its enormous size, it was truly a magnificent creature.

The parade was wonderful as it left us with great memories. For me it was the chance to meet some great, friends from exotic places in this world, to learn about the Irish culture in a fun and interactive way and to add to my already over flowing bank of memories of my exceptional time in the United States of America.


Safe travels!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Friends, food and Madiba

Nestled snugly in a City that never ceases to stop for just a second is the most perfect reminder of home. A place that is not just a nostalgic reminder because of a name we all associate with our country, but the place bustles with the lively atmosphere of a typical South African shebeen. About 80% of the people there are all natives, so familiar accents and words that many of us hear so seldomly fly around like we are all sitting back at home catching up with old friends. You are greeted with a, “Hey China! Howzit going!” and you promptly respond with, “Lekker bru,” with no awkward glances and feeling for the first time in a very long time as if someone really gets this very unique thing we all share. It is a place for those us who long for the country we all dearly miss to have some sort of connection to, because ultimately that is what South Africa is made up of, a melting pot of amazing people and Madiba in New York City captures this so impressively.

I must admit I had my doubts about this place, recreating an atmosphere and place that completely symbolized the very way of life for every South African in a place that was so completely opposite was going to be a challenge. South Africa lives for the “just now’s” and moves on the ever unpredictable “African Time,” we seldomly stay strangers with people for very long and smiles are given away like candy. In New York City, despite how amazing this place is, you are hurried from one place to the next knowing that every second counts, and most of the time we are so busy glancing down at our feet we forget to see the people who pass by us on the street. Yet our first step into this place was like taking a giant leap out of the USA and stepping into the warm embrace of home.

Madiba was our choice of restaurant for the night because we were meeting some South African friends flying in from the UK. Familiar territory for all. As we walked through the door we were handed an original ballot sheet from the 1994 election, and they had even taken the time to mark off our vote for us. The place was jam packed with people squashing elbows in this knee and standing on that toe. The music playing in the background was a mix of up and coming South African artist, with some of the older more famous tracks in between. At our table we sat down in old style farm house chairs that were all miss matched, and sturdy looking tables that came out of our grandparents’ era.

The food was amazing! We started off with a light white wine straight from the vineyards in Stellenbosch to accompany our starter of “vetkoek” in a sauce of chutney and a hearty supply of “slap chips” drenched in vinegar. Now the hard part came, choosing from the multitude of traditional dishes which would satisfy our appetite and longing for home. At this point in the night when we have all starved ourselves the whole day for the anticipated meals ahead, the decision is a very difficult one. I settled on the tasty “bobotie” and more chutney which turned out impeccably capturing all the flavors of this very scrumptious meal. Kate, Mavis and Jen both tried the “pap en wors” with the side of chakalaka. I had a taste of the pap and have to say honestly that no one can truly make better “pap” then my wonderful “Goggo” back home, but it came a very close second. Kev and Nicole tried the very traditional oxtail, and both raved about the delicious meal.

At this point we were all stuffed to the seams, but how could I leave without trying “iets soets?” After selling off my beanie in exchange for a dom pedro I was hoping it would be worth it. It was great that Kate was paying, but it was also frigidly cold outside that door. The first sip was more than worth it and the rest of that wonderful glass was a delightful bonus.

The night turned into a great surprise. A time to reconnect with all that we left behind at home, to catch up with old friends and to be in a place where we could just have a “lekker jol.”

Safe travels!