One of the joys of a multicultural family (tribe?) is that you get to celebrate lots of extra holidays. We have one foot in the solar (Julian) calendar, one foot in the lunar (Chinese) calendar and one foot in the celestial calendar (as you can see, our family has a rather large footprint…). Sunday marks the Chinese New Year’s day (CNY), which brings most of Asia to a roaring standstill of eating and more eating and even more eating. All of this celebrating is followed by two weeks of recovery, most of which is also spent eating.
This morning, the Christmas decorations had to make space for our home-made lanterns. Last year, we only got around to removing the Christmas decorations in June, by which times the shops were putting up theirs. So, this is a new record.
2012 was an interesting year. You know that Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times”? Well, it was a bit like that. Living in South Africa is interesting in any number of ways. For one thing, the South African calendar is simple to understand: Every month is marked April and every day is the 1st. And, of course, every third day is a public holiday. Every morning when I listen to the news, I check to make sure it’s not April Fool’s Day. Our political leaders get up to such fascinating things that you risk popping a hernia with laughter every time you read a newspaper. To survive, you need to keep your head down and get on with your life, trying not to giggle at reports about “The Spear”, to name but one such event.
The highlight of 2012 was undoubtedly the arrival of Ruth Yue-Hui on 18 October, the stunning little bundle of joy that immediately stole all of our hearts. With three older (and wilder) siblings, she learnt to sleep through a nuclear holocaust. She’s growing rapidly and very curious. Watch this space!
The hardest part about 2012 was saying good-bye to our beloved Ah Gung, Ami’s father. His rather sudden passing left a void that pictures and memories alone cannot fill. Soon it will be a year already, how time flies! Time is no healer, it simply provides distractions that make the wound seem smaller. But the wound remains.
Ludwig and Otto attended Holy Cross School last year and both enjoyed it very much. Ludwig drew a picture that achieved high accolades in a school art exhibition (and was eventually auctioned off for R700 (about US$80) – Grandpa managed to keep it in family hands after some fierce bidding!). The money went to the school, in case you’re wondering. Otto and Kara also continued drawing every day (each child will draw somewhere between three and five pictures per day, entirely voluntarily). Kara’s people are real live characters that jump off the page, Otto’s architecture and dimensions (not to mention detail) can make your head spin, while Ludwig’s keen observation of nature makes his pictures seem like a walk in a zoo or a nature reserve. And no picture is complete without it having a long story behind it, with plot lines as complex as a thriller.
Kara’s little business (“Kara’s Kitchen”) grew throughout 2012, with her adding more products to her repertoire. Kara and I go door-to-door selling once a week in our neighbourhood (thankfully, our neighbours are mostly tolerant!). It’s a great experience for her and she’s become a little local celebrity in her own right.
Little Otto started “Otto’s Ocean Art”, a business that currently sells a range of sea sponges that he (and the other two) collect on the beaches. These all have great skin care properties. In Otto’s case, the marketing is somewhat harder, but he has his die-hard fans already. Who can say No to his winsome smile?
Ludwig is fascinated by growing bonzais and while this is a long and slow road to income, he and I enjoy working together on the various plants we grow. For his 7th birthday in April, Ludwig joined Ami and I on an unforgettable canoeing trip along the mighty Orange River (the largest river in southern Africa). Sleeping under the stars and navigating one rapid after another for four days was a wonderful break from work.
Ami’s maternity leave was timed (!) in such a way that her contract finished on her last day of maternity leave. In other words, she did not have to return to work. Instead, she began homeschooling the tribelets on 2 January. Homeschooling is fun for the children (they still think they are on holiday), but the lack of fixed endpoints can often make it nail-biting for the parents. Even so, Ludwig can easily finish a fairly substantial book in one morning, which probably means he’s OK. So far, five weeks later, the whole experience has already done our family the world of good. We integrate well with the numerous other homeschooling families in George, so the children are not isolated at all.
November and December saw us entertaining three fabulous ladies from The East – my mother-in-law and two of her sisters. Their stay culminated in the baptism of Baby Ruth, a delightfully grand and glorious affair. After their return to Malaysia, we spent the last two weeks of December at Nature’s Valley for an extended Christmas feast with all our (geographically) close relatives. I told you we enjoy celebrating ALL those calendars!
Ami plans to work sessions and locums to keep her hand in clinical practise. Time will tell at what point she will return to more fulltime work. At the moment, she is enjoying seeing more of us (and so are we!). Her compulsory time of service is now over and she is free to choose where and when she wants to work. Twelve long years have passed since she first started studying medicine in Taiwan! Her Taiwanese classmates are all consultants now, but she’s definitely had the more interesting (…) life.
January the 10th marked our ninth wedding anniversary. Ami and I cannot believe how quickly time has flown. Fortunately, our marriage has aged like wine (and not like fish!). We love each other more each day. With my parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year, we have a tough act to follow, though! After all, I’ll be 85 when that day dawns…
My little online shop has its ups and downs (you can see it at integrow.co.za ). It remains rewarding to help people get free from their bondage to medication. Some of my products are now retailing nationally (and even internationally). I can just comment here that selling your products through large chain retailers is a bit like riding a porcupine in the nude – not for the faint-hearted. Hopefully, this will eventually lead to more consistent income (once I’ve upgraded from porcupine to something like a dog or a pony).
That’s about it. Now all that remains for me is to say, “Gong xi fa cai!” (the traditional CNY greeting in our dialect, loosely meaning “Congratulations and be prosperous!”).
Peace on earth!
Frank. Ami (Suyen), Ludwig Xu-En (7), Otto Hong-En (5), Kara Yi-Hui (4) and Ruth Yue-Hui (3.5 months)