Daily prompt: Is the glass half full or half empty?

So a month has flown by in the blink of an eye and I’ve been back home since Wednesday. This prompt gives me pause for thought as the things that have been happening in my father’s life are certainly not joyful, happy things and it would be easy to see the glass as half empty. He suffered horrible injuries to his leg a year ago and is still not fully mobile and able to walk easily. At the very least, he will always walk with difficulty and he will have constant pain in that leg. He may never be able to garden or work in his woodworking workshop again. How painful that thought must be for a man who was constantly busy making things, gardening and still working part-time at age 78! He seems to have lost so much – glass half empty.

But here’s a thought. Dad’s accident and the need to help has brought my brother and I much closer. Dad has drawn closer to my brother too, and they now have long conversations about the books they’re reading. My trip to care for them during Cynthia’s (my step-mom) hip replacement op and her convalescence has been a very special time for me. I got to spend a month in my father’s house. I cooked and I cared for him and for Cynthia. We chatted and reminisced. I sang all my favourite Broadway hits while he played the keyboard. I hugged him every day and I told him I love him. I may never have a time like this again, and I appreciated every moment. I made him laugh and I made him cry. He told me he was proud of me. Glass half full.

Does that mean I’m glad Dad had this accident? Of course not! But if you have to experience something so painful that it takes your breath away and steals the joy of every day, then you have to cling to whatever good and beauty may come from that deeply painful experience.

In Memoriam

A place from your past or childhood, one that you’re fond of, is destroyed. Write it a memorial.

It was called “Jassat’s General Store” but we called it “Jockey’s”. I still don’t know why. Perhaps “Jockey” was the name of the Indian who owned the store. It was right across the road from my primary school and in my eight-year-old eyes, it was a perfect treasure emporium. The shop was narrow and dark, and the walls were piled ceiling high with whatever goods “Jockey” thought would please his customers. On the left, there were aprons and overalls among an assortment of other clothes. On the other wall, there was kitchenware – pots and pans and ceramic salt and pepper pots in the shape of animals. (I bought my Christmas presents there for a number of years and my granny loved the cow pepper pots!) An array of black forest cuckoo clocks adorned the back wall, tick-tocking loudly into the silence when the shop was empty. I loved them and longed to buy one for my mom, who also loved cuckoo clocks. One cabinet housed personal toiletries like after shave and perfumes and creams. Another contained watches and jewellery. I would gaze longingly at their crowded shelves for hours while deciding what to buy.

The owner was kind and attentive, even to a child such as myself. He didn’t rush me, and was quite willing to take things off the shelves for me to look at. We used to run across the road at break to buy sweets from him too. Then there would be a woman serving as well, and we children jostled and fought to be able to get our treat before the break bell rang and we had to go back to class.

Jockey’s had a special smell. It smelled musty and sometimes dusty, but always with a hint of incense. In my mind, it smelled Indian, and I loved it. Those were the days before supermarkets and hypermarkets in South Africa. You either went to a specialist shop, or a generalist, like the Indian shops. Jockey’s died for two reasons. The apartheid government made it illegal for an Indian person to own a store in a white area, and unless the owner could find a white person who he trusted to become the “front” for his store, he was doomed to forced removal to an Indian area. And even if he could do that, the arrival of large supermarket chains put the final nail in the coffin.

So I-m saying goodbye here, not only to a childhood memory and a special place, but also to an era. This is a goodbye to the days when the customer was always right, when service was the most important aspect of sales, and when people still looked at each other and saw people, not dollar signs.

Kuckucksuhr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It didn’t come easy!

Italian Language Workshop
Italian Language Workshop (Photo credit: Context Travel)

Daily Prompt: Apply Yourself

Describe your last attempt to learn something that did not come easily to you.

So there I was, sitting in a cramped classroom in the Dante Alighieri Centre in Johannesburg, reciting verb conjugations.

“Io sono, tu sei, lui è….” the class droned on. My tongue stumbled over the vowels and double letters (which are both supposed to be pronounced in the Italian language). I couldn’t even hear the difference between one letter and two letters! We spent the three hour weekly lesson following the antics of cartoon characters an badly photocopied pages and repeating grammar drills endlessly, but we never seemed to apply those drills in any conversation of our own. Our frantic pleas for more conversation skills was that you had to be ADVANCED level to attend the conversation classes. Say WHAT! I was sure I would never get to that level, or if I did, I would be old and grey.

Nevertheless, I persevered, and after two years was considered to be at the pre-intermediate level. I could use the present tense fairly well, but the past was still a mystery to me as I grappled with passato prossimo and trapassato, not to mention passato remoto. To speak a romance language, you need a good memory as there are so many tenses and conjugations to learn. My memory was getting an olympic workout, but only giving amateur results! I made myself a vocabulary book with pictures and the names of common items. That helped me to learn more words. I thought I was doing brilliantly! Initially, I had been learning for fun, but around that time, a life change resulted in our move to Italy. Boy, was I in for a shock!

I arrived in Italy in October 2002 thinking I would seamlessly integrate. I pictured myself making friends and having long conversations, but the truth was that I could hardly understand what people were saying, and every time I wanted to dive into a conversation with a comment, I found myself momentarily (or sometimes permanently) lost for words. By the time I found my little comment, the conversation had moved on. People were very kind when they realised my predicament, and often waited for me to find the words, but my frustration often moved me to tears or to clam my mouth shut and only listen.

It’s now ten years later. Have I reached the point where I can have a seamless conversation? Sadly, not. Since I teach English, I speak English most of the day. We have a habit of speaking English at home, and we tend to watch satellite TV – you guessed it – in English. We have a stock saying in the ESL business: Use it or lose it! I can make myself understood when I need to buy something and I can read quite well, but I still make some horrendous mistakes. (More about those in another post).

Have you learnt another language? What were the challenges for you, and how have you fared?


Daily Prompt: Coming to a bookshelf near you

Here is my attempt for the  novel I would like to write

Megan leaves her chaotic life in South Africa to teach English in Italy. However, the chaos seems to follow her as she faces problem students and crazy friends. A chance meeting catapults her into the shadowy world of human traffickers and she is forced to fight to save a friend from a fate worse than death. Will she succeed, or will she disappear too?

Copyright M Brizzolari

Here’s the link for the daily prompt page: http://mk17design.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/daily-prompt-coming-to-a-bookshelf-near-you/