Red Whine: August 2005 Archives

Screwed

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That would be what I am right around now... screwed.

And it's all mostly thanks to Ikea.

You see, it's now 3:50 AM on the east coast of the U.S., and as we are speaking, my sister is hurtling through the sky at... well, I'm too tired/lazy to know or look up how fast those South African Scareways planes fly across the Atlantic.

In any case, she'll be here in just a few hours, and I AM STILL PUTTING HER BEDROOM FURNITURE TOGETHER!

Oh, damn those Swedes and their Swedish efficiency! (I don't think I have Swedes among my three/four or now sometimes five (FIVE!) readers, but if I do... my gross generalisation excludes YOU of course!)

"Well, Red", I hear you murmur. "Why are you still putting her furniture together at this late stage?"

Oh, my dear readers, how little ye seem to recall of my awful habits! Don't you remember that I was born two weeks early (on this very day, in fact) and that I've since tried my damnest to catch up on all that leisure time in the womb that I'd missed out on by being 14 days early?

Well, I still haven't caught up on the lost sleep, that's why I might seem a bit slow to the rest of the world.

Anyway, back to those Swedes and their proudest export: their Ikea stores and its chirpy, do-it-yourself wares.

I've never claimed to like DIY projects. How-to books, yes, but that's entirely different.

Now look, I'll admit that I'm no novice to Ikea's furniture. I've been on a first-name basis with a few chairs named Jors (or was it Hork? I forget. Besides, after a while they all blur together in one's memory. A bit like ex-boyfriends, I suppose. Although I'll be quick to assure you that some of Ikea's chairs have more personality and spunk than a few of those boyfriends ever had!)

But still, tonight a friend and I were almost defeated by a bed named Malm. So we've decided that the Swedes definitely need more sun. They MUST be deprived of much needed oxygen or some essential vitamins during their dark, long winters.

Why else would they insist on explaining how you should put their furniture together by printing a manual without a single word in it? (Well, no words except for the name of your particular purchase. I think they're very proud of the fact that they pay someone to name their furniture.) Seriously, their instruction booklets are like the printed equivalent of charades. That is, if you are playing charades and you are the only sober person in the room.

I'll admit that they do a good job in their pictorial instructions, because most of the time it's relatively easy to decipher. But this time I was almost stumped, courtesy of two little pictures. One picture showed you the correct way of putting some parts together. Right next to it was the picture with the big X through it, telling you how NOT to put it together under any circumstances!

It looked EXACTLY the same as the other picture. (I'll provide evidence a bit later.)

Anyway, thanks to my very clever and capable friend, Malm is now standing, waiting patiently to provide comfort and rest to my jet-lagged sister.

And I'm happy to report that I don't have a single screw loose anymore!

Which is great news, especially considering that I'm older today than I have EVER been before.

Nanny saga still being written. (Promise, Kim and Kerri and Dee and Ensurt!)

While all three FOUR! of you wait with baited breath (yeah, right) until the day I finish that (and the travelogue AND the host of other things I still have in draft form. Yes, it's getting awfully drafty and cluttered here in the back corridors at Redsaid's! Can anyone say "Short attention span?"), here's something else for you to gnaw on.

Weepy Post Part II

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Have to catch up? Well, you didn't miss much, and although I don't normally force more of my writing on people than is absolutely necessary - besides, usually even minimal exposure is sufficient to inflict the desired amount of torture - I'd still state the obvious and encourage you to read Part I first.

Now, before I continue the saga, I just want to ask you to please forgive me for telling this in such fits and starts. This is the first time I'm ever writing this story in full, and although I've already told it to a few people, these aren't memories I like to revisit.

People who have heard the story often encourage me to write it down. Not just for the therapeutic value of it, but they actually think it would make a good book! (Not unless I'd hire a ghost writer, though!) I've always used the excuse that it would be too blatantly indiscreet or disloyal of me to write this story. I've even used the feeble defence that it might not even be my story to tell, that I can't really claim ownership to it, you know? Truth is, it's always been just too difficult to face that part of my past.

So why am I writing it down now?

Well, I've been stuck in immigration limbo for so long and, even though I rarely write about any of that stuff on here, it's been weighing on my mind a lot lately.

And since these events were a crucial part of the journey that has brought me to this point in my life, and since I'm telling this story to explain how I became an illegal immigrant (by the way, this is NOT a how-to manual! Rather a How-NEVER-to, please listen-and-learn-from-my-mistakes story!), I've decided to finally release it.

I know it sounds really melodramatic ("MOI? MELO-DRAMATIC?!?" she says with fluttering eyelids, the back of her hand sweeping across her brow) to use words like "releasing", etc. Truth is, I actually think there might be a valid point hidden in all that "therapeutic value" psycho-babble.

But even more than that... my situation has had me feeling quite desperate lately. And if you'd ask any stalker, I'm sure they'll agree that desperation is NOT a good mental place to be in! So I'm hoping that in writing this down, an answer will come to me and I'll have a sudden, miraculous and clear revelation on what to do to get out of this tricky spot in my life, because right now, I feel rather stuck here.

I'm also hoping that I'll finally reach someone who is going through the same thing, because in all the years I've been in the U.S., and in all the years since I've finally filed with Immigration to become legal, I've never met anyone who is going through quite the same thing as I am. At times it's made me feel as if I'm all alone in this boat (or more like a rickety old raft, maybe) and so I'm lost in this seemingly endless sea without any nautical/navigational skills!

Of course I KNOW that I'm not as alone as I feel, because well, according to U.S. immigration statistics, my case is but one of 3.7 MILLION backlogged immigration cases. But more about that later.

I know I'm pinning a lot of hope on this little story of mine. Maybe, if nothing else, it will just be good to finally get it out of my system...

So thank you for bearing with me. If it's this frustrating for me to write this down (and it isn't even a literary description of the events!), I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for you to try and lumber through it!

And on that note, here, at last, is the continuing story.

Weepy Post

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Let me forewarn you: This is going to be my 'weepy' post. The one in which I indulge in melodramatic self-pity and sob and shout and shake my fist about.

So yes, it's a little bit like drunk-dialing, I suppose. And I believe everyone should be entitled to do it at least once (or so... let's not limit ourselves. I might end up enjoying it so much that I'd want to make a habit out of it).

As I sit here tonight, I feel drained and defeated. On the one hand, I have so much to be grateful for. For one, I've recently found out that my one sister is coming to visit me! She'll be arriving on my birthday and staying until the 18th of September, and needless to say, I can't WAIT, because I haven't seen her since 2000...

Yes, that's five years.

But that's not the worst of it. I haven't seen my dad in NINE years. My other sister in six years, my mom in four years, my other sis in a year.

This is why.

You've often seen how I refer to myself as an "outlawed alien," and recently many people (more than I could've ever expected, thank you!) responded to my appeal to sign that very naive Green Card petition I had written on my own behalf, but I've never really told you how I ended up being an illegal immigrant in the first place.

So, in case you've ever wondered how a person manages to achieve the same legal status as a Cuban cigar in the States - other than rafting in or outrunning the BCIS (formerly known as the INS) - here's your answer.

Back in 1996, when I was 21 and still living in South Africa, I was a recent graduate from journalism school and found myself working for the press office at the local Egyptian Embassy.

My room mate had just returned from Washington D.C. where she had worked as a nanny. I was forever interrogating her about the States. What is it like? What are the people like? Luckily for me, she had been seeking an audience for some time, so she was more than willing to talk about her experiences with me.

One fine day, after I had moved out and into my own apartment, she phoned me at work, almost too excited to speak. Eventually, I managed to decipher the gist of her news. A friend of the family she had worked for in Washington was also looking for a nanny. Since they had gotten to know my friend quite well throughout her stay in D.C., they wanted her to come back and work for them, but since she'd already 'been there, done that,' she told them about me instead.

"You absolutely HAVE to go!" she said. "You'll have the best experience, and besides, they are willing to pay for your ticket and everything, that's how desperate they are to find someone."

She eventually managed to persuade me. It didn't take very much, mind you, because I'd always dreamed of travelling and living overseas for at least a few years of my life. Since I've always been more of a dreamer than a doer, I recognised this as just the push I'd need to bring at least one of my ambitions to fruition.

So before long (and it all happened really fast... within less than three months) I was in touch with my future boss, and after exchanging a few e-mails, letters and phone calls, the deal was done. They were going to buy my ticket; I only had to quit my job, move out of my apartment and store my furniture, and then get on the plane.

The only time a visa was ever mentioned, was when I asked about how I should go about getting the correct one. My prospective boss was very quick to tell me that I needn't worry too much about such details and that I should just get a tourist visa and get to D.C. already.

I was bitterly, bitterly naive and didn't see any reason to question this. Besides, according to my friend, this family was wealthy and really well connected in D.C. So without much of a hitch, I managed to get a tourist visa valid for one year and on 9 November 1996, I left South African soil. Little did I know for just how long...

The transition from sunny South Africa to a very chilly Washington D.C. was incredibly tough.

For one, I didn't know a soul, so I was incredibly lonely. It also didn't take me too long to figure out that the couple I was working for (by looking after their only son) had not been happily married for a long time. In fact, by the time I got there, their marriage was pretty much on the rocks.

I lived in the house with them and sometimes the atmosphere in that mansion was chillier than the D.C. winter blustering outside.

It was awful. I received a very small salary - far below the minimum wage, which was probably why they never cared so much about my visa status - and I worked way more than 40 hours per week. Some weeks they simply forgot to pay me, and I never had the nerve to remind them. (Yeah, I guess one could say that I'm not much of a business woman.)

After three months of this, and what was probably one of the worst Christmases of my life (during which the FATHER flew into a rage because he hadn't received the gift he wanted!), I found employment elsewhere.

This is where you are probably going to think that I'm making this up, but believe you me, if I really did have such an imagination, I think I would've used it to crank out a best-seller a long time ago.

Even though my responsibilities increased by one child, two dogs, a cat and a few more household chores and errands, and even though my small stipend didn't increase, life with Family Number Two seemed like paradise in the beginning.

The atmosphere in the house certainly felt a lot warmer than I had been used to. Little did I know that they had a huge skeleton in their closet...

Please don't hate me, I swear I'm not doing it on purpose, but all this purging has worn me out. I promise to continue this later.



















about
is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)

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comments
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Terra: YES! Wait... you didn't think that I would be this possessed to post for NO REASON, did ya???... [go]
  • Terra.Shield : OH! ... [go]
  • Marco Author Profile Page: Be a bit like serving drinks at AA?... [go]
  • Marco Author Profile Page: I personally think it is a mindset that has been cultivated over the years, and one, if not stemmed,... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Ms. Crazy Cat Lady Pants!!! Squeeeee! Sooo good to see you! (I thought NO ONE was bothering to read ... [go]
  • Ms. Pants : Kitties don't get enough credit sometimes. (All times, if you ask me, but I'm a Crazy Cat Lady.)... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Hey Tamara! I know, right?? That is a tough act to follow indeed. I adored that dentist. He used to ... [go]
  • Tamara Tipton : Well, I am not sure how any dentist could live up to that standard! LOL! I hope your appointment was... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: I'm really really glad that I'm not the only one, Po! Sometimes I drive myself mad with all the what... [go]
  • Po : Those questions run through my heads for various times in my life too, that is for sure!... [go]
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