I Say Hello, You Say Goodbye

South Africa will be in my blood forever. No matter if I leave or stay, I will always say hello to all the love I have felt, the beautiful souls I have encountered, and the unique experiences that have shaped me into the individual I am today. 
I would really like for my final posts to be really meaningful and thought out, so I will continue with this post while I’m on the flight back home. 

Other than that, we are just about to leave for the airport and say hello to the beautiful lives ahead of us. 

South Africa, you won’t be missing because you are now a part of me, see you soon. 

–VLB

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Contradiction

I love the kitchen, but I hate cooking—let me elaborate.

This week, I was placed in the Kitchen and to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it at all. Don’t get me wrong, working in kitchen at Zulu Nyala wasn’t even that bad—I mean Mduduzi (the hilarious Head Chef who made up a song about potatoes) and I cooked up a real mean Beef Curry together, but it was the the grunt work that I wasn’t looking forward to—who in their right mind really enjoys that? Everyday, I mentally relive Daye’s worst nightmares of peeling potatoes, cutting fruits, and chopping vegetables…over and over again. I was lucky enough to have not underwent such repetitive work at Zulu Nyala, but I didn’t know what my future held in Mpekweni’s kitchen.

As a little girl, I use to love watching my Bedda (grandmother) cook and at times I would even help her, but I never really developed a passion for cooking or even baking, although my passion for food and eating is incredible—you’d be surprised how fast and how much I can eat. This is where the first line of this blog slowly becomes integrated with the idea of loving the kitchen, but hating to cook. I never really understood why cooking never appealed to me, but after this week’s experience in the kitchen, I think I have come to an interesting conclusion.

I cannot tell you the amount of dessert dishes I have made over the past week, but believe it or not, I actually enjoyed preparing them. The Baker I was working with was so patient and informative; not only did I make different desserts, but I actually learned how to do so. After each dish was completed, she would test me and ask what ingredients were in the dish (she was one of the few employees who genuinely cared about my learning experience). Along with being so informative, she was most definitely great company as well. We were able to joke around and have fun all while getting the job done. I think that is also another reason why I actually enjoyed working in the kitchen—when you cook with someone, you create a bond whereas when you cook alone, you have no one to share the experience with (Chris, get ready to cook up a storm, but please I hate prep work—I’ll get into that in just a second). Simple ingredient dishes make me happy—anything that requires a lot of prep work, please count me out. No peeling, cutting, chopping, and or grating—ever. Personally, I absolutely dislike doing work that does not stimulate my mind and or any work that requires me to stand in one position for an extended period of time. Back home, I’m a server, all I’m use to is running around.

Now, the kitchen does of course have its hectic moments, but the concerns of a cook are completely different than those of a server. A server’s main priority is to ensure that the guest is satisfied in terms of service, whereas a cook’s main priority is to ensure that the food being served is up to the guest’s standards. Both jobs work hand-in-hand, although no matter how good the service is, a guest will always remember if the food was appetizing or not. I like to think of these simple equations when explaining the relationship between food and service:

Good Food + Good Service = The Ultimate Goal

Good Food + Bad Service = There is a Possibility that the Guest WILL return

Bad Food + Good Service = The Guest will NOT return

Bad Food + Bad Service = A Recipe for Disaster

Speaking of hectic, this is just a reminder to everyone—Please be aware of “Wet Floor” signs and if there isn’t one (which should never happen), please put one there, even while mopping! Yes, I had a little accident a few days ago—I fell and hurt my knee—but thankfully it’s slowly getting better (hopefully it’s fully healed by Saturday for Cape Town)!

As I said, I love the kitchen, but I haven’t really told you my honest answer as to why that is. All day, you are surrounded by food (which is the most heavenly thing on this earth by the way), smelling all of the beautiful aromas of either baked goods or seasoned chicken—melted chocolate, Pecan Pie, muffins, croissants, herbs and spices, potatoes that are baked to a golden perfection (please, someone stop me)—and I must say what keeps me going throughout the day are the little treats I find throughout the kitchen. My newfound, absolute favourite snack to nibble on has to be crushed biscuits (in Canada I’m going to use Digestives), doused in melted salted butter—don’t judge me, just love me (that’s you Chris).

All in all, food = unconditional love, but I just wish it could cook itself sometimes…

—VLB

Hold On

As life as I know it here comes to an “end”, I’m beginning to really reflect on everything that has happened thus far–the good times, the not so good times, and everything in between. It has been a roller coaster ride of experiences, emotions, fears, and strengths–both work related and personal, but it is when the ride comes to a halt that you realize what kept you holding on the entire time. 

After being homesick for weeks, I now feel the need to allow some distance between myself and loved ones back home. I do not quite understand why I have been feeling this way, but I am allowing myself to be free because with freedom comes happiness–and that is always the ultimate goal. I know that when I go back home, my entire life will be set in motion, so there is nothing wrong with a little me time (I can’t even remember the last time I’ve done something completely for MYSELF to be completely honest).

I titled this blog “Hold On” because that’s exactly what every single person does–and exactly what I have been going for weeks now. I created focal points for myself (both short-term and long-term) to ensure I never gave up, regardless of how difficult things became–that is how I stayed strong and continuously pushed forward each day. Once you give yourself focal points to focus on, nothing will come in the way of your truest desires. 

During this trip, I have learned a lot of new things about myself–especially about things that I want and don’t want in life. These desires and even concepts have grown close to my heart and will continue growing in all aspects of my life:

Love

Strength

Communication

Compassion

Family

Acceptance

Forgiveness

Evolution

Peace

Happiness

I’ll keep this short–I am currently still in a state of reflection, so I will elaborate on this concept when I arrive back home (I’ll most likely write my final thoughts on the flight back to Canada)–I know that I’ll only understand WHY I was meant to be in SA after months of being in a place that was once so familiar to me–home. One day, everything will be clear to me and I’ll thank the universe for everything I have encountered during my time here–the good times and the bad. All I really have to do right now is just hold on.

–VLB

Mother Hen

“Welcome to Mpekweni Beach Resort and to our Housekeeping Department. We are 30 kilometres from Port Alfred and 100 kilometres from East London—which makes us in the middle of no where. We hope that you are able to enjoy yourselves in Housekeeping, however one is here to work and to do your best at all time” (Mpekweni’s introduction “Welcome Letter” to Housekeeping).

This introduction is absolutely brilliant—it has facts, humour, fairness, and realism all wrapped up into two, short little sentences. I must say, excellent job Gladys (she’s the main boss lady of the Housekeeping Department and in other words, the “Mother Hen”). Can you believe she and a previous colleague came up with that all by themselves?—I mean, some people reading that may not realize how significant those words are, but those four simple principals are definitely seen within the department and directly correlates with the aspects of a “mother”. Mpekweni’s housekeeping is broken down into four departments (no coincidence): public area, laundry, Nemo’s Kids Club, and cleaning ladies. Each department is responsible for their own duties and responsibilities, however, Housekeeping must work as one entity in order to function properly and efficiently.

Public Area

Public Area pertains to ensuring a clean public environment to guests at all times. The typical shift times tend to be from 7AM to 4PM, 6AM to 3PM, or 3PM to 12AM. According to a set standard, the following must be completed each day:

  • All bathrooms (which includes toilets, sinks, and floors) must continuously be cleaned
  • The Terrace and Reception must be swept and kept clean
  • The Main Office must be cleaned
  • Hallways must continuously be checked for dishes and swept
  • All decks must be cleaned
  • All stairs must be cleaned
  • All lights must be cleaned (remove cob webs and dust)
  • Overall cleanliness of the resort must be maintained throughout the day

Laundry

Laundry shifts begin at either 7AM to 4PM, 6AM to 3PM, or 3PM to 12AM. When working in laundry, the following duties are expected to be completed:

  • Clean out tumble dryers before and after use
  • Sort all linen from rooms that morning and keep a log it
  • Sort out stained linen and keep a log of it
  • Check the Handover Book to see if there is anything extra that needs to be done (ex. put towels in rooms or valet)
  • Wash, dry, and press all linens, towels, table cloths, uniforms (from all departments), and guest’s laundry
  • Keep work area clean at all times and prepped for the morning shift

Nemo’s Kids Club

Mpekweni Beach Resort has a fantastic Child Care facility, which is known as Nemo’s. Not only is the Housekeeping Department responsible for maintaining the resort in terms of its cleanliness, but they are also responsible for providing babysitting services if requested by a guest. A typical shift at Nemo’s begins at 7:30AM to 4:30PM or 3PM to 12AM. In order to smoothly run Nemo’s, the following duties must be preformed:

  • Ensure the bathroom is clean and fully stocked (soap and hand towels)
  • All counters and supplies are cleaned and wiped (cutlery, plates, and glasses)
  • Ensure all cupboards and toy boxes are organized, neat, and closed
  • Adjust the room to a comfortable temperature
  • Prepare all activities for the children (water games, jumping castle…etc)
  • Meals and beverages are prepared

In terms of child care, it is important to always be aware of the children at all times. Children must be signed in and out by their parent and/or guardian. No child can leave Nemo’s unless a parent picks them up. Children may not be near the pool due to safety issues. If a child does get hurt, a report must be filled out and a parent and/or guardian must be connected immediately.

Cleaning Ladies

If it wasn’t for these wonderful ladies, I wouldn’t be able to find the floor right now. These ladies are so hard working and never miss a corner or crack—I think that guests should acknowledge them much more. A room cleaning shift begins at 7:30AM to 4:30PM. These ladies are assigned rooms (at Mpekweni, they divide the rooms into blocks—100 block, 200 block, 300 block…etc) at the beginning of their shift and are only responsible for the rooms that are assigned to them. The room cleaning procedure is as follows:

  • Open curtains and windows, ensure that the curtains are cleaned and ironed
  • Strip bedding and replace it
  • Dust around frames, doors, lights, headboards, lampshades…etc
  • Clean light switches and door handles
  • Clean, restock, and organize the coffee station—ensure there is a working kettle
  • If the room has a carpet, vacuum, if not then sweep
  • Clean and restock bathroom (toilet, shower, bathtub, sink, toilet paper, towers, toiletries…etc)
  • Once completed, ensure the room is checked by a Manager

After working in the Housekeeping Department for almost a week now, I have come to really appreciate these women for all they do. These ladies do so much and never ask for anything in return—I know it is their job, but they are truly the Mothers of Mpekweni Beach Resort. From their kind, loving hearts to their physical strength, I look forward to (one day Chris, I know you’re reading this) being the “Mother Hen” of my own home.

—VLB

No Name

I can’t be given the words,

for I have never been able to read.

The words that exist in each line are carefully chosen,

protecting those who chose to be a secret,

those who chose to be hidden.

Why give them the power to hide from the world?

Hide who they have fought to be—

who they have become.

The beauty of souls and their creations lies beneath their names,

their titles—what they are known as,

but do names really depict what they are?

Does it capture the true essence of what they claim to be?

A label, a title, a name.

This wine between my lips,

these crackers upon my tongue,

the person who shadows behind me—

creations with no names,

experiences with no limits,

moments with no existence,

for society only believes in proof,

but how can you prove something without a name?

Significance.

For what is significant to you may not be significant to me,

for what is significant to me may not be existent in your world, but exists in mine.

My world lies within in now and now can never be captured for it has already passed—

Its label, its title, its name does not exist,

but leaves a lingering feeling upon nowness—

For this moment is full of existence and none at all.

With this thought in mind,

these words cannot be comprehended nor read—

the words are given,

but no sense is made from them

because now lives in the moment and not in the words between.

—VLB

Maintenance Men

As Veena, one of the managers (the lady who basically has the word of God here at Zulu Nyala) describes, the Maintenance Department does a lot more than just preform room checks and fix things; the Maintenance Department is responsible for maintaining the entire property itself. These maintenance jobs can range anywhere from cleaning the pool to filling a small hole in the wall. The main sectors of this department include: gardening, plumbing, carpentry, stock counts, electrical, cleaning (for example, pools and/or public areas), and overall property maintenance (which includes anything else that may not come to mind right now). Some may not consider this department as a part of “hospitality” itself, but without the hard work of the, “Maintenance Men”, nothing ever would be in working order for other employees to use and most importantly, nothing would ever be fixed. I wholeheartedly have so much respect for this department and all of its employees–I God Bless each and every Maintenance Man–for their work is always overlooked and taken for granted.

Now, this is not to be sexist or anything, but maintenance employees do tend to be male, this is not to say that women can’t do the job–I for one worked with the Senior Plumber, George, and assisted him with putting together a small sink AND fixing a broken shower head! Fixing something that is broken is always so rewarding, but doing it correctly from the beginning is where the true secret lies (who knew that plumbing could be so philosophical). Today may have been one of my favourite work days here–who knows, maybe you’re looking at a plumber in the making…

Upon arrival at Zulu Nyala, I soon realized who was one of the most important people on this property (maybe even in all of SA), for his name has always been chanted–similarly to a well known TV show–JERRY, JERRY, JERRY! The superhero to save the day, the man of the hour–although it will probably take you an hour before you find him, seeing as he is always fighting crime (maintaining the circle of life at Zulu Nyala). Jerry is basically the “Main Maintenance Man”–try saying that 10 times in a row–who everyone runs to if there’s a problem. “I need another name…” God bless his soul–that man does so much for everyone and never asks for anything in return. He is a true inspiration and everyone always looks to him for guidance. Not only was Jerry busy running around doing his own work, but he also allowed us to shadow him for a day, taking on more work that he should have–I am truly honoured to have spent the day as one of the Maintenance (wo)Men. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Jerry, just look at him, smile, and say, “Thank you”.

–VLB

Grey Lines

Poetry has always helped me through difficult times—so in this entry I will use a form of expression that has always been familiar to me.
_________________________________________

One week has passed, but the days have blurred together,

as if life had been placed on autopilot

—unable to decipher what to do or what not to, what is “right” and what is “wrong”.

These extremes don’t allow for discussion, but isn’t communication key?

Where is the line drawn?

To help or to suffer,

To defend or to surrender,

To listen or to speak.

Conflicted;

The emotion that circulates in my mind—my heart.

I possess my own grey lines that will be addressed if they arise,

but I cannot be accountable for the lines of others—or so I thought.

It is the worry, fear, and doubt that leads us to the confinement of our secrets,

but if our secrets become a threat, what would you do?

To help or to suffer,

To defend or to surrender,

To listen or to speak.

The Soul of the World listens to every word that is spoken—

with an open mind and without judgment.

Guidance is always given, but it is the Souls of the World who muffle its enlightenment.

Our quiet inner voices are aware of the answers;

To help or to suffer,

To defend or to surrender,

To listen or to speak.

Only we can hear these answers,

but they cannot be heard if negativity lingers in the mind,

for the soul does not acknowledge its existence.

The answers are written and time assists with attaining its knowledge;

To help or to suffer,

To defend or to surrender,

To listen or to speak.

—VL

inspired by CB.