Saturday, September 18, 2010

Toes Squishing, Grapes Squashing

Waking up to the sun creeping up from behind the mountain, you can practically taste the fresh dew covering the green grass. As you unzip your tent the fresh, cold air greets you with a dose of adrenalin as you feel the excitement building up inside you.

Today is the day I get to experience the thrill and accomplishment of making my own bottle of wine, something I wouldn’t traditionally see myself doing, but yet something that has sparked an interest. Friends have come to join me as we tackle this new adventure, some complain about the early morning, but once some coffee was pumped into their veins they were just as wired as the rest of us.

As we head to Excelsior Wine Estate, I get to show off my home town, Robertson. Robertson is where I grew up, where I got to experience freedom like no city child will ever understand. I consider myself fortunate for the upbringing this quaint, little town offered me, the adventures I got to experience and life’s lessons I was taught. Today my friends will get to share in my passion for this valley of wine, roses and race horses as we make our own bottle of wine from scratch.

On arrival at the Excelsior Wine Estate, we each get handed our own set of shears and a crate and head off to the vineyards to hand-pick our own grapes. We had fun trying to determine which grapes would make the best juice, all of us completely clueless but enjoying the ‘game’. With crates filled, we head towards the cellar where half barrels are set up for us to use. This is where things get squishy as we pour the grapes into our individual barrels, roll up our pants, remove socks and shoes and start plucking up some courage for what comes next. Everyone’s standing around, waiting nervously to see who will go first, who will take the plunge and lead the way.
Eventually, one by one we all take the plunge and get into the barrels, feeling the cold grapes squashing between our toes. Some of the crunching sounds are a few of the unlucky snails that got thrown in with the grapes, but we were told it adds to the flavour so we continue stomping our grapes. Once I got over the initial sensations, I actually started enjoying it. It felt good on my feet and my stomach muscles got a good workout from all the laughing.

I took loads of pictures to capture this memory. It’s time to drain off the juice and bottle our own canteen of grape juice. This turned out to be a bit tricky but we quickly learned a handy trick using the grape stalks as a filter which helped the juice flow more freely with less pulp.

All the effort worked up quite an appetite, which was perfect timing as the tables were laid with a variety of farm-style treats for visitors to enjoy while soaking up the warm sun on the lush green lawns near the farm dam. Taking a breather was just what we needed to recharge the batteries before moving on to the next part, bottling our own bottle of wine.

Moving to the wine tasting room we each get handed a test tube with a set of instructions letting us test various options of red wine blends. We each pour the blends according to the percentages given, taste our creations and then compare to other blends. It took us a while to select our favourite blends and I had some difficulty since I don’t drink wine, but that didn’t take away from the immense fun I was having. I decided to not trust my own judgement but rather follow the decision of the masses.

With the decision made, I move over to the barrels, select my empty bottle and start pouring my blend. I had to pour with a steady hand to ensure the blend was not ruined and moved on to corking the bottle myself. After that, I was the proud owner of wine bottled and corked by yours truly. All that was left for us to do was to ‘dress’ the bottle and package it by melting the seal onto the neck of the bottle, labelling and boxing the bottle.

The hard, but tremendously fun work was done for the day and it was time to head back to our camping site where the fire was lit, a bottle of wine opened and stories shared as we enjoy the smells of our ‘potjie’ cooking on the flames.

Following Simple Instructions

From experience I have come to learn that it is very hard for some to follow instructions. Most of my experience has come from the individuals I share a classroom with while we all work towards obtaining our diplomas and degrees.

Its been quite interesting, funny as well draining and irritating to watch how some just do not take the time or effort to read the instructions. Instead they rely on those around them to spoon feed them – this was “acceptable” during our first year, but being a honours student this should not be allowed. By now we should all have learnt the basic skills of reading a project / assignment brief which clearly outlines the steps that need to be taken as well as what is expected. For some students this is just beyond their competence levels as they portray characteristics of pure laziness, lack of respect and no ambition to reach their full potential.

What will happen to these students when the rest of us decide to not read their instructions for them? Will they grow a spine, get a pair of reading glasses or go back to school to learn their ABC’s?

Why do some struggle with following easy, clear instructions? And why do some of us feed their laziness by doing it for them? Who is more wrong in this scenario?

Dreams we Dream

In our lives we also have many dreams, some of them are dreamt at night and are just thoughts and concerns that have lodged themselves in our sub-conscience. Some of us had dreams of a certain career, spouse, life long friend, vacations or children. Some of these dreams might come true, some of them might need a little work and some of them might come true but may be snatched away before our very own eyes. It’s hard to let go of a dream, especially one that has come true, but it is part of life and sometimes it is part of the dark side of life. We learn how to deal with it and be stronger when we come out on the other side.Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real that when you woke up you weren’t sure what to believe? Do you retreat into your life’s dreams with the hope of finding one perfect reality? Sometimes life can be stranger than a dream and the only way to wake-up is to face what lies hidden. And you can only hope that when you find yourself in those, sometimes dark, moments of reflection that you are not alone? What would you do if what you thought was true turned out to not be? And what you thought wasn’t true turned out to be true? I hope I have given you something to think about or even talk about.

15 Minutes of Fame

Andy Warhol said, “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” You can’t choose the 15 minutes but why would you be world famous?

I wouldn’t be world famous…
I like my privacy and would prefer keeping my life out of the lime light at all costs. Every day we are exposed to the effects of fame on ordinary people who now live for our entertainment, ridicule and judgement. We praise them when they are doing good, but when they slip and make a mistake we crucify them.

My hope is not to have 15 minutes or a lifetime of fame, but to have a legacy of being someone who is hugely missed, of someone who has left a gap in the lives of those around them and of someone who lived a wholesome life. I’d like to be remembered as being compassionate, as someone who gave of myself to those I loved and cared for. I want to be known for the work I did in trying to improve the lives of those less fortunate than myself, in the passionate way I did my work to benefit others as I grew into someone who resembled the characteristics of my late grandmother, a woman I look up to with admiration.

My grandmother was well loved by friends, family, neighbours and even strangers as she never judged, never shied away from giving of her time, skills or love to those who needed it most. Even when lying in hospital, cancer eating away at her, hardly able to breath, no longer able to eat solid foods, she was more concerned for the wellbeing of other patients around her than herself. But then again, she had my mother by her side taking care of her needs as she took care of others.

My grandmother left behind a legacy I hope to be able to follow. I want to be a fair person who treats others with dignity, compassion, and love. I want to be known for someone who was always there to support those who needed it, for always lending a shoulder or an ear when it was necessary. I’d like to be remembered for being someone full of laughs, someone who always ensured everyone had a great time in their company. If I could die knowing I was leaving a legacy of being honest, generous and a faithful person I would know I achieved my goal.

But most importantly I’d like to leave this earth with the legacy of being a disciple, a fisher of men who lived like I was on location, living for whatever purpose God had for me…that would be my 15 minutes of fame and I’d die satisfied and happy.

Life, Dreams & Trust

Have you ever thought about life and the people in yours, really thought about it? Who have you let into your life, trusted with your fears, dreams, love and life?At times life comes at us from nowhere, from out of the darkness. At times we can find it hard to face life, we try to erase the shadows crowding us, and when thrown in the deep end we learn to sink or swim. Who do you choose to turn to when life gets too much, when coping becomes a fight for survival, when you feel the need to not be alone? Is it someone you trust, someone wise who will guide you with their love for your? Is it someone who has proven their worth, proven that you can trust them when

things get tough?

When we look at our lives from this angle, we start to wonder who we have let into our lives, who we turn to and who we trust?

Who do you turn to when life gets dark and twisted? We have all had a moment or two (or more) where we have needed that someone we trust, someone who loves us (not talking about spouses here) and will guide us on the right path when we ourselves are not able to. Can that person really be trusted? Some of us have had a someone we trusted with our deepest secrets and have had them misuse that trust…we have all had that person who would guide us but when it comes to crunch time they desert you. I am sure most of you have some tales to tell and some scars to show. We all do.

Choose wisely when choosing the people you let close to you, take note of who you trust with your fears, dreams, love and life. And if you have been used, hurt or burnt, don’t let that influence the way you view society, let yourself heal and learn to trust again because none of us were built to go through life alone! I love that old saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Don’t let the wicket of this world stop you from morphing into a beautiful butterfly – go out there, choose carefully and live life like there is no tomorrow.

Follow the Leader

Not all of us are born leaders and not all born leaders want to be leaders. Being a leader is not an easy task even when it comes naturally. Leadership is a set of skills that allow you to lead those around you, those you work, live or socialise with. It’s a great set of skills to have should you use them correctly and wisely.

Not all followers enjoy being lead and not all leaders like leading. It’s a fine line that needs to be carefully managed by both parties to ensure the relationship is a successful one that works for both the leader and the follower.

Being a leader often means you are not well liked, it means making some tough decisions and living with the consequences of those decisions and the way in which some followers might react to your leadership. Being the leader means you might face some animosity and you will most probably not be Mr. Popular all the time.

Being a follower also takes a certain set of skills as it’s not always easy being the one being led, not all people are born to be followers. It goes against our natures to be submissive to those around us who have identified themselves as a leader. Being a good follower is as admirable as being a good leader.

A team is only as strong as its weakest link and to be a strong team you need strong followers who are loyal, hard working and who follow their leader without question as well as a leader who is fair, earns trust and has proven to put the team before their own needs. When both sides of the coin works together then both sides are equally important to the success of the team or project.

A skill set called leadership is as important as the skill set called following!

Moments In Our Lives

Do you ever wonder if we make the moments in our lives or if the moments make our lives?

If you could go back in time and change just one thing about your life, would you? If you could, would that change make your life better? Would you choose an entirely different path? If we answer yes to these questions why didn’t we choose the different path from the start? Is there a moment in your life you would like back, something you wish you had done or said to someone before it was too late? Then what stops us in that moment that makes us not say the things we want to? What makes us hold back on what we want to do or say?

My advice would be to live life so that you leave some great memories behind. Live life so that you have no regrets. Live your life in a manner that will make you proud when you, in your old age, reflect back on your life and how you lived it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Hour Can Change Everything

Happiness comes in so many different forms, in the company of good friends, feeling young and alive or when you make someone’s dream come true. It’s okay to let yourself be happy, because you never know for how long that happiness will last.Have you ever sat and wondered how long it would take you to change your life? What amount of time is enough to be life altering? Is it the four years of High school or the three years spent at a university? Can your life be changed with a three week tour of Europe or a trip up the coast? Can your life be changed in a year, a month, a week or just a single moment?

An hour can change everything…

Everything you may ask? Yes everything…think about it, you get a call with good or bad news which could change the way you feel about certain things or people. You could fall off your bike and decide to never cycle again when your destiny might have been to one day compete in the Tour de France. Impossible? No. A lot can happen in an hour and not all of it is always good. Do we allow the things that cross our path to alter who we are, how we feel and what we think? Yes, too often we let it affect our lives.

People can influence you in ways you don’t even suspect, you change your lifestyle, opinions, tastes, hobbies etc for other people to accept you, but do you accept the new you? It’s easy to just say yes, but if you really go and think about it, do you really like the person you have became because of what others are or think?

Most important is to know who you are and not care what people think of you. If you are true to yourself and who you are - people will start to see the real you and come to appreciate you for it.

Some of us can admit to trying hard to be ourselves but failing because we were afraid of looking stupid. But what very few of us realise is that by following others, like little children, we do look stupid. Why can’t we all just have the confidence to be ourselves completely? Who ever decided what was “cool” and what wasn’t? Who decided what opinions were right or wrong? I believe we are all entitled to our own opinions and feelings. That is what makes us all unique. How boring the world would be if we all felt, looked, dressed and thought the same?

People are going to label you, but whether you become those labels or believe you fit the label is up to you. Do you allow people to label you? And do you become those labels? Who gave anyone the authority to create a label and allocate it to a certain person? Aren’t we in charge of our own lives and personalities? So why not decide who you are and what you want to become and stick to it? Stand up for what you feel and want, become the person you will be proud of when you look back at your life. That’s the one ‘rule’ to live by…will I be proud of the person I have become and of the things I have done to become that person? If not, then make the change now while you’re still young. It’s never too late to change your destiny…so go out and make some history.