Take it and leave it

After a hellish few weeks – some of the most stressful that I can remember – I finally managed to sneak in a teeny bit of leave. And I say a teeny bit, because I ended up working a ton around it (yes, I know, I’m an overachiever. you can shout at me later. I almost didn’t take the leave at all – I compromised and took less than I should have.)

Also over the last two weeks in particular, I’ve felt my handle on myself slipping. Nothing dramatic – I just needed to remind myself that gosh darnit, I am awesome. And I needed to hear it from myself, and not from anyone else. You know how it goes. (I’ll stop rambling soon, I promise.)

So I set myself some targets for this week. I had some gift vouchers for a manicure and a facial that I needed to use, so there was that. I wanted to take a trip out of Cape Town – within driving distance, on my own, to go exploring. I wanted to go to a yoga class. I wanted to go to a coffee shop and have a coffee on my own and try not to care. I tried to check my Whatsapp only 15 times a day instead of 50. My email embargo flew out the window, alas. But I tried.

But I did all of this and a decent amount more, I reckon. Who needs Eat Pray Love? I did my own version. With jellybeans, mild road rage and the most kick-ass floral pants. Girl needs her floral pants.

On Tuesday, after rushing into work for a bit, I finally managed to get into my car to head off on my travels. I left later in the day than I had wanted, so I had to cut my trip short. Below, essential solo travel supplies: Jellybeans, neon glasses and kickass floral pants. R50 from Cotton On. Best. Sale. Buy. Everrr.

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Decided to explore Cape Point And Surrounds. The game became this: Whenever you see a little brown touristy sign, go forth and explore. If it was free. Because I forgot to draw cash.

But first photo stop… Just outside Simon’s Town (Missed the Naval Museum, Boulders cost R45. Damnit, I wanted to see some penguins!)

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Should’ve brought a hair tie… Though I kinda like how crazy and wind-whipped my hair is here.

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Scarborough beach. Dodgiest public bathrooms ever (not pictured) and what I’m sure was a drug deal in one of the cars (also not pictured). Pictured: Beach.

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Beachy toes and kickass pants.

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I don’t do selfies very often, as you may have guessed.

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Lighthouse near Kommetjie was closed for maintenance. Laaaaame.

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Also not pictured were the troupe of baboons I came across near Cape Point (R90 entrance! Fuck me!), the ostrich farm (ostriches terrify me), Die Kom, Misty Cliffs and the random Rastafarian on Ou Kaapse Weg.

*Edit: Was asked about the road rage. Truck going pretty much going -15km/h up Ou Kaapse Weg. I never claimed to be patient.

Heading home.

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Hardly an epic journey, but it was good for the soul. Good music, pure and total alone time, and around three hours on the road.

I also went to my first ever Bikram yoga class (totally not pictured). I’ve done Vinyasa before, but not for a long while, so there were a few severe learning curves again. I didn’t throw up, and almost only fainted once. Success!

Then, today, I ticked off the facial (my poor skin, so many extractions!), the manicure and the coffee shop. (Note slightly smudged nail and chocolate cookie of deliciousness from the coffee shop. Worst nail polish ever, jeez. Took three hours to dry).

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Also signed on for my sixth and final (sniff) egg donation with the wonderful, inspiring women at Nurture. There will be a decent long post once I’ve nailed down some of the details. But for now, I rest. ‘Cause life, from tomorrow, is going to get wild.

Who needs sleep, anyway?

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Because long weekend

This time of year in South Africa is packed full of public holidays. Human Rights Day, Good Friday, “Family Day” (eg. the day after Easter), Freedom Day and Worker’s Day. All in March/April/May. So I took full advantage, and exercised my Human Right to take an extra day off and make up a long weekend.

And it was crazy. The good kind of crazy, for the most part, that kind that makes you feel I am living.

After work I drove through to Bergvliet (in peak traffic, mind you – I had completely forgotten how hellish the drive back to the burbs was) to join Bryony and her hubby at a run/walk in aid of The Chaeli Campaign. It kicked off at the Bergvliet Sports Club, which springs some interesting, neon-related memories to mind (and it also made me realise that I may have been drunker than I thought that night… Seeing as I walked into the ladies’ bathroom on Wednesday and had that overwhelming feeling of What is this place? Still. It remains one of my favourite nights. Ever.) 

Anyway, we decided to skip the run and did the 4km walk instead, ’cause we had B’s dogs with us. And after, it was beer and a boerewors roll, before heading back to B’s for dinner. From there, I did a quick-change in her bathroom (I still cringe whenever I go in there, remembering my Epic Drunk Dial escapade. Oh, lordy) and headed out to a friend’s birthday drinks in Woodstock. Jess was well into the shots by the time we arrived, and I braved chocolate tequila and caramel vodka in the name of being a Good Friend.

I love buying presents. It's a  thing. I get especially thrilled when I find budget-friendly perfect gifts.

I love buying presents. It’s a thing. I get especially thrilled when I find budget-friendly perfect gifts.

And then, I managed to drop my R1200 glasses off the balcony. And all in the name of vanity. You see, somebody wandered up to the group that was hanging out on the balcony and wanted to take a picture. So I pushed my glasses on top of my head – with rather more vigour than anticipated – and felt them slide over the back of my head. I turned just in time to hear them crash to the floor a storey below, into the parking lot.

Of course, because I can’t actually see without the damn things, I ran around the flat shouting “I need someone with eyesight!  I need someone with eyesight!” Thankfully, I managed to find Christie (who has contact lenses) and we dashed downstairs. We found the frames quickly enough – sans one lens – and I was crawling around on my hands and knees in the parking lot, praying to the God of Optometry (he is a very cruel, greedy god) that the other lens was in one piece. It was. And I did a shrieky, giggly little jig out there in the parking lot. Hey, I never pretended to be cool. Christie managed to pop the lens back in and voila, the party continued.

We were all meant to head out to a place in town, but after scoping out the 200-odd people in the queue, changed our minds. Jay had volunteered to drive with me in my car and we drove down Long Street, stuck in traffic, with me getting him to hack Ingress portals on my phone while I drove. Like I said, no cool kids here. We eventually found out that Jess and company were at an ultra-dodgy dive on Long Street, but one look at her in the bathroom when we arrived and I knew it was time to get her out of there. And so I volunteered to drive her and her boyfriend home to Constantia, some 20 minutes away. Nobody objected, but nobody else jumped up to help either.

And because I was too wired after that, I drove home the ultra long way round… Around Camp’s Bay, taking in the lights and revelling in late night Cape Town. I’d had a long talk with Jess’ boyfriend in the car, and it actually opened up my eyes a little – in a very painful way, but it needed to be heard. And that was Wednesday.

Thursday I went to go see Quartet with Cait – was lovely just to bond, and it was quite a lovely cast and quite a lovely film, but not quite satisfactory. (Ack! Bad, Candace, bad! No mini-movie reviews, you’re on leave… ish!)

Friday, it was off to my first ever sunset show at Kirstenbosch Gardens. Stefan had texted in the morning with the offer of tickets for the Farryl Purkiss/Jeremy Loops/Xavier Rudd gig, so I reckoned heck yes. And it was stunning, and surprisingly healing… Although maybe that’s because we also had some major bitch-bonding time. The hippies were out in full force and the chilly wind brought a pretty heady smell of pot wafting over regularly. But it was an amazing show and a beautiful setting – and I’d definitely do it again. (Although ultra-top-tip: Definitely leave a few minutes before the set ends. You can hear the music for ages AND you don’t get stuck in the heaving crowds. Win!)

I <3 Cape Town

I ❤ Cape Town

Saturday I got a severe case of the Sads. I was meant to go film for work and got out to the location, then called it off. I was meant to go to the Biscuit Mill with Bryony, but she took a while to text and I could feel myself wanting to curl up into a teeny, tiny little ball and just go to sleep. Instead, Xanthe texted. Beer. Forries. Now. So I did – and beer turned into lunch and an awesome chill out with some great friends. Bryony eventually did text, and I of course immediately felt guilty for sorta bailing on her… If anybody would like to start work on a Time-Turner a la Harry Potter, that’d be good.

I then had to drive Sean out to Bergvliet for a beer pong tournament (true story) and raced back to get home in time before they started closing all the roads for the Bafana Bafana game. Now, living in Green Point is amazing. Seriously. But every time somebody wants to stage an event, they’re all like “Hey! Green Point is like, totes the place to do it.” I’m not kidding. This week, the roads were closed for soccer. Last week, for the “Cape Town Carnival” (Hiss. It made me miss Iain’s housewarming. Okay, well, Carnival and Xanthe & Timmy’s engagement. But, you know). The week before that? The Cape Argus. And the week before that? Pride. Madness, I tell you.

And then, because I am the World’s Best Sister, I drove out to pick him up at 12.30am again. It’s all good though, after Jay I know that road pretty much backwards, so hecking out there at that time of night is a piece of the proverbial cake.

And now it’s Sunday. Cait decided we should all go hiking this morning – fair enough. We mapped out a route to Tranquility Cracks, but none of us had counted on the wind. It started out well enough…

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But as we turned the corner into Corridor and got further up the ravine, we were nearly blown off the mountain. No, seriously. I was holding onto a rock, being buffeted backwards, completely astounded by the sheer stupidity of it all. After a hasty mid-hike conference, sanity prevailed, and we scuttled back down. We tried to warn other hikers (seriously, actual “gale force winds” is an effing safety hazard, people), and you’d be surprised at how few listened. Sure, you probably do this all the time, but all it takes is one gust of wind and a mis-step. It’s a long tumble back down to Camp’s Bay, people.

Anyway, we took the scenic, less fatal route back down.

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Anyway, I shall stop thrilling you with my weekend tales. I do, however, have a point to all of this.

Time with the people you love is one of the best reminders that you mean something. No matter how dull a grey the world is.

Also, choose plastic lenses.

 

We were Born This Way

It’s been an… Interesting week. Emotional. Extremely painful. Stupid decisions were made. Lots of weird things happened. Some amazing things, too. I’m too tired to write about it properly. But, in highlights…

New running shoes. Yes, they're pink and purple. Look at me not caring.

New running shoes. Yes, they’re pink and purple. Look at me not caring.

WOOHOO. 'Nuff said.

WOOHOO. ‘Nuff said.

View from my seat during The Darkness' opening act for Lady Gaga

View from my seat during The Darkness’ opening act for Lady Gaga

Sunset at the Cape Town Stadium on the night of the Lady Gaga show.

Sunset at the Cape Town Stadium on the night of the Lady Gaga show.

New lace dress and pretty wedge pumps. Cost more than they should have. Love them anyway.

New lace dress and pretty wedge pumps. Cost more than they should have. Love them anyway.

My brand-new Kindle. An amazing gift from an incredible, incredible woman.

My brand-new Kindle. An amazing gift from an incredible, incredible woman.

I got an award at our office function - and a great little speech from my CEO. I may have teared up a little. MAY.

I got an award at our office function – and a great little speech from my CEO. I may have teared up a little. MAY.

Mussells for starters for our year-end office function. Dee-licious.

Mussells for starters for our year-end office function. Dee-licious.

Our main course for our office year-end party. Fillet wrapped in bacon. YUM.

Our main course for our office year-end party. Fillet wrapped in bacon. YUM.

First official beach day of summer 2012.

First official beach day of summer 2012.

I am an egg donor. This is my story.

Originally published on iafrica.com.

Pic by Offbeat Photography (flickr.com)

I have been asked so many times since I started all of this: “Why donate your eggs?”

I don’t have one specific answer – I have dozens of reasons, and you’ll probably get a different answer every day. Yes, they pay me. But mostly I’ll say it’s because I want to do something spectacular for somebody else. I want to give somebody else the chance at a family. I can think of dozens of reasons why I do donate – and not a single reason why I shouldn’t.

I’m 24 and single, although not a Bridget-Jones-cry-into-my-wine kind of single (well, not often at least). Do I see children in my future? I hope there will be. But my family is without a doubt the most important thing to me. I get family.

Egg donation, in a nutshell, involves harvesting a number of healthy, ripe eggs from a donor before fertilising them and transferring them to the mother – where, all fingers and toes crossed, they hang around for nine months.

My journey to Nurture – the organisation that has facilitated my first two donations – started almost a year before the first time I donated. I had a boyfriend who had donated sperm before we started dating, and I was inspired. I started investigating egg donation agencies but it was Nurture that “clicked” with me.

Founded in 2008 by Tertia Albertyn (a recovering infertile) and Melany Bartok (herself a past donor), Nurture has become one of the top agencies in South Africa. I was in good hands, though I didn’t really know it yet.

Getting started

When I finally got my act together, filled out my entire medical history and committed to Nurture, the process was almost entirely smooth-sailing for me. Firstly, I met with two of the Nurture women – Melany and my donor liaison Lee, who became my apparent stand-in sister – for a coffee date at Cavendish. We went through the process, they explained the risks and the procedure, and double-checked that I was keen to sign up. After meeting with them, I was extra keen.

From there, I scheduled a psychological evaluation at the Cape Fertility Clinic – which would be performing the egg retrieval. Every donor is required to have an hour-long meeting with a psychologist to ensure that they understand the process, but my meeting became a wonderful chat with the psychologist Leanne, who thankfully decided I wasn’t entirely crazy and signed me off.

I also had an initial appointment with Dr Le Roux, the doctor who performed my first retrieval. This appointment was, in my mind, quite daunting but I shouldn’t have worried. A quick internal check-up to make sure everything was okay inside and another chat about the procedure, and I was packed off to the pathologists to be tested and cleared for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis. Obviously, if you are HIV positive or have hepatitis, you cannot donate, and so these blood tests are compulsory. This physical examination is repeated every time you donate – so if you donate four times, you’ll be examined and tested four times.

Let’s get fertile

After you’ve got the all-clear, the next step is to synchronise your menstrual cycle with your recipient’s and then start the daily fertility injections. All donors are placed on a short, light course of a medication that stimulates follicle growth. In my case, this was Gonal-F, which stimulates the ovaries to produce more eggs.

I know that the daily injections put off a lot of women and honestly, they were probably the worst part. But you’d be surprised how quickly you get used to them! During this time, you have a further two or three scans with the doctor to make sure everything is A-okay. Near the end of your fertility injections, you’re also given a shot of Cetrotide – a medication to ensure you don’t spontaneously ovulate – before being given two “trigger” shots to ripen the eggs 36 and 24 hours before you donate.

The first time I donated, I was fortunate in that I responded beautifully to all the medication – Dr Le Roux was always so pleased with my scans and I realised I was quite proud of myself. Strange, seeing as women are “supposed” to ovulate, but hey, I like being good at things. The second time, I was a bit of a “slow starter” which goes to show: It’ll never be the same for every woman, every time.

The actual donation procedure takes place around 14 days after starting the fertility injections – depending on how you respond. I have also been asked so many times “Weren’t you terrified? Aren’t you scared something will go wrong? What if you can’t have your own babies later on?” Honestly, the thing I was most scared of the whole way through was not being able to give my recipient what she’d been dreaming of. I was never truly scared of any complications (although obviously it has to be in the back of your mind) but I had so much faith in Dr Le Roux and his team that I was more worried about not being able to bring my side to the party.

Donation day dawns

So what happens on donation day? You’re admitted sometime in the morning, and get dressed into possibly the least sexy hospital gowns of all time. You’re checked out by the anaesthetist, a nurse fusses over you, and you’re led through to the theatre. You’re then put under a “twilight anaesthetic” – enough to knock you out long enough for them to do the retrieval so you won’t feel a thing.

During the retrieval, the doctor performs an “ultrasound directed needle aspiration”. A needle is inserted through the upper portion of the vagina directly into the ovary – and the ultrasound allows the physician to guide the needle into each follicle – where the egg is sucked through and collected. This takes about 15 to 30 minutes.

Following the retrieval, you hang out in the clinic for an hour or two while you recover from the anaesthetic. The first time I donated, I was in a fair amount of pain – the second time, barely any pain. Different every time.

And yes, this is when you get paid. Nurture pays R6000 for each donation on the day of retrieval. Following that, a delicious day of bed rest is prescribed. In my case that meant time spent catching up on cheesy movies.

After the retrieval, the egg goes to the laboratory where it is fertilised and “grown” for a few days before transfer. So far I’ve been really lucky – both of the women I have donated to are pregnant! I’ve also signed up for a third donation – there’s nothing more amazing than that phone call or email saying “SHE’S PREGNANT!”

Do I ever think about meeting my recipient’s children? Of course I do. I’d like to see that they’re healthy (and don’t have three arms or something!) and obviously I’m curious about how much they resemble me. But that’s about it. A good friend of mine was shocked that I wouldn’t want to be involved in “my” children’s life – but they aren’t my children. They never were. As cheesy as it sounds, they always belonged to my recipient, who walked a terrifying, difficult road. I’m just glad that I could help, and hopefully make the rest of the way a little smoother.

Originally published on iafrica.com.

Day Twelve – #30DayBlogChallenge

Day 12: A photograph of the town you live in.

I went to see Safe House today, starring Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington, and it’s great to see that the world is finally cottoning on to how purely awesome Cape Town is.

This is the town I live in:

Cape Town

Cape Town - Pic from MrCapeTown.

I live in a suburb called Green Point – about 10 minutes walk from the stadium.

Cape Town is easily one of the most beautiful cities in the world… I’m privileged to call it my home town.

Day Ten – #30DayBlogChallenge

Day 10: A photo of your favourite place to eat.

Hong

Hong Seafood Restaurant & Bar in Claremont, Cape Town.

I love it for their sushi, for their chicken chow mein, for their spring rolls, their cups of green tea, their soya sauce, their awesome waiters and the people I almost always end up going there with.

It’s not the best restaurant in the world, it’s not the worst – but its food is damn tasty and their prices are amazing.

Hiking up Table Mountain for charity

Not quite my usual fare, but I worked hard on this video and despite the voice in the back of my head (which sounds suspiciously like a university lecturer) I’m quite proud of this video. Especially considering I took one for the team and hiked up after the crazy pair, hereafter known as “Rob Squared”.

Basically, two of my colleagues hiked up the Platteklip Gorge trail of Cape Town’s Table Mountain four times each in aid of charity. The event – which attracted over 70 hikers – raised over R425 000 for the Watoto Babies Home for abandoned children and Wilderness Search and Rescue.

Here’s the link to the first-person account penned by one half of Rob Squared – and you can watch the video below.