Wednesday 30 October 2013


My English TEFL course wrapped up last night but as I'd completed my last assignment on Sunday afternoon, I've pretty much had my freedom back and it feels like time is abundant - especially after wringing out 50hrs/wk to spend on course assignments and lesson planning...

I've planned a 'wild' week with loads of different things - activities I haven't been able to do for months.

On Monday night I went to the Banff Mountain Film Festival - an annual screening that I never miss - TEFL or no TEFL. Tuesday morning, a doodling workshop.

Via a Facebook link, last week, I found out about a doodling workshop hosted by Ira Bekker. I thought that I recognised her name - she's a mosaic artist (also ceramics). I saw on her ZenDoodle website that she has regular workshops at a couple of coffee shops - I chose to go to one in Melville yesterday morning. I've been needing a creative injection.

I've had a thing about sketches and drawing since I can remember. Back in 2010 I went along to a drawing class to see if it would be something that I'd like to do regularly... and while I'd like to learn draw techniques, I have no interest in shading and drawing apples. I like the simplicity of line drawings. So, when I saw Ira's website... yes, it immediately caught my attention.

As she has only just started the sessions at the coffee shop in Melville, I was her only student so it was a productive one-on-one class. We started with some shapes and patterns and then I created two small drawings. I played around with some solids, but I've decided that I don't really like them in these drawings, unless there are more making up a pattern.

Then, yesterday afternoon, while waiting for my last English class to start, I thought I'd make a doodle for my classmate, Robyn. I was very chuffed with the result, which was totally unplanned.

That's the thing about doodling. You don't really plan, you just draw. So you start with a line or a circle or a squiggle or a petal and take it from there.

I gave it to Robyn after class. She says to me, "I've never received anything like this before. Must I colour it in?". Hahahahaha. I explained that this was it - no colouring necessary.

I think that Ira has created a monster because I'm already busy with another A5 doodle to contribute to 1000Drawings, which is where I found out about this doodling. It's a fundraising exhibition (for an inner city homeless care organisation) on 7 November at Sci-Bono. They're aiming to collect 1000 drawings and to sell them for R100 each. There are some really great drawings up for grabs (see the albums on their FB page).

Other fun and games planned for the week... this morning I've got coffee with a new Spanish-practicing pal and then I'm putting my tree yarn bomb up at Little Eden. Spanish class tonight; maybe a pole class on Thursday night (first pole-specific class I'll be going to since Jan/Feb!), visiting a chap I don't know every well - but who could do with a visit - on Friday (common connection through adventure stuff), yoga class with a buddy on Saturday morning (first yoga class in... almost two years - I've been craving yoga since not having circus classes, which used to bring in yoga elements). Seeing family on Sunday... Yip, lots of fun stuff in between a couple of work commitments.

[UPDATE] This is the doodle I've completed for 1000Drawings.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Miss Pole Dance SA annual competition

Last night I went to watch the annual Miss Pole Dance SA competition - I think that this is the 5th consecutive year that I've been to watch it.

I've been quite out of the pole scene since I stopped teaching in July last year and took up circus school; but I still love pole and have been waiting for this English course to finish to get back into it. There haven't been circus classes since June/July (I was away anyway) and pole remains close to my heart.

The general standard of performance has improved over the years but there are a number of things that stood out.

  • 'Ho heels really have little place in this sport anymore. They look trashy and slutty on stage and I can bet my money that dancers wearing 'ho heels are more interested in how they look and being sexy for the audience rather than their performance. This was pretty evident. Three cheers for those with bare feet on stage - and fortunately there were many. Bare feet are 
  • Unless you've got a gymnastic or dance background, your chance of winning any competition (local or international) is slim. It really makes a HUGE difference in how the dancers move, their strength and flexibility. Wow! 
  • Every year you see the same moves coming out in the performances from a performance that the competitors have watched online. The common move changes year on year. Today I watched Heidi Coker's winning performance from this year's Pole Art 2013 competition. Her one pole-to-pole transition must have come up four times last night. Heidi beat my favourite-favourite, Oona Kivela at Pole Art. Both videos are so well worth watching for the grace, athleticism and strength. These women make it look easy. It isn't. 
  • Last night was big for flexibility moves like 'Allegra Box Splits' and 'Banana Splits'. While I'd love to be able to do these, there are moves - like these - that I think should be scrapped from the performance lists. As with 'ho heels, if pole fitness is every going to be taken seriously then moves that place the audience's attention in one specific place have no place on stage. Fine for playing around in class; not for performance. I know you can do the splits; you don't have to show me over and over and over again. There are plenty of other less 'presenting', similar moves that can be chosen instead.
  • I'm still on the fence about the removal of clothing. No, not so that they're n.a.k.e.d. Skin contact is needed for the best grip so there's a reason why performers don't wear loads of clothing... But I'm not so sure about outfits where bits (shirts, skirts, capes - used as props) are taken off and flung across the floor. Again this goes back to pole's 'heritage' and does nothing for the sport. The IPSF states in their competition rules that "Costumes should not be intentionally removed, must fit correctly and not used in an erotic manner". Exactly! [although Evgeny - see below - can take his shirt off ANYTIME! *grin*]
The Pole Fitness Association of SA has an annual competition - must be in around April each year. They're affiliated to the International Pole Sports Federation (IPFS) and they set their competition rules accordingly (yes, there's a World Champs too as well as country champs and various other international competitions). No 'ho heels here.

There were three male entries - and there are other pole guys around. It would be awesome to see more performing.

The highlight of the evening was Evgeny Greshilov. Good golly. I don't know much about him (I've watched a number of his performances online over the last two or three years) but he certainly a classic dance background and watching him there was no doubt in my mind as to why he has won Pole Art (won it this year) and he has been World Pole Dance champ a few times.

Aside from his performance, which was captivating, the only other word I have to describe him is 'charming'. Totally charming. A beautiful performer, his audience interaction is superb - just a smile from the stage was all it took for us to be utterly and completely charmed. He has achieved the balance of displaying grace and effortless movements in his dance performance while still being a guy. I've seen performances online of guys that are just too ballet. Pole is a discipline of strength and for the guys shouldn't be too 'pointed toes' - the performance should remain masculine.

Here's the video of Evgeny's performance last night. I'll pop in the one from Pole Art below it. Enjoy!

Ahh... Evgeny's 2011 World Pole Dance Champs winning performance (video improves once the dance starts)

Friday 25 October 2013

Navigation Coaching

Back in September I wrapped up my British Orienteering Federation Level 2 coaching certification. This has been a qualification that began in October last year and had a series of tasks, including a series of practical coaching sessions.

Throughout the year I received requests from people for navigation coaching. Some of these I'm able to fulfill with group coaching sessions, which I've been doing for more than 10 years now. This year I totally revamped my coaching sessions and I'm chuffed with the outcome - and so were the students. As I've heard from many of them since the course, at least I know they're not lost...

Having been away in June and July and then wrapped up with the English course since, I haven't been able to attend to any of the navigation coaching requests that I've received over the past couple of months. As many people are unable to make scheduled courses or coaching sessions, I'm going to give it a try doing personal navigation coaching sessions. The benefit is that I can focus on specific problems that they've experienced.

I've popped some scheduled coaching session dates up on We (AR Club) have a number planned for early next year too. If you're up for personal sessions (one-on-one or with a friend or teammate), drop me a note.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Time. Stats. OMG.

Returning from Argentina in mid-July, I was hell-fire-inspired to do a TEFL course - to learn how to teach foreign-language speakers to speak English. The method behind that madness is that I would like to return to Argentina for a few months to continue learning Spanish - and I need to be able to earn an income while I'm there. Teaching English makes a lot of sense.

And so, on 16 August, I jumped head first into an 11-week course, recommended by my neighbour, who did the course a few years ago. The first six weeks were really challenging and gloomy and trying; the last five weeks have been very positive and productive. 

For the most part I've had classes every Tuesday and Thursday night and full-day Saturday classes too. The first three Saturdays were consecutive and thereafter they've been alternate weekends. But the Saturday's without classes haven't been for p.a.r.t.i.e.s.... nope, assignments!

While I'm an accomplished multi-tasker, I have really struggled to take on anything but essential tasks - even declining social invitations and I haven't participated in any events either. I had to pull out of the Full Moon race in late August as it fell on a course Saturday. Thank goodness the annual rogaine was cancelled because I really don't think I would have been able to go. 

Tonight I did my final teaching prac. There's just a full-day class on Saturday and then a class on Tuesday night to go. Oh, and the sixth and final assignment to hand in for Tuesday. 

So, this evening, while waiting for the class, I started adding up the hours to see just where my time has gone and why I've literally been non-stop for almost three months.

Class time - 120 hours
Adding up actual time spent in the 28 classes, I get a tally of 120 hours. That's for the Tuesday and Thursday night classes (three hours each) and the Saturdays (8-hours).

Drive & waiting time - 65 hours
During the week, the classes start at 17h30 - zap-bang during rush hour. With 27km between me and the week-night class venue, I chose to leave just before 16h00 to miss the congestion. The drive would take 35-40 minutes and I'd spend the remaining time catching up on reading class material - two lever-arch files worth of reading material. The Saturday venue (at the school) is in Ruimsig and for me that means a 50-minute drive (55km each way) with no traffic, which is easy on a Saturday morning.

For these final two weeks, as my teacher is moving, we've had the Tues and Thurs classes out there too. In order to miss the traffic, I leave at 15h00 and the drive takes an hour. I use the rest of the time for reading class material. 

Adding up time spent in my car - driving and waiting (constructively), I get 65 hours

Drive distance - 2,145 kilometres
Partnered with time is distance. By Tuesday night, when I return from the final class, I will have logged 2,145 kilometres! 

Teaching pracs - 222 hours
The one thing about this course is that you get a lot of teaching experience with teaching pracs (TPs) every Thursday night - with the exception of 10 October, which was FEAT. The first three TPs we did to each other (there's one other girl on the course with me). We've had real students (African countries) for the other six. 

Here's the thing... the first five TPs were very stressful. We could do no right. Long story. It's really hard to account for how my time I spent preparing each one suffice to say that we're talking mega hours. When I asked Robyn tonight how long she thinks that she spent on each TP she says it was easily an average of more than 24 hours. Yes, 24 hours (and more) per prac.

For each lesson we have to select materials, create materials, research games and ideas online as well as grammar and structure and productive skill activities... and then we make materials, design games and put together a class that includes receptive skill (listening or reading) and productive skills (speaking or writing) and structure (grammar and the like) all within a theme - like kitchen, travel, cosmetic surgery, people and such. And then also writing up detailed lesson plans for each one and finding realia (props), printing pictures, making layout of activity sheets nice-nice...

Some of those early to mid-field pracs... I could say 30-hours, easy, per TP. I got better with practice by certainly last week's lesson and this week's lesson took me, for sure, 15-18-hours each to prepare.
So, if we take four lessons at 18 hours and five lessons at 30 hours... yeah, 222 hours. That's 9 days and 6 hours.

Assignments - 136 hours
We've had six assignments (last one still due). My favourite was the third one, a case study. I had a Russian guy as my student and the assignment involved first meeting with him to chat. I recorded our conversation and typed up a transcript from this to identify grammatical and pronunciation errors. He also had to answer two written questions - again to look for written errors. I then created a one-hour lesson around one of the identified errors. After the lesson he wrote a reply to a question, which was tailored to make him use the taught elements. Then, everything had to be pulled together and written up with comparative reference to a text on common errors of Russian first-language speakers. For this assignment alone... we're talking a good 50 hours (more?). Thank goodness for that long weekend in September - those four days were spent writing up.

Assignment 1 and 2 are a blur. None of the assignments can be done in a couple of hours. They take a chunk of hours over a period of days. I'll take a flyer at saying 15-hours per assignment... That's 30-hours.

Assignment 4 I handed in this week. Materials evaluation. Comparing materials from published course book to gauge what makes a good course book. We also had to evaluate our own materials, selecting what we deemed to be our best board plan, game, poster and activity and assessing these against certain criteria. Mmm... phew... ummm... 20 hours?

Assignment 5 was a joint assignment with me and Robyn setting a test together. A comparatively quicker one, I'd have a guess at it taking 15-20 hours. Let's go midway with 18-hours.

I haven't started Assignment 6 yet... I know I'm in for a good 15-20 hours.

[update: I forgot to include my 'Reflective Journal' entries. One per class. It's around 20 typed pages (Calibri, 12pt) - another 3hrs?]

Looking at my Assignment tally... Yup, 136 hours.

The overall total? FIVE HUNDRED AND FORTY THREE HOURS! 543 hours!

That's 50 hours a week. For a part-time course! No wonder I'm drop-dead exhausted!

That's also 68 eight-hour working days. In 11 weeks (of which there are only 55 working days).

On top of this this there has been FEAT (planning and organising starts in February, picks up in May and then again in July and is most intensive from mid-September to a week after the event - mid-October), planning and prep for the two mini-FEATs next month and  ongoing client committments (media releases, two school coaching/event sessions, magazine articles, website maintenance on AR and FEAT), completed my British Orienteering Federation coaching qualification (a whole weekend in September), attended meetings here and there...

If I've said to you, "Please can it wait until November" I wasn't kidding. What a journey this has been!

In two weeks I'm heading to the forests to finalise route plans for Forest Run next year. Let's just say that I can't wait to get out there - to run, smell the pine trees and to go to bed early.

Monday 21 October 2013

How the world really feels about women

I followed a link today to an article on the Time magazine website about a United Nations campaign (UN Women) that emphasizes the extent of global gender inequality. The campaign has pulled data from Google on the most popular search terms.

I've inserted the UN Women campaign posters below my own searches on Google - I wanted to see what came up based on the campaign's searches. I'm using Google South Africa, which may be a bit different to Google search results in the US and other countries (?).



... need to...

... shouldn't...



I need to run (and in the rain too)

Come Friday, my legs were as jumpy as anything and I was so looking forward to what has become a regular weekly run with a local friend, who I met two years ago while out running. He is currently working out in Germiston and I'm half-way between his home and work. So, on Friday evenings he stops here for a run on his way home from work. I've been mixing it up each week to take him on a variety of my favourite routes through my 'hood.

So, we're talking on Friday during the run and we're pondering how easy it is to lose the plot. My annual birthday run thing reminds me how relatively easy it is to squeeze in a 30-minute run, even when you're crazy busy. But without the commitment to something like '37 Days of Running' the wheels can fall off and me-myself-I gets pushed aside for other tasks.

"Bugger it," I told him. "I should be the most important thing in my life. My health. My fitness. How does it happen that two or three or *gasp* four days pass and I haven't been out for a run?"

I get jumpy, I feel like hell, I'm short-fused...

"If I've been going to bed at 2am most nights, what difference really does it make if I get out for a 30 minute run and end up going to bed at 02h30 instead?" I added.

I don't just want to run, I NEED TO RUN. Or walk. Or anything.

Improving on my track record from the past few weeks, I've had three runs in four days and I'm feeling more like myself again.

This evening I ducked out for a quick run, aiming to fit my run into the eye of the storm, so to speak. The glorious summer highveld thunderstorms have arrived and as I stepped out I could see dark clouds building again in the South.

Actually, I was also hoping to get caught in the rain. I delight in running in seriously pouring rain and having the freshness and clarity and energy and bounce that comes from running in a heavy storm. While I was kicking through puddles and streams gushing roadside, cars were struggling with fogged windscreens and with their wipers going like mad. I felt like a storm queen.

I'm hoping that I'm a bit more on track now, after losing my way for a bit. Fortunately, I don't lose my way for too long. Jumpy legs and a certain crankiness remind me that running is my calm in any storm.

Friday 18 October 2013

Any day that you're too busy to run...

With less than two weeks less of my English course and with FEAT out of the way, I'm hoping that my 18-hour days will come to an end. This really is ridiculous. I'd argue that running, health, mental and physical well-being is more important that client committments, event organising (and my responsibility to speakers and the audience) and assignments. But reality doesn't work that way...

For the past few weeks I've probably only been running two or three times a week. And there has been no circus school either. That's so not good for me. I feel far better and more balanced when I'm running 5-7 times a week, even if just for 30-45mins. And of course there are the welcome social interactions of regular group classes, like circus school and pole.

Fortunately, these incredibly intense periods are finite (too frequent though!) and comparatively short... biting the bullet has been tough, especially after coming off a really superb few running months from May and into August.

Yes, it's a good thing to remember that...
"Any day that you're too busy to run, is a day that you're too busy"

Sunday 13 October 2013

5th FEAT feat

That's the 5th edition of FEAT here all done and dusted. The evening went very smoothly and the speakers were fabulous. Obviously the perfectionist in me has a list of things to tweak and improve, but for the rest it was a wonderful evening.

Simon Gear is a superb MC - chilled, friendly, sporty, witty... a perfect combination for this event.

I had an excellent team behind the scenes with Alistair (sound), Kyle (slides), Marcel and Maggi (photos), Willem and Tiaan (photography), Liz (catering and many other odds), Ray (helping out all day), Marcelle (microphone rigging), Lauren and Staci (guest ticket table), Mari (assisting with tickets and at the photo wall) and Garry (organising the parking guys).

The speakers are the people that the audience is at FEAT to listen to and this year the mix was diverse. You can read a summary of the speakers and their topics on the FEAT website.

It was only when I received June Fabian's email post-event that the speaker mix was in the 'more mature' age category. Interestingly, the audience mix was also older and wiser - and when they booked their tickets they didn't know who all the speakers would be...

A FEAT regular, June writes:
I was going to email you to say its one of the best FEATs I have been to – each one is different, I agree, but last night was very special. As I get older, and so many worlds are getting more narrow, it's such an inspiration to see older peeps getting out there, exploring, engaging with our beautiful country and LIVING – and to have a platform to share it.
Yes! A FEAT mission accomplished. FEAT was precisely created to be this kind of a platform.

A second FEAT mission was accomplished when journo Sarah Kobel from Do It Now Magazine said to me afterwards that after listening to the talks she just felt like heading off on an adventure and doing some of the things she's always wanted to do. Yes, yes, yes!

So, it was a good night and now I look ahead to two mini-FEAT events in mid-November. They've been on the cards for years - finally getting this aspect of FEAT off the ground. More on this in the next week.

Monday 7 October 2013

An excellent week

Just to give you a quick follow up from last weekend's intervention.

We had a superb week at class on Tuesday and Thursday night. Although not perfect yet, our teaching pracs on Thursday night were definitely improved.

It was a week that was productive, positive and educational with open communication and good, hard work and preparation.

If only I'd held the intervention six weeks ago...

Friday 4 October 2013

Poop Power

Two poop issues in the past two weeks have led to this post...

Last week, when I asked a lady I know how she was, she said she hadn't been well in the days since I'd seen her the previous week and that she had an umbilical hernia. I turned to Wiki as I didn't have a clue. I know what a hernia is but an umbilical hernia?

It's when the intestines push through a weakness in the abdominal wall at the site of the belly button. It's three times more common in women than men; more common in children of African descent (she's an African adult) and is acquired as a result of increased intra-abdominal pressure caused by obesity (nope, she's not fat), heavy lifting (very possibly a factor), a long history of coughing (nope), or multiple pregnancies (she has two children).

She has also been very constipated. I bought her a box of Black Forest tea and two big bunches of beetroot. The doctor she saw said she should be drinking more water. She is doing far better this week although the hernia is still there and it is irritated by white-flour products. It remains to be seen what needs to be done long term - surgery could be on the cards.

Another friend had a bowel issue this week. Severe abdominal pain. He thought an injury of sorts from yoga. I asked after his appendix... He ended up in casualty and it turns out he had serious constipation and was sent home with laxatives from the doc. I recommended Black Forest tea and beetroot to him too. You'll be pleased to know his bowels are moving (yes, I've asked him) and he's feeling much, much better.

Of interest, many years ago I was helping to take care of an old man with terminal cancer. The morphine he was on causes constipation. The Hospice nurse recommended paw-paw (papaya) and oranges as most effective. They work.

Dr Oz is big on bowel movements as they reflect your state of health and he recommends that "looking before you flush could save your life".

(On Dr Oz. Made out of clay... just in case you were wondering.)
According to his website, Dr Oz "believes that poop provides the opportunity to do a self exam every single day, that could potentially save your life. There are many diseases that can be diagnosed from checking your poop before you flush, like stomach cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, Crohn’s disease, and gallbladder disease."

Constipation (can't poop / don't poop regularly / really hard poops) are bad. Loose, watery poops - diarrhea - are bad. Both are signs that something is not right. Your aim should be to land one to three S-shaped poops a day.

Indeed, Dr Oz's three critial poop factors - shape, consistency and colour - are determined by your physical state (diseases / illness) and what you eat.

Here's a video of Dr Oz talking poop on one of his shows -

Constipation foods include pasta, white bread and rice which "move like paste, like toothpaste through your intestinal system," he says. "They slow down the process and therefore all that water gets sucked out."

Exercise does help as movement gives the bowel a helping hand to move things along.

On the other hand, spicy foods irritate the bowel and can result in loose poop. Watch that chilli!

And then there's fibre - a major role-player in the consistency stakes. According to Dr Oz we need at least 25g per day (a article recommends 25g for women and 35-40g/day for men) - we're lucky if we're getting 10-15g/day on our Western diets. Eat too little fibre and you're going to be on the constipated side of S-shaped; eat too much fibre and your poops will be pretty loose.

BBC Good Food says that, "Foods that contain 6g fibre or more per 100g are considered to be high fibre foods, while those containing at least 3g of fibre or more per 100g are considered to be a source of fibre."

They go on to say that...
Soluble fibre can be digested by the body and increases water content in the intestine to give a softer texture to the stool. Soluble fibre is made up of gums and other constituents of plant cells and plant cell walls that swell in water. Soluble fibre promotes the excretion of cholesterol and can be helpful for those suffering from haemorrhoids.

Insoluble fibre is traditionally known as roughage, insoluble fibre consists mainly of cellulose which absorbs water but passes through the bowel almost undigested. Foods rich in insoluble fibre fill you up and are effective at increasing stool size and bulk thus promoting regular bowel movements.
What foods to go for to increase your fibre intake? (From BBC Good Food)

Foods containing
Soluble Fibre
Foods containing
Insoluble fibre
Citrus fruitWheat bran
LentilsWholegrain cereals
BeansBrown rice
OatsFruit & vegetables

You'll find lists of high-fibre foods on the web.

To get an idea of how much fibre you're eating, use one of the online food diaries and record what you eat over a few days. Enable the function to include the fibre content of the foods. I can feel when I'm not getting enough fibre - I just feel like my intestines aren't on top of their game.

I've been looking at my fibre tally, which is below 25g/day (as with most people), despite eating lots of fresh and raw veggies.

The tough part is upping intake, especially if, like me, you're being carb/sugar conscious. Oats pack a fibre punch but they're also high carbs. Mmmm... challenging. To the lists I go! It's a good thing I love lentils and other beans.

This time of year is busy. Diets slide. Stress mounts. Digestive systems are under strain.

As Dr Oz says, take a look before your flush to evaluate your health and if there's something wrong with shape, consistency or colour, fix it - like now.

Wishing you better health... and a good poop in the morning.