Wednesday, August 08, 2012

US Visa Interview

June 2012

Things got really awkward at work when I got a visa appointment date. Doc was like, “Were you serious about this US thing?” Yup! “Miss Brook, what am I going to do? I didn’t hire someone else hoping you’d stay!”
the office, office desk

The visa day went something like this (if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you will remember how my previous visa post went. Not too fun):
The appointment was at 09:00. I left the house at 07:00 walked the 30 minutes to the stop. I’d already asked around how to signal for taxis to Sandton, which is where the American Embassy is. I signalled for a taxi, 3 fingers up! It took me about ten minutes to get a taxi. I hopped on and greeted the driver. He asked me how I was doing .I told him I was so nervous, I was going to the embassy. He was like then why did you take a taxi to Tembisa? Uhm, what? How do I signal for Sandton taxis? He showed me exactly the same sign I made. How’s that different from what I did? Sisi, it’s going to be hard for you to find taxis to Sandton here. I was in Fourways, a suburb of the greater Sandton, you’d think it would be easy to catch a taxi to Sandton from there. Plus I was right outside Monte casino, a very busy spot. I asked the driver to let me get off. He told me to hang on, he would drop me off later. I assumed he would drop me off where I could catch the right taxi, nope, he wanted to chit chat. Yup! Believe me! No respect for someone else’s time at all! ‘I had to walk all the way back to square one. I still had a little more than an hour to get to the embassy.
I asked around if anybody knew where I could catch a taxi to Sandton, everybody just walked away. That’s where I used to wait for my taxi everyday when going to work, like P, they probably thought I was stuck up. Oh well, too bad, too sad. I asked around until one guy replied in a language I’ve never heard before. I’m sure it’s one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, but I mean, I don’t speak them all. I asked if he didn’t speak Zulu, Xhosa or English. His friend pitched in, he tried to explain what his friend was trying to say in exactly the same words, same language. I thanked them and went and asked an Indian couple. They told me they were also going to Sandton. The best way would be to take a taxi to Randburg get stuck in traffic to Randburg, then from there take a taxi to Sandton and get stuck in that traffic again. They told me it would take me an hour in total to get to the final destination by taxi then another ten minute’s walk to the embassy. I looked at the time and was like, you know what! I don’t know if I have enough time anymore. I waited ten minutes for a taxi, it had enough space for the couple. That sucked! I had to wait some more! Heaven knew how long I’d have to wait before I got a taxi. I called ZS to share the dilemma I was in. She suggested I take the other car and drive there, rather. I looked at the time and wondered if it would’ve been worth it to walk another thirty minutes back to the house to get the car. I did it! I ran back to the house, halfway, I saw the security guards that work at the boom gate, I asked them for a lift, they told me they didn’t have petrol (gas), another one asked if I forgot something behind, while the other was asking me if I wasn’t going to work that day. I just couldn’t be bothered with their small talk, Time was money. Time IS money!
I got home, P was mopping the floor, awkward moment, I had to walk on her wet floor, another reason for her to think I am mean to her, oh well, I just apologised, got the car keys, started the car, IT WOULDN’T START! A few minutes later, it did! It had to! I didn’t have another 30 minutes to go to the taxi. There was no petrol in the car! I had to start at the garage (gas station). I rushed there, waited my turn, got my petrol and then the car wouldn’t start. GREAT! I pumped the accelerator and pumped for what seemed like forever until it started. I almost knocked a car that was parked in front of the store in front of me. Ugh, Gosh! I only had 45 minutes to get to the embassy and I didn’t know how to get there.  ZS sent me directions via BBM Voice notes. I kept playing them and playing them until I got there. I had to park at Sandton city as they, for some weird reason, don’t have parking at the American Embassy. I took the first parking I got and was lucky that the first guy I asked for directions knew exactly where I was going and was good at giving directions. I arrived at the embassy at 08:56. Four Minutes early! I still had to get Visa photos, I asked the security where I could, he directed me really nicely, I ran back to Sandton City, got my pictures, met a nice lady that was also going to the embassy, she didn’t know where it was, I took her with me. We chatted and chatted while in line, she’s very nice, from Uganda .
The nerves were killing me inside! I felt like I was the only nervous one, everyone else was so laid back. I had to get my visa the first time, I was so ready to leave! We went in, had to switch off our mobile phones and I was like wow, this is really happening. I could be going to America very soon or not! I literally meditated on the positive! I wouldn’t even allow myself to think that there was a possibility I wouldn’t get the visa. Not an option!
I went to 3different desks and was assisted by a white lady, an African lady and by an Indian Gentleman. Talk about affirmative action. Very South African! The last person is the one that did the actual interview. It lasted no time at all, then he said, “Okay mam, your visa’s been approved” whut! Whut! Too happy! I just said thanks, and went to join my friend, whose visa had also approved and the lady that was behind us in line also had hers approved. Good times were had by all. WE got outside and screamed, and danced and hugged and rejoiced and and and.
My new friend treated me to a nice branch. 
I called ZS and told her the news, she came over to Sandton City as soon as she could and treated me to a nice lunch! Very nice lunch actually J

She was going out of town that evening. I hadn’t told any of my family about the visa and the US or anything, I didn’t want to jinx it! My sister called me up to ask if I wanted to spend the weekend over at hers, perfect timing because I wanted to see them as well. I hadn’t seen them since I moved to Fourways. ZS and I took some pics at the Nelson Mandela Square, fun! Fun! Fun! I had to break the news to Doc, that wasn’t fun. He called ZS and asked her what he’s supposed to do without me. He said he didn’t want anybody else but me. It was cute and sad at the same time. He cried L He did tell me that he and his friend were praying the whole morning that I wouldn’t get the visa. J
ZS didn’t have time to drop her car off, I found myself stuck in Sandton City with two cars. I took the Merc home first. Let me tell you! People treat you differently on the road when you drive a fancy car. I’ve driven the Merc a few times and I noticed that! The moment you turn your indicator (flicker) on, they start moving, making space for you. Nice but so unfair! I dropped that car home, got my overnight back and WALKED THE THIRTY MINUTES TO THE BUS STOP. Third time that day! I bought a Gautrain ticket, and took the Gaubus to Sandton. This is what I should have done in the morning when going to the Embassy! I almost missed the bus, while running towards it, my toes cramped, my leg locked up. I got such a fright! I was like my gosh I’m getting old, what’s happening to me L

I drove the other car to Melville, back to normal driving on the road, nobody cared if I wanted to change lanes, no more Mercedes Benz luxuries! I told my sister news! She knew though! Kinda! That’s the thing with my family, they’re an intuitive bunch. She told me she had a feeling I got a job overseas and wanted me to bring her up to speed. That’s one of the reasons she asked me to come over. Oh well, she was happy for me either way. I slept over and broke the news to my nephew and niece the following day. I also got to see my nephew’s new place. I picked ZS up from the airport Sunday evening and called it a day. I went to work on Monday to resign, super duper awkward! It sucked to be precise. I was there for half of the day. I needed to go to SARS. That was my only chance. I took a taxi to Johannesburg, walked all the way to the end of the world to SARS, I wasn’t aware they moved from Carton Centre. Anyway, I was assisted by a very kind gentleman. They had told me I owed them R5 000 ($600). I wasn’t chuffed about that, but I had to address it before I left.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Picture blog!

This is what happens when you use an Ice Cream Tub to cook food in the Microwave

Plicken - Park Plastic from, part Chicken

I was hooked on these while in Melville

Cute, Right? R60 ($7) at Ackermans, they broke in 4days. I returned them, got a refund and bought airtime

Paycheck (that's the envelope they put the R700 in)


Just arrived at work

I took these daily from the stress (headaches)of working for no pay.

My niece's cooking. 

The day I went to work on flip flops. Oops!

This freaked me out! Looks real right?

Looks like a very black man

To America or Not to America

While inBetween jobs, I spent a lot of time at my sister's. They had wi-fi, don’t ask where they got it from ;) My niece and I would watch movies, apply for jobs, you know the usual stuff one does on the net. One evening, on my way home, We bumped into my sister as she arrived from work. She was so excited that her friend, called her from the US. The friend had only been in the country for 5days. My sis said the friend, let’s call her W, told her it was so easy to go to the US if my sis wants to come, she will help her out through the process. My sis asked if she can tell us, we all know her, they’ve been friends for years. Apparently, she said , sure, no problem.  I saw a ray of light! Some hope!

As soon as I got home, I added her on Facebook and asked her how things were in the US etc. We talked for a bit and it was bed time for me. As you may know, South Africa is 6 hours ahead of the US, time-zonewise.  Around my birthday, I talked to W again, I brought up that I’ve been wanting to go to the US for ever but it’s been practically impossible. I told her of all the avenues I’d visited, for her to see that I was serious about it. She told me to keep trying. For your info, I’d been at it on and off since the late nineties . I asked how she did it, she told me to keep trying. I didn’t want to be too pushy. I went to sleep feeling so bummed. I thought that W was going to offer more help than she did. The following evening, she messaged me, telling me she thought of me when she saw a whole lot of vacancies for foreigners in the US. She said maybe I should try out. I asked her for links to the job sites, she said, “ Google my dear! Google!” I said, “do you genuinely think that I don’t know about google? She said, “Actually, I am beginning to wonder if you do! Mhhhhh! *wondering.........” I bade her a good day and went to sleep with a lump in my throat. My feelings were so hurt.
I didn’t know whether to tell my sister about my experience with her friend, I didn’t want to cause any tension. I did tell my niece though, who’s my partner in crime. I dusted myself off and kept pushing. That’s all you’ve got to do when things aren’t going the way you wish. What else is there to do, right?
I decided to be serious about my diet. I had to channel all the energy I had into something positive. I did some detoxing, lost 2.5 kg  (5lbs) while detoxing, which was great motivation. A few days late, I got call from a very good friend of mine. She wanted to see me. We met up at The Campus Square Drost. She wanted me to move in with her so we can do serious dieting together. I was like I’M IN! Perfect timing because I had also started dieting seriously. That gave me something to look forward to. That was mid April. She asked what my plans were with my life, I mentioned the story of W and the US. She told me she knows someone in the US that might be able to help me. Even if with just some much needed info. I took the person’s details and contacted them immediately.
My old Street in Melville

There’s nothing that motivates me more than the word NO! If you as much as imply or tell me I can’t do something, that’s exactly what I will be doing! I remember a long time ago, way back when! I was in a relationship with this guy. My sister and I joined some acting classes in Uitenhage. I was so excited with the possibilities that would bring us. I told my then boyfriend that I was going to be on TV. He rolled his eyes and said, “yeah right!”. The acting school turned out to be a fly by night, it did what all fly by nights do, it flew. By night! With my dream of being on TV and proving to the BF that I could do it! Months later, we broke up, years later, I was on TV. First as an extra on Generations. Through a fly by night agency, which.... yep you guessed it, flew by night. But The bottom line is  I was on TV. Years flew by, hurdles and hurdles and I ended up on TV over and over and real. Boyfriend had since married, and died. No seriously, he’s dead now! Long Story for another day.

"You treat me like a dog"

 25 April 2012

Favourite Cake Ever! Bar One Cake

2nd birthday cake, Caramel, not much to blog about

Just after my birthday, i got a call from an old friend of mine, not the one I was going to move in with. Let’s call this friend NS and the other one ZS. She got a new job and was stood up by someone that was going to host her until settled down. I picked her up at the bus stop, we went over to mine and reminisced. She’s a good, genuine friend, I love spending time with her.
KFC and Chicken Licken! That's what happens when you shop on an empty stomach

I moved out of my apartment, the last week of April. I tell you, I’ve called more than 25 places home in my entire lifetime and that was the hardest good bye (to a home) for me! I cried! I was overwhelmed with emotion, you know? It was a lot of things, I’d only been back home for a month, from Georgia, which was another roller-coaster, when I had to move to Johannesburg, 2months later, I had to move again. There was just too much uncertainty around me, too much instability. Of course, I had no intentions of staying with a friend forever. It was nice to kknow that i had a place to stay until I figured out my next step. I am not one to depend on people, even though, my friend needed me there for the diet thing, for those that didn’t know, I was Miss Weighless  Gauteng year 2002. I know! I know! I know! J
My family calls me The Queen of Junk Food. I wonder Why?

I moved in with my friend on a Wednesday or Thursday.  We weighed ourselves on Friday and got started eating right! We weighed ourselves every Saturday since then. A week since moving in with ZS, Her friend who is a doctor was looking for a receptionist for his rooms. My friend told me about it, she had already told the Doc that She knows just the person for the job, unfortunately my US plans were under way, I was going to leave in a month or two. Even though,I was excited to be working, about the idea of having something to do while waiting impatiently for my US plans, I felt like taking on a job was so stable,as if I was intending to stick around for a while. We agreed that Doc would hire someone else and have me train that person as I have tons of experience in that field.
The two on the left are my Hard drives, the other 2 ex boss' 

I got the job! Well, I only found out 4days later! Fourways is not a place for pedestrians! I had to walk 30 minutes to the boom gate, we lived in a gated community. Then hail a taxi to work. I worked in Carstenhof Clinic from May onwards. My boss was a gem! The best boss anybody could ever ask for! What a breath of fresh air from the monster I worked for previously! It was just Doc and I in the rooms (well, and the cleaning lady who came in once a week, she was sweet too, we got along), he had his own room, with a consultation room, my  office, the waiting area and some type of a conference room. The rooms were amazing! So gorgeous! He has great taste too! I had wonderful times in Carstenhof, I won’t lie to you! Best few weeks of my working life! I looked forward to being at work. 
My niece and nephew say I'm a hippie from how I sometimes dress

I got paid end of the month! Whew! First actual salary since Georgia! Thank goodness!
At home, I lived with ZS, her daughter, the lady taht looks after the daughter, let’s call her P. Just the four us. ZS had friends over a lot though, so there were always lots of other people, which didn’t bother me, some of the friends, I knew, some I didn’t but they were nice people.  I had to give living with ZS a great deal of thought as I didn’t want it to ruin our friendship, we had been friends since 1989, so yeah. You don’t want to mess that kind of friendship up!
ZS’s place has 2 lounges, P and the daughter use the one lounge to watch TV and stuff, I used the other one because we liked different shows, I enjoyed DSTV channels, P liked SABC stuff and Nigerian movies. I didn’t want them changing the channel  for me when I could just use the other TV. I try and stay out of people’s way when I live with new people, so that i don’t cause any unnecessary awkwardness.
I bought and prepared the diet meals myself, P was handling hers and the kid’s. I noticed that whenever they ran out of stuff, she wouldn’t tell her ZS instead, she would take some of the diet stuff. That was so frustrating because when I did grocery shopping, I had already pre-planned what I would cook for the weak. It came to ZS’ attention, she suggested, we keep our diet stuff in a separate cupboard. Even though i didn’t want it to come to that, I thought that was fair.
One Saturday, I went to the kitchen and found the cooking oil that was in our cupboard all messy, with oil all over the bottle and you could see it had been used:
Me: P please, can you not use the stuff I buy for ZS and I?
Me: Any and everything I get for us, if you run out of things, please let her know of do like you used to before I got here.
Me: It seems like you’ve had isues you needed to address with me for a while, I wish you had sat me down and talked to me about them because now you’re  taking something really innocent and turning it into something it’s not-
Me: I’m not having this conversation with you right now. Anyway, you got the message. ( I told her walking away to my bedroom. The daughter was watching TV with her friend in the lounge, we were in the open plan kitchen right next to them, P was yelling at the top of her voice).
I went to my bedroom and closed the door behind me. She budged in, crying, pointed at me and yelled and yelled and yelled. I got up and told her she can have the room if she wants it because I am trying to get some privacy from her and she just wont let me. I left and closed the door behind me, with her inthe room.
She came out, howled and howled, crying, and talking on the phone. I overheard her saying she couldn’t stand living under the same roof as me any longer, she couldn’t stand the way I treaded her and wanted to leave. She wanted whomever she was talking to on the phone ( I assume ZS) to send her a car, she was leaving. Her closet was in my bedroom,  (so Georgia, right? ) she went in there and started throwing her clothes on the floor, crying. You could tell she was fuming.  I didn’t like where the whole thing was going. I had to think. Fast. I opened my side of the closet and went, “you know what? Stay, I’ll move out! You can have this room”
ZS gave me that :)

I had promised the kids I’d drop them off at the movies. The daughter overheard P telling someone over the phone that I was moving out. She (daughter) came running to me crying, she begged me not to leave, telling me I’m like a mother to her. That touched me. I dropped them off at the movies, went back home, packed my suitcases. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve packed in the past year. My gosh! When P Saw me packing, she stopped. USA trip was around the corner, I had to be packed for that, so packing wasn’t a waste of time J . I didn’t see ZS for the next 2-3days, even though she did come home. That made things awkward! I was looking forward to discussing the whole thing with her. I had already secured a place to crash, with NS should I end up having to leave, of course, I wasn’t going to wait for ZS to kick me out but I would read between the lines. If I had had a chance to talk to her, but not seeing her, wasn’t helping. I also didn’t want to force her into talking about something she wasn’t ready to talk about because She came to my room every night after work when she came home, this time she didn’t. I assumed she needed spave and I gave it to her.
The Niece and The Nephew

ZS and I kinda talked about this a few days later, I had to give her a summarised version of my side as she was rushing to work. I was over it by then anyway.
Just before I left my Melville apartment

last meal before the diet

The day I cut my dreads, what a mission to undo all this

Sorry Brook, I don't have money to pay you this month

April 2012
Our office, they didn't have a pc for me, I used my own

The job in China fell through. Back to the drawing board. Good thing I hadn’t told my colleagues or anybody about it really. Only my family knew. I secretly wanted to go to China even as a tourist to see for myself if I couldn’t get a job whilst there. I had talked to a few people that teach English there, they told me it’s not hard finding a job once you are there in person. I was tempted. But I had to play it safe.
By this time, I’d been working for my boss for 2 months.  I had been on probation for my week whereby they’d see if I got along with everybody as I was the only outsider in a family company. Everybody  was a breeze to work with, except for the boss, but she wasn’t always there.
By the end of the month, they asked me if I was going to need any money, if so, how much. I found that interesting because I had worked my hinds off all month proving to them that I was an asset to the company. We had talked about the salary at the interview. I told them that I would have been happy with whatever salary was market related. They had a PA (Personal Assistant), they had to know what was market related for a PA. You’d think! I told them that I was renting an apartment, I had to pay rent, groceries, insurances etc, and I had bills to pay! They told me this was a permanent job, of course I went and signed a lease for the apartment! Boss was out of town. She called me.  Normally she was very mean to me on the phone or in person for that matter, so much for a pastor and a life coach. She was so nice to me that time around on the phone. She asked to speak to the old PA. Thereafter, the PA told me that there was no money to pay mu, but they had R1 500 (less than $200) COUNT IT! For   Ice Cream. They would pay me a salary the next week. I had bills to pay and no time to be buying R1 500 worth of ice cream! I went home so confused. Wondering what would happen next. What if they didn’t pay me the following week and the following month! Whew! So much for getting a new job. I went over to my sister’s to chill. I needed to be around people that cared about me.
The view from the dining room/conference room

Boss kept calling to confirm my banking details, she wanted to deposit the ice cream money. She was so nice to me the entire time on the phone.
My landlord was a journalist, she was very nice to me. I lived next door to them and 4 houses from my work, which was also the boss’ house.  She worked from home. I told her about my work situation. She told me she was willing to help me put my boss on blast if I gave her some material to work with. I thought I’d give them until the following week, to see if they would fulfil their promise. The following week, I got R700 from the Boss’ son, he told me that’s all he had in his account. PA’s husband who also works there, had a long, meaningless talk with me one day on my way home. He told me that he knows what it’s like to be in my shoes: to struggle to make a living (WTF’s dude talking about? I’ve got a job! They just won’t pay me! There’s a difference!) He told me how he used to be a waiter, homeless, sleeping in public toilets. I was thinking this dude had better not be suggesting I should move out of my comfortable apartment and go sleep in public restrooms, seriously now!
All I got for the rest of my second month at work where promises that the company was expecting millions of rand, and I’d be paid then. NEVER HAPPENED!

Conference Room/Dining room

In March, my second month at the company, I was kind of offered a promise of a better job: Human Resources of the Bloemfontein Plant. Go figure! This people can’t afford me a PS’s salary, now they want to promote me! How much more money do they want to not pay me? I had to spend days on the internet doing research and things for my new position. I was booking flights for the boss to fly all over the country. Here I am, still waiting for the rest of my salary for the previous salary and this woman is gallivanting all over the show. I booked deluxe hotel rooms for wedding attendance, and all sorts of things. The telephone bill came and she paid R1 000 ($125) extra. I was like, are you kidding me? Why doesn’t she give that to me! The following month, she did the same thing, paid extra for the telephone bill. I just didn’t get that! The entire month of March, I was so discouraged and angry.
Two days before payday, boss lady, who had been out of town for weeks called and spoke to the PA. She told her that they didn’t have money to help me out with my bills, she suggested I move in with them. She would pay me the following week. I told her, even though I’d love to move in with them (which I wouldn’t have), It was two days before my rent was due, I’d have to give my landlady more notice than that, two months to be precise. She said, well try anyway, don’t tell them the real reason, just tell them that something came up and you have to move out urgently. Uhm, ok Reverend, I will do that! I’ll go and lie to my landlord who has been nothing but nice to me! Who has also agreed to help bring you down should you not pay me again this month. 

The following day, I don’t them that the landlord doesn’t mind if I stay or not, as long as I pay them for the following two months as per lease. They were like, ‘What?!?!?!? What exactly did you say to them?!?!?!?!?” I was thinking, it seems as if this is not the first time these people are doing this. It looks as if it’s worked for them every single time but this time around. That’s why they were shocked. Oh well!  The boss told me what my salary would be from that onwards, unfortunately she would only pay me the following week, a week late. My question to the PA was, if they knew for a fact that they were going to pay me the following week, why should I move out of my apartment? I could just ask them to wait a few more days and that’s it. Right? Wrong!
Stairway from our office to the Boss'

I was so stressed out, my whole body hurt, I had headaches that wouldn’t go away. I still had Georgia on my mind, that was a disaster, and now I am here this is not so much of a great experience either! Should I go to China? So many thoughts on my mind! Should I quit? I just moved here from the Eastern Cape! Should I go back there and job-hunt until I find something else? Should I stick around? Will they ever pay me?
I put in notice at the flat while I was on a week’s leave. The PA who was going to fill in for while she was on maternity was still working. For some reason, the baby was not coming. The due date came and went. While I was on sick leave, they deposited R4 000 ($500) into my account. Still not enough, in fact, that plus the money they gave me the previous still didn’t cover the pay they promised. I cut my losses and quit. It was hard, I loved everyone I worked with but couldn’t shake the feeling this was just a cult where they reel you in with their kindness and never ever pay you. All you get is kindles from Boss lady every month end! Sadly, that didn’t pay the bills. Everybody didn’t understand why I quit. It’s like where the heck do these people come from? I don’t offer volunteering services! I need to get paid! I spent the entire month of April, job hunting, going for interviews, applying for jobs abroad, the works.

I bought myself a new laptop a week before payday thinking I was going to get paid