Monday, August 18, 2008

2008. Post Apartheid - NZ: Fraser Esslemont's Sunnyside Farm Dispatch and Gondwana Ghosts

Fraser's Aug. 2008 Sunnyside Farm dispatch: "All the very best for your birthday next month. 57. I can't believe how fast time flies. Soon we'll both be 60+ (plus). You wrote of Luke buying tympani equipment. Please draw a sketch, I've forgotten. Cymbals I know about. He is very musical at 17. "Woza Mark" seems to keep you at the desk for a long time, [yep] with a small home computer, with access to w.w. websites.

I appreciate the bird guide book. Many thanks for this gift, I'll look after the book. I think it would take six months to get skilled with biltong making. [Yep]. The diagram helps a great deal, plus the numbered photographs and explanations.

Where do you get the wood to chop for Jake? [Old pallets from business warehouses]. How does he burn in a flat? Must be semi-detached flat. [Yep]. Does Luke play piano still? & drums? Im afraid I'm not good at keeping a diary, only scrape by with letters. I play a lot of pool, not snooker. We used to have a snooker table, but it was not that good having 2 tables (different). Luke's band will have finished well, after the final round. What position of 80 Chch bands would they have achieved? One day soon ill phone ... [my number], surely ill have to phone a preceding number?

Au revoir,..."

< 2008 Luke Esslemont wearing his Galaxy Stampede band costume, before our nectarine tree, Heath Street backyard, Christchurch

Off Mesopotamia Station road, we found a tiny Anglican Church of the Holy Innocents, amongst sheep and old conifers and a yew hedge. I sat on a wooden bench, besides settlers' graves, viewing Rangitata River and Mount Peel. On the bench, pilot-poet words were carved: "For I have slipped the sullen bonds of earth, and touched the face of God." There were children's graves and two grass-filled toy trucks, left by a child, helping his father mow lawns.

As the church was never locked, Leah sat on a pew, admiring stain-glass windows, memorial brasses, and the wooden ceiling. Leah thought of Durban South family ghosts, and as a former Saint Martins choirboy, I thought of Durban North plainchant in cassocks, and lighting and snuffing altar candles. Luke foot-bellowed secular tunes on the harmonium, never having played a harmonium before. Leah and I sensed mana in the air, which we'd sometimes felt in Christchurch Cathedral - a glimpse of eternity we'd seen in the grotto of the Church of the Holy Nativity, Bethlehem.

In Peel forest, we wandered amongst ferns and Gondwana Ghosts - shaggy totaras, the biggest Luke tried to climb, its bole two metres wide. The totara was old when Maori came from the North, hunting moa amongst its gnarled roots; when Abel Tasman Farewelled his Spit; and when Captain Cook sailed round the South Island. Those podocarps reminded us of the Big Tree in Tsitsikamma Forest, and the yellowwood avenue near our first house we'd bought in Yellowwood Park, Durban.

From Mount Somers we drove to Mount Potts, searching for "Lord of the Rings" Edoras site on Mount Sunday in Rangitata basin. I heard anthem words, "Yihla Moya... Come Spirit..." while looking towards Mount Sunday. The movie set was gone, and all that was left were the Alps, braided Rangitata, barbed-wire farm-fencing, and cow dung pong on the rutted road to Erehwon.

On its potholed Nowhere Road, SA's post apartheid Olympic standards had dropped: SA's huge 2008 Olympics team won 1 silver medal at the Beijing Olympics. NZ won 3 gold, 1 silver, 5 bronze medals.

Personal safety and hospitality standards had also dropped: Leah's brother Gee lived in Port Elizabeth, and when Gee holidayed in Durban's Hotel Edward, management told Gee, "Don't walk along Marine Parade! It's too dangerous!"

Hotel Edward was 5 star in my youth, and Leah and I had safely danced at whitey Dorians disco. I'd surfed at whitey North Beach when Durban beachfront was safe from thieving Afs. Gee's Hotel Edward bedroom kettle didn't work, and there was no hot water in his bathroom. And a big cleanup was needed in streets behind 4 star Hotel Edward.

Later when Gee stayed at a South Coast hotel, he could only walk along the beach if security personnel swept away harassing Afs. Gee was a tough local, and I wondered how safe foreign soccer supporters would be during SA's 2010 World Cup?

In 2008, NZ's wobbly economy caused mom and pop investors to lose millions of dollars when over 20 NZ financial houses went into receivership, due to the housing market slump. Our Chinese neighbour still battled to sell his overpriced, 3 bedroom, old state house, after it was 9 months on the market. Christchurch City Council scandalized ratepayers by paying millions of ratepayers' dollars to buy several old CBD properties from struggling property developer Henderson, with Henderson having first option to repurchase. Foreign Minister Winston Peters was investigated by the Serious Fraud Squad for inexplicable donation money received by his New Zealand First party. Peter's alleged graft in NZ was no different from Zuma's alleged graft in SA - backhanders from businessmen.

10/10/08. The Serious Fraud Squad ruled that Winston Peters would not face charges for serious fraud, but other laws may have been broken in secret channeling of donations to a trust. (The Press 11/10/08).

Coda: 1. The Church of the Holy Innocents was badly damaged in the 05.09.10 quake. When we revisited in 2014, the church was empty with cracked walls awaiting donations & restoration.
2. 2017. Leah was appointed Resource Teacher Literacy, South Canterbury, based at Timaru. One of the many schools she advised was Carew Peel Forest School.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

2008. Script for a New Wheelchair in USA

Emails from an expat friend living in USA:

"You mentioned Fraser's problems, and some people think that they have problems in their lives, they need to walk a few klms. in his shoes. Since becoming disabled though I have discovered just how superficial people are, they can't get beyond the disability to get to know who and what you really are, but immediately jump to conclusions based on your appearance and what they perceive you are.

Thought there would be less discrimination in the US particularly with the Americans with the Disability Act, but it is not worth the paper it is written on. What most people forget, is that in an able bodied society for me to work and compete against able bodied people in the employment arena, I still have to be as productive as them, which is physically impossible. Therefore most disabled individuals will always need some form of financial assistance. Unfortunately over here you are now disabled if you are obese! a drug addict, are lazy, don't want to work, don't want to walk when you park your car, and the list goes on..."

"You will love this, had to go to the Dr. MD for a visit to get a script for a new wheelchair, been in the system for 20 yrs now and already had 4 chairs even though I am entitled to a new chair every 5 years. Never go to the Dr. We have the same philosophy stay the hell away from them, last visit 7 years ago for a wheelchair.

Firstly they refused to see me as they claim I have been discharged, due to not having been back so long. So called Med Aid head guy. He tells me, 'They can't refuse you as we pay them every month to keep you on their books. That is Med Aid fraud.' Sudden change of heart, 'Come in for an app. 1 month from now.' Jerking my chain just for a script for a chair.

So jump the hoops, go in for the app, they give me this photocopied piece of paper supposedly a case history, but they are still supposed to have all my records. Jump more hoops!! Hardly any questions pertaining to my injury and physical condition. Eventually I get called in by the nurse. G... comes in with me and by now I am starting to get really pissed off, never mind that I also had an active licence to practise health care in the state. I filled my name in as Dr. ...! So they direct me to a treatment room to sit and wait!! And wait!!

Finally the nurse comes back and starts talking to me as if I am 3 yrs. old. 'We are going to put this cuff on you and check your BP.' Probably checked more BPs in my life than her. 'Now we are going to check your pulse.' I guess she thought I was also brain dead. Pulse by now racing, BP through the roof, so she comments on it, and I know the next comment is, 'We will need to lower your BP. You will have to take these pills.' She asks me, 'What is your complaint?'

I say, 'I don't have, everything is normal, it is because I am in a Dr's office, (white coat syndrome) all I need is a script for a wheel chair.'

She leaves and of course goes and tells this female Dr., who looked like Helga! why I am here to see her. The Dr. walks in with this attitude and says, 'I believe that all you are here for is a script for a wheelchair. You are not interested in your cholesterol, prostate, or anything else.' I'm thinking, 'Nope, you are not sticking your finger up my arse. For one thing I am not getting out of this chair so you can get down there.' So she says, 'So what am I just a script writer now?'

I take exception to that. I just about blew my top, and chewed her ass out. I told her, 'Firstly that is all you are, a script writer!! Otherwise how else are you going to treat me if you don't prescribe some form of medication, so what does that make you? Secondly I am sick and tired of being discriminated against, as if I don't have a brain in my head. How long have you had a licence to practise medicine?' She says, '30 years.' So I said, 'Well that means that I have been practising 2 years longer than you. Furthermore maybe if I died from some medical condition it might put me out of my misery. After spending 33 years in a wheelchair and being discriminated against for the last 33 years how would you feel?'

Her eyes are like saucers now. I said, 'I don't care. I am not taking your poison, for prostate, blood pressure, cholesterol or anything else. If I am going to die I will do so naturally, without making you people rich at the same time. Do you realize how screwed up the health care profession really is?' She looked dumbfounded and agreed with everything I had said. I guess no one had told her off like that before. You know they walk next to God! She says, 'Is that all you want nothing else?' I said, 'Yes, but while you are about writing the SCRIPT!! include a new cushion for me.' She says, 'Anything else?' 'No thanks that's all get me out of here.'

Blood pressure and pulse now normal again, until the next time. I am losing my patience with stupid people. I don't know if it comes with old age or that they have dumbed down the entire US population. You don't have to have genius IQ, but they have zero common sense, if they don't have a set of instructions to do anything, they cannot get it done. If I ever won the Lotto and came into a lot of money I think I would open a school where they actually taught students to think outside the box, never mind following a brainwashing protocol. I am sure you banged heads with many of your colleagues while teaching. [Yes]. I know you having had problems that you have experienced while young do not think the same way most people do today, and now having an auditory disability, you are able to sympathize with other disabled individuals in a way that able bodied people can't and wont appreciate..."

"I forgot to add that I finally got the wheelchair, after seven months, but still haven't got the cushion. The medical supply store claims that I have to have decubitus ulcers before they will pay for the cushion."

Two months later: "Was just reading the blog you posted where I was talking about the wheelchair that took 7 months to arrive, and the cushion that hadn't yet arrived, well guess what it arrived today! Hallelujah! They called the other day to say it was being delivered and I said, 'You are kidding right, I had pretty much given up on the cushion.' The lady said, 'No we are working on it,' so now my arse can sit in comfort."

Coda: I rarely go to doctors, but in 2011 during Christchurch quakes, following audiology tests for my deafness, I went to our Christchurch GP, inquiring about new hearing aids funding. I had a similar experience to my mate above: Our GP took my BP, said my BP was high, sent me for a blood test & said my cholesterol was high. He prescribed a course of drugs to lower my BP & cholesterol. After a couple of months I stopped taking the poisons. Three years later I haven't had a heart attack. Those sorts of GPs rely on voodoo suggestions, fear mongering & wilfull altering of patients' perceptions of themselves, by prescribing-anti BP & anti-cholesterol drugs for the rest of the patient's life. Never mind all the vicious side effects. Of course the GP gets rich on repeat prescription signings & chemists coin it. As for my deafness, the GP told me to enquire about new hearing aids from his wife, who wasn't a medic. She posted me a hearing aid pamphlet. It was the last time I visited that GP.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008. Hillmorton High School, Christchurch, NZ

"Pa! Why're you throwing my TV out my room?"

"Sherrup! Or else...!"

"Pa! Why're you chucking my bass guitar out my window?"

"'Cause you mus' pass your blerrie exams! You're grounded! No going out! No girlfriend! No job!..." Shocked silence.

"Pa? If I pass my School Certificate, [fifth form] can I have a Rasta-hairstyle and get my ear pierced?"

"NO! Chuck all this junk out! Sit in your room, at your desk! And swot...till you burst!"

That bollocking played out after Leah and I received Jake's rotten school report from Hillmorton High.

It all began happily in SA, where Jake went to Selborne Primary, learnt to play the clarinet and excelled in sports; learning; fun. He'd go to Selborne College, then Rhodes University. All sorted, full-steam success ahead.

We emigrated to Christchurch NZ in 1995.

Luke, our youngest son, went to Sumner kindy. Jake jumped a standard at Sumner Primary, the best school we thought. Wrong. Our first letter, received from a teacher, referred to Leah and I as 'caregivers.' After a term, I wrote to Jake's teacher inquiring why Jake's sloppy classwork and homework were unmarked.

Teacher and principal were angry, and held my complaint against Jake.

The next year, after investigating several schools, we enrolled Jake at a Christian private school. The next day his shrieker-teacher reduced Jake to tears. We enrolled Jake and Luke at Oaklands Primary, where for three years, Jake excelled in sports and academics, and even visited Adelaide, Australia with mates.

Jake went to Hillmorton HS, because his mates went there. Leah and I felt he'd become a good Kiwi by mixing with Maori, Tongans, Samoans, Taiwanese, Chinese, Cambodians, Koreans, Brazilians, Somalis, Egyptians, Pakeha and more of the scores of ethnic groups resident in Christchurch.

Forms 3 and 4 went happily enough with glowing reports and few exams. When I queried exam paucity, I got hostile silence from Jake's teachers. By mid fifth form Jake had done no extra-curricular sports. I complained to the principal who replied, "Sports are not compulsory in NZ schools, and students work in businesses after school and during weekends, so it is difficult for dedicated teachers to offer sport, and teachers don't want to police sport. But working with enthusiasts means it would be a much more positive experience for everyone."

"Ja, well, no fine," I said, "But if Jake is not exploited by Kiwi businesses as cheap labour, why don't your dedicated teachers encourage Jake to do sport?" Silent principal.

So Jake did no sports, but child-minded church children one holiday, picked raspberries one Christmas holiday, bought a ghetto-blaster and TV, found a girlfriend at church, whose mom got Jake a dishwashing job at Papanui Scenic Circles hotel, enabling Jake to buy his bass guitar and have lots of pocket money. (Jake's hourly pay was more than my casual-labourer pay).

Hillmorton HS posted the rotten report one term before Jake's School Certificate exams, without teachers' comments. Ouch!

I complained to the principal: "Leah and I are poorly served! All of Jake's teachers don't mark Jake's classwork and homework. Neither do they check whether Jake has adequate subject learning notes! And Hillmorton HS has no controls, as Jake doesn't hand in work and your teachers don't demand completed work. And your teachers are negligent, dumbing-down Jake! Why are no teachers inspiring Jake? Why are your supposedly dedicated teachers striking one day a week, before School Certificate exams?" Aggressively silent principal.

After Jake's Robben Island swotting routine, Jake did well in the very last School Certificate exams. (Published in slightly different form in SINZASA's Indaba journal, issue 3, 2002).

After a good Sixth Form Certificate year, it got worse the following year 13 when Jake did the University Entrance Bursary and Scholarship Certificate. (Another story). Jake's year 13 at Hillmorton HS had few teacher controls on Jake's assignment work, and absenteeism, but despite a new principal and a poor duty of care by his Hillmorton teachers Jake did pass year 13.

Jake went flatting, read a tertiary Natcoll Diploma in Graphic Design, and worked for years in the Fox and Ferret Gastropub, Riccarton.

We moved to Burnside and enrolled Luke at Burnside High School, where he coped well, enjoying woodwork and music, especially drumming in his Galaxy Stampede band with form 6 school mates. Luke's schooling at Burnside HS was different from Jake's, as Luke did the new National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA).

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See NCEA: National Certificate of Educational Achievement