31 December 2016

My 2016


I don't know how this happens so swiftly every year, but in a blink of an eye, we're back to seeing out one year and welcoming in a new one. Since 31/12/2013 I have done my bit of reflection of the years that have left me, and now, I intend to do the same for 2016. 

In 2016, I learnt to grow as a person.
As a person, I think I have grown the most over this past year. I think several factors contributed to this: my last year of high school, 'ending' my 13 years of learning the violin, and establishing my values in the midst of it all. Academically, 2016 has been the toughest (and most rewarding) year of my schooling career thus far. At so many different point in the year things just got too tough, and pressure- mostly from myself to perform- became excruciating. However, in the most un-narcissistic way possible, I am proud of what I achieved and what I came to learn about myself.

In 2016, I established my core values.
In 2016, I further established and cemented my core values as a person. I don't claim that all of them are'set in stone'  but many of my former 'gray areas' have materialized into black and white. This has made my life easier and helped me to become a more assertive individuals--which is a 'must' for the career path that I am ensuing.

In 2016, I learnt how to love...and then un-love.
I mean the word 'love' in the broadest sense of the word: New and old friends were made and lost, long-lasting habits left and new habits formed and some hobbies hobbled out of my life whilst new ones made me feel like home. I decided to hang up my goggles and racing gear in the pool which shattered my heart, but I learnt to love the calm of training for the love of training. Similarly, I hung up my bow and strings, after playing the violin for 13 years- but played in my school's orchestra. My 16 year-strong habit of biting my nails was officially broken- this is a habit I proudly 'loved' and now 'unlove'

In 2016, I learnt to have self-belief.
Early on in 2016, the trust and faith in myself was compromised. Through the support of others and a lot of self-love, I emerged unscathed and stronger.

In 2016, I learnt what I want to do with the rest of my life.
I'm very very excited to be studying Journalism next year. I'm a very curious person who is very interested in how the media works with news stories and how people's perception of the media has changed.

2016 in Review

In my blog post, last year, about the same topic as I find myself writing about today, the new year, I had these wishes for 2016.
I did end up starting the year on a clean slate. It actually led to my first date, getting rid of a sour friendship and starting a new one. 
I mentioned earlier in this post how "I learnt to have self-belief" this year, I think this is in large part due to trusting myself.
Honestly, I probably could have done a lot better when it came to this one. However, 2017 is looking calmer, so it's okay. All my hard work and stress has paid off and now it's time to play!
In 2017, I look forward to a calmer year than 2016, in terms of school. In September, I will start my first year of university...in a country several thousand kilometers from where I am right now. I am so excited about discovering the crannies of a new city and new people... with killer accents (if I do say so myself). My wish for this coming year is to spend more time on my blog and really take the time and effort to produce posts that I am 100% proud of when I press 'publish'. If I gained more followers, that would just be a cherry on top of my creamy,  Social Spying cake.


My theme for 2017 is Make A Difference (Notice my use of the word 'theme' as opposed to 'resolution'- I stopped those long ago). I'm not sure in which aspect of my life this difference will come, but I hope it is in a space that I enjoy being in. I would really enjoy giving back to others in someway or making  a small but significant impact on someone in this world.

From the bottom of my pumping heart, I wish you everything of the best...and then so much more for the next 365 days that are to follow. To you and yours, I hope you have a year filled with an abundance of love, health and everything that is good and right in this world.


2015

For a look on my take of last new year, I decided to venture off paper and onto the inter web... onto this very blog. My hopes for this past year can be found here.

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

Instagram: @socialspying
Email: socialspying@gmail.com


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24 December 2016

Craft I Restaurant Review


Craft- Parkhurst, South Africa

 
Did you even go to Craft, in Johannesburg, if you didn't get the photograph of the milkshake to prove it? Nope. Since the opening of the originally Australian chain, in South Africa, my Instagram feed has frequently been graced with the presence of these mega, multi-coloured, milkshake monstrosities. I called up some friends of mine, just yesterday, and we decided to see if these #OhShakes (formerly known as #FreakShakes) taste as good as they look.

There are 3 options when it comes to these decadent delights:  The Candy Feast, The Chocolate Overload and the Salted Caramel Delight. And, my goodness! They are indeed a feasty overload of absolute delight! 

Being a lover of all things caramelized, condensed milk and cheesecake, I'll let you guess which option I ventured for...the Salted Caramel Delight. The salty-tasting, intertwining, convoluted network of caramelized goodness perched on top of the slice of cheesecake complemented the sweetness of the under layers of  overflowing cream, then white vanilla ice cream fused with condensed milk underneath. 


Criticism:
However, the excitement of the ice-cream, personally, did not do the actual taste justice. The vanilla flavoured ice-cream was quite plain and unexciting to my vanilla-sensitized taste buds. The presentation offered my eyes an experience. My taste buds weren't offered the same as I neared the ice cream.

My friend devoured the rainbow coloured Candy Feast which seemed appropriate for the summer's day in the ever sunny South Africa. Her dazzling delight was dotted with an array of colours that resembled a rainbow. The surrounding board was speckled with sprinkles which brought to mind the celebratory party popper emoji (🎉). The candy floss clouds and sherbet sticks called for the remembrance of childhood, fairs and amusement parks infused with the maturity of rose coloured cream drizzled in strawberry syrup with the same syrup and vanilla ice-cream underneath. I personally did not try this milkshake (or the third flavour, the Chocolate Overload) myself, but I have it on good accord that it was absolutely delicious!





Tis was almost the day before Christmas when we popped in for an #OhShake and still the restaurant was packed to the brim, just managing to declare the last table ours. The tables are in such close proximity, it was very easy to be apart of the conversation to our left (which largely consisted of swearing) and to our right which was a couple, presumably out on a date. The manager, who greeted us after being seated, our waiter and staff were so friendly and inviting. I would definitely go again- this time for the enticing food (which I could almost taste from my table neighbours).

I can officially say that I went to Craft...and I've got the photos to prove it.

Where to find them:
Craft restaurant offers so much more beyond milkshakes, too. If you'd like to experience this hipster, alternative yet cozy ambiance for yourself you can find them at 33 4th Avenue and 13th Street, Parkhurst, Johannesburg, South Africa or alternatively at www.craftrestaurant.co.za . 

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21 December 2016

The Semi-Permeable West

In biology, I've learnt about something called a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane functions in different parts of the body and allows various materials through, selectively. I've concluded that the 'West' is similar to this barrier. We only acknowledge, make ourselves aware and 'let in' certain pieces of information of interest.

I'm about to shock you, so hold on to whatever smooth, rough or shiny surface you may be seated upon. According to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, as of December 2019, more than 450 000 lives have been disastrously cut short. The West has been made aware of the on-going war in Syria yet somehow, we choose to ignore it.

Two days ago, 11 lives came to an end when a hauling truck rammed across festive Christmas stores and cheerful souls- in an attack with familiar remnants of the events in Nice on the 14th of July. These harrowing, gut-wrenching attacks on common people's everyday way of life has been plastered across every social media platform, trending globally and coveted across all the local and global news channels. Maybe it's all the Nutmeg that has gotten people so focused on this story but the West seems to adhere to my analogy quite effectively; The West let some things in and somethings it keeps out- and in this case, Syria, Nigeria, Kenya and other, similar non-American or non-European countries.

Maybe the Western media report more abundantly on terror attacks such as the attack in Berlin because it is much closer to home than attacks which seem to be an unpalatable hell away. Thus, to emphasize my point, the top global trend in the world- on Facebook- is Berlin,Germany. The same trend for the past 48 or so hours yet very, very rarely do terrorist's escapades (out of the west) make it not this global trends page.

How about the West become fully permeable?

Till next time-
Steph


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16 December 2016

Grandmother's Recipes


Very frequently, through out my growth from child to...well, where I am now, I have seen my grandmother deliver these oval shaped balls, dipped in honey and topped with nuts, to our house for big family get together- and then also to our 'normal' Sunday lunches. These honey glazed balls of perfection are called "Melomacarona"- a Greek desert delicacy.

Similarly, for as long as I can remember, family members have anxiously declared that "you better learn how to make these" or "you should spend some time with your grandmother so this recipe doesn't go 'down' with her". I've always taken this recipe for granted. However, over the past year or so, I've had a nagging feeling inside of me to finally capture the secrets in the dishes which have fattened me up over the years and earned my grandmother the culinary respect that she more than deserves.

Today, after nearly two decades I got the magical recipe down on paper! Maybe I should try it in a couple of weeks? Let's see if I can add 'culinary genius' to my non-existent job titles.

Till next time-
Steph
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15 December 2016

Blogmas vs Vlogmas


This whole idea of blogging everyday up until Christmas was largely inspired by 'vlogmas' that I've seen on YouTube. The idea is that YouTubers (or anyone, really) video log their day. I thought I would take that concept and bring it over to my blog. I'm declaring a fail! I'm not sure if blogging is harder than 'vlogging' but I don't think that's the case. I think I've gotten too lazy and haven't pre-planned my blog posts and admitantly, I haven't taken the care into these blog posts than I should. I'm tempted to delete these past 14 day's of blog posts. However, another part of me- the stubborn, persistent part of me- wants to see these last nine days through. My guess is that the stubborn 'me' will win. I'm gonna work on an exciting blog post for tomorrow...and the day after that...and the day after that...and the 7 days after that. Let's consider this my 'end of year revolution'.

Let's see how this goes...

Till next time-
Steph
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14 December 2016

Imagine That Kinda Love

Yesterday, I asked my grandmother how long she had been married to my grandfather. She replied "not enough time". They were married for 22 years. Today, my parents celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary.

Today, I can only imagine both these kinds of love. But, I hope that in some tomorrows to come, I get to feel this love too.

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

Instagram: @socialspying
Email: socialspying@gmail.com

I know... this hardly counts as a blog post (by my standards too!) Blogmas has been harder than I thought it would be. I'm starting to really respect journalists who publish good quality articles every day!

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13 December 2016

You Learn Something New Everyday

This past year I studied evolution...and a chapter in that segment of curriculum was 'Fossils'. Fossils are remains of an organism that no longer lives. These can come in different t forms and types- skeletal fossil, hollow fossil or a trace fossil etc.

Tonight, I was watching a National Geographic or Discovey programme. An scientist and a camera crew travelled deep into a forest and demonstrated, through science and technology, the extinction of an specific species of frog. These frogs are disappearing at such a rate that the audio would eventually become a 'audio fossil'.

I think we've all come to realize how far reaching the effects of technology are- but my mind's extent never quite meandered into fossils! I really do find this quite astounding.

I'm sure in years to come, students will be studying 'audio fossils'- and sooner than we think. Students will not only be able to see the shape of these animals...but hear them too.

Till next time-
Steph

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Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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12 December 2016

University: A Right or A Privilege?


Something came up today which inspired this thought: Should university be a right or a privilege? I'm currently in the process of putting through applications for a university start in 2017 which maybe why this topic has been traveling through my neurons for most of the day. I can't tell you what exactly inspired my thoughts- not yet anyways- but I can tell you my views on it.

Just to ensure political correctness, I'm using privilege as "an immunity granted...as an advantage or favour" and a right as "a moral or legal entitlement to have or do something". In my mind this answer doesn't seem so definitive as binary opposites- sad and happy or hot and cold- instead, it seems to be lukewarm...or a grey area.

I think that university, particularly in South Africa, has become a priviledge. Apartheid left a majority of a population unable to fund university tuition- and those people were victims whose children and grandchildren are still paying the price. It's unfair that the lack of funds prevents young, brilliant minds from flourishing and reaching maximum potential.

However, university can't be a right either. There are so many patchy navigations if this were a system. Delinquents who have no care in the world about education will be able to muck about in lectures but have a birth right to be there. Never mind the financial pressures that would face great governments- particularly third world countries who will end up footing the bill for those unable to pay- which in South Africa's case would be the majority. However, making tertiary education a right ensures that brilliant young minds are tended to, shielded from ignorance, pushed further and challenged mentally- as well as kept off the streets.

What's the answer? I can't deny that education is a right. University is possibly a privilege, currently, but should it remain that way?

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

Instagram: @socialspying
Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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11 December 2016

The Excess in Our Lives


Today, my NCIS binge-watching behind was forced to do some 'spring cleaning'- which is a major feat considering that I'm several seasons early! I went through mounds of art resources that included stale, oil multi-coloured splattered palette knives, dusty hand-marking charcoal sticks and sleek carbon pencils. In cleaning, I realized how much extra of everything I had- way more extra than I ever needed. I found that amongst all that excess, I had wasted excess; Such as 3 tubes of cherry red acrylic paint and more than 5 flat, silver palette knives (although to be fair, they all have different shaped heads).

I, myself, have over-consumed in this over-consumerist and transient society of ours- thanks Pop Art and Design- and tonight was a perfect showcase of that. I certainly could have done with 3...or 5 less tubes of paint. I could have managed perfectly mixing my own shades of caramel brown, or bronze gold by fusing every color and mushing it about. But, I didn't. I bought these artificial colours and dabbled in mixing them about. Now, with my art career at school finished, I'm left with all the remnants of my over-indulgence- and shame.

This is largely a self criticism. I'm ashamed at how I have given in to my 'wants' as opposed to my needs- and even then, 'needs' is stretching it. I've decided to make good on my consumerist ways. ''Tis the season of giving, and I plan on giving. A local stationery drive popped up at the right time- ahead of the 2017 start of the school year. I hope my pencils, markers, erasers and other, more specialized art tools inspires someone as much as the subject inspired me.

I really hope I learn to 'think before I spend' or at least look around my house for alternatives before going out and buying something, when I have a replica at home. Furthermore, I've come to acknowledge once again, my privilege. I'm so lucky to have the opportunities that I have: from having access to such art materials and having the ability to attend art lessons which offered me so much fun and cultural enrichment.

Holidays are coming up and these ones are all about giving. If you have something to give, please do, and I do mean anything- even your time.

Here's to being more cautious in my consumerism!

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

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Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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10 December 2016

An Unexpected Night Out


My uncle has been begging to give me a "culture shock" for some time now. I never really knew what this entailed but, out of curiosity, I never rejected the idea either. Some months ago, I turned 18 which means that in South Africa I am legally able to enter alcohol-providing store. Hence, my uncle's plan could be put into action. And that day came yesterday.

Yesterday, myself, my brother and uncle piled up into his large, high white 'bakkie' off for what my uncle promised to be a memorable night. The evening began with the 'Foghorn burger' at a burger joint in an area I can't say I've ever been to- and wouldn't exactly have begged to go to either. My brother ordered 'waffles on a stick'- which was an experience in itself- whilst my uncle ordered another burger with small potato chips, deep fried in oil and wrapped with bacon. The night had started off unexpectedly...I still hadn't been hit with this "cultural shock" that I'd been promised I'd face. But, this was only the first of two stops for the evening.

The night ended with my uncle, whose age is tipped towards the late forties, my brother and I dancing to electro and house music and fused with some pop in a club. The club ended up being way more tame than the clubs I have been to on 'my side of town'. I think the "culture shock" was definitely averted...and I guess my uncle is going to have to try a bit harder than his efforts last night.

If you ever get the experience, try hitting the club with a family member! Let me know how that goes!

Till next time-
Steph

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Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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9 December 2016

Personal Q&A...With A Twist

You can't hear me right now but I am currently talking to my iPad which is writing this down for me...which is the craziest thing ever but I think this could come across more naturally than typing. I think this is an interesting and fun things to do (despite the punctuation which I have to now go back and add in).  I'm really surprised at how accurate it is (for the most part). Think of me as speaking this to you and you listening to my voice through the types worked on the screen. If this is all a bit much for you on a Friday, don't worry about it. Just read on.

So this is a non-conventional blog post for me because I'm not writing any of this but I'm speaking whilst my iPad scribes for me, so excuse the blabbering and I hope you enjoy this different style.

I'm going to be doing a Q&Abut I did say in my introduction to 'Blogmas' post that I want this whole month to be a challenge. I want to be a bit more personal and challenged in the sense that I'm going to be blogging every day but more than that, also allowing myself to be a bit more personal so I thought I would do an intimate Q&A.

So here goes.

1. Who is the most important person in my life?
 I think this is answer might be a bit of a cliched one but the word 'people' instead of 'person' is more appropriate- my family. I think my sister comes to mind first. She is a really important person in my life and has been instrumental in teaching me so, so many incredible lessons and I think I will speak  about in another blog post . So, definitely my sister, she comes to mind very prominently and very promptly but then onwards from that I think I'm just my family, generally. My family is my rock (another cliche) that hold me down and make sure that I don't blow away when things get tough.

 2. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me?
I'm sure I've had a couple of these moments but I'll tell you about the first that comes to mind. In my former life,  I was a swimmer and I think I was in fifth grade. To add some context: there was a girl in the year below me with the same name as me. So, they were announcing the awards after our school's Inter-House Swimming Competition and they announced what I thought was my name. I thought it was a bit strange because I got on the same award the previous year (and was no longer eligible for it) but I didn't think too much about it. I walked up to get the award and the headmaster was like "Steph this isn't for you" so that was followed by the biggest walk of shame, crawling back to the stands then watching the other Steph get the award that I'd originally going up to receive. (Editing Steph is jumping in here: You may be wondering why the didn't announce her surname. Apparently they did. It just went over my head...which made it even more embarrassing!)

 3. Do I have any phobias?
This one is about to get real deep so be prepared. I think the my biggest phobia would probably be that I have a fear of my parents dying before I'm stable in life, before I have a family or settled financially. I have another fear (that I hope is less probable and irrational) of someone entering my my house when I'm asleep in it.

 4. Do I usually follow my head or my heart?
This is a really good question that I really liked when I first saw it when I was scouting on the web web for some questions to ask myself (because what better thing to do than talk to myself on a Friday afternoon?) I usually follow my head although may heart may say something else. I rationalize everything my my heart beats and I end up listening to my head. I think that's the rational side of me. Although, to fully disclose, sometimes I do regret my decisions and end up thinking about that decision over and over and over again. (Editing Steph here again: There are definitely pros and cons of listening to ones head but I'm working on finding a happy medium)


 5. If I find a book and realize that it is a book about my life,  would I turn the next page and read until the end?

 This is going to be the penultimate question (mostly because Friday and five are an alliteration...and I do love a good alliteration). I have asked myself this question before ( specifically in a late night WhatsApp conversation) but I think I would like to think that I wouldn't turn the page after the present moment but knowing myself I think I would read the next page...and the page after that one etc. I know that I would regret it at the end once I've read the whole book but I know I would keep reading (Oh my goodness! I've never thought about this but I would find out if anyone around me would die, and how...and then I'd just have to keep living!)

I hope you've enjoyed learning a bit about more about the girl behind this blog and I hope you've liked this different style of blogging- just the way I speak. I think that's really interesting for readers to connect with me on a different level because when I'm writing I can come up with ornate metaphors and anecdotes but now that I'm speaking it's more fast paced and I don't have the time to think through and speak eloquently or alter my natural speech which has been quite the challenge.

This blogging style is experimental (and required a lot of editing and deciphering auto correct) but what did you think about it? Iff you are up to it, please feel free to answer any other questions that I answered above, in the comments, I'd be really keen to hear your answer.

However, because I do like tradition this is the last sentence that you will 'hear' from spoken me. I'll end off like I always do- typing.

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

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Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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8 December 2016

3 Words to Success



Imagine every person in the world carrying a rucksack on their back. I imagine mine to be a shade of brown like the desert's sand with glistening gold clasps at the buckle. Yours may be different- it should be different. But, we all have a rucksack. Now, imagine inside this rucksack the contents of your life; I don't mean your favourite childhood toy or your MacBook Pro, I mean your favourite intangible memories... and your 'thing'. Each family and each individual in the world have a 'thing that they carry with them'- an alcoholic father, a sexually abusive mother or the loss of a person. We all have a 'thing' that weighs down our ruck sack just a bit.

Glenn Doman founded The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential and if it weren't for my 'thing' I wouldn't know of him. He stated that to do anything well, one must abide by these three words: intensity, frequency and duration.

Intensity:

If you want to lose weight, train for a race, do well in maths, perform well on stage or make progress in a defined area, you need to carry out this act with rigor and tenacity. I was a competitive swimmer in my 'former life' and lived by Doman's principles. I trained for my races with intense sprints fierce sets to achieve my goals in the pool. This applies to anything, do the most difficult maths sums and keep trying that extreme dance routine. Expect a level of performance from yourself- and achieve it.

Frequency:
To do well in anything, one must do it often. As much as I would love to run 5km in one day, and get fit, that is not reality. I need to maintain or exceed this same level of performance often to see results. Find something you love, and you'll have no problem doing it often.

Duration:

This one is probably the most difficult to follow through with, in my opinion. I'm guilty of being motivated at first, when pursuing a new endevour and then sizzling out as time zooms on.  The longer the duration of practice or training in an activity, will result in the ultimate fruition of hard work.

I hope you can apply these principles to many aspects of your life and see improvements or seek inspiration as they have offered me.



Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

Instagram: @socialspying
Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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7 December 2016

Wind-back Wednesday

I realize that it's not Thursday or Friday and can't blame 'Throwback Thursday' or 'Flashback Friday' for the post that is to follow, but alas, when I was on my week-long, sea-side getaway some friends and I cranked up our modern day stereo and jammed to some older tunes. Initially, a wave of mumbles and awkward sounds escaped from my mouth until I re-orientated myself to the rhythm, beat and lyrics of music lost to my ears.

Here are some Wind-back Wednesday songs which I hope you jam to loudly and proudly:

1. 2 Heads- Coleman Hall



2. Breakfast at Tiffany's- Deep Blue Something


3. Lemon Tree- Fool's Gold


4. I'm Yours-Jason Marz


5. Broken Strings- James Morrison ft. Nelly Furtado


I hope you've listened through some of these and enjoyed possibly hearing them again as much as I did.

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

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6 December 2016

My Issue with Romcoms

Have you picked up a trend in romcoms? Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I have sleuthed out the same narrative in most romantic comedies: Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl separate in Some grand fight and finally, boy and girl realize their true and undying love for one another and live happily ever after. The end.

Two films come to mind which have broken from the above, mundane and conventional narrative: The Fault in Our Stars and Me before You. Both of these movies are a success because unlike convention, boy meets girl and they don't end up together. 

I think, either consciously or subconsciously, people are starting to take relate better to reality. I've believed for a long time that romcoms have set up a false narrative that indoctrinate girls- and boys- from a young age and teach youngsters to live up to and idealize the 'perfect' romance. The 'perfect' romance doesn't exist. Romance is complicated, sloppy and disorientating- and far from the perfect lead roles depicted in the latest Hallmark films or Boxoffice hits.

I'm guilty of being indoctrinated. Lately, I've had Hallmark movies on repeat and I can't help but feel left with a hollow sadness after watching each movie- yet I keep watching. I'm starting to oppose this idealized image of love and how a relationship should play out. The little experience that I've had in the romance department- and I do mean little- I've noticed that it's not simple, easy or obvious. However, with this said, I am guilty in still watching these romcoms, almost like a puppet. As much as my thoughts are beginning to change, the little Steph who has been shown the 'perfect love-story' play out across screens throughout life is still finding difficulty to shake her need for this idealized romance. Who knows, maybe this will end up being the downfall of my future relationships-maybe not. Time will tell.

Till next time-
Steph



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You can find me here:

Instagram: @socialspying
Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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5 December 2016

Can I Go Offline?


This morning, just like every other morning before this, I wake up, roll over and stretch for the nearest app on my phone. I hate that this is the first action that I do at the break of each new day. I feel that maybe I should get up and make a cup of tea, or pull out a book or run a bath?

I've been feeling this was for a while. However, I always made excuses as to why I couldn't take a social media break. What if I need to ask a friend something about organic chemistry? What one of my school groups needs something during the holidays? I have tried, and failed, several times to completely 'cut the wire' with social media, but this disconnection only lasts for about 8 hours, maximum. School is finished, and I have no more excuses as to why my cellphone should be on. No one needs to urgently contact me on Instagram, or Facebook Messenger, and i figure that if they're good friends and want to speak to me, they'll go through the lengths of contacting me through carrier-pigeon or even my landline.

I have been asking myself, and you may be wondering what is going to make this time different from my other previous failed attempts? Well, I hate the headache I get from aimlessly swiping my fingers across my rectangular screen which seems to be a good enough reason for me. I'm very dependent on social media for my news- I love getting instant updates on the world around me through Facebook and Twitter, but this break (if I follow through) will allow me an opportunity to explore other news sources, which could do me no harm, right?

Just to further convince myself (and possibly you) as to why social media 'cut-offs' are essential, here's a list of pros and cons. You way them up, and decide for yourself.


Pros of a social media 'cut-off':

1. Become less dependent on your cellphones
2. Frees up time to venture into new activities
3. Take time out for ourselves
4. Makes you aware of which people cared to contact you or find you- which I think may surprise you.
5. Makes you less self-absorbed or absorbed in materialistic entities of society
6.Possible improvement in your mood
7. Increase in self-confidence

Cons of social media 'cut-off':

1. Miss out on the happenings of the world around you
2. Not connected to friends/family as you would like
3. Lack of instant communication with a broader community

Writing that list of cons made me realize how social media is great for connecting with others, but I need to be great at connecting with myself, too.

Hence, starting from this instance, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a thing of the past...at least up until the 28th of December. Baby steps. That amounts to 23 days offline. I won't tell friends or family, but just fade off into the unknown for a while. I'm still keeping up with Blogmas, so don't worry, you're not getting rid of me that easily.

Please, if you feel that you need it and it would be beneficial to you, then join me in my social-media-free December. We can support eachother and re-group at the end to share what we've learnt.

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

Instagram: @socialspying
Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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4 December 2016

My Hour with a Stranger


Two days ago, myself and a group of friends were geared for a night out; My personal choice of attire for the evening was black leggings with a small gold zipper which runs longitudinally on either side of my calves, a grey, striped spaghetti-strapped top which I 'borrowed' from my sister's cupboard and made to fit with the help of two safety pins and all completed with my short-medium length hair down and my face dashed with the little skill of make-up which my skill set allows- namely, bass, blush and mascara. I thought this last night would be like most other nights out at this week-long festival- I could not have been more wrong.

The night started off the same way as every other: pre-drinks at our holiday apartments before heading out to the festival. Just like every other night, I was sober and my friends weren't. Jade, a pseudonym for all purposes of anonymity, over-consumed on a transparent alcohol, which I later learned was 'Red Square Vodka'. Jade was smashed! At some point- early on in this eventful night- she was spread out on the white marble floor of our apartment's patio exclaiming how excited she was for the night ahead. Not a single hour later, as my friends and I meandered out, Jade subtly whispered "Guys, I think I should stay home." I was impressed. Jade had the sensibility to stay at home in her drunken state.

A few moments later, after walking over and propping her into bed, a mixture of green and yellow with hints of asparagus and other vegetables (indicating her vegetarian diet) spewed out of her mouth, mottling the achromatic, clean white sheets beneath her. This was only the beginning of what was to come. I raced to a neighboring flat, who just so happened to have the door ajar, and asked for some help in moving my tall, well-built friend over to the bathroom- just a few meters away from the now dis-coloured bed- as my small, lanky body could not do alone. Jade was a sight to behold. Cathy and her boyfriend James, my new acquaintances and neighbours from across the yellow, brick-layered wall helped me lift Jade and drag her to the bathroom. Her hands hung loosely at her side whilst her cheek indented the toilet seat. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead, her nose and her check, before racing down her rosy, flushed face. Just then, she vomited again- completely missing the area of the rectangular toilet bowl and vomited off to her side and onto her unaware hand. There were so many hazards around; I was sure, if Jade wasn't going to die by alcohol poisoning, it would be a death by choking or head injury.

The small space which Jade found her self: placed between the open cupboard with several shelves behind her, the porcelain bowl of the toilet in front of her and the solid, slippery marble tile beneath her left a vast array of hazards with which to injure herself. James and Cathy had left and I was alone. Jade had to be moved somewhere safer, but I found myself unable to do so. My heart began to race and I could feel myself getting hot. I had to do something. I decided to call the 'Red Frogs' - which is an organisation overlooking this particular festival, consisting of volunteers who care for drunk people, offer friendship and guidance and make pancakes for those who are hungover. I tried to open the festival's app, to get the call centre's number, but of course due to Murphy's law my app froze. I could feel the panic in me starting to rise. A wave of calm rushed over me when I remembered that by luck, just the day before, I had seen my friend whom I haven't seen in a long time- and not friends with on Facebook anymore- leave my apartment building. She was a 'Red Frog' volunteer. Hence, in a last ditch effort and a moment of panic I resorted to finding her on Facebook and using Facebook Messenger to call her. She answered and I haven never been more grateful for a person answering a call than I was in that moment.

After 10 minutes, Brave Brandon jumped to my rescue. Brandon is short with a lean, strong build and a fully shaven head. After initial introductions And some grunting and moaning- both on our part and by Jade- she was placed back on the clean side of the bed, but only for a short while. 30 seconds later, vomit of the same green-yellow fusion spewed out once again.

After securing Jade, Brandon stayed with me for an hour. We spoke about what felt like everything with some but little bouts of awkward silence. We found similarities and differences between our lives and found commonality in places and experiences which we could both relate to. We shared awkward moments of laughter, jokes and stories which had we not been strangers, we probably would not have shared with one another. It's weird, but I think I had a better time having a meaningful conversation with a complete stranger than I would have if I had gone out partying like I had intended earlier that night. Sometimes, it's funny to think about how things work out.

As the hour drew to a close, I walked Brandon to the door with full knowledge that in all likeliness, I would never see him again, and Jade would never know the man who was there for her in her time of need. I shut the door and he walked away as so much more than the two strangers we had been just one hour before.

Jade woke up the next day and I explained the whole night to her...and what a night it was indeed!

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

Instagram: @socialspying
Email: socialspying@gmail.com

Yes, yes, I realize that I have already failed at Blogmas. I missed day 3! I'm sorry about that but I did admit that this would be a challenge for me. However, I'm still not giving up and will continue as normal until 25 December.
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2 December 2016

My 'Christmas Ship'

As I write this,  I overlook the Indian Ocean with several beams of light radiating from the anchored ships at sea.  I'm on holiday with a couple of friends to celebrate our finishing of high school.  A light breeze covers my body- and gently rocks the hammock beside me as I hear the crashing and roaring of the waves just below. Life is good.

This last year has been a tough one.  Sitting here- after what feels like the calm after a very tumultuous storm- makes this past year worth it.  As the ocean draws back and flings itself forwards,  I can't help but be proud of how far I've come this year- and proud to be at the point that I'm at- with not one single deadline in sight.

Whatever point that you're at now  take a moment to sit under the stars- without technology- and reminisce at how far you've come.  Some will have taken larger steps,  and some smaller,  but few take a moment to appreciate the lengths that they have already travelled- like me.

The year is drawing to a close signified by Christmas trees and Thanksgiving dinners. Like the darkness and mystical stars which surround me signifying the end of another day,  I cannot help but marvel at the beauty which I have eluded from, this past year. School-focussness and my suburban city that ticks against the regimented concept of time hasn't offered me a moment like now.

I sit observing what my friend and I have deemed a 'Christmas Ship', an island-like mass adorned with glistening lights off in the distance with lights all along the hull- it's beautiful.  Skyfall beats out from my magenta JBL speaker (a birthday gift from my gran) and I am content.  For the first time in a long time,  I'm content.

I really wish I could bundle this moment up and send it to you in the post.  Take a moment to sit outside and appreciate life.  Even if you have to look out into the obscure darkness,  I hope you find your 'Christmas Ship'- which offers you warmth,  love and comfort- as its presence has offered me tonight.

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

Instagram: @socialspying
Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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1 December 2016

A Cheat Sheet to High School


After 12 years of rising before the sun and sleeping with the moon, I have graduated from high school. If someone came up to me at the start of grade 8 and told me how fast time would fly by (and upon reflection, I'm sure someone did) I doubt I believed them. In eighth grade, it looked like there was a moat the size of a country between the person that I was and the person that I wanted to be and it felt like I had to swim across a murky-green, non-transparent layer of filth to get to the other side. Unknowingly, of how quickly I was doing it... I got to the other side- home safe and dry, only to realize that I had to swim through the layer of muck to become that person that I so wanted to be. Here's a cliche which I hope you believe with every ounce of your being: time really does fly. For some, it may not fly just fast enough. Whichever pace you are travelling at- just keep travelling. Soon you'll find you've swam across the moat and made it out alive.

I am very fortunate to have had a lovely high school experience. I can't say I was ever bullied to the extent that I locked myself in a bathroom and ate alone (as the American drama movies suggest) but many aren't so lucky. So, I would like to give you my personal 'cheat sheet to surviving high school' in hopes that it makes that clock tick by a little bit easier, every day.

1) Be kind first then you can be less-kind later

I walked into my new high school on the first day as a bouncing-ball of optimism...which I found came across as meaning that I was a friendly and kind person. At the start of high school, I naturally adorned a bright, metal smile because I was so happy in a new environment. As high school progressed, swimming through that moat got progressively more difficult- and I lost my optimism. As time went by, I also had to face a couple of crocodiles, who snarled at me now and again. There were points where I had to stand up for myself- and my kinder self had to take a back seat. But, because I was friendly or 'nice' to begin with, I was seen as being mean...but being un-friendly with a purpose- and not because I was a malicious person. People had gotten to know a friendly, compassionate, loving Steph, so that If I did have to stand up for myself or my beliefs, I somehow could, without people thinking badly of me. I also found that on days where I had to be a little harsh, I was respected. So if you can, be kind first- and if need me, you can be less kind later.


2) Get to know the 'ground staff'

You know those people who work tirelessly in the background to ensure that we don't have litter on our school's grounds, or ensure that sports day runs (excuse the pun) smoothly, or those people who secretly, every afternoon, shifts the desks around to make space for an upcoming event? Get to know those people. By name. I knew the names of everyone in my grade, and all my teachers, yet, very few of my peers knew the names of those unsung heroes who contributed to our education, in the background. Granted I didn't know everyone's name ( not even most)- but I knew the names of the faces that I regularly 'knocked shoulders' with on my way to classes. Often, whilst switching classrooms, I got high-fives from these 'unsung heroes'. Also, as a sneaky reward of friendship, If I ever needed help moving something heavy etc, they were more than willing to help. Before my last exam, I saw Thembisa, or Thembs as I refer to him. He's part of the 'lift and shift team'- who do just that, lift and shift heavy objects around the school- and we chatted about success and failure. We ended that exchange with a high-five and good wishes for the future. Get to know those people. You'll be better for it.


3) Join a team

This one's a bit of a cliche, but alas, it's a cheat to high school which I fully believe in. I was apart of several teams through out high school- and some longer than others. It's amazing to journey on long bus drives, or feel the unity when you win a match and be able to share that with other people. I made friends with people from so many friendship groups or cliques which allowed me to befriend large types of people. If there's something that you think you'd might be interested in, go try it!



4) Be fearless

This is one which I don't think I quite perfected... but maybe you can on my behalf? It's so important to 'put yourself out there'. I mean this in the sense that I hope you overcome fears that you're not good enough, or that people won't like you or that you'll never get over something or someone, but I also mean that you should be unafraid to venture into something new- albeit it leaving a long-time friend group for your benefit, or speaking to someone who you think you'll get along with. A handy piece of advice which saw me through many moments of fear is this: "most of the people in this room, in the stands or in this hall, I'll never see again. If I mess up, it's okay. No one will remember". Remember that boy from 6 years ago who messed up on stage in front of everyone? Exactly.
I have a story of my own when it comes to this cheat; A couple years back, I was running 1,6km or a mile at a prestigious race and I stopped. Half way, without even finishing, with the most intense stitch at my abdomen I stopped. It was such an embarrassing day- and to make matters worse, it was my birthday. However, I took on the daunting race and learnt something very important that day: it's not about where you finished, but about even starting...maybe this doesn't apply to everything, but it made me feel better.




5) You don't have to drink or swear

If you don't mind, I'm going to bundle these two together. I feel very, very strongly about this one. I've done a whole other blog post on it (see here). I went through my whole school career without getting drunk or saying the 'f' word. I'm very proud of that. You don't need to swear- there are a copious amount of other words which can be used to express yourself in just the same way. Drinking to the extent that you have no idea who you are is never a good idea. The world is a scary place as it is- and it gets scarier at night- when most drunkenness tends to occur. Not everyone out there has good intentions- just remember that. It's better sometimes to compromise on the alcohol to optimize on your safety and well-being.

 


6) You know that crush that you think you'll never get over? 99% of you will

I have a theory: people always carry a '1%' for their first crush/ first love. I know of so many people who have had a crush on a person who they think doesn't know that they exist, or someone that they had a brief fling with back in eighth grade, yet they still carry a soft, mushy place for them in their heart. I'm guilty of this too. It took me several years- and I do mean several- to get over a guy I liked in eighth grade-- who only spoke to me for a total of four months...total. Yet, little eighth grader Steph was hooked! As high school progressed- much to my relief- 99% of me got over him, but he'll always be my 1%. Here's a sneaky bonus piece of advice: If you can, don't fight your feeling ( like I did) and don't try to convince yourself that you're over him/her (when you're clearly not- although you think you are) like I did. Give yourself the time that you need. I should have. 


7) Find yourself a trusty pair of ears

Hear me out on this one: school gets rough. Remember that metaphorical moat I spoke about at the beginning? Well, if it's not the crocodiles preying on you, there are other turbulent waves (yes, I realize there are no waves in a moat...but for all purposes of a metaphor, this moat has waves). After a strenuous day, a tough conversation, a bad race or a slip in the mud, we all need a pair of ears to listen to us. This person may change through out your school career- like mine did- but it's so, so important to have a person who you can share things with- be it a teacher, a friend, a parent or even a shop keeper (I don't personally recommend your Facebook timeline or your Instagram captions).


There are so many other tips which I could give you to help navigating high school a bit better- but I think these are a pretty good start. As much as I hope that these help, I also hope that you make mistakes. It's essential that you're challenged in different situations to be better prepared for life and learn things for yourself.

If you have any tips which you've learnt through your experiences at school, I would love to know about them! Please do drop me a comment so that others can benefit from your wise self.

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

Instagram: @socialspying
Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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30 November 2016

Blogmas 2016

Ho ho ho it's nearly Christmas!

I've been MIA (missing in action) due to exams, but I'm back- and hopefully stronger than ever.
I've watched Youtubers do 'vlogmas' every year and decided that I would do 'blogmas' this year.

So, to make up for a lack of blog posts for what feels like the last 6 months, I'll be blogging every day up until Christmas!

Each post won't necessarily have a Christmas element to it- to cater for a multi-religious audience. I'd also like to set a personal challenge of being more open on this blog. Some days will get tough; I'm afraid that I won't be able to conceal 'writers block' or not be able to communicate my ideas as eloquently as I'd like to, but I need to challenge myself.

Be sure to check in daily, from tomorrow, for new content.

Till next time-
Steph

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You can find me here:

Instagram: @socialspying
Email: socialspying@gmail.com

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14 October 2016

Exam Takeover

People always say to 'write about what you know'. As of this moment, I could tell you all about the hormones which are secreted by the anterior pituitary gland through releasing factors. If that doesn't please you, I could tell you how  'Fleming's left hand motor rule' could help your electromagnetism or maybe how you could work out your monthly payments (with two interest changes) on a future value annuity, if you'd prefer. In case it's unclear... I've been studying for my exams.

The South African system of schooling is a bit different from European systems in that we finish our school year in December... which also means exam time. These upcoming exams not only signal the end of my 2016 academic year, but also the end of my high school career.  These exams are fundamentally the culmination of 12 years of sitting in a classroom.

My creative juices are slowing down to a trickle, hence, I'll be taking a break from blogging.

I'll re-surface at the end of November (Side note: As I wrote that sentence, my brain just re-routed through the difference between a dash and a hyphen... that's when I know that I'm in study mode).

Till then-
Steph
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25 September 2016

Interviewing Student Protesters

Towards the end of 2015, mass protest plagued through South Africa. These protests were lead by the country's youth- specifically students studying at university level. These protests began peacefully and with a common goal in mind- lowered university fees, however, after not too long, every university in the country took their anger to the streets, with the result of rubber bullets being fired at protesting students.

This nation-wide debacle began at a university in Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand, or Wits. In 2010, it was found that 20% of South Africans fell below the poverty line, with the expectation for that statistic to rise. Many students battle to find the money to get to university, never mind the fees involved in staying at that university. Last year, local universities announced a fee increase off 10.5% for the following year (2016), despite a 6% raise in the inflation rate, for that year.

Towards the end of October, about a week or so after universities returned to a somewhat-sense of normality, I ventured out to Wits to speak to the students. I wanted to understand, directly from them, why they were-or weren't- getting involved in the protests and what inspired their decision.

Students helped me to understand that their protests were fueled from initial protests on outsourcing. Cleaners, gardeners and other manual laborers were employed by a parent company, who were then hired by the universities. The staff wanted to be employed directly by the universities- which is accompanied with better benefits. Their dissatisfaction fueled mass-gatherings, which eventually started a chain reaction when the students were dissatisfied. The movement became known as Fees Must Fall.



The first individuals that I spoke to are pictured below, in front of 'The Great Hall'. The lady on the left illustrated to me that she was instrumental in the movement, and actually led many of the protests. When they spoke to me, it really helped me to understand their fight. For the first time, this movement had faces and names with whom I could identify. 

I got into my car that afternoon and turned the radio on- like always. I caught the middle of the 5 o'clock news bulletin which stated that a protest had just erupted at a neighboring university- the University of Johannesburg.  Honestly, without much thought I was steering towards the protest- quite unwittingly to be honest. I was determined to get their stories.

Driving up to the embankment where the protests were, I first took notice of the massive tank-like police vehicles that lined the streets. Immediately, I was filled with a sense of unease. Crowds of police were present. Police were protected by bullet proof vests and shield. Their presence silently raised the tempo by a few notches. If things were to take a turn, I somehow doubted my grey-knitted jersey would protect me I would not be safe. However, by this point any wit inside me was long gone. I was getting what I came for- these people's stories.

Built into the African culture is song. The rhythm and melodies of old tribal beats remain indented into South African's lives. This is evident if one looks back at Apartheid struggle song and at this protest. For the past few weeks, I had heard news reports of violent gatherings. This was not that. People with a common goal of being heard and addressed to, were gathering and had turn to the one thing which has always been there- song.










This events took place almost a year ago. The conclusion was a 0% fee increase for 2016 fees. However, this has proved to be a problem. Nearly one year later, university students have once again broken out in protest- with an increasing theme of violence. The protest, which prevented students from entering their universities, began for the same reason-the announcement of 2017 fee increases.  

During one interview, last year, a student had said that "If this should happen again, let it" and that is exactly what South Africans are seeing now.

I am unsure of where the latest talks between students and government will go, but for how long can there be no fee increases?  Universities are institutions which are dependent on million of rands each year to maintain facilities.These funds have to come from somewhere. But what does a country do when its people have the right to education despite the funds to afford it? South Africa's minister of higher education has called for the closing of all public, tertiary institutions for one year. In my opinion, the aforementioned is a disastrous ideas with long-term, calamitous effect for the current youth and the youth as adults. In my eyes, a solution could be to clamp down on South Africa's corruption at the highest level- the presidency and the government. If even a third of what our 'leaders' have stolen were put into education, Fees Must Fall would not be a problem. 

In situation like these, it is important to note that each perspective has a valid argument. The issue arises in creating a long-term solution, which is in accordance with the needs of each side.

Till next time-
Steph


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