14 December, 2013

A child's eye-view

The other day my sister showed me a 3-minute TED talk on 30-day challenges, i.e. undertaking something new, exciting, tough (and so on) for thirty days. Something you've always wanted to do but ‘never had the time’, or been too afraid, or whatever other excuse you can come up with. Well, this week marks the start of the first of (hopefully) many 30-day challenges for me.

Challenge 1: take a picture a day and blog about it. By the end, I hope to have 30 precious, unique memories that of the next month of my life. 30 days, 30 pictures, 30 memories
Here’s picture number one:

A child’s eye view

For the past two days I've been re-cataloging a children’s library, moving books from shelf to shelf (I have the aching arms and feet to prove it), getting my hands black with about 20-years’ worth of dust and making a complete mess of the library! I never in my life imagined I’d be a librarian but, starting in January, I’ll be the new librarian at a local primary school here in Zim. I vacillate between “yay, this is so exciting!!” and “yikes! I haven’t the foggiest idea what I’m doing!!” I have ideas and plans, this vision of what I would love the library to be and look like. But I’m not really a visionary type of person and I feel like I’m bumbling through a forest of chaotic pages, scary Dewey decimal codes, cardboard spines, so many words and way too much dust. And the dust knows more than I do. 

But I’m a complete nerd and I love books. I want to make books as magical and life-saving for the kids of this primary school as they have been (and are) for me.

At the library this week, one of my hardest, most painful challenge was moving six metal shelves a little lower down on the rack so that children can (try to) read the titles of the books on the top shelf (hence the photo). The shelves were heavy, my arms were tired, and I was making an awful racket dropping those silly shelves. Each time I dropped one I’d climb down off my chair, pick up the dang thing and say something to the effect of:

“Why the heck am I doing this? I’m hot, I’m tired, I want a cup of tea and this shelf is just not fitting back into the holes I got it out of in the first place. Is putting it one handwidth lower really going to make any difference??”

Well, maybe one hand width won’t be noticeable, and maybe the kids still won’t really be able to read the titles of the books on top shelf. But all the little, dirty, painful, time-consuming (and I must admit, exciting) things I’ve been doing are important. I'm building something big out of many small parts and getting to know the little parts of that something as I build (I wonder if God felt/feels like this when He makes a new baby). I now know that the library’s greatest contributor is Enid Blighton, that there are more bird books than other animals, that the picture books section is where I want to start reading when I get a free moment (followed closely by the children’s poetry section), and that even ballet gets its own dictionary. (I’m sure, as a children’s librarian, reading all these books is part of my job description.)

So I'll keep moving those shelves, shuffling those books around, making signs and trying to look at things from a child's point of view. I'm sure I'm making loads of mistakes, but hey, that's how you learn, right?

02 November, 2013

A 50c Packet of Chips

Going to the shops here in Zim is like entering a battlefield.

You drive into the parking lot and join the other cars, circling like vultures, ready to swoop on any available space. There! You swerve and squeeze in quickly, avoiding eye-contact with the lady ahead of you who was scoping out that space too.

Ok, now, maybe if you keep your head down, don't look up, they won't see you, they'll leave you alone.
You peek up through the windshield. Dang it. Spotted.
Who are you kidding; they all made a missile-like beeline for your car the moment you pulled into your lucky space. They're hovering outside your window - no ways they'd pass up this opportunity to accost a white face and her supposedly bulging wallet. (Why do they assume you have money to waste on an umbrella fly-net, some windshield wipers and a pack of AA batteries??)
You take your time, hoping they'll go away - you undo your seat-belt, put the window up very slowly, pull up the handbrake, hide your bag of books under the seat, stick your handbag over your shoulder, check your face in the rear-view mirror...
Dang. They aren't going anywhere.
Ah well, here goes.
You open the door, armed with a smile and ready to make a dash through any available gaps. The security guard is the first to demand attention with a "yes, hello madame!"
You hate being called madame; you're not married and most of the time you're young enough to be the speaker's daughter or granddaughter. Or at least their peer.
You already have a line for the guard; "I'll just be five minutes, don't worry about watching my car." Translation: Don't bother with me, I'm not giving you a tip.
He skulks away. One down...
"Maid's uniforms, madame," a lady waves them in your face.
"Peaches and naartjiis, madame" a man thrusts a box of colourful fruit under your nose.
"No, thank you!" you shake your head to them both. The woman walks away with a humpph, making you feel bad for not buying something from her that you don't need, with money you don't have to spare. The man is more persistent and he trails you as you disengage yourself from the sea of cars.
"Good price, madame, cheap, cheap!"
"No, thank you."
You turn away, keep walking, keep smiling. Resist the urge to flee.
Another man approaches and pushes a laminated paper at you, grinning ever-so-sweetly. You groan inwardly.  On comes more guilt.
"Sorry, not today," you say to him. He gives you a thumbs-up and a disappointed nod.
You don't even look at the paper; you know what it says. Or the gist of what it says: that he's deaf, doesn't have a job, has been officially certified not to work, needs some help to get a small business going ...etc etc. That man, or his prototype, has been around for years. You remember him from when you were in high school and came shopping here with your mum.

You're almost at the shop entrance! Almost free...
"One dollar please, madame."
Ah...the biggest arrow of guilt. A little boy looks up at you with big, sad eyes (you wonder if they practice that sad look in the mirror) and his hands out.
"No, my boy," you say.
"Hungry, madame."
You tell yourself its ok not to give him something - who knows what he'll spend the money on, he could be buying glue to sniff. Or maybe someone takes the money from him and he doesn't get any of it himself. It happens - older street-kid bullies, or family members. Still, you feel heavy with guilt as you finally duck into the store, sheltered for a moment from the onslaught of people in need.

You buy your 70c gum and a 50c packet of chips.
The little boy is hanging on the trolleys outside as you come out.
"Want some chips?" you say and hand him the packet. He grins like gold and claps his hands in thanks. Instead of the relief, you feel more guilt. All it took was a stupid, little packet of chips make him so happy.

You stride quickly to your car, keys at the ready (the security guard is nowhere in sight), hoping for a quick getaway. A man with packets of unshelled-peanuts and some oranges jumps into your path.
"Peanuts, M - "
"No, thank you!" you cut him off, crisp and cool.
Enough! Enough of the guilt!
You think about the little boy and his 50c packet of chips. You dive into the car and take a deep breath.
Gosh, what a dumb world.

27 August, 2013

Alien at home; a quest for citizenship

There’s nothing like stomping all over town, being sent back and forth between the Immigration office, the national ID office and the Passport office (each a 20 minute walk from the other… great planning there, Zim government) with no results, to make you feel hopeless.

 So much for Civil Service.

 As my dad says, “It’s neither civil, nor serving”: efficiency is non-existent and nobody seems to want to do their job. They make you feel guilty for bothering their busy day with work. Work, of all things!

According to the new Zimbabwean constitution, we can finally apply for dual citizenship as Zimbabwe-born residents. My brother and I decided to give it a try. I think we were in denial of what we were really up against.

We got up at 4.30am to join the queue of people waiting for their birth certificates and national IDs outside Market Square (crnr Bank St. and Mbuya Nehanda). As soon as we joined the back of the line we were swarmed by several young guys (in varying stages of soberness) asking if we wanted ‘help’. “I have you a nice spot at the front, my sister,” said one man.
“No thanks, I’ll wait in line,” I said.
"Good price, my sister."
They left, seeing there was no money to be made out of the two murungus. One young guy though, he looked about 15 years old, was persistent.
 “Nice spot for you, my friend, no waiting.”
He got pulled away by two older drunk guys and they started arguing. The whole line of queuers turned to watch. The drunk guys whacked him in the face and left. The teen came back, ranting at the rest of us in Shona about not feeling any pain, about what idiots those men had been. I'm not sure what I would have done if they'd started actually beating him up. It's a sobering thought at 5 in the morning.

As the sun came up, the men disappeared and a policeman came walking down the line, shouting in Shona that no line-shifting was allowed. Where was he 3 hours ago?

Just before 8am the gates opened and they split us into two lines – one for birth certificates, one for national IDs. I was surprised at their organization. They filed us all in and as Josh and I neared the front and showed them our paperwork, the young man told us we were in the wrong place (this after 3 hours of queuing in the cold) and had to go to “Makombe House, room 100” for a letter of permission to get the status on our IDs changed from “alien” to “citizen”.

Makombe. The dreaded passport office. You can queue for days without any results.

On our way to Makombe we decided to try Linquenda House, the immigration office, where Josh had been told he could apply for citizenship. After talking to someone 'upstairs' and running around to make copies of our papers to leave with him, he told us he was too busy to get to it today, and to come back on Friday. We traipsed off to Makombe.
It was as chaotic as I’d expected; crowds of people everywhere, outside and in, lines forming down each body-crammed corridor, people jam-packed and trying to squeeze around each other, tattered paper signs on the walls. An accurate reflection of the true state of this country.

We eventually found room 100 and joined the little crowd waiting to get inside. The harassed-looking, unsmiling young lady at the desk looked at us through bleary eyes as we explained our situation.
“Go to Mrs Chivore,” she said, “room 89. She can answer your questions.”
We squeezed and pushed our way to room 89.

Mrs. Chivore turned out to be an impressive, imposing woman who had the air of a headmistress waiting to see errant children. She worked in the Inquiries Office and was in high demand. We waited in line again.

When we showed her our paperwork and explained our situation, she looked confused.
“No. You must go to Market Square,” she said.
“But we were just there and they sent us to you!”
“Well, they do this sort of thing every day.”
“Can we get a letter from you saying that we have permission to do this?”
“No no, you don’t need a letter. Just ask for the supervisor.”

Josh and I pushed our way through to the outside of the building and tramped back to Market Square. I tracked down the startled young man from the gate.
“We were here at 5am this morning and you sent us to Makombe. They said they don’t need to give us a letter, you do this sort of thing every day. Can we get it done, please.”

He scrambled away to call his supervisor.

Josh and I were made to sit outside a large office for 10 minutes while the young man held our IDs, birth certificates and passports captive. When he finally called us in we realized that we were talking to the big cheese of Market Square. He had a spacious office, private and quite, nothing like the mayhem of our lives outside. There was a Zim flag hanging behind his desk and a picture of Comrade President Robert Mugabe on the wall.

My heart tried to beat its way up my throat and out my mouth.

 “You are not permanent residents of this country so you cannot get your citizen ID,” said the big cheese.

Frantic thoughts bounced around my head. What?! Of course we’re residents! …oh no; they’re going to tell us we aren’t residents and take away our right to live here! 

"Where do you live?” he asked.
“In Meighbelreign.”

I imagined him calling the police, and them shouting at us and telling us we had one day to leave the country because we didn’t belong here. I imagined having to say goodbye yet again to my family, to my dreams of finally living at home.
Josh was more level-headed and explained what we’d gone through to get to him.
Big Cheese kept talking and flipping through our passports, pointing to our re-entry visas from the past 5 years.
“You see," he said, "in 2005, you had permanent residency,” he pointed to a tiny scribble under one of our re-entry visa stamps (the stamps that say “ZIMBABWE RESIDENTS RE-ENTRY PERMIT”….ahem) where someone had used their blue, Eversharp pen to scrawl ‘permanent residence.’ in barely-legible writing.
“You need Immigration to endorse you as permanent residents, then you can come back to me and we’ll give you your ID.”

Ah. I breathed. No deporting.

“You see,” he went on, “the new Constitution has not been passed on to the administration yet. It is awaiting a ruling by parliament before it goes into effect.”

So, he was just stalling.

We thanked him, took our passports, Alien IDs, birth certificates and left.
I was tempted to pull my blue, Eversharp pen from my bag and scribble ‘permanent residence’ in my passport and go back to him. But that might be pushing our luck.

Truth is, the whole country is stalling. Legally, constitutionally, they are required to give us our Zimbabwe passports, to recognize us as citizens by birth. But the ‘law’ is easy to get around, easy to re-write. And they are doing everything they can to throw obstacles in our path.

The civil service may be woefully inefficient but they are well united in their efforts to keep us from dual citizenship. If we press to hard, will they simply throw us in jail?

Welcome home, alien.

31 July, 2013

Election Day

It's election day today - the first Presidential (and Parliamentary) elections since Zimbabwe's coalition government was formed in 2009, the first elections since the violence and devastation of 2008.

I arrived back home a week ago to a country that seems normal, that seems peaceful and happy. But there's a strange undercurrent of below-the-surface-fear.

Mom and I were driving through town the other day and had stopped in the middle of a typical intersection, one with the usual crowded cacophony of cars and people; combis wedged into every possible space in between cars, Buddie (phone card) sellers, newspaper sellers and guys selling car phone chargers, elections stickers, flags and belts all standing in the middle of the road, in the midst of the cars. Women walking with bundles on their heads or wearing heels and a business suit, out on lunch break.
We heard the sound of sirens approaching from somewhere in front of us and a motorcycle zipped past on our right, followed by four more, all with their sirens screaming. The President was coming. The light ahead turned green but nobody moved; all cars and people were still and waiting, faces carefully neutral.
After the motorbikes came the police-cars and in the middle of the entourage was the black car with flags, protected by an army truck behind and an army truck in front, both filled with soldiers, their guns trained out at the rest of us. Then came more motorbikes and lastly, an ambulance.
The street breathed again.
People moved, kept walking, avoided eye contact and didn't joke or smile. Cars drove onwards and the strange silence was covered up with growing talk.

That's the feeling on the streets; people are quiet and worried. Though campaigning has been "mostly peaceful, with few reports of intimidation" (according to the BBC), the fear is of a different kind. 

I was chatting with a friend who said that a couple weeks ago, in a suburb just outside the city, government men came in and rounded up the people. Every person had their picture taken. Then the men left. No one was told what the pictures were for, when they would be used or who had ordered them.

"At least when they're beating you , you know exactly what it's about. But this...you don't know what they could do," my friend said.

People are afraid because we don't know what to fear. We don't know what will happen

At the moment, there's nothing we can do but wait. We're going on about our lives as usual - I have a kitchen tea to prepare for and (eventually) a job to find. But at the back of our minds are questions: Do we hope for a "New Zimbabwe"? Do we fear for our safety? Will anything change at all?

As a friend said this morning, heading to the polling station in town to vote, "we'll know in five days". We hope. 

04 July, 2013

Bucket-loads of treasure

I hope I'm as cool as my grandparents when I get to their age.

I'm staying with Granny and Grampa Dietsch, in New Jersey for a week and this morning, Grampa was writing an email to a man called Charles in Papua New Guinea.

"I wish he'd write in English," he said, "my Pidgin is a little rusty."

It's been a few decades since Grampa's had to use it.

I asked Grampa about how he and Granny got to Papua New Guinea.

"Well, let's see, this must have been 1950 or 51. I was about twenty three and I was heading to Manus (a small Island in Papau New Guinea) with Liebenzel. But before I left, I made sure to propose - Hilda was only nineteen so we had to wait another year until she could marry me. And Liebenzel wanted you to be in the mission field for two years before you got married but there was no place for her to stay on the island by herself. So I left and a year later, Hilda came over and we got married. She took a plane to Australia, then a ship out to the island. We had to delay the wedding by a two weeks, though, because there was this sailor that died in a car accident and I had to do the funeral.
I remember a team of Australian cricketers stood at the door of the church building, more like a hut, and watched. They wouldn't come inside because they were Catholic.
And then (he chuckles here) I got malaria that night and your Granny spent the first week of marriage nursing me!"

Granny called us in for breakfast and after we'd eaten our toast and boiled eggs, Granny and Grampa Dietsch read the Moravian Devotional and prayed together. It's a part of their morning routine - Grampa reads the German and Granny reads the English. Yesterday, they got into a discussion about the finicky German articles -di -da -das and so forth. Apparently Granny is better at knowing which one to use.

"You just grown up hearing what the right one is," she said.

Then it was the roots of German names. Dietsch comes from Deutsche (as in Deutschland) and Faustel (my great-grandmother's name) comes from the word "faust" meaning "fist".

"So, Faustel mean's 'little fist'", Grampa said, "oh but my grandmother had a big fist."
He chuckled.
"She loved the comic book, The Phantom, and read it to us kids there, but she couldn't read English so she just made the story up from the pictures. And, if the phone rang she'd pick it up and shout, 'Hello!? Nobody home!' and hang up."

At this point in the story, Grampa's giggling so hard he has to take his glasses off and wipe his eyes.

Grandparents hold a bucket-load of treasures. 

15 June, 2013

Peace, Salem

It’s funny how you only start to truly appreciate something (someone, a place) when you are about to leave it. You manage to overlook all its faults, the things you found infuriating just a few months ago. (Like the fact that nine months out of the year this place is so cold your extremities are in constant pain and you miss the sun so much you forget what it’s like to be hot. But that’s beside the point, for now.)

One thing I’m going to miss about Northeast America is its oozing-character towns where anything goes. God bless America, land of free (as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s) self-expression.

Each time I’ve come into the city of Salem – and I regret it hasn't been too often – I’ve wished I lived here. If I was going to settle in this this part of the country, it would be in Salem. The place has so much character; it’s overcrowded with delicious unexpectedness.  

I rode my bike in through Beverly this morning and what a contrast! You go from neat, family-filled Beverly, all kids in prams and dogs walked on beaches and in parks, to Salem; a place with ship shops and advertised "tarot readings by Shirley upstairs" and people with Eastern-European accents listening to pink ipods in hipster cafes. The bubbled redbrick sidewalk starts just as you leave Beverly and you ride over a giant-bellied bridge over the harbor. Driving in a car, you miss the beauty, it’s over too quickly; you don’t see the gold sparkles on dull green water, the shirtless Asian men catching fish off the edge of the pier, the sea going far on the other side. And when you reach Salem there are girls in carpet-patterned skirts and tights, a group of children in tie-dyed shirts climbing over the Pickering Wharf rocks, a bright-costumed troupe of people standing in the gazebo in the park, dressed like characters out of a pirate animation movie. Everyone has an iced-something attached to their arm – this is America, after all, and a hand is incomplete without a paper-or-plastic-cupped drink in it.

I think some of what I like about Salem is that it doesn’t apologize for its differences. Here, you can be different, you can be imperfect – wearing thrift-store clothes, or talking to yourself, or old and listening to music on an ipod as you shuffle along, or young and a little on the pudgy side but in bright, tight clothes – and still be normal. Beautiful.

Part of that might have something to do with Salem’s history. Its first white settlers named it Salem from “Shalom” (peace in Hebrew), a lovely name for the fishing, farming village. Now, however, it is most famous for the terrible Salem witch trials of the 17th century. Tourists that visit can see a dramatic reenactment of the first of those trials, the trial of Becky Bishop, in a play called Cry Innocent. I am ashamed to say I’ve never seen it, doubly ashamed because it was written by one of my all-time favourite professors, Mark Stevick, once described by an unnamed source as a cross between Dr. House and Jack Black.

Salem was also a key maritime trade point (hurrah for ship-building and codfish), is apparently the birthplace of the U.S. coastguard and (definitely) the birthplace of novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne (Scarlet Letter, anyone?). The city was also devastated by a terrible fire in 1914 which destroyed 400 buildings. There's your brief history lesson.

And here I sit in Salem. 
I'm drinking my green tea bubble smoothie from Jaho's Coffee, all this history beneath my bum, the largest wooden, Coast Guard-certified, New England sailing vehicle (in about a century) just outside the door. 

God bless America.  

13 March, 2013

An elephant's funeral

What do you wear to an American funeral, at a high Anglican church, in cold New England? I thought black was a safe bet: black dress, black tights black boots. And a grey-blue scarf. I briefly wondered if the scarf was too much. Then I rolled my eyes - oh please! This was for Dr. Lumsdaine.  His trademarks were untucked shirts and skewed ties, chalk-handprints on his trousers, messy hair and mis-matched socks. I don't think he'd care about my scarf.

I'm going to miss him.

Dr. Lumsdaine (Dr. D), was my old politics professor and he passed away after a sudden heart attack last week. He was 64 and his unexpected death left our college community shaken. Dr. D was an intellectual giant, a genius, I think and an extremely humble man who devoted his life to his students. He'd give out his phone number and say, "call me anytime of day or night", and he constantly prayed with students. He'd start his sentences with a nasal "eerrr....yyeeeaaaah" and his sentences with, "now the answer to this question may very well be no, or it may be yes, or it may be, 'You're crazy, Dr. D, to even think this' - which are all  ok...but..."

He was also disorganized and came late to class. He'd pull of quirky maneuvers in the classroom, (pretending to get livid and walking out just to make a point, or, when he slipped a disc in his back, he would teach from a kneeling position, or lying across the window sill) and conducted his office hours in the cafeteria (better access to students, he said). He was a little socially inappropriate. It was hard to have a conversation with him and sometimes he made loud, offensive comments in the wrong places.
Students loved him for it.

Dr. D was a man of simple touch (a hand on your shoulder) and moments of (often awkward) silence. I imagine him in heaven now, sitting with Jesus, staring with his big, watery eyes at the Lord's face. This time, there's a hand on Dr. D's shoulder and they're both smiling and silent. No awkwardness. No words necessary.

His death and funeral (we spent two hours bouncing up and down - sitting, standing, kneeling - through the hymns, prayers, communion, dedications, blessings, a homily, and a benediction. We all spoke in hushed tones when making the rounds at the after-service reception, not very Dr. D-like at all) reminded me of a funeral I saw six months ago in Zim.

We were camping in Hwange National Park and on one particular game drive we saw 100 elephants (so several herds) standing still and quiet at a watering hole. Strange. There was no splashing, no angry grunts, no playing young, no dust-throwing. Just the occasional flap of ears, or shifting of feet.They stood gathered in gray, silent groups around or in the water. Every now and then a herd would leave silently and slowly, soon replaced by a new, silent herd that lumbered forward from the dusty distance or the line of trees.
Very strange.

Then we noticed a small lump behind an anthill a short distance from the water. A small elephant body on the ground. That was why the elephants were silent - they were respecting the loss of someone's baby.
But the elephants didn't look or move in its direction, didn't acknowledge it as they walked by (not unlike my silent walk passed Dr. D's coffin on my way to the front of the church for communion). I wondered what secret communication was taking place - how was news of the death being sent through the bush? What low mourning was being rumbled at a frequency indistinguishable to my human ears?

After some time, a female moved towards the body. She approached slowly, stopping near it and swaying. She began stroking it with her trunk, nudging its ears with her feet. Four and then seven more elephants joined her, caressing, nudging, lifting it's ears and forming a wall around the body. Then in ones and twos, this farewell committee turned around and and continued on their way, slowly and steadily trudging off.

The herds around the water began to stir. Someone splashed. A few started blowing and grunting. More herds arrived, others left. Noise and movement returned.
The funeral was over.

05 January, 2013

Lessons from an Oxford bridesmaid

Oxford is a fascinating place, especially over Christmas. Mulled wine and mince pies are everywhere; homes, churches, street corners, cafes and pubs. Glorious! Less glorious, and just as common, is the rain. Locals stroll through it like it's a warm, sunny day, while us foreigners dash hunched and bent from doorway to doorway, nipping into the first pound-store we see to buy umbrellas. We consistently managed to forget our umbrellas when we left the house in the morning; it wasn't raining then. Silly us.
Oxford's homeless people have pet dogs, Oxford's buildings manage to look both ancient and intellectual, and Oxford's giant buses patiently compete with pedestrians for space on the tiny roads. Oh, and people of all ages ride bicycles in all weather through streets, cobbled alleys and fields at all times of the day and night.
Anyone want to give me a job in Oxford?

As fascinating as these things were however, the strangest and most delightful thing I saw in Oxford was not the mulled wine or the giant buses or even the rain-impervious, bike-wielding locals. It was the silver ring on my brother's finger.

Twin brother, married. Weird.

Josh's wedding is one of the few British weddings that included ululating and lobola (bride price). The bride's family is probably grateful there were only about 15 of us Africans present, who knows what mischief we could have gotten up to if our numbers had been higher!

As a bridesmaid in the wedding I had important, behind-the-scenes access to what went on and I came away with a host of highly useful tips. I thought I'd share a few of the things I learnt:

1. Smiling all day gives you a headache at night. Pace yourself.
2. Doing your own "button-holes" (corsages) and bouquets cheaper and can be conveniently learnt from your local library flower-arranging book. Or from online printouts.
3. The secret to a professional-looking French manicure is cotton ear-buds and a little nail-polish remover.
4. You should always check if a bride's dress covers her shoes before scrubbing the bottom of them (so that the congregation can't see the scuff marks when she kneels).
5. White fluff (the kind that comes from a bridesmaid's cardigan) can be removed from a black suit (the kind that the groom wears) using rolled up cello-tape. Or a lint roller if you're lucky enough to bump into a well-organized and kind hotel guest.

More importantly though, I learnt that a marriage involves the joining of two old families and the creation of one new family; it's not just the joining of two people. This family-joining and family-creation takes hard work, a bit of pain and a lot of love.