Things I have done

Created Friday, 3 September 1999
Updated Wednesday, 1 August 2007

I've been going through one of those lifetime crises when I think "eep - I'm almost thirty years old and I have no job, no life partner, no medical insurance, no pension plan, no children, no parents - where have the years gone?" My sisters have often told me that turning thirty is the time when a woman starts thinking about what she has not done in her life, all the time that has been wasted and opportunities that have been missed.

Well, when I thought about it, I had a realisation! While I've been living my life, it has seemed to be just a normal, day-to-day existence. But when I think about the things I have done, I realise that I have had a really exciting time. I suspect that this is the case for most of us, if we really stop to think about it. And since I had this realisation, I have approached life differently - I grab it with both hands, savour every experience.

I know that I am lucky in that I have had a lot of opportunities open up for me, especially opportunities for travel, but I also believe in making my own opportunities.

This is a list of things I have done. Some of the things in the list are exciting, some unusual, some commonplace, some embarrassing and some silly. Some inspire pride, some inspire sadness, some make me laugh to remember them. This list, of course, is not complete - there are things too private, too inconsequential, too boring, too embarrassing, etc. to add. But I will be adding more items as I think of them. They appear in no particular order - if anything, I consciously scramble the different types and eras of the experiences.

When practicing the Present Perfect Tense with my English students in Chile, I played a game. We talked about four things we have done in our lives, including one lie. The others had to guess the lie. I've included one lie in the lengthy list below - can you guess which it is? (The rest is all true, I promise - although I may have glamourised one or two items, just a tad ;-) )

Update 24 June 2002: Well, I now have both a job and a medical plan, and I am pleased to report that, not yet thirty, I seem to be over the early midlife crisis which had me in its grips for more than two years. Still adding to this list...

Update 21 October 2004: Okay, now I have a job (still / again / whatever), but once again no medical plan or pension. And I'm living away from friends and family yet again. Still adding to this list...

  • I have walked alone, at night, through the ruins of Machu Picchu.
  • I have floated through the canals of Venice in a slow-moving gondola.
  • I have watched calves being born, and stroked their wet heads minutes after birth - in one case, even before it was completely out of the birth canal.
  • I have held in my hands the leather sandals made by Mahatma Gandhi for General Jan Smuts while he (Gandhi) was imprisoned in South Africa.
  • I have moved across the world for love.
  • I have eaten roast beef and Yorkshire pudding in a 650-year-old English Inn.
  • I have seen the unforgettable Victoria Falls (justifiably known as Mosi-oa-tunya (The Smoke that Thunders) in the indigenous tongue).
  • I have walked all the way to the top of Table Mountain - and down again :-) Many times.
  • I have had the memorable experience of sailing in Algoa Bay, in the Indian Ocean, and being intercepted by a pod of leaping dolphin.
  • I have been hit in the eye by a snowflake on Christmas morning.
  • I have carried the coffins of both my parents.
  • I have stroked a kangaroo joey's head while she was still inside her mother's pouch (don't worry - the mother was handreared and accustomed to humans).
  • I have kissed the Blarney Stone - can you tell?
  • I have slept on the water - in a sailboat moored in a cove, with my lover by my side.
  • I have been attacked by a mad cow - don't laugh - it's scary AND sore!
  • I have made love (no casual shag this!) in a volcano crater.
  • I have crawled around the foundations of an old house.
  • I have been been to a height of 4,600 metres above sea level, in the Andes, and swum in thermal waters close to that height.
  • I have seen the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, in Paris' Louvre.
  • I have listened to Nelson Mandela's first public words after 27 years of imprisonment, as a very inexperienced and overwhelmed crowd marshall amongst an estimated 80,000 to 150,000 people.
  • I have walked alone, at night, through Cape Town's desolate District Six.
  • I have touched a koala bear and stroked a kangaroo.
  • I have seen the Eiffel Tower, lit up at night in the City of Light.
  • I have walked away from a job and into unemployment (or, as I like to call it, freelance writing, lol) - some things are just not worth the money.
  • I have worked in a trust company, a museum, a language institute, a university, a home for people with disabilities, a consultancy company and a primary school - soon I will be working in an Australian wildlife sanctuary.
  • I have travelled through Europe by train, including travelling through the Channel Tunnel.
  • I have seen Namibia's majestic Finger of God - just months before it crashed to the ground.
  • I have danced the tango in Buenos Aires.
  • I have canoed down the River Thames.
  • I have luxuriated in a lake-side hottub on a New Hampshire island, with a drink in my hand and the cool night sky above me, as my lover massaged my shoulders.
  • I have ridden camels in North Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula.
  • I have lived in a Y.W.C.A for a year and a half, and a nurses' home for a year.
  • I have chained myself to the fence of the South African parliament.
  • I have seen the Matterhorn.
  • I have broken bones learning to ride a bike, jumping off a beer-crate and slipping on the grass.
  • I have seen Michaelangelo's Pietá in the Vatican, his sculptures in the Louvre and his drawings at the High Museum, Atlanta.
  • I have been part of the team which developed the South African exhibition in the World Expo '98, in Lisbon.
  • I have walked across the Seine, the Liffey, the Rhone and the Thames.
  • I have been snorkelling off the Mozambican island of Bazaruto, and scuba diving in the Arabian Gulf.
  • I have cleaned bedpans, emptied catheter bags, assisted with enemas - and understood that doing things for those who cannot do them for themselves is not distasteful.
  • I have walked through the barren marketplace of a small, poverty-stricken Zambian town.
  • I have been bitten by a lion.
  • I have ridden in a fire engine, sirens blaring, dressed as an elf.
  • I have eaten couscous and briq in Tunisia.
  • I have stood behind a waterfall.
  • I have had my belly button pierced :-)
  • I have found my way through leafy mazes in England and Ireland.
  • I have visited 25 countries on six continents.
  • I have been teargassed, stood guard of honour at a mass political funeral, fallen in a police charge.
  • I have tried on a £1,400 dress in Harrods - and I must say that I looked SENSATIONAL!
  • I have almost learned to eat with chopsticks.
  • I have studied five languages.
  • I have eaten grits in the American South.
  • I have travelled by road right through the Andes mountain range, from Chile to Argentina.
  • I have visited Disney World, Madame Tussaud's, the Millennium Dome and numerous other heritage, educational and tourist attractions around the world, including 37 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 18 countries.
  • I have published several articles in magazines - not yet in scientific journals.
  • I have eaten what must be the most delicious fondue in Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
  • I have "re-mantled" (opposite of dismantled?) a wheelchair at the door of an aeroplane.
  • I have felt the earth move - literally! Try a strong tremor on the seventeenth floor....
  • I have been ten-pin bowling and outdoor ice-skating (hey - for someone as coordinationally-challenged as I am....).
  • I have watched a three-legged sheepdog herding sheep.
  • I have lived in four countries on four continents....and am soon to move to a fifth - on a fifth!
  • I have seen smoke and steam billowing out of a (rather peacefully) active volcano.
  • I have had my leg in a cast.
  • I have been wined and dined in a French château.
  • I have been the only girl in my high school let off compulsory sports practice without a medical certificate - yes, I WAS that bad - and then, much later, found myself a Grade 3 PE teacher for a two year stint!
  • I have been arrested four times - for political offences.
  • I have seen Constable's Hay Wain in the National Gallery in London, and its original setting in Suffolk.
  • I have earned three university qualifications, and completed a variety of short courses in South Africa, Chile, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.
  • I have been in real, falling snow.
  • I have walked through the twisting Siq to enter majestic Petra, by daylight and candlelight, fulfilling my mother's dream, and taken a wrong turn which led to an unsual and impressive view of Al Khazneh from above, far from the crowds of tourists and Bedouin vendors.
  • I have had conversations (some of them admittedly basic) in four languages in one day.
  • I have attended Bar Mitzvahs, baptisms, first communions and an Islamic name-giving ceremony; I have celebrated Yom Kippur, Pesach, Christmas and Easter; I have fasted for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan; I have walked the Buddhist pilgrimage route up Sri Pada; I have visited a Hindu temple in South Africa, Buddhist temples in Singapore and Sri Lanka, a Mosque in Tunisia, synagogues in Chile, and churches and cathedrals all over the world, including the Vatican, La Sagrada Familia and Notre Dame.
  • I have been nuzzled by a llama and spat at by an alpaca.
  • I have touched a moai.
  • I have travelled on six continents.
  • I have read Terry Pratchett's books over and over and over....even (most of) Mort in Spanish.
  • I have created exhibitions, and contributed to the curation of exhibitions in three countries.
  • I have taught myself how to design Internet webpages.
  • I have had a song dedicated to me in an Irish pub, and a poem dedicated to me in a book.
  • I have rambled along Barcelona's La Rambla.
  • I have been mistaken for a honeymooner in a Drakensberg hotel.
  • I have guessed whodunit while watching Agatha Christie's Mousetrap, admittedly only minutes before 'all was revealed'.
  • I have walked a very small part of the Inca Trail.
  • I have walked in a volcano crater, and climbed to the rim.
  • I have seen Velasquez' Las Meninas and Picasso's Guernica, in Madrid.
  • I have survived a rape attempt.
  • I have stayed in a youth hostel, a five star hotel, and just about everything in between.
  • I have walked across the Sydney harbour bridge and touched the roof of the Opera House.
  • I have flown over the Nazca Lines.
  • I have bought my own apartment - and almost finished paying off the mortgage. Oops, a second apartment, and a much larger mortgage, have just made their appearance!
  • I have ridden horses - very carefully.
  • I have watched David Copperfield 'disappear' people.
  • I have had the privilege of visiting some of the greatest and most well-known museums in the world: the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, El Prado, the British Museum, the Louvre, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Children's Museum and many, many more.
  • I have caught a taxi in Picadilly Circus, alone, at night.
  • I have walked through Venice's evocatively beautiful Bridge of Sighs.
  • I have posed for a picture with Captain Hook, in Disney World's Epcot Centre.
  • I have marvelled at the beauty, history, and atmosphere of Easter Island.
  • I have floated along the Zambezi river in a tiny fishing boat, watching hippos and fish and all manner of river boats go by.
  • I have seen a ring around the moon.
  • I have visited the largest aquarium in the world, in Lisbon, Portugal, and other aquaria in South Africa, Australia, Spain, Argentina, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
  • I have seen litter on the ground in Singapore.
  • I have known love for three men - three very different experiences of love.
  • I have been skinny-dipping in a mountain pool.
  • I have been scarred in a bus accident in Sri Lanka.
  • I have been present while a woman give birth to a little girl.
  • I have herded cattle (on foot and almost completely ineffectually) and ostriches (in a car and completely ineffectually).
  • I have climbed to the top of the Inca Pyramid of the Sun at Pachacámac, in Peru.
  • I have helped out at an archaeological dig inside a meteor crater.
  • I have watched a reenactment of a mediaeval joust.
  • I have had my aura cleansed.
  • I have travelled on the underground/metro systems of Sydney, Lisbon, Santiago de Chile, London, Paris, Lausanne, Milan, Barcelona, Madrid, Atlanta, Washington DC, New York City and Boston - we don't have such a system in South Africa!
  • I have climbed Huayna Picchu, and looked down in wonder at the ruins of Machu Picchu.
  • I have cooked on an Aga stove.
  • I have rolled down the roof of the Australian government building, in Canberra.
  • I have walked in the world's driest desert, the Atacama, and climbed a sand dune in the Namib.
  • I have been quoted and pictured in newspapers and interviewed on television, local and national.
  • I have eaten crêpes for breakfast in a Paris café.
  • I have seen the Cullinan diamond.
  • I have experienced live performances by, amongst others, Bryan Adams, UB40, Depeche Mode, Johnny Clegg, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Soweto String Quartet, David Copperfield and Riverdance; seen The Comedy of Errors performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon; The Tale of the Allergist's Wife on Broadway, and watched the great West End London shows of Les Miserables, Starlight Express, The Mousetrap and Phantom of the Opera.
  • I have walked into an old, deserted gold mine.
  • I have visited Alice in Wonderland's Old Sheep Shop, in Oxford, and seen her dodo in the museum there.
  • I have taken part in a St. Patrick's Day parade in a small Irish town.
  • I have hand-fed an ostrich.
  • I have driven through Miami's South Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Key Biscayne and Palm Beach in a white convertible, with the top down and my handsome lover at my side.


    Can you spot the lie?

    If you think you can, submit your guess through this form and, if you're right, there may be a little something in it for you - nudge nudge wink wink ;)

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