Monday, July 31, 2006

London...bye for now

I am now in Ireland in the City of Dublin. Saturday while still in London we had a great improvement day for all the stuttery people on the McGuire program. It included a self-evaluation and focus session, some story telling, phone call challenges etc. One of my phone call challenges was to call a hotel and ask for the price of a room. But during the conversation I had to use 3 x 5sec pause in my speech. The goal of this is to resist time pressure and not let other people force us into speaking, very good exercise. We also played a live "The weakest link" game. With lights, music, tension and the whole shebang. After that we did some public speaking on speakers corner in Hyde park. We ended the night having dinner is a pizza restaurant. It always amazes me how loud stutterers can be once they start talking :).

I didn't do as many contacts these last few days, but I did do some high quality ones. I have a wave of social events that I was invited to (for me, more that one is a wave :) ). The was dinner/socializing with friends of my friends in London. I'm a bit frustrated because my speech was not as all as stable as it could have been during those events. And I'm researching deep in my mind to find out why. But besides the little vibrating lip now and again, I did not really have any negative internal feedback, which is great for me! I did enjoy that! Thank you Nicky, Rene and Thomas for making me feel so welcome and not so totally alone in London. No golden pound or exotic experience can compare to good friendship.

I will explore Dublin for the next three day and then head off for a three day tour to "The Ring of Kerry". Quite excited about that.
speakers corner hyde park

Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 16:52:24

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hop-on, Hop-off......

My count is now on 3300, during my brief position as Pierman I talked to approximately 200 people each day. Unfortunately, the Excel Express that we were hired for, that is a fast ferry service to the big motor show, was canceled. Not enough people used the service and they had to let us go. What a bummer. I only got two thirds of the money that I expected and this will make my travelling budget really tight. But all & all, it was a very good experience. I would like to thank all the personnel (mostly lovely ladies) at Thames Clippers for their kindness and support. Also a special thanks to my Master Pierman, Ian. I can assure all the people out there who are thinking of using a water-taxi service that the Themes Clippers is definitely the fastest and most reliable. Check out there website at Even thought my speech was far from perfectly fluent (which is something I should really get out of my head) I could call out announcements, use the walkie-talkie and answer any questions that a confused tourist threw at me, sometimes simultaneously.

Tomorrow we have a improvement day in London. That is basically a full day of sports and fun for all us McGuire, stuttery people. Activities includes verbal games, contacts sessions, public speaking and a meal afterwards. I will meet many of the UK McGuire grads and I'm really looking forward to that. Then on Monday my itchy feet will be scratched as I continue to travel. I have been stationary for 4 weeks and I feel a bit lost. I will travel to Dublin, explore Ireland from there, attend the course in Galway, and then return to England on the 27th of August.  I am feeling a strange at the moment, the world is turning very fast. Everything I plan seem to change from day to day by things that I haven't thought of or took for granted of assumptions that are proven false. I attended another toastmasters meeting last night nearby the Victoria tube station, called the Corinthians club. I was treated with some very advanced speeches. One was a interpretive reading and the other was a story telling. Possible some of the best speakers I have ever heard. Really impressive. So there you go...

Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 10:44:53 |

Friday, July 21, 2006

Roger that Coaches, I'm coming up! Over.

I am the Pierman assistant at the Canary Wharf Pier and I work for Thames Clippers. I am earning money by talking, yes by verbal communication (and a bit of walking) I am earning those golden pounds that we all desire. My first two days on the job has passed. I am part of a temporary team that runs an express service from the Pier to the Motor excel show. On Tuesday the show was open only to the press and not the general public, so we weren't that busy. Yesterday however it was the first open day to the public. I had made 203 contacts yesterday, I had answered questions, I had talked on the walkie talkie and my shift lasted from 8:00 am to 10:15 pm. Today I have the day off and will be working again on Saturday, I expect us to be very busy. It will be weekend and the advertising of our service would have attracted many more passengers. The questions that you would ask......Am I enjoying this?Am I coping with this? the answers.....Yes, absolutely yes. I have never had to do work that fully rely on my verbal skills and not my brain capacity to process loops and patterns. I am doing a good job, enjoying it and had no bad incidents thus far. My speech with good technique is holding up the majority of the time. I am appreciating all the practice I get. I do have a few slip-up now and again, but I do know how to correct them, and I do just that.

My count is now at 2451 contacts. Sad news however......I will not be going to the Netherlands. That is because I had made an assumption that I can go to the embassy directly, without a appointment, and my application for a shengen visa will be processed in a few days. As I did with my UK and Australia Visa. Wrong assumption. The next appointment for the embassy I can get is only on the 21th of August. That is too late as I want to arrive there the 16th Aug. I have to postpone my Holland visit until the next course in November. The lesson I learned is obvious. The good news !? I will be able to spend some more time in Ireland! and I will have to opportunity to learn how easy/difficult it is  to get money back after canceling a plane/bus ticket.

Moving on from that, it is very hot in London. 30 degrees celsius up to 10 o'clock at night. Phew, and I can't find a swimming pool or a plaasdam anywhere. The sun is shinning brilliantly and the spirits are up. I will be staying in London for another week and a half and then travel to Ireland, or so I plan. O yes! I visited a toastmasters club on Monday and I had to do a impromptu 90 seconds speech on "Should political correctness be applied in fairytales told to children?" My answer......No, black rabbits, blue rabbits, white rabbits, yellow rabbits. Don"t put any limits on developing a child's imagination. Once they are all grown up they can worry about politics and other boring adult stuff. They should get rid of that purple dinosaur however... Cheers


Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 10:51:37

die 19de Julie....

On the 19th of July I celebrated the life of my grandma, it was her Birthday.
She passed away 2 years ago and I dedicate this poem to her.
If anyone would like the english explanation, contact me and I will provide.

Ouma Marthie
sy sit op die pienk teel stoep
klassieke musiek speel, wat emosies roep
kort kort, die ritmiese klik, klik
van haar breinaalde, presies gemik

sy tel saggies, tel die steke op
en dink aan iets mooi, skuins gedraaide kop
dan kyk sy op, sprankelgoue glimlag
tee en koekies! beplan vir die dag

kersfees kom, kersfees kom, sing sy perfek vals
maar september al gekoop, kaartjies en als!
engelwit hare, parfuum altyd soet
warm en sag, haar ouma-drukkie groet

oe vol van liefde en 'n skater van lag
slaaie vol kleure, bruin hondervleis sag
groot sagte kussings, rus op haar dubbelbed
verdwaald lees sy stories, sag doen sy gebed

geniet haar kos stadig, die wyn staan geskink
happie, vurk neersit, en dan bietjie drink
sy is ons ouma, kan alles verpleeg
ons almal haar kinders, dier, ouers, jeug

die swartgekleede kind, sou haar wou groet
met mooi gladde woorde, wil hy haar naam roep
maar sy is geneem, voor hy kon mond
sy is nou by Jesus, saam sy groot swart hond

trane nooit droog, ek sal nooit vergeet
middag melkskommels drink, vul pannekoek eet
sy is altyd by my, diep in my hartjie
die ouma-drukkie-liefde , van my Ouma Marthie
Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 10:25:03 |

Friday, July 14, 2006

I am the talking traveller...

One thing about having a public diary, as with a personal diary is the importance of honesty. Thus I am going to be honest in say that this week has not been my best in terms of contacts. I have visited several of London's premier attractions including the London Eye, London Dungeon, Science Museum, National Gallery and other galleries, museums and square's. I also had a job interview on Wednesday, had 2 telephonic interviews on Tuesday and attended the London McGuire Support Group on Tuesday. Did a "Jack the Ripper" tour last night and some clothes washing today. I applied for about 5 other jobs as well. "Suddenly I feel that I am beginning to prove wrong my initial statement!? I can be hard on myself sometimes...." In terms of numbers I have only made 100 contacts since Monday. I need to pick up speed. I think I lack some motivation. Thus I give to you some internal mechanism of motivation that I have developed.
In order to keep fit and have a good body you need to practice. To keep off the weight you have practice and exercise.In order to become very good at any sport you have to repeat the basic actions and exercises endlessly. That is the only way that all professional sportsman achieved their level of excellence, and also applies to business, art, music ,literature, science and  all other areas of life where you find extraordinary people. I am constantly reminded of this in the everyday world. When I was visiting Sydney I went to a the National Art Gallery there. It was during the Biannalie festival which is basically a bi-annual  festival of contemporary art. There on display was the scrap-book pencil drawings of quite a famous artist. They pasted his "practice" drawings on the walls and it must have covered almost 40 square meters. Drawing after drawing after drawing of people in the everyday life, almost 300 pages of just one of his scrap books. He must have taken years just to draw his "practice" drawings.  The outcome is that he is a famous Australian artist, and people will admire and enjoy his paintings for a very long time. The is also seen in sports, my sport interest is karate. Our goju-ryu head master sensei is Mario Higgiona, 8th Dan (apologies for incorrect spelling). He is world famous and has featured in many karate-documentaries and is well respected. Our head sensei in South-Africa told us that he practices even the most basic white-belt exercises every for hours on end, and then progresses to the most advanced kata's etc. And again I can relate it to my now current sport, which is, the sport of speaking. That is why I need to practice basic breathing, and communication routines many many times. In our case as stutterers it is even more significant because we have to unlearn old speaking habits and thought patterns. We designed and taught these patterns ourselves as a matter of survival during our out-of-control stuttering days. It will take a lot of practice and repetition to engrave the "new" patterns permanently. And if you (I) want to excel and eventually be excellent I need to excel in my practice. That is why it is good for me to still do contacts even though I "feel" I can approach anybody and talk on any subject.........Phew, isn't the mind an amazing thing!? The ol' chatterbox or internal voice. Glad I got that out
Anyway, good news!!!!!!!!! I got a job !!!!! I will be trained on Monday as a Pierman. O yes, a pierman. This was the result of the interview that I had on Wednesday. It involves me wearing black shoes, black trousers, and a shirt supplied by the company. I will look dashing and will be the first contact person for people leaving ferries  and arriving back on land. I will greet them with a smile and escort them to the nearby coaches. I will have to talk on a walkie-talkie and probably engage in common chit-chat with the folk. I will work every other day from early until late from the 18th - 30th.  This is definitely what I was looking for as a job, just thinking about talking on a walkie-talkie sends cold chills of excitement down my spine, as that was always something that I feared. And I won't have to go out to find contacts, that come to me!
Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 20:00:52 |

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Beyond 2000.....

I have reached the 2000 mark in my contacts. He was quite a nice fellow  called Philip Black, he works at "The Travel Bookshop" located in Notting Hill. It was also this bookstore that inspired the bookshop that featured in the movie, "Notting Hill". Unfortunately Julia Roberts didn't stumble in :(. Check it out at In these type of bookstores you are likely find somebody strolling around, who calls himself the talking traveller :). At this stage I am going to be honest in saying that doing contacts in street by asking questions is becoming pretty boring. I have little or no fear to approach anybody and tell them my story or ask a question. No, my speech is not perfect , I do stumble, fumble, jumble and even crumble over some words in certain scenarios, but I do give it my all to cancel out those words by repeating them with good techniques I have been taught. At this stage my speech feels pretty damn strong, the danger now is to go into complacency state. I still need to practice everything, from the basic breathing to the NLP of the unconscious mind. And I know I have the support of everyone to remind me of this, this is as a fact, one of the main reasons for this trip, practice. It is very easy to lose focus while the world is zooming by (literally "the world") while sitting on a train or airplane. That is why I read my mission statement as often as I can, and maybe you should to, and remind me. Further along the line...I am in London at this stage, dossing at my friends place. I am searching far and wide for a job for a few weeks, and also a place to stay. It is not as easy as everybody says, I have been trying all week but I'm sure I will find something next week, or the one after, etc. I'm especially trying to get into charity fund-raising. Face-to-face contact with strangers would fit me ideally. I would be able to talk a lot, earn some money, and do something worthwhile. It would also challenge me a lot in my speaking and people skills, it will be a great opportunity to grow under some stress, fatigue and survival as motivation. But that is not all I've kept myself busy with, I have also explored London. From the mechanical differentiation machines and first computers at the science museums, to the queen's swan's at Kensington gardens and the funny red men at Buckingham Palace. I have also been in the house of Sherlock Holmes, and shook the hand of Mel Gibson at Madam Tussuad's Wax Museum and watched time ticking by on Big Ben. I've visited toy mecca at Hamley's and Princess Diana's Memorial fountain at Hyde park. There is still a lot to see, but watch out for photo's shortly. And thanks to superman(my brother) I recovered my photo's lost from New Zealand and Australia. Tip for travelling: Photo's will be your most valuable asset, make sure you make backups on CDs or other mediums. Make back-ups of the back-ups and send them home, I learned that in the last week.  My initial plans were to visit Ireland for the course 9-12 August and then Holland 16 - 20 August and then a course in Swindon 30 August. This might change as time progresses, I want to spend enough time in each country too see enough, and  don't want to rush as I did in New Zealand, anyway, one of those lessons you learn, Tip no 2 : A little planning goes a long way, and can save you money, time and frustration. 

In this following week I plan to get other accommodation, see Legoland, apply for some jobs, visit London support group, visit London toastmasters and get into Shakespeare's house. All and all, I am having a great time! I enjoy London and the huge amounts of sunlight, I enjoy all the sights and attractions, I enjoy the feeling off arriving at a tube station after being lost for a hour, and I enjoy the smile of the beautiful people  that I approach. And I enjoy "enjoying life" between those gray areas of confusion, hunger pains, sore knees and counting pounds. 

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Albert Einstein
London Tower Bridge

Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 19:06:54 |

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Keep moving holding back

Going a bit back in time to 17 June.......After a day of trotting in the concrete jungle of Sydney I had very sore knees from all the leg movement. Arriving in Katoomba the following day by train I felt like I just wanted to sit and rest all day. At the hostel I tried doing this for about 1 hour. Giving the opportunity for my mind to wonder, it convinced me that I should get off my behind and explore this area as I paid alot and I have only 2 days here. I should grab the day! The feeling of losing overwhelmed the physical pain and I got up to go go go. I purchased a hop-on hop-off ticket for a big red explorer bus and hopped-on the first opportunity that I could. I opened the brochure and decided to hop-off at the most exaggerated point on the colorful tourist brochure, which is called Scenic World!. There I had the choice of doing either a cable car ride or a rail-train ride. Being the dare-devil that I see in the mirror every night I decided that the 52 degree decline railway ride is the only way to go. Of course I hit the luck of getting the front seat. Slowly we started transcending down, and we kept going slowly until we reached the destination 1min 23seconds later. O well, yeha anyway. I was left standing with several choices of hiking trails and first did a circular trail laid out with a wooden walkway elevated above the forest floor. Along the way several icons of mining history were on display with interactive audio and video. I followed the easily walkable walkway through the rain forest and completed the circular trail. Discovering further detail on the pathetic tourist map I took-off on a route that would take me to the underside of a cliff.I kept on that trail being constantly mildly reminded of my sore knees, especially when realizing the body is ascending or descending to or from an elevation. Along the way I met a middle aged woman while she was taking a rest. And I controllably asked "Taking a break?" (smile, release residual air). I ended up doing a full disclosure about my journey through the world and the effects of stuttering on my world, and that she is helping me to lift the invisible veil just by being nice and talking to me. We parted with smiles enjoying Kathy's comment that I had made her day by giving her the number of 1136.

Along I went, further on my hike.I ended up the day at the top of the most attractive attraction of the "Blue Mountains" which is the "Three Sisters".An outcrop of rocks that forms three distinct points on the landscape. To end up there however I had to climb up several meters of stairs, when I reached the top of those stairs I read a sign stating that I had just done the hardest hike off all, in the hardest direction, from down to up. I could not decide if I should accept myself being completely mad or a well done tap on the shoulder. I was laughing to myself hard, very hard and I felt better. But I realized half-way up that even though my knees are complaining, I have to ascend this staircase. There is no turning back, this is the only way and I can just as well enjoy it. I made it interesting by having breaks and taking photos trying to absorb as much of my surroundings and perceptions, both internal and external. I ended up way after dark back at the hostel, cold, tired and hungry. I didn't know if my knees were beyond pain or just numb from the cold, but it didn't hurt. Anyway they had supported me and I made it back. I woke up the following morning not knowing if I would be able to stand upright properly..............and I did, I stood up tall.  My knees felt as strong as ever. I had a very nice hike for the rest of that day as well, well beyond my expectations.

Did I learn some deep needed life lesson of pushing through the pain, making the best of a scenario and never giving up?? Did I learn that sometimes it is better to not know where you are heading, but put in your best effort anyway? I dunno, but I definitely had a delightful chuckle of laughter getting up that morning, and that was good enough for me. Welcome to my mind! steepest ride in the world

Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 08:54:28

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Hello! Please Mind the

So I blinked for a second and another week has passed, I find myself coming to a calculated contact number of 1753. Wondering with a bit of confusion what has happened in the week, and also feeling a bit guilty that I hadn't phone home in 7 days, the book falls open at the Brisbane airport. I departed from Brisbane airport last week Monday at 2005h. I had my last taste of TimTam's (An addictive Aussie chocolate biscuit) and spend my last Aussie dollars on a pen, 2 postcards and breath spray. The flight went smooth, stopping over at Singapore as well as Dubai airport and finally arriving at 1230h in Heathrow, London on Tuesday. Heathrow, recalling rumors that it is a very big airport and quite easy to get lost and into a state of panic, I feel special because I got on the underground(tube) within 20mins after having being chest X-rayed (compulsory for super-heroes) and getting a warm welcoming booming voice "MIND THE GAP!". I jumped off at the station which I thought was closest to my friend's place and started asking people with badges and shiny yellow jackets if they could direct me to his address. The nice lady at the Bus Terminal Info Booth tried her best, but we just couldn't find the address on the endless London map. I couldn't phone a friend because he was visiting SA at that time, he left keys and instructions at his flat reception. Looking down, as we down when making decision's with a 23kg backpack strengthening your shoulder muscles, the little voice in my head shouted  'No Worries Mate!, just book into the nearest backpackers hostel! Good on you!' It was a little inn in Greenwich, with a 8-bed dorm, costing me £13.  I jumped on a bus Wednesday morning at 9:30 and proceeded to the course in Dundee, Scotland. The course lasted from Wednesday night (I arrived 10:30, 13hrs on the bus, eina) until the Sunday afternoon. I had a great time, meeting many new friends, working hard, appreciating the sounds of bagpipe and drum and the taste of beer at the pubs.I especially found very useful tips and advice from people who have been recovering for a number of years, and who have become excellent speakers and entertainers. Another 6 new members climbed on the road to free speech by joining the McGuire Programme. Monday morning started early as I leaped onto a Megabus and made my 11hour, £14 journey back to London. I found my friend and I'm now staying at his place with a beautiful view of London and the Greenwich line. The Greenwich line is in reality represented by a green laser that can been seen in the dark.

Today(Tuesday) I will start exploring London, and get my mobile number. I will start searching for a job that suits me in terms of people interaction, fun, responsibility and a less than moderate stress-level. Enabling me to progress and grow in my speech and communication skill in that kind of environment, one step at a time, not to steep a gradient.

Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 09:36:32 |