Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Melbourne & I.....

My last 2 days was spent in a further exploration of Melbourne City. I awoke after my first night in a dorm and wondered about the rumors of the foot diseases that lurk in these showers.I then compared that to the thought that I better get used to shower wearing sandles (jandles in Kiwi talk). After I enjoyed a full course breakfast that is included in your accommodation fee (cereal,milk,coffee,2 pieces toast and water to wash your own dishes) I made arrangements at a Backpackers travel agency for my tour to Tassie (Tasmania). It will be a 3 day guided tour from Launcheston to Hobart and then I will spend an extra few days in Hobart hoping to catch up with friends I met at the course and their Savvie(South African) friends. I am looking forward to spotting a devil and hugging a old tree. In Melbourne I took a lovely stroll down the Yarra river and visited federation square, the exhibition building, the parliament building, the library and some few other sites. Using the tram system is easy once you start asking around and then using it. 

You would probably think now what would a budgeting savvie backpacker have as his daily nutrition. Today I had the breakfast at the backpackers hostel after having  to share a room with a snoring walrus. (I have some earplugs somewhere in my baggage, tonight they will be found!) I then skipped up to Victoria market and bought myself 3 lovely pink ladies (apples, how 'bout them apples) and a giant pear. All four only $1.90 (+-R10.00). I then usually gnaw on them throughout the day and try to drink water as much as possible. For lunch I spoil myself with either a donut,cookie or some bread thingy and for dinner I have maybe a Mackers (McDonalds) deli item. This will usually be a bun filled with some meat and salads, quite big enough to fill up man of my caliber. All and all, I can survive for about $12-$15 per day. 

Last night I attended the McGuire support group at Heidelberg in Melbourne. We were 12 that attended and I used the opportunity to ask the older successful graduates some questions. I also discussed with one my issue with the I word. ('Ek' in afrikaans). Being both engineers we analyzed the problem and quickly formulated some ideas on how to conquer it. As soon as I think of saying the 'I' word some fear arises within me. This causes me to avoid saying the word because of fear of stammering and then worsens the stammer because of the avoidance. The mantra we devised that I am using now for the physical response is "big breath, deep tone"  and for the psychological "I know the technique well and how to use it, I will enjoy overcoming my fear".

I have made a total of 110 contacts today and my fear is starting to drop......., I started most of my sentences with 'I am', being assertive on the first sound, and maintaining a deep tone. I should now do this many more times in different situations and in different states of emotion.

I am spending my night in a hostel at the South End of Melbourne, a place called St Kilda. I am sharing the dorm with nine other people, it will be an interesting night. I went for a stroll on the St Kilda pier and enjoyed and beautiful soul warming sunset over the sea, while the cold wind nipped at my uncovered arms. Tomorrow I will see TasmaniaSt Kilda Australia

Total number of contacts on 651.    

Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 10:01:42

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Melbourne course ends.....

I just finished the Melbourne-intensive McGuire course today. I was a 4-day course and we stayed inmelbourne australia Hotel Y Elizabeth street. I surely learned a lot from this course and the people involved. My eyes opened anew as I realized that one should never judge people on first impressions, and you should never underestimate how powerful determination is. Yesterday and the day before we went out to do contacts in the street, this is where we walk up to total strangers asking them questions or disclosing that we are recovering stammerers. A stutterer in a wheelchair did 145 contacts, and had to stay out to 10:30pm at night to do it. Al my respect for you Paul, you did more than my 100. This may sound like madness, but believe me, there is method behind this. By doing this we can practice our breathing and speaking technique in real life situations. Melbourne is nothing like I've ever seen before (remember I come from South-Africa!). Hundreds of people on the street and hundreds of small shops everywhere, with street performers in between. I was so impressed by the Victoria market where you can by any type of seafood, meat , fruit, veggies and about everything else you want fresh. It is like the "Boere Market" I went to in Pretoria on Saturday mornings, only 100 times bigger and better organized. I booked myself in a backpackers hostel and I'm spending my first night in a dorm. Today I want to take my first ride on a tram, tomorrow will be my first day where I'm not rushed and (almost) totally alone in a strange city. All these new and exiting things to reduce the effects of an old speaking habit.......hmmm. My total number of contacts stands on 507.

Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 11:52:40 |

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hi Mates!

Just a quick post to thank everybody who has visited my site and sent me all their best wishes. It makes the point of my hart turn extra red. Today I am in Melbourne and we are busy with a intensive course. Aussie is really great ( the 24hours I have been here).

Contacts so far stand on 372, I visited the Auckland museum yesterday and lost my speech while I stared amazed at the history of New-Zealand. The creativity of the indigenous people of Nz, Fiji, Toga, Samoa etc in the art of war and culture is truly amazing. I also saw a Maori show and how the Haka is truly done. I am learning the haka and will try to do it will all the passion and respect it deserves before I show it to other people. I am hitting a bit of turbulence with my speech, and I can conjure up many reasons for it. But that will only waste my thinking power. Let's just say ......there is big room for improvement, and I'm working hard to figure it out. And I know I'm surrounded by all the right people to get me there. 


Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 09:10:08 |

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My head in the clouds....New Zealand

Today I find myself in Auckland. What a magnificent city. I took the bus this morning from Mount Munganui where I stayed with Ian and Kay. Two great and kind people who made me really feel at home, thank you! Baie Dankie! Let me tell you a bit about Dr Ian ....he is a retired doctor and also,of course a recovering stammerer. He took me for a hike up Mount Munganui yesterday which is not exactly mount everest, but it is still a 400 meter climb, and quite steep. Half way up the mountain after I convinced myself that this old...I mean...very matured (all respect)...man is still quite fit and strong, I asked him how many times he has climbed this mountain. The was a moment of silence while I saw a smile grow on his face, I could then see that there is much youth spirit in those eyes. With good breathing technique he said, two hundred and nine-four times. WOW! My thoughts exactly, this man also likes to take 5 day hikes with a 15kg backpack, and skiing 14km down a glacier in Mount Cook twice a day is also no problem. I did not ask him his age but it is not necessary, because he is young at hart. He has visited almost every continent and is leaving for Peru in 2 weeks time. He has a secret of course......I mean.....he has to. He gets up early in the morning, reads from his bible, does some stretching exercises and then works out with weights.His secret is then concluded to be: Discipline. Anybody thinking that they are too old (respect) to travel the world, take up hobbies or recover from their stammer, should have a chat with this amazing man. We departed this morning as he dropped me off at the bus stop, 'see you in Africa someday Ian, and we'll go hunt a lion'.

My trip from Taurunga to Auckland was filled with green countryside, grazing herds of sheep and cattle, and some horses with clothes on. In Auckland I went up the Sky Tower in Sky City, which is a magnificent site and made 3 disclosures about my mission high in the sky. I then strolled down Queen Str and spent 2 hours visiting the very interesting Maritine Museum. There I made another 2 disclosures whilst I admired the history of ships in New Zealand. There's a magnificent display of model ships that are replicas of used ships and the largest one stretches five meters. After being picked up by Afrikaner friends I had a juicy bit of lamb at a restaurant at waterfront and we admired some of the luxury yachts anchored nearby.

Strange enough I had some trouble with my speech when a had to talk Afrikaans again........It started with a few minor feared words which I avoided(totally wrong approach) and this turned into uncontrollable stuttering. I had to revert to 4 words per breath with really disciplined control, before I could hack it again.....interesting isn't it ? I have spoken to 297 people thus far. Tomorrow I have 6 hours in Auckland to explore and do 100+ contacts  because that is what's needed to bring my word-fear down. I am going to use lotsa DD's (deliberate disfluency) and focus on those challenging A's and E's. What a ride! Yeha!

My flight for Melbourne leaves tomorrow at 7pm, where I will be attending another 4 day intensive McGuire Course. Next update probably in 5 days.   


Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 13:07:34 |

Monday, May 22, 2006

In the land of the Kiwi's

I approached Auckland international airport with a wonderful view from the air. I was told that the biggest concentration of people is located on the area of NZ with the smallest span from coast  to coast. This was my first view of islands and patches of land and it was as if I was looking at a puzzle that is being put together but a giant, and left on the table. After reuniting with my backpack, and being sniffed by a beagle(doggies used to ensure no illegal food immigrates at the airport) I was greeted by a South-African family friend. Having 4 hours before my flight to Palmerston North she took for a ride through Auckland to Titirangi beach. Telling me about the good postal service, and that there is 11 sheep for every one person in NZ, my eyes wondered to absorb the sights. One tree hill and the famous sky tower are two landmarks that I will remember for my visit there on Wednesday.

I am currently staying with a friend at their beach house in Mount Maunganui. He is a doctor and also a recovering stammerer. We met up at the Mcguire course in Palmerston North we had for the last 4 days. 40 stutterers attended that course of which 11 were new students. Progress was very good for everybody with the new student being  able to do up to 180 contacts with complete strangers after 3 days in the program and also delivering excellent controlled farewell speeches on the 4th day. Most of them struggle to say there names on the first day. We were privileged to have Dave McGuire himself on the course, really and extraordinary man. I made a total of 141 street contacts on the course and met 44 people during the course. 


My total number of contacts stands on 264. The South-African in the Taupo bottle store, Rudolph, please change your number from 161 to 261. Thank you 


Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 00:13:29 |

Sunday, May 21, 2006

On the way to the Kiwi's

I flew from JHB international airport to Dubai where I stayed for 5 hours during my transit. The rumor that things are so cheap in Dubai Duty-free shops at Dubai is not entirely true. At least from my perspective. Prices seem to be quite the same as in SA for most items except for chocolates and maybe alcohol, which seems to be about 30-40% cheaper. While at Dubai I had breakfast at the Emirites Dining lounge and met a man from Sudan named Mustafa Said. He was number 26 of my contacts and I made a full disclosure about my stuttering to him. He is and electrical engineer living in Berlin and has a son who is backpacking in Australia, "Your own world is too small" he said. "It is good to explore". We had breakfast and I tried a few dishes that I could not identify immediately. I concluded that it was some kind of fish I ate and also a spicy bean dish. I sat amazed to see some people filling their plates with seven full scoops of rice and then only add a spoonful of meat or beans on top of their mountain to add some flavor. I guess that some people only have the opportunity to eat once a day. My flight from Dubai to Auckland lasted 12 hours and I made full use of the entertainment facilities on the plain. This was my first set of international flights and I was impressed to have my own little TV screen in front of me to watch anything from movies, cartoons, listen to music, and even have a view from the bottom of the plane and from the cockpit from cameras located there.


Tip: If you would like to attract some attention from the crew members, get a nose bleed. Wit a big nose like mine you generate pretty powerful sneezes. I guess I must have tried to hard and one of my shallow internal nose veins popped. I frantically searched for the correct button to push and within one minute a air hostess was by my side. The situation accumulated and in the end I had four hostesses, one doctor, two glasses of water, one class of ice, two puke bags and 4 small white towels all dedicated to me. Must have been quite a site to speak to a South-African, nose bleeding, stuttering person. Luckily the bleeding stopped they started to fade away.

I stopped over at Melbourne airport for two hours, had a $3.50 cuppachino and two people calling me their mate, what a friendly bunch! The transit went smoothly and it's always sports to hear people pronouncing van der Merwe without rolling r's. and the I arrived in Auckland, New Zealand. At this stage I had made only 36 contacts......


Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 23:32:53 |

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It has begun.......

Yes! The 15th came and went and my mission has begun. I have chosen to accept it and I want my stuttering behaviorisms to be destroyed! Dum da dum da dum dum , tittle doe! tittle do! Guess who enjoyed MI3 ? Ha! My first contact was a chap named Anthony at the Brooklyn Absa Branch in Brooklyn, Pta, SA.Maybe he is still wondering why I asked his name and smiled afterwards while keeping intense eye contact...I then did one more contact before doing my first disclosure with a girl in Brooklyn Cape Union Mart which was quite appropriate because I visited there 4 days before and my speech was out of control at that stage, so she could clearly see (and hear) the difference. My techniques was sharpened at the Bloemfontein course this weekend, so my techniques were refreshed. She received the first card with a name and number as a memoir. Millisense is her name. Further on during Friday I did 10 more contacts and 1 disclosure up unto I boarded the plane.........oops, I'm at Melbourne airport and have to for my flight to Auckland right now!!!! Will update with stories of fish dishes in Dubai and a Friend named MUSTAFA from Sudan....so watch this space!

Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 21:41:33 |

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mens Health Article

This article of mine was published as the winning letter for February in the SA Mens Health Magazine. The prize was a 20Gig Mp3 player. This Mp3 player can also record voice using a built in microphone, and it helps me a lot to capture my thoughts, and my speech for self monitoring. Thanks MH.

Dear menshealth
 I’m a avid reader of your magazine, discussing different issues such as health, style, sex and relationships one really finds good advice on how to be a better man. Reading the article on Jet Li (Pow and Zen - October 2005), the way he discusses the different levels of martial arts, I can relate to my own sport. Which is the sport of “getting good at speaking”. Being a chronic stammerer up until a few months ago, and have tried speech therapy and other remedies for many years to no real avail. I recently joint a program that is different, and that works! Treating the recovering process from stammering like a sport, you first learn the basic techniques and repeat them endlessly. You are taught and guided by recovered and recovering stammerers, persons who’ve been there and had the experience. (The best coaches in any sport are persons who’ve played the same game, took the shots, and took the cup home……not true?). Once you’ve got the physical technique, you practice the sport, talking to strangers, doing speeches, making phone calls, things that never before seem possible, like getting fit and finally being able to run that first 10km race. And after that you keep practicing, improving, perfecting you technique, learning how to be in control of your speech.
As there are no quick fixes to any “inadequacies” we feel we have, it is hard work, but also a MOERSE LEKKE ride with the right support towards freedom, self-acceptance and eventually fluency.
Whether it be to lose some weight, get in shape, staying healthy, getting that girl or recovering from stammering. MH shows us it every issue what it takes: get of your ass, bite the bullet, work hard, and do it. And keep doing it, until you find your Zen, your own inner peace were you won’t have to fight anymore, and can enjoy life.

Hein van der Merwe.
Recovering stammerer.

Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 19:43:34 |

My Broken Lip

 My 4th speech at Toastmasters.

                                         My Broken Lip


Yes, it is true, it is real, it is there. Right there. I'm not going to try to hide it. I can't, my mustache won't grow fast enough. And no, it is not a squashed tick, or a tattoo of little red spider. It is battle scar. Inflicted on me during my karate grading Saturday, by a girl. We were mock fighting, it is called randori. It is simulation of a fighting scenario, were we are suppose to control our punches, stopping an inch before we hit the other person. The girl got excited and lost control, twice, first on my nose, then on my lip. What can I say? I mean, Girls come near me, they get excited and lose control of themselves, story of my life. Of course the ultimate gentleman that I am I didn't get mad, I kept my cool, and did not seek revenge like a wounded buffalo, even though I had a broken lip, and a broken ego. I didn't hit her back to hurt her, I put in a few kicks though.

So my lip is broken, but it will heal, and my ego as well, definitely. My lip has actually been broken in another way as well. For a big part of my life I had a broken lip in the form of a chronic stutter. Most of you are informed of my situation, so I won't go into the soppy details again. You can put away the tissues. I don't want you to feel sorry for me. Be happy for me! Because that broken lip is also healing, and I am going to devote myself to take care of it, I am going to be my own personal doctor, maybe a assisting nurse in the future, but for now, it's mano a mano. Tonight is actually my farewell speech. I am leaving Monday, on a jet plane, and I actually don't know when I'll be back again. Point of interest,Bruce Willis also had a stutter before he started acting. He played in the movie Armageddon, where the song features......leaving on a jetplane he went on a impossible mission to save the world, and succeeded! I often see myself as a Die Hard Bruce Willis type, except that I wont die at the end of my mission. I am leaving on a jetplane Monday to travel the world, to speak 100 000 people. This is  a summary of my Mission Statement:     

For 17 years my life was lived as a chronic stutterer. Blessed with wonderful parents, a brother and sister, who will love me no matter what I do, where I go, or how I speak, my life wasn't all a nightmare, sometimes even a daydream.

However, because I stutter I feel that I have always had to hold back, hold back thoughts, opinions, emotions, and wisecracks. I feel that I have not fully developed certain skills that I desire to be better at, skills that I feel that I am supposed to have. I've constantly lived in a certain kind of fear, fear of getting stuck on or not being able to say certain words. This has led to humiliation in many hurtful situations.

10 months ago I became part of a speaking program for stutterers that have shown me the road to freedom. A technique that can give me total control if correctly applied and frequently practiced as a sport.I have finally been able to translate my thoughts, Ideas and emotions FULLY to other people without fear or struggle for the first time in my life.

My progress has been TREMENDOUS since I've joined this program and I've had plenty of enjoyable speaking situations, 5 dates and 3 and a half toastmaster speeches.

Unfortunately, I still have situations where I hold back, where I avoid, where I stutter uncontrollably and experience the fear I hate. I not am willing to accept this anymore ladies and gentlemen, I refuse to regress to the way I used to speak and have the same experiences. My current living status does not allow me enough speaking situations to improve myself as a speaker, therefore I declare the following.......

I hereby declare war on uncontrolled stuttering.

I declare that I am going to devote a certain amount of time (and a lot of money) in my life to improve my speaking skills. I am going to travel the world, with the focus on improving my verbal communication skills, and become a smooth talker.

I declare that I am going to do the following.......

- To let go of my current living status, quit my job, car is sold (sniff sniff).

  • - To attend as many of the McGuire courses and support groups as possible, place is reserved so far, for Bloemfontein, New Zealand, Australia and Scotland.
  • - To speak to as many people as possible and make friends worldwide, (and kiss a girl in every country) who said that !?
  • - To always practice controlled eloquent speaking,
  • - To enter situations I have always feared, to deliberately use words that haunt me, to overcome my fear.
  • - To try and help other stutterers on their way to eloquent speaking,
  • - To learn as much from other people and experiences, the good and bad, and very good, using that to help and inspire.
  • - To see the world, grow as person and enjoy my life journey.

I feel that this is an opportunity, necessity and life adventure that I now am able to do and should grab hold of. I believe that by doing this I will conquer my fear of speaking, my fear of people, fear of myself, because that fear will prohibit my survival ......and I WILL survive!

My broken lip will heal, and it may even leave scar. It may even start to hurt again sometimes. But I will be ready for that, I will know how to treat it, with the help of a nurse maybe? Who knows !? Thank you for the opportunity to be part of Pretoria East Toastmasters, I am going to wear my label with pride worldwide, and not hide. Thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given me, so say farewell to the broken lip. ......bye.

Posted by Hein van der Merwe at 19:27:20 |