Reaching for the Stars

My friend Ginny was invited to a think-tank on how to popularize multi-wave astronomy (no – don’t run away, this blog is not about that – although it is really interesting stuff) a few days ago, and had lunch with one of the other participants who happened to have a disability.

Not wanting to offend the lady in the slightest she asked a bit hesitantly… ‘Um, what is the politically correct way to describe somebody who cannot see?”

The lady promptly responded “Blind!”

Thereafter a lovely conversation followed, with the lady, Wanda, giving some insights (excuse the pun) into one of the challenges of being blind.
But let’s clarify something first. The lady is Dr Wanda, and she’s an astrophysicist, who, amongst other things, really enjoys developing interesting lesson plans to teach kids about astrophysics. She has not allowed being blind to restrict her in the slightest and continues to reach for the stars – literally. Except Wanda listens to them instead of looking at them!

She reckons the most irritating thing is when somebody sends her a .pdf file to read. PDF stands for “portable document format” and it’s a way of saving a document from any application into a format that most systems can read – unless you are blind.

Wanda explained that her special software that “reads” the document cannot comprehend a .pdf file. It just picks up random words and strings them together. Obviously this could lead to major confusion. She gave us a hysterical example that went something like the “The moon was in the bathroom exploding.”

The numbers at the table swelled with Alfred from Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown (Jozi) joining the ranks. Wanda asked Alfred what his favourite exhibit was. His answer was the one that explained sound waves. Of course she did not leave it there – she had him explain to her just how he got the concept across to the people visiting Sci-Bono.

Initially Alfred waved his hands around a lot, which Wanda could not see, but he quickly got the hang of it and used his words – very simply and effectively to explain how sound waves work.

We all take many things for granted and our sight is one of them.

By the way – how often do people check the toys that their young children play with for sharp bits they could potentially stick into their eye (or somebody else’s) by mistake? Double check that toy box please, just to make sure.

Reach for the stars people – don’t let anything hold you back.


Stand up to bullies

Remember last week we were talking about how bad bullies are and, even worse, how terrible it is to be bullied?

Here are some things that you can do if you are being targeted by a bully.

  • Get away as soon as possible and move to a safe please where there are other kids and adults.
  • Avoid places where you are alone – hang out with other people. Even if you are not friends with them – hang out near them anyway.
  • Act as if the bullying has no power over you. Look calm and confident (even if you are terrified). You can do this by standing up straight and tall – put your shoulders back and push your chest forward. (Practise this in the mirror at home – you never know when you might need to stand tall.)
  • Stand up for yourself – act as though the bullying is really boring and answer back with things like – So? Yup? Really? And…? Whatever you say! Who cares?
  • Get help from an adult you trust. Tell them what has happened to you and ask for their support. If one person does not listen – go to somebody else.
  • Keep in mind that bullying is about the person who is doing the bullying. Although they are targeting you and it affects your life – it’s not really about you – it says something about the person who is doing the bullying. Never forget that. It is not your fault.
  • Tell yourself that you are awesome, brave, lovable, worthy of respect and belonging. Nobody can take that away from you. Own it. Say it often. Remind yourself all the time that you are fabulous.

If you see somebody being bullied it is NOT cool to just walk away and not get involved either. YOUR SILENCE ENCOURAGES THE BULLY!

This is what you can do.

  • Don’t laugh and don’t encourage the bully in any other way.
  • Tell others not to join in on the bullying either. You can make a difference by encouraging others to do the same.
  • Help the victim any way you can – speak directly to them and say something like “Let’s get out of here.”
  • Show the victim that you are empathetic – say “I would feel sad and angry too” or “I’m sorry this is happening to you.”
  • Encourage the victim to tell an adult and offer to go with them.

Stand up for what is right – even if you are standing alone!



It is not BIG to make somebody else feel SMALL!

In the same survey that was done about how sad South African reading statistics are, they also mentioned that our Grade Four children are among the most bullied in the world.


How horrible is that?

There is often some confusion regarding conflict and bullying.

  • When someone says or does something unintentionally hurtful and they do it once, that’s RUDE.
  • When someone says or does something intentionally hurtful and they do it once, that’s MEAN.
  • When someone says or does something intentionally hurtful and they keep doing it – even when you tell them to stop or show them that you are upset – that’s BULLYING.

Conflict is normally a disagreement or an argument. Bullying is normally a show of strength or influence to intimidate somebody else, or typically to force them to do something that they do not want to do.

Conflict turns into bullying when there is an imbalance of power. This can come from someone being bigger, older, stronger and more confident or having more friends. Their mean behaviour happens over and over again.

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes – some use their fists (physical) others use their voices (verbal) and in the last few years, cyber bullying has become a big thing too – using the internet, social media, text messaging, e-mail and other electronic mediums to say mean or embarrassing things.

No matter what shape the bullying takes, they all leave you feeling broken and humiliated.

Bullying does not only occur at school either – it often happens at home and in the neighbourhood.

Warning signs of somebody being bullied:

  • Withdrawal from friends and activities.
  • Physical complaints.
  • Worried, angry, quiet or moody.
  • Declining schoolwork.

One of the major forms of bullying in schools is EXCLUSION.

For various reasons kids shun other kids. Often for stupid things like they don’t have cool enough clothes or hairstyles. We all know having a friend to sit with at break or lunch time makes the world of difference.

That’s what the friendship bench is all about. If you don’t have anybody to sit with – you can sit on that specific bench at school and somebody is always there to chat to you and see that you are not alone. We have a roster and take turns to do bench duty – you get to meet all sorts of interesting people too.

More on how you can beat bullies next week.

Be kind people!


Look where you are going!

The other day I had a bit of a crash whilst riding my bicycle round the garden! Thought mum would be very sympathetic but it turns out she wasn’t. She asked me how I crashed and I inadvertently admitted that I had not been concentrating properly. I’d seen a pretty bird fluttering around the place and was trying to check it out – did not see the hump in the garden, fell off and hurt my arm.

Instead of dishing me loads of love and tender words, mum yelled at me.  She said imagine if I was riding in the road and got side-tracked – I could get hit by a car.

I wanted to tell her that I’d never do that – but it was a bit difficult when I had already done it – although luckily not in the road.

She threatened to stop me from riding to school on my bike. That gave me a big scare. I promised to be ultra-careful in future.

My arm was sore for quite a few days and I realised how we mostly take our body bits for granted. I had trouble doing all sorts of things that I never usually even notice that I am doing – turning switches on, opening doors, writing, sleeping (it was the side I usually lie on), carrying my backpack, even eating properly with a knife and fork was a challenge.

I tried not to show mum just how sore it was because I was worried that she might have a hissy fit all over again and really ban me from riding to school.

There are 206 bones in a human body – and any of them would hurt like crazy if you broke or cracked one. Well, actually we are born with about 270 bones but by the time we reach adulthood some have fused together and there are 206 left. The crazy thing is – more than half of these bones are in our hands (54) and feet (52).

Luckily I did not break anything – just bruised my arm and a bit of muscle or something.

Bodies are precious things – we should remember to take care of them, eat properly, exercise (and look where we are going) and get enough sleep.

You can read “Sibo Looks Right” – the road safety book – on the website ( anytime you want to.

Stay safe!


Draining Away

The other day mum and I were visiting a friend of hers and mum was moaning that she was going to have to call out a plumber to unblock our shower drain.  The shower kept filling up with water and you could almost have a bath in the shower well. She was whinging that plumbers were so expensive and she’d much rather buy a pair of new shoes with that money.

Her friend smiled and told her to relax – there was no need to call a plumber.

She gave us a recipe to unclog the shower. Mum was a bit sceptical – she’s not big on doing innovative stuff – but I wrote it all down and said I’d try it when we got home.

It was a bit like a science experiment – and I am very fond of those.

Mum assured me had all the ingredients needed – nothing fancy at all – just hot water, baking soda and vinegar.

Mum supervised and I got to do the fun work.

First we boiled the kettle and poured the whole lot of boiling water down the drain.

Then we poured in half a cup of baking soda – and let that sit in the drain for about 5 minutes.

Next we added a cup of vinegar followed by a cup of boiling water to the baking soda in the drain. This was the fun part – it all fizzled and foamed. Mum made me wear safety goggles in case it whooshed up too much and got in my eyes. (I felt even more like a scientist!)

If you have one of those drain plungers – put it over the plug hole at this stage – so that all the fizzy stuff stays in the drain.

Finally, after about 5 to 10 minutes – we poured another kettle of boiling water into the drain.

The next day we all had a shower and the water flowed perfectly out of the drain – no more bathing in the shower.

So maybe – if you have a blocked drain – you should try this first before you call a plumber!

Have a fabulous week further.


Sniffy Season.

It’s that time of year when people get sick with colds and flu. Here are some rather simple ways of avoiding catching those dreaded lurgies …

Wash your hands – we are always touching things and people. Our hands are a prime spot for germs to hang out. If you wash them often, with soap, this dilutes the germs and they go scooting down the drain along with the water. While you’re about it – give up gnawing your nails too. Germs lurk under your nails and when you nibble them – you ingest the germs.

If you need to sneeze – sneeze into the crook of your elbow. It sounds funny but actually we don’t touch things with the inside of our elbow – right. So it makes a lot of sense.

Try not to touch your eyes and nose. These are common places where the germs sneak in.

The experts also say that our bags and suitcases pick up germs the same as we do. It’s a good idea to wipe them down every now and then to get rid of any little suckers that might be hanging around.

Get enough sleep – at least 8 to 10 hours a night is what the doctors prescribe.

Exercise! Working out helps our immune system function better – this is what we all need to stay healthy.  And smile – being happy boosts the immune system too.

Eat healthily. Stock up on Vitamin C naturally – this is not a cure for a common cold but it also boosts our immune system and helps prevent catching cold and flu bugs. The daily recommended dose of Vitamin C is 60mg.

We all know that oranges are full of vitamin C, but there are many other things that also have loads of the same vitamin – more in fact. A medium sized orange has around 70g. A cup of strawberries yields 85mg, 2 kiwi fruits equal 128mg and mango has 122mg per fruit. Pineapple is rich in the good stuff too. Bell peppers range from 95mg for a green pepper to a whopping great 340mg for a yellow pepper. (Plus those are low in calories so are great to snack on.)  Brussel sprouts are also rich in Vitamin C and are delicious roasted in the oven with bacon. Broccoli (raw) is another veggie that can be nibbled to get our daily intake. Don’t forget about kohlrabi – not such a pretty vegetable – but can be used instead of cabbage in salads or in stir-fries.

Stay well and be happy everybody!


Saving the Environment

Because the 5th of June was World Environment Day thought it might be a good idea to share some tips on saving money and the environment.

These days many people use toothpaste, facial or body scrubs with those teensy plastic micro beads in them.  Well… those little plastic toxic bombs go down the drain from your basin, shower or bath and eventually land up in rivers, lakes and seas. Very simply, the fish cannot avoid them and we eat the fish. These things are causing untold havoc in the environment.

By now we all probably know how useful bicarbonate of soda is for cleaning stuff around the house – but you can also use it instead of various beauty products. Here’s an alternative for your various scrubs. A much cheaper and more environmentally sound one.

Use an old spice jar – one of the ones with little sprinkle holes in the top and fill it up with bicarbonate of soda. Make sure the lid still seals well – you don’t want the bicarb to get wet. Keep it in your bathroom or shower where you can easily access it.

This alkaline substance has antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. But before you start using this – try a test patch on your skin to check that you don’t have any bad reactions to it.

In addition to being antiseptic and anti-inflammatory it helps balance the skin’s pH – so if you have acne or spots you can mix a spoon of bicarb with a bit of water to make a paste. Apply the paste to the affected area for a few minutes and then wash it off with cold water. Do this until your skin clears up.

You can whiten your teeth by sprinkling a bit of bicarb on your regular toothpaste and brushing your teeth once a day. Only do it for a few days though – not all the time – otherwise you can hurt the enamel on your teeth.

Get rid of residue of hair products on your hair – put a blob of shampoo in your hand and sprinkle some bicarb into it. Wash your hair as normal. It removes all the yukky stuff very effectively.

Sprinkle some bicarb onto a face cloth and use it as a body scrub to get rid of all the dead skin and flaky bits. Rinse well when you are finished.

Or simply sprinkle some bicarb into your hand add warm water and gently use it as a face wash/scrub. This works especially well if you don’t wear a lot of make-up.

Take care,


To sea or not to see

The 8th of June is World Oceans Day.

Thought to celebrate this day I’d share some cool facts.

Did you know that around 70% of the world’s surface is covered by oceans?

There are 5 different oceans – namely the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean , the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean.

The largest is the Pacific ocean and it covers around 30% of the Earth. The name “Pacific” come from the Latin word ‘pacificus’ – meaning peaceful.

Incredibly, around 70% of the oxygen that we breathe is produced by the oceans.

Only 5% of the oceans have been explored. Not surprising really when the deepest known area of the Earth’s oceans is in the Pacific, near Guam in the Philippine Sea at the end of the Mariana Trench, and its deepest point measures nearly 11km.

The Great Barrier Reef (the largest coral reef near Australia) measures about 2,600km and it can be seen from the moon!

We all know that oil spills in the sea are terrible and kill lots of sea life, but waste matter from sewerage and agriculture gets dumped into the sea too. This sometimes had all sorts of toxins in it that can cause dangerous types of algae (sea plants) to bloom in water near the coast. When these blooms die and rot they use up all the oxygen in the water and then there’s none left for the fish. These are called “creeping dead zones”

Some people just think of the sea as a huge dumping ground. Lots of other stuff (like chemicals) are chucked into the sea – and get eaten by the fish that you and I eat, which causes illness in humans (never mind what it does to the sea life).  It’s very scary how polluted the seas have become.

312 million kilograms of sea food is consumed each year! Our ocean resources are being depleted daily. People often imagine that the sea is full of a never-ending supply of fish but this is simply not so.

Please remember you can consult the SASSI website   and find out which fish are endangered or not.

To celebrate World Ocean Day we are going to make Sibo and the Sea available on the website  for you to freely read if you want to read more about the oceans.

Please only eat from the “green list” people!


Pain in the butt

The last day of May is World No Tobacco Day.

Luckily I am too young to have to quit smoking because I’ve never started – but I know it’s a really hard habit to kick.

Truth is that smoking‘s bad for you. Not only can it cause lung disease, it can also cause heart problems and can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body too.

Luckily it’s now illegal to smoke with your children in the car – because second hand smoke is almost as bad for you as the real thing. At least people who smoke choose to do so. The kids who get to breathe their parental agents smoke have no choice. That’s just nasty!

Not only is smoking bad for people, it’s bad for environment and the animals.

Lately scientists have figured out that cigarette butts are one of the most abundant types of litter found around. That means there are plenty of butts out there. (Studies estimate that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts find their way into the environment each year.)

Worse, it’s one of nastiest, deadliest forms of waste.

People who would not dream of pitching a cool drink tin out of the car window will happily chuck a burning butt out. Not particularly caring that it can set fire to something. And they do too – burning butts are often the cause of serious veldt fires.

People also drop them on pavements or into gutters, where the wind will blow them into storm waters and all sorts of other places.

Beaches are ideal for putting out butts. One huge ashtray – right? Wrong.

Or… they flick butts casually into water – dams, the sea and rivers.

Cigarette butts are tiny little bundles of toxins. In other words… poisonous. They get into our marine ecosystems and cause havoc with the wildlife and the quality of the water.

And we all know that water is extremely precious – right?

You know what is also really scary – even those people who put their cigarettes out in the designated places have no guarantee that their butts won’t also end up in the water. The bins get emptied. Butts are chucked onto rubbish dumps. Then they get blown around and it’s highly likely that they also end up where they shouldn’t.

Take care where you put those butts please people.



More holidays…

Hope you are all enjoying being back at school again. If not – don’t worry – there is another long weekend coming up.

Around about this time of April there are some important days to talk about.

22nd of April is International Mother Earth Day. Actually we should make every single day Earth day because we only have on earth (duh!) and it’s not actually in very good shape anymore. Remember we can all do our bit by practising the 3R’s – reducing, reusing and recycling. Also by saving water where ever we can. Don’t forget to save electricity too – that also helps. Switch off those lights when you are not in a room and unplug your chargers when you have finished charging your appliances. How about planting a tree… a nice fruit tree. Just think how great it would be to pluck your own lemons, oranges, mulberries or whatever type of tree you want to grow (just check that it is going to grow well in your area first though).

25th April is World Malaria Day.  You might think that is a funny day to have because malaria is not an issue on the East Rand, but there are many areas in the world where it is a huge problem.  How scary is this… according to UNICEF: “Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds, about 3000 children every day. Over one million people die from malaria each year, mostly children under five years of age, with 90 per cent of malaria cases occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Malaria really is an extremely nasty disease. It’s carried by a certain type of mozzie called the Anopheles mosquito and it feels a bit like getting flu – you have a fever, headache, get the chills, feel like throwing up and have achy bones. If you have been in a malaria area and experience any of these symptoms – you should go to the doctor or the clinic immediately.

Of course we all get bitten by normal mozzies every now and then. They are not dangerous but they are incredibly irritating and itchy. Here are a few innovative ways of dealing with those little bumps… tee tree oil, a dab of vanilla essence, Vicks, calamine lotion, spit, clear nail polish, aloe vera and some people swear that rubbing a peeled clove of garlic on the bite works well too!

If you want to know more about malaria – you can read my book “Sibo Fights Malaria” freely on . Just click on the cover.

Enjoy the long weekend – stay safe!