Writing about an individual requires their claim to fame, a reason why they have been given attention. Dominique Oosthuizen’s claim would not be her birth right but just her birth. Prematurely born by 3 months, she faced a life and death situation the moment she took her first incubated breath.
There is no way for Dominique to remember those prayer-filled moments when she should still have been comforted by her mother’s womb. However, the true story of her own survival is like a robed cloak around her slender shoulders, a barrier against life’s hardships. She tells of her life and death experience not unlike a person who has been granted a second shot at life, except Dominique fought for just a shot at life.
The construction trucks roared past the casual wine drinkers on the corner, clad in expensive hats and lathered in fragranced sunscreen. These two extremes so commonly seen around the town of Stellenbosch on any given Thursday. At a hip and quaint café in the heart of this student town sat Dominique, dressed in a summery jean jacket, a functional blue dress and a glass of wine in hand.
Currently studying journalism at the University of Stellenbosch, Dominique is not sure of where the course will lead her but her background in finance will undoubtedly play a part in her future. A strong believer in careers and being fulfilled in a job you are passionate about, she states “I’m not the type of girl who is pinning wedding dresses on her wall.”
Her life has been shaped by the large amounts of testosterone encompassing her in her household. Growing up with five brothers contributed specifically to her skill in sports and the choice of “appropriate clothing” when she would attend a party or event.
A self-confessed daddy’s girl, Dominique holds the utmost respect for her father. “My dad is my hero.” A man described as larger than life and as tall as a lighthouse, guiding her through times of her possibly going adrift.
What about your mom, I asked. An immediate change came about. The confident, I-know-what-I’m-talking-about sureness flew out the window. A wafer thin answer is produced. I inquired further yet the shifting eyes and uncomfortable hand gestures pushed me back. It’s too soon into our talk for that.
Dominique has moved around a lot. She tells tales of strolling to school barefoot on the beach at Melkbosstrand, playing in the suburban streets of the Highveld until dark and zigzagging across the map of South Africa more times than Barry Ronge has watched ‘Titanic’. She has moved 34 times over her 23 years of life.
Earlier that day, Dominique had to present a 30 minute presentation to her 24 classmates. Like many, Dominique hates the spotlight. Observing her closely showed almost no sign of conflict with the glaring sets of eyes. Confident, well-prepared and able to handle the questions posed, I am taken aback by her statement now in this audience of one.
Hiding away at a cafe in Stellenbosch
Dominique has figured out ways to deal with these uncomfortable situations. Learning to deal, I think, sums her up. She strikes me as a person who can learn to deal with anything. Accounting would be a perfect example, “I hated accounting – I used to pour a glass of wine to study for it.” She stated coyly, sipping on some wine in the midday, not quite autumn sun.
Her school track record shows distinctions and favourable results. A high school career any parent would be proud of. Her life then led to Stellenbosch. Her eyes light up every time she mentions her family and leaving them behind in Pretoria was rough. Yet a decision she says was one of the best she has ever made. A time to set sail for different shores. Strolling from class to the café through Stellenbosch, she points out locations and giggles at the memories she has acquired over the course of her 3 years.
Dominique’s life is steered by her will to discover and the confidence to overcome any bad weather. Her power to keep going comes from her brothers it seems, shoveling the coal into the furnace engine providing more steam. Her direction and guidance originates from the lighthouse operated by her ever present father and the boats exterior is made out of her will to fight and win.
Her hands seem to be shooing away imaginary flying critters as she explains her existence. She seems like the type who would shoo-away rather than destroy. “A constant change of scenery, friends and schools combined with time spent among a bunch of sibling brothers, makes you a varied person – girly yet sporty, creative yet logical – a life open to any avenue,” stated Dominique.
A caring individual and the longer I speak with her, I feel she would be a wonderful person to speak to in a time of need – a person who would understand, no matter what. A notion backed up by her close friend, Jolandi van Niekerk who adds, “You can trust her with your life. You will never EVER hear her speak badly about someone else.”
While describing her life of varied experience and the paradox of personality traits, she drew a cartoon type dog seemingly being attacked by a UFO. She has green chalk on her left cheek after touching her face at the delightful anguish of it all.
I wanted to find out more about her mother and prodded lightly at the topic. Her parents divorced when she was 3. Her dad won custody over the children straight after the parents break and Dominique hasn’t seen her mom since her third grade. A visibly uncomfortable Dominique tells of how her mom wasn’t in the right place to have a child. The effects are still palpable. Yet the other aspects of her life stay in place and cushion this blow. It seems like Dominique has taken this absence in her stride and let it lie behind her, much like the landscape she sails away from.
A miracle baby, who can get through anything it seems. Much adversity yet Dominique still stands, rudder in hand, brothers giving her the strength to push on and dad helping her find her way. She leaves behind the challenges of the past in her wake and using these lessons she has learnt as her sails, she directs life’s gale to her advantage and to her port of calling.