Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wanna Hear Some Good News?

Before he even asks how my day was, Craig asks if I read The Herald. That's how important the news is to him. I find reading the news a chore, a bore and mostly, something to ignore. Corruption, rape, murder, robbery. There is hardly ever anything to make you smile, reminisce or inspire.

I've actually often felt that, what I shall henceforth call 'The News', preys on the human mind's natural tendency to be drawn to the negative: moths to flames. It's a bit like gossip. Have you ever noticed how macabrely delicious it is to have a fat skinner about So-and-So who was caught doing such-and-such? Isn't it the same with The News? It never fails to cause me great existential pain to see why News like a baby being raped must be exposed and brutalised by so many eyes who, when they read it, seldom think about that specific child, but instead blow it up into generalisations (e.g. the crime in this country is out of control) and self-centred ruminations such as, "Thank goodness my child is safe." It is as if The News is simply reflected out like so much bad energy, instead of it becoming absorbed and then acted upon in a positive way. Perhaps money could be donated, or time, or clothes. Communities could gather and increase their sense of community policing. But instead, all The News seems to do is strengthen the apathy already out there, and ANAESTHETISE everyone into an unthinking, unfeeling, passive herd.

And so it was with kismetical delight that I stumbled upon South Africa - The Good News! as well as MyZA At last!!!!!!!! Hang on a minute - did I hear someone calling me 'Ostrich'? I am not 'in denial about the facts of South Africa' as someone recently said to me, but I seek to make myself aware of ALL the facts. And by that I mean that I actively look for the good news about South Africa, and try to view the negative news with a social activist's perspective: i.e. if you read about a baby being raped in Khayelitsha, allow your (righteous) anger to compel you to action, by calling up the newspaper and seeing if there was a way you could get a parcel of food or clothes and blankets to the child's parents; or if you know of a child psychologist, phone them and ask if they would be willing to work with this child on a pro bono basis. (Have I been watching too much TV? Is it only lawyers who do pro bono work?!) The other thing I do when people throw SA's crime problem in my face is counter it with facts about the crime in other countries. i.e. like how in the UK you are not afraid of a poor person mugging you for your spare change, but terrified of children. Kapish?

Wouldn't it be incredible to see everyone boycotting The (Bad) News, and switching over to The Good News until The (Bad) News underwent a radical transformation? I wonder what impact this would have on our collective South African consciousness? I could bet my HEART that a miracle would occur!

PS. For exquisitely heartfelt art-photographs of Africa, visit Jules Comley's website. (Her and husband, Simon, travelled down through Africa from London to Cape Town in their Land Cruiser a few years ago - it was how they decided to make their epic trek back home after quite a number of Soutie years oustide of London.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Homesickness or Head-sickness?!

Come rain or shine, hell or high water, Craig begins his day with a cup of coffee and The Herald. Besides the fact that he wishes his coffee was a 'regte egte koppie Ricoffy', reading the South African news is his way of maintaining his roots while we're living abroad. More importantly, his reading of The Herald connects him to Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape. If a place could be a religion, Craig would be the most zealous and fervent Port Elizabthanite! But what is so intriguing about this ritualistic reading of a newspaper from home is this: reading about home is the LAST thing I would choose to do precisely because it reminds me too much of NOT being home. Each to their own, I suppose. Last year, bursting at the seams with a Layla-bun in the oven, watching Madiba's birthday being screened by the BBC was so excruciatingly painful I fled the tormenting sweetness of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika for my bedroom upstairs, my pillow damp with being plain pissed-off with myself for choosing to come to England a second time. Being universes away from my parents and Craig's parents while their first grandchild was on its way continues to weigh upon my heart. To explain the extent of the guilt I feel for having prevented my mother from proudly rubbing my growing belly cannot be explained away in a self-indulgent blog post... But anyway, I'm getting carried away. What is so incredibly interesting is how each South African has their own 'heart-balms' they use to soothe the aches of the immigrant-soul. I would love to hear from ANYONE who reads this blog (yip - that means you!)about their own personal heart-balms. (-4C outside, and the soft, white snow --- no longer so exotic -- tumbles down from ashen skies... you can actually hear the snow falling, a hushed susurration - a blanket. Now too dangerous to drive, I'm kicking myself for not remembering to buy loopaper and the aubergines I needed to try my Bengali dish again! But - as a consolation, I have Radio Algoa and a glorious cup of rooibos warmly reminding me we will be home just now.)

Getting back to what I was saying about reading The Herald, since we made the decision to return home, I've been able to read it quite happily - with none of that angst that comes with living in denial about how darn shitty it is to live in another country. England, to be precise. (Maybe it's not so bad in Aussie?) And because we''ll be based in the Eastern Cape, I decided to get involved and register as a user so I could comment on the various news articles. Admittedly, I rushed rather unthinkingly to make my first comment. What a disaster!! The article in question involved various government officials flying to Bloem in an air ambulance to ... wait for it: watch a soccer match! Merely for the sake of making a comment, I jumped in and said something about moving back to South Africa from the UK. Needless to say, the other users climbed in with their apathetic South African aggro - and I'm still smarting from the humiliation of exposing myself without thinking. SO much of what is supposedly 'wrong' with South Africa can surely be blamed on the kind of attitudes exhibited below.

It's a big adjustment coming back to SA. I know the weather in the UK is a big factor on quality of life but think carefully about coming back. After Jacob (Loverboy) Zuma's state of the nation speech, I don't see much of anything getting better...this country is on the way to being Africa's richest banana republic.

The above user, I am absolutely, vehemently, adamantly certain, has never lived in England. Sure, the weather's not great - but it is more the pervasive, beige chill of the country as a whole that is a problem for an African who lives life in full colour! My advice to him? Travel a little - it's an instant remedy for blinkeritis.

The next user deserves a swift lobotomy-by-snot-klap. Only a white person would say something with such heartless cruelty that rings frighteningly of Adolf Hitler's 'Final Solution',
Aids is our only hope.

This oke says he lived in Germany for 2 years. And honestly? Two years in another country is more like an extended working-holiday than actual emigration. The first time I lived in the UK was for four years - and time and again, it takes between 4 and 6 years for the reality of it to set in. Mr Germany - if it's so bad in SA, go back to Germany for another four years. And actually - don't bother coming back. We don't need wet-towels like you.

think real hard before coming back. I immigrated to Germany for two years and made the biggest mistake of my life coming back...from structure, 1st world services to corruption and chaos. I urge you to think carefully.

This next quote is from someone living overseas - and thinks he as the right to decide what 'civilization' is! The crime in South Africa is a problem - but there is a serious problem with crime in England too. Children murdering children. Psychotic, knife-wielding teenagers. Terrorism.
are you utterly crazy? How can you think of giving up life in relative civilization to return to the third world shambles SA has become? I myself would rather die where I am right now than ever return to that corrupt hellhole.
I wonder if this guy has ever been personally touched by terrorism? On the 7th of July 2005, I called my sisters to cancel our date to meet them in London to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Tate Modern. Quite why I cancelled is hazy to me now, but thank goodness I did! That was the day London and the very trains I was going to be travelling on were targeted by terrorists. And to be very honest, I can rationalise poverty-induced crime. I can even understand the anger behind not-having and the violent hijackings and robberies that result from this. Don't get me wrong: I still lock my doors etc and believe ANY crime is wrong, but there is a degree of humanity in much of our South African crime. i.e. hate, anger, fear, hunger - and simply not knowing any better for lack of opportunity. But terrorism? No. There is nothing in the terrorist that I can relate to as a human being. I am choosing to take the necessary safety measures when I am back in South Africa, and living with the reality that I could become a victim of violent crime. But this is a much more tolerable choice than continuing to live in a country that is hated and continually targeted by terrorists.

Last but not least, Homecoming Revolution has been a magnificent source of encouragement and practical advice, and besides receiving their newsletters, I recently joined their Facebook page. And there, I couldn't help but comment again - though this time, more thoughtfully. The comment I replied to:
What home-coming revolution? They left of their own free-will because they didn't want to be a part of the New South Africa. The damn racists. Let them stay where they are.

This meneer , as I saw from his photo and name, is black - and I'm not just talking about his mood! He and our aforementioned Nazi friend should get together and have a lekker chat. That wouldn't accomplish much, I suppose... But wouldn't it be great if they could see how racism, as a double-sided coin (or is it 'sword'?) is the very cause of all their issues regarding the state of our nation?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Invictus" partially reviewed!

How many films has this film-addict seen since her child was born 51 weeks ago? Zilch. To only see snippets and beginnings of films feels like sacrilege, or a violent dismembering of my imagination! I'd rather actually not watch any films than this. Anyway, self-pity aside, Craig put 'Invictus' on for us the other night while we sipped our usual poison, munched our way through matching pepperoni pizzas and tried to entertain a rumbunctious, over-tired Layla. Half an hour into the film, not even having been able to hear above Layla's happy squawking if the 'South African' accents were a good copy or not, I had to make the irritated decision to pause the movie so I could get Layla off to bed.

But................ what I can say about the film is that Morgan Freeman is a man with such gentle strength and quiet dignity as to be the only actor capable of doing Tata Madiba the homage he deserves. Other roles that Morgan Freeman has portrayed impacted heavily (and not just on me - but the whole movie-watching world, I think) as a collective, iconographic sort-of influence on Mandela's persona in the film. If you think of Freeman's role of God in 'Bruce Almighty', his portrayal of a prisoner in 'The Shawshank Redemption', and another - slightly more obscure one - the blind piano tuner in "Danny The Dog" where Freeman's character is endlessly kind, wise and all-seeing. (If you never thought an action film could EVER be poetic and a work of art, you're wrong! Four years after seeing it, and my heart pounds a little faster...) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> my two brothers-in-law are making us boerewors rolls for lunch and then we're heading to a pub called 'The Aviator' at the aerodrome nearby: I'll have to finish up writing later ;)

...........After my pint of Guinness, I took Layla in my arms and follwed Craig and his boets to survey the vast grassy airfield, bereft of sunshine and blue skies, and sporting only a thick grey mist - probably why there were no planes to be seen. Two, most definitely African, couples walked into the glass-encased viewing space - and Craig and Co. exited politely -- while I, probably too inquisitively, chatted to them and asked them if they were also from Africa. "Zimbabwe," the one lady beamed. I don't really know how to explain this, but black people from Africa living in the UK look African - as opposed to looking like black Brits. Does that make sense? I don't know if it is something in their body language or their demeanor, but over the span of six years of fellow-African-spotting, I have never been wrong. Quite what it is continues to elude me. To use words like 'humility' might have a slightly racist slant... but there is definitely something Africans exude which is somehow magnetic, like a deep drumbeat, a vital heartbeat. And actually, to be quite honest, many white South Africans living abroad also emanate this same power. For example, arriving at Terminal 5 in June last year to fly to South Africa, Layla - at 3.5 months miaowed hungrily for a feed. And do you know, that bench after unbudging bench of waiting English passengers simply looked the other way in an obvious act of protecting 'their' space. But, a few benches along, an older woman waved us over, her smile telling us the same thing as her passport: she was South African! She shifted over to the most cramped corner of the bench, making it seem like the most welcoming oasis of calm and benificence. Within minutes I had Layla latched on for a feed, her frantic cries at last appeased, and Yvonne and I were chatting the hind legs off donkeys! (I still actually have her email address scribbled on a torn scrap of paper in my wallet... I must email her!)

Gosh - what a tangent that was!! The Zimbabweans.
"We watched this cool film, 'Invictus' - have you seen it?" I told them I had watched the beginning half hour - and Morgan Freeman was hailed by them as the perfect man to portray Madiba. They had actually all seen "Danny the Dog" - what a stroke of serendipitous African kismet! I could have chatted to them all afternoon... But the boys were on tenterhooks, trying not to look impatient as they waited to leave for the next game of rugby, so Layla and I bade adieu - and my heart felt a little (no, a LOT) lighter for having met them.

Time has run out for the day - and I'm going to head to bed to read a couple more pages of Julie/Julia but which I continue to read with slightly irritated skepticism, knowing how Julia Child really felt about 'The Project' and that Julie actually divorces her husband in real life. Yes, in real life.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Part 3: Chubby and Proud!

Having just scoffed some of last night's tortilla (i.e. not the pancake, but an authentic Spanish omelette but with a Lisa-twist: instead of King Edward potatoes, I used sweet potato and bacon, laced with garlic and chopped, fresh coriander) for breakfast in front of my laptop while checking email, I realised I hadn't written for aaaages on this blog, and couldn't really think of anything specific I would even want to write about. Why? With only 5 months to go until we are back in our magnificent South Africa, I am so focused on preparations that there's simply no time for brooding on things 'Soutie'. Obviously, the discrepancies between my homeland and this land of a 1/8 of my ancestry are still glaringly blatant on a moment-by-moment basis, but I've just got no energy to try and metabolise them through writing. (Other ancestral input? Norwegian, Sicilian, Dutch and German... 'n Regte-egte pavement-special, as we say in South Africa!)

A couple of days have passed since the sudden full-stop of the last paragraph. (There was even a bit more writing that happened last night but was interrupted, and made no sense this morning, so I deleted it: and instead of allowing myself to become angry about this constant state of interruption and the fact that my writing never seems to amount to more than these little blog posts, I've decided to let go of my quite selfish ambitions and focus on the source of interruptibility: my Layla. Before too long, she won't need me and I will be the needy one! Besides which, there is no point in fighting something which feels impossible, at this stage, to change. i.e. asking for some time to write, or paint (or catch up on sleep) is just not something my better half can quite understand from my point of view, no matter how hard and eloquently I try to explain. (I know I am not alone, ladies...) Conclusion: 1. My time will come (both senses of 'time' intended.) 2. In a roundabout way, I have illustrated 'What is healing but a change in perspective' with another real-life scenario, without ever having actually successfully explained my first scenario.

To go back to that, because I knew that sugar was my main problem, I decided I needed something to radically alter my perspective on it. Googling 'why sugar is bad for you' was enough to detrimentally sober my addiction to it forever! Besides a list of 146 things sugar does to your body, including myopia, my biggest spook was that when sugar is metabolised, alcohol is released as a byproduct, giving you a high not dissimilar to that given by my beloved vino. And, as alcohol is a mind-altering substance, I could see how I was *ab*using sugar to get me through the day both physically, in terms of energy, and emotionally/psychologically. The crunch? I was an addict. It was this that was the trigger for me: I did NOT, under ANY circumstances,want to be an addict - especially not a fat, (even more) myopic, constipated etc addict! Perhaps the biggest wake-up call for me was realising that an addiction to sugar is a precursor to alcoholism. (And that is another whole set of blog posts altogether...)

And so, suddenly, my perspective on my health, the food I was putting into my body and the reason why, underwent a shockingly swift change: that milky, sweet coffee that reminded me of my mom and our family home was suddenly not so nostalgically innocent. (Puts a whole new spin on sweetly sentimental, doesn't it?) Here I was inducing a high every few hours throughout the day to ease the homesickness. (Oh *&$@ - I just realised: I got my two blogs confused!!! May I blame it on not having slept the last two nights please?!) It suddenly became so easy to switch that sugary coffee for an unsweetened mug of rooibos tea. And now, every 3 or so days, I will make myself a 'Mommy-coffee' - but then I savour it, sip by indulgent sip, mindfully enjoying it for all it represents - instead of mindlessly glugging back mugfulls of it every day.

(A quick note before I head upstairs to fold some laundry: I was only drinking about 2 or maaaaybe three of these cups of coffee a day (1 heaped teaspoon of sugar), but it was also the biscuits I had WITH the coffee that contributed to my escalating addiction -- and widening hips!)

In the pipeline is a book I may be writing on my own or co-writing with an expert in the chosen field, as well as my own Etsy shop (though I am still looking for the perfect name to work under...) which I may or may not be sharing with my darling mom. (We've been dreaming about this for absolute YONKS, but we both allow mediocrity to distract us. Maybe this'll be the year, hey Mommy?)

{PS. Wishes vs Resolutions, I cheated and Part 1 and 2 of Chubby and Proud are on my other blog.}