Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hero or Sponge?

Analytically browsing today's news to see how much good news there was in comparison to bad, I happened upon this article: Baby saved from rubbish dump. Sadly ... no! Hang on! I am ashamed to admit that I succumbed to exactly what I'm trying to fight: all these negative stereotypes about South Africa, staged as 'facts' by the media. Right up until the 'n' of South African I typed before I thought, "No ways, this HAS to be a universal problem. We're not the only country that struggles with poverty... or postnatal depression..." But before I jump up onto my beloved soapbox, let me just say that I am impressed with News24 and Die Burger journalist, Kobus Pretorius, who managed to make this story more than just a wallow-in-more-apathy story by proactively introducing us to solutions to the problem and the heroes providing these solutions. (Check out - and support! - Molo Songololo in any way you can. "Molo Songololo" is Xhosa for 'Hello Millipede'!)

Isn't it strange how, when I initially read the news story, my first reaction was one of, "It's such a South African problem." This knee-jerk reaction is what the scaremongers and our mainstream media rely on - and in some ways, it feels to me like we're being controlled like puppets by our media. Think of all the times the news hypes something up, like petrol increases, swine flu, the recession, only for it to pass by with very little of the impact they forecast. I like to call this 'awfulising'; that is, when something gets spoken about from a completely blinkered and biased perspective. You will even notice this in your everyday interactions with colleagues, family and friends (and, let's hope not, maybe in yourself!) Awfulising functions like the most vicious circle, devouring any joy and hope in its path. Awfulising is a a sickness that starts with one and corrupts us all. A pandemic. The sad paradox is that the very opposite is true of truth and peace and loving joy: it is almost a Sisyphysian struggle to reverse the damage wrought by being relentlessly negative - but thankfully, it is not impossible. I think victory begins with us as individuals. We can choose what we allow into our lives (i.e. choose the newspapers you read etc.) and we can choose how we convey ourselves through life. Do we allow the negativity in the news to paralyse us into passive, unthinking sponges? Or do we confront the news with our emotions and minds fully engaged, ready to do whatever it takes to make a difference? Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating saving the world. It's about being a proactive human being in your own world. For example, take the story of the little 8-month old abandoned princess. Read the story, and minutely examine your gut reaction and your thoughts. Instead of allowing your mind to be controlled by stereotypes, decide to examine the situation more deeply. Hunt down the real facts behind the story. Brainstorm ways in which you could personally effect change. Even if all you do is change your own mindset from an awfulising one, this will make a magnificent difference! It affects how often you smile, how deeply you feel, how you talk about things. This is as contagious as the sunniest smile!
Reading about Molo Songololo, I wracked my brains for ideas on how I, personally, could help them help our children. Because I don't have oodles of cash, at the moment all I can do is send a small amount in donation. But what I do have plenty of is contacts and access to the internet. Solution? 1. Email the charity to find out how I could specifically help them, also asking interview-like questions. 2. Write a story about them, with their contact details, for publication. 3. Generate dialogue about them with my friends and contacts to raise the charity's social profile (and hopefully their budget too!) and increase awareness of the issues surrounding abandoned babies. I could also suggest blankets, clothes and food be donated to Molo Songololo (and yes, I am STILL crimson from that ridiculous faux pas on live bloody radio! lol)

PLEASE leave your ideas about how you initially react to 'bad' news (if you're brave enough to be that honest!) and if you would like to join me in my quest to revolutionise the South African media one editor at a time ;)

PS. SAfm want to feature me again - this time for a ten minute slot on their Sunday evening show (faux pas and all!) And this weekend, I'm going to be interviewed as part of a documentary about returning South Africans! The media are taking notice! So leave your name as part of your personal commitment to this revolutionary adventure!

PPS. After reading page after page in the world's news about abandoned babies in Chine, Argentina, England, America, Germany and Kenya (to name a few), my heart bloated helplessly with anguish... I couldn't bring myself to look at another article about just how many babies are left for dead - and that's why, instead of writing about it as a world-wide disease, I told you about Molo Songololo and how to become a hero yourself!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Faux Pas Poephol...

An unusually early morning for me - but at least the dark English nights are getting shorter and shorter! YEEHAAA!! (I can tell you what - there is NOTHING more disturbing to the African soul than this perpetual darkness that is the deep bleakness of the English winter. When I was teaching at a little school in Kettering in the very pregnant months before Layla was born, driving to school in the pitch blackness and coming home in it too, was incredibly disheartening... ).................................................. inbetween that first paragraph and now, SAfm called me for my interview and EISH!!!! I'm not too sure how I feel about the whole thing, but I wish I could have been a bit more prepared. As my dad warned, they tried to catch me out with a HIGHLY political question about Malema and this R250 million thingymajig in the news this morning... And I made a disastrous faux pas - and there's absolutely NO WAY on this sweet earth that I can go back in time to change it :( I mentioned how a child psychologist and blankets could be sent to the family of the young girl murdered in Pretoria a few days ago... but I was actually thinking about my original blog post the whole interview was based on in which I wrote about how, if you read in the news about a little baby having been raped in Khayelitsha, you should be spurred into action - e.g. to phone the paper and see how you could help: send blankets, food or maybe, if you're a child psychologist offer to do some pro bono work with the child and her family. Bugger. Bugger. Bugger. My heart's prayer is that I haven't upset that girl's family with my foot-in-mouth disease...)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

{ in memoriam }

Today I am finding it hard to write, let alone to even think straight... You see, one of my most special friends, Jules, woke up this morning to find her baby son had died in his sleep. Writing about it seems somehow wrong, and yet - also the only thing I can do. My heart pounds with a sick sense of sacrilegious guilt, but also the desire to honour her and her son, Jude, in the only way that I can.

I can only hold her in my thoughts like this - in words, and ask you to add your prayers to mine, because Jules and Simon live in Cape Town. So far away that I cannot drive to her house and tell her I love her, and hold her. So far away that we lost touch over a petty misunderstanding for more than a year, while we were both pregnant and new mommies - a time we should have shared, because we used to chat constantly about it with incredible yearning in our younger years. (Surely it was just yesterday that we met in the corner of the Primi Piatti lounge one late afternoon after work, and when Jules replaced her usual order of red wine with a non-alcoholic beer, she didn't have to explain that special smile on her face...)

It was only a few weeks after that, and Craig asked me to marry him - and then suddenly we were in England - and I was pregnant too. Jules came over to the UK, 6 months' pregnant with precious Jude, to shoot a wedding - and we planned to meet up somehow in the short window of time she was here. But between me and my incessant, debilitating nausea and vomiting, and Jules's mounting frustration with indifferent friends, we misinterpreted each other so tragically, that we stopped contacting each other in our imagined hurt. The thought of travelling via a daunting number of trains from Northampton to London with my new talent for unpredictable emesis was beyond my scope of possibility - but Jules felt she wasn't worth the effort. If only she had known the truth of my heart then. I feel like our emotional separation can partly be blamed on our physical distance apart; were we in Cape Town, this would never have happened. I would simply have phoned her, and she'd have heard the exhaustion in my voice and instinctively, and with her habitual kindness, understood. It was the double misinterpretation of our text messages back and forth that caused this sudden rift in a friendship that had run long and deep and true for so many years...

About 6 weeks ago, she sent me a message on FB, and we've been emailing each other - trying to catch up on each others' journeys inbetween being mommies and artists. Her last email to me expressed how much she loved her son as 'the MOST adorable child under the sun'... And to think I have been 'too busy' to reply to that email... I had so much I wanted to share with her, so many questions to ask her. And now, I can never ask those questions. Ever. I dreamed about Layla and Jude playing in the sand on Blouberg beach together, while Jules and I sat nearby, chatting and skinnering like old times - our eyes saying everything when words fail us.

This is why I am moving home. Home is where your heart has sent down its roots. Into the rich, deep earth that is hearing your friend's car turn into your driveway, jumping to pay for your coffees before she does, wrapping up that perfect book for her birthday you just know she's been drooling over all year but couldn't afford, picking up her little son when he falls because you love him like your own...

(I don't know how many of you noticed the 'PS' to my last blog post where I mentioned Jules and her photography? Before she was married to Simon, she worked as a temp doing random secretarial work -- and photographing things so exquisitely and with such tender clarity, that we all took notice and spurred her on to follow her magnificent talent! It became a figurative and a literal voyage. An exploration, an adventure, a pilgrimage... She travelled through Europe, and then eventually all the way back from London, with Simon in their sturdy and well-equipped Land Cruiser, through Israel, Egypt, Sudan ... all the way to their goal and destination, Cape Town. Her catalogue of photographs from this journey make visual the endless depths of beauty she so effortlessly gives us with her heartfelt, creative vision. We started writing a book together based on this African adventure, but I was 'too busy'. Today's tears cannot wash away how sorry I am, Jules.)

Only four more months to go.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Balls to the Wall: FIFA 2010

The last week has been what some might call 'insane'. Layla's molars are pushing through her tender little gums, making for a desperately miserable little bub who just wants to be either in her mama's arms, on her lap or no less than a strict 1-metre radius away. Hence why there has been zilch writing on my part.

As I type, she sits behind me on the floor, unpacking the box of Craig's heavy collection of Stephen King books we're going to ship home - each book preciously hunted down at many consecutive car boot sales last summer. Anyway, that's besides the point. What I've been wanting to write about is the FIFA World Cup - of which yesterday marked the 100-day count-down. It feels like just yesterday when I drove to Cape Town International to pick Craig up when he was still so ardently trying to woo me into the holy state of matrimony, and flying down from PE every other month - and seeing the giant digital countdown below the advert for FIFA 2010 with 600-and-something days to still go! And now, only 99... And it's not just on our South African minds - the whole world is watching, even the sweet old man who helped me put petrol in yesterday in the village of Brixworth!

Putting petrol in has got to be one of the things I am simply going to ADORE leaving behind me when we come home in July! I have no idea why, but I find it quite a humiliating experience - and ---------- eish!! I think I'm going to have to finish this when Layla has all her gnashers above the gumline. Give me a few days (hold thumbs!) and I'll be back with a vengeance ;)