Sunday, 27 April 2014

"Endings and Beginnings" by Redi Thlabi

I've just finished reading Redi Tlhabi's book "Endings and Beginnings" for which she won the 2013 Alon Paton award. When we lived in Johannesburg, I used to really enjoy her 702 morning talk show and so I was intrigued to find out more about her and the story she wrote.  

I was very moved by the story of her as an 11 year old girl and what she experienced. Though she is younger than me, it made me very aware of how different her life as a young girl growing up in Soweto, Johannesburg was to mine.  I also grew up in Johannesburg, but in the suburbs, not too far from where she lived. While there is the obvious difference of lack of resources and access to basic necessities such as proper housing, sanitation, running water and electricity, for me the stark difference was in what these children were exposed to at such a young age; violence, gangsters, the loss of innocence and the fear of walking home from school in case one was violated by thugs.  My eldest daughter turns 11 this year, the same age Redi was when she talks about her life in Soweto and there is such a strong contrast in the two lives as well as that of my own. My big fears at that age were failing a test or exam and not doing well in my swimming competitions!  My concerns for my girls are the same; doing well at school and sport; growing up to be responsible and emotionally intelligent adults and making sure they follow their dreams.  
The book also begs of me the question, how can two such extreme societies and lives exist in the same town?  How is that even remotely possible?  How could my life coexist at the same time as these children and yet be so unbelievably different. How come I knew nothing about this?  Sadly this was and still is the reality of South Africa and many places of the world today. Still, these extreme opposites exist in my world, the difference is that I am aware of it, but am not able to change it. My domestic worker and her family face the same fear returning home from work everyday, that Redi did as a young child returning home from school.  Rape is such a common widespread crime in South Africa and sadly it is still the victim that bears the curse and brunt of it in their communities. It's insane.  My domestic worker still today has no access to proper housing or ablution facilities yet she arrives every weekday to her job looking impeccable and brings such joy and laughter into my home. How she does it I don't know.  She is a complete blessing to our family and I am so grateful to her, yet I cannot change her family and friends' circumstances.

The book also stirs in the me the discomfort of the ugliness of the world we live in and how that can even find a place in this world?  While I totally agree with Redi's ideas about how the lack of love; how shame, ridicule and isolation feeds and grows these 'monsters' and how poorly women are viewed in our society, I still wonder at the universe and people and how all of this can happen.

Then underlying it all for me is truth.  Had the truth been spoken and had people's truth been honoured and respected, this tragedy would not have happened.  To me this is what underpins life; truth, to yourself and others.  I really admire Redi for taking the courage to speak the truth of what lay in her heart.

Here is a video clip of an interview Redi did with the Mail & Guardian about her book.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Gifts Rooted in Pain ...

I recently watched the movie, "Saving Mr Banks" which tells the story of the author of "Mary Poppins", P.L.Travers, and her reluctance to allow Walt Disney to bring her beloved Mary Poppins to screen.  Flashbacks into her childhood occur throughout the movie and from that one gets the picture of how the story of Mary Poppins unfolded as well as her deep, deep sadness of her father's battle with alcoholism.

Sitting at the end of the movie with tears pouring down my face, I was reminded of Roald Dahl and his book "Boy. Tales of Childhood" which also delve into his earlier years and the hardships he dealt with.  It made me think how the pain that each author went through led to the most magnificent stories that children will just love for years to come.  Roald Dahl battled with horrible teachers, matrons and headmasters at the English boarding schools he went to and many of his books revolve around children outwitting and getting the better of the nasty adults and teachers.  Just think of Matilda and it's all there in one book. 

Both these authors managed to turn around some of their childhood pain and leave a precious gift to the world. I am so grateful that they did.  I am also so grateful to Walt Disney for keeping his promise to his daughters even if it took him twenty years, and to Pamela Travers for finally allowing her beloved Mary Poppins to shine on the screen and warm the hearts of so many.

Here is the trailer of "Saving Mr Banks."

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A Family Bush Retreat

Just recently my family and I spent five absolutely magical days at a friend's bush camp in the Timbavati.  It has been one of the best short break holidays I have ever had.  I really, really love the African bush and to me it is a whole different world, a whole different vibe, a whole different language and I can literally feel my soul recharging and my heart singing.  Our hosts were Melina and Andreas Liebenberg from Bateleur Eco Safari's and I cannot sing their praises enough.  Andreas is like a Professor Dumbledore of the bush, from his knowledge, his experience, his patience and teaching skills down to his obvious love for what he does. The assistant guide and tracker, Elias, was really amazing too!  

We tracked and found five magnificent rhino; made fires from scratch; made rope from sisal; sculpted with clay from a water hole and learnt so much about the magnificent trees, insects, birds and animals around us.  The stars at night, while sitting around the campfire were spectacular too along with the story of Orion and Scorpio.  We searched for Bark Scorpions with a UV light at night and found some Flat Rock Scorpions the next day and held them in our palms.  My girls washed themselves with the leaves of the Devil Thorn creeper (brilliant natural soap); kept insects away with Wild Grape Leaves; learnt which was the toilet paper bush and my eldest used the leaves of the Lead-wood tree to help with a sinus headache. We were all in our element; it was the perfect family break.

I think the magic for me was in experiencing just how miraculous nature is.  Whilst I love seeing the big animals and the magnificent leopard we were lucky enough to see, for me there were so many magical 'smaller' moments that equaled those of seeing the big animals.   One of them was seeing how a type of grass seed (I forget the name) plants itself. Andreas showed us how when the little stem gets wet, it starts twirling and winding and in doing so embeds the seed at the end of the stem into the soil!  I was totally enchanted!

Here are a few of the hundreds of photos I took (I was just so in love with this whole vibe!)

 Rhino spoor and after about 2 and half hours we found them 


Our classroom in the river bed ...

Making string

Making fire 

Our traveling fire

Getting the clay ready

Note the visitors in the background ...

Beautiful design on the underside of the Terrapin

Breakfast time

European roller having breakfast

Washing ourselves after a midnight feast! 

Of course, let us not forget the spectacular African sunsets!

I can highly recommend a few days in the Bush with the Bateleur Mobile Camp   They do corporates, families, children's groups from age 8 upwards, ... and what an enchanting getaway!  It will definitely go down as one of my top ten holidays EVER!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Light Up, Light Up ...

A few weeks ago at a restaurant that I frequent for work and circle meetings, I heard a song that I haven't heard in a while and that I used to love.  Then I heard it again on Tuesday and decided I had to download it onto I-Tunes. In doing that I found a YouTube clip of it which I think is just beautiful.  I LOVE her voice and the end of the song gives me goosebumps.  It is Leona Lewis’ version of "Run" (the original is by Snow Patrol) and when I looked up the meaning of the lyrics, this is what I found on Wikipedia …

Snow Patrol's frontman, Gary Lightbody, conceived the idea of writing "Run" in 2000. In an interview with Michael Odell, from Q magazine, Lightbody explained the song was not written about "being a child", as he tended to say. He described: "I was on a massive bender and one night I was drinking in the bar of the Glasgow School of Art. I fell down a full flight of stairs. Jonny Quinn found me in the stairwell with blood coming out of my head ... I split my head open and my eye was closed and I lost a few teeth ... I wrote Run soon after on this little guitar I'd tried to smash up in my shitty little room near Hillhead. The words 'Light up, light up' gave me this sense of a beacon." In an interview with Daily Mail in 2009, Lightbody added: "We had nothing. I was in a flat in Glasgow. No doubt it was raining. The song was me writing about an imagined world, projecting myself into better times."

Here is the video clip.  The actual song starts about 2 minutes into it.  Enjoy!