I adore art. I love artists. I love the stories that come through art. I love art that doesn’t look like “art”. I love strange. I love unique. I love looking at a piece of art that makes me feel like I can kind of understand the person who made it.
And this piece of art? I think this piece of art might be my favourite.
This made me smile. This made me tear up. This made me swell with a little hope.
And my favourite part about this piece of art? As soon as they are told that they are beautiful they literally become beautiful. My heart can barely take it in.
In the spirit of trying to not always be too political for the sake of extended family members who are starting to find me terrifying (*giggle*) I thought that I could talk about food today. Yay! Food…
My folks have a lovely lady from India staying with them at the moment. She’s been shadowing my dad and learning a bit more about how the Herbalifers on this side of the world do things at The Rink Street Wellness Club. I have loved having her around here. It’s always so great having long conversations with people from different countries. There’s something extra special about it.
Of course, as happens to all of us when we find ourselves in foreign lands, our guest is struggling a little with the food that is completely different to what she is accustomed to. I, in turn, convinced my folks to take her to one of my favourite places to eat in Port Elizabeth: Raasoie. I then crashed their party because: Raasoie.
I love the way you get to eat in this place and I can’t help but think that I wish we could skip the whole rah-rah-rubbish of the usual Christmas fanfare which includes tons of work and even more mess and just hang out at Raasoie for the day. We could hang out around a huge table with bowls of korma and tikka masala and paneer and and and…yum… And then they have these awesome little table fire pit thingies that you use to cook your own kebabs on. I love this sort of social style of eating. Little bits and pieces all over the place. No stress just a lot of happiness and flavour.
I keep seeing refugee-versus-veteran memes on social media at the moment. It seems like a viable bit of indignation. Surely it is ok to think that we should take care of our own before we take care of others? That doesn’t seem wrong, if you can turn a blind eye to the racism that inspires the observation.
What I don’t understand though, is this: Why are there so many homeless veterans? These are American (or Canadian) people. Where are their families? Where are their friends? I don’t understand how this can be so bad. Why are families and friends not opening their homes to these people who are sleeping on the streets? It doesn’t make sense to me. These people can surely not be all alone in the world. Not all of them. If nothing else they surely have fellow veterans in their lives.
In this situation I can’t stop thinking about possibly my all-time favourite book: How to be Good by Nick Hornby. In it, the protagonist’s husband has a sort of spiritual awakening. He encourages his neighbours to each adopt one homeless teenager as a way to help alleviate the homelessness in his home town. I loved that story so damn much. It was the height of absolute beauty to me. I’ve read that book four times already. It remains one of the most inspiring works I have ever experienced. And I’m not even sure if it was meant to be inspiring! (I’d love to ask Nick Hornby about it sometime)
Maybe, if people feel that their governments are failing them, they could consider taking things into their own hands. Take a veteran home with you. Change someone’s life. Just one. If each person bemoaning the money spent of the refugees at the supposed expense of the veterans were to step up and do something then the veteran problem might be alleviated in no time.
We can change the world without our governments. We can change just one person’s whole world. It’s too easy to point fingers from our couches about howthe world should be run.
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Take in a veteran.
Take in a refugee.
Be the reason that someone gets back on their feet.
So I wrote a blog post on Sunday morning that did a little better than my blog posts usually do. That’s not saying particularly much because, well, better than usual doesn’t mean better than much. I’m just another girl with too much on her mind. Add to my muddled mind a broken filter which allows me to try and articulate what goes on in my head and that’s pretty much the only recipe you need to be just another blogger. But as far as blog posts go, my post on care shaming did relatively well (again…for me) soI sort of feel like I need to do a bit of a follow up. I am honestly struggling to find the right words. I worry greatly that this post will come off as a little bit finger pointy and I hope that it doesn’t. It could very easily be interpreted as being in complete contradiction to my previous post. I hope I articulate myself better than that, but we all know how easy it is to express ourselves badly. Just know that if I sound shouty in your head, that I am not trying to be shouty. I’m trying to be observant specifically without being shouty. I hope I don’t fail…
It is the morning after the morning after the terrorism in Paris, and I once again find myself observing the ebbs and flows of social media in the wake of tragedy. It always starts out the same. Something happens and we the people start to share with the intent to inform or express condolences.
And then it starts to change. And it usually changes into something where we all start yelling at each other about what it is that we should be caring about. I do it (and often berate myself for it in hindsight). Probably so do you. I’ll probably do it within this post even though I’ll try not to… *hangs head in shame*
In the last 24 hours there has been a lot of “I don’t want to detract from Paris but what about xyz….” followed by much bemoaning of the media in general and why socialmedialites only care about Paris and not Lebanon or Japan or Mexico or – most obscurely – Kenya. Many folks are singing about how they refuse to put up a French flag in solidarity with what the country is going through right now because what about other countries and what they are going through. I even get it. It sounds politically correct, and I imagine that to a large degree it is.
I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen in about 2010 when I discovered The Girl Who Chased the Moon. Her view of the world shifted something in me that I cannot quite express. It was a sort of “oh…there it is…” kind of thing. Like I’d been looking for her this whole time. A little bit like falling in love, I guess. Where you meet your soul’s counterpoint and it’s like they were there all along. I didn’t know I was missing you, and yet now I can’t imagine my life without you.
Every time I read a Sarah Addison Allen book I feel like it’s her best one. Lost Lake is no exception. I imagine that when I pull myself out of the mini depression hole that I got lost in this week that my NaNo efforts will be brushed with the influence of Sarah’s magic once more. I can only hope so.
I may be wrong but Lost Lake seemed even more magical. Like everything was magical. Everyone had this special thread of something beautiful. How could I not fall hopelessly in love?
I will always be grateful to Sarah for her works. They mean so much to me.
Do you ever have one of those days where you’re just nothing? I think I’m having one of those months. Novemberitis I have heard it referred to. Yuck. It’s definitely a real thing around here though. It surely sounds like something that happens to people who are eagerly awaiting Christmas though.
I’m not quite sure what to do with this soul fatigue. Wait it out? Drown it in wine. Bury it with special brownies? Those last two sound good…
The thing is I can’t quite figure out what’s wrong. Has it been a tough year? Definitely. A tough month? Sure. A tough week?
Last weekend my husband and I met our new neighbours down the road. They were mother and daughter who decided to move into the city from a farm somewhere I think. They seemed really sweet and a little awkward but I don’t mind awkward. I’m awkward. We had a lovely chat for a while, covering all the basics – career, children, pets – when the mother asked if I ever swim in the St. George’s Prep pool and I told her that I didn’t but that I didn’t know if it was an option or not. I was just about to mention how nice the St. George’s public pools are when her daughter piped up “Oh I could never swim in that pool without thinking about how many blacks have peed in it.” Nadine goes into a catatonic state of shock. The mother then says, “No not the public pool, the school pool.” The daughter goes, “black people also go to school. You know mos it’s a fact that a black person can’t touch water without peeing.”
I’ve reviewed this book twice. Both times the review disappeared into the netherworlds of cyberspace, so I give up. I can’t write a long one again. This book was lovely. That’s all you need to know anyway. And it was written by a South African, which excites me. So yay!
One of the many reasons that I love social media is that it often keeps me informed of what is happening both directly and indirectly around me. Yesterday someone posted a few photographs of nets that had been secured over some of the trees inside the Aeropark grounds next to the airport. These trees have recently become home to probably hundreds of egrets in the area. I imagine it was done because the birds were considered a hazard to the planes. Unfortunately no one seems to give much thought to how much of a hazard we humans might be to the birds. It in currently springtime in South Africa. It’s nesting season. And suddenly hundreds of mommy and daddy birds were unable to get to their babies. Barbara Giddy was having none of this so she took to Facebook and quickly found herself at the head of a volunteer rescue mission. (Just a side note: we love the Barbaras of the world. What a treasure!)
* Kate Hudson having a bit of a sniffle after listening to the new Adele song*
I have begun to notice lately that I seem to be void of nostalgia. As a person who is quite intense when it comes to “feelings” I must admit it strikes me as a little odd that I am incapable of tying present importance to the past. Whenever friends chat about music from our school days, or get all gooey-eyed because someone played Nirvana/Offspring/Smashing Pumpkins I must admit (with the exception of one single artist who is the only one who manages a sort of guilt driven nostalgia) it does almost nothing except remind me that I’m glad I don’t have to listen to that stuff anymore. Ooooh the blasphemy! Sorry folks….but they’re quite terrible…and noisy…I’m old now. I have no desire to listen to any of that music that we all used to sit around loving together anymore. I loved it as a kid but honestly find it quite not-something-I-want-to-listen-to-even-a-little today. Even music from the past that I do still like doesn’t quite work. I still love K’s Choice and Sheryl Crow and Tori and Fiona and and and….but they don’t bring back memories so much as just remind me that hey, I like this song.
But every now and then a song like this one will come along and tumble me into a strange nostalgic-like funk that I can’t get out of, despite the fact that the song itself has no ties to the past at all. I can’t help but wonder why that is. I wonder if it isn’t like every now and then something comes along that resonates really hard with who I am as a whole. It’s like it tickles the entirety of it all. Past, present, future. It’s all there. And when it hits the whole then the feeling of nostalgia just kind of tumbles down. It’s incredible then to once again acknowledge the inarguable power of art in all of its forms to affect and change and inspire and revive our very souls.
This song here, which I ignored for days partly because I hardly care for music anymore and partly because I have been passionately occupied by the politics of our country, managed to be just such a song. I love it when you hear or see or read something for the first time and you feel like you’ve always known it, even if what it means to you is something completely different to what it means to the artist. I reckon that’s pretty damn special.
I’m home alone right now. The rest of South Africa is out watching the rugby. It’s not quite my thing. So I’m here, breathing steady after the emotional turmoil over the last few days, and just doing some quiet thinking.
The last few days have been a thing of magnificence for me. While I did go down and witness/join some of the #feesmustfall protests, they were not “mine” to claim, so I can’t say I “lived them” or anything quite so glamorous. What I can say is that I got a lot out of them. So much that I cannot properly express my gratitude. Throughout these protests I got to open my eyes (and I love opening my eyes!) to the plight of our country. I was made to think a little further than I have in the past. I am quite socially aware of the kind of things that need to be fought for in this country, or I at least try to be, but of course this made me look at those things even harder. I also got to meet some magnificent people, in real life and on Facebook. I was reminded by so many of my friends about why I am so grateful to have them in my life. I got to watch some people start out spewing bile, and then humbly turn around and start considering things from a new perspective. This was an especially incredible thing to witness and experience because it serves as such a powerful reminder that we are all capable of the most beautiful change.
And then….*sigh*….there were the assholes. Now let me tell you I spend a lot of time cringing at something I’ve spotted on social media, and then relaxing because I already knew that the poster-of-the-assholishness was a bit of a dick (please don’t ask me why I allow them to stay on my timeline – for the most part it is out of familial or social obligation and because I tend to feel like the “unfollow” button is a tad bit disingenuous so I don’t use it). A lot of the mean and kind of blind stuff being said by people I know was not surprising. Like a real lot of it. So because that kind of fit in with the source I must admit it didn’t bother me. The part that did kind of sting, however, was when the the most vile things started coming from a couple of surprising people. In the last week I have witnessed viciousness spew from the mouthes of folks whom I used to hold in high regard and to be honest with you I don’t quite know how to handle it. Of course the feelings and opinions of others are possibly not my business, and for me to be “hurt” by them is quite unreasonable (not to mention that if they feel that way about these particular things then I must be a HUGE disappointment to them as well) and yet I sit here with a very strange feeling that dynamics have shifted in a lot of places and I am unsettled.
The thing is though, I can’t make people see what they don’t want to see. I can only speak my own truth and know that if in doing so it is possible that I will make at least one person think a little bit more about something important. In managing this, dealing with the backlash of those truths becomes not only worth it, but even more relevantly necessary. Still, I am saddened by the severe lack of conscientiousness on my timeline. I’m saddened by the refusal to try and understand the beginning of what could be the most incredible revolution for our country. I can’t help thinking that I feel so good right now. I wish you would let go of your prejudice and feel good too. Hope is such a powerful thing.
I probably can’t help those people. I can note them though. And in doing so I can ensure that the relationships closest to me remain as uplifting and edifying as possible. I can ensure that the people who I allow into my psyche are not the energy sucking naysayers, but those whose souls act as fodder for my own soul, and vice versa.
Because if I have learned one thing in this last week it is that we are good for each other. We need each other. We are each other. And dammit that feels bloody amazing.
Today a friend of mine and I went down to NMMU to see if we could offer up some food and water to the kids who had been protesting all day. As non-students (I’ve never even been a student!) it seemed to be something we could do instead of just sitting back and watching it all unfold on our computer screens while holding thumbs and hoping that it will work out.
When we got there we couldn’t drive the car inside. The police were kind to us but they would not let us in, so we had to park our car and walk. Luckily we bumped into two strong men while we were at the shops gathering supplies and they decided to join us, so we had extra hands to help us carry.
When we got to the edge of the crowd we sat down under a tree with some girls and within seconds we were all making sandwiches together. Nicole and I didn’t even need to ask for help. It was given freely and quietly without question.
As I sat there, under that tree, smearing peanut butter on slices of bread, I listened to the girls talk to each other. I understand Xhosa to a limited degree so I was able to get an idea of what they were saying.
They were scared. That’s all. They were afraid for their futures. They had dreams and plans and these dreams and plans were important to them. And they were worried. They knew they were part of something important but they struggled to hide the fact that they were a little bit afraid that it might not work.
And I can’t stop thinking: this is who the students are. They are these girls. These girls who are simply eager to learn. They want to invest in their futures. That’s all.
I see so many people out there bemoaning how the students expect everything to be handed to them. I see folks trying so hard to convince others that the intentions behind this protest are sinister. My “favourite” is the folks who yell about how they should work for their educations, as if this is not already happening. By nature an education is something you work for. Besides tuition, you pay for it with stress, anxiety, exhaustion, tears, determination, tenacity, and perseverance. If you’re not an English first language student you pay for it with even more. It is by no means something that could ever come without a cost. And yet you want to write students off as freeloaders. They are not freeloaders. They are the future of our country.
Students are fighting for their futures. They are talking. They are listening to each other. They have been brave enough to be part of a revolution.
And we want to call them names? We’re so eager to paint any and all protesters with a brush of violence because small groups resort to getting a little out of hand from time to time, when the majority of folks are just folks who have been brave enough to hope for their situations to improve and have been proactive enough to take part in bringing about that change.
The only thing I can think of to call what I witnessed today is beautiful. And I’m really glad that I went down today and soaked up a bit of that energy.
I have been trying to write this letter for a long time now. The thoughts are not quite translating to my keyboard, and I hope you will forgive my lack of eloquence as I continue to try.
I am a white-skinned middle class woman, with a middle class South African white woman’s life, and I am therefore most probably racist, or at the very least I am someone who hasn’t quite grasped the entire concept of white privilege just yet. This deeply imbedded racism exists for many reasons. Some of those reasons may include wilful ignorance as well as subconscious ignorance, childhood upbringing, background, religion, and of course that deeply imbedded inequality that exists all over the world…the one that we white folk simply cannot see through our privilege-tinted glasses. The point is, there are reasons. Some of them are my fault. Some of them are my ancestors’ fault. Some fault lies simply with the complicated “way the world works”. What it is not, however, is your fault.
Now, when I admit to my racism, it is not the “obvious” racism that I am claiming. I don’t hate people of colour. But I probably have a thousand weird (white) racist quirks about myself that I don’t always recognize. I know this because I keep seeing those weird (white) racist quirks in other (white) people – and I have come to learn that those things we recognize in others are possibly faults that exist, or at least have existed, within ourselves. I see sideways digs coming out of the mouthes of people whom I have loved and respected for years and it is kind of a gutting experience. I guess I’m a little more attentive these days. I guess age makes you wake and ask ask questions. Whatever it is, I know that it is bugging me deeply, because the love and respect that used to be automatic is waning at quite an alarming rate. The faces of my heroes are changing. My heroes are asking the hard questions. And they are demanding the answers. I want to be more like them.
I must admit that picking up a little reader filled with short stories by South African authors was kind of damn nice. It’s about time we start seeing more of this kind of thing. Reading little short snippets from different perspectives is kind of great and I hope that a publication like “Big Ups” will continue to play their role in bringing South African writers to South African readers. This is the sort of thing that will inspire future generations to not give up on their art and take part in what could potentially be a creative revolution in South Africa. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
“So we dream on. Thus we invent our lives. We give ourselves a sainted mother, we make our father a hero; and someone’s older brother and someone’s older sister – they become our heroes too. We invent what we love and what we fear. There is always a brave lost brother – and a little lost sister, too. We dream on and on: the best hotel, the perfect family, the resort life. And our dreams escape us almost as vividly as we can imagine them… That’s what happens, like it or not. And because that’s what happens, this is what we need: we need a good, smart bear… Coach Bob knew it all along: you’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed. You have to keep passing the open windows.”
― John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire