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FOR THE LOVE OF GOD: FREE PALESTINE

Advice from a Father
Advice from a Father

What more can a black, South African woman say about the Palestinian question that hasn’t been said. What more could one person or an ocean of people say to change the situation in the Middle-East when those involved will not change their minds about each other for one second.  Who can say something that would put an end to killings? When each day brings with it fresh news of freshly decimated bodies to be committed to the ground, when thousand of  people are left destitute without homes, without peace, without love. Aren’t you tired of reading about death each and everyday? The senselessness of it?  Who can silence the cries of women and children, bereaved fathers whose shrill cries echoe through loud sirens in  Israel’s capital Tel-Aviv reminding them that death is just around the corner.  Who can comfort the orphans born to be sacrificed in the name of Allah, Elohim.  Who can stop this madness when the world wakes up everyday to the un-spun truth of liberal brutality metered out by a country gripped with such fear, she can’t even see that her children are dying, she can’t see that those missiles go straight to the hearts of her unborn children.  What more can a black, South African woman say when learned historians, eloquent political analysts, informed journalists, diplomatic politicians and passionate human rights activists, have voiced their opinions, presented their arguments, shared their views with such eloquence on social and professional media platforms, condemning Israel for its ruthless annihilation of a people already cornered into a narrow cage of high walls encased in thick cement and fortified with wires –  an open air prison – with nowhere else to go while  Israel pushes them further and further into a concentration camp. What more can a black, South African Woman say while others insist with moral justification that Israel has a right, a fundamental God Given right to defend herself and her children. What more can a black South African woman say that hasn’t been said by those affected in Israel and  Gaza? What more can a black, South African Woman say? There is nothing more to say.

Except to ask one question: If God is LOVE and Love is : patient,  kind, does not envy,  does not boast,  is not proud. Does not  dishonor others, is not self-seeking,  is not easily angered,  keeps no record of wrong. If  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  If love  always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. If God is LOVE: which is an intense feeling of deep affection or fondness for another person, another human being.

Which God does Israel  serve?

 

 

 

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THE BEAUTIFUL GAME: MESSI YET SO WORTH IT

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  A LESSON IN HISTORY

You have to give it to Germany! I am yet to experience a country which is to a large extent the instigator if not the  cause of the longest and  deadliest war in our  common lifetime(s), an ongoing war in fact,  and still comes out of it smelling as fresh as roses in the dawn of spring! I mean can you imagine! This my dear is pure magic!  For the first time in my adult life I didn’t participate in the world cup event, either as an active fan supporting a country or continent or part of the audience. I didn’t watch a single game.  The one I tried to watch the semi-final between Argentina and Holland, left me pondering the tiny hole in my sock trying to think if I have a needle and thread somewhere to saw it up before it gets any bigger.  When I lost interest in the little potato I checked to see how long I could hold a glass in suspension an inch away from the surface of the wooden bar table. I even found time to look around and observe a sweet couple drinking hot-chocolates while whispering sweet nothings into other’s ears. Cosy, warm and content in each other’s arms.  Then there was a middle-aged man whose movements where so precise you would think he was being remote-controlled: from his step out of his German car, the efficiency with which he sat down ordered a Guinness, made sure all his personal belongings keys, jacket, wallet were all properly in place before glancing at his wrist-watch and fixating his eyes on the screen above, all happening in a smooth single movement as if he alone was in the bar.  His purpose, why he was there, was clear from his demeanour. By half-time I decided to take a brisk, cold walk home, to save my time and hopefully do something a little more useful.  That’s the most I’ve seen of the world cup this year.

THE MESSI PART- ONE

I guess my heart was not in it because I saw how tense the situation had been just before the World Cup in Brazil. The people protested, screaming their lungs out, risking body and limb saying they prefer houses, improved healthcare and better standards of living to a show of football, but no one listened. The game had to go on anyway. So the protest, however fierce, angry and heart wrenching it was, still didn’t change the fact that those who wanted the game to go on collectively around the world (that’s all of us who watched it) were more powerful in their desire for the game than those who didn’t. So as soon as kick-off started we all forgot about the holes in our socks  to refocus on the matter at hand, the  beautiful game.  So I wondered how those whose yellow and green colours I had worn so proudly and sensuously after having squeezed myself in into a tight-fitting, Brazil National team jersey which pumped my breast up firmly to resemble balls from which warm delicious, creamy fresh milk and golden  sweet honey could drip, with just a hint of my prune like belly button peeping between heaven and earth, could possibly win under these circumstances: the people didn’t want it.

“They had no focus, they were too emotional or didn’t direct that emotion into a positive strategy on the field” these were just some of the comments I heard in passing after Germany emaciated Brazil with a 7-one win. The Giants of football had fallen at the hands of the most interesting country in the world. They call it German Efficiency, Discipline, Precision, Focus and so forth. “Germany has paid its dues to history, it’s time to celebrate!” No holocaust was mentioned there in my friends comment on Facebook. Why spoil a good story with facts. “It happened but we learnt from it” You should too.   So now here we are in the middle of 2014, almost a century since the Second World War when between 1942 and 1943, six million Jews, homosexuals, the disabled, and mentally ill were efficiently suffocated to death. Germany has won the world cup and is smiling from ear to ear, while Palestinians (Arabs) and the Israeli’s (Jews) are at each other throats, forcing an empty argument with heavy artillery through the mouths of infants. Germany has nothing to do with it!  It is the USA whose hands are dirty. Germany has paid its penance for the crimes it committed, they do what they can to support from behind but they will not be the face of it no. Too shameful. Even though its ethnic cleansing initiatives in 1942, are the reasons why Arabs won’t live with the Jews or why Israel is bombing Gaza.  The deal was the Jews would get their own piece of land after such cruel and atrocious treatment from the Germans, they had to be compensated somehow so they were allocated a piece of land – it was given to them. But nobody thought about what would happen to the people who already lived in that same piece of land, where are they supposed to go? So the fight started. Now nobody knows how to deal with the problem because both sides are entitled to the land by birth right, not to mention any holy book. One party suffers more because it has no resources, so other countries who are sympathetic to its cause support it where they can with arms or open disdain against Israel. Israel for its part sees nothing wrong with its actions, it’s something any father would do to protect the family. Germany is nowhere in sight.

THE MESSI PART : TWO

In fact Germany is so ashamed of the holocaust that no one in the country is legally allowed to even utter the word “Holocaust”.  You will be imprisoned says one friend, for just mentioning the word.  That’s how sorry they are about the whole thing.  The sad part is Germany is a very good country actually, besides everything, those who have been there, especially artists who lived in Berlin – sing its praises.  They have achieved a lot since the Holocaust, it’s a shame that people don’t see beyond history to appreciate something good. There are so many Good things about Germany, economically, technologically, their approach to arts and culture, education, etc. So much good.  In fact it is as we speak the power house of the European Union. It is the most stable, most organized country in the EU. Germany decides. So while its plan to conquer the world by the most efficient form of clinical brutality was abruptly halted, they did not give up the idea all together. The idea of a powerful race was still there continuing to grow, it didn’t die, the question was only: how to do this without ending up with egg on your face? i.e. indiscriminately annihilating masses of people to get what you want? Once they figured that puzzle out, they could continue with their plan without smelling like last night’s dinner.  German soldiers had to change uniform, from Khaki military uniforms, to civilian clothing, actually to anything their target is wearing.  They sent an invisible army around the world to infiltrate and take as much information as possible about the target in order to help. We are here to help, not to harm you in any way.

Regardless of the circumstances under which Germany defeated Brazil on or off the field. In football it’s fair game. There are no party  politics involved, no social issues, no business, mother or father dying, you have to focus on the game and that’s what makes you a winner. Everybody understands and believes that in soccer no one cheats, there’s no match fixing, it’s impossible. The game is based on your fitness, training, mental focus, controlled emotions and time.

Instead of being at the foreground, Germany decided to take a back seat and control things out of sight. Being the pioneer of an ambitiously brutal quest for power does not win you many friends,  you have to appear sincere, seem to care. By learning through German Efficiency, Discipline, Precision, Focus and so forth, it was easy for them to identify their opponents’ weakest point but instead of making fun of it, they thought of a solution that would have you freely and voluntarily handing over your power to them without them having to requesting it. This way instead of hating them, you will forever be in awe of their kindness. So that when they tell you it’s better to do things their way you agree, and why not, you stand to benefit from the deal too and it is a sweet one.   What they are doing in actual fact is making you play the game in their own terms.

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME

Every country has its own form of football and that is what makes it such a beautiful game.  In days gone by during the world cup each country would play its own game to the field. I fell in love with Brazilians not because they have an over-supply of sexy men or beautiful women, no it was Brazilian soccer that got me hooked. Those boys were dancing on the field! Their tackles were so complex it made the tango seem easier in comparison. No one could break their rhythm, focus and precision with which they passed the ball from one foot to another.  Football was still fun then, and men played because they loved it, enjoyed the game. You could a compose a beautiful song while watching Brazil move as effortlessly as a swift  gentle breeze, which lingered for a moment in motion for a tete a tete with the opponent while their feet moved faster than a piano master’s fingers over black and white keys, as if asking: Will you dance with me? Before moving in a blink as if nothing ever happened. It was simply beautiful to watch. The result of this was other teams were forced to bring their own game to the table too. Which s why soccer was so interesting to watch, why the world cup could never be boring.

Everybody was inspired to play.  Now our hearts are too heavy to score a goal. We start and then just forget why we’re in the game in the first place – while at the same time wanting to win.   Now we’re playing the game on German terms and conditions: Efficiency, Discipline, Precision, Focus and so forth. They know that for as long as we play the game based on their rules, even if they don’t win now, because they are letting us win, they will eventually win and win big, since they are the creators of the rules of the game.  In effect they know their game better than you. I didn’t watch the game between Brazil and Germany but many say,  it was as if Germany was alone in the field.

So based on this evidence Germany clearly deserved the World Cup.  The country has done well. I think if there is a lesson that could be learnt from these times is: You can always change your future no matter how horrible your past is.  You can turn anything bad you have done into something good, something to be proud of.  You can recover from any set back, you can create a future you want. With time, focus and diligence things will work out for you.

The other lesson is and this one I think is most important: Play your own game – the one only you can play. Because no one can play your game better than you can. Keep playing your own game no matter what anyone says,  because the bottom line is the point of the game is for is for one team to make another lose their game. The minute you lose your game the other team wins. So if you keep playing your game – in your own terms, you will never lose because everything that happens (even thought it might seem like a loss to others) is in your own terms.

By sticking to your game, no one can copy you, even if they try to, and end up doing a brilliant job of it  – it will always be a brilliant copy, never an original.

So be you. Do what you love, what you are naturally inspired to do. Love will somehow, save you, even from yourself.

Who knew that you can learn so much from watching a game of boring football?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIFE: IN THE TIME OF WAR.

Dakar, Senegal: 2012  Before the dust settled.

09 Wednesdays 2013. Dakar, Senegal.  What to write after ten or more days in a country that has  occupied my mind  for the last two years solidly.  Dakar Senegal.  What is it about this place that has so ensnared my mind? That has made everything seem a little mundane if it had no link to Senegal .  A Year ago  in December of 2011, I packed my bags for a month-long holiday at an invitation from a  friend.  I was more than lethargic when I arrived. As the taxi drove through  the main highway from the Airport to the city,  I watched  the horizon, nothing was visible , dust-covered  evening. It was a thick brown fog that  was like  a  concrete wall hiding the  outline of the city.  I wondered why it was so important for me to be there.  I was on holiday, and the reason I was on holiday in Senegal was in the taxi with me. In the days that followed my host asked me what I thought of Dakar. At that point I honestly didn’t know how to  answer that question. I even wondered if I had an answer to begin with. I had not seen the city for one, having spent most of my time sleeping in bed or online searching for things “Dakar” to do. When I was not sleeping in the first few days of my arrival; I took walks around the neighborhood  to acclimatize myself to the newness and foreignness of the place. But as I walked I found little pieces of Barcelona, I found pieces of New York,   pieces of Kenya, Uganda, some pieces I imagine to be decidedly French, even though I have never been to France. I found to my amazement that the city had representations of  almost every major city in the world that I have had the opportunity to visit  and yet it was still nothing like any of them.  So after a long pause recalling the images from my morning and afternoon walks I answered: “It’s  like every city  I’ve been to and none that I have been to at the same time”   She nodded as if in agreement.  After the first five days of sleep-walking and through some connections I made through friends  I decided despite my inner protestations to be on holiday on not on sleep-holiday was during the day  as if I slept. Sleep oh. For the past 6 years I have had a sleeping disorder I didn’t know about which required me to drink enough alcohol to knock me out sleeping pills had become a no-go zone since I once tried to commit suicide by drinking pills after my grandmother who raised me died, in 2006.   otherwise I just could not sleep.  I had to be lulled to sleep, radio television, music book, anything…the opposite of that was sleeping during the day when sleep comes,  even that was sometimes hard to achieve, the TV had to be on, a radio something, I could read till midday, not that I slept of much, the only time I could sleep really  was during the day, with said TV/radio/music on… often I would just sit in bed not wanting to do or go or see anyone or anything – I just wanted to be left alone sometimes. I had to wake up and face this country I had chosen as my ideal destination for a holiday.   One forgets – at least I did, now less so – that Senegal is  mostly desert land,  full of sand and dust everywhere.  I was reminded  this morning while cleaning the new space I have just moved into.  Keeping yourself and your household dust free in a place where water is a very precious commodity can be a never-ending full-time  job.  So in the month of December 2012 I woke up from  my sleep-walking to go to St-Louis, an old French-Colonial-Slave town five hours north of Senegal’s capital city Dakar. I booked into a B&B and caught a set-place (seven seater) Peugeot Station Wagon to one of  Senegal’s most famous tourist attraction. I felt  completely and utterly nostalgic about the drive down  to Senegal;  again, it reminded me – hauntingly  – of  another  time and  place I once lived in but just couldn’t  put my finger on it. Could I have traveled this road once before?  Could I have been to Senegal before and not even known  about it myself? Why was my core, my heart  nudging  me about this foreign place that was once so familiar and strangely new at the same time? The drive down was peaceful as if I was in a time capsule, or on an airplane  where worrying about anything is futile, in transit as it  were or better still – No where.   My feelings and emotions were amplified my emotions (feelings) were amplified, the nostalgia was enough to make me want to cry, but I gratefully  fell into a lulling sleep instead. In St-Louis the air was decidedly different. The town itself felt abandoned – a ghost town – in December. People moved languidly and slowly under the scorching heat.  The sandy streets made walking seem like a marathon challenge.  Others sat in the dark shops from where  they sold touristy things to the few tourists that were shuffled around in horse driven carts.  I tried to imagine what St-Louis must have looked like back in the  1800’s under French occupation.  A place inhabited by french explorers who made their money selling people  and other commodities to countries  across the Atlantic. I kept looking for those quint and picturesque images that so beautifully describe my holiday destination. I re-read  descriptions of the wonderful St-Louis, and immediately wished people could write their feelings.  It is a beautiful place – but  I felt lost.  For me St-Louis, like Goree Island in Dakar had not changed much…. well they had changed considerably but the founding principles of the place, the  country and continent had still not changed. There are no obvious chains on anyone walking around  in St-Louis.   Slavery has long been abolished as we all well know. Indeed there are  no similarities. However the principle of people as commodities enslaved by the insatiable quest for power and money by those in power  have not.  I returned from St-Louis refreshed despite  my initial misgivings about the place.  On Christmas day I had the opportunity or pleasure of swimming at a place where the Atlantic Ocean meets the River Senegal (Oceane et Savanne). My host and I were the only brown people in the entire holiday strip, except for those who were serving the  guests.  I let my mind forget about the “glaring inequities” of it all  for a while, and chose to enjoy the beauty of nature and land which was given to us all humans and animals to enjoy equally though not every one is in agreement about that.

Back in Dakar, I walked into Riots, protests and daily demonstrations which made the otherwise quiet and peaceful country Headline news on all major international news channels.  I had not come prepared to work, in fact though I made mention of it in passing conversations, it was not the one thing that was upper most on my mind. What I had in mind was a chill session of heart, mind, body and soul, full of dancing and making love in the simplest ways, meeting new people, discovering new things –  as one does when on holiday. But the journalist in me could not watch a story happen right in front of my door step, literally and not write about it.  So I started to report on the pre-election violence/demonstrations  in the country and soon after the elections went ahead peacefully and a new leader was elected by popular demand, I found work at a regional radio station based in Dakar, where I spent the rest of my time working 18 hour days with barely  enough room to eat, sleep and wake up again for the next round. Though the work was fulfilling it had become like a heavy chain around my ankles, I’m  sure not so different from those worn by the slaves of yesterday. I worked seven days a week, I had no time to spend the little money I earned,  which was also just fine with me since it was enough for room and board.  I finally decided to return home in May, to put things into perspective – who goes on holiday for a month and ends up coming home six months later? So many have, and I needed to be sure.

The first six months in Senegal now in retrospect was a haze of  dust, smoke and tear gas.  My tears which came often (every two days or so) were a useful tonic.  In the last six month back home I spent a large amount of time trying to find work so that I could return again to Senegal, what for this time? ‘My internal questions were echoed in the faces of my friends and family.  As if to say okay baby, you have had your adventures, you’re not growing any younger and to top it all off, you have been living from suitcase  for a whole year – imagine 365-  days without unpacking a single thing! I still did not have an answer for this question. Until today.

On my walk from my new place to the a local shop to go on the net. It dawned on me. As clear as day – what Senegal reminded me of. What this place was about, is about perhaps.I started to ask myself this question more seriously this time when after  three days in the city I found myself again without access to money, through no real fault of my own. The back and forth from bank to bank between Johannesburg and Dakar, and my inability to anything at all this time round, nothing made me ask what was this big pull to move to be here.  I began again to ask my self the question why am I here?  Change at anytime or place is never easy, to decide to live in a place whose national and official language you don’t understand, whose customs and way of life are on polar opposites to your own, where so much is forbidden, where so much is mis-understood by you, to come to this place – again – Is one of the most challenging decisions I have ever had to make in my life. I weighed them up, the pros and cons of staying. The pros and cons of leaving.  And I decided on Senegal.

I met an artisan in St-Louis who asked me why I was  in Senegal or St-Louis. I said for a vacation. He asked me what was I looking for? Hoping to find in Senegal. I said love. Then he made me a heart-shaped necklace I have never worn with the words Senegal St-Louis on it.   I have been asked this question many times back home and here. I have asked myself this question openly and in private, in my prayers and in my laughter… what is it about this place? So….

There’s one other place I failed to recognize in Senegal in my many walks. And for the life of me this place is everywhere here…. in the language, french and Wolof,  in the religion and culture…and in the sights and smells. I was in this place during a time of war back in 2006 and I never expected to find, Beirut, Lebanon in Dakar, Senegal!

It’s the coffee sold in small tiny cups at street corners, it’s the people who continue to live and move on as if there are no rockets flying down  causing ripples through the dark roasted liquid. It’s the passionate way the people speak. It’s the way in which Islam the national religion – finds its way  seamlessly through french culture mixed with a decidedly cosmopolitan circular life where people from all corners of the world meet,  engage and love each other. It’s in the taxis,the cabs, yellow and black, in the images of Sheick Amadou Bambar in Senegal and Hassan Nasrallah in Lebonon. It’ in the calls to prayer throughout the day, it’s in the convictions of the people of what is right and what is wrong.   Love in a time of war is something else. Life in a time of war makes one grateful for every little thing, even the most basic things one feels grateful just be able to do them. Struggling to find oil, water etc, does not seem much like a struggle when you could die at any second or moment through no provocation of your own.  Every conceivable human emotion reactions is heightened – in the face of imminent death, living from a suitcase feels like duplex luxury hotel in one of the richest capitals of the world,you choose.

The 2006 Israeli-Hezbollh War – changed my life. I just didn’t know  how much.  As if I was literally courting trouble;  the dust had just settled in Senegal when I arrived in South Africa to a  massacre so brutal I was sure I landed in 1976  Apartheid South Africa. More than 34 striking mine workers were killed openly for the entire world to see.  Images of that massacre are still being  screened  here in Senegal.  I didn’t go to the scene of the incident this time, even though the journalist in me so wanted to go there and report on the aftermath.  In response to the Marikana Massacre, I did a series of interviews with conflict journalists/reporters,  asking them to share how stories of conflict/war/violence reporting has  changed their lives or affected them.  I had been with one of them on assignment to Lebanon.  I asked him to share a memory or  a story, an incident that changed his worldview.  He described the most vivid claustrophobic scene I have ever heard in my life. He  described a burial scene, at a Palestinian refugee camp, at a spot which had been hit by Israeli rockets, just a few hours ago, for the second time. You could hear the drones circling the skies like vultures searching for a target – and you were it. He told me he felt like he was trapped, and would be buried along with the rest of deceased, because we were literally the living dead. He told me that when he got to his hotel room he noticed he had aged considerably just from that one day out of a whole 34 days  that we had been reporting on what is was known in Lebanon as the July War  – Lebanons’ Hottest summer.   But what surprised me more than anything was not the scene he described or his real-time aging process there-after, but that simply I had been there with him, standing at that exact same spot. I had been there at that exact same spot and I didn’t even remember it. I was not drunk or high – my brain just couldn’t deal with the reallness of my mortality.  The drive to St-Louiss was the drive to Lebanon from Jordan via Syria. It was nostalgic because it was a dangerous thing to do at the time. Israeli rockets has not left the Syria-Lebanon border untouched.  Our taxi driver was playing Julio Iglesias, my parents and our favourite singer… I called my father on the spot, to say I was on my way to Lebanon, driving past the Syria – our taxi driver was playing  Julio Iglesias, I loved him.  The second time I called my father was when I had been standing outside the balcony of a room my fixer had organized for me to stay. I had been watching the view from the city, when a rocket went down shaking the very foundations of the building and balcony.  I don’t know why war still seems so glamorous. I can’t even remember how I managed to sleep that night.

So in an utterly strange way, Senegal now makes complete sense to me. Perhaps its  my minds’ way of  trying to re-write that story – change the past. I don’t want to be a martyr to this or any other war, worst of all I don’t want to be a martyr in my own life in whatever small ways.  Oh now I remember… I came to Senegal because I wanted to write about country, its people its history, culture etc.  But after the dust has settled in Senegal, life has gone back to a normalcy I have never quite experienced before – my foreignness is more pronounce, my decision to return even more daunting . After the dust has settled and after a year of living my life out of a suit-case going from couch to couch, place to place, living on rough  side of life does not make sense. I want my life before Lebanon back, the familiar  comfort of home  surrounded by my books, freshly cut flowers, coffee… friends and family.  It’s as if after all this time , five years precisely since I was in Lebanon, someone forgot to tell me that: –  ” Honey the war is over, you don’t have to live out of a suitcase, or run for your life, be poor or be ill not every thing is an emergency, not everyone you love is going die right this minute or the second you don’t see them, YES YOU ARE ALIVE, and you deserve to live just like everyone else including those who have died. It’s okay, It’s not you’re fault.  The war is over, live life make it all count now by living your BEST LIFE NOW.”

I am crying now, and Its A-OKAY with me, Because yet again I forgot to mention the  one other important reason that led me to  Beirut, Lebanon and Dakar, Senegal. LOVE.  Love for my work and a love for another human being.

And it is here in Dakar Senegal, that I learned how to walk again, sleep again, eat again, laugh, cry, trust, believe again, hope again, love again.

I have been scared to say I’m in love in case it does not work out… I’ve been scared to admit that I Jedi Ramalapa am a LOVABLE person,  I forgot in all those years (6 years), that My mother loves me, My father loves me, Oh my sisters and brothers love me, I have friends near and far who love me.  I am loved. Forgot what love feels like. everything, my humanity, their humanity and I am sorry.

There’s one other person… I love  who I know loves me more than I can ever imagine….

All I can say I am sorry it’s taken me so long to get here, I love you and I know that you love me too.  You are the only One I want!

I love you baby.