So peace is not a place you arrive at. Peace is accepting things for what they are, character is how one perceives the circumstances and personality is what one does with them. To find peace is to realise the value and necessity of impermanence in everything. To know impermanence one knows loss and pain. To have overcome loss one becomes familiar with joy. To accept joy, one finds, believes and acts with love.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Another era ends
Thomas Merton was once asked a question about literature he had written 10 years earlier and he replied, "The man who wrote that is now dead".
Well I'm not dead but I've made it through the past 18 months of my life. I've cried, I've laughed, I've cringed and I've danced. I'll never forget it but it is over now.
So this is the end of this rather personal blog. Thanks for reading, and for all the support you've given me through what's being quite a difficult time for me, it's always appreciated!
I will continue to post images regularly on my photoblog.
"As suburban children we floated at night in swimming pools the temperature of blood; pools the colour of Earth as seen from outer space. We would skinny-dip, my friends and me - hip-chick Stacey with her long yellow hair and Malibu Barbie body; Mark, our silent strongman; Kristy, our omni-freckled redheaded joke machine; voice-of-reason Julie; with the "statistically average" body; honey-bronze ski bum, Dana, with his non-existent tan line and suspiciuously large amounts or cash, and Todd, the prude, always last to strip, even then peeling off his underwear underneath the water. We would float and be naked - pretending to be embryos, pretending to be fetuses - all of us silent save from the hum of the pool filter. Our minds would be blank and our eyes closed as we floated in warm waters, the distinction between our bodies and our brains reduced to nothing - bathed in chlorine and lit by pure blue lights installed underneath diving boards.
Afterward we towelled off and drove in cars on roads that carved the mountain on which we lived - through the trees, through the subdivisions from pool to pool, from basement to basement, up Cypress Bowl, down to Park Royal and over the Lions Gate Bridge - the act of endless motion itself a substitude for any larger form of thought. The radio would be turned on, full of love songs and rock music; we believed the rock music but I don't think we believed in the love songs, either then, or now. Ours was a life lived in paradise and thus it rendered any discussion of transcendental ideas pointless. Politics, we supposed, existed elsewhere in a televised non-paradise; death was something similar to recycling.
Life was charmed but without politics or religion. It was the life of children of the children of the pioneers - life after God - a life of earthly salvation on the edge of heaven. Perhaps this is the finest thing to which we may aspire, the life of peace, the blurring between dream life and real life - and yet I find myself speaking these words with a sense of doubt.
I think there was a trade-off somewhere along the line. I think the price we paid for our golden life was an inability to fully believe in love; instead we gained an irony that scorched everything it touched. And I wonder if this irony is the price we paid for the loss of God."
I am a phenomenon to you, but only a noumenon to myself
I haven’t been able to write lately, not a word. My mind has been pre-occupied with lots of change. But I have been able to read many books and am learning so much.
Just as Zimbabwe did when I was living in Edinburgh, Edinburgh now feels like a lifetime ago to me, it‘s another cocoon which has been shed. I missed it for a week and then that emotion silently slipped away. I hear my parents talking about being homesick and, even more so, it hammers down the fact of making the most of the moment you’re in. Time does not repeat itself.
The funny thing is that the more I enjoy experiences the more forgettable they become. Not in an sinister way, it’s just that I will be too involved in the next moment to think about the last. It is difficult to explain without sounding careless and harsh. But the happier I am, the more aware and focused I can be, the more loving I am to everything around me, therefore the past and the future aren’t important as they’ve been, gone and not yet arrived. Though the experience is never forgotten as that is what has made me who I am now, and pulls me in the direction I’m going.
The past few months have been great for me. Slowly and surely life is revealing one step at a time to me. Going from someone who was ’totally in control’ I feel like I have thrown my cards to the wind and said "Take me where you will"! And that’s what life is doing. It is fun, exciting, relaxing, peaceful and effortless. I guess this is the equivalent of a 5* luxury spa resort for the mind and soul :) … But one (literally) located where it rains a lot....
Newbury is getting better and better. I've discovered that the countryside is just 3 blocks away from my bedroom! And the photography studio is about 6 blocks in the other direction. As you can see, I'm having fun!
A few months ago I heard someone asking what would happen to the world if suddenly there was not more electricity? ....
Well you wouldn't be reading this. Most phones in this country are plugged in to an electrical supply. Battery charge would die. Cooking would be difficult. Shopping would not be shopping, the tills wouldn't operate. Wandering around in a Tesco lit with midnight darkness could also be fun ... I'd hide out in the ice-cream fridge ... not that it would be cold. Factories and offices would be rendered useless. So would traffic lights. And so on.
Our family friends in who are still living in Zimbabwe are going into their 13th day without electricity and they are being told there might not be a supply for weeks to come. So it's back to the basics, cooking on a small gas stove, studying by candle light, smoke signals soon?
My gran has been in hospital for a few weeks; it's crazy payments per night to stay there and somehow they've accidently administered to her the wrong antibiotics, causing an allergic reaction. We found out today that the nurses are working for an agency ... basically the Manager of the agency found them walking the streets, said 'Wanna job?' and now they're nursing.
One day into life in Newbury and it feels like I'm in a washing machine.
One minute my heart is sinking at the realisation of the size of this place.
Next minute I hear my name being called out and it's an old friend from Zimbabwe, Dean Clayton, who's just escaped the rush of London and moved here for some quietness.
Then I walk on and think about how small this place is and wander how small-minded it could possibly be.
After that a rainbow radiates over the canal and it looks like heaven.
I think of Edinburgh, the Scots and how much I like it there ... so what am I doing in England of all places!?!?
Soon afterwards my mom cracks a joke and I feel right at home again.
Rough waters, I remember feeling this exactly way on my first day in Cape Town and I recall emailing my old boyfriend from Zimbabwe to tell him about it. And today, after 3 years of no contact with Don, I receive an email from him out of the blue.
Oh my! Party poppers just popped! Fireworks just cracked! The world errupted and cheered, as I just reached the proud age of 25!
Anyways, as my birthday present to you, I'll share with you a wonderful piece of words by Tom Robbins. Ofcourse I secretly, or not so secretly anymore, wish the words were describing me but not this time ....
If she's some kind of phosphorescent flake, some kooky angel circling the ethers in deep left field; whether she won the eccentricity competition in the Miss California pageant or was that actually in Istanbul at the time, none of that matters to those of us who love her. Give us half a chance and we'd lick hot fudge from her fingers, spank her with a ballet slipper, read aloud to her the sacred moon poems of Kalahari bushmen. What's more, we like the way she dresses.
PS, being 25 is not turning me into a desperate housewife, moreso a teenager again.
Oh god! It’s 3.30am and I'm kinda drunk, I had a birthday/farewell party and now I don’t want to leave Edinburgh. Up until this afternoon I was fine … this morning my friend and I remembered the anniversary of his father passing away, we stood out the flat where his father grew up, leaning against a discarded mattress trying to think of what it would have been like there 60 years ago. I wandered what it would be like in 60 years time from then. This afternoon, I went into this Polish deli on Leith walk where everyone was so friendly, they gave me free food and wine, great chat and sold me cheap beers. Tonight I had fun, we told each other stories. Then when everyone left … I realised that a big part of me wants to stick around and I want to get stranded again on Crammond island again with Calum, go out for coffee with Natalia and discuss emotions, talk more lens with Phil whilst walking around the city's canals, laugh with Annalee at things that most people wouldn‘t find funny, go break-dancing with Giulia and silly-dancing with Captain Rory, and so much more. Oh. This sucks. Life is strange.
People have asked me recently if I'm getting bored not working at the moment, hell no! I have too much imagination for that. Others have commented about the ease that Marc and I are getting up and moving somewhere new ... it's not easy, I will leave a part of me in Edinburgh forever, but life is fluid and it changes all the time. One has to follow their heart and allow themselves to grow and enjoy the journey, to appreciate things for what they are. I know I can no longer stay in Edinburgh, my time is up here, everything tells me so … I’m on autopilot and there haven't been choices to be make, they’ve all been made for me. But this time is harder than the last. Life is such a funny adventure.
(PS, It's now the day after the night before and, yes, my head does hurt a bit.)
There is always an element of balance in life, maybe sometimes it’s going to one extreme and then the other to end on the middle note, or it’s weighing scale balance.
My daily life has changed dramatically lately, it’s blissful at the moment, holidays always are! Spending days in the sunshine cycling along coastlines, plenty time with friends, lots of photography, art galleries, and so on. There are moments when I feel my smile is going to break because it’s not big enough to express the happiness I am enjoying.
Though now my fears have transferred themselves to a different area of my life – my sleep. Zimbabwean nightmares. Very intense and should-be scary dreams but instead they have a deep element of sadness to them. The other night I woke up in tears when I should have been scared but, as weird as it is, they are not scary.
Last night, I was at an airport and sitting on a plane waiting for take-off but I had to rush off to get something so I ran there, got whatever it was then sprinted back to the aeroplane just to see it take off into the sunset. My parents were on the plane and they were going on holiday with my aunt and uncle for a few months. After that I was on a train with one of my mother’s friends, Peggy Parks, and Kathleen who’s a colleague of mine from my recent job. It was a Zimbabwean sleeper train and we were sitting on the ledge by the window chatting and watching the countryside slide by. Night fell fast and with that the soldiers made their entrance. All armed with AK47s they seemed to base themselves mainly in the carriage up from us, shooting out the window at the crowds of people who, with a theory of chaos, had been chased out of their homes and stood there nervous and fearful. There were soldiers scrambling about setting things to fire whilst flashes of gunfire littered the air. It seemed like a game to the soldiers and their cheers were extra loud and evil each time they shot a dog, maybe it was because it proved their target practise was paying off. I recognised people from the crowd, a family who used to live a block away from us, but felt so helpless. Next thing someone behind me placed the end of a gun on the nape of my neck. Bang. Bang. Bang. It wasn’t bullets but some sort of staples tipped with poison. I woke up after that.
Anyways it’s daytime now and once again the summer sun is shining!
Congrats to the newly wed Mr and Mrs Anthony Garden! My thoughts and heart are with you today and Saturday!
.. I would have been flying out to Africa tomorrow. But it ain't an ideal world so (sob, sob, sob) .. instead I'm finding new and fun things to do, like (weather dependent) photographing outdoor swimming pools on the West coast of Scotland, can you believe they have those here?!
Nostalgia! I'm being hit with it at 1am on this random Tuesday!
I've been hardened over the past few years. Believing in the travel lifestyle where people sail into your life just as fast as they exit. It's extremely exciting, it's fun and it is kinda lonely. I take it for granted that people grow up and they leave home, everyone I know from Zimbabwe is scattered across the globe, none of my friends still live in my home town. We all lead interesting lives in exotic places. It's fun, exciting and tonight it is lonely.
Heehee, Tonto, your internet connection, if you even have one, won't be fast enough to play this, but it's for you!
For the past few days I've been working in my aunt's garden, doing a lot of weeding whilst tidying it up for her. I've really enjoyed this opportunity to be in the spring sunshine and work with nature. So this afternoon when I was nearly finished suddenly it dawned on me ... the horror!
Whilst doing this I've come face to face with lots of little bugs and worms etc. But then the thought struck me. In their time scale the hours that I've been in the garden must feel like a long time! I was entrusted with the care of the garden and to do the best I could, which I did. Though only when 95% of the way through I stopped to think about all the lives I had just disrupted and ended. It made me feel sad. To think that I had done all of this and although I'd been aware of them living there I did not do anything differently. So I made a short speech to the inhabitants of the garden and gave them my sincere apologies, but I informed them that the new resident of the house, Mrs Thompson, was well known for her gardening skills so I hope their land will be turned into a sanctuary soon.
It made me ponder, is that what it's like to be a dictator of a country? ... to see the people's faces and know they are alive but have no conscious realisation that there is a duty to serve them and actions have unseen consequences, rather than psychopathically make the place into what you want it to look like. Maybe.
Heehee, my journey of self-discovery continues to go well! And John Lennon is wise, reality does leave a lot to the imagination.
I have a mother and father again. And an aunt and uncle. Plus cousins and friends. All squeezed into one little house. God it's good! Rediscovering the miracle of family is exciting, it's been five years since I had quality and relaxed family time and it's well worth the wait. I had taken it for granted the first time round, now I'm savouring every minute of it! Happiness!
Manchester was a lot of fun! Liverpool was an absolute partay. London, always when I arrive there for the first half an hour or so I keep questioning myself why do I choose to come to a city as big and as fast as it is. On Saturday afternoon the tubes were packed and not long after trying to get where I wanted to be an announcement came up saying "Trains between this and this station are not running due to a people incident." I wandered why they didn't actually say what happened, ie if someone committed suicide, and then maybe people feel a little something for a stranger rather than be far away in their own little worlds. Or maybe I'm too nosey.
So by then I was feeling a little flustered, people everywhere, backpacks on my back and chest, rush, rush, rush. Then walking up to the escalator I spotted two Asian men, one in his fifties - maybe the father - and a guy in his teens who quite obviousily had a learning disability and deformed hands. The two walked arm in arm to reach the first step then the teen unraveled his arms and stretched them out, let his head fall back, closed his eyes, smiled and he 'flew' up the stairs. What I would have given to be him for those few moments!
Then when walking out the station a beggar shouted to me 'Hey lady' so, me being me, went over to him and responded, 'Hey Mister!!! What's up?'. He gave me the biggest flash of teeth and then cheekily responded, 'Wanted some Toblerone?' and broke off a few triangles of the chocolate. Oh I told him 'A second on the lips, years on the hips', took one piece off then handed the rest back. 'Yeah look at me hips' he chuckled. That piece of was chocolate was sweeter than the usual!
Anyways, as normal, I did have an absolutely wonderful time in London!
The Zimbabwe protest went well! Here are my photos from it.
Mugabe has really gone mad now. There are reports that he's recruiting para-military police from Angola to beef up his own security forces. Excuse my language, but, shit!!! For some reason I do not think Angolan military are very nice people. Luckily there is hope that it's a rumour ... there is confusion of what is really happening.
If you care to join the protests listed below then please do! I'm heading down to England on Thursday so will try do my bit too.
Wednesday, 28th March, 11 am - join MDC-UK at the Zimbabwe Embassy, London. There are plans to toyi-toyi to the House of Commons via the South African High Commission. For more information, contact: Jaison Matewu, 07816 619 788.
Thursday, 29th March, 2 pm – join Free-Zim Youth to lobby the Angolan government following reports of sending troops into Zimbabwe (meet Baker Street tube station). For more info contact:Alois Mbawara 07960333568, Wellington Chibanguza 07706868955, Bridgette Maphosa 07784111755
Saturday, 31st March, 2 – 6 pm – Special Vigil outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, London, in solidarity with victims of political violence in Zimbabwe. We are going to pull out all stops at the Vigil in support of the brave activists at home facing such appalling dangers. We know from phone contacts as well as news reports that many people are being sought out from their homes and beaten up for their political beliefs. This is what we hope to bring out more clearly to the British public – the deliberate attempt to crush any dissent.
Saturday, 31st March – 11 am - 3 pm - The Bristol Vigil meets under the covered way, just near the Watershed, Canon's Road, Harbourside
Tuesday, 3rd April, 7.30 pm - Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ - Zimbabwe in Meltdown - to be discussed by a panel consisting of Lord Triesman, Minister for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Wilf Mbanga, Founder, Publisher and Editor of The Zimbabwean newspaper, Gugu Moyo, Zimbabwean lawyer of the International Bar Association and Bill Saidi, Deputy Editor of The Standard in Zimbabwe – via phone link. Tickets £7 available online at www.frontlineclub.com.
Wednesday, 4th April, 12 – 2 pm – join ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa, the successor to the Anti-Apartheid Movement) and the Trades Union Congress for a demonstration outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in solidarity with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions who have called a general strike for 3rd and 4th April. Check: www.actsa.org for information about how else you can be active on behalf of Zimbabwe.
Saturday, 18th April, 2 – 5 pm – the second Belfast Vigil (to mark Zimbabwean Independence Day). Venue to be advised.
Magic exists. Somehow. It's a subtle appreciation of life, a love of life and the acknowledgement that there is much more to life than meets the eye. When magic is happening you will know it, it discreetly warms your heart.
Magic was present last week when I met Daniel, a couchsurfer, from Tel Aviv for lunch and a great conversation. He posed the question of how do you react to beauty? Well, I try to photograph it fairly often. But on a deeper level, do you hold onto it, try to change it, try adapt it to suit yourself, try own it, attach yourself to it, enjoy it, remember it or just appreciate it and then let it pass you by? It's an indepth question. Which has to be answered with other questions. What is beauty, or moreso - what's beautiful to you? When does beauty start and where does it stop?
And then how do we communicate that to someone else? There is always going to be that empty space between us and that's what makes life a uniquely individual experience. That empty space is dangerous as ideas can easily be misunderstood and misconstrued.
Heritage, to me, is the flavour of my thoughts this week. There is no way you can choose it but it's a precious and beautiful gift that is so often taken for granted and rarely appreciated. Not heritage as in buildings etc, well that too, but more so the geographical and genetic heritage you have gained. The little things from your upbringing that influence decisions that you make in your life. You are what you are and there are unconscious habits that just can't be changed, they are passed down from the forefathers of your country and family, it's deep ingrained knowledge.
So back to magic. Tom Robbins says that "Magic can not be described. One can create it but not discuss it. It's much too gossamer for that. Neither can it be defined. Using words to describe magic is like using a screwdriver to slice roast beef." Daniel thinks that if we could actually communicate these emotions to others we would not have art. And thank God for art! It's a beautiful world.
It's been an emotional week. Hearing about Morgan Tsvangirai and other activists being beaten up for voicing their opinions. Knowing that it's 99.9% likely that I'll have to postpone my trip to Africa due to the Home Office taking longer than quoted to process my visa. And today. Oh today. Ireland and Zimbabwe DRAWING at cricket.
How can we possibly draw at cricket .. with Ireland? I used to like the Irish people but not today ... unlucky for my Irish friend who I watched the game with - he got hit over the head by with a menu at the end of it all. That is the very first time in my life that the outcome of a sports game has nearly made me cry. And as for my fingernails, there's nothing left to them.
A nice surprise was seeing a school friend coming in as a opening batsman ... good ol' Terry Duffin!
As reported by The Herald, a leading (government run) newspaper in Zimbabwe ....
Violence flares in Glen View
AS MDC escalated its violent campaign in Glen View 3 yesterday morning barricading roads, destroying property and stoning vehicles, the United Nations, United States, Britain and New Zealand joined in the fray by condemning the Zimbabwe Government for breaking up the violent protests.
The orgy of violence, which started last Sunday, continued early yesterday morning as commuter omnibuses operating in Glen View started ferrying people to their workplaces.A commuter omnibus was stoned before being overturned along Glen View Way, just opposite Glen View 3 High School, at around 5am. At Tichagarika Shopping Centre, the rampaging youths uprooted and destroyed a phone shop cabin, which they later used to barricade Willowvale Road.
Sources said the violence was part of a broader campaign by the youths to cause chaos in the suburb. Police quickly moved in to quell the violence and by around 6am, the situation was generally calm with residents going about their normal business. However, riot police maintained a heavy presence in the restive suburb.
Police spokesperson Chief Inspector Andrew Phiri confirmed the outbreak of violence and said three people had been arrested. While the MDC youths were on the rampage, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon said the UN boss was concerned about reports that opposition leaders were beaten up in police custody, and called on the Government to release them and guarantee their safety.
Contacted for comment, the Government said it had taken note of the statement attributed to the UN chief concerning the arrest and assault of opposition leaders and would issue an appropriate response in due course. Said Presidential spokesman Cde George Charamba: "We have noted the statement attributed to the spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General. We have also noted its contents which we are studying and quite soon the Zimbabwean Government will respond to the statement attributed to the Secretary-General."
The MDC unleashed violence on Sunday in Highfield after the party attempted to hold a rally at Zimbabwe Grounds in defiance of a police ban on rallies, political gatherings and demonstrations in Harare for three months.
The rally was disguised as a prayer meeting, convened under the auspices of the so-called Save Zimbabwe Campaign.
For the past few years I've been fascinated with religions and beliefs. I'm not prepared to believe in something just because thousands of others to, I need to try, test, understand or experience first for myself.
I've tried meditation. Yes the type where you sit crossed-legged and have your palms up. The type where you try to discipline your mind and not get caught up in other thoughts, or you listen to some relaxing music and stare at a candle flame, or something like that, and nearly fall asleep. Yes they have positive effects as it relaxes your body and mind, but as far as I've experienced - that it's about it - there is very little spirit or soul in there. I've discovered that, personally, meditation is something that has to be done ALL the time. Yoga, I was told in India, is actually the discipline and flexibility of your life, not just your body. For me, meditation is the art of consciously being aware and awake, not sitting closing your eyes and withdrawing from the world. It's actively taking part in your life in the most peaceful and loving way you possibly can.
Religion is such a personal thing. When I think of the people that inspire me the most, none of them have been tied up in religious beliefs but they certainly have a very strong faith in something. Organised religion takes too much responibility away from the individual - everything that happens to you is God's will - but hasn't God given you free will to have an individual experience?
"I am because you are” is the core belief of many of the continent’s peoples. “I am because you are” is the foundation of most African culture, affecting everything from the healing arts and family life to politics. It is at the heart of a number of lessons that can be learnt from Africa.
Lately I've been wondering when the next 'WOW! person' would enter my life and alter my ideas and approach. I met him tonight. Kumi Naidoo
I attended the Oxfam reception at the Scottish Parliament and was pleasantly surprised by the difference in Scottish compared to African Ministers of Parliament. A few of the MSPs were there wearing jeans and t-shirts, no bodyguards etc ... though there were the obligatory jokes about not standing underneath the beams and so on. The head of Oxfam gave the first speech, Jack McConnell the second and Kumi Naidoo the last and most inspiring.
A fact which has stuck in my head is that there are more qualified Malawian doctors practising in the city of Manchester alone than in the whole of Malawi!
Afterwards I chatted to Kumi and asked him 'who is he?'. He told me if I wanted to do something meaningful for my country then leave the hobnobbing to the hobnobbers and rather find ways to educate the masses, eg teach someone to read, it's one of the most important gifts you can give. However (a word he's well known for using), he reminded me that this type of work is not a sprint but it is a marathon.
Recently I have been very unhappy in my work. I met another person this evening who's a qualified social worker and immediately after I told him my occupation he launched into a rant about how social care companies never take care of their employees thus he will not work for them anymore. I had to agree. Besides that, the parts that I struggle with the most in this industry are the health and safety laws imposed by the Care Commission. They take 98% of the humanity out of the work we try to do and they replace it with paperwork, which 'keeps you safe' in the system. I don't do this type of work to be safe. If there was more common sense rather than fingerpointing I'm sure it would have a much larger impact than it does at present.
I came across a news article on iafrica about a psychiatric asylum in DRC and these are a few of the photos that were taken there.
Grrrrrrrrrr. It reminds me that rules and standards are very necessary in our crazy world. I dream of happy mediums!
Is there someone out there who just understands you? Do we all have somebody out there who can understand us?
Is it just a matter of somehow finding them?
Did you ever know anyone for a long time but not know them very well just because you never bothered, and then one day discover they're someone completely different from who you thought they were?
Did you ever look at someone for years as if they were a flat white piece of blank paper and then suddenly realize that they weren't plain white paper at all but rather a multitude of color and music and sound and eloquence, more like a novel or a film?
Did you ever look at someone and suddenly see them change from a simple black dot to an entire world or a field of stars and wonder how you never saw it in the first place?
Did the world ever change right in front of your eyes?
Did you ever...
and then realize it might not matter anyway?
Because the world doesn't worry about your revelations or your epiphanies or your soul.
It doesn't worry whether anyone understands you.
It just dares you to survive.
But can you survive if all there ever is to relate to is a plain blank white sheet of paper?
Something that fascinates me is how difficult it is to stop questioning and just 'listen'. I dare you to forget your own thoughts for a little while and listen to everyone and everything around you. Not an easy task ....
Meaning of Bureaucracy .... (noun) the dumbest, stupidest, most idiotic system man has ever invented!
I am awaiting the Big Bang in my life. Each morning I hope the postman is going to deliver my visa application back to me and hopefully my passport will have a visa stamp in it. I am hopeful but am only human, thus my mind is buzzing with 'what if's'.
The Home Office's helpline rudely gave me four different answers to the same question I asked, 'What application form should I use?'. Finally on the fifth attempt I spoke to someone who sounded like he knew what he was talking about. But just to be sure I called back and confirmed what he'd said. Fingers crossed. I was sent a letter from them saying they'd received my application and I could check processing times on http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/ Well if you can find the waiting times page on that website in less than half an hour I'll give you a lollipop! So I have my fingers, toes, arms and legs crossed that they'll process my application in less half a year and I'll be able to head back to Africa as already planned.
On the up side!!!! ACTSA has suggested a project for me to sink my angry teeth into. 'Africans in Scotland'. There are many of them - last night I sat in a room with 15 or 20 of them, mostly educated with PhDs in international trade law, HIV orphans, one is an inspirational author from Rwanda, and so on. The head of Oxfam Scotland was also present to give our group a bit of guidance, and she's invited us along to an Oxfam reception at the Scottish Parliament this coming week. Anyways, back to the point, they want me to take portrait photos of Africans living in Scotland and tell their story .. where they came from, why they left, what their ideas and hopes for their countries are, etc. The second half of this will be to visit projects in Africa that are receiving Scottish funding and get some photographic evidence of the good work that is going on. Hopefully after that we will be able to exhibit the photos at fundrasing events and show the more positive side of a continent that gets so much (deserved or undeserved) negative media.
Life is just like seasons. Sometimes happiness is bountiful just like spring, other times it's hard and dreary, and often (like if you live in Scotland) you will get all four season in one day.
So the continuing saga of my 'Zimbabwean' life ....
There are 2 of 'me'. The 'Zimbabwean me' who's carefree, has fire in her eyes, likes to be extremely sociable and will do anything for fun. And the 'Edinburgh me' who prefers to be by myself, is more serious, very thoughtful and philosophical. Geographically they are quite different lives. Whilst living in Edinburgh I keep in contact with family and friends from home but don't see any of them regularly. I work in a different field to when I was in Zimbabwe, I try avoid too much news from the country as it makes me very angry, the weather is different, so is the lifestyle, I say 'wee' and 'I didnae ken' (but never 'aye' - that's just too Scottish!) blah di blah di blah. If in Zimbabwe any Scottish friends of mine would complain about the heat and hide in the fridge, I certainly would not be working as hard as I do here and, in comparison, life would be twenty times slower.
Along with my beliefs in life, you're given what you get so make the most of it. Live it. Love it. Believe in it. So the past few years of my Edinburgh life has been fun, exciting, adventurous, busy, new and foreign. But my Zimbabwean life has been heart-breaking, lonesome, scarey, unsettled, helpless and disconnected.
Now that the majority of my family and friends are out of Zimbabwe I can enjoy a sigh of relief. Well until a few weeks ago I was doing precisely that, then everything went grey. Things that I enjoy didn't hold their normal appeal, I lost my motivation and making any decisions is just too damn difficult. Luckily Edinburgh-me ran to the rescue and is keeping both of us going (don't worry, I haven't become a schizophrenic. Yes, I always have been a bit mad). I saw my Doctor and she signed me off work for a week and referred me to see a psychologist. So then I saw Miss Psychologist, who is the slowest speaker I've ever met though it did have a calming effect, and she diagnosed me (the Zimbabwean me) with post traumatic stress. Wow!
This is her explanation of that diagnosis ...
Why do we react so strongly to trauma? There are many reasons why trauma leaves such a stronge impact on us emotionally.
It often shatters the basic beliefs we have about life: that life is fairly safe and secure, that life for us has a particualar form, meaning and purpose. It may be that the image that we have of ouselves is shattered, we may have responded differently in the crisis from how we expected or wanted to behave. It will usually be outside our normal range of experience and we are faced with not knowing what to do or how to behave. In the face of this danger our mind holds on to the memory of the trauma very stongly, probably as a natural form of self protection to ensure you never get into that situation again. The result of this is that you are left with the post traumatic stress reactions.
So this is grand news for me, it means I have relaxed enough to call it POST traumatic. It also means, along with a 7 week trip to Africa in April to June, the two of me can merge ... sanity at last, maybe.
Great song! .... erm, is that what it feels like to drive an ambulance??
The footage for the promo is taken from "C'était un Rendezvous", a cult-classic short film made in Paris in 1976 by French filmmaker Claude Lelouch. This is the first time in it's 30 year history that Lelouch has granted permission to use the footage, though many have tried to acquire the rights to use this beautiful, hair-raising piece of film.
To be human is to belong. Belonging is a circle that embraces everything; if we reject it, we damage our nature. The word 'belonging' holds together the two fundamental aspects of life: being and longing, the Longing of our being and the Being of our longing. Belonging is deep; only in a superficial sense does it refer to our external attachment to people, places and things. It is the living and passionate presence of the soul. ~ John O'Donohue
I've been pondering on this thought all day and trying to understand if you don't feel that you belong to a place, culture, religion etc then what do you belong to? But I think I already had the answer from a lightbulb moment in whilst Switzerland. This was my journal entry...
"It all makes sense to me now! I am nobody. Yet part of everything and everyone around me. Everything I think is a collection of thoughts that have been passed to me from somebody else. In effect I am a vessel, an empty space, filled with what the world provides me. There is, in reality, no 'me' or 'I'. But there is us and, although we already do to some extent, we should more consciously work together to expand ideas rather than fight for individual opinions.'
So in a deeper sense we all belong to each other, like one big happy jigsaw. Somehow many people have got distracted and they've formed smaller groups, ie religion, culture, race, etc. These enrich society tenfold if approached properly, and divide by hundreds when used in a petty manner. It's basic stuff .... is it not?
What a brilliant movie. What a true portrail of Africa. What a god-damn amazing character Leonardo plays (with a real Rhodesian accent)! The happy ending is very sweet but it doesn't happen that way for many of the millions of people separated from their families.
I really enjoy watching movies like that but I always walk out confused and seething with anger. It's brilliant that someone is telling the story and the public is there to see it, but it's all good learning the mistakes of the past. What about now? I'm sure the audience would do something if they could, but what? How did we end up being ruled by politicians who are devoid of imagination, inspiration and moral value. How do the masses sit back and allow these events to happen? How does one kill for their own greed? Where does the responsibility lie?
A 21year old Zimbabwean commented on my Zimbabwe video yesterday and I like the questions he asks.
Reading these comments makes me very sad at how little we as the Human race have moved forward, im sick of this pingpong game, and eye for an eye, all we end up with is a world of blind people, blind to the atrocities taking place every hour of every day, every month, every year. How are we ever going to move forward if all we do is justify our actions by the actions of our forefathers. Is the soil not red enough? When we are all finished is this a world that our children would want to live in? Will there be a world left to live in? Until we stop hating one another for the sake of it, and start living at peace with each other, we will live in this hell we have created forever. Jah help us, forgive us... Ps Look at all of you .. you cant even keep peace commenting on a video preaching peace, in text to people you dont even know the name of, shame on you, talking about rights to be Zimbabwean, do you have rights to be human beings?
It's always good to have a plan but it's not worth worrying about, worrying is something you do to make yourself feel like you are in control, but you do not truly know what is going to happen tomorrow. Well ... if you do then I hope something exciting happens to surprise you.
I am unbelievably excited about going back to Africa! For various reasons ... I shall get to see my best friend (with an added bonus of being her wedding photographer), my brother, my gran and my good friend Alice, amoung others. Sunshine. Time to relax. Photography. Travel. Backpacking, etc.
An old place with new eyes. I can't believe how much I've changed since leaving Zimbabwe. Something I'm so looking forward to is being an equal to the black Zimbabweans. Growing up in a white colonist community gave me this false belief that we are somehow superior to them, and when you're living in that mindset it's difficult to know differently. This time I certainly don't want to feel that way. And the typical 'right-wing' attitude towards money has gone out the window too. I'm going back to Zimbabwe with a well-earnt 'flexible' mind and attitude.
This trip is going to be a peace offering in some ways. It's unbelievable what a relief it has been having my parents over here - they aren't out of the woods yet but atleast they are safe and in a less stressful environment. I will always be a proud Zimbabwean despite the moments when this country made me want to scream with the deepest and darkest despair that I know. But somehow I do not see the point in examining a situation without looking at the bigger picture. Therefore not only am I going home to make peace with this place, but I'm going home to say the biggest thank you for making me a 'free' person.
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. --M. Scott Peck
Time so very rarely stands still and change is absolutely inevitable yet if you are aware of it, but do not try to understand it or control it, it becomes extremely graceful. It's most fun when you take up the challenge and accept time's offer of the most intense dance you will ever experience.
After over 3 years out of Zimbabwe I'm taking a trip back in a few months for my dose of Africa. Wooohoooo!
Sometimes everywhere I look there is a miracle. A few months ago after lots of hard work and testing moments I left my flat and walked the usual route into town, it had stopped raining a couple minutes prior to this and everything felt as though it had been washed clean. The air was flavoured with diamonds, the street glistened and everyone appeared to be smiling but in reality nothing was different. I've walked that path thousands of times but that time was will stand out.
Last year I worked with a woman who was extremely forgetful and had a very slight learning difficulty. She had one son, we'll call him K, and he was the sweetest of children - very determined, diligent, polite and fun. As she doesn't work so her life is very family orientated - visiting her parents in the mornings and spending the rest of the day with K. His father had chosen to have nothing to do with him, after a messy divorce she didn't want any contact with the father either. She is, however, one of the best mothers I know, always trying to educate K in every way she possibly can yet maintaining a delicate balance of work and play. Earlier this year she fell pregnant for the second time. It had been the first time ever in her life that she'd had a one night stand and wham, bam, big mistake! The guy turned out to be a real mess with a history of violence, addictions and so on. She found out his family are well-known in the area for their bullying tactics and it was proved to her when his sister and approached her and threatened her and her son. Not long after that she asked me to get information on abortion for her. I gave her telphone numbers of local clinics, medical write-ups and a few stories of people who'd been through this. She took her time in making this heart-wrenching decision and came close to having an abortion but in the end she decided to keep the baby - despite her doctor's predictions that the child could very likely born with brain damage. They were very somber moments. Not once did she get angry, all the time she kept saying that they were her circumstances so all she had to do now was deal with them in the best way she possible.
A new support-worker took over from me about 5 months into her pregnancy, but a couple weeks ago I received a text from my old manager saying she'd given birth to a healthy son, both mother and brother were overjoyed.
This week I'm going to meet the little boy. For some silly reason I feel he'll always have a tiny bit of me with him.
Last week when visiting my family I had the chance to look through the big box of old photos, wow - it's amazing how many memories I'd forgotten about! One thing I did discover is that I'm probably stuck with this smile for life.
How beautiful the turning of the year! A moment artificial yet profound: Point upon an arbitrary chart Passing like a breath upon the heart, Yearning with anticipation wound, New hope new harbored in old-fashioned cheer. Even when the boundary line is clear, We recognize the oneness of the ground. Years, like circles, do not end or start Except we lay across their truth our art, Adjusting dates as they go round and round Revolving to a tune long sung and dear.
I finished work at 10pm yesterday and arrived home in a dancing mood! Luckily for me Captain Rory, an Irish friend, was also in a party mood so at midnight we taxied it up to one of Edinburgh's dodgier clubs thinking that if we start at the bottom there'd surely be a party. There wasn't much of one. So we moved onto (Dude you will be proud) a wee Mexican restaurant called Garabaldis. After walking in I immediately spotted a friend called Lynda who had gone to the same school as me in Bulawayol but we only met in Edinburgh. Her husband was home from contracting in Kyzakstan so him, a friend and her were having a bit of a party (thanks to the friend for the pole-dancing attempts, they kept us highly amused.) Not long after that David's twin brother Andrew, who I seem often bump into when I go out partying, walked in to the place with the standard big smile. Captain Rory bought all my drinks in the hope that he's the rich bank-worker now and can afford it whereas in a few years when he's backpacking the world I'll be the rich photographer and take him out on the town - ye of so much faith thank you!
Getting to sleep at 3am and knowing I had to be awake at 5.30am for work I texted as many friends as I could who'd be in different times zones so they could mis-call me to wake me up. And the winning call seemed to be from a +82 number - South Korea!?!?! (Desi - I think it was you but where in the world are you ... surely not...?) Thanks for that, a wonderful start to what's going to be a sleepy day!!!!
So Christmas is just another day. I'm guessing, thanks to China, more people in the world do not celebrate it than do.
My Christmas got off to a dodgy start with me having to work for 24hrs but luckily my colleagues pooled together and I did not have to wake up at the office. I couldn't go to England to spend it with my folks so I bought a good substitute, cheap red wine. My Christmas eve turned into quite a party due to dancing and singing along, with a Glaswegian, to John Belushi by the Broken Family Band.
This morning I went to work and had to deal with situations such as service-users in tears because they were missing their family who never contacted them anyway. Another woman tried to phone her sister only to be told she'd moved out the flat and left no details, but after handing the phone over to me the new owner told me why ... their father had been arrested for murder and the sister's partner was in prison for attempted rape. The usual stuff. My shift ended with one of the new polish colleagues getting a pretty good slap across the face and a big enough dose of shock to keep her crying for an hour. All the pretty stuff that everyone thinks of on Christmas.
After work I took up a kind invitation from a friend to join him and his family, luckily I arrived just in time for dinner and it was a superb evening with all the relatives. From there we took his grandparents to their home and his granny proudly showed me their open fire which they wouldd spend the rest of the Christmas night infront of. From there we went onto visit friends of my friend, a very close family. The father asked me what I did and I told him social work as a career and photography as a hobby .. and hoping to combine it into photojournalism at some point. He called me away to look at some autobiographies he had, then let me read a write up about a soldier who'd given up his limbs to courageously protect a town that wasn't even in his home country, and after that he told me about one of his children who'd died tragically a few years ago. He spoke about where he tried to get his inspiration from to keep believing that he should keep going. I listened. Then he asked where I, being rather young, got my inspiration for life from. He probably won't realise it but his kind words and the time he took to talk to me is what will make me return to work tomorrow and keep going. Thanks Joe.
How, why ... what? The 'social state system' makes little sense to me. It's great, people who earn more money pay more tax etc, which provides a decent amount of money for the 'less privileged' to live on. Great. Does it work? I don't know. Do you?
Social work is not a fun or glamorous field, it's problem solving everyone else's problems. The pay isn't good and staff don't get much out of it, but they do it because they care.
And then they don't do it because they care.
Not long after starting my new job one of my colleagues had something thrown at her by a 'service-user' which caused a black eye. Nothing much was said about it. My colleague was back at work the next day, an incident report was written out and things went back to normal. No discussions held or apologies said.
A few weeks later, I am starting to form a decent relationship with the psychotic woman who never talks. She starts to trust me enough to give me a hug at the beginning of each visit. I get pulled up by my colleagues and am told this is not allowed, we are here to do a job, which is making it easier for her to live her life the way she wants to, and not be a friend. Not that she has any contact with friends or family. She was also told that hugs are inappropriate.
A few weeks later, one of the service-users slaps me (and then gives me the thumbs up sign). I was high bemused so I questioned what had gone wrong. Nothing apparently, natural reflex was the answer but I said that was not a good enough reason. I tell all my colleagues, a report is completed. Nothing else happens.
Today one of my colleagues took a service-user for a routine walk. 200m away from his flat he starts to 'kick off' (shouting, screaming, throwing himself into the wall and so on) and he grabs hold of her wrists and does not want to let go. She fears she's about to have her arms broken. The passers-by cross over the road and keep walking (???). Luckily I stumble into the situation, my colleague is in tears but we manage to get him to let go of her and return to his flat. She starts sobbing with shock and her arms are all red. After a cuppa, I speak to my boss, we sedate the chap and leave him to 'cool down'. Later I go see him and tell him that he needs to have a proper think about his behaviour as it was highly inappropriate and violent. He agrees and wants to apologise. Even later a different member of staff who has worked there for five years visits him with me, she tells him that there's nothing to worry about, he is not in trouble.
What? Am I fighting a battle worth fighting? Why are people here so scared to discipline, to speak out about against what is wrong and what is potentially a dangerous situation. If you watch the news you'll see that most street attacks are done by kids who say they did it "for Fun"? And what happens after that news report? ...
So a while ago I was lucky enough to be a photographer at the Edinburgh marathon - I still don't know how that came about but I'm glad it did. I posted some of my photos on flickr and a few months later a guy commented that one of the runners called Hugh was a friend of his. The commenter, Joe, and I kept in contact with photos - when he was in London he took a picture of a London sunset over the Thames for me and whilst I was in Switzerland I got a couple shots of a paraglider and some cows for him.
A couple more months later Joe's 'media guru' called Stuart contacted me just to say hi and show me a clip of a video he's making of a medition resort up north- he thought I'd be interested in the project which I certainly am. The guy building the resort is Shen, Stuart knew him from here in Scotland but when he was in Sweden filming a documentary the crew stopped at a remote shop for supplies and who did he bump into but Shen.
We exchanged a few emails and found out that we had a lot of common interests. Stuart invited me out to their family cottage by Loch Fyne for a day, where I met the original runner Hugh and his girlfriend.
A few nights ago Stuart and I went out for hot chocolate and chatted like we've known each other for years. But I can't help laughing when thinking about all the weird connections it has taken to form this unusually made friendship! My thanks go out to the long list of people involved!
Last week I was a bag of nerves! I caught the train to London on Friday evening, slept at the airport then SURPRISEd my parents when they flew in on Saturday. They thought my aunt and uncle were meeting them. My dad walked out the Arrivals door first and it took a moment for him to spot me ... I'm surprised after not seeing him for nearly 3 years his first comment was not 'my, haven't you grown!', but instead with a smirk on his face he muttered 'Conspiracy!'
Funnily enough on Friday whilst texting my mom she wrote "leaving Africa hasn't sunk in yet" so I replied "from my experience these types of changes never do, they just happen." So, no. There were no fireworks at the moment of surprise, no marching band started playing, the crowds didn't quieten down or look on, there weren't even any tears. There were smiles and hand squeezes, the moment just happened.
We spent a lovely day drinking cafe lattes, eating pub lunches and then were joined by my aunt and uncle for the afternoon. I feel lighter, happier, free and even though I've had maybe 10hours of sleep over 3 days, I want to skip everywhere I go. My father shared his pearls of wisdom with me ... when we yearn for something we have lost it is our selfish streak showing. During the course of the day my mother smiled at me and said that it's the small things that really count.
After leaving them in my relatives wonderful company for a few days, I treated myself to a double dose of sushi, yum! Then I got lost in Hammersmirth but after asking 5 locals for directions - 4 of them sending me in the wrong direction, I made it to Trent's farewell party for a quick dose of London Australianism. Good-bye for a while Champion, see you in Canada one day!
Yesterday I was walking up the road in my tracksuit and trainers when I noticed a very eccentrically dressed woman and a short man who quite obviousily had some sort of learning disability. He was wearing a local football club shirt, had dry blood above his lip from what looked like a nose-bleed and a white crust of saliva around his mouth.
Yes. I kept on walking.
Him, shouting after me: Elaine, Elaine! Are you teaching today?
"Oh, you're not Elaine" he explained - he'd been to a PE class last week and mistook me for the instructor.
After taking 5 steps in the opposite direction he turned and asked me where I'm from, so I answered.
Him: Shoana. Shoana!
Me: No, no, I'm not Shoana either.
Him: You muppet, that's the language spoken in Zimbabwe.
Him: Inoshamisa iyi nzimbo, Baba vedu.Yakanakisa imba yaMwari.Huvepo hwenyu pamasuwo edenga,Zvakanaka kuve pedyo.Zvakanaka kuve pano.Inoshamisa iyi nzvimbo, Oh Ishe.
Me: What the ...? Ahhh, so, I'm actually from the south so I speak Ndebele.
Him: Salibonani umganiwami (Hello my friend).
Me: ........... ? Have you been to Africa before?
Him: Nah. I have a wee knack at languages, ye know pal.
Me: Mmm, I'm noticing.
Him: I want to be a missionary with the Church of the Latter Day Saints ...
Then we passed two metal statues of giraffes and there were 3 people repainting them. This genius stopped and asked if they were the artists. Turns out they were. Excitedly he informs them "Ya know, I saw them giraffes getting laid last week!" (Drunken aussies wandering out of the Walkabout Bar are always climbing on the things.)
I carried on walking, highly entertained and very, very confused!
I woke up early, stumbled up the road and fell asleep again on the hour bus ride to Glasgow. Once there I bought myself breakfast - a hazelhut yogurt, which reminded me of Switzerland, then found a spot with a view of the city to enjoy it. When slightly more awake I wondered downtown and made my way the the Amnesty International Regional Conference.
All the wonderful introductions and welcoming took place. Then the speaker gave us a few facts about their sexual & reproductive rights policy consultation (abortion) and split us up into groups to discuss what stance AI should take on it. Ofcourse I went in guns blazing ... ahh yes, AI should make a decision, how can they just pass the buck and say 'we're not dealing with it because it's too controversial etc'. Well I soon learnt that I'm young and older people have a lot more knowledge than me, so after that I decided to shut my trap and just listen for the rest of the day. Yes, it would be great if AI did make up its mind on abortion, but it's a much bigger picture than that.
Later Neil Mackay (journalist), Alyn Smith (MEP) and Jeremy Croft (Head of Policy & Govt Affairs AIUK) gave talks about terrorism, security and human rights. Neil was great and he read an extract from his book War on Truth. He's a typical Northern Irish fella and looked as excited as a little boy on Christmas Eve when they handed him a tartan wrapped gift to say thanks for being there. Alyn was impressive, explaining that it scares him how much this country runs on 'fear' yet the masses don't question what is fed to them through the media. And the terrorists are not all wrong, rather it's a reaction to the West's actions.
After that we split into groups again to talk about if AI should deal directly with al-Qa'ida. Well no conclusions were come to - where would they start, how would they do it, would they lose their non-biast reputation, blah di blah. The waters are just so murky. (Hmmm, how familiar.)
A tough day, no-one wants to hear that around 1000 people are dying everyday through the use of arms. I don't want to know that governments are not listening to reason.
However a very good day, if not a little intimidating, as I learnt a lot from being around extremely well informed people.
I am losing my country. Something people go to war about and are willing to die for. I'm irritated, extremely hurt, upset, sad, grieving and overall I'm bloody angry!
My family leave Zimbabwe on Friday. All their stuff has been sold and our dogs were put to sleep yesterday.
It's times like this that the small things irritate me and I can't deal with superficialness - even though I know we are all guilty of it at times. I spend my time laughing, reading, exercising, photographing, hanging out with a wide variety of friends and thinking about life. Work involves helping people to stop self-harming, beating up others, be responsible, be happy, etc. I've started working with a lady who is selectively mute - it's such a strange experience communicating with someone whilst you have no idea what they make of you, it really forces me to analyse myself (even more than usual). And then I get slapped in the face with superficality.
Whatever happened to the perfect woman who could love everyone around her whilst doing 20 things at once. Surely the smile she wore is much sexier than the latest Gucci jacket or the expensive make-up. The man who is charming, practical and resourceful .. not someone who needs a the best hairfix and the lastest gadget. No job is perfect but what someone puts in will highly affect what they get out of it. Why does this world focus so much on the superficial stuff. What happens once you get past that ..... ? Do the masses stop to ask themselves that, or just move onto the next quickfix. Money doesn't buy interesting personalities, real beauty, experience, etc. Why do so many people know this but not live it?
Well. That's my rant over. As much as that aspect of life irritates me I also enjoy it as it adds depth and diversity.
I feel as though I'm losing a country whilst gaining the world. But that doesn't make it hurt any less - well it could if I chose not to think about it but that would be the equivalent of bunking out of class .... and the good teacher keeps reminding me that Home is where the heart is and mine is, surprise surprise, within me.
My life returned to some form of normality today ... after nearly 4 months of doing very little work I started a new full time job. It's even a permanent position which has the non-commitment side of me worried.
So I've done a full 360degree turn in the past couple months. I very nearly moved to England but the news of Marc's mom made me stop and think about what I was doing, so here I am still in Edinburgh. Last week I contacted a friend who is a recruitment agent and 2 days later he called to congratulate me on my new job! So today I became a Project Worker for the largest housing association in the UK but based in a complex with 11 people who have various disabilities. The wonderful thing is that I delegate the duties to the assistants whilst I deal with the fun stuff. My colleagues are Scottish, English, Zimbabwean, Australian, Indian and those are just the ones I met today - all really cool!
My mother admitted to being pleased that they'll have a holiday home in Sunny Scotland.
My gym has even taken me back and said I don't have to pay a thing for the rest of the year.
Wow, apologies and thanks to Edinburgh, it puts up with my confusion yet still treats me like a good friend.
I watched this video yesterday so I know where the scenes came from ....
In my dream .... I went out to a party which was held in a large hall as a lot of Bulawayo parties are. There were the usual crowds but they were all fairly quiet so I kept moving inbetween 2 bunches of people. Drinks were served in a side-room but when I went in there were Police hanging about looking malicious so I got my order then went back out and and a lot of people had left. Suddenly I was at home, in a very large house as I was always lucky to live in, but I couldn't find anyone so I was sneaking around the place feeling quite terrified. Alice, our domestic worker, had her light on so I shouted for her to come in and sleep in the spare bed in my room. When tiptoeing back down the passage I was confronted by more Police Officers saying they had caught 2 dangerous men nearby and needed to hold them captive at the house for a while. 1 of the detainees appeared to be having an epileptic seizure but the cops weren't bothered, they just wanted tea and sandwiches on demand. My dad appeared but he was a lot shorter than me and very subdued, he just obeyed what they said. I knew that the Police were evil but I was so fear-struck that I could not do anything.
Luckily after that I woke up and now at 4am I'm typing this. I know that sort of thing is Not happening in My house right now but it is to the people who are trying to stand up against the Mugabe regime. Who do you trust if it's not your government and police-force? ... Superman? Batman? Captain Planet?
I feel sick for the those who are being subjected to that sort of terrorising and they do not get to wake up like I just did. But it seems they do not have a choice so they just get on with it no matter what the consequences. I know why the world does not put a stop to these situations - because they, like me, do not know what to do and how to do it .. so we all feel helpless.
My gran does not want my parents to say good-bye when they leave. She keeps whispering through tears to just go - to drop her car off and leave the keys in the ignition, and just go. This woman has spent her life caring my grandfather who had MS and raising 5 kids, 1 of which has a learning disability. All the family are doing their best to get her and my Aunt out of the country but there are many complications and it's taking lots of time. I don't understand why she's going through this, but I do thank her for passing along the 'fighter' gene to me.
My flatmate's mother had a rare type cancer a few years back but luckily the best doctors managed to remove it. Unfortunately this week we found out it has returned. Fortunately it seems to be in the early stages so an operation and chemotherapy should cure it. I'm so glad we had that holiday to Switzerland! Please say a prayer.
Suffice to say I will not leaving Edinburgh just yet.
How damn lucky am I to be getting such a thorough and interesting education from the Master of Life itself!?! I wouldn't swap it for the world, though this week hiding under my duvet is my occupation of choice. And ofcourse reverting to survival mode .... cartoon vision is a life-saver!
Up until a couple of years ago I always thought the saying 'make ends meet' was 'make hen's meat'. Well the second option makes more sense to me, do ends ever meet?
(If you're not philosophical then stop here and rather look at the pretty pictures.)
If there is a lesson I'm learning it is that I know nothing! Nothing at all. When I talk to people that are so confident about an idea or theory I wonder to myself just how much of the big picture are they seeing? Or did they see it and then decide that it's just too confusing so rather just settle for the easy way. And I also question do they realise how small a part they play in this massive scene. Knowledge is far more powerful than opinions but even facts change with time .. was the Earth always round? I know it's a silly question to ask but don't we always say honesty is the best policy? We're learning and discovering, we do not actually know.
The joys of opening up your mind are that you shoot yourself in the foot too. You deliberately challenge yourself to understand everyone's lifestyles, ideas and beliefs. And then you analyse. And you analyse. And you realise that there is no black and white whatsoever. And the world in general lacks common sense. But you accept everything for what it is and realise it should not be judged because it is 99.9% probable that you don't have all the facts. Once past that you realise the only thing you truly do have is this very moment which is filled with possibility - if you can surpass your self.
Maybe once that is done one can truly appreciate just how big life really is.
I did the perfect Hollywood run yesterday, in my opinion even better than Tom Cruise's effort from MI3! Sitting in a boat bar on the Thames and having drinks with friends, I looked at the clock and realised it was a matter of minutes to get from there to my bus home. Now I know why Tommy and I did that 10km run earlier this year ... we sprinted to Embankment and the tube driver arrived right on his cue. Enough stops to catch my breath then continue running to the bus station. Yay, 5 min to spare so I bought myself some food. Went to board the bus and, oops, that was the Citylink depot, not the Megabus which I was booked on. It was the quickest run I have ever done and I managed to be the last person on the busy bus yet still get 2 seats to myself. Mission Completed. Successfully!
But that was not the real mission. The point of my fly-by (by bus) visit to London was for a job interview, and I got the job. I shall be working with young adults who have spinal injuries, it's a new challenge, I'll see my parents, money is good, flexibility is even better and I shall get to see a lot of England!
I am a solo pilot who can perform amazing flying tricks! I'm in control but it is fun knowing my aeroplane is doing the loop-de-loop, getting swayed about by the wind, flying dangerously low and yet I am enjoying every second of it. That's my life!
Recently I've been doing not much! I realise how lucky I am to have the level of freedom that I do, working very few hours a week and not living with big relationship commitments, allowing me to feel and express my emotions freely - if I want to be grumpy I certainly will, the tears can flow, I can be indifferent and best of all I can laugh uncontrollably and be esctatically happy too. It is a little scary how much I've had to withdraw from normal society to feel this way, routine sure does kill creativity!
I was woken up to a nice surprise this sleepy Sunday - my Zimbabwe video is being linked on other peoples blogs ... Makaipa Mugabe Ethan Zuckerman visited Zimbabwe and has a series of really insightful posts. I very proudly quote what he says, "I spent less than three days in Zimbabwe, never left Harare and spent almost all my time in the company of different flavors of civil society activists. So I got a very brief and one-sided picture of the country. Still, I learned a lot - most centrally, I learned a little about why people who have the option to leave continue to live in Zimbabwe: it's one of the most beautiful countries I've ever been to, and the Zimbabwean people I interacted with are some of the smartest, bravest and friendliest folks I've ever met.
Which doesn't mean that I'll be hurrying back. The ways in which Zimbabwe is broken are deep, profound and would be intolerable to most people around the world. The fact that Zimbabwe continues to exist - that people go to work, to the market, to the bars and cafes - is a tribute to the resilience and flexibility of the Zimbabwean people. I'd snap, within days or weeks."
Someone who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows my mother put a little granny (wifey in Scots English) in touch with me. This lady is in her 80ties and has lived in Edinburgh most of her life. She tried to get hold of me for a couple of weeks then when she finally did she invited me over for a cuppa.
So knowing that she has a brother living in my home-town, Bulawayo, I went to visit her today. She's nearly half my height but she greeted me a massive smile! She then treated me to a feast of cakes and tarts, whilst telling me her life story. Her brother Angus and his friend had hitch-hiked (yeah, thumb out style) from Edinburgh to Zimbabwe fifty years ago!!! She was an artist, she showed me a few of her paintings and let me play around on her piano. She recently had a stroke and lost her speech for about 9 months but she showed me her art works from that time and they fall into the 'tranquility' genre. Her health isn't great and she regularly took 'breathers' whilst sharing stories about living in the war, loosing family members, getting through it, the Queen ofcourse, grandchildren and her personal faith. When it was time to leave she handed me a bag of home-grown apples and some biscuits, gave me a big hug and said I must come by again soon.
This little lady told me that when it comes to your health there are only 4 important bones worth worrying about - a wish bone, your jaw bone so that you can ask, your backbone enabling you to act and, very importantly, your funny bone!
Positive coincidences are a wonderful thing, as are moments of realisation and recognition.
When I was still very conserative/right wing, 20 years old and managing a backpackers hostel in South Africa, a 37 year old Australian guy spent a few days there. Marc and I were perplexed as he had this absolute aura of peace and calmness about him - yet he had very little money, and did not have a job to go back to, and was not married, and did not own a house, and, and, etc ... How was he not stressed I wondered?
After lots of fun conversations over games of pool and a few drinks, on the last day of his stay he turned to me and out of the blue, he said "Your life really doesn't have to be like this". We stared at each for about 5 seconds whilst lost in thought, me contemplating that I knew what he was saying but didn't understand it, and him thinking 'she's registering but not realising'.
Well, with the joys of 'growing-up', I think I'm realising now what he really meant with that comment. At the end of the day, as long as you aren't hurting anyone including yourself, you really do have to play by your own rules inorder to make it a fair game.
On Thursday my sole purpose for the day was to attend a Spiritualist Church service, not to get messages or anything but just to chat to the Spirit Medium about his beliefs. So after the meeting I joined him and his wife for a cup of tea and we discussed and debated, agreeing that many of our ideas are the same and we share similar experiences. Not knowing anything else about me, before I left there the medium wished me luck with my spiritual journey and commented about me consulting witchdoctors. (When living in Zimbabwe I had visited a 'white witchdoctor' about 5 times, she was indeed a fascinating woman.)
On my walk home, a nearby bar had brilliant live music playing (Times Like These by the Foo Fighters) so I decided to stop in for a drink, ordered a lemonade then found myself a seat. Right away the guy sitting next to me turned and stated 'You look familiar'. It was a fellow Zimbabwean that I'd bumped into twice before, once last year when organising my charity fundraising evenings and another time on Arthurs Seat whilst I was doing photography. Within a couple of minutes we were talking politics, philosophy and religion, and it lasted all evening. So to sum it up .. there are higher powers at work in the world wherever we are but, as humans, we do have free will. Somewhere along the line people made a bad choice and allowed Mugabe into power. Somewhere along the line people forgot that we are here together, not for ourselves. 'Why would God build something up just to destroy it all again?' Victor asked. He built this beautiful planet for us, does he now need to mollycoddle us too - is it not up to us to take responsibility make the world a better place rather than expect everything to be done by him?
It's 2 days on and I'm still smiling! When I found out my dad had been granted a visa I jumped up and down for around 20 minutes, shot back a few tequilas then I sang along and danced to my favourite album, full blast! My parents did not sound as jovial as I did when I spoke to them - it must have been the lack of tequila at their house! They sounded spooked, it is a big move they have ahead of them. Plus they had had no electricity for over 36hours and very little sleep the night before due to more attempted break-ins.
Brilliant, so my parents are getting out of Zimbabwe and I already feel 10 tonnes lighter.
But that's not going to solve any other problems in the country. For quite a while now I've been writing letters to various governments on behalf of Amnesty International to remind that they have a very big obligation to adhere by human rights laws and state that in certain cases they are breaking them. I do not expect a reply back, that would be asking way too much, and I have never received one. But I continue writing these letters in the hope that the individual or group that I am advocating for will know that somewhere out there, someone does care.
A for Artist next? B means (going for) Broke. I and Y for 'If not, why not?'
I've spent 3 years (on and off) being a social support worker. Within the first few months on the job I told my manager that I like to be challenged, well ever since then I've been placed in teams to work with service-users that do exactly that. What a brilliant experience it has been. Some challenging situations that no amount of education could ever have prepared me for but mostly they've been heart-warming experiences. Either way they have all been passion-filled, I love this type of work!
To the 21 year old girl who beat up her parents so was put in care. You tried to kick and punch me, you swore at me with every possible obscene word whilst trying to throw yourself in front of the buses - I do not miss you.
To the woman who I got up at 6am for, to travel to a dodgy area of town and then have to stand out in the dark winter mornings for you to let me in. Then inhale your cigarette smoke whilst you refused to Ever have a bath. I'm sorry that you lit your hair on fire and had to be sectioned. I tried my absolute best. (Happy Dave, the cups of tea you made for me after those shifts were a life-saver)
To the lady who has minimal contact with the outside world albeit a few medical workers. You put me in the spot light (quite literally) whilst we sat in your attic chatting and eating banana and chocolate pancakes. They were delicious, though I could barely talk after those shifts as my mind was 'blank'. I'm sorry if I ever spoke too loudly, wore clothes that were too bright or touched/brushed against anything in your flat. We taught each other so much and I wish I could give you a big hug to say thanks, but I know autism doesn't allow for that. You gave me a big dose of camera envy, it's not quite the Nikon D200 but the D50 works well for me.
To the woman who caused me so many sleepless nights and made me change from a permanent employee to a contractor. You screamed and shouted at me, so I made you cry. Now we are such good friends. Not matter where I'm living in the world I will be back here to dance the Hokey Cokey with you at your 60th birthday party. Last year you could barely stand and now you are walking a few hundred steps at a time. Damn it, you will probably out-dance me at that party!!!
To the man who has caused me much heartache in this job. You refuse to talk to me and my colleagues. We try our best but you make most of us cry. However this morning you said something wise. Whilst angered by your circumstances, you hissed at me "You should not be doing this job". Well today I agree with you.
I can't continue it right now as my family (and myself) now need my attention. Once my parents have settled somewhere here, I'm going to a place where the streets have no name :-) Or rather they are in some funky Indian language. I won't be flying into the sunrise tomorrow, not even this year as I want to spend Christmas with my family and attend my best friend's wedding in Africa early next year. Plus I guess a bit of money in the bank might help.
I also stands for irrational move. But who knows what 'I' really is? ... Life is what you make of it!