My Blog’s 2012 review

I haven’t been that active over the past year, and I am going to make an effort to pick it up over 2013. In the meantime, apparently the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy 94th Birthday Madiba, I wish Sonny saw you inaugurated in 1984.

Video

No – the title is not a typo. Read on and you’ll understand.

IN 1989/90, before the whole world saw Nelson Mandela being the first elected Black president, voted in by the people of South Africa in 1994, MaBrr (Brenda Fassie) wrote one of the most powerful songs, that predicted an outcome of peace and jubilation. Read the Lyrics at the bottom of this post and think about how in 1990, they were prophetic! Obviously it was banned, because MaBrr was awesome, and apartheid was like, totally the dumbest thing ever!

Very few predicted that when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he would call for peace and forgiveness, and an end to violence. MaBrrr knew, that we wouldn’t fight, but we’d dance for our president. I play that song for a guy I work with, he says when he feels down it gives him hope and gets him fired up. It makes me want to dance my ass off. Today I am playing it, at random intervals throughout the day, as I do every year because it’s Madiba’s Birthday. Happy 94th to the world’s most endeared man, and the people’s president. Today, we sing and dance for our president’s birthday (and we miss you MaBrr – 3 Nov 1964 – 9 May 2004).

This is what Mandela means to me:

I remember being told in std 5, “When your parents go to the polling station, stay at home, because there will be violence” etc. My mom is political, so we were driving through townships helping people to get to polling stations, and my mom said, you can come, because this will be the greatest day you will ever experience, and we will not take that away from you because of fear. When I was young, I didn’t understand why my parents had beds made up in the garage for people who couldn’t go home because there was violence, and why they told the police there was no one in the house, when I knew there were people in the garage. You see, they did not lie. Yes, my parents were allowing ‘black’ people to stay at our house, which was against the law, but there wasn’t anyone in the house, and when the police checked, all was “as it should be” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because we had to hide people in the garage. Because I went to a polling station in a white area, and everything was routine, people were standing in Line to vote, like they had the privilage their whole lives. I went to various polling stations in the ‘townships’ – and I am not sure anything could ever come close to the jubilation I witnessed. People voting for the first time, being recognized as equal citizens, officially! It was like lightning striking through the air – there was so much energy. I have had to stop writing this many times, because I’ve started welling up. I know this seems silly, but I have the originally released inaugural R5 coin. I remember my mom telling me to keep it because it will be worth something someday. I never knew how much. You see, I keep it somewhere safe, and whenever I happen upon it, I sit, once again amazed at how peaceful,  jubilant and rowdy that day was. Mandela gave us a day of pure unity, pure freedom, pure jubilation and ultimately peace, in a Nation that had never seen any of this. A nation who’s minds had been corrupted. Its people turned against one another. I see the images in my head, of Uncle Alan Thabede coming to visit, and telling us, he had voted, I still remember that look on his face.

And this is about Sonny:

Most of all when I look at that coin, I end up crying. Like I am now. Sobbing and ruining my make up. Like all of this just happened yesterday. I see the face of “Sonny”, laughing as my terrified face rushed away from him into the air, my blonde curls blowing into my face and blinding me as I tried to grab onto his dreadlocks. He looks a little similar to Lucky Dube (Lucky, we miss you). It was exhilarating and scary as he was throwing me in the air, repeatedly. I would be terrified and then we’d laugh hysterically when he caught me again. He ALWAYS caught me again. He didn’t know whether to laugh harder at my terrified face, or my rowdy high-pitched giggles. I know this is an arbitrary memory, and I think I was probably four years old. For me it is one of my favorite. I will never forget it. You see, as a four year old, Sonny Sishange was my favorite person in the world. He used to go down on one knee, to talk to me at eye level, and used to say I was a princess. I think about the looks he must have gotten when he sat down for a tea party with me on the sidewalk outside my dad’s work, in Ladysmith, Apartheid South Africa. He didn’t care. His nickname was Sonny for a reason. He was the brightest and happiest person in the whole world, I am sure of it. His soul exuded pure Joy. He died about three days later, and that is why I remember so clearly him throwing me in the air. For him 1994 was too late. The day he threw me in the air was the last time I saw him. I remember when my dad told my sister and I that he died. Our hearts were broken. It was the first memory I have of death, it was the first time my world shattered. It was the first time I missed someone, and understood I would never see them again. I wasn’t sure if my dad was lying, or if somehow, he had heard the wrong name, but he was there. He saw it happen. Sonny was supposed to visit us that day. I waited but he never came, and neither did my dad. When my dad had gone to fetch him, he was under the weather and showed symptoms of a heart attack. My dad rushed him to the nearest hospital. He was still okay when they got there, but a doctor refused to admit him, because of the colour of his skin. By the time they got to a ‘black’ hospital, it was too late. I remember when Chris Hani was assassinated, how scared and angry everyone was. I remember when Madiba became president, how no-one was sure how that day would go. Broadcast around the world, a new beginning, a blast of light, shattering inequality, but it was all 10 years too late, and instead, I remember a man who should never have died. If that inaugural coin said 1984 instead of 1994, perhaps me and Sonny could play heads or tails with it as a prelude to some game. Perhaps, if Madiba’s freedom, and the freedom of our people had been a little earlier, Sonny would have been around a little longer. He would have had to tell me he was getting a little too old to play catches when I was 13. Maybe when we moved away, we’d have lost contact, and I’d have run into him somewhere, and been so excited. I am some white brat who misses a friend, but for many families, 1994 came too late. For me, I wish it was 1984. Two years after I was born, and about two years worth or reform time, that would have meant changed attitudes, and compassion, and unity, and freedom and healthcare for all that Madiba brought into power with him. Sonny would have gotten medical treatment in time. Many families, have a year they wished it happened. The truth is, apartheid should have never happened at all. We know this, but it is always good to say it out loud.

Alan and Sunny are to this day, the only people my dad worked with, his whole career, that I remember. Alan’s face is still one that makes me smile. They were the only two who ever smiled at me, or ever took the time to pay attention to a little girl playing outside when they came to visit. I cannot remember very well, but I am pretty sure they were the only ‘work friends’ of my dad’s that ever used to visit us at home. The rest I only used to see when we would go to the Moth Club late at night to fetch my dad. I didn’t like any of them and don’t remember a single face or name.  They were stupid. They are filed under the drunkard work friends that used to keep my dad away and make my mom upset. I realize now that I am older, that Sonny and uncle Alan were probably not allowed into the Moth Club, because of their colour. Stupid Moth Club, with their stupid cannons, always smelling like damp. I do however believe, that uncle Alan and Sonny would rather visit us at home anyway, cause then they got to play with me!!!!! My memories of them are always wholesome. So to me, that coin reminds me of them, and how they knew how people treated them, but they always made two little girls believe that there is no such thing as skin colour in friendship, and it means everything to me. That pureness that I’m sure Madiba dreamed of every day.

Lyrics: Brenda Fassie – My Black President

The year 1963
The people’s president
Was taken away by security men
All dressed in a uniform
The brutality, brutality
Oh, no, my black president
Him and his comrades
Were sentenced to isolation
For many painful years
For many painful years
Many painful years
Of hard labour
They broke ropes
But the spirit was never broken
Never broken
Oh, no, my, my black president
He broke ropes
But his spirit was never broken
Never broken
Oh oh oh, my president
Now in 1990
The people’s president
Came out from jail
Raised up his hand and said
Viva, viva, my people
He walked the long road
Back, back to freedom
Back, back to freedom
Freedom for my black president
Let us rejoice for our president
Let us sing for our president
Let us pray for our president
Let us sing, let us dance
For Madiba give us freedom
We thank you Lord
For listening to our prayers
Night and day
Oh oh oh, my president
Madiba
My president
I will die for my president
I will sing for my president
I will stand and say
Viva, viva, viva, viva, viva, viva
(Also check out, too late for Mamma)

It’s my last stem cell, but you can have it.

I am not sure if you remember it, but there used to be this Rolo advert, about girl asking a boy for a Rolo. The boy looks sadly at his pack of Rolo’s, and says: “Its my last one, but you can have it.” I can’t remember the details, but its about someone having a big enough heart, after having a whole pack of chocolates, to give someone else their last one. A small sacrifice to show you care. I realise the title of this post is not well thought out and that if I had one last stem cell, I would be in a heap of trouble. I am hoping that you will forgive me for the scientific flaw in the title and really see the point of what I’m trying to get across.You see, I like to see the good in people, and struggle, I mean really grapple, with the fact that it is possible for a human being to be callous. I genuinely believe that most people would give someone their last Rolo. I mean it’s selfish to have a whole pack and then not give someone just one, right? If you don’t see it that way, we can’t be friends!

I realise I’m being a bit long winded and there are no pretty pictures to keep you reading, but there is a cute anecdote about my niece, if you bear with me. This post is about something I am about to do: Donate stem cells (bone marrow cells).

I did not want to share this with many people. I most certainly did not want to blog about it, but I have realised that I need to. So many people do not know enough about it. I am not the person getting my hair shaved at a mall to raise awareness. I have an ugly head and I would look terrible bald, but this is a cause which I have now become passionate about. I signed up for the bone marrow registry about a while ago and within a few months, the registry contacted me to tell me I was a possible match for someone who needed stem cells and that we needed to get the next few stages of testing done quickly. Most people never get called. At first, I did not know what to think. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that I would do it, without question. In fact, I felt happy about it, and that’s the problem, I felt selfish. I was happy that I had the honour of being able to save someone’s life, but felt selfish that someone, somewhere in the world, was having the hardest time of their life, struggling to survive, and there I was, feeling “honoured”. I did not tell anyone, until two weeks later – because I did not want anyone to say: “You’re a hero” or “That’s so brave of you”, or “Wow, you’re such an amazing person”, because it feels so fake. You know who is a hero: My Someone.

My Someone, is the person out there going through something I cannot fathom, and yet fighting through gritted teeth to survive. They are brave. They are amazing, and courageous, and strong. Compared to what they are going through, I am just a person giving a Rolo. I have a whole lot of stem cells, I won’t miss a few, but for My Someone, they need it to live, they don’t have any! They might have pinned all their hope upon finding me. Someone out there, may be waiting for you. I have now told a number of people close to me, and a couple of others. Everyone’s reaction is the same, “You’re so brave” etc…I don’t agree, but I’m okay with that. What makes me a little upset, is the number of people who still believe you have to go under anaesthetic, have a needle inserted into your hip, and undergo extreme pain to donate stem cells. In fact, I thought that too when I signed up and I still thought that when I got the call. Movies (like a certain one with Will Smith) – sensationalize things, and unravel everything organisations like the Sunflower Fund are trying to do: Get people signed up, and spread the word that it is a mostly painless procedure.

The thing is, it is just not that big a deal any more. Its about as painless as having a drip! To put it simply, they give you medication to get the stem cells to move into your blood, and then connect you to a machine that filters them out, so they don’t have to get it from inside of your hip bone, with a large needle. Get this: They even give you your blood back. My six year old niece would love that! She was in hospital and had to have blood tests. When she was discharged, she burst into tears. “Mommy, we can’t leave, they never gave me my blood back yet. What if I need it?!?!?” She was upset! Let me not digress from the point here, I want you to go right now to the Sunflower Fund site, and sign up – and be willing to do something a little inconvenient, that could save a persons life. If you have some money you’d like to put to good use, they could find a few good things to do with it that save lives: like educate potential donors and get potential matches tested and on the registry.

There is nothing exceptional about what I am doing. Yes, I get the opportunity to save someone’s life, but I’d like to believe that is something any rational human being would do. Give their last Rolo for someone who needed it more than them. Please go and read this blog, if you are unsure about why it is so important to get on the bone marrow registry and to donate blood.

To My Someone, keep strong, you are always in my prayers.

A day in Coney Island…

I’ve always wanted to go to Coney Island, and the last time I was in New York, I didn’t have the time. On this trip, I was determined to make a visit. I knew nothing about Coney Island, except that Van Morrison had made me wonder what it was like, ever since I was a little girl. I did not know what to expect, but I just wanted to go there.  I almost felt nervous, in case it was a dull, dreary place and going there could make me a little disappointed in Van Morrison, and it was winter after all.

The word “Island” invokes very specific pictures in our minds: warmth, sun, bathing suits, lush vegetation, secluded beaches and generally, a tropical paradise. Coney Island, New York, isn’t exactly an “Island Paradise”. There we were, walking along the beach with coats and scarves, no skin exposed to absorb the sun, and mustering the courage to remove a glove, to feel the cold water on skin.  In summer, I am sure it is a hive of activity, with bustling beaches, roller coasters thrusting children about, screaming and laughing, rollerbladers and couples making their way along the boardwalk and ice creams to somehow escape from the heat and humidity of the New York summer. I’ve never seen it, but that is how I imagine it to be in summer. A place where children wish away the winter, in the hopes that their parents will take time out of their busy schedules, so that they could have a day on Coney Island in the summer.

In the winter, the subway train to Coney Island is empty.  As you leave the platform, it’s like the subway has spilled over into a place frozen in time. There is colour, and vibrance and fun, all just held perfectly still and peaceful. And then there is the perfect beach, empty and cold, while the water merges into a sky so bright and crystal blue that it makes everything else seem dull. The sun is shining, but you can barely feel its warmth. It’s almost like its only purpose was to bring light. This was the first time I ever visited Coney Island, and I have decided, that in Winter, it is one of my favourite places. There was a small gate left open to the “Astroland” amusement park, and so we ventured in for a while, and took a few pictures. I am not sure I would like it in the summer, but I will always smile when I think about that day in Coney Island: all the colours, the beach, the blue sky. I remember just taking a deep breath, wanting to remember that picture in my mind forever. It’s like only the sea gulls shared my sentiment, sitting in the cold, enjoying the peace and quiet that the winter bought. There were only one or two other people there that day, a small boy and his mother, and a lady, who appeared to be praying to the birds, whilst performing a feeding ritual. I loved this place and I knew this would be a favourite memory of mine, like I could wish away the summer, just to have a day on Coney Island, in the winter. Please take a look through the pictures, and maybe you’ll understand.

Worse for Water

This is a woman whose face I know very well. I would recognise her anywhere. I have only met her once, but I have looked at this picture more than a hundred times, and seen through her eyes, the faces of thousands of woman. This picture affects me so deeply, that although I have had it for months, I have struggled to post it.

She walks 10 kms, with a wheel barrow, to collect water for her whole family. She fills up her containers and pushes her wheel barrow back and forth in a relay, struggling in the heat, with just enough water to last her family for the day. You can see her feet are sore and her back is taking strain. She considers herself lucky, she has a wheel barrow.

It is not the fact that she has to walk so far, and push a heavy load just to have access to something we take for granted that breaks my heart, its the fact that the water is worse for wear. There are cows walking through it, their droppings clouding the surface. There is a slight smell of decaying plant matter and mosquito larvae thrive in the cattle footprints on the edge of the water. The most dangerous thing in these waters is NOT the crocodiles, or the hippos.

As a biologist, I know that the chances of people drinking this water and getting sick are pretty high. The water is not clean enough to drink. In a region where the HIV/Aids infection rate is one of the highest in the world, this water could kill.

Approximately 37% of Black households do not have clean water piped to their homes. This is an unacceptable statistic. This is not equality. Our government must fix this. Access to clean water should be one of the basic human rights. Water is as vital as air. ALL of the people in this region face the same struggle to get water every day. If they can pump water from the Tugela, why can’t they pump water from Jozini, Pongola and other dams? Why can’t the Government provide water pumps? A lot of poor people think that corruption doesn’t affect them, but this is how it affects them the most. Access to government resources is being stolen from them.

This Photo was taken at Muzi Pan, near Mkhuzi Game Reserve KwaZulu-Natal. It is a beautiful location, with amazing birdlife. The community has tried to start up a tourist friendly picnic site, with canoes. The problem is, there is no one visiting. The site is always empty. If you find yourself out in Mkhuzi, please take the time to visit and support the locals. It would be wonderful if this resource could become something to benefit the community, perhaps even grab the attention of the government, and maybe they could even get clean water.

I asked this lady if I could take her photo, as well as a few shots of her containers and wheel barrow, and chatted with her a bit. She told me some of the children in her house get sick, with diarrhea,  but she did not know it could be from the water. She did not expect anything, and so when I gave her R20, she was very excited. You see, that is not even enough for a McDonalds Meal, but, it is enough to buy food for her family for a day. Just one more example of how things we take for granted, could drastically improve someone else’s life.

Please note, I am busy researching the costs involved in getting a water pump installed, so that at least if people walk for miles, they are getting access to clean water. If anyone can help, please contact me!

Mfume Baba!

Out in the South Coast of Durban, there is an organisation that helps disabled children, where either their parents can’t take care of them, or they won’t. This area, is a place where there is no electricity or running water. The “staff” consist of volunteers from the community, who not only act as care givers to these children, but also take on the task of walking to fetch water (up to 5kms), making fires to heat water to make sure it is safe to drink and to cook food, among many things.

It is a difficult life that is the reality for most people in these remote rural areas. The thing that makes these people extraordinary, is that they are doing it for children who can not do it for themselves, children that are not their own. There are a few children there, but the child pictured, was born with half a brain and severely deformed appendages. He can’t do much for himself, but he craves attention. As you approach his cot, he sticks his tummy up in the air, and jiggles around, signaling for you to pick him up, or at the very least interact with him. When you do, he laughs and giggles, because you have literally just made his day. He is well loved, and it shows.

This “Baba” (a Zulu term of respect for a man), clearly has a soft spot for him, and what I love about this picture, is it shows on his face. He is not his father, but you would never know!

If you would like to know more, donate, or help in anyway, you can get hold of “Let Us Work” via their blog.

Steve Jobs, the most badass nerd there ever was!

Steve Jobs, – The man who knew technology could be elegant, more than just functional. He made gadgets essential to our lives. He knew how our brains work and had insight into what we wanted. He didnt invent anything new, he just made technology a beautiful thing.

“Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being…Steve leaves behind a company only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.” – Tim Cook

This is my controversial statement: God was responsible for intelligent design, Steve Jobs was responsible for elegant design.

Please go here to read the essentials!