thoughtsfromthepanda

I do my best thinking while driving. I drive a Fiat Panda.

Archive for the tag “hope”

Asimbonanga for Madiba

Here is my tribute to Nelson Mandela – first published July 2012.

The world will remember the date you left us: 5 December 2013.

Rest in peace: great man, great humanitarian, humble human being. 

 

All the colours of the rainbow (and the healing power of music)

My children are colour-blind.

It’s awesome.

In this still-fledgeling democracy that is South Africa today, 18 years after the country queued, and queued, and queued some more to cast its vote in the first democratic elections, my children are colour-blind.

It is a great joy to me.

They do not see black, white, pink, purple or green – only their circles of friends. And in this world of theirs, all ‘colours’ of the rainbow are equal, with the possible exception of real-life pink for Liam, who wrinkles up his nose and tells me in his little gruff voice that ‘pink is for girls mom!’.

And my boys can dance, also.

liam-school-play-smaller

Who says white boys can’t dance?

I watched the children covertly the other night while I was in and out of the kitchen preparing dinner. Liam and Matthew were in the lounge where I’d introduced them to a Johnny Clegg CD – he who is known as ‘the white Zulu’ – and they’d loved the music instantly. They swayed, they stomped, they moved to the beat and they felt the rhythm.

I was so proud.

They’d discovered ‘Asimbonanga’ as their track of choice, and they played it over and over again. They know it practically off by heart now, including most of the isiZulu.

The song stirs up such memories for me. It was one of the anthems of my youth, when as a sheltered young adult I first learned – properly – about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the great Madiba, who was incarcerated as a political prisoner for 27 years. At the time I first got to know the song, Madiba was still some years away from his release from his island prison, Robben Island off Cape Town.

My friends and I went to quite a few concerts where Johnny Clegg played, first with Juluka and later with Savuka. He and his early-rainbow nation brothers and sisters sang and danced their hearts out, and whenever they performed ‘Asimbonanga’, the emotion in the room was always tangible and always running high – but in a good way.

There we were, crowds of young, mainly white youth in an apartheid South Africa that was not of our making, and there as Johnny sang we fell silent, swaying with one movement, arms uplifted, cigarette lighters lit in that universal music concert’s peace sign.

There we linked arms, minds and souls as we listened, united, to the haunting melody and the even more haunting words. There we remembered, through the song, fallen heroes of the struggle, black and white, male and female. There we were united in understanding and a yearning for peace, even if we couldn’t speak isiZulu. Somehow, we knew what the words meant in their very essence, deep down in our core.

There at those Johnny Clegg concerts, we were part of the fore-runner of the dream of a rainbow nation that has almost come to pass.

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water

Chorus….

A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me?

Chorus….

Steven Biko, Victoria Mxenge
Neil Aggett
Asimbonanga
Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina (we have not seen our brother)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’wafela khona (In the place where he died)
Hey wena (Hey you!)
Hey wena nawe (Hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona (When will we arrive at our destination) 

And as I listen again to these inspirational and haunting words, I ask myself when, indeed, will we arrive at the destination we were all looking for in those days of dreaming? The days when we voted with our hearts and our souls for a united rainbow country?

I ask myself:

When will the children be educated as they were promised?

When will the women and children be free from the scourge of rape and murder?

When will government corruption and ineptitude be punished?

When will politicians who lie, cheat and steal acknowledge their guilt and tell the nation, “Yes, I made a mistake. Yes, I was wrong. Yes, I will make amends. Yes, I will step down”?

When will nurses and policemen and teachers be properly paid, properly trained, properly mindful of their hugely important role in this fledgeling democracy of ours? 

When will the taxi and bus industries, which transport millions of people every day, be better regulated so that we are not outraged on a daily and weekly basis by stories of horror motor crashes that kill and maim innocent people?

When will motorists stop shooting their cars recklessly through bright scarlet traffic lights, endangering the lives of law-abiding citizens?

When will motorists start buckling up their children in car seats?

When will we adopt a culture of kindness to animals?

When will….

I must stop before I descend into mere ranting.

I must look on the bright side. I was not made to ignore the silver linings.

I must remember that the voice of the people is growing – yes, I do believe so. Think about the outrage around the e-tolling saga; think about the outrage around Nkandla (God BLESS Thuli Madonsela!); think about the journalists and satirists and yes, even businessmen who speak out – and out – and out some more despite legislative attempts to gag them.

Think about the good initiatives that take place in South Africa, led by business, led by the media, led by the medical industry, led by private individuals.

Think about the Madiba legacy – the magic that was his; the magic that pulled a country back from the brink of civil war; the magic that can still be if we only look for it and better yet, create it.

Think about it.

Think about the children of South Africa as they play together on playgrounds that are all the colours of the rainbow nation.

Think about it.

And then do a little spot of rainbow magic Madiba singing and dancing, by order of the great man himself.

Oh, oh, oh to have been there….

Hey wena!

Yes, you.

And me.

And you, and you, and you…

Let’s work together to arrive at our intended destination after all.

Let’s blind South Africa with all the colours and all the hope of the rainbow.

Think about it.

Then do.

Comfort from the Narnia Chronicles

Well, 2013 has been – in places – a bit rough so far. But nonetheless, those rays of sunshine do, and must, peek through.

A few months ago, I took enormous pleasure reading ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ to the boys every night, skimming over the difficult parts very fast (like the events on the Stone Table with Aslan and the White Witch and her dreadful menagerie), and then we watched the movie all as a family one weekend (skimming even faster over the events at the Stone Table).

So this past weekend, after a satisfying little outing of sushi…

sushi with Liam and Matthew smaller

…the boys and I went to the book store up the road, where I found another Narnia book to read to them (I really do want a complete box set one day).

However, back at home, once we’d begun our bedtime story that night, we all realised that ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ wasn’t the next one in the sequence of Edmund and Lucy’s Narnia adventures after ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. So Liam and Matthew decided that they would rather put reading it on hold until we found the next one that featured Edmund and Lucy (it seems to be ‘Prince Caspian’), and they said we should stay in the sequence. I thought it was very mature of them to exhibit this delayed gratification.

What they don’t yet know is that I have been far less mature myself, because I started reading ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ surreptitiously on my own. (I can’t let them know – there would be howls of outrage!)

Dawn Treader book

And in this lovely book of adventure and philosophy intertwined, I have found some marvellous words of solace springing out at me at unexpected moments. They remind me that through the dark clouds there is always hope of a brighter dawn once more, and that hard work is never in vain.

Thank you, CS Lewis, for these and all your other inspirational words. Now, can anyone lend me ‘Prince Caspian’ until I finally get my box set?

(Some of my favourite words of inspiration from ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ now follow.)

1.

“Adventures are never fun while you’re having them.”

2.

“One of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to facts.”

3.

“But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”

4.

 [When Eustace was turned from a boy into a dragon, and how he was turned back into a boy again:]

“The water was as clear as anything and I thought that if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first.

“…I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snakey sort of things and can cast their skins. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully…

“…in a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for a bathe. But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before.

“…So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe…

“…Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, however many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Eustace dragon

“Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – “You will have to let me undress you.” I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.

“…Well, he peeled the beastly stuff off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been.

“…Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that very much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”

5.

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are – are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

Aslan

Close encounters with celebrities

In South Africa we have a well-known former Springbok rugby player, only 40 or thereabouts, who once led a charmed life. About six years ago, I sat across a table from him and his wife for a short while. Almost everyone in the room was wearing white towelling robes and matching slippers, which sounds a bit odd, but was explained away by the fact that we were all, for various reasons, visiting a day spa at the time, and this was prescribed attire.

As I was then more than six months pregnant, the fluffy white towelling robe and slippers wasn’t my best look for appearing in public, but that was the deal if we wanted the back massages and other treatments. We also had to listen to a presentation about washing machines. You get the picture – it was a carefully crafted product launch, and I was there as part of the merry group of media and celebrities who’d been invited to meet the washing machine for the first time. I was in the media section of the room – not one of the celebrities. Just to clarify.

Being pregnant, as I said, and wearing a towelling robe, I became even less comfortable when I spotted an aging roué with whom I’d once had some unfortunate dealings in a previous job working for a radio station. At the time one of the country’s hallowed band of rock DJs, he had on one occasion refused to get out of my car until I ‘gave him a kiss’. He’d had a lot to drink at the time and it is a long story, which I won’t elaborate on now, but suffice to say that whenever I heard his slightly raspy smoker’s voice on the airwaves thereafter, I cringed somewhat. And for the record he was bundled out of my car sans requested smooch.

Anyway, it was an odd sort of day at the product launch and I remember trying very hard to avoid the aging roué. I simply didn’t want to be recognised, especially as I didn’t feel I was quite looking my best at the time, and so, truth be told, I didn’t pay that much attention to the charmed and charming rugby hero and his attractive, vivacious wife. But I do remember that they were both extremely pleasant and polite to all the other guests, and very nice about the washing machine.

And so it was a shock when the news broke that the charmed rugby hero and his bubbly wife were going through a relatively acrimonious separation and divorce. Barely was this an old story in the South African public’s mind when we then learned that he had been diagnosed with a very severe form of motor neuron disease. At such a young age, the news must have been utterly devastating to him.

I realise this more completely now that I know a little more about the disease. The very next year my own father was diagnosed with the same illness. Although my dad was obviously a fair bit older than 40 at the time, the news was still dreadful for us all.

At this point, while we were starting to wrestle with my dad’s diagnosis, the rugby hero had moved on from some stormy and unfortunate personal moments, and by all accounts was dealing with his disease with courage. He had started a foundation to help fellow sufferers and from time to time, a story about him would still appear in the media. He seemed to be doing better than expected and had vowed to play something of a ‘human guinea pig’ role, if he possibly could, in the fight against his symptoms and the illness invading his body.

When I recently visited my GP for the sole purpose of getting something to help me temporarily deal with my emotional pain about my father’s illness, I picked up a magazine in the waiting room, and by coincidence it featured an interview with the rugby hero. I was astonished at how good he seemed to look in the photos, and even more astonished at seeing him photographed doing a work-out, but I did wonder if the pictures hadn’t been photo-shopped a bit.

Meantime, my dad was not doing so well. As the days went by, he seemed to shrink on an almost weekly basis before our collective and sorrowful eyes.

And so recently I finally decided to brave the quest for the truly detailed information I had been avoiding.

As a first step, I accompanied my sister and my dad on an appointment to my dad’s neurologist. My sister and I wanted to meet the doctor and hear what she had to say.

I liked her. I met a woman who is probably a bit younger than me (oh how that makes me feel old!) and I thought that her funky dress sense showed an ‘out of the box’ way of thinking that I found comforting.

She was good to my dad. She also told him he was doing well. My sister and I listened to her words and wrote up some notes after the visit. In a way I felt that I was making some sense out of the fog.

But the knowledge was very painful and later that day, back at work after the visit, I left my desk and went down to the office coffee shop, so I could cry bitterly without being seen by my colleagues. Just to keep a certain amount of dignity intact.

A few days later, I went onto a search engine and typed in the words ‘motor neuron disease’, but what I found there only made me feel very low again.

With the tears once more not far from the surface, I decided to go on the website that had been started by the former rugby hero, and there, for the first time in a long time, I felt a little bit of hope coming back into my mind and my heart.

He looked good.

He looked really good.

His website was a story of simultaneous acceptance and determination: having accepted his fate, he was nonetheless going to try to live his best and live his longest, through a combination of cutting-edge drug treatment, where applicable, and an appropriate diet and exercise regime with his doctor, biokineticist and other specialists.

I began to feel that the photos I saw in the magazine that day hadn’t necessarily been photo-shopped after all, and was moved to send him an email.

In my email I wrote, very briefly, that my dad had been recently diagnosed as a fellow sufferer; that it was still a dark and sad journey for me and my family, and that I wished the rugby hero well. I thanked him for his courage and his example.

Then, deeper into his website, I read a message of hope from his doctor and discovered that she was my dad’s doctor also. A little flame of hope that had been almost extinguished started burning a little stronger again.

 

The doctor wrote:

“…In the last several months I have had an influx of MND patients from all over the country desperately seeking a second opinion, a glimmer of hope and some answers. Many of them sent away from their original practitioner with the diagnosis and a handshake saying there is no treatment, sorry nothing I can do! This is not how we were taught to practise medicine – remember where there is life there is hope and this is not a degenerative disease of “old” people – surely we cannot throw our hands up in defeat!”

Thank you doctor…

But funny enough this little story doesn’t end there just yet.

Armed with a print-out from the rugby hero’s website to take to my dad, I left work that evening in a very positive mood, with the little flame of hope still flickering.

My office is on the tenth floor and so, in the early evening when most people have already gone home, I always expect a smooth ride from the tenth floor to the ground floor with few or no interruptions in between.

With three of us in the lift, the doors opened after a long smooth ride down and I exited quickly onto what I thought was the ground floor. Still chatting to my colleague (still in the lift), I suddenly noticed someone in front of me trying to get in. Mainly, actually, I noticed her rather beautiful high-heeled shoes as I was trying to exit, and then realised that we were blocking each other.

Half a second later I realised that the woman in front of me had legs to die for above the amazing shoes. As we did a little dance around each other – she trying to get into the lift and me trying to get out – I then realised, yet another half-second later, that the beautiful legs were topped by an utterly amazing body in a little black dress, and a vivacious, well-known face I couldn’t quite place – and that I was not on the ground floor, but the first floor. She was trying to go downstairs and I was blocking her way like an idiot.

I was still laughing and trying to excuse my unintended clumsiness when I suddenly realised that this petite and incredibly shapely goddess with the great shoes was the rugby hero’s estranged wife.

“Oh dear, this isn’t the ground floor yet… my mistake… so sorry…”

She smiled at me warmly and got in the lift.

And was immediately followed by the rugby hero, who’d been standing behind her all the while.

“That looks just like…” said one half of my brain.

“Yes, that’s because it is him,” replied the other half.

 

It was a very surreal moment.

The odds of the timing were astounding.

“I emailed you just a few hours ago!” I wanted to blurt out – but of course couldn’t.

Not wishing to stare at him or the goddess – the South African public knew some of their story from the media, after all, and the rest of us in the lift were trying to be polite – I nonetheless found myself risking a small glance. I needed to see what he looked like.

In that small glance, in that small time-frame as we travelled just one floor down, I caught his gaze nonetheless, and for about half a second we exchanged genuine eye contact and genuine small smiles before I looked away.

I thought that he looked amazing. His body was straight and his gaze was clear. He looked as good as he had looked in the magazine article where I’d thought the photos were retouched.

 

As I write this, I don’t know yet what my close encounter means in the grand scheme of things. I am not expecting any major miracles, but I do now feel that perhaps a small one here and there might be asked for and, more importantly,  might be granted.

Since that day, and perhaps fortified by my story and by the knowledge that he shares a doctor with the rugby hero, my father has become a little lighter in his mind and a little fuller again in the face. And he has finally made a booking with his own biokineticist and started his own exercise regime. It’s really early days but – aided and encouraged by my mom – he has started trying to work with his body in the best possible way: like the rugby hero is doing.

You can’t start dealing with something until you know what you are dealing with. My family has started dealing with it.

There are still stormy clouds overhead but I think we have all started seeing the sun peeking through from time to time – at least for now.

It’s a new mantra – ‘at least for now’.

And so today I shall choose to be happy.

Today I shall revel in my family and their combined presence and different individual personalities – in my husband, my children, my parents, my sister.

I shall laugh at the exuberant dog doing her ‘happy dance’; I shall make plans for Christmas present shopping; I shall enjoy quiet nights in with a good book as well as occasions with my girl friends; I shall read my boys bedtime stories and sing with them at Sunday school; I shall stroke the cats; I shall enjoy conversations and glasses of wine with my husband.

I shall share and enjoy times with my boys and their father; I shall plan to invite friends round in December; I shall go for walks.

I shall look forward to time off work at the end of the year, while still being grateful that I have a job which challenges me and provides me with colleagues I can learn from and laugh with.

I shall enjoy the rain on my body, the sun on my upturned face and the green summer unfolding before my eyes.

As I have done for some time now, I shall continue to do all of this, and more.

At least for now.

 

 

There are still and always red balloons

In my last post I mentioned my dad’s recently diagnosed illness. Since then, I have been touched by the outpouring of good wishes, aimed both at me and my family, and my dad himself. It is a marvellous legacy of a life well lived, for a man well loved, and even though we are still treading with sorrowful shoes, not quite sure yet where the path is actually going, it makes me think of the up side.

The up side is the wonderful outpouring of the human spirit when times are sad. I think it is what makes us human – being able to feel and share each other’s hardships and react with sympathy and kindness. Every single note I have received, whether electronically, by phone or in person has helped me. For those I haven’t answered yet – and there are quite a few – my apologies. Unusually, for once, I’m not so chatty right now. But I saw your note, I heard your message and I felt your kindness.

And life goes on. It must. And the children help. Whether it’s looking after them physically and preparing meals and taking them to school, or hearing their voices over the phone when I sneak in a quick call from work, or going with them to a five-year-old’s birthday party, there is no doubt in my mind that the children help to deal with sorrow.

From this summer fabric of blessed children’s normality I weave myself a tiny bit back into a semblance of being okay. At least for now.

Today’s birthday party was a good one: a jumping castle, a bubble machine and two puppet shows were all on offer, together with great snacks and some really nice parents to chat to. Afterwards there were balloons to take home together with the party packs. My boys both wanted red, so red balloons were handed over with kindness.

I decided to take a slightly different route home and we landed up driving past our old house, where Liam spent his first year of life while Matthew was still just a promise in the future.

“Look,” said I. “There’s our old house, Liam. Where you lived when you were little.”

“Yes,” said he, “with the yellow walls and the green (garage) door.”

“And I also lived there!” piped Matthew.

“No,” said I kindly, “you were still in heaven waiting to come down.”

‘Yes,” said his older brother decisively, “you were waiting to pick your body. You still had to pick it.”

This I found intriguing.

“I like your thinking,” I said carefully, “but who told you that? Where did you hear it?”

“Nowhere,” said Liam. “I just remember being in heaven waiting to pick out my body. I wanted two eyes and two legs and two arms… And you Matthew, you also picked out your body before you were ready to come down. I still remember my spirit but I don’t remember what colour it was…”

He trailed off. Trying to remember?

“Well,” I said, feeling that surreal feeling that sometimes comes over a person when having philosophical and esoteric discussions with children, “I like what you chose. You picked a nice body.”

“Yes. I did.”

This in an absolutely matter-of-fact manner with no hint of ego at all. Young children just call it like they see it.

“And I picked a nice body too!” said Matthew, not one to be left out of important conversations.

“Yes, my love, yes you did,” I replied rather inadequately (feeling by now slightly overwhelmed by the universal and rather gigantic philosophical concepts being played out in the Panda with such nonchalance).

Soon after that we arrived home. Leaving me to bring my handbag and other paraphernalia that I seem to somehow gather into my car, the children grabbed their balloons and ran briskly up the stairs to see their dad.

I followed more slowly, thinking about the wonderful conversational gems – and universal truths? – that children freely and amazingly utter before they grow up and get self-conscious.

As I type this there is a red helium balloon clinging to the ceiling and the boys are out walking the dog with Frank.

The balloon has a happy, carefree look to it.

It is nice to think that even when times are tough, life can still give us red balloons and universal comfort from the mouths of babes.

(Note: Thanks to Tracy for the photos)

Pain

As I sit here at my computer and start to type, I am really am not quite sure how to begin. I just know that something needs to come out because otherwise it will sit inside and fester. And then later it will pour out, like blood and pus from a septic wound, like it did last night onto my husband and children.

So. To begin.

My father has been diagnosed with a chronic disease.

At this stage we don’t yet know the form that his motor neuron disease is taking, just that it is the label and the explanation for the speech impediment that manifested some months ago, followed by the incredibly sore back and rapidly shrinking body. It has been very hard to watch – my father has always been a very precise man in his speech, and physically active his entire life. Is mortality now staring our family in the face? Please, God, no – it’s too soon.

At this stage of my life I know that I have been incredibly fortunate. I have a loving husband and two wonderful young boys, and parents who have played an active role in their grandchildren’s lives from the moment they were born. My mom and dad are seriously good, kind people.

In comparison, my husband doesn’t speak to his father, whom I’ve never met in all the many years I’ve been with Frank. Like a spectre at the feast, ‘Francois senior’ – otherwise known to his now-anaesthetised family as ‘Old FAF’ – used to pop up in our lives with a certain notorious regularity in the early days of our relationship. It started two weeks after we’d started dating, when Frank casually mentioned that his father had disinherited him, and then pulled out the letter to prove it. But that’s another story, however interesting to the non-involved.

Other friends of mine have already lost a parent. Ed has been unlucky enough to lose both mother and father. Anne and Mike are currently sharing the journey of mortality with Frank and I, as their mother recovers from heart surgery that became life threatening in its aftermath (this after she had already recovered from a brush with cancer).

Having known some of my friends’ now departed parents, having spent time in their homes and shared meals and laughter and conversation with them, I have shared a small part of the sorrowful journeys’ ends. Now, I fear that it will shortly be my turn.

Or perhaps we will be lucky and the time frame won’t be too short. My dad is still in the testing phase. It is a frustration in some ways and a relief in others. Nothing is yet completely finalised in the labelling.

The thought that I would one day lose both my parents has whispered its way across my mind from time to time – it is an inevitability of life that it must end in death – but I have always brushed it away and refused to allow the thought to linger, let alone be dissected. Now it is harder to brush away.

Frank, who says my dad has been more of a father to him than his own biological father, has chosen to embrace the diagnosis by doing as much research as possible. He has armed himself with knowledge, and discussed it with my parents.

In contrast, I found my parents to be relatively unforthcoming with me at first in sharing information, so tried instead to arm myself with hope. I’m still trying but the specific knowledge that I am absorbing – reluctantly – by osmosis is a creature with teeth. It bites you in the heart.

I think that is where the wound came from whose aftermath overflowed onto my family members last night.

Playing judge and jury now, I think my beloved does have some fault to bear in last night’s shouting match but I do need to admit to over-reacting. I hope that under the circumstances I might be forgiven.

Meantime, drugs here I come. There is some or other tranquilliser out there with my name on it for a little while, and I’m going to get my GP to find it. With no shame and no apologies.

Some crosses just need a bit more help than others.

And while we play the waiting game, please send your positive thoughts, prayers and good wishes. As Anne and Mike will testify from their own recent ordeal, it does seem to help.

All the colours of the rainbow (and the healing power of music)

My children are colour-blind.

It’s awesome.

In this still-fledgeling democracy that is South Africa today, 18 years after the country queued, and queued, and queued some more to cast its vote in the first democratic elections, my children are colour-blind.

It is a great joy to me.

They do not see black, white, pink, purple or green – only their circles of friends. And in this world of theirs, all ‘colours’ of the rainbow are equal, with the possible exception of real-life pink for Liam, who wrinkles up his nose and tells me in his little gruff voice that ‘pink is for girls mom!’.

And my boys can dance, also.

Who says white boys can’t dance?

I watched the children covertly the other night while I was in and out of the kitchen preparing dinner. Liam and Matthew were in the lounge where I’d introduced them to a Johnny Clegg CD – he who is known as ‘the white Zulu’ – and they’d loved the music instantly. They swayed, they stomped, they moved to the beat and they felt the rhythm.

I was so proud.

They’d discovered ‘Asimbonanga’ as their track of choice, and they played it over and over again. They know it practically off by heart now, including most of the isiZulu.

The song stirs up such memories for me. It was one of the anthems of my youth, when as a sheltered young adult I first learned – properly – about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the great Madiba, who was incarcerated as a political prisoner for 27 years. At the time I first got to know the song, Madiba was still some years away from his release from his island prison, Robben Island off Cape Town.

My friends and I went to quite a few concerts where Johnny Clegg played, first with Juluka and later with Savuka. He and his early-rainbow nation brothers and sisters sang and danced their hearts out, and whenever they performed ‘Asimbonanga’, the emotion in the room was always tangible and always running high – but in a good way.

There we were, crowds of young, mainly white youth in an apartheid South Africa that was not of our making, and there as Johnny sang we fell silent, swaying with one movement, arms uplifted, cigarette lighters lit in that universal music concert’s peace sign.

There we linked arms, minds and souls as we listened, united, to the haunting melody and the even more haunting words. There we remembered, through the song, fallen heroes of the struggle, black and white, male and female. There we were united in understanding and a yearning for peace, even if we couldn’t speak isiZulu. Somehow, we knew what the words meant in their very essence, deep down in our core.

There at those Johnny Clegg concerts, we were part of the fore-runner of the dream of a rainbow nation that has almost come to pass.

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water

Chorus….

A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me?

Chorus….

Steven Biko, Victoria Mxenge
Neil Aggett
Asimbonanga
Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina (we have not seen our brother)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’wafela khona (In the place where he died)
Hey wena (Hey you!)
Hey wena nawe (Hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona (When will we arrive at our destination) 

And as I listen again to these inspirational and haunting words, I ask myself when, indeed, will we arrive at the destination we were all looking for in those days of dreaming? The days when we voted with our hearts and our souls for a united rainbow country?

I ask myself:

When will the children be educated as they were promised?

When will the women and children be free from the scourge of rape and murder?

When will government corruption and ineptitude be punished?

When will politicians who lie, cheat and steal acknowledge their guilt and tell the nation, “Yes, I made a mistake. Yes, I was wrong. Yes, I will make amends. Yes, I will step down?”

When will nurses and policemen and teachers be properly paid, properly trained, properly mindful of their hugely important role in this fledgeling democracy of ours? 

When will the taxi and bus industries, which transport millions of people every day, be better regulated so that we are not outraged on a daily and weekly basis by stories of horror motor crashes that kill and maim innocent people?

When will motorists stop shooting their cars recklessly through bright scarlet traffic lights, endangering the lives of law-abiding citizens?

When will motorists start buckling up their children in car seats?

When will we adopt a culture of kindness to animals?

When will….

I must stop before I descend into mere ranting.

I must look on the bright side. I was not made to ignore the silver linings.

I must remember that the voice of the people is growing – yes, I do believe so. Think about the outrage around the e-tolling saga; think about the outrage around a R2 billion presidential jet; think about the journalists and satirists and yes, even businessmen who speak out – and out – and out some more despite legislative attempts to gag them.

Think about the good initiatives that take place in South Africa, led by business, led by the media, led by the medical industry, led by private individuals.

Think about the Madiba legacy – the magic that was his; the magic that pulled a country back from the brink of civil war; the magic that can still be if we only look for it and better yet, create it.

Think about it.

Think about the children of South Africa as they play together on playgrounds that are all the colours of the rainbow nation.

Think about it.

And then do a little spot of rainbow magic Madiba singing and dancing, by order of the great man himself.

Oh, oh, oh to have been there….

Hey wena!

Yes, you.

And me.

And you, and you, and you…

Let’s work together to arrive at our intended destination after all.

Let’s blind South Africa with all the colours and all the hope of the rainbow.

Think about it.

Then do.

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