Part 1: Boarding

This was written three months ago on April 8, 2014, yet for some reason I never posted it, and I just found it 🙂 There are more updates to come!

Leaving on a jet plane soaring above the expansive earth below. Providing perspective on this crazy life. Moving away from my home for the past year and a bit. And into the unknown again. With a degree in my bag (hopefully), I venture into the unpredicatable world again. Always returning to the uncertainty and impermanence that has defined my life. Yet, I feel the most confident and calm than ever before. Maybe it helps that my backpack is full of crystals, tarot and angel cards, and a singing bowl, always bringing balancing and a connection to the earth and expansiveness above. I am ready to explore and immerse myself in the beauty of East Africa with my soul sister, Wezo (Leslie). Allowing the Universe to provide what I need at this moment and believing in the power of manifesting my own destiny.

Of course, there were cries. I am not afraid to admit that I am a deeply emotional being, just like my mum and her mum before that. Not afraid of feeling the deep and raw emotions that come with loving others and then leaving them. Tears shed as I left what I grew accustomed to. The house on Beresford Road and the morning chats over espresso. Charles (my car) and the adventures we took in him to the mountains, ocean, and weekend trance festivals. The inspiring and down-to-earth friends that enriched every moment. A lover who drove off into the desert on his own journey. But, as with everything in life, this time in Cape Town was impermanent. I had to pack my bags and leave.

I am off to meet Wezo in the beautiful island of Zanzibar. By the looks of the couples on this flight, it is a preferred honeymoon destination for South Africans. We have no plans, except to have an amazing time travelling together (first time properly travelling together), possibly write a zine, relax, and explore this beautiful continent. We will end the trip in Uganda where I will show Wezo around and introduce her to my friends and to the girls and staff of Girl Up. Hopefully, she can share some of her permaculture skills to help us start a vegetable garden outside the office. Let’s see what happens. Once again my mind starts wandering to new ideas and future plans, like a drunken monkey.

As I ponder over my windy and uncertain life path, I find that I am so addicted to travelling because the more I experience the world and the diverse and beautiful people within it, the more I begin to look deeper within myself to connect to my real authentic truth. Just this last weekend I was hiking in Lesotho and realised the power of music as I woke each morning to the singing of cow herders. It is the little lessons that stick. I hope wherever you are, in whatever part of your life you find yourself in, you can revel in the little lessons and mysteries of life and your inner self. This journey is not easy, but it is such a beautiful one!  

Advertisements

26

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”

~ Rumi

 

What is the point of birthdays anyway? A day to bring in another year of birth? Another year that I survived this world!?! A celebration of life, birth and conception? A day for self-reflection and a chance to revive deep gratitude?

Why am I feeling so hesitant this year as I become 26? Is it linked to my confusion at this point in my life? What do I want? The ultimate question that has been wracking my mind recently. Unsure of where I want to live and what I want to do. Sometimes I wonder if my curiosity can be to blame for my confusion. Yet, it all depends on how I use the curiosity, to allow me to enter new places with a centred dispossession, or to make me question every decision that I am making. The questions will always be there; that is the beauty of a life made of impermanence and uncertainty. I must forget my worries of the future and enjoy the present: raw, wild and free.

Play in the playground of life so that I can shine with all the light of aliveness and awareness as Kimbo Slice: lover of fun, travel, yoga, and dance.

And, does age even matter? I meet the young, the old, and the ageless and understand that age is just a number. A 67-year-old man that is travelling the world with the adventurous spirit of an 18-year-old boy. A 25-year-old woman with two children and caretaker of many more, with the caring and compassion of a 78-year-old grandmother.

So as I bring in another year of life, I focus on the beautiful things in my life: the opportunities I have to learn and challenge myself, the friends and family that add sparkle and support to my life, and myself for always looking deeper and questioning everything. Driving me to insanity, but aliveness.

Whether your birthday is creeping around the corner or in a far off land, let us cherish the uncertainties of the future. Allow us to let go of the mental shackles that entangle our inherent beauty and open the doors for our freedom to shine!

MiniBus Lovin’

The only thing I know is that I know nothing

That I cannot predict what will happen as the days flow into the next

Like the unpredictable minibuses

 

Which way will you turn?

Will you see me?

Will you hit me?

Should I be scared or bike through

Speed as a way to forget

 

To forget

the pain the love the emotions

Fleeting emotions that arrest the body and mind

Preventing all organs from operating

 

Just speed away

Faster and faster

Until I no longer feel my body

Just another obstacle for the

Minibus

 

Maybe I should tell you to “share the road”?

Maybe I should listen to the anger move through my veins

And hit the bus?

But, will it do anything?

Except elevate

my hurt my anxieties my uncertainties

 

Of the unknown

That we all share

As humans and as

Minibuses

 

Image

A Comeback

It has been seven months since I last posted on here. My excuse was simple: I have nothing to write about; Cape Town is not as exciting and interesting as Kampala. But, the real reason is that I have been lazy. There is always something to write about, I just didn’t have the passion or drive to do so. Sometimes it is refreshing to step back from a hobby and take a break so that the passion is revived, and that is exactly what I have done with writing and with teaching yoga. Now that I am feeling more internally settled I am back in the writing and yoga mode.

To shortly recap since my last entry: I have moved into a house with some interesting characters;

Image

danced for five days straight at Afrika Burns reviving my passion for ecstatic/free-form dance;

Image

started rock climbing in the outdoors pushing myself mentally past my fears; turned into a student again with all its reading and writing and thinking and questioning of everything;

Image

got an impromptu spiral tattoo;

Image

travelled through Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland with my love, visiting friends along the way and making new ones; become an auntie to baby Micah (aka Mekah) and worked with my colleagues to develop Girl Up into a full-fledged NGO in Uganda.

These past few days have been quite transformative in that they have forced me to look directly at the life I am living and ask questions about my intentions and vision for the future. I haven’t come to any solid conclusions, but realised when, where, and with whom I prosper and that it is impossible to plan for the future, instead it is much better to just chill and flow. To begin with, I was invited to assist with the Biennial HIV Prevention Summit for Women & Girls in Johannesburg. Given that my Masters research project is focused on sexuality and HIV peer education programmes, I thought this would be a great opportunity to access this part of the women’s movement in South Africa and meet HIV women activists. But, before I went I stopped in Swaziland to visit my dear friend who is living there and working on a permaculture farm.

Image

For those who don’t know what permaculture means, here is a short description from the Permaculture Institute: “Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor.” In Swaziland, I spent my couple of days drying herbs for the medicinal tinctures, watering the plants, and preparing garden beds. I realised that I don’t necessarily have a green thumb, but I love being outside all day and seeing the results of your work, something that is much more invisible and often demoralising in activist work.

Image

I also went on a beautiful hike where me and another great friend found ourselves skinny dipping under a waterfall and drenching our skin in the sunlight.

Fast-forward 24 hours and I am note-taker for an HIV Conference where every speaker was saying essentially the same thing: young girls between the age of 14-25 are the highest at-risk group. Sitting all day, typing, drinking coffee, and trying to assist participants as much as I could. While it was quite boring, I did enjoy the energy in the room. Because we were running an hour late waiting for the Minister of Women, Child, and Persons with Disabilities, participants began dancing and singing.

Image

What a beautiful sight! I also enjoyed the question period, albeit only fifteen minutes, during which one HIV positive participant criticised the use of the word “sugar daddy” as an explanation for older men who use their money to woo young girls because it wasn’t derogatory enough and instead glamorises the idea of being a “sugar daddy”. So if nothing else comes out of this conference, at least maybe we will create a new and more negative term to refer to these men.

I left at 5:30 feeling slothy, sad and too domesticated for my own good. So I put on my running shoes and hit the street to see what Johannesburg is all about. Before I knew it I found a primary school with a lovely field to run on. When I asked a man at the front if it was OK if I ran there, he instantly asked if I wanted to play tennis. Perfect! A tennis game to close off the day! It felt so natural and fun to be moving my body, feeling the blood rushing through, and finding a new friend. Sometimes I wonder if I made out for this women’s activist gig. I find the complaining and talking and gossiping too much at times. I want to see results and nothing is really happening. We will see. Life throws funny curve balls when we aren’t watching. I will take life as it comes and remember that the outside world is always there to explore and get lost in.

Till next time my friends in faraway places. May you remember to let the wind guide you when your plans are washed away. Once expectations dissolve, miracles appear.

Settling in with Openness

Back in Cape Town and the living is easy. Adjusting to another way of life without boda bodas and laughing and funny conversations with my Ugandan sistas.

IMG_1011

At my going-away party at the beach with Monica and her beautiful son, Victor

Fitting in at this hip café with Sublime playing in the background as I start to find my way around my new neighbourhood and reconnect with old friends. Returning to Cape Town after five years has shown me clearly how my perspectives and values have changed. I notice aspects of the city with different vision, especially the sheer size and beauty of the mountains surrounding me. I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have a view from my apartment of Lion’s Head and the ocean while knowing that Table Mountain is protecting me from behind. Yet, I didn’t forget the huge inequalities and vastly distinct lives between the rich and poor and how this can be so invisible and ignored.

IMG_1106

Majestic Table Mountain

IMG_1117

For the past three weeks, I have gotten carried away with a visit from a special someone, overnight hiking in the Cederburg mountains, a music festival by the river, school orientation and registering, and moving and settling into my new apartment.

CIMG1767

Hiking in the Cederburg Mountains

CIMG1822

Cute butts 🙂

I am now able to step back, take a deep breathe of air, and prepare myself for the next stage of my life. Last week, was a hectic time of unexpected change in my academic plans. I decided to change my studies from an Honours in Gender and Transformation to a Masters in African Studies. You may wonder, what is an “honours”? And that is exactly one of the main reasons that I switched. In South Africa, undergraduates spend three years to get their degree, then a year of Honours and then a Masters. The Masters in Gender studies is research only, which is why I was doing the Honours year. While, the Masters in African Studies is coursework and a dissertation and I can still take gender courses. It is also less expensive and less time (1.5 years vs. 2 years). I really decided this over a margarita with a new friend, Jessica who was in the same position as me, except she already had her Masters. Why is it that good, but quick decisions are often made over drinks? I remember that I decided to go to Guatemala after a fun night out with my friends.

I am looking forward to learning again in a university setting and trying new activities! This week I am going to start taking keyboarding lessons so I can start playing music and singing for the soul. We will see how it goes. I also want to start getting involved with organisations working in the townships and am eyeing one that offers yoga, nutrition, and gardening in schools. I have also been blessed to meet very inspiring and spiritually aware women during the past couple of days. An old friend entered my life and we have reconnected on a different level than in the past. She started an online magazine: unbrandedtruth.com that I am going to contribute to, which will allow my writing to reach a larger audience. I also met a lady who has connected me to a larger spiritual and wellness community in Cape Town. Exploring and accepting our inner selves with a group of loving and supportive people is something that I really missed in Kampala and am excited to get involved in.

CIMG1688

Not exactly a woman, hehe, but my friend Terry and I in Hout Bay where he is working with TrashBack to encourage recycling in townships

CIMG1676

I had quite a night out last night at my friend’s house party. It ended with me without my beloved IPhone. When I woke up, I was feeling so crappy and couldn’t believe how reckless I could still be at this mature age 🙂 I was feeling so anxious and dreaded the idea of going back to Vodacom to deal with this and buy a new phone. I convinced myself that it had to be at my friend’s house, the last place I saw it. But, when I went back there with a couple of friends in the morning, we looked in every nook and cranny and found nothing. I resigned to the fact that I would have to move on. I would have to send one of those silly Facebook messages asking for numbers. It was not exactly how I wanted to spend my Sunday. But, my prayers must have been heard, because in the middle of brunch my friend got a call from my number! I was so shocked and excited. The phone had somehow landed in the garden downstairs and my friend spotted it during cleaning. I feel so extremely lucky. Yet, the whole incident also made me see clearly how dependent I have become to a little piece of plastic. I allow it to rule my life and my contact with others.

If nothing else, I learned to let things go, especially material goods. As my meditation teacher told me: “If you can’t live without something, it controls you.”

Kibera

Everything good must come to an end. After four months, I must pack my bags, say goodbye and head to the sterile airport to embark on the next chapter of my life. It will not be easy because I finally feel as though Kampala is my home filled with inspiring and beautiful people. Yet, this is my path and I must continue with renewed hope and trust that everything will work out as it must.

Over the weekend, I had the chance to visit my friend, Grace in Nairobi, Kenya and finally meet the incredible folks of the Africa Yoga Project. On my first day, Grace arranged for her friend Benjamin to take me around Kibera slums: the largest slum in Africa with an estimated population of one million. Kibera is also where post-election violence broke out in 2008 and destabilized the area and whole country. There is another election in March, so everyone is concerned about how to ensure that it remains peaceful and non-violent.

IMG_0795
IMG_0806
Building destroyed in 2008 post-election violence

IMG_0804
Election posters EVERYWHERE

I usually don’t like these sorts of tours because I feel that I am intruding in people’s lives, as though they are animals in the zoo to “ooh and ahh” at. But, it was relieving to be with Ben, who lives in Kibera and knows many people. He took me around to different NGOs and led me through the confusing streets of the slums. We first visited Kibera Community Development Agenda (KCODA- www.kcoda.org) where he is a volunteer and where we spoke with the administrative assistant about their programs. I realized then that I could be of assistance with grantwriting and drafting ideas for their women’s rights project so we are in contact now.

IMG_0800
Francis and Ben in front of KCODA “Tree of Change”

Then, we visited Power Women Group, an organisation run by HIV positive women that promotes economic empowerment and health education. They are intelligent and strong women who make beautiful bags and jewelry. They just opened up a salon and I became their first customer! I got some braids and beads Jamaican style. But, unfortunately, most of the beads have already fallen out.

IMG_0825
IMG_0808
Administrators of Power Women Group

IMG_0823
A happy customer!

We continued walking cautiously through small pathways full of trash, stale water, and half-naked children playing.

IMG_0839
View from the train tracks

IMG_0853
Making jewelry out of bones 🙂

Ben showed me his one-bedroom shack made of mud, which was a nice relaxing place to sit and talk. He explained to me what it was like to be in Kibera in 2008. He was living alone, only 15 years old. This is how he explained it to me:

“I was sitting right here on the couch watching the results of the election on TV. It had already been three days since we voted and there was still no news of the final results, so we knew something was going on. Then, the electricity went off. Next thing I knew, I heard shouting and noises outside my house. I went out and joined the crowds moving through Kibera. At first, it was exciting and fun, but then it turned violent. Some people started going to the houses of our Kikuyu neighbours, taking them out, and beating them up. This lasted for weeks so I discovered that in order to stay safe I had to always travel in a crowd. I was lucky because I am Luo.”

I could go into all the details of reasons why the violence broke out, but I don’t want to bore the ones who aren’t so interested. If you are interested in learning more: click here.

Basically, even though Kenya is a “democracy” each party is closely aligned to a specific tribe. So, when the opposition party that was predominately Luo lost a close presidential race to the winner, a Kikuyu, people took their anger out at their neighbours. We all just hope that there will not be violence come March.

I also had the chance to take a class at the Shine Center of the Africa Yoga Project.

I have been following this organisation in awe for the past two years. They have trained over 50 Kenyans as yoga instructors and offer community classes and outreach classes in prisons, schools, hospitals, etc. Grace and I attended a packed yoga class full of laughter and positive energy! I miss the yoga community back in San Francisco, so it was nice to be around yogis again. I also delivered 15 used yoga mats that were donated by Yoga to the People in San Francisco (my second home in SF). Thank you Chandra, Heather, and mom and dad for making the delivery possible! It was a special moment and I hope to continue working with them in the future!

IMG_0859
Grace showing me her yoga moves

IMG_0872
Relaxing in savasana

IMG_0881
Delivering mats to Africa Yoga Project following class

I am full of ideas and possibilities for the future, but I am taking one day at a time. I taught my last yoga class last night outside among the noises of Kampala: birds, bugs, matatus, music, and our breathe. Relaxing and stretching into the rhythm of life. Monica and I are also still working on the Girl-Up Initiative. Today, we went back to the slums to meet with ten girls, six with children, to introduce the initiative and hear their ideas, challenges, and hopes. I will post more about this later in the week, with photos of the young women.

What I have learned from my time in Kampala: Enjoy yourself wherever you are at this moment because that is exactly where you are supposed to be. Never give up on your dreams and what your heart tells you! It can be difficult, but definitely worth it!

With love!

Dreams

IMG_0741

Dreaming that I am walking through Kampala with my friends from home. Excited to show them around my neighbourhood. Then, bodies, dead bodies, everywhere. Hanging in the trees, in the ditches, on the streets. Is this what living here and thinking and reading about civil wars and genocide has done to my unconscious? When I opened my eyes, I smiled to myself. Another beautiful day, waking up to the sun shining and feeling my body intact. Grateful for another day of comfort and relaxation.

I decided to take this week off to explore other projects that I have wanted to get involved with. My first idea was to conduct a yoga workshop for Sarah, my co-worker and friend, in the hopes that she would continue teaching MEMPROW staff and young women after I leave.  She came, we talked, I explained more about yoga philosophy and history, and we practiced yoga and meditated. I offered her to start teaching me, but she was not as interested. Instead, we decided to have fun together by making rolex (chapatti with egg), drinking tea, and walking the dogs. Learning to manage my expectations because I had too high of expectations for myself and her. I am not a yoga teacher trainer so I hope that in the future she has the opportunity to access a proper yoga-training program.

IMG_0743
Sarah making chapatti!

IMG_0747
Our final product: homemade rolex + listening to Bob Marley + in the garden =complete perfection

My second idea with another friend was to begin a girl’s empowerment project in the slum where her mother stays. We had a productive meeting with the Chairperson, Women’s Affairs Officer, and community leader of the zone to discuss the challenges faced by young women. The same story: unemployment, pregnancies at 15 or 16, sex work and dancing in strip clubs for money, and lack of school fees. The main thing they wanted to see in the community was an economic empowerment programme for the young girls so they don’t have to sell their bodies for food. Long story short, my friend and I have decided to begin a project called Girl-Up Initiative. She will start leading trainings there in February for 80 girls on sex and relationships, gender roles and patriarchy, communication skills, and human rights. From there we will create an economic empowerment programme. If you are interested in reading more, please let me know because I have already put together a project plan, which I can send you!

IMG_0766
Women’s Affairs Officer, Chairperson, and community leader

IMG_0770
Around the slum

IMG_0775

IMG_0776
Filthy water

IMG_0781

 

Another day, I went with my friend Darby to the slum in Kisenyi where she has been working with an outreach centre for street children called Peace for Children Africa (PCA). She always told me stories about the boys she works with so I knew I wanted to meet them and see their living conditions. As we started walking through the narrow paths I could see children lying on the streets. One boy looked at me with bloodshot eyes, clearly on some sort of drug and looking so lifeless. Other boys started touching us and wanting money. We talked to a girl there who had broken her leg and was sitting by a fence eating her fries and asking us for water. Surrounding us were huge piles of trash with some children foraging through it in hopes of finding some scrap metal. The water running through was clearly polluted, yet people were cleaning and drinking from it. There were women washing and cooking as if everything was normal. And I just imagined what it must be like at night for these women, with these drunk and drugged men and nowhere to go. Sex work is rampant because there are very few business opportunities.

IMG_0762
PCA drop-in centre

IMG_0759
One of the street boys performing dancing moves for us 🙂

Kize’s Story

I started talking with one of the boys who came with us on the walk. He moved into the orphanage run by PCA just a couple months ago. As we walked through he would point out the different places he used to sleep: on that roof, on that street, in that hallowed building. He started to tell me about his life on the streets. “I was bad. I used to do drugs and not care about anyone.” He was 7 years old when he came to Kampala from the north. His stepmother constantly physically and emotionally abused him so he moved in with his grandmother who then passed away. He then travelled to Kampala and became one of the many street children. Yet, there is no comfort or stability on the streets.

The police often come by and pick up the boys and take them to jail, which is exactly what happened to Kize. He told me that because they never go to court, they are in there for life. Tons of street children living in crowded conditions. Barely getting enough food to survive. Each day they have to go to the forest to collect firewood. This was his chance to escape. As they lined up, he sprinted. The fastest he had ever moved before. Because they came running after him, and even the other prisoners because they would get a bag of sugar if they found him, he ran up a tree and stayed there for a day. At night, he ran to the street and jumped on the back of a truck to come back to Kampala. But, that wasn’t the end of his locked up life. Just a few months later, the police took him to another prison, one even worse than the first. He got one meal a day that was what he called “chicken feed” and was expected to dig a hole all day to clear the land for a big plant to be built. If he ever stopped, he was whipped and beaten. Luckily, he was only there for a few months because he actually had a court date.

From then on, he dreamed of a different future. When he met Paul, the founder of PCA, he knew that there was an alternate available. Kize is one of the sweetest 15 year-olds that I know, yet one that has lived through unimaginable horrors. He wants to play professional football (our soccer) and go back to school. He also told me that he hadn’t talked to his mother who had moved to Kenya, for over four years. He just got her number from an uncle. When I asked if he wanted to call her, he instantly said yes! I gave him my phone and as soon as he heard her voice he had the biggest smile. She wanted to talk to me. I could hear her excitement and she continued to praise and thank me. It was a beautiful and humbling moment.

As we bring in the New Year, let us not forget to be grateful for everyone and everything we have in our lives! Let us not get caught in the yearning for more and more, and instead rest in peaceful appreciation for the beauty of our lives.