Tuesday, October 27, 2009

OCTOBER

So I have been very busy lately. Very busy. Busy in my role as academic editor of theses and dissertations, busy with the business of being on a serious holiday…just busy. So busy that I’m going to consider my triumph over Goliath as this month’s challenge, since I’ve never really won a lawsuit before. Well I’ve never even been in a lawsuit before, so this was new. It was not the best or most exciting of challenges, but it was certainly the most physically, mentally and emotionally taxing.

I’ve learnt so much from this experience, that it would be impossible to ignore the footprints it left in my life. For one, I’ve become very well acquainted with Section 188 of the Labour Relations Act, and other similar aspects of Labour and Corporate Law. And I’ve had a chance to channel my inner Lawyer, by applying all my analytical thinking and linguistic skills in conjunction with those laws governing corporate practices in a lengthy iron-clad argument that was my case.

The end result was a 16 page dossier from the Commissioner slating the company’s negligence, unprofessionalism, incompetence and blatant disregard for the Law and enforcing the maximum penalty. Even if they decided to pursue the matter further, they would have never won. I mean NEVER…not with the information I have.

That aside, I’ve since learned that Goliath has been threatening other employees with dismissal because of their friendships and associations with me, alas the tyranny continues. So I decided that it’s time for Phase 2 and I think it’s my duty as a concerned corporate citizen to make the Head of Global Operations in the UK, a one Mr. Nathan, aware of the situation. It just so happens that Mr. Nathan enquired about me a couple of weeks ago…so I reckon it’s time to get reaquainted.

And so David slew Goliath, three stones and a sling in the space between the eyes with a force hard enough for the monster to come crashing down. Then, in Phase 2, David stepped forth and severed the massive head from the body holding it up for the world to see, cementing his victory.

In other news, it’s my mummy’s birthday today!!!!! The only person on earth that I love more than myself. I would lay down my life for her without even blinking an eye. I’ve said this before, but my mother is the very essence, the epitome of a powerful woman. Her personal power always leaves us in awe and admiration and her aura brings forth a force of silent strength that commands respect and sends even the toughest men cowering to their corners in a frenzy.

I’m fiercely protective over my mother, even though there’s no reason to be, even when she makes me want to swallow razor blades and rub salt in my eyes. Once, when I was 2 years old, my mother hit me on my backside for something I had done. The shock made me cry and to comfort me, my grandmother, (Mother's mother), pretended to hit my mother in my defense. This made me so angry, that I immediately stopped crying and my little 2 year old hands pounded away at my grandmother, even though she was on my side defending me! No matter what my mother had done to me, no one was allowed to do anything to her.

My two year old self used to express my love for my mother with grandiose tangible structures. With tiny arms outstretched to their capacity, I loved her like a house, and then I loved her like a school. I loved her like a mountain, even a city and a country. I loved her like the world and the sun and the universe. This sense of loyalty has gone from strength to strength throughout the years and now it’s this giant tree with unyielding roots embedded in the very core of my soul.

My mother has given up her life to be devoted to us, to ensure our consistent well-being. She was there, every step of the way, with every rise and every fall…often picking us up, dusting us off and insisting we try again. She is my source of comfort and strength. She’s the foundation of what I call home. Here’s to many more blessed years filled with mounds of fun, great health, rivers of wealth and oceans of love, contentment and happiness.

"...here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart, I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)" ~ EE Cummings

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Birds And The Bees

I voiced my opinions about the degeneration of society last week, and how evidence of that can be found in the content of what’s displayed on TV today. I stand by those sentiments. It’s so difficult to find something to watch that isn’t crammed with sexual innuendo. Teen shows like The OC, or even those supposedly innocent-earthy-family-homebound shows like Everwood seem to be brimming with with sexual content…everyone’s favourite topic. And again, maybe this is just indicative of how the world has changed.

I also find evidence of this change in the generation gap between me and my second youngest sister, Birdy. There’s a 9 year age gap between us, and it’s like we’re from different planets. Tweets and I are only 3 years apart, so we grew up with the same moral compass. A part of that moral compass dictates that anytime the ‘S’ word is mentioned in front of one of our parents, or two characters start sucking each other’s faces, we get up and leave the room. I’ll find myself, suddenly with urgent business to attend to, because there’s no way in HELL that I’m going to sit there and watch an uncomfortable sex scene with one of my parents.

But Birdy is different. She’ll talk about sex or anything related to sex in a very casual, nonchalant way in the company of my parents. It’s like her entire generation have no inhibitions or reticence and I find it weird how my parents reciprocate with open communication. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, especially since my parents have always talked to us like we’re adults or people in our own right, not their children. But when we were younger, and a couple was about to kiss on TV, one of them always changed the channel. These days Birdy could watch ‘Sex and the City’ with my Mother if she wanted to, while just the thought of watching two people kiss in front of my parents is enough to make me cringe, wince and recoil until my soul dives down to my feet, taking cover.

It’s not that I’m more inhibited, in fact, quite the opposite. Sex and sexual references is a favourite topic of conversation amongst my cousins, or on our girls day out, always has been. We can chat about anything, howling with laughter, tears in our eyes as they reveal the funniest details of married life. But for me, it remains a topic to chat or joke about with friends or peers…not your PARENTS! Eeeewwwww! I shudder at the mere thought of it.

A couple of weeks back, my Dad summoned all his daughters and revealed some of the most disturbing news I’ve heard in a very long time. As it turns out, the sexual indiscretions of various men in our society have come under the microscope. My Dad even went so far as to point out who they were, while our jaws plunged to the floor, teeth cracked. All of them are well known, well respected men, bearded folk, people we knew personally, men that we would NEVER have suspected to be guilty of such acts. Some of them have had long standing mistresses, which they housed and took care of financially, and in return these women took care of their more *ahem* physical needs.

At this juncture, my father paused to mention that there was a method to his madness and that he imparted this information not as gossip, but in an attempt to make us aware of what was going on around us. He then proceeded to tell us why good men behave this way. He said, “you see, in the Asian cultures, particularly with the Indians and Paki’s, sex is viewed as something dirty – sinful. Ironic since these are the same fuckers that came up with the Kama Sutra". *CRINGE-WORTHY-MOMENT-#1*

I could feel the tension between my sisters and I, binding us together like a magnetic force. He continued, "But anyway, people don't talk about it, they feel that they can't and shouldn't, but they forget that the Sahaba (RA) would approach the Prophet (SAW) and ask him all kinds of questions relating to sex in the open, it was a subject that was discussed in great depth in an academic context, to gain a greater understanding of how couples should and can relate to each other, within the boundaries of the Shariah. But fast forward a couple hundred years, and people are all hush hush about it – and the result is that you have a generation of animals on one side because they aren’t educated in these matters, and old fucking men on the other side, whose wives are too timid and rigid, or they’re not interested or invested in their husbands enough because they’re more worried about controlling their little bastards.” *CRINGE-WORTHY-MOMENT-#2*

My collar was suddenly up around my ears and I curled up slightly, not sure if I could stomach any more information of this nature, not from my father. Step-ma was rolling on the floor laughing…clearly amused at our discomfort.

My Dad continued, with the REALLY DISTURBING bit, telling us about what men want. He said “you see, men want women who are going to be good wives; women who will be able to cook for them and take care of their homes and look after their children; women who are ladies in the street, but whores in the bedroom”…at that point we were all screaming like banshees, hands covering ears, hiding behind the couch. I was sure that I was going to need therapy after this lecture. But my Dad felt he was just doing his job as the father, educating his daughters on how to be good women.

He said “too many women are fucking up their lives because they have too many expectations, or false perceptions of their roles in a marriage; don't make the same mistakes, be aware”…so I stuck up my hand from behind the couch and asked, “but what if the man is at fault?”, my father answered “then you tell me and I’ll sort him out with my gun”.

So there you have it Ladies and Gentlemen. You have it on good authority that its perfectly OK to screw each other’s brains out, preferably in the Legal way, bound with a marriage certificate; and if you're Muslim, within the confines of Shariah. Welcome to the new world.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Yeah, It's Me

So I was tagged by MJ on Facebook, in his own perverse way. But some of the questions were so boring, so I improvised by substituting some of these with questions I answered from another tag on email. Here goes:

1. What was the last thing you put in your mouth? 3 Almonds.

2. Where was your profile picture taken? A studio in Soho, London.

3. What’s your nickname to the people closest to you? Azrita, Chica / Chicana

4. How did you get this name? Azrita – my Venezuelan friend in 2004. Chica or Chicana from my Brazilian friend circa 1998.

5. How late did you stay up last night and why? 5:10am, I was engrossed in a very interesting conversation.

6. If you could move somewhere else, would you? Of course, what kind of dumb ass question is that.

7. Think of a lyric, fast! “If you got something to say just say it, say it. If you want my ba-body come get it, get it now. If you got something to say, just get-right-to-it. Boy if you want me don’t be so shy, just say it loud” ~ Say it by Booty Luv.

8. Would you be a pirate? Only if Johnny Depp is the captain*wink wink*

9. Your worst habit? Procrastination definitely.

10. If you could eat anything in the world right this second? An original glazed Krispy Kreme Donut.

11. When was the last time you cried real hard? When Michael Scofield died.

12. What are you listening to right now? Evacuate the Dancefloor - Cascada.

13. The funniest thing someone told you recently? “I’m only hugging you because you’re rich” ~ My Sister.

14. Any special talents? State-of-the-art-one-of-a-kind Bullshit Radar.

15. Can you live a day without TV? I’ve lived many days without TV; when you live a full life you don’t need it.

16. Are you upset about anything? Me? Upset? Never! Not much to be upset about these days Alhamdulila.

17. Do you think relationships are ever really worth it? Not if it’s not leading to marriage.

18. Are you a bad influence? Some *ahem* conservatives read stick-up-the-arse people would say so, yes.

19. Night out or night in? Definitely night out. But ultimately, depends on who I’m with ;)

20. What items could you not go without during the day? Underwear, Spoons & Water.

21. Someone have a crush on you? How am I supposed to know.

22. What does the last text message in your inbox say? "Hey, come online."

23. How do you feel about your life right now? Excited, Invigorated, Driven.

24. Do you hate anyone? Hate is a fleeting emotion, I don’t waste too much time or energy on it.

25. First thing you notice about the opposite sex? Hands, Eyes, Smile.

26. Any confessions? I’m not Catholic.

27. Any advice to others out there? Yes. 1.) Believe and 2.) To most of the married women out there, put your emotional anally retentive crap aside and screw your husbands regularly with enthusiasm, so that bitches like Tina* will have a difficult time trying to get into his repressed and frustrated pants for his money.

28. What song is stuck in your head? Seven Days in Sunny June – Jamiroquai

29. Someone knocks on your door at 2:00am, who do you want it to be? The One ;)

30. Last movie you watched? The Ugly Truth.

31. Name something you have to do tomorrow? Spend time with a real life Angel.

32. Do you think too much or too little? Is this a trick question? I’m always over-thinking everything.

33. Do you smile a lot? Always smiling and laughing, it comes naturally. Scowling goes against the very core of my being.

34. Do you think that the people you are tagging are going to answer with the truth? People’s perceptions of the ‘truth’ are always biased and warped.

35. Parting comments? Drive like a Bitch, and you’ll Die like a Bitch. Peace Out.

Oh yeah, and I tag everyone. Do it, or Don't do it. It's up to you, I could care less.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Domestic Bliss

Like most South Africans, we have a maid…well we call her our Domestic Worker. We’ve always had a Domestic Worker, as far back as I can remember, mainly because they acted like Nannies too and my parents would leave us with the DW while they worked in the city. We’ve only had 5 DW’s over the span of 25 years, and most of them were with us for long periods of time, essentially becoming part of the family.

I can remember days in my childhood, when Mother had to leave at 5am to go to work, only returning around 6pm at night. My Dad was responsible for breakfast before he left for work, and for bath-time when he returned…and on the odd occasion he even cooked Dinner. But the hours in between were spent with the DW at the time, her name was Pearl.

Prior to staying with my parents, I spent most of the first three years of my life with my Grandmother, which meant that I only saw my parents on the weekends. My mother couldn’t live like that any longer and decided that she’d rather get a DW to take care of us during the day so that she could be with us in the evenings. The weekends, actually every Sunday was family lunch day when my Mother with her eight brothers and sisters and their kids, gathered at my Grandmother’s home for a grand lunch. It remains a tradition until today, long after my Grandmother passed away.

Pearl was very nurturing, and regretfully, I drove her nuts. Once, I set the two-seater couch on fire and after battling with the flames for an hour, she sat on the floor crying. I felt as terrible as a five year old would feel, not comprehending the scope of the act or the consequences that would follow. I spent the next three months sitting on the floor watching old Lionel Ritchie music videos.

I can remember when we moved into our new house. I was barely 7 years old when Talita moved in with us. She stayed in the servants quarters, built especially for her. My sister was a 4 year old temperamental child who loved her tantrums and Talita’s anecdote was to reach for the handle of the broom, tap loudly on the trap door in the ceiling and call the boogey man. It was always enough to get us to shut up. I have the fondest memories of her. She took care of us, cooked and cleaned for us too. Then one of her children passed away in an accident and she had to leave for her home in Lesotho to attend the funeral. She never returned.

Anna joined us soon after that. She was with us for the longest period of time, 13 years. She came when my little sister Birdy was born. So in essence, Birdy grew up with her and whenever Anna left to go home for her three week break around Christmas, Birdy would cry her eyes out. When Anna returned, she would run into her arms, glad that she was back.

Maria came to work for us about 8 years ago. She’s a short, stocky, feisty, 54 year old woman. She doesn’t have to work, but she does to keep herself busy, and to earn a little extra money for herself. She chose not to live with us, well it’s not necessary since she works for 4 days a week. She has her own home too, not too far away, and 4 grandchildren who live with her. Maria is also a Preacher at her local Methodist Church and her weekends are filled with all kinds of Church activities. From all the DW’s we’ve had, she’s certainly the most inspirational, most independant and the most entertaining.

Maria says that she was called to the Church two decades ago. She taught herself to read and write and decided to go to college to study preaching. Two years later she graduated and began her mission. Unfortunately, preaching doesn’t pay, so she had to become a DW to pay the bills. Now she does both, and together with her natural wisdom that comes with age, and her preaching prowess, we have a force to reckon with in our household. Maria is a fountain of knowledge, from times old, and she has no qualms about sharing her opinion.

She is curious
Maria: Haai, what is that?
Azra: It’s the Internet, this is Twitter. I can talk to my friends here.
Maria: Why they don’t come visit you, then you talk like the normal people?

She is informed
Maria: What’s this?
Birdy: It’s a movie called ‘It’s a boy/girl thing’. See that boy’s soul is in the girl’s body, and the girl’s soul is in the boy’s body.
Maria: Oh, it’s a Caster!
Birdy: (Laughs) No, it’s not like Caster Semenya, but similar.

She is demanding
Maria: Hey, wake up, I want to clean the room.

She is concerned
Maria: Ay, Azra. Why you sitting here. Go put on your nice dress and take a walk. Walk in the streets so the men can see you and you will find a husband quick.

She is faithful
Maria: Azra, come here, lets pray. Then you find a good job.

She is naïve
(While watching Bad Boys)
Maria: (Screaming) HEY! WHAT! HAAAI! NO man. NOOO! He kill that man. HOOO. JESUS. HAAI man!
Birdy: (Laughing) Maria, it’s just a movie.
Maria: No man, it’s a nonsense.

She is insightful
Maria: You see that man there, he wears all the chains on his neck? That man is not a good man. He likes the women. Look, see how he walks. And he is old man, but he wants the girls, the school girls. He walks with money. Sies man.

She is supportive
Maria: Hey, I see your sister, she got a boyfriend.
Azra: It’s not her boyfriend Maria, it’s just her friend from University, he’s lending her book.
Maria: Haai, I tell your Mother she must make wedding, then book live with him.

She is wise
Maria: You see my culture, my culture and my religion is not the same. But I’m a preacher. God comes first. So I must know my culture, but I can’t follow it. Because the Methodist Church, we don’t have the ancestors. It’s just the God. The ancestors is what you call this…erm Blasphemy.

She is righteous
Maria: I tell the people, you see God, He is watching you. You cheat, you lie. You will never be orite. Never.

She is conscientious
Maria: This Government, they like too much money. We suffer. The people, we suffer. There by the township, they have no water. But the government, they eat. They eat every day because they only worry about their stomachs.

She is outspoken
Maria: Come, take me home now. I’m tired.

Needless to say, Maria’s presence in our lives is an endless source of entertainment and amusement for us all. In retrospect, every one of the Domestic Workers that were a part of our lives contributed to it significantly. They were our substitute Mothers, leaving their own families and children, to take care of us. Not only did they take care of us, but they took care of our home, property and possessions, until our parents came home. They were the ones keeping the fort together. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More Quality Less Quantity

I was an old school kid. We used to play hop scotch, made mud cakes, rode around on our BMX bikes and played old school Mario Bros on Nintendo. Those were the good old days when life was more about quality and spending your time being an actual kid. These days, everything is about quantity and kids are more like adults who don’t want to play unless it’s on a Playstation. I can’t pin point exactly when things became this way.

I was watching one of the older cartoons on television the other day, I can’t remember the name but I noticed how cartoons have changed over time. They used to be light hearted and innocent entertainment. Think back to old school Mickey Mouse and similar stuff. When I watch them today, they’re corny and tacky…back then life was about saving the world. I watch new age cartoons, filled with derision, sarcasm and adult humour and I wonder, do kids actually get this? I know an 8 year old Azra wouldn’t have understood. This tiny little change is indicative of how cynical the world has become. TV shows and cartoons are filled with sarcastic innuendos, disguised in a blanket of sardonic humour.

There are trace elements of this cynicism in Raphael’s character in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Fast forward a decade and cartoons like Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Freakazoid were drenched in sarcastic humour. Not that I complained, they were my favourites, very entertaining and something I looked forward to when I came home after one of my horrendous days in high school. But still, I didn’t think it was meant for little itty bitty kids.

This change is not restricted to cartoons, and is also evident in television programs. These days Lassie would be viewed as the mother of all corny tv shows. And how many times have you watched a show or a movie a good decade since the last time you saw it and thought OMW, why did I like this again? Its happened to me with movies like Salsa and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This theme of quantity trumping quality is evident in other areas of our lives too. Take men and women for example. I can’t describe the number of guys I know who want wives that resemble Barbie. And it doesn’t matter that she’s got no conversation skills, no personality, no humanity etc. And what about those women who only seek out wealthy men straight out of GQ? If he doesn’t have the cash or the looks then he’s worthless.

I’ve come to see contemporary men and women like contemporary cars. You know, back in the day, cars were sturdy, solid and reliable. You could climb on them and sit on the bonnet and nothing would happen, not even a dent. These days, every little gesture is sure to create more than a few dents. Back in the day, old school cars would come out of minor accidents with glorified scratches. Even the slightest bump will render a new school car completely useless.

To examine the full extent to which we've exchanged quality for quantity and the consequences thereof will take ages because of its almost limitless scope. We can delve into matters that include the global crises of incompetent parenting, resulting in some the worst generations this world has ever seen, to the genetically modified food we consume on a daily basis. But at the core, I think what we’ve failed to realise is that it’s better to have a little of a good thing then to have a whole lot of shit.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You Remind Me Of My Jeep

Ever have someone come up to you and tell you that you remind them of someone else they know? Or you’re at a gathering of sorts; a picnic, a dinner, a significant others Christmas Party – whatever – and you’re meeting new people; and a friendly stranger tells you that you look EXACTLY like their best friend/sister/niece/cousin…or that at the very least, you remind them of someone else they know…

I’m not a fan of the “I-was-just-telling-my-mother-that-you-look-just-like-my-cousin-from-Klerksdorp-Ayesha-you-know-Ayesha?-Ayesha-Khan-You-look-JUST-like-her” conversations. In fact, I always feel mildly insulted when those people are looking at and talking to me, but are thinking of someone else. It’s kinda like having your husband cuddle up next to you in bed, while he’s thinking of Fatima down the street. Actually it’s more than just a little annoying (and lets not forget that its preposterous to expect the person who resembles someone else you know, to know that person as well. No, I don't know any effing Ayesha Khan).

Do you know what’s worse than the friendly stranger? A friendly relative. Someone you actually know / are well acquainted with, telling you that you remind them of the neighbour’s aunt’s cousin’s daughter-in-law’s sister. Talk about pointless. What does it matter to you that there is someone, or 10 someones who look like / act like / walk like and talk like you do? It makes no difference. It’s just annoying.

I’m aware of the hypocrisy as I sometimes walk around, telling certain people that they remind me of so and so, and at the time, I whole-heartedly believe it. They really do remind me of / look like someone I know, and it’s…dare I say it… exciting. It’s exciting to see someone’s twin traipse around in front of you, and you’re compelled to let them know that there’s more like them in the world.

But I don’t want to be told that I’ve been cloned and there are different versions of me roaming the earth. There’s only one Me. There’s only one person that looks like Me, and only one person that acts like and talks the way I do…and that person is Me. No one else can replace Me. This narcissistic undertone is fascinating. No one wants to be told that they’re like someone else. A sense of dominance and individuality takes over. Self-preservation perhaps? Survival of the species? I sure as hell have no problems telling everyone else who they look like or remind me of, but I have major issues when people do it to me.

I usually reply by asking these friendly strangers if that’s an insult. They’ll laugh and almost all of them will say the same thing, “Nooo, she’s just as funny and bubbly as you are”. I hate that word “bubbly”. Specifically, I hate the word “bubbly” and me in the same sentence. It irks the shit out of me. But my mother taught me to be courteous and polite, so I usually smile at these friendly strangers before I make my swift exit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Visually Stimulating

I’ve been very lucky in that I have a Mom that’s spontaneous and adventurous. That’s where I got my wanderlust and spirit of adventure from. When we were kids, Mother used to pack us up in her car and drive us to various destinations throughout South Africa. Those were some of the best times of my life and I got to see most of South Africa by road-trip. For a while, we even lived in Cape Town (which I hated at the time, but it had its perks).

So I thought I’d compile a little visual of South Africa, since I'm a little tired of talking. I did a post on Johannesburg before, so Jo’burg pics won’t be added to this selection. We have a truly amazingly beautiful country. Too bad the Morons that live here diminish and make you forget about that beauty (but Morons live everywhere and there’s nothing we can do that doesn’t constitute Genocide or Ethnic Cleansing to rectify the situation).

The best way to see South Africa is by road-trip, without a doubt. For visitor’s, I’d recommend travelling in groups of four or more people. And contrary to popular belief, we don’t live with tigers, lions and elephants in our backyards, you’ll have to go to National Parks or the Zoo for that.


The Blyde River Canyon is in the Province of Mpumalanga, north of Johannesburg, Gauteng.


Mpumalanga is also known for its splendid waterfalls like this one, Lone Creek Waterfall. Click here for this pic and more waterfall visuals.



Mpumalanga is also home to the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve, as well as other beautiful attractions.


The Sabie District is home to many other beautiful attractions, like this one called God's Window.


Further south of Johannesburg, moving out of the Province of Gauteng and into the Free State, there are the beautiful and magestic Drakensburg Mountains, like this, The Drakensburg Amphitheatre.


The Free State Province is also known for its little 'boere' towns, like the touristy town of Clarens.




Moving a little East from the Free State, and we're in the Province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, home of the city of Durban and its harbour.


Durban is a popular destination for Gauteng-ers, people from Johannesburg and Pretoria etc. because of its close proximity and warm balmy weather.


Further down south from KZN and Durban, is the gorgeous Eastern Cape Province, home to the famous 'Garden Route', one of the most spectacular drives along the coast in the world and home to places like Knysna.




And the Tsitsikamma Forest and Nature Reserve.
Nature's Valley, part of the Tsitsikamma Reserve.


Moving further westwards, from the Eastern Cape Province, we enter the Western Cape, probably the most popular of all the provinces and a tourist haven. Pearly Beach at sunset.


The Rooi Els Coast.


The famous Cape Town and Table Mountain.



Cape Town City at dawn.


View from Table Mountain.




Clifton Beach, every holiday makers destination.


The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, shopperholics be warned.



Just outside of Central Cape Town, are other illustrious towns too. Like Simons Town.


And Stellenbosch, known for it's vineyards.


And a picturesque Hout Bay...the best fish and chips in the world.


And the spectacular Franschhoek Valley.


Then, moving outside of Cape Town, to the north of the Western Cape Province, we have what I call the best kept secret of the Cape, Langebaan.


And the Lagoon of Langebaan.

Honestly, there is so much more to see in South Africa, that it would be impossible to put it all on one blog post. There are many hidden treasures and gems in the way of towns and amazing places to visit. I feel the need for another road-trip ;)

Some of the images courtesy Google, others courtesy Azra cam.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Finding Peace Part 2

So where was I? Oh yeah, I remember. This may come as a surprise to most, but yesterday’s post has very little to do with “Finding Peace”, the main theme here, but I had to explain myself so that today’s post would make more sense.

See, on this 6th day of October, exactly 1 year since I’ve officially begun blogging, I'm chronicling a spiritual journey of note. There were highs and there were lows, but with every experience came knowledge and wisdom…some form of enlightenment. These pieces of enlightenment were like pieces to a puzzle, or what I like to call ‘keys’ to my freedom. In fact, the whole debacle with the company was just one more key to unlock my Personal Scylla, as I mentioned yesterday; a catalyst of sorts in my Personal Renaissance.

For months now, I’ve had little epiphanies and what I’d like to believe was Divine Revelation of some kind. I didn’t fully comprehend it at the time, but I explored many facets of life from the concept of human resilience and adaptability to making acute resolutions to LIVE my life. I revamped this site and my life to accommodate my spiritual awakening, and developed my version of the Promised Land. As one of the keys to my evolution, the Promised Land was created to symbolise an emotional and inner peace, a state of mind that isn’t longing and yearning for elaborate answers to the universe or for what cannot be, and recognising that our only real purpose is to worship.

I initially developed the concept of my Promised Land after an intense discussion with a good friend and an ex-colleague of mine. We were talking about our lives and how what we experienced throughout our childhoods influenced what we want as adults. This conversation had a profound impact on how I saw myself as well as determined what I wanted from my life, and from it we developed a theory which is based on our personal circumstances.

Fatima grew up with two parents and two siblings, in a nuclear family with a close to perfect childhood/life, getting almost anything she wanted from financially and emotionally stable parents whilst conversely, I grew up with divorced parents, surrounded by a lot of conflict with no financial or emotional stability. However, up until the point that we had our conversation, Fatima had dropped out of her studies at University, gotten married to a physically and emotionally abusive man, had a child, gotten divorced and remarried again to someone who was considered ‘different’ to your typical Asian man. But this kind of trauma didn’t end with her, and her siblings endured similar dramatic lifestyles in their adulthood. I told her that I had been through enough shit in my life, and that I expected nothing less then the best in my adulthood, but that most of all, I wanted peace especially in my relationships and in my home.

It was at this juncture that Fatima made me aware of our contrasting circumstances and suggested that maybe it was because she and her siblings had grown up in such normal and peaceful circumstances, that they had craved for and ‘created’ all the drama in their adult lives. At that point, a light went on and it occurred to me that because I had to endure trauma from a very young age and because had dramatic episodes for most of my life, all I really yearned for was peace in my adulthood. At the time, nothing made more sense to me. I received my very first key to enlightenment and I could see evidence of this theory in everyone I knew, thanks to my conversation with Fatima.

LIVE I did, throughout the year and fabulously too, in theory and in practice, but I’ve come to see that up until a few weeks ago, it was mostly in theory. Throughout the months, I've received clarity in many forms but the common thread amongst it all was always a Higher Power at work. I’ve learnt and said that shit will happen and that what will be will be, that we are all insignificant in the grander scheme of things, and that nothing really matters. I even recorded some of the lessons I had learnt along the way in 10 points or more. I stand by it all, more so today than ever before. They are all keys, little epiphanies that were catalysts in my spiritual Renaissance, the evolution of Azra.

The whole debacle with the company forced me to re-evaluate a few things. Up until that point, I had come to believe that success for me would be the stability and freedom I craved for, and that stability and freedom can be attained by being financially secure. I had mentioned that, for me, money meant that I had options and the freedom to make choices. Ironically though, seeking this ‘freedom’ meant that I would have to be a slave to the company. What I hadn’t realised then, was that I wasn’t seeking Freedom as much as I was seeking Peace, and that no amount of money in the world was going to buy me the Peace I desired. So to a large extent, I’m grateful that what was initially a war and a fiasco with Goliath, turned out to be just another form of enlightenment for me, forcing me to go back to the drawing board to re-evaluate and re-define certain beliefs and perceptions I had.

For a long time, especially these past couple of months, while accumulating my keys of knowledge and enlightenment, I felt like I had all the answers but that something wasn’t quite clicking. It’s like I had all these keys, but the box still wouldn’t open. Then, about three weeks ago, I came across what is now part of the Promised Land’s ‘Constitution’ in the most unlikely of magazines:

''For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to get through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that this was my life. There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way'' ~ Alfred D Souza

This quote opened all the doors in my mind and spurred me on to such an extent, that I just HAD to make it a part of my life. It became my Constitution and my Facebook status and I told anyone who’d listen. I could feel life flowing in my veins but there was still something lacking. Little did I know that liberation, salvation, deliverance and redemption was on its way and that they would all visit me on a single weekend. I went out early this past Saturday morning, fed up with the world, determined to lose my mind in a good movie. Now, of all the movies I could have chosen to hire, I chose ‘The Pianist’, a movie I’ve seen before, and ‘The Count of Monte Christo’, which I hadn’t.

Upon my return, I found my Dad sprawled on one of the couches, he had come to visit. We got chatting and it wasn’t long before I expressed my frustration with the world to my parents. It’s like everything in the entire world irritated me. I expressed my detestation of society and corrupt religious leaders to my father, and he found it very amusing that I was shunning society and opting for a life as a recluse. He then told me something that was not really profound, quite simple actually, but made me put things in perspective.

My father told me that no matter where I went in the world, I was always going to find fault with something or someone, because that’s how we humans are. He said that instead of trying to fight it, I should do what his father did. His father, my grandfather, was a very pious man according to most people. And the one thing my grandfather was, was tolerant. Of everyone. He accepted and respected people just as they were, without trying to change them and without necessarily adopting or sharing their beliefs. This tolerance, acceptance and respect won him the admiration of many many people, who still revere and venerate him today.

These words were still with me as I sat through a morbid ‘The Pianist’ followed by a very apt ‘The Count of Monte Christo’. I don’t know why I chose these two movies, from all the thousands of titles in the shop, but the message was clear. Coupled with all the other keys, the puzzle finally came together, the box had finally opened, my Scylla finally unleashed a surge of personal power, in the form of the greatest peace I have ever known. All my anger dissipated, evaporated into thin air and I suddenly saw life with new eyes. Both movies seemed to re-assert some of my beliefs and establish new ones. ‘The Pianist’ made me realise that I had been correct all along, that Nothing Really Matters, because in an instant your life could change and then you suddenly find yourself powerless, with no control over your circumstances and you have nothing or no one to turn to besides God. Ironically, ‘The Pianist’ also gave new meaning to the quote: “…do not commit the crime for which you now serve the sentence…” as I found it particularly interesting that everything the Jews endured in that era, the Zionists inflict on the innocent in the name of Judaism today. This message was important for me, as it re-affirmed my belief that no good will come from seeking vengeance. ‘The Count of Monte Christo’ was apt to this theme of vengeance as well and led me to believe that real justice can only come from The Almighty.

It was a series of events that catapulted me to where I’m now. Many of these events didn’t make sense as they occurred and there were many times when I asked ‘Why?’. But in hindsight, I can see how they all needed to happen for me to get here. I needed to experience what I experienced to be the person I am today, in order to deal with Goliath’s tyranny in the manner I had. And I would have never been the person I am today, had I not been through what I had. I will never feel the need to ask ‘Why’ again. The greatest lesson I take from everything is to TRUST in The Almighty. It’s easy to say ‘Trust’, it’s so abstract and ambiguous and we all know we should do it. But to LIVE that Trust, it is something else…it is the very core of my enlightenment because I know that no matter what happens from hereon out, I will be fine and it will all work out for the best in the end, it always does. It is for this reason, that I don’t have problems anymore. I’ve relinquished all that control because I refuse to do work that is not mine to do. And I refuse to take on problems that are not mine to solve. Until we realise that we will never succeed until we surrender to the Will of God, we will never be Free or at Peace.

Abbe Faria: Here is your final lesson - do not commit the crime for which you now serve the sentence. God said, "Vengeance is mine".
Edmond Dantes: I don't believe in God.
Abbe Faria: It doesn't matter. He believes in you.

I knew that change was coming. Water never bodes well in my dreams, as I’ve mentioned numerous times. I knew that something was going to alter my life for eternity and even blogged about it, thinking it was death. I knew there was money coming my way, although I never anticipated it would be in this way. I just never expected change to come in the way that it did. And in a certain respect, the old Azra is dead. I’m now living the truth, instead of talking about it. I walk in the light, as corny as that sounds. My soul is finally free and these days, my liver is not the only part of me smiling, my heart, mind and just about every organ is smiling too. My soul is so lightI feel like I'm walking on air. Life will go on as usual and things like work and studies will resume, but fundamentally, there have been gargantuan changes in my life that will resonate in my being forever. In many ways, I’ve come full circle all in the span of a year. The Promised Land flourishes. And I could never have done it without Divine Intervention. The Almighty SWT is truly Great.

I’m home.

“Life is a storm, my friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout... ‘Do your worst, for I will do mine!’ Then the fates will know you as we know you” ~ Edmond Dantes

Light at the end of the tunnel image by the_absolute_muse

Monday, October 5, 2009

Finding Peace Part 1

This is about to be the ‘gay-est’ (as Waseem might say) post I’ve ever published and I suspect that most people are going to be convinced that I’m Bi-polar. Mostly because I’m about to do a complete 180˚ here and say that I’ve seen God’s hand at work. SERIOUSLY. It’s like throughout the past year, I’ve gotten these little key’s to my very own personal Scylla which has just been unlocked, yielding incomprehensible personal power in the form of peace. For the past year, I’ve been getting these little pieces to a puzzle, and suddenly the picture presents itself before me and my soul is free. But I’m getting ahead of myself…let me start from the beginning. This is going to be a very long post, so I’ve split it in two…

Through the Lord Almighty’s grace, it has been established that I have exquisite instincts. I really do & I’ve mentioned this before. If only I trusted them more often. See, Azra is the type of person who just knows certain things. I kid you not. Like for example, when I meet new people…whether it’s in person or online, I immediately either love, dislike or distrust them and I can’t explain or determine why, but the answer always manifests itself over time, justifying my feelings. And the weird part is that I don’t even have to know them. All I need is one conversation.

What people don’t know about me, is that I can pick up all sorts in a single conversation. The conversation doesn’t even have to be in person, it can be online and it doesn’t even have to be a lengthy one. Even more extraordinary, I don’t even need to speak to the person…all I need to do is witness a conversation between two people, to have it figured out. And I’m not just tooting my own horn here, this is the honest-to-God-truth. I'm the Michael Scofield of people in general. I can tell by a single sentence, or just by the aura of the person whether they’re insecure, conniving, egotistical, manipulative, pathological liars, suffer from abandonment issues etc. etc. etc.

And even though I pick up on all sorts of personal ailments, I choose to ignore most of them purely because it’s none of my business. Even when people feed me their bullshit stories and I oblige or indulge them, I always see the bigger picture, what they’re not saying, and I know that they’re either unaware of their own issues, or they simply want to believe what they’re telling me. I rarely correct them, I just accept it even when I know what I know.

That said, let me deviate a little…I’ll come back to this case in point…

Ok, so in every company or organisation, there is at least one tyrant, a Goliath of sorts. Now the degree of tyranny is based on the Goliath’s personality i.e. whether he is secretive and cunning or a power-hungry egotistical exhibitionist. One will commonly find these tyrants amongst middle management – a classic case of over-inflated-ego-flaunting-what-is-mistaken-as-authority-to-overcompensate-for-whats-lacking. There’s even a name for these people in Industrial Psychology and the condition is very real.

So, over a year ago when I just began working at the company, I encountered the company’s Goliath who operated in the form of the HR Manager. From the very first minute in his presence, I hated this man and I couldn’t understand why…especially since I was attending an executive meeting and got along great with everyone else, including my bosses. There was something in his aura…the tyranny, arrogance, racism, sexism…I couldn’t quite put my finger on it because he hadn’t said or done anything to offend me personally. I suppose I was lucky in that I worked at a facility apart from the Head Office, so I rarely saw Goliath and his cronies. It was however, incredible that every single time I saw or met with him over the span of the year, my hatred for him intensified; and mystified by my response I continually brushed it aside, ignoring my intuition and not paying any attention to it.

But I should have known. See, another astounding fact about companies and organisations is that when you’re very good at your job and everyone likes you, you become a threat and a target to some people, especially those people who govern through intimidation, with agendas and authority complexes. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was being set up by Goliath and his cronies, a victim of industrial sabotage, the result of which led to my unfair dismissal from the company when I got back from the UK. The entire company was left shocked and appalled at my departure, and I had bosses and colleagues calling me on the sly, urging me to take the matter further. They need not have bothered because I was already on the war path, out for blood.

Now throughout the entire process, I was raging inside. I knew what an asshole he was. I knew that even the pansy-asses called executive management were intimidated by him, so they wouldn’t question his motives. And to say that I was LIVID is an understatement. SEETHING doesn't even do it. I mean I. WAS. PISSED!!! The kinda pissed where had I known where he lived in Sunninghill, I mean the exact location, I would have surely paid a visit with a missile or two, and I wouldn’t have cared that he had a family in the house. Evil pissed was I. For a few days, all I saw was blood…his blood smeared on the walls in my name. It took all the restraint in the world, every ounce I could muster, as well as our familial keen sense of humour for me to stay calm and semi-rational.

I then decided to pay a visit to a very formidable woman, an expert in Labour Law and the Mother of my sister’s best friend. I called in a favour and together with one of Mrs. Formidable’s employees, I contested the dismissal and the charges leading to dismissal at the Council, citing managements’ incompetence, arrogance and negligence in the matter. I wasn’t allowed to have any legal representation in the hearing at the Council at the company’s request but unbeknownst to them, I didn’t need any representation and my lawyer can attest to that. After witnessing one of my passionate tirades, he even suggested that I consider becoming a lawyer.

See, let me tell you how fucking stupid they were…well it’s not really ‘them’, just Goliath and his cronies. Firstly, they seriously under-estimated my intelligence because aside from my acute sense of intuition, the one thing I can do very well is over-analyse, pull things apart, read between the lies, find contradictions and flaws in any statement...something I was trained to do academically as well as in the Private Investigative field I once worked in. And I found contradictions and flaws, particularly within their own Policies and Procedures and Code of Conduct. With this gift bestowed upon me by The Almighty, I found loopholes their own lawyers couldn’t find.
Because I smile every day and because I’m very friendly, make jokes, and have the whole ‘happy-go-lucky’ thing going on, people think I’m an easy target. I’ve said this before…if they only knew. I played my cards very close on this one. I refrained from talking about it, because I didn’t want to jeopardize the case and I did extensive research on the matter.

Needless to say, I went to court guns blazing, ready to ANNIHILATE them. And Thanks to The Almighty, annihilate them I did. When I left the courtroom two and a half hours later, I had ripped them and all their arguments to shreds, left them gaping and breathless because they never saw it coming…even the Commissioner and Adjudicator was speechless. But I don’t count my chickens before they hatch and when I had heard that I’d won the case early last week, I refrained from being jubilant. Always two steps ahead, I’m waiting to see what’s the next move, if the arrogant bastard will try to massage his bruised ego and appeal to Labour Court. Apparently, this is the first case he’s ever lost. Too bad for the hundreds of uneducated people out there who were dismissed in a similar fashion, without the confidence or recourse to challenge it.

In the interim, I’ve been wrestling with my morals. I had decided before my appearance in court, not to make this about revenge but I can’t help feeling that a tyrant like him has to be ousted in public. I’m considering contacting the Head of Global Operations in the UK, a man I happen to know on a personal basis, telling him about Goliath and the general incompetence of his department. And I also think that the Labour Department will be very interested in the information I have on the company. But again, as much as I’d like to see them crumble, I don’t want to make this about vengeance. I won’t win with vengeance. Besides, I can’t make the whole company pay for the indiscretions of one colossal asshole. There are many good people there…pansies, but they’re still good and it would not be fair.

But like I said, I haven’t won yet…not until they pay me the stipulated amount set by the court. And I’m secretly wishing that the arrogant son-of-a-bitch takes it further to Labour Court, so that I can annihilate him once again and then they’d have to pay me out twice the stipulated amount as well as my lawyer’s fees, thereby cementing their humiliation. Whatever their plans, I say BA-RING IT! These days, I have no problems, because I’ve relinquished all control to a higher power and I watch The Almighty do my bidding for me…just the way it’s supposed to be.

“Here is your final lesson - do not commit the crime for which you now serve the sentence. God said, ‘Vengeance is mine’…God will give me Justice” ~ Count of Monte Christo

To be continued…

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Seeking Browner Pastures

This is what some people call a rant. You have been warned!

I’ve always maintained that South Africans in general don’t have a culture of respect, preservation and conservation and I stand by that more than ever these days. I can’t explain to you the depths of my infuriation and frustration. My exasperation grows with every single day as I encounter more and more fuckers of note.

So there’s road works everywhere at the moment right, all in preparation for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Johannesburg looks like a nuclear bomb paid a visit and traffic in general, which has always been a nightmare, is now horrendous. But it’s all for a good cause right? This is a historical milestone. The Soccer World Cup is the single biggest sporting event in the entire world and South Africa is the lucky bastard nation who gets to host it this time. Now if only there were less assholes on the road. No respect I tell ya, worse than animals. Traffic these days brings out the worst racist in me. And no one is spared. My expletives are all I have short of actually getting out of my car and bashing everyone in sight. Everyone just wants to get to where they’re going to, like NOW, driving around recklessly like they own the fucking roads.

For instance, let’s take yesterday as an example. There I was, driving to the Post Office to post the second letter I’d written to UJ (since he didn’t receive the first one but I’m getting to that in a minute), adhering to the speed limit and the general rules and regulations of the road when fucker1 of note decides to drive so close to me, he was literally sitting on my ass. Drivers usually do that when they want you to drive faster or get out of their way. But everyone who has a brain and uses it is aware of the fact that there has been a recent clampdown on irresponsible driving and that law enforcement agencies have instituted stricter measures on issues like driving over the speed limit.

Contravention of any traffic law results in hefty monetary penalties…and I don’t know about everyone else, but I don’t take any pleasure in pissing all my money away on traffic fines. I know the roads that I drive on, I know where there are traffic police lurking, where the traffic cameras are hidden etc. and I’m extra vigilant on the road. So it IRKS THE SHIT OUT OF ME when other drivers aren’t as responsible, or they want to insult and ridicule you for obeying the law. To retaliate, I usually drive even slower, just to piss them off and while doing so yesterday, it occurred to me to get appropriate bumper stickers for the occasion. How about

Colloquial Afrikaans word 'Blom' means to relax or chill out.

OR


Think they’ll get the picture?

Anyways, then I got to the Post Office and wanted to strangle someone, seriously. There were about 12 staff behind the counter, but only 2 serving customers standing in long queue. Most of them looked like they were waiting to retire or go on holiday. The laziest bunch of assholes I’ve seen in a while. Service levels in this country really SUCK! It’s like no one wants to work anymore and everything is always someone else’s problem.

Now I wouldn’t have been in that position, standing in a queue long enough to reach Uganda, had they delivered my letter to UJ. You see, everywhere else in the world people fight over things like healthcare and taxes. I’d just like MY FUCKING MAIL DELIVERED thank you! And not in 3 weeks…how about tomorrow? If the British can do it and get their mail the next day after it’s been posted, why can’t we?!?! We were once a colony; we’re still part of the Commonwealth aren’t we?

Nobody enjoys a good strike more than the South Africans do. We’re just coming out of our ‘Strike Season’; where just about everyone from the Post Office to the Military strike for higher wages. Granted, they need the money. Because it’s another South African custom for every business to make at least 500% profit by ripping off consumers and over-charging on every product sold or service rendered, and then paying their employees peanuts. They use what I call Reverse Consumer Psychology, where they'll hike up prices, reduce them slightly and make you believe you're getting a better deal. So if something was 500 bucks today, tomorrow they'll hike it up to 1000 and then on Saturday they'll have a 'sale' where it goes down to 700...then they'll rally around, manipulating the customer to believe that its a great deal, while some of us are like "whaaat? hello, it was 500 a few days ago". Greedy motherfuckers. We’re NOT Brunei. We’re NOT rolling around in excess cash…yet every single business out there seems intent on screwing over their consumers, making exorbitant amounts of money to the detriment of the public at large. Whatever happened to making a 50% profit or 100%...

We pay the highest bank charges IN THE WORLD. Our food prices have more than DOUBLED over the past year. Where are the regulators? It's fucking ludicrous, this madness has to end! And sure, I’ll have some cynic saying “but some things, like bread, is more expensive in Britain”...hello, they get paid more in Britain! If companies and government paid their employees well, there’d be no fucking need to strike and act like hooligans.

And don’t get me started on our so-called fucking Internet provider, Telkom. A company that sells us dial-up disguised as broadband. My computer freezes at least three times everyday due to some or other ‘fault’, or when I have more than two windows open for more than 20 minutes at a time. At first I thought that it was just my computer…see that’s what they want you to think, that it’s just you…then I heard complaints from various other people and ALL our computers can’t be at fault.

And what about Eskom? (Funny how all our problems end in 'kom') Our so-called power/energy provider. What a fucking joke they are. And what measures they’ll go to, to fill their pockets with our hard earned cash. They fucked up, made their mistakes and now the whole country has to pay for it. And I find it very convenient how, after they managed to hike up our electricity bills and get funding from the government, that there weren’t anymore power-outages or blackouts. Add to that, the fact that all their management received large bonuses for the privledge, mounting to millions…all at the expense of the public.

I need to do something about my increasingly aggravated state of mind. I hate this place and the general public more and more everyday. I have ceased to appreciate anything anymore. So I reckon that I need to move, leave this country. I need to go to another country, where there are no cars and roads, just a horse and cart to get to the market everyday so that I can appreciate the hooligans on our roads. A country where there is no running water, Internet or electricity, so that I can appreciate this 1GB of dial-up-disguised-as-broadband that I utilise every month. A country where the focus is not on accumulation and keeping up with the Joneses but survival; maybe then I’ll appreciate being bled dry and screwed over by every overzealous and voracious capitalist in existence. Or maybe not…maybe I’ll adjust and come to appreciate a more simplistic lifestyle where corporate vultures and corrupt religious leaders aren’t the dictators of society.