Thursday, April 29, 2010

APRIL

Before I go on to detailing this month’s challenge, I thought I’d report some amendments to last month’s shenanigans.

Ok, firstly, in my When Life Gives You Lemons post, there’s a typo in the quantity of one of the ingredients in the Lemon Cheesecake. It says 500ml Fresh Cream when it should have stated 250ml Fresh Cream. *Sheepish Sorry*. So the ingredients once again are:

1 pkt Tennis or Digestive Biscuits
100g Butter or as required
250g Cream Cheese
250ml Fresh Cream
½ tin Condensed Milk (optional)
2 pkts Flavoured Jelly
1 tsp Gelatine or China Grass
Fruit to decorate

The preparation directions remain the same. Note, for a less sweeter version omit the condensed milk. And if you want to, you can add a few pieces of fruit into the cheesecake mixture itself, for more flavour and texture.

Secondly, some amendments were done to the décor of the room (for the MARCH challenge) and here they are:

Firstly, I decided that a flowery/ butterfly combo would do nicely for the wall... these were inexpensive too.


Then I saw this stick-on and loved it, didn't know where to put it initially, so I removed the yellow centerpiece in the black frame.

Before:


After:


Then we removed the blue and green butterflies from the side of the drawers, leaving only the yellow ones and mounted the yellow centerpiece above that. Still, I thought there were too many "masculine"colours in the room and put up this neon pink frame.



The front of the drawers also got spruced up with these inexpensive decorative sitckers.



In retrospect, it wasn't intentional, but the entire theme seems to involve butterflies or flowers of some kind. This was purely accidental and we only realised it when we were done. I'm a girly gal at heart ;)



On to this month…more so then ever before, I’ve come to believe that our thoughts and words are very powerful and often manifest themselves in our realities. I’ve seen evidence of this in my own life, where I often say things and then they occur and I find that I want to kick myself for not wishing for a Squa-jillion bucks instead.

Keeping in tune with the theme of giving myself a life make-over, I’ve decided that for this months challenge, I wanted to do a social experiment on myself. The objective was to create a more positive aura or atmosphere by toning down on the cussing in my everyday speech and conversation.

The idea behind this was that the F-word tends to satiate any emotion it’s meant to convey and because most of the emotions associated to said F-word are negative, it ignites or rather magnifies such negative emotions to unwarranted proportions.

Now I go through phases where for non-specified periods of time, my relationship with the F-word will vacillate between complete abstinence to voracious gluttony and then back again. I generally like swearing and derive some sort of satisfaction from it (it’s my only vice ok!).

But I do want to tone down on the bad language because often, what we say is what we begin to feel and what we feel influences our thoughts, which in turn influences our speech again (it’s a perpetual cycle)… but ultimately, what we say becomes our reality. And I want a great reality and therefore must begin with good words and good thoughts.

So with the help of my supportive sister, we developed our own dialogue to substitute those negative words with more positive ones. We then implemented this alteration into our daily speech and conversations offline and I must say, that it has worked wonders. We’ve both been calmer, more centered than usual and there’s a general positivity that emanate from both of us – instead of feeding each other’s frenzies, we’ve actually helped each other walk on the pacified side of life.

Here are some of our substitutions for words in the normal expletive vocabulary:

F#$k -> Flower
Mother F#$ker -> Magna Flower
Sh!t -> Sugar
A$$hole -> Unicorn
B!tch -> Butterfly
D!ckhead -> Daisy
Rubbish -> Rainbows
OMG -> MAGNOLIA!

Needless to say, some of our conversations are pretty hilarious and even when we do get upset, angry or emotional, just using these substitutes sound so ludicrous that we usually burst out laughing and said negative emotion is alleviated.

I don’t think that I will refrain entirely though (trying to be realistic here), but the main goal is to remove expletives from negative emotions so that we don’t breathe life into them. I think it’s a little different with positive emotions. And also, we should keep in mind that most things in life can be justified with butterflies and rainbows, but for some things, nothing short of a F@$%*#@#$%! will do. ;)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lost In The Sands Of Time

What a lovely cloudy morning it’s been. This is my kind of winter… not the usual bright blue skies and sunshine that fools the body into thinking its still summer and when you step out there’s that cold reality check waiting to slap you back to the present.

I love days like these, only because I can enjoy them fully by sitting in front of the heater while I look for a suitable job on the internet (any country out there want to adopt me temporarily please… I cook and bake, am a great law-abiding citizen and pay my taxes on time). Earlier though, I was looking through some of the assignments from first year Anthropology students detailing their origins and just reading through them was an enthralling experience which kept me fascinated and glued to their stories for hours.

Most of the assignments have photos attached to them and evidence of the lives of grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great-grandparents. There are letters from King Edward VIII and invitations from Buckingham Palace, certificates (of membership) from the Freemasons, medals from the Great War (WWI), diagrams tracing lineage back to Shaka Zulu, love letters between beloveds and photos… photos of a time lost and people who have long since passed into another realm. It’s both exhilarating and extremely sad.

What I find very interesting (and very admirable) about that era is how romantic and poetic people were, without being corny or tacky. If there was anything I could bring back from that time, it would be that heartfelt sincerity and the words they uttered in their daily lives, as part of the norm. Reading through old letters from husbands to wives and from wives to husbands, one can’t help but feel that they had more substance in their lives. Even in a distraught letter to his wife, one great-grandfather expressed his grief and dismay so eloquently; I thought I was in a Jane Austen novel.

(Can I just mention how impeccably groomed they all were. They all took so much pride in the way they dressed that it would put most of the contemporary world to shame. And that was just the way they were, it required no effort in terms of “dressing up”, and was considered proper etiquette at the time. No man can go wrong in a fitted suit, or even a nice kurta/abaya.)

Anyways, it got me thinking of my own grandparents and great-grandparents. Now I’m a regular reflector of the past and I love history, as I’ve mentioned many times before, but I have to lament the fact that these photos, letters, medals and certificates are all that we ever become… our names and words etched on pieces of paper, our images imprinted forever capturing the essence of that time.

 My Great-Grandfather: 12 March 1937

And sooner than we think, like many before us, we will leave this world and a year becomes a decade and a decade becomes a century, until you’ve ceased to exist in the minds and memories of your beloved and offspring and become yet another atom in the sands of time… a distant memory (more myth-like than real) only occasionally drudged up for academic purposes to fill the insatiable curiosity of later generations that are significantly emotionally detached. It is sad indeed.


Over the Easter weekend, I was at Mother’s aunts’ place and we were looking through old photographs of the past… ooh-ing and aah-ing at how so many have aged, remembering those that have passed and looking-on at those we have never had the chance to meet. And I told Mother’s aunt then, that it may sound ego-centric, naïve, and somewhat patronizing but it’s always amazing to fathom that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had full lives long before we even existed. They had lived, loved and lost and contrary to what we’d like to believe, their entire lives weren’t spent waiting for us to come along.

An entire life in photographs… moments captured for all eternity or at least until some great-great-great grand-daughter’s niece or whatever decides that it’s no longer useful or relevant and it goes up in flames at the next bonfire. So just imagine one day you will no longer be useful or relevant and your entire life – the joys and the agonies of it – will go up in flames in front of people who no longer care that you were a devoted husband or wife, or that you struggled to feed your family, or that you were a prominent member of whatever society, or that you were inspirational to those in your circle, or that you strived for greatness, or that a considerable amount of effort went into ensuring that you provided a good home for future generations.

And just like that, everything you’ve ever agonised about in your entire life… from the game you missed on TV, to those boots they didn’t have in your size, to burning the rice for dinner, scratching the car, hiding that scar on your forehead, trying on pain of death to acquire some status and respect… all that becomes inconsequential and means absolutely nothing as your entire life is deemed irrelevant. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll become part-myth part-legend but still at the core, no one will give a damn.

So my message for you today is… as it always is, and as it always will be… LIVE your life today, for you and your Lord. Live and love unapologetically, like there’s no tomorrow. Grab every moment and make the most of it because ultimately, in the grander scheme of things nothing really matters.

I’m going to practice the art of speaking poetically with all that grace and charm oozing from every word and hope that I have a few people who shall indulge my whims and fancies. :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sometimes...

You've got to make sacrifices. As difficult as it may seem. Like for instance, when its a long weekend and you're tempted to go out and party with the rest of the gang - even though thats what you've been doing for the better half of it - sometimes you have to take a step back and say "that was great y'know, but now I have to see to other things... priorities".

It's so easy to get caught up in the good stuff and to want the good stuff all the time. But sometimes, we have to go through the bad stuff, to get to the good stuff. Sometimes the only road to the good stuff is through the backroad of the bad stuff.

And people approach the bad stuff less enthusiastically. Why would you want to jump up and down at the prospect of staring at a text book for the next two weeks? But good food, great friends and seemingly endless laughter... now thats worth a round of applause.

But. Sometimes. Well, most of the time; there can't be good stuff, without the bad stuff.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Feminism se gat

The other night Mother asked me if I’d like to take her car in for wheel alignment because she’s in the middle of one of her cases and doesn’t have the time to do it herself. So I responded sarcastically saying “No, I wouldn’t like to take your car to have its wheels aligned, but I will do it because you asked me to… just for you… because you want me to”. And off I was the next day, driving horrifically slow, watching tortoises outrun me, making my way to the damn wheel alignment place.

On my way there, I thought of how annoying it is to have to deal with constant car issues, ESPECIALLY when you’re female. In our home, it’s worse because we’re only females and often get stuck doing all the dirty work and it’s been this way for as long as I can remember. Anyways, it’s been one of those weeks and this is how it is ok…

My definition of feminism is the freedom to make my own choices… like whether I’d like to work or not… and to be able to think for myself and have my own opinions and beliefs on various issues and subjects… without having a man dictate what I should say, feel, think or believe. But that’s it right there. That’s where my definition of feminism ends.

Now too many of today’s females are often rallying around, throwing the word feminism about, without REALLY knowing the full implication of the concepts behind that banner. If you’ve read the works of Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, including the interpretations and explanations behind them extensively, you’ll know that their concepts of feminism are very different to our contemporary pop cultural views.

What I’ve come to notice is that when people (I’m talking about women specifically here) become accustomed to having everything done for them on a daily basis, they tend to take those things for granted. And it’s usually those females who’ve never had to really work for anything in their lives, or who get everything they want under Daddy’s clutches, that over-utilize this word feminism because they’re secretly yearning for that freedom associated with feminist concepts… the freedom to be able to do things.

But for others, like me, it’s different because we've been doing things for most of our lives and quite frankly I’ve had enough. I’m tired of changing light-bulbs and worrying whether the car’s wheels have been aligned or not or if the bearing is shot again… and where I’m going to get a good mechanic from. I’m tired of worrying about stupid things like if the door is locked and if the alarm is on before I go to bed and that the lawn needs to be mowed the next day. And I know how to service my own car, change a tyre and a light bulb and do most of what a man can do around the house, so I don’t need to prove myself to anyone.

In a lot of ways, it’s worse for women today because we’re not only expected to go out and work, but to come home, tend to the household chores, cooking, laundry etc. as well as the children. (Not that I’m against working. But I’d like to work because I want to, not because I have to. And I truly believe that a husband’s duty to his wife is to see to her NECESSITIES and not her GREED aka WANTS and that if a woman WANTS too much that she must get a damn job and support those wants herself).

But for the most part, I hardly think its fair and as far as I’m concerned, fuck feminism. What has it given us aside from lazy ass men who don’t even want to make the effort to ask you out to dinner, never mind mow the lawn, fix the leaking pipes or God forbid, make tea and coffee for themselves.

If feminism means taking on additional responsibilities while having the man sit on his ass and watch you like a B-grade movie, then please take it back. I don’t need it and I don’t want it. I don’t want to deal with things that I shouldn’t have to deal with. Granted there are some men who require their wives to help them out, if say for instance, he has two cars and can’t drive both himself. But don't forget, that wife is getting laid, so there’s plenty of incentive to try and please the husband and absolutely no incentive for me to go trudging through town at a snail’s pace.

There are only 3 instances that would incite violence and turn me into a husband beater:
1. If he’s a chronic cheater;
2. If he has a small winky and;
3. If he expects me to go out and work and come home and do allll of the things a housewife has to do while he lounges away in front of the TV. 

The way I see it, my man must go out and bring home the macon and see to my damn endless car issues, and the light-bulbs, and the lawn and all the other male shit that belongs in the man’s realm. I on the other hand, would be too happy to sit behind a stove and cook all day and rear six children – 3 for me and 3 for him – and make all the cookies he wants, and join the PTA, and do charity drives, and mend his clothes, and run his bath, and give him a full body massage before he goes to sleep, check on the investments, and wake up early enough to make him breakfast and lunch. I’d be too happy to do all of that instead of worry incessantly about bills and plumbing and special parts that need to be ordered for the car and the gutters that need to be cleared and bushes that need to be trimmed etc.

And if for any reason, I have to go and work and be a part of his realm by bringing home 50% of the macon… then for damn sure he’s going to do 50% of what needs to be done in the woman’s realm… i.e. the cooking, cleaning, laundry, tending to the kids etc. etc. It’s only fair. And THAT is as far as my concept of feminism goes. Personally though, I don’t want to work when I have my kids. And I’m not one of those women who WANTS all the time, frankly the less I have the better. I want to sit in my little hut with two spoons, a mug and a kettle and be the caretaker of the family … yes me… a ticket for domestic bliss for one please! I want to be the WOMAN, not the man. And thankfully, my religion supports this and my rights as a female :D

This post is in no way referring to any individual, or a reflection of any recent discussions I may have had, and is just a culmination of thoughts and events that have manifested over a substantial amount of time after considerable contemplation and deliberation ;)

"As a woman I want to know that I can worship in a mosque, debate and add to Islamic intellectual knowledge, and be respected for this. For me this is ultimate equality." (Amen Sister!)

Title colloquial Afrikaans pronounced 'feminism-sir-(gutteral)gut' meaning feminism's arse.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fede e Speranza


Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew... someday the train would come...










...They say they built the train tracks over the Alps before there was a train that could make the trip. They built it anyway. They knew one day the train would come. Any arbitrary turning along the way, and I would be elsewhere. I would be different. What are four walls anyway? They are what they contain. The house protects the dreamer. Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game. It's such a surprise...

Abbiate fede mia cara...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dating Woes

Taskia, 24
I blame myself, I should have known. He cancelled on me twice before and after he begged and pleaded for a third time, I still gave him a chance. But I blame myself because all the signs were there. Firstly, he was late. And not like a couple of minutes late, more like an hour and a couple of minutes late. Then he called me and said that he was caught up in something and suggested that we just meet at the restaurant. And still, like a fool I went ahead with it. When I got there, he was seated at the table, talking to someone on the phone but then hastily put it down. Then rather confidently, he called for the waiter like he owned the restaurant and proceeded to order in that characteristically grandiose flamboyant manner, the most expensive dishes on the menu. Then the entire evening, he gave me a detailed account of how much money he has. He told me about his business, his car, his house and his flat in Durban. How do you respond to that? I’m happy for you, you big show-off? But the worst was yet to come. When it was time to pay, he said that he had forgotten his wallet at home. Flabbergasted and desperate to get out of there, I reached for my credit card because I didn’t have enough cash with me. To add insult to injury, he asked me for a R5 coin for the car guard, and said that he had a great time and couldn’t wait to do it again. I barred his number the next day.

Mohamed, 27
Well I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about a blind date but to please a long-time friend, I agreed. To say that the whole experience was tedious and boring is an understatement. It felt like I’d been thrown on the track at the Convo Olympics just to discover that I can’t run. From the moment we said our hellos, she wouldn’t stop yacking long enough for me to get a word in edge-wise. I got to know her entire family’s history in the 20 minutes it took for our order to come to the table. Then throughout the meal, she kept at it, talking non-stop. I had hoped that she’d at least shut it while she was eating. For a moment there, I zoned out automatically nodding my head, trying to be polite and faking my acknowledgment of what she was saying. Talk about pointless. I really didn’t need to know that her mother bought the green bag from Makro instead of the blue one and then found it cheaper at Game. Two days later, I heard that she complained to my friend that I was inattentive and unresponsive – that I was too quiet and wouldn’t talk to her. Seriously, this is why I’m still single. I didn’t sign up for this. Bitch.

Akeela, 25
I knew it was going to be a long afternoon after the first scratch. He was rude, inconsiderate and kept scratching at his balls the whole time. I don’t get it, aren’t guys conscious of their actions? It’s that false sense of authority and entitlement that puts me off most Indian guys. We get to the coffee shop smack in the middle of lunch hour right, so it stands to reason that the place is going to be packed *scratch*. He didn’t bother to make a reservation then he demands DEMANDS a table outside with a view *scratch*. He made such a scene and I was so embarrassed I wanted to curl up and die right there. Eventually, management had to tell him that there were no tables available outside on the terrace and led us to another table inside. For added effect, this warranted two scratches. I was like what the fuck is going on down there man. flea haven? Then sulking like a spoilt kid that didn’t get his way, he was unnecessarily rude to the waiter and every few minutes, in between scratches, he called on this poor waiter, asking some or other stupid question. I was irritated and frustrated, not to mention disgusted with the amount of ball scratching action going on and as a result, didn’t have much of an appetite. To him, this was the waiter’s fault too. Feeling guilty, I slipped said waiter an extra R50 on our way out as compensation for the abuse. That’s 3 painful hours of my life I’ll never get back.

Shiraaz, 26
I actually liked her. I really did. I just wish that she would tone it down with the make-up because she doesn’t need to plaster her walls you know what I mean. It’s like looking at a bad painting, and a couple of times I wanted to reach over and wipe off all that base or foundation or whatever you call it, with my serviette. And I wish she’d stop embarrassing herself in those sky high stilettos that she wobbles on. She clearly cannot walk on the bloody things and almost fell four times. But on the plus side, I got to catch her four times. It was a little romantic in a moronic kinda way.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rehashing The Past

I’ve never been particularly patriotic and I must be the least patriotic person I know. Do I love my country? Yes. And will I stand up and fight if we were under attack from Mr. Mugabe? Probably. I do have a certain sense of national pride, but I still don’t consider myself patriotic. The problem I have with patriotism is that I refuse to swear my affiliation and allegiance to anyone or anything that could turn around and kick me in the arse at any given moment. And that is exactly the way it is in most countries at the moment.

So I have no particular affiliation or allegiance to South Africa, or any other country for that matter. And I don’t discriminate, I hate the entire world equally :D (I’m being facetious and sarcastic for those who can’t tell). Instead I see myself as a wanderer of sorts, a global citizen and my only allegiance is to God and God alone. My constitution is based on equality and justice. I will stand with anyone who has been wronged, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion or nationality. I believe in righteousness and standing up for what is right. I believe in respect and honesty, dignity and integrity… heartfelt warmth and sincerity. And I believe in moving on. I find all of this lacking in today’s societies.

It’s easy to become disillusioned with the world because all it ever does is “take” from you. It takes and takes and takes and gives nothing back. I’ve seen people spend their entire lives in pursuit of selfish, empty and trivial pursuits, the joys of which are always short-lived and eventually come to mean absolutely nothing, but by the time they actually wake up and realise this it’s too late, they’re too old to do anything about it. Its ironic then, that I’m not disillusioned with the world, no matter how much I hate it because I know a secret. And this secret gives me endless hope and faith and it invigorates my soul with a light that brings peace… but that’s another story.

I’ve taken a look at the entire Malema / AWB debacle that has been plaguing our nation like a nasty strain of H1N1 and all I see are a whole lot of emotional, greedy, egotistical and power hungry individuals that can’t let go of the past. And the only thing worse than drudging up the past, are those who enable, encourage and perpetuate it… some of which belong to the South African media. Of course they’re having a field day. Give a monkey a microphone and run with it. Everyone’s looking for a story to sensationalise… but no one wants the truth.

But this is so typical of South Africans innit? Smile and pretend that everything is ok while the wounds fester into seething scabs housing years of blood, pus and resentment. Let’s all ignore our issues and regurgitate them at a more inconvenient time shall we? And the result is that after 16 years of so-called democracy, we have people picking at their scabs and letting the pus ooze all over the nation.

That e-tv news clip is an example of this. In my opinion, we the South African public DID NOT need to view the entire squabble between the reporter and the dude representing the AWB on National TV. But of course, that is what journalism has become… another seedy profession out for the kill. The entire story was pointless. If anything, it only further segregated an already divided nation. The guy wasn’t right, he could have handled it better instead of losing his temper with the interviewer, but he was clearly emotional.

They (the AWB) have just lost their leader after a spate of verbal attacks from Julius Malema calling for the death of Boers owning land (farms) and they’re in mourning, lost, confused, vulnerable, isolated and for the first time since 1994, they feel really threatened. In the meantime, Malema, the ANC’s pet monkey who also happens to be the leader of the ANC youth league, continues to make a spectacle of himself using the very attentive South African media as his pawn, while they love the drama. Never in the history of the world has a monkey been given so much air time and media attention.

I’m sure there are many people who would delight in sticking a skewer up the AWB's butt and have them sizzle on a spit-braai, bringing the once oppressive party to its knees, but no one looks at the real implications of this. Malema’s comments are not only directed to the horrific apartheid regime, but to the white people in general… or that’s how it comes across when he gives one of his infamous “speeches”, as witnessed at various varsity campuses. So most, if not all, the whites are backed up in one corner, defensive and up in arms. And if he can do it to the whites, there’s nothing that stops him from doing it to other minority races either. Hmmm… where have I heard something like this before… sounds so reminiscent of… Zimbabwe.

Reverse racism is NOT democracy or justice. All oppressive regimes and dictatorships weren’t born overnight; they tend to sneak up on society like rats in the dark. Specific measures were instituted over a period of time for them to be successful. After all, it takes time to brainwash people. Apartheid and the Holocaust are examples of this. Both began with what was considered rudimentary regulatory laws. Eventually the Jews in Poland and Germany, like the blacks here in South Africa, weren’t allowed to walk on the pavements, then they weren’t allowed in specific parts of the city, then they were required to carry identification at all times, then they were banished to certain areas outside the cities where they lived like slaves in squalor.

But I have say that the best part about all of this, is that it had to happen just before the 2010 World Cup. The same World Cup they’ve been punting and shoving down our throats for the past 6 years. Because you see, when you come out of an oppressive regime where you are so used to fighting ALL THE TIME, that’s all you know. You don’t know how to function otherwise… that is, you don’t know how to be normal and NOT fight over every single thing. So when you don’t have any problems, you start looking for them by nit picking over stupid issues and rehashing the past.

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about Apartheid. I’m tired of people who only want to talk about the past and how they suffered when they were barely alive to witness those travesties. I’m tired of people using the past as an excuse to behave reprehensibly. Every single person that was responsible for the institution of Apartheid in the first place is dead, yet we – the people in the present – insist on paying for their crimes by dwelling on them.

We have our public holidays (more public holidays then most countries do) where we are allowed to commemorate our hero’s and remember the past, to learn from it. That should be enough. I’m done reading about it in the papers. I’m done reading about it in almost every piece of South African fiction / literature that you pick up at the bookstore. I’m done watching it on TV and in South African movies. How do we ever move forward if everyone is always looking back?!?

In the meantime, to the rest of the world, we look like a bunch of fucking idiots. I’ve had several people ask me already “what the hell is going on down there?”, because it looks so much worse on international television. Some countries are even telling their people “Don’t go to South Africa”. How embarrassing!

So forgive me if I’m not rallying at the sidelines and jumping hoops for this country, especially when the Government is more than willing to let a monkey ruin 16 years of freedom by bringing the nation that much closer to the very real prospect of civil war with the help of a very generous SA media… while the world looks on incredulously, any and all credibility down the toilet as our Government’s actions confirm their beliefs that we really do live in a jungle in Africa because everyone carries on like animals. Well done SA. You don’t know how to be happy and just let sleeping dogs lie.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Over-Priced Palace Of Dreams

I’ve had positively one of the best weekends of my life. It was so great that I’m still recovering from the after-effects… my version of a hangover sans the alcohol. The job hunt has commenced but in my current state of mind, I can only muster half of my brain capacity and as a result, production levels are low.

Part of this weekend was spent at Sheikh’s Palace in Rivonia on Saturday night… me and my crew of 15 dining on over-priced Lebanese cuisine to celebrate my cousin’s birthday. Now ordinarily, I don’t fancy Lebanese cuisine much (actually most Middle Eastern food). I don't like some of the cold dishes and I find the taste to be too bland for my liking (I hate cold food, there are days when I heat up my salad in the microwave, just to make it a little warmer for my palate), bleh. But I was feeling particularly adventurous that evening and had a little of everything on offer, topped off with an apple flavoured hookah / sheesha pipe.

Then the belly-dancers came out and gave us a good show. They were dancing around the tables in this somewhat posh restaurant and after their routine, invited many of the patrons to join them. And of course no one had to ask us twice. So high on Apple flavoured hookah I was rocking the dance floor with most of the crew (only two didn’t want to), giving those belly dancers a run for their money; and even the guys in our group who I didn’t think would be, were shaking their asses. A couple of hours, two full-on belly dancing competitions and lots of plain-straight-up-dancing to contemporary Middle Eastern music later, and we were all sitting around like stuffed chickens trying to find space in our tummies for the baklava, completely EXHAUSTED and high on life.

It was a new experience for most of the guys and girls in my crew. Not so for me because I once lived around the corner from a Lebanese restaurant in London and frequented the place often. Overall it was an enjoyable experience, but like I said before, VERY overpriced and when the bill arrived I nearly had a heart attack. I spent a good few minutes recounting what we’d ordered for the evening, automatically doing inventory in my head, weighing the investment against the outcome (as the business woman in me is inclined to do) and desperately trying to figure out if there were traces of gold in the food and what exactly did we consume that would amount to R5000 (just under US$700 and GB£450 and just over EUR€500). That’s like rent and groceries for the month for some people here.

Granted, we were 16 people and it was a posh restaurant but even that figure seemed too steep for me, taking into consideration that it did not include alcohol since none of us drank and most of the dishes were made out of lentils and vegetables with a few tiny kebabs and chicken wings thrown in here and there for good measure. And I’m certain that we didn’t consume five thousand rand’s worth of lentils and vegetables, and you’d most definitely get more chicken wings from a bucket at KFC for under R165. So someone is walking around with R4800 in their pockets. Must be those belly dancers. Anyways, the men handled the bill and we all decided that for our next evening out, we’re going to McDonalds where we can dine on Happy Meals AND get our faces painted for the effort.

We stayed over at my other cousin’s place in Johannesburg on Saturday night, taking the party home with us, pulling an all-nighter like we used to in the old days, talking and laughing hysterically until dawn. Great times indeed.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Growing Pains

There’s something to be said about living with your parents for too long. That’s why some people get married young, or get their own places and move out, or get kicked out by their parents. Mother can’t wait to kick us out. I had moved out once, but then moved back in when I returned to the country and sometimes I wish that I’d gotten my own place way back then.

The truth is that after a certain age, you need to take a breather and go at it alone… get your own freakin life y’know. Then when you’ve had your share, your slice of life, you can take care of your aging parents until they die without the guilt and resentment of not having lived your own life.

In my case, it’s not that I don’t have the freedom to do as I please, when I please… buying my “freedom” by getting married and becoming someone else’s problem has never been an issue.

It’s just that while you can communicate and relate to each other better than ever before, after a certain amount of time, there is that inevitable clash of personalities… because the child is no longer a kid and parents tend to get caught up in time warps… where one moment they’re talking to you like you’re 7 years old again, but come end of the month when the rent is due, then you’re very much the adult again.

I love my Parents, and the Lord knows that if I could sew them to my hips like appendages, I would. But, I’m thinking it’s time for a breather, where I can appreciate them just that tiny bit more. The thought of leaving is always gut-wrenching… but yeah if there is one thing about life, its that it goes on. So if loving and appreciating them more means standing on my own two feet, then so be it. For good reasons too:

MOTHER: (over breakfast in the kitchen) You girls are so dramatic and theatrical. When are you going to learn? Must you always put on a performance? Must everything always be this big issue?

ME: What did I do now?

SIS: Do you think I should dye my hair that mocha shade or auburn?

MOTHER: You’re over-zealous and too passionate. It’s like the other day, when you sneezed in the passage… I could hear you all the way in my bathroom saying ALHAMDULILLAH (Praising God). Now was that necessary? Was it necessary to say it so loud and with such gusto?

ME: So what?!? I was glorifying God!

SIS: I’m thinking auburn, or maybe even chestnut…

MOTHER: Yes, but how are you going to keep a man like that? Men want ladies, soft spoken ladies, not boisterous loud women…

SIS: So what do you think Mother? Auburn or chestnut?

ME: (answering T but directing commentary to Mother) I don’t know WHY you insist on asking her… I mean, THIS IS THE SAME WOMAN WHO HAS ISSUES WITH ME PRAISING THE LORD!!! Never mind your stupid hair!!

(Everyone in the kitchen ROTFL’s)

MOTHER: See, there you go being all dramatic again.

Needless to say, stupid things become frustrating (although thankfully with us, it’s always hilariously frustrating). As an adult you become your own person and it’s difficult for someone who was responsible for your growth, someone who gave birth to you and reared you from childhood, who had all the authority and control for all those years, to reign in that authority and let you be.

So yeah, I'm looking to move out soon and come Monday, I will be officially on the job market if there is anyone hiring, even though my ex-ex-boss (whom I've been helping over the past couple of months on a few cases) would rather have me chained to his company. And I can and will do anything except ironing and sexual favours. I think I should also mention that I'm a little on the expensive side... MBA will do that to you... so I don't get out of bed for peanuts. But I'm worth every cent, thats a promise ;)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Starstruck

What can I say, except that it was a surprise. Way back in December I came across a tweet from one of my favourite producers/ scriptwriters/ actresses, a one Nia Vardalos, saying that she had a few copies of the Connie & Carla soundtrack on hand (a movie co-starring Toni Collette) and that if any of us wanted an autographed copy, to send our addresses to her on some paper, and that she (being the amazing soul that she is) would cover all postage costs no matter where we are in the world.


The first time I watched “Connie & Carla” was in London, but I had watched “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” here in SA a few years prior to that, and it is still one of my favourite movies of all time. I can really appreciate Miss (or is it Ms – I don’t really know the difference) Vardalos’ brand of humour and I have a deep respect for her screenwriting and acting abilities, as well as the fact that all her characters are people we can relate to. I admire her achievements in an industry that is tough (and almost impossible to crack) and her tenacity and determination to get ahead.


But what I really really like about her, is the fact that she is so down to earth and has the type of soul that people are drawn to. When I see Nia Vardalos (of Greek descent… Jennifer Aniston Greek not Nana Mouskouri Greek) I want to jump on the 8 hour flight to Athens and roam the streets with her, imagining what life was like for women in ancient times… the lives they led, the men they’d loved and lost, the triumphs and tragedies of life marred by wars and conquests in a time so long ago that nothing remains of them… their stories are only known by the historical structures, carved into the ancient stones that stand today as a spectacle for the world to see; their memories and untold stories carried by the wind that sweep the streets through time. I’d like to sit in a café, languishing in a balmy breeze while we laugh hysterically over everything and nothing in particular (yeah I have such Nia Vardalos fantasies).


So as I scrolled through Twitter that fateful day in December, while I was wandering through the airport waiting to board my flight, I walked by a place selling postcards and decided on a whim to send a postcard to Miss Vardalos. I just wanted to send her something “pretty” to look at, imagining all the dreary mail she’d get from fans like me. I also wanted to say hi and that she should come and visit our country some day. I didn’t expect anything in return, so you can imagine my delight when my Dad rocked up yesterday, telling me that I have mail, and I saw this:


I was ecstatic, bouncing off the friggin walls like Tigger from Pooh’s tales I tell ya! It’s kinda like that time I was on that movie set with Juliette Binoche (who also happens to be one of my favourite actresses) and Jude Law. I didn’t expect to see her, and as an employee and representative of the British Council in London at the time, I was allowed to roam around on these movie sets to make sure everything was ok. And then I walked into Juliette – like LITERALLY walked into her and I was so excited, I didn’t sleep for a week after that. I couldn’t believe my eyes but there she stood, right in front of me. If I reached out just a bit, I could have poked and prodded to see if she was real. But I didn’t want to act like a deprived psychotic fan, so I refrained. I had to resist the urge to take secret photos because firstly, they were working and it’s a shit load of work to put a movie like that together and secondly, I didn’t want to disrespect her that way.


Something similar happened with Orlando Bloom. I was at the premiere of Kingdom of Heaven in London and I really didn’t expect him to come up to me, but there were others who got in the way. And me being me… suffering from the ill effects of “STS” or what I like to call “Stupid Tourettes Syndrome” whereby the patient involuntarily spits out copious amounts of stupid both physically and verbally… I impulsively took a photo of him forgetting that the flash was on, temporarily blinding the poor guy.


Apologising profusely for my stupidity and behavior, he just smiled and I’ll never forget how smooth (and tanned) he looked up close (they were still shooting Pirates 2 & 3 at that stage). He looked like Caramel Ice Cream (the stuff Grecian Adonis dreams are made of). Still feeling terrible about it all, I apologized again and expressed my admiration for his work and a few weeks later, I received an autographed note. He wrote saying that he appreciated my kind words and needless to say, I was ELATED. Ironically, I had never liked him before that evening… but I’ve swooned every time since… just because he was so nice.

So yeah, in the grander scheme of things it may seem like nothing, but Thank You Nia Vardalos for taking the time to write my name and address on an envelope, and for sending me a little something that once belonged to you, and for spending $4.60 of your money to make sure that it gets to me. I still have hopes and dreams that one day we’ll sit together in a café in balmy Athens dining on Skordalia, Spanakopita (I'll even eat humus for you) and having Koulourakia for dessert while we sip on Greek Coffee, have lovely conversations and giggle merrily as the world passes by. I’ve always been somewhat delusional that way. That kinda thing makes me very happy. See, I’m easy to please ;D

All Nia images courtesy Google. The rest courtesty & copyright Azra Cam.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Ethics Of Chivalry

A few years ago, when Dr. Phil was still a regular feature on Oprah, he said that the key to a successful relationship lies in consideration and compassion… which in essence is living in a way that will make your partner’s life easier and happier (without fundamentally compromising yourself). He said “Ask yourself, what can I do today that will make my partner’s life easier? Then do it”. It’s those little things that count, not the grand expensive gestures that our materialistic generations have come to expect… the love to money ratio that most have become accustomed to.

At the core, I’m an old fashioned gal and a colossal romantic at heart. I believe that the man should know his role as the MAN in a relationship, and that he should know how to treat his Lady. What most contemporary men fail to realise is that loving a woman is like making a high risk investment. And if a man can love her with respect, admiration, sincerity and appreciation, his return on his investment is almost guaranteed to quadruple in value and in record time too. And because I’m such a believer and advocate of Chivalry, I’ve taken the time to re-post this awesome post from Imam Zaid Shakir called The Ethics of Chivalry (a huge thank you to Irfaan for bringing it to light). This is targeted to Muslim males in particular, but is applicable to everyone.


In the literature discussing Futuwwa, which has been translated as Muslim chivalry, there is the story of a young man who was engaged to marry a particularly beautiful woman. Before the wedding day, his fiancée was afflicted with a severe case of chicken pox which left her face terribly disfigured. Her father wrote to him informing him of the situation and asking if he preferred to call off the wedding. The young man replied that he would still marry his daughter, but that he had recently experienced a gradual loss of sight, which he feared would culminate in blindness.

The wedding proceeded as planned and the couple had a loving and happy relationship until the wife died twenty years later. Upon her death the husband regained his eyesight. When asked about his seemingly miraculous recovery he explained that he could see all along. He had feigned blindness all those years because he did not want to offend or sadden his wife.

From our jaded or cynical vantage points it is easy to dismiss such a story as a preposterous fabrication. To do so is to miss an important point that was not lost to those who circulated and were inspired by this and similar tales. Namely, our religion is not an empty compilation of laws and strictures. The law is important and willingly accepting it is one of the keys to our salvation. However, the law is also a means to point us toward a higher ethical end. We are reminded in the Qur’an, “Surely, the prayer wards off indecency and lewdness.” (29:45)

The Prophet Muhammad mentioned concerning the fast, “One who does not abandon false speech and acting on its imperatives, God has no need that he gives up his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhari) These narrations emphasize that there is far more to Islam than a mere adherence to rulings.

This is especially true in our marriages. Too many Muslims are involved in marriages that devolve into an empty observation of duties and an equally vacuous demand for the fulfillment of rights. While such practices are laudable in their proper context, when they are divorced from kindness, consideration, empathy, and true commitment they define marriages that become a fragile caricature. Such relationships are irreparably shattered by a silly argument, a few wrinkles on the face, unwanted pounds around the waist, a personality quirk or a whimsical desire to play the field to see if one can latch on to someone prettier, wealthier, younger, or possibly more exciting than one’s spouse.

These are issues that affect men and women. However, we men must step up and do our part to help to arrest the alarmingly negative state of gender relations in our communities. The level of chivalry the current crisis demands does not require that we pretend to be blind for twenty years. However, it does require some serious soul searching, and it demands that we ask ourselves some hard questions. For instance, why are so many Muslim men averse to marrying older or previously married women? The general feeling among the women folk in our communities is that if you are not married by the age of twenty-five, then you have only two chances of being married thereafter –slim and none. This sentiment pervades our sisters’ minds and hearts because of the reality they experience. Many brothers who put off marriage until they are past thirty-five will oftentimes marry someone close to half their age, passing over a generation of women who are intellectually and psychologically more compatible with them and would prove wiser parents for their children.

Despite this problem, and the clear social, psychological and cultural pathologies it breeds, many of us will hasten to give a lecture reminding our audience of the fact that Khadija, the beloved wife of our Prophet, was fifteen years his senior. We might even mention that she and several of his other wives were previously married. Why is it that what was good enough for our Prophet is repugnant to ourselves or our sons?

A related question would be, “Why are so many of our brothers so hesitant to marry strong, independent and intellectually astute women?” Many women in the West lack the support of extended family networks, which is increasingly true even in the Muslim world. Therefore, they must seek education or professional training to be in a position to support themselves if necessary, or to assist their husbands; an increasingly likely scenario owing to the nature of work in postindustrial societies. This sociological fact leads to women in the West generally manifesting a degree of education and independence that might not be present among women in more traditional societies and times – even though such societies are rapidly disappearing.

Many Muslim men will pass over talented, educated women who are willing to put their careers and education on hold, if need be, to commit to a family. The common reason given is that such women are too assertive, or they are not the kind of women the prospective husband’s mother is used to. As a result a significant number of our sisters, despite their beauty, talent, maturity, and dynamism are passed over for marriage in favour of an idealised, demure “real” Muslim woman. The social consequences of this practice are extremely grave for our community.

Again, we can ask ourselves, “To what extent does this practice conform to the prophetic model?” Our Prophet was surrounded by strong, assertive and independent women. His beloved Khadija, who we have previously mentioned, was one of the most successful business people in the Arabian Peninsula, and her wealth allowed the Prophet to retreat to the Cave of Hira where he would receive the first revelation.

Ayesha, despite her young age was an assertive, free-spirited, intellectual powerhouse who would become one of the great female scholars in history. The foundation for her intellectual greatness was laid by the Prophet himself who recognised her brilliance. Zainab bint Jahsh ran a “non-profit” organisation. She would make various handicrafts, sell them in the market and then use the proceeds to secretly give charity to the poor people of Medina. Umm Salamah had the courage to migrate from Mecca to Medina, unescorted, although she was ultimately accompanied by a single rider. She also had the vision to resolve the crisis at Hudaybiyya. These were all wives of the Prophet. To their names we could add those of many other strong and dynamic women who played a major role in the life of the fledgling Muslim community.

Another issue that is leading to many otherwise eligible women remaining single relates to color. If a panel of Muslim men, whose origins were in the Muslim world, were to choose Miss World, the title would likely never leave Scandinavia. No matter how beautiful a woman with a brown, black, or even tan complexion was, she would never be quite beautiful enough, because of her skin color. This attitude informs the way many choose their wives. This is a sensitive issue, but it is one we must address if we are to advance as a community. We may think that ours is a “colorblind” community, however, there are legions of women who have been relegated to the status of unmarriageable social pariahs who would beg to differ.

God has stated that “the basis for virtue with Him is piety; not tribe, race, or national origin.” (49:13) The Prophet reminded us that “God does not look at our physical forms, or at our wealth. Rather, He looks at our hearts and our deeds.” (Muslim) We debase ourselves when we exalt what God has belittled. God and His messenger have belittled skin color and body shape and size as a designator of virtue or distinction. What does it say about us when we use these criteria as truncheons to painfully bludgeon some of the most beautiful women imaginable into social insignificance?

Marriage is not a playground where the ego thoughtlessly pursues its vanities. This is something the chivalrous young man mentioned at the outset of this essay understood. It is an institution that helps a man and a woman pursue the purpose of their creation: to glorify and worship God and to work, within the extent of our capabilities and resources, to make the world a better place for those we share it with and for those we will leave it to. This role is beautifully captured in the Qur’an, “The believing men and women are the supporting friends of each other. They enjoin right, forbid wrong, establish regular prayer, pay the poor due, and they obey God and His Messenger. They expect God’s Mercy. Surely, God is Mighty, Wise.” (9:71)

Article originally published in Emel magazine.