Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve 2011

Dans les bars les gens s'amusent et s'oublient
Et moi dans le noir je reprends goût à la vie
Je reste à l'écart, confie mes peines à la nuit
Ce soir.
- Diam's

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Parenting 101 (Part 2.1): W

15 September 2011, 21H45
Any moment now I expect to receive a message or a phone call informing me that my friend has delivered her much anticipated daughter, W. I cannot put into words how utterly thrilled I am about the arrival of this child who is the first born of one of my oldest and most highly treasured friends. I am thrilled, exhilarated and not more than a little scared. In fact to be quite honest I'm in a mild panic about how well I will do as a member of the village it will take to raise her. There is so much to consider! She is black, African and female and for that alone there are heavy odds stacked against her. She will be born in the potential firing line of many “isms.”

Racism - even here in Africa the land of the origin of the species she may find herself treated as a second class citizen.
Sexism - Women are still jostling for a space and an identity that makes sense for them and that doesn't require their having to prove themselves to anyone.
Imperialism - Be it China or the West, everyone is trying to get their hands on the land of her ancestry and she may in all likelihood fail to benefit from the wealth of resources endowed to the land of her birth as they will be channeled toward another little girl across the Atlantic ocean.
Tribalism - she is the product of two tribes with a long history of dissonance and unresolved conflict
Capitalism - and the stranglehold it has on us all from the cradle to the grave

So we need a plan. We need to know the lay of the land we have brought her into and we need a strategy to equip her as well as we can to navigate through it successfully such that she thrives and reaches her full potential. Besides ensuring her optimal physical and intellectual development we must do more to ensure that she hits the ground running. So right now, on the night of her birth, while I am giddy with anticipation, here are a few thoughts dancing around my mind.

We will show her that an aeroplane takes off against the wind not along with it. We will show her the freedom of birds in flight, and how they must overcome the powerful pull gravity in order to fulfill their destinies. Life is inherently a struggle to overcome very strong forces, it is by necessity and by nature a very difficult exertion of a living being from a state of chaos to order. We will teach her that she must fly.

Her hair in its natural state will be an untamed mop of tight black coils that remains dead still in the wind and through which no besotted boy will be able to run his fingers adoringly. They will call her exotic if her skin tone is darker than caramel. A man will deliver lectures in which he will claim to have empirical evidence that black women are the ugliest women in the world. We will remind her she is made in the image of Infinite Grace and that dark chocolate and liquorice coloured girls are beautiful too.

We will teach her that a smile, her smile, if genuine and heartfelt can melt stone cold hearts on any day of the week, any time of the day. We will tell her to use it liberally with the confident assurance that like sunflowers leaning towards the sun people will be drawn to her and bask in her radiant warmth.

We will show her that the greatest privilege is to be able to give and that she should seek to exercise this privilege at every possible opportunity in whatever way she can, big or small. The smallest gestures can completely change the course of another being's life and she should never take for granted her power to impact the lives of those around her.

It is our responsibility to demonstrate to her that everything finds its meaning and purpose as an expression of love, that love is the only legacy worth leaving and that outside of love we might as well be a troop of screeching chimpanzees.

These are just a small handful of "the what". It is obvious that the job ahead is a great one and that we will need to keep our wits about us and think clearly and constructively. Which brings us to the final part of my series on parenthood, Parenting 101 (Part 2.2) in which I will discuss lionesses and cubs and hopefully arrive at a reasonable workable "how" to raise amazing human beings, using myself and some of the amazing people I know as references.

We all have different reasons for smiling at the sun

Exploration. Discovery. Gratitude. My explorations have led me to discover, with gratitude, Joshua Bennett. There is not really a great deal that I can say except that he gives me hope, a profound hope that I will share with  you in my long overdue post on Parenting 101: Part 2.

"10 Things I Want To Say To A Black Woman" - Joshua Bennett

‘I wish I could put your voice in a jar. Wait for those lonely winter nights when I forget what God sounds like, run to the nearest maximum security prison and open it. Watch the notes bounce off the walls like ricocheting bullets etching keyholes into the sternums of every brother in the room. Skeletons opening rose blossom, beautiful to remind you that the way to a black man’s heart is not through his stomach, it is through the heaven in your hello. The echo of unborn galaxies that pounces forth through you vocal chords, and melts ice grills into oceans, baptizing our lips, until harsh words fade from our memories, and we forget why we stopped calling you divine in the first place.’

"Women" - Joshua Bennett and Justin Reilly
We all have different reasons for smiling at the sun.

Mine just happens to be you. 

So let's pretend that gravity is an inside joke we have with the ground. 
Grab me like a drunken bouncer 
and hold on for dear life
I promise I won't let you fall.

Because I've been dropped before.

But love shouldn't feel like an accident,
Like two high speed hearts crashing,
Mistaking the sparks for stars.
And I can no longer settle for love that won't last
Living life as a condor in a coffin, married to the mud,
When I was promised the clouds.

Joshua Bennett is an award winning performance poet with an outstanding academic background in English and Africana Studies. He was featured in the HBO series Brave New Voices and has performed at the Sundance Film Festival as well as at President Obama's Evening of Poetry and Music at the White House, where his piece entitled Tamara's Opus which was dedicated to his sister literally reduced me to tears. 
"Until you have seen a deaf girl dance you know nothing of passion."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A smorgasbord of literature!

I've been reading like a fiend! Why? Because buying books is like a drug for me but my purchase rate exceeds my reading rate so at some point I found myself staring at a pile of books I had bought but not yet read even though I longed to head straight to my favourite book store and go a little crazy. In fact, I long for my favourite book store all the time: on pay day, Sundays, Fridays, holidays, laundry days, good days and bad days. It's my happy place. I did, however, decide to be disciplined and finish reading my unread acquisitions before spending another cent on literature, for I knew that in a materialistic and consumerist society like ours, that was the right thing to do to assuage the guilt of reckless spending. So here we go! I have powered through the following books over the last 12 weeks and I am ready for my next spree!

The Haves and the Have Nots - Branko Milanovic
A brief and idiosyncratic history of global inequality
We know Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was rich. Just how rich in today's terms? What was Tolstoy's Anna Karenina's financial gain in falling in love? Where does Obama's grandfather fall in the Kenyan income distribution? Branko Milanovic has worked it out.
The book looks at the gap between wealth and poverty, the geographical distribution of wealth and changes in inequality over time by answering questions such as for example, how the wealth of the wealthiest ancient Romans compares to the present day super rich. Inequality is a threat to the prevailing social order. It's a really big deal and this book was a good kick start for me to think about it objectively as it is something I have very strong opinions on. I'll give my analysis of Milanovic 's ideas in a later post.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The book begins enchantingly thus: I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.
Comon! How could one not want to read further? I read this in eight hours flat and was completely won over by every single character. It's a book about a charming, intelligent girl from a poverty-stricken, unconventional, bohemian family who finds herself falling in love inappropriately - strike a chord, why don't you, Dodie? It's about a diamond in the rough, deep thinker type of person coming of age authentically and uniquely and about the ties that hold together family and friendship.

Seriously... I'm Kidding - Ellen DeGeneres

It's Ellen. Need I say more? I wish I knew a better word than funny. Funny, hilarious, side splitting, chucklesome, comedic, comic, hysterical, humorous... all vastly inadequate. I love Ellen DeGeneres and I think that she loves me too. I can feel it in the way she writes.This gem of a book radiates Ellen's kindness and warmth as she shares her life philosophy and her views on an array of issues in a manner that will make you literally laugh out loud. It's very easy, light reading and even includes a colouring section for children. I loved how she wrote a story to be read aloud to the children but just so the adults don't get bored while doing this she throws in adult level appendages to the story in parentheses. This book is full of very simply told but profound truths and came to me at a time when all I needed was a good laugh. It delivered the goods effortlessly.

The Help - Kathryn Stockett
The book is set in the deep South during the segregation era and is told through the voices of two black maids and a white woman. I didn't want to buy this book; I didn't want to enjoy it either because I have issues with just the very idea of it. I won't go into my issues here and now. I think I might touch on them a little bit later on when I discuss another one of my recent reads. So anyway, it took me a little longer than usual to get into this book, probably because I knew where it was headed and how it was going to play itself out. I crawled through the first couple of chapters, literally falling asleep after every second page or so. But then it suddenly reeled me in and got me completely caught up and engaged. My favourite character was Minny, a sassy, no-nonsense maid whose mouth has landed her in hot water too many times to count, but who for all her sass and no nonsense to white employers and other folk in general, is in an abusive relationship.

Little Liberia: An African Odyssey In New York City - Jonny Steinberg 
     This book chronicles the story of the Liberian community in Staten Island, New York by specifically tailing its two rival leaders Rufus Arkoi and Jacob Massaquoi. Steinberg shadowed the two protagonists for two years to produce this account of trauma, power-hunger, disenfranchisement and dissilusionment, and of-course that complex relationship between Africa and the West. The story of Liberia is different from other African countries that were carved out of the historical "scramble for Africa". It is a state that was founded as a new homeland for emancipated slaves from the United States of America. The 19th century arrival of these American former slaves created a new dynamic with the indigenous inhabitants in which the new settlers and their descendants for over a century were at the top of the political, social and economic hierarchy. Sergeant Samuel Doe was the first non-elite to rule the country after a military coup in 1980 and from that point the country spiralled downward into a protracted series of civil wars. During the Charles Taylor era, many Liberians fled to the US to escape the increasing violence, creating "Little Liberia" a place where the people live with horrific violence fresh on their minds and who have made only a physical break from their country but find themselves in Liberia in every other way: psychologically, spiritually and even in terms of social behaviour and orientation. 

The Worst Date Ever - Jane Bussman

If you are interested in getting to the bottom of the story of Joseph Kony, the Lord's Resistance Army and the interplay between poorly targeted "aid", corruption and the unchecked continuation of crimes against humanity in East and Central Africa then you need to read this book. If you are interested in a new take on the West's penchant for "poverty pornography" you should definitely read this book. If you are interested in discovering the religious philosophy of Ashton Kutcher and how his relationship with Demi Moore took off then you simply must read this book. If you are interested in discovering how a comedy writer ended up exposing a  three decade old story about a delusional terrorist and his rag tag army of abducted children and how the world has largely turned a blind eye to them then for the love of all that is good you need to read this book. Also, if you want to laugh, feel terrible that you are laughing but find yourself actually laughing out loud in spite of yourself then I can't tell you how good this book will be for you to read. Read this book. It will raise the hairs on the back of your neck in its descriptions of mutilations and other horrific crimes. It will make you angry at African leaders, world leaders, the United Nations and other aid organisations. It will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. You will feel used, cheated, trapped, exhausted, hopeless and un-valued... if you are a black African. You may find yourself wondering why it always takes a white person to tell the story of black people and why this couldn't have been an exposition written by say, a black woman from Uganda. My mind turns here to "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,"  "Little Liberia," "Bite of the Mango" and "The Help," just a few of the countless stories about black people written by white people. You will feel like you are just "so over it all." It will bother you to realise that for whatever reasons African and black people in general are unable to narrate their own stories and that there is less respect for, and acceptance of black writing; and that due to the nature of market demands opportunities for black writing to be mainstreamed are few. People prefer things this way. If the book had been written by a young black woman, who knows if it would ever have even been published and if it had, I would wager that it would have been poorly received by non blacks and that it would have been met with indignation and resentment among her own. "Who does she think she is?"  Yes. You know what I'm talking about, you sufferers of crabs in the bucket syndrome. For this as well as the status quo on your continent, you will also feel immensely guilty. And you are.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz

A fascinating foray into the Dominican American life. Fascinating. Tragic and also humorous.

The Somnambulist - Jonathan Barnes

Hmmm... a dark, funny, Sherlock Holmesy whodunit recommended by my boss. Not bad.

Miral - Rula Jebreal

I struggled with this one. I was just hoping for so much more in terms of the actual quality of the writing. I am sure the story in and of itself is worthwhile but I thought the strength of the writing did not match up to the potential magnitude of the events portrayed. I failed to fully engage emotionally with any of the characters so I think I will rent the movie and see if that helps. 

Aspirin: The remarkable story of a wonder drug - Diarmuid Jeffreys

I loved, loved this book! It traces the roots of the use of salicylates from willow bark for therapeutic purposes all the way back to ancient Egyptian times and details the documentation of their usefulness as antipyretic, or fever reducing agents in England. It is the story of the birth of acetyl salicylic acid, better known as Aspirin, in a long and winding journey involving serendipity, the dye industry, entrepreneurship, professional rivalry and sabotage, Nazi Germany, the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 - 1919 which wiped out 20 - 40 million people taking us all the way to the discovery of the drug's usefulness in preventing myocardial infarctions or heart attacks. It chronicles the ends that the pharmaceutical manufacturers would go to in order to protect their patents and how they found stealthy ways to circumvent patents and get a piece of the billion dollar action that is Aspirin. Riveting! This may very well be my favourite read of the year!

I am currently reading:

Democracy Kills: What's so good about having the vote? - Humphrey Hawksley

Thursday, November 17, 2011

There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man...I mean, heal a broken heart

Let's say I know someone who found herself deep in the throes of an little bit of an unrequited love situation for, oh let's say the greater part of the year. This mostly bitter and only occasionally tantalizingly sweet ordeal was punctuated by melodrama and much, much agonizing (because we all know love is the purest form of agony) with friends, family, colleagues and strangers in strange places, and eventually culminated in a resolute declaration that the smithereens that her heart had broken into would never be reconstituted again. Well, it is my pleasure to write that this hapless young woman's heart has in fact reconstituted itself and is well and truly recovered from what can only be described as a highly emotionally taxing situation no human being deserves to endure. There are so many reasons why she has recovered and so many contributory factors to her arrival at the place of sanity and wellness that it would easily take me months to chronicle them all. I can however, quite confidently say that a very large role was played by the music industry, for it was in music that she came to the realisation of the (rather obvious) fact that hers was not the first situation of this type and if simple, ordinary people like multi-platinum recording artists could seemingly experience and overcome these things to the extent that they could even use them to earn a living, well then surely, a bright young fox like me (I mean, this young woman) could do likewise and come out on top? The following is a taste, a mere sample, of the soundtrack of an eclectic muso's journey out of the mire of ill-fated love. You could also think of it as a five step algorithm to getting over a broken heart. If you get stuck on any step go back to the one before. The fact that I can blog about this without being reduced to a heap of incoherent, jumbled up emotions is proof that it works!

Lesson 1: Hey, it happens to the best of us...

Daniel Bedingfield: If you're not the one.

Angie Stone: Snowflakes.

Dela: Lucy's and Loose Leafs.

Gabrielle: Out of reach

Juanes and Nelly Furtado: Fotografia

Lea Salonga - On my own (Les Miserables)
Diam's: SOS

Love is coming undone and hearts are breaking all over the world in different ways, for different reasons and in different languages. Who are you but a mere mortal to expect to be exempt from these things?

Lesson 2: Shake it off, champ. Just keep walking...

Madonna: Power of goodbye

Dido: Hunter
Maxwell: Pretty Wings:

Lupe Fiasco: The show goes on
Coolio: See you when you get there
Joss Stone: Could have been you

Coldplay: Paradise

Tough break, Johnny; just keep walking ..

Lesson 3: Don't just walk around in circles. You need to be walking AWAY from the object of your unrequited limerence and TOWARDS the person you used to be before you lost yourself. The old you was doing just fine before this whole debacle; the old you was aces...Even better if you can walk towards an even better version of yourself the world has never seen: wiser, stronger, better, more sympathetic with your audience, as it were..:-)

Enigma: Return to innocence
...if you want, then start to laugh, if you must then start to cry...
Lupe Fiasco: Beautiful lasers (2 ways)
...find a reason...simplest things, you really like summer, you really like music, you really like reading...
R. Kelly: The storm is over now
... I can see the sunshine (somewhere beyond the clouds)...

Oren Lavie: Her morning elegance
...and she fights for her life...

Common: Blue sky
...this is my Inception, I'm writing my dreams...immortal view of a star doing what I'm born to do...

U2 - Walk on So go on then. Time to do all those things you failed to do because you were busy wallowing in the sea of cathexis!

Lesson 4: if the darkness tries to creep up on you again assault it with positive self talk and think happy thoughts. The following music never fails to put a smile on my face.

Bobby McFerrin: Don't worry be happy
...don't bring everybody down!

Lupe Fiasco: Just might be OK
...affirmative, no further furnishing is needed...I believe we are completed...

OMC: How bizarre
...ooh baby, it's making me crazy...

Cornershop: Brimful of Asha
...she's the one that keeps the dream alive, from the morning, past the evening, til the end of the night...

Jimmy Cliff: I can see clearly now
...all of the bad feelings have disappeared, here is the rainbow I've been praying for, it's gonna be a bright, sunshiney day...

Queen: We are the champions

We are the champions, 
we are the champions, 
no time for losers,
 cause we are the champions... of the world! 

That's right. Not the room, office, city or country. We are the champions of the WORLD!
Don't be choosy. Take your happy fix however you can get it: a funny joke, a funny friend, an uplifting book, song or activity. Lap it up! And don't be afraid to exaggerate your self efficacy and play up your awesomeness. If you're feeling down and out then chances are you're underestimating it already so you'll just about hit the mark if you go a little overboard with the positive self talk. 

Lesson 5: Keep hope alive! No one likes a bitter, jaded, sourpuss so expect better, expect more and be ready for it. 
Rachel's: Water from the same source
Just pure instrumental genius that inspires and reinvigorates me!

I for one, am an insatiable optimist and fully expect this fantastic young lady to look back on this past year one day and throw her head back in laughter as she rides into the sunset with James Franco/ Michael Ealy/ Thierry Henry/ John Legend/ Jared Leto/ Common/ Ryan Reynolds/ Columbus Short/ Lupe Fiasco... the possibilities are without end!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SOMALIA: Al-Shabab awards children with weapons and bombs [PHOTOS]

How is this story supposed to end? What kind of adults will these young people grow up to be ? Who gave these people the right to steal these children's innocence? It's criminal!

SOMALIA: Al-Shabab awards children with weapons and bombs [PHOTOS]

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Emancipator Music

I sure love me some music and music loves me. It tracks me down and sucks me in to discover its magical power to transform the brain and alter the way it functions. Like, for real. Another recent discovery and the reason why my productivity at work has climbed steeply is Emancipator. I have been playing his album Soon It Will Be Cold Enough all day every day for days and I love it! I discovered Emancipator on a blog with some incredibly refreshing mixes and mashups where I came upon a mind freezing blend by DJ De-Pho of an Emancipator beat with Trouble in the Water by De La Soul. I should say mind blowing but really that's not what happened. My mind didn't explode from the awesomeness I heard; it froze. There was something about that backtrack. Everything came to a standstill; everything fell away and all that remained was me. I found myself in a place of absolute peace, beauty, clarity and focus.

My dear Uncle Google led me to Emancipator's website where tracks like Soon It Will Be Cold Enough to Build Fires, Anthem, First Snow, Lionheart and Wolf Drawn just beamed me up out of the mire and drudgery of everyday life to the intersection of my mind with the path of infinite possibility. Friends, I was "in the zone" - banging on all cylinders, powering my way through the work I get paid to do and having time and energy left over to get things done on the personal development side that I had been procrastinating to do all year long.

Emancipator is a psychology graduate from Portland, Oregon, who is classically trained in music and is adept at violin, guitar, mandolin, drums, banjo and a whole lot of stringed instruments. He released Soon It Will Be Cold Enough in 2006 when he was 19 years old - feel like an underachiever much, Sandii? Then he released the album Safe in the Steep Cliffs in 2010 and this year he has done an album of Emancipator Remixes which I will be purchasing and adding to my music collection. His music is very strongly inspired by and reminiscent of nature. That's probably why I am spirited away to "the zone" when I listen to it. So apparently Emancipator music is classified as trip hop or electronica or downtempo hip hop or chill music or lounge music and there is a growing collective of highly talented similar artists making serious waves in this genre. Nujabes is one highly respected artist from Japan who unfortunately passed away.

I very much like the fact that DJs like DJ De-Pho (who actually isn't even a real turn table-type DJ) are taking these organic instrumentals and making super cool mashups of underground hip hop and classic rap songs from artists like Tu Pac, Jay-Z, Outkast, Mobb Deep and De La Soul. Below is an Emancipator blend of Kick, Push by Lupe Fiasco - clicking anywhere in the screen opens a new tab. De-Pho has taken an already excellent track and given it a new emotional energy. I love it!

I urge you to check out and share the awesome and inspiring music from Emancipator on Enjoy the free downloads and buy his albums. The man's got massive talent. I love Shook (Sigur ros vs Mobb Deep) which you can listen to below.  I also urge you to check out DJ De-Pho's myspace page where this incredibly talented dj has made his music free to download. Believe me, you want to listen to this guy's work, it's fantastic.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

At the end of the day

The sun sets on a haggard city
Dusty, sweaty, angry, filthy
Running on empty
Frustrated and needy
Trudging home
Alone but not alone
Faces are vacant and hard
Like stone
Protecting soft places
We guard what we own
Guard what is real
What is raw
What's inside
And then carefully
Unwrap and release it at night
And beg it to salvage
Some lost piece of mind
Or bring back our runaway hope
Hope that is fragile and feels suicidal
Let's medicate it with prayer
And persuade it to live
Not to fade but to stay
Redemption may just be
One sunrise away

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ah Dela...Surely I have found a friend to my soul? I recently discovered Dela, a twenty-something year old, French genius of a music producer living in Canada. Below are the lyrics to the Changes of Atmosphere (Intro). They were written by Liza Garza, a highly gifted spoken word poet, vocalist, lyricist and activist whom I am absolutely thrilled to have discovered, and whom we will definitely be seeing more of on this blog.

Changes of Atmosphere (Intro) - Lyrics by Liza Garza

In the name of the Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Let her ask in faith nothing doubting 
For she that doubts is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed
Everything in this world cursed and lost in our forgetfulness
Why do we choose to ignore the obvious in wishful places far too distant
If we could awaken we would truly listen to melodies, they are so divine
Witness life blooming colors not apparent to our earthly eyes all the joys connected to our earthly lives are but a glimpse to what awaits
So this time I say I’m finally given rewind re-love for the sake fully living and desperate hope of fully dying in a pure state 
My only desire but to forgive and stay
My only hope that you would do the same
Our only mercy that the Most Gracious would remember our name and with this change we begin this gracious dance, this wholesome trance
Foundation so solid nothing shakes or bothers what’s rooted so deeply
We witness these mercies rescue us
We remember the Best of guides is guiding us
And with the firmness of this very step
And with our certainty of death we know that this is the most intimate caress
A kiss from the inside out
So close to truth we are now strangers to doubt
And now whether wrote in triumph or defeat
We throw our hands up in victory
This grace nearer to me than the arteries in my neck
Than my heart beating 
In my chest we are filled with the most gracious very breath
And finally you will kiss the truth just by kissing you
You will witness your love, loving you
And I will kiss the truth just by kissing me
I will witness my love loving me
We will kiss the truth just by kissing us
We will witness our love loving us in awe as loves descent from beneath us
Souls satisfaction, seven heavens await in atmospheres change in change of atmosphere

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gratefully discovering DELA

I love discovering new music! Dela is my latest find and I love his instrumental hip-hop. His sophomore album, Translation Lost, is pretty much about love dissipating, ups and downs, the confusion, passion, rage and grief that comes with the realization of an irreparable disconnection and discordance between the two parties in a relationship. I feel this! The track I'll probably be playing over and over in the car is Lucy's and Loose Leafs:-)

His first album is Changes of Atmosphere released in 2009. Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! I particularly love The City, Veuillez Veiller Sur Vos Rêves featuring Les Nubians and John Banzaï, Long Life featuring Talib Kweli and Stress... because I am currently rather stressed:-)

So, between the two which do I prefer? I love them both! But I'm buying Changes Of Atmosphere:-)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Parenting 101 (part 1): J

J is a little boy born to Zimbabwean parents in New Zealand. He has escaped the curse of the green passport. He is a citizen of a country that works and provides its people with an enabling environment for their well-being and all-round development. His parents having worked hard to escape the grip of the failed state that is their land of birth, will do anything to ensure that their child leads a fulfilling life. Unlike babies in Zimbabwe who do not have access to decent healthcare, J's health practitioner comes to see him in the comfort of his home weekly. High quality healthcare comes to him, for free. At only three months old he has been exposed to a wealth of musical influences from around the world, signed up for swimming lessons, a reading program for babies - the ECD jury is still out on whether this is a good idea or not- and hopes are high that he will one day cause the hairs on the backs of our necks to stand as he does the haka with the All Blacks.The boy is poised for success. Things are very much looking up for J. The external conditions all seem to be in place - adoring and devoted parents and at least one aunt (yours truly) in his whose heart he has permanently embedded himself. But a human being is a highly complex organism. What will it really take to mould the infant into a happy, healthy boy and eventually a grounded, stand-up man who can hold his own in the world? In part 2 I will explore this idea and introduce you to W a little girl about to be born to Zimbabwean parents in Cape Town.

ORTIA Observations

I recently recalled an occasion at the beginning of the year when I spent many, many hours stuck at the airport. It was very interesting observing how flight crews from different airlines conduct themselves when they arrive at the departure terminal.
Air France made the poorest showing of them all, shirts un-tucked, hair somewhat disarrayed, ties not quite knotted neatly and frantic last minute smoking of cigarettes.
Qatar Airways were prim and proper, unsmiling and walked in synchronous strides in single file. These were certainly not the kind of people you want to ask for extra peanuts during your flight. 
Ethiopian Airlines raised a few eyebrows - two eyebrows, to be precise, specifically mine. The ladies were drop dead gorgeous Nubian princess-types, confident, and full of vitality, throwing their heads back in laughter and youthful joie de vivre. They were great. Their male colleagues were cause for concern, however. They were tripping over themselves attempting to be chivalrous and offload the ladies' luggage from the shuttle. I would guess every one of them was at least ten years older than the ladies. They were sluggish and clumsy and their green suits were ill fitting. All of them. I was baffled and a little disappointed. My bafflement gave way to concern when I observed their body language. I won't go into too much detail but suffice it to say it was my observation and conclusion that the men were keenly aware of the beauty of their female counterparts. This was evidenced by what I will take the liberty to describe as lust-filled laughter, shifty, leery, wandering eyes, lascivious winking and inappropriate and unnecessary physical contact. I wondered where this crew was flying to and how many hours of this those poor girls would have to put up with. Then it occurred to me that there was no way they could be oblivious to the lusty, leery lasciviousness that I had noted in the few minutes I had been watching them. So what did this mean? If I was being eyeballed by shifty eyes and accidentally bumped into inappropriately I would not be throwing my head back in joie de vivre; I would be nauseated and enraged. And yet the Nubian princesses were just downright chipper. Hookay then! Buried my head in the book I had been pretending to read and let that scenario work itself out... 
Next up was Lufthansa. Ah Lufthansa! This crew was nothing short of awe-inspiring. They offloaded their luggage with record speed and efficiency, their uniforms were fresh and crisp and they did not walk; they glided into the terminal in a perfect v shape like birds in migration. I was left feeling like I could do better with my life. Really. I could do better.
Last but I suppose not least was a rag tag, unruly group that put me ill at ease. There was something about this crew... What was it? Was it the over made up faces, the slicked up hair topped off with shiny hair pieces, the fact that they appeared to be conversing extremely loudly such that I was unsure whether they were arguing or just really passionate about whatever the subject matter was? As they quick-stepped into the bustling terminal I tried to hear what they were saying as they passed me but alas my hearing is not that great. All I picked up was something, something, shar... Shar? What was that? Hmmm. Shar. Or maybe chat, as in the french word for cat? Then it hit me. Oh. Not shar, not chat, but shaSha, short for shamwari, the Shona word for friend. Turns out this rag tag team flew me to my hometown in a rag tag airplane that took twice the time it takes other airlines to fly the same route. But just in time for my friend's wedding!