Saturday, October 29, 2016

Four Quiet Queens: a hat tip


a woman or thing regarded as the finest or most outstanding in a particular sphere or group.

This is just a quick hat tip to a few amazing friends who are outstanding humans. These people are the real deal. Quietly brilliant but boy do they dazzle!

Hats off to the unicorn whose hair looks like a rainbow and would put a mermaid to shame. As any mermaid should, she is swimming across Lake Malawi this weekend to raise funds for a couple of organisations that do good things for good people. She doesn't look like a typical athlete but her body, like her mind, is ridiculously strong. Like, unfairly powerful. Of course, she's not immune to the goosebumps that come with any challenging endeavour. "I've overshot," she panicked to me a week or two ago. Total overshoot, but what's the point of life if you don't do amazing things that scare the crap out of you every once in a while? What is the actual point? I don't know. I really have no idea because that's not how I roll. I am constantly biting off more than I can chew and I'd like to believe my life is better for it. May we always overshoot and surprise ourselves in so doing!

Hats off to the titan who is a sexual and reproductive health facilitator for young people, a single mother of two conscious, thoughtful children while studying for a masters degree, and who happens to be writing three books like, right now. One of her books is a science fiction novel set in Africa and I am jumping up and down in excitement. Yes, please and thank you! I cannot wait to read a book of the sci fi variety about Africa by an African and the fact that she's a boss lady of a gyal dem is just the cherry on the cake. One of her other books is a joint project with yours truly. She keeps me in check, questions and challenges me and forces me to read things that make me angry but that after a bit of simmering, help me to clarify my own voice, even if it is in disagreement to her ideas. A complete powerhouse of a woman who exudes a quiet, sensual, intellectual and slightly irreverent energy, she is the epitome of still waters running deep and frankly speaking I am scared for and sympathetic toward anyone who doesn't know her and is foolhardy enough to underestimate her.  

Hats off to the dreamer who is truly inspiring in her ability to believe and expect only the best. Her husband has received a devastating diagnosis of brain damage and the company she works for is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. She supports multiple family members financially and her life is punctuated by daily visits to the hospital, sometimes twice a day. She never knows on any given day whether the person she loves will even recognise her face. But you should see her and you should hear her talk. Grace is the only word that fits. She dreams hard; she dreams in colour; she dreams in velvet textured feelings. She dreams so hard she can can smell her future and run her fingertips along its smooth edges. I get off the phone with her feeling inspired to take a little time to dream a little better. It's a skill I have been in desperate need of developing since somewhere along the line external circumstances led me to expect the worst in life. I am working on it and I can't even begin to describe how important my dream guru has been in not only reminding me to do it but in coaching me how to dream a compelling dream.

Then there's the stunner in Harare who is an attorney specialising in family law, who no matter how scorching hot and dusty the day, always looks like a tall glass of water, cool as you please. Easily and by far one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen in my life, she decided that actually she would like to be a plus-size model now. Thanks. And also, since she has a heart of gold, she figured in addition to practising family law, being a model and volunteering at church, why not start an NGO that addresses the needs of women and girls who are at risk of or have been victims of human trafficking. She's the most humble and unassuming human being you could imagine as she makes the world a little safer for women and girls, stands tall as a testament to the transcendent beauty of good people and unwittingly leaves a trail of shattered male hearts behind her as she simply does her thing.

I chose to celebrate these queens because they aren't your obvious game changers. On the surface they don't present as the ones to beat. These are people you can only appreciate if you silence all your noise, set aside your preconceptions, sit down, watch and listen. They are glorious! But no-one is paying attention. They're not getting accolades, aren't rolling with the cool kids, getting retweets or follows and actually wouldn't be as awesome to me if they were. I can't wait for the world to one day behold these dark horses in the splendour I already see!

Happiness and the ripple effect of purpose-driven living

This is the best video I have seen this year. Very much on theme with my life and truly resonating with the space I am in physically, socially and internally. I love it!

When you act on your God-given, in-built nature and talent, the weirdest things happen. People show up that are excited by you, who buy-in to you and your dreams and inspire you to follow your own North Star. Even more astoundingly and far more rewardingly, your presence makes other people's lives better! When I wasn't doing what I loved I was miserable and sure of only one thing: that I did not sign up for this version of life. When I started pursuing only that which I loved my life suddenly felt meaningful and every day became one in which I had fun and relished every moment. Even the tough times are great and valuable. Even the scut work is fun and meaningful. Even the unfamiliar spaces and unknown territory feel like home - they feel right! Strangers have embraced me warmly. My literary heroine said she was honoured to be approached by me and offered to review my writing. What a time to be alive! Somehow, by doing what I love, I am helping people, showing them that they have value and bearing witness to their struggles and triumphs. I get to listen to people whose stories blow my mind and I have the honour of telling those stories to the rest of the world and somehow, just this simple state of feeling heard leads to profound healing in people. Everyone just wants to be heard, to be acknowledged and to be told that it is okay, it will be okay and they are not alone.

I know now that the real me is unrivalled. I know that only I can know what God put inside me and the part of Himself that He seeks to express through me. Only I know the dream He had when He conceptualised me and then created me. I am now only answerable to a quiet voice inside me that is connected to eternity, that knows and has always known what I was put on this Earth to do. It's so empowering that I can't even deal with how powerful I am right now as I send out warm ripples of love and open up to receiving the same during the brief speck of time I have been granted on Earth. This is true happiness. Hazzar!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dear Shikulu - Tamara Kaunda Pens a Letter to Her Grandfather

Dr Kenneth David Kaunda is the founding father of the country we know today as the Republic of Zambia. A true African statesman, he not only played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle of Zambia but was instrumental in securing freedom for other African countries. I reached out to Tamara Kaunda, who is one of Dr Kaunda’s grandchildren, and she wrote this letter paying homage to the great African man we all love and admire. 

Letter to my Grandfather,
               By Tamara Kaunda

Dear Shikulu,

I remember how when I was growing up I used to walk ten kilometres from your farm to school every day and my school mates would wonder why you didn’t just buy a car for me to be dropped off and picked up from school. Even at that age I understood the significance of humble beginnings and I would tell them that it was my duty to work from scratch and make use of what I had to get to where I wanted to be. The fact that you fought for the freedom that I enjoy in Zambia is more than enough for me.  Back then, you had just come out of power and many people had negative perceptions about you. I felt it was my duty to not only stand up for you and remind people of the great things you had done but as part of the first family I knew that how I behaved was a reflection on the whole family.

Thank you for building this beautiful land which we shall continue building and forever treasure in our hearts. My hope is that as Zambians we will continue to love one another and be the change we want to see in our country rather than complaining about our challenges. I think that each generation faces its own set of trials. Today in Zambia we have economic challenges and I would like to encourage our people to seek solutions to our problems in the same way that you and the men and women who fought for our independence chose to seek solutions to our lack of freedom.

I believe that if every single one of us took it as a personal responsibility, together we could continue building what our forefathers built for us. When I went to study in China you were tremendously happy and encouraged me learn how the Chinese worked and bring those lessons back to our land. Having learnt from their incredible work ethic and just graduated from medical school I am excited about my plans for serving my country, particularly women and children.

If any of my fellow countrymen cast their eyes on this letter, I ask them to remember you, to focus on building skills for self-reliance, to teach their children to fish and not wait to be spoon-fed and to be future oriented and not short-sighted. We can build a Zambia that we all love, a Zambia that prospers, the Zambia of our dreams. I know that this is the dream that you have for us and I hope we can bring it to fruition in your lifetime.

With all my love,


Tamara Kaunda pictured above with her grandfather, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, "Whenever I am with him there are no dull moments because we are a pair that loves life and people." 
Photo Courtesy of Tamara Kaunda.

Tamara shared a few extra nuggets about her beloved grandfather.

1. How he inspires her
What inspires me most about him is the love he has for his country. He managed to unite 72 tribes and we have lived in harmony for the past 50 years. He did everything in his power to unite us and he taught us that regardless of which part of the country you come from we are all Zambians. The one thing I admire most about him is his love for the land. He believes in agriculture, and as a part of the family I was taught farming at a very tender age and that has helped me even now. My grandfather believes that if we could all go back to the land and make use of it we would have an economically stable and happy Zambia.

2. What he has taught her
One of the greatest ways in which he has impacted me is through his belief in hard work, talking less and doing more actions. He believes if you want to make an impact on a community, your country and the world at large do not just talk; do it and your work will speak for itself.

3. What he loves about her
I always looked for forward to having him for Christmas at the farm and I would be excited because I wanted to tell him all about what I had done at school. Trust me, he liked me because my school reports have always been outstanding! My grandfather is fond of imitating me whenever I speak because my voice is a bit sharp and am usually smiling and full of energy when I express myself. 

Thinking about a nation’s founding father

Dr Kaunda served as the president of Zambia for 27 years and his acquiescence to relinquishing power in 1991 after losing the election was an act of magnanimity not many African rulers have been able to practice. It laid the foundation for the robust multi-party democracy that Zambia currently enjoys. Dr Kaunda has shown himself to be a compassionate and affable patriarch whose dream for his nation is that of an abundance of love above all else. He has been up front and centre of Zambia’s and Africa’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic as a member of the Champions for an AIDS-free Generation in Africa. Dr Kaunda is a prolific writer, penning several books over the course of a lifetime. One of his books,  “Letter to my children,” is a heartfelt attempt to reach out to his children and impart the fatherly words of wisdom and instruction they may have personally missed out on as a result of having had to share their dad with millions of other Zambians.  By now, Dr Kaunda is not just a father but a grandfather too and is as iconic a father figure to his grandchildren as he is to the nation.

In Conversation: Boniface Mwangi

Boniface Mwangi is a man on a mission. He is the founder of Pawa254, an organization based in Nairobi, Kenya that serves as a platform for creatives, journalists and activists to collaborate on innovative social change initiatives. As a professional photographer his coverage of the 2007 post-election violence which he documented in Kenya’s first ever nation-wide street exhibition brought to light the sheer magnitude of the brutality of which many people were unaware. A courageous and passionate social activist, Boniface has been arrested, detained and assaulted for his unflinching refusal to remain silent in the face of injustice and corruption, receiving many international accolades in recognition of his gritty photo-journalistic accomplishments.

Boniface faces off with police at Langa'ata Primary School Protests. Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi 2015
Boniface was at the front line of the Langa’ta Road Primary School incident in January 2015 in which the Kenyan police force teargas to disperse a demonstration by one hundred primary school children protesting the illegal seizure of their playground by a property developer. There was widespread shock and condemnation of the excessively heavy handed response of the police. However, the incident sparked fervent debate on social media with Kenyans divided over the legitimacy of the protest and some opinions assigning blame to activists like Boniface who supported the protest while others supported the children in reclaiming their space. Below are a few of Boniface's images of the protests that rocked Langa'ata and made news headlines internationally.

Photo Credit: Boniface Mwangi 2015
Photo Credit: Boniface Mwangi 2015
Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi 2015

What is the purpose of your life?

I live my life to make a difference. I’m not out there for my own selfish gain. The idea of leaving something larger than me is a conscious and deliberate effort. I would like my life to have a meaning and impact others. Being given a platform, people listen to me, they care about my opinions. So, do my words build or destroy? Do I speak truth to power? So for instance I am currently working on a blog post that is critical of our president Uhuru Kenyatta. It’s important that I say what no one else is willing to say….What I ask myself every single day is to what end am I doing what I am doing?

And the end that you work towards is a better Kenya?

My work goes beyond borders. My messaging covers global issues and I work towards a better Kenya, a better continent, a better humanity because our lives are connected. I think your impact should go beyond borders. Mandela lived in one country but his impact was felt everywhere. The same applies for people like Steve Biko, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Sankara, Martin Luther King Jr and others. The majority of them lived in one country but their work went beyond borders.

You’ve chosen art and your photojournalism as an instrument to agitate for change. Is art an effective way to engage with society on issues which are important but difficult to grapple with and can it result in political change?

Every country has a piece of art that defines the nation’s psyche and identity. The national anthem is a musical piece of art. Music was a big weapon of the civil rights movement with people like Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and then Bob Marley later on. Music is a tool for fighting oppression. When you do a placard that is a form of art. It says things, it speaks truth to power. Writing is a tool. Life is all about art. Without art life is dead. Without art you have nothing. Art is the most powerful tool against oppression.

What would you say is your greatest achievement to date?
Langa’ta Road Primary school. They grabbed the land and we got it back. That is my proudest achievement. Also a girl called Samara who is about seven or eight years old now who was born with a hole in her heart but her parents were not able to pay for the operation. I took a photo of her and the image was published. A good Samaritan paid for her surgery and now she’s living a very normal and beautiful life because of my work. So I’ve been able to impact people through photography. My work has done wonders and that is the power of art.

In many African countries people have been threatened, killed, attacked or tortured for standing up for what they believe in and there is so much repression that civil activism is basically non-existent. Would you agree that Kenya has a comparatively more conducive environment for holding the government accountable perhaps as a result of the early grassroots work that people such as yourself did over the years to push for freedom of expression?

I believe so. We passed a new constitution in 2010. It’s one of the continent’s most progressive constitutions next to South Africa’s. However the gains were made through the constitution are being taken back by Uhuru Kenyatta. We know that we are free and I can say whatever I want. You can say things today that are very truthful that would have gotten you killed twenty years ago. But this is being taken back because our society is being taught to be intolerant through the use of verbal oppression, hate speech and personal insults by followers of the president or whoever you are going after when you speak the truth. They muddy the waters; they wage war against integrity and attack people’s characters as opposed to ideas. For example, if you talk about corruption in government, they in turn shift the focus to attack your reputation and why you are saying these things. Social media while it has helped us to talk about corruption and allowed us to talk about things has also trivialized a lot of issues. The things that should be trending are being taken as a joke but it’s not funny anymore. We need to stop laughing about our problems. Resiliency is something that we are proud of and we wear it like a badge of honor and make jokes about how resilient we are yet we know that we pay taxes and we should be living a good life. We make jokes about these things because we are afraid, so we cover our fear with humor and triviality because we are afraid of taking action. People have disappeared, people have been arrested. We are afraid because there is a price to pay…It’s not easy.

So Fathers' Day is coming up. As a father, what is one life lesson or value you want to make sure your children grow up knowing?

Love. Love conquers fear. Love conquers everything. It’s the shock absorber of life. When you love it absorbs fear and hate. When you love you take a stand, you protect yourself and you are responsible. People say I am courageous and that’s true. I have courage but what actually drives me is love for my country. I love my country. I love my continent. I love myself and I want better for myself. I am love motivated and I want my kids to have love in their hearts. Love. Love. Love!

Since the Langa’ta Road Primary School incident, Kenya’s National Land Commission has launched guidelines for schools to apply for title deeds which will enable them to have legal recourse in the event of any unlawful occupation of their land.  While Boniface is guarded about the details of his future plans he is unequivocal in his certainty that he will continue to serve people in whatever capacity and in whatever space he can do so. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Commitments - or - Good Things Are Happening

the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.
o   a pledge or undertaking.
an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action

I am committed to completing my master’s degree in public health, in which I have specialised in social and behaviour change communication. I put it on my to-do list sixteen years ago and I am not prepared to deny an inspired sixteen-year-old girl with a head full of stars her dream of having the knowledge and skills to tackle the vast array of challenges that are the field of human health and disease. My journey to this master’s has been one filled with many false starts and near hits. There was a time when I thought it would never happen because of the circumstances in which I found myself. Then once my financial and temporal resources aligned with my geographical constraints I finally got going on a kick-ass programme at a decent institution. Unfortunately a new battle began that required perseverance and self-discipline, two character traits in which I suffer more than occasional weakness. It’s been tough! I’ve had to make sacrifices to key elements of my lifestyle just to get through my coursework. Reading for pleasure for instance. Many a time I would walk past my favorite book store and gaze longingly at the books. Oh, those books, so many books calling my name seductively! Then as I would turn my eyes to an article about risk factors for pre-eclampsia or the challenges of diagnosing paediatric malaria in Tanzania a solitary tear would make its way down my cheek… sigh. Travel. That was another one to go out the window for two years of my life. I’ve had no time and no money to carry my head somewhere new and interesting, unless discovering a new place to study on campus counts, though I feel like it doesn’t. Travel is like an intravenous drip of life into my bloodstream and I had none of it for two years. Social engagements. I even pre-programmed a response into my phone to save myself the time and effort of blowing off invitations to cool things I would ordinarily have enjoyed attending or doing. “Ah maaaaan! No can do’s ville. Busy with school :-( To which one friend responded, "how utterly and completely selfish of you to pursue higher education! Now who am I going to play with? Nah girl, do better." It's funny because she has a master's in law, is an advocate and her name literally means 'study diligently'. So now with the coursework done and dusted, as I write up my thesis and the finish line is in sight I should be full of hope and energy, right? Wrong! If you have thick hair and you’ve ever braided your hair then you’ll know what I’m going through. It’s like that last little patch of hair at the top of your head that covers an eighth of the surface area of your head so you think you’ll be done in a few minutes but an hour later your hairstylist is still adding braids and you basically want to cry. You're a grown ass woman and you just want to throw your toys and cry. There’s just so much packed into this one endeavor that I am both afraid of it and angry at it. I’m so over it! But I am also romancing it. Coaxing it. Drawing it out of me the way you call an timid animal out of a cave, with a trail of berries and a gentle voice: “Here boy! Come on! Come to Sandi!” I’m not giving up on this bad boy no matter what.

I am committed to finishing the most epic writing project of my life. Writing project? How vague. It’s a book. I’m writing a book. And it’s a damn good one too- a tour de force. At this point I would like to congratulate myself on my powers of self-motivation. Because what’s worse than the thesis? The book. The book is harder. By far. The book is a cruel mistress and lover because creativity and ideas don’t play around. They are needy little spirits that require constant attention and maintenance or they will leave you! It’s happened to me several times on this journey. I’ve dropped the ball, lost focus and often times just been too lazy to write; and I have been gravely punished for it. Amazing ideas won’t sit around waiting for you to bring them to life forever. They will readily leave you and go to someone more committed, more energetic and more diligent than you are. A good idea will basically go to whoever is hungriest to bring it to life. While it would be easy and certainly not completely inaccurate to say I haven’t been hungry enough to commit wholly to my book, the big truth is that I have also suffered from a debilitating fear of failure. But fear is not my jam anymore and I am committed to go balls to the wall with my passion project because anything else feels like failure already since it is a complete deviation from my dream.

I am committed to Roxy, a blonde bombshell of a model who can dead lift a hundred and forty-five kilos and barely break a sweat. She is sexy and curvy and hella strong. Roxy is my trainer. Thanks to her weird things are happening to my body. I’m getting bigger – gasp! And heavier – oh no! And stronger – whaaaat? I am doing things like lifting weights I never thought I would and it’s totally not a thing. It’s fine. There’s muscle definition peeping through the flubber. Energy levels are increasing. My body is exhibiting preferences for certain types of fuel and certain types of motion I wouldn't pegged it for - hmmm. My naturally very dry and flaky skin is supple and dewy – huh? This is new territory for me and I am committed to giving Roxy the space she needs to coach my body into a fit vessel for my offspring and a suitable host for my soul to express itself with no inhibitions. I am committed to submitting to this fascinating process and just watching things evolve in and around me, from how I feel to how people look at me, as they also perceive these subtle changes. I had big expectations when I hired her. Now I realize that they were misplaced. It’s all on me, actually, but it’s fine because I’ve totally got this. All you need to do is show up. And say yes to everything. Five more bench presses when my muscles are en fuego? Sure! Ninety more seconds of planking as I stare at the growing pool of sweat on the mat because my damn head is sweating? Why not?! Increase the incline and the speed on the treadmill even though one of the first things I told you was that running is my nemesis? Love it! Tell you what else I love, though: walking past a mirror and thinking, “Ooooh yeeeeahhh. I do not dislike what I see!”

Three commitments, all of which involve not a small amount of blood, sweat and tears. This means at any given moment in time I am bloody, sweaty and/or teary. It looks messy from the outside looking in, I’m sure. It looks like not much is happening, probably. It looks boring and unenviable, maybe. But don’t worry about it because I assure you that good tings a gwan:-)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Forays in food and film

It may not seem like it from a conversation with me or after a cursory meander through my blog but I am bookish. I have a great love for reading. Hardcopy, electronic, hardback, newspaper, pamphlet, brochure, billboard, food label, instruction manual, biography, political treatise, graphic novel, children’s book, self-help guide, service provider terms and conditions, if it comprises written words I am drawn to it. Microsoft Word has offered me “erudite” as a synonym for bookish because I thought bookish was too bookish for my purposes. I love the word erudite because it reminds me of the boffins in the book/movie series “Divergent.”  I thought against it as a descriptor for myself because for some reason it seems a bit desperate and/or pretentious to describe oneself as erudite. So I’m not saying I’m erudite, I’m saying MS Word thinks I might be! And who am I but a mere mortal, near-native speaker of English to argue against the great brains behind the Microsoft Office dictionary! I think dedicating five sentences to the word erudite should be enough to as humbly as possibly express the message I am trying to convey about myself in relation to reading. There is a hash tag referring to a “humble brag” that one might justifiably use right now.

Here’s the thing. While I am not a lazy reader per se I am a rather slow reader burdened with a desire to acquire a vast quantity of informational, philosophical and emotional capital in the little time I have here on Earth (85 years according to There are several ways to overcome the conflict between the things I want to know and the time constraints within which I must expose myself to them. One is to hang around different kinds of people, siphon their knowledge and vicariously experience their version of life and its many splendored things. Another less leachy method is to simply go to the cinema. An offshoot of my love of reading is my love for film. I love, love, love movies. I think of them as books for lazy readers. All you do is sit back and watch the story instead of having to co-imagine the characters and the setting with the author. And because they require less intellectual investment, films are an easy way for me to explore themes or topics I wouldn’t ordinarily explore through literature. An example is the culinary arts. I wouldn’t buy a book about how to cook – cookbooks or recipe books I think they’re called? I definitely would not buy a novel about cooking, like the book on which the movie Chocolat was based. But I can take two hours out of my day to watch Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche living out a sensual tale about inclusion, exclusion and the freedom to be and love whoever you please, whatever you please and wherever you damn well please. I loved Chocolat. It’s a quiet unassuming piece of work that has a captivating soundtrack, doesn’t try to be too many things and accomplishes so much in the process.
Last year, a person for whom I was having butterflies in the tummy made me watch Chef. He said he loved it because he loved cooking, music and Jon Favreau and the movie was about all three. We watched it over wine and Nandos chicken and I absolutely loved it too, although for the purposes of ego-checking I may have only told him I thought it was okay. But I love, love, loved it. I’m such a cheap date! I loved it so much I play the soundtrack in my car everyday. The cinematography is warm and balmy like sunset in Miami or Los Angeles should be as all these years of Hollywood movies have taught me to expect. The main character is a lovable, highly talented curmudgeon of a chef in the form of Jon Favreau and I think the movie is about stripping down your life to the people and things that are really important to you. It’s about finding or re-committing to your calling in its purest sense and it’s about loyalty, family and friendship. And good food! Man, that food looked amazing. Even the way Chef Carl makes a grilled cheese sandwich for his son’s breakfast is enough to make me want to up my gwedge*-making game just because of how meticulously he works and how seriously he takes it. 
I also like the clear message that the people you work with are your friends and family when your hearts and visions are perfectly aligned and you are a truly effective team. And the fact that your ex can still be your biggest cheerleader and friend, who helps you to be the best possible you. I also like the idea of legacy, through the father-son dyad- how you can nurture something that outlives you by nurturing your relationship with your child. Such a great movie! Checkout the cracking soundtrack:
After Chef I watched Burnt. And wowaweewa, boy did I love it. Firstly the food looks incredible. Secondly, it’s about a really talented guy who makes a huge mess of his life and his journey in redeeming himself both professionally and as a man. I can totally relate to that because I have made massive mistakes of the permanent damage kind. This movie shows that you can build a new path for yourself in spite of your colossal shady and maybe even highly public failures. It also taught me something important in that redemption is not a one-man show. We NEED other people to believe in us, to work with us to make our dreams come true, to call out our nonsense and maybe even just to remind us how great we’ve always been. There’s always something in these movies about discipline. Watching a sous chef cook halibut over and over and over and over and over again so she can get it just right is a major lesson in discipline. And please note, this is the food industry. If she doesn’t get this halibut perfectly right, no one will die. World peace does not hang in the balance. But she pushes herself because it’s her craft and it is her duty to execute it to the absolute highest standard possible. I love that. Perfection for it’s own sake…
If you’re a tightly wound perfectionist interested in cooking or interested in what it would look and feel like to have curve balls thrown your way and in the process have the carrot stuck in your butt removed, please watch The Hundred Foot Journey. Oprah and Steven Spielberg co-produced it with Juliet Blake and it stars the indomitable Helen Mirren. I love it because it’s about migrants making a life in a new world and I am a migrant making a life for myself in a world than can often be very hostile to “foreigners.” The idea of being a foreigner is weird to me because if you’re an Earthling then you can’t be foreign wherever you find yourself on Earth. And migration is a natural behavioural pattern for many living things. We move around. It’s what we do. How absurd to make migration a “thing.” It’s as absurd to me as the concept of “land ownership” but that’s a conversation for another day. Anyway The Hundred Foot Journey is about fusion: of cultures, of hearts, of philosophies and of food. Awesome! Also, this movie reminded me about how I am yet to taste the perfect omelette.
Thematically, I found the movie No Reservations to be similar to The Hundred Foot Journey in that it explores the idea of life after loss. The gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones plays an uptight perfectionist chef who likes her life just so but has all of that completely discombobulated by the arrival of a free-spirited man she must work with and a “challenging” niece to care for after her sister dies in a car accident. Why does love always come riding on the back of a crazy curveball? It’s so frustrating! I guess the lesson is that by leaning into love and the vast unknowable universe in which it resides, we can find ourselves living our richest, most bountiful lives. I needed that one. I used to be a perfectionist and still have errant perfectionist tendencies.
Finally, but by no means least is the movie The Trip To Italy, a very simply shot film of the mocumentary style, which I absolutely loved. The thing that I loved second best about this movie was getting to see how beautiful Italy is and all the mouthwatering cuisine that awaits my future husband and me after we get married on Capri. The thing that I love the most about the movie was the banter between two friends as they traversed the country and experienced its food and attractions. It’s the kind of irreverent laugh out loud banter I regularly engage in with my friends. I remember having lunch with a friend at The Green Peppercorn in Johannesburg and laughing for thirty minutes straight as she just basically conducted a one-man stand up show with her witty observational humor. Thirty back-to-back minutes of her talking and me laughing as we drank wine and people watched. This happens a lot when I eat, drink or generally hang out with my friends. As I watched the movie and enjoyed the dynamics of the two friends egos and personalities I couldn’t help but long for the day my friends and I will finally get our acts together and head out for the open roads, seas or skies of the world. It’s tough because there are work schedules to be considered, degrees to be obtained and budgets to be aligned… Nevertheless, I loved the Trip To Italy because it reminded me of what fun simple human conversation can be. I also loved their hilarious and spot on movie impersonations such as that of Michael Caine and Christian Bale in Batman:
... and their completely off-side comments that one would definitely say with friends but not in front of a camera, like how eating game is akin to eating Mo Farrah because it’s an animal that’s been in the wild getting plenty of exercise and natural nutrients...
“But what if he was mortally wounded? Would you eat him then? If he was paralysed from the waist down, it would be rude then wouldn’t it?”
... which led to musings on the variable nutritional value of different people's legs resulting in the conclusion that it would be foolish to choose eat Rob (Brydon)’s legs over Mo’s but you could reject Stephen Hawking’s legs in favour of Rob's. I was killed!

I have enjoyed my foray into the world of food related film and I am considering what might make a good follow up theme to explore. I have recently been forced to watch Jerry Maguire (apparently it was an unforgivable shame that I had not watched it to date) and someone has been holding a small gun to my head and demanding that I watch Cool Runnings. So perhaps sport is where we're headed next. Either that or unrequited/doomed/star-crossed love because I do like my romances with a bit of complexity. In the meantime, I've been reading and thinking about creativity, ideas and how to curate and realise them.

* Gwedge is old skool Zimbabwean slang for sandwich. Because some Zimbabweans pronounce the word sandwich as “sang-gwej.” It’s totally not a big deal. Never mind!

Monday, January 4, 2016

The tiniest box I have ever squeezed into

Four years ago I became lazy. 
Instead of living I chose to retreat into a comfortable charade where I did the barest minimum of motions to pass off as a stock standard, unremarkable immigrant black African female in her mid-twenties. Then I found a man who was equally lazy and together we built a tiny little box, climbed into it and huddled like abandoned mongrels caught in a rain shower. It was a really small box. The air was heavy and thick with the stench of everything that was wrong with us. We were selfish. We were pathetically fearful. We were unwilling to live in the high pressure, high temperature space where dreams are forged like diamonds from coal. No longer was I the adventurous, creative and tenacious go-getter that I used to be. I took a job that failed to engage my brain. I clung to friends that enabled my weakness and gave me excuses to be small. I shared a tiny little box with an individual who was decidedly incapable of relating to human beings as himself, preferring the low-risk route of taking on whatever form he thought would allow him to slip quietly under the radar, just like me. So we huddled in a tiny little box of mediocrity and obscurity, sharing a lukewarm set of lazy "partial-feelings" that we didn't even bother to hold up to the light and interrogate, understand or nurture. We were so lazy that we threw cliches at each other and pretended they were meaningful. We bandied about claims of love "to infinity and beyond" or "halfway across the galaxy and turn left" and convinced each other that "no one gets me like you do." We flung these sayings all over the tiny cramped box and convinced ourselves of their realness as they ricocheted off the equally meaningless but probably more dangerous words "forever," "always," "soul mate,""the one" and "perfect."

As typically happens when unused my muscles began to atrophy. 
My empathy muscle died. My self-love muscle died. My stand for what's right muscle died. My help everyone you can muscle died. So did my you can do anything you want muscle. And my get up and try something new muscle. My colour outside the lines muscle died. My laugh until you can't breathe and you genuinely think you're going to die muscle died. My write a blog post about whatever tickles your fancy muscle died. And the tiny box got even smaller as it turned into a cesspool of gangrenous unused flesh and toxic, meaningless words. Once in a while, though, one of my muscles would give me the finger and flex itself in spite of my laziness. For a brief moment it was beautiful. I was beautiful. I was brave. I was honest. I released destructive people from the duty of helping me to destroy my soul. I fell in love with the stars and the ocean and sunshine and my mother and my friends. I caught myself smiling like I used to. I hugged people for longer than they expected. I challenged myself. For a few brief moments I was me. Then I would realise how exposed I was, how vulnerable, and then I would remember the fact that I had a tiny little box that would shelter me from the work of having to confront my vulnerability and risk a life of potential failure and rejection. I had never failed at anything so it was best not try and risk blemishing such a record (of non-achievement). Then I would fold myself back into the tiny box. Not crawl, run or leap. I would gingerly fold myself squeeze back in next to my lazy lover.

Here is how I felt in the box. 
Needy. Starved of affection, care, support, acceptance, love and most of all, companionship. My laziness to live made me doubt my ability to live even when I decided I wanted to actively participate in life. I felt inadequate and incompetent in every possible respect. Body image? Negatory! Self efficacy to succeed in intellectual or physical endeavour? Negatory! Self esteem? Negatory! I saw nothing positive in myself and relied heavily on others especially my lazy box-mate to feed me crumbs of validation, to tell me who I was and what I ought to be doing with my life. It was like crawling through the desert waiting for someone to spit on me and assuage my thirst. And you know what? He did. Sitting in that box close to me and yet so far away in every way that counts he fed me a sparse diet of disingenuous compliments and hollow assurances. And I ignored the fact that I did not feel the love he claimed to have for me. Then he left the box. Got the heck out of there and proceeded with his life in another box, I guess. Good for him. Except that we were in such a small box that to fit in it our bits and bobs had become very intricately entangled so when he clambered out he pretty much left me mangled and smeared in the detritus of the most foul, ill-advised actions and decisions that two people could conjure up in four unhealthy years. Left alone in that tiny box I made a decision.

I decided not to be lazy
Over the course of a year and a half have been getting on with the general business of cleaning out my tiny little box so I could start to breathe again. I decided to "live aggressively" by a new set of standards. I do not suffer fools. Seriously. I don't engage with people and ideas that I consider to be beneath me. And I decide what is and what is not beneath me and no one else - sometimes the idea is my own and it is beneath me so I give it no airplay or it is a version of myself who I do not believe adds value so I kill her off. I am ruthless. It has left a few people stunned but the amount of clutter this has removed from my box is worth their consternation. I do not suffer sweet talkers and flatterers and I find platitudes highly distasteful. I do not suffer laziness. I find apathy nauseating. I have things that I will fight for regardless of the likely outcome. I have things that I think and care about and I have surrounded myself with similar people, people who are not afraid to tell the world that they love something. I like people who are quietly about something and prefer to get on with it rather than to navel gaze or serve as armchair critics, which I believe is the weakest and most uninspired life one can live. I abhor lack of integrity. I revere honesty even when it is hurtful. I prefer it seasoned with empathy though. I feel no shame. I pity people who need external validation. I will not tolerate hubris in the conversations around me. I admire power tempered with compassion. I am suspicious of people who do not display anger. I believe in grit and passion. I believe awkward and uncomfortable situations lead us to see greater vistas. I love it when acts of kindness and singular accomplishment go un-lauded in social media but are etched in the memories of those who have witnessed or benefitted from them directly.  I respect people who say what they want. I honour people who admit they were wrong and who can apply themselves wholeheartedly to the task of redeeming themselves. I am intrigued by people who are unimpressed by me and call out my hypocrisy but who paradoxically find me utterly incredible and worth the effort of getting to know. I love people who have no time for my self pity, my penchant for melodrama or my fixation with romanticism but who find ways to nourish my spirit.

Times when people have unwittingly fed my soul

Me: I would like to jump on a plane to Cape Town and stab that man for what he did to me.
Her: No, no. You're not going to do that.
Me: I'm not kidding I want him dead. I deserve justice!
Her: Can I offer you an alternative? The Brazilian wandering spider. Its venom causes intense pain and asphyxiation. Moreover, it causes very painful erections that last for hours. We can slip it in his shoes or something.
Me: Best Christmas present ever!

Him: I love you
Me: As in either (1) you care about me deeply and value me or (2) you are in love with me i.e. you have romantic feelings for me?
Him: Both
Me (inhaling as I excitedly prepare to ask a barrage of clarificatory follow up questions): ...
Him (interrupting me): I love you. Don't overthink it.
Me (exhaling): :-)

Her: You're such a strong, caring person and you have a very good heart.
Me: Awww. Thanks mom!
Her: You and your brothers are my best friends.
Me (slack jawed at hearing such words come out of someone often described as a lioness): ...

Her: We were talking about you the other day with so and so (a colleague)
Me (remembering how I didn't fit in any of the cliques at work): Gulp!
Her: And we were like "Yeah, Sandi's basically the total package."
Me (spluttering my drink): ..!

Him (Samuel L Jackson's character in Changing Lanes): "I feel like champagne. I understand the idea of celebration. I see the bubbles in champagne as something good and beautiful. Not part of my soul evaporating but rising with joy. What I'm trying to say is, I don't want champagne. I am champagne."
Me: This is me in 2015!

Her: I want to show you something. Check this out.

(Photo Credits: Asher Svidensky via 
Her: She's a 13 year old Mongolian eagle huntress. For 2000 years only males have been trained to hunt using eagles.
Me: Wow. She's amazing.
Her: She is. She made me think of you. You have her spirit.
Me: Omg.

Me: Ever had your heart broken?
Him: Yeah. More than five years ago and I'm still not over it. 
Me: Tell me about her.
Him: Her name was Mercy. Always makes me think of a song by Switchfoot. "In the economy of mercy, I am a poor and begging man. In the currency of grace, is where my song begins..." Tell me about yours.
Me: His name was Nyasha. It means grace. 
Him: In the economy of Mercy, in the currency of Grace
Me: We is broke mother******s!
Him: #dead!

Him: Hmmm. How would I describe Sandi?
Me: Uh oh
Him: I think Sandi is brilliant and talented but she's frustrated because she hasn't found her groove.
Me (blinking): Whoa...
Him: And she's looking for her groove and she keeps trying all these things and looking in all these places. And she's tired, restless and frustrated and feels like she's running out of time but she can't stop until she finds it. Until she finds her groove. 
Me: Hot dang...

Her: Whatever you do, don't ever jay walk.
Me: How random. Why?
Her: Because I would be devastated if you got hit by a car and died.

Getting out of the tiny box
This morning I decided to get over the failure of the relationship and all the accompanying baggage I accumulated during and following its course and demise.  Yes, decided. Because frankly it's been over for about three years and there hasn't been any actual pain for almost a year and I knew very well I was just holding onto the idea of having been done wrong as an indulgence and a final act of laziness. So today I decided I was bored with being heartbroken. I decided that desperate, disempowered thoughts directed at someone who helped me mould myself into the smallest version of myself were beneath me. Indignation at his continued health and lack of suffering was beneath me. I couldn't even picture him happy, sad, or anything. My heart has disengaged and my brain is fully on board, dutifully failing to conjure up any memories for me to hold onto. When I was still in pain, I forced myself to forgive him. Now I retract that act. Because there's nothing to forgive. We were just two goons squashed in a tiny little imaginary box, never destined to be anything significant together but with endless potential independently of each other. Poor kids. So at close of business today I came out of the box. I didn't kick it down ninja style. I didn't claw my way out. No kicking or screaming. I just unfolded myself because the walls of the box was never real even though it was literally the tiniest box I had ever squeezed into. So I unfolded and unfurled and stretched my limbs like a panther. Easy peasy. And why wouldn't it be? I am a non-jay-walking eagle huntress who is best friends with a lioness, and who is looking for her groove but totally not overthinking it. Also, I am the total package and I am champagne and I conduct myself as such because it just so happens that in the economy of mercy and in the currency of grace I am in fact a very wealthy woman:-)