Monday, November 16, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
I’m in the coffee shop and can smell the rain before it comes down. In sheets it starts slowly and then dark clouds mask the sunshine and hail balls pound the pavement. The sky cracks and thunder echoes outside, providing a backdrop to the Norah Jones soundtrack that plays softly in the warm café.
I look out through the padlocked French doors and see the violet petals now flattened in small pools of water. I wish I had my camera because right now, the reflections are beautiful.
A little girl with nothing wrong, and she’s all alone…
I momentarily flash back to my living room in Portland. The gray outside, the fire in the fireplace—perhaps it’s a Sunday. Norah Jones is playing on the old CD player that was a gift from an ex-boyfriend of my mom’s. Or is it a friend of Ben’s?
My mom and I are reading in the living room. Muffy is curled up next to the fire. And I have this feeling that runs through my entire body: I am so content in this little world. I never need to go outside, I can stay in all day and do exactly this. If it is possible, I feel nostalgic for a moment that is happening as I am experiencing it.
My mom looks over at me and says that the song reminds her of me. I smile and understand why.
Spinning, laughing, dancing to her favorite song...
When I was really little, my mom used to play Bach on the piano. There was one song in particular that was my favorite and I would spin around the living room, twirling and twirling as the music climaxed. I would jump up on the couch and then down again completely uninhibited. When the music came to a close I would fall dramatically in the middle of the floor.
I don’t know if my mom noticed as she concentrated on the keys. Her long fingers elegantly stretching the octaves, pressing down as she glanced up again to check the music.
Eyes wide open, always hoping for the sun…
There are few distinct memories that I have. I have always wanted to be someone like my friend Kyle who can remember nearly every moment that ever happened—what was said, who was there (for better or worse)—but rather my memory is composed of feelings contrived from a series of events.
But the rain always takes me back to Portland.
To the warmth of the house, the smell of the fire (slash Duraflame log).
To Christmases spent running down the stairs in the morning and finding oranges in the bottom of my stocking.
To stripping off soaking wet running clothes or shin guards and feeling cold to my very core-- even after a shower and takeout from Du’s.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m traveling to search for something. To search for a place that was as comfortable as my childhood. I have met people and learned about myself, I have encountered sadness and turmoil no matter where I am in the world.
But yet, whenever it rains if I close my eyes I am back in the living room-- spinning and twirling to the music. I am unsure if the knot in my stomach signifies my sadness at a time that has passed or my yearning for another complete moment that perhaps won’t slip through my grasp so easily this time.
Crooked little smile on her face. Tells a tale of grace that’s all her own.
The rain clears and they push the windows open letting in the sunlight. The music switches to salsa and my cloud of memory is gone. Through the French doors, only the puddles and petals remain.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I feel like I’ve sat down to write a blog post so many times, but when my fingers start punching the keys nothing of worth has come out.
I guess it’s partially because it becomes harder to be a spectator of the experience you’re having once it stops being an experience and starts being your life. It has also become harder for me to detach myself from what I do every day to ask: what would people at home think is interesting? Which tidbits of life, who have I met, what have I seen would resonate with someone on the other side of the world?
To my luck, I’ve been able to express some of what I’ve been doing through photos and video, so at least that will paint the picture that my words can’t.
I do learn a bit more about myself and about South Africa and America every day. Last night (and nearly every Wednesday since I’ve been here) I’ve gone to a bar/club/restaurant called House of Nsako for Bantu Boer night. The idea is very progressive and aims to bring together the diverse generation that is shaping the future of South Africa.
We normally watch a thought-provoking and somewhat controversial documentary about Africa, and then have a discussion about what it means for this country. Nsako is like a mutual meeting place—there are both white and black South Africans and also a number of international people come to discuss the issues that are facing the nation.
Each time that I go, I listen attentively to the discussions that are very often racially charged. But I still haven't gotten the courage to speak confidently.
Last night we watched a documentary about Zimbabwe, what has happened under Mugabe, and how it is a microcosm of Africa as a whole. The discussion moved towards which type of government is best for South Africa and the rest of the continent.
It’s so interesting to be in a place where this generation of people really has the power to shape the future of South Africa. It was very clear last night that the days of the ANC are limited and people are starting to question which party, which leader, will actually be the best for South Africa. There is no other country like it in the world, so why should it try to emulate those governments?
The speakers challenged democracy and challenged each other to just look at South Africa: Without comparing it to the democracy of the West, what would work here?
There is so much potential for this country to set the standard for Africa. It is the first world, it is the third world, and if this generation of people can rise up and make the country what they want it to be, I think it will eventually bring the baseline, poverty-stricken people up.
But I think it also has to start with the classroom.
I have been around enough to see the discrepancies in education. I have gone to schools where teachers don’t show up, where they neglect the given curriculum, where their passion is dead, or never existed in the first place.
If something isn’t done in these rural areas, the wealth discrepancy will continue, only perpetuated by access to good education. How is it that in 2009 a nine year-old in Johannesburg knows how to surf the internet, create little videos, upload photos... and a child in the Eastern Cape has never been read to in his entire life because there are no books in his mother-tongue language?
I have faith in the passion of the people here to make this country what they want it to be, and I only wonder if I will be part of that effort, or if I will be watching it from the other side of the world.