25 July 2005

Forgive your enemies but remember their names.

Been working very hard since I got back from Mozambique: because I was away they planned me on the job and I couldn’t pull out because I only got to work a day after it started! It’s an audit of a freight company near the airport- leave early every morning and get back late every afternoon! The work itself is more physical than what I’m used to, but I suppose it’s good as I now have experience in a totally different industry…

Busy make arrangements for Palestine trip- don’t feel that I’m as excited as I should be! I imagine that I should be flippin ecstatic, but also don’t want to get to hyped up just in case (inshaAllah it wont happen) we get turned back! Leaving in less than 2 weeks! Going to spend a few days touring Jordan and then going for a 10 day youth camp in Palestine. Plan on trying to visit as many sites in Palestine as possible… The theme of the camp is “Impact of the Wall on Palestinian Life”- hope to report back and increase awareness once we get back… Make dua all goes well!

Went for a MSA meeting on Wednesday- the Iranian embassy sponsored some equipment to the hospital as part of an MSA project. They seem to be very active in general; having a Women in Islam conference this week with Tukkies and also asked me if there are any students interested in going to study in Iran- Islamic studies at the Tehran University… I don’t know if anyone would be interested; there is a delegation from Iran here interviewing prospective students if anyone is…

We had a go karting evening as a team building initiative- team building is just the corporate term to legitimise spending thousands of rand on employee entertainment! But I’m not complaining- we had a 4 hour endurance challenge with our division split up into relay teams. After my second round of racing I got disqualified for the rest of the evening- my car was written off after a severe accident that was not even my fault! Driving home was cool- still felt like I was racing around those greenside bends! Great fun this go karting is, but don’t drive home immediately after!

Culture- have had many discussions on this topic over the years! Who defines it? Is theatre really culture! Grahamstown festival was at Wits theatre- called 969 Festival bcoz that’s apparently how far Grahamstown is from Joburg. Well, the cultured are never late, and I’m almost always never early, so missed the piece I planned on seeing! These people and their rules:p Also, the people that frequent theatre seem to be in a class of their own- not strictly upper, middle or working- just a mix of people who enjoy live television:p And it seems like half the male theatre goers are all tipsy!

I can’t believe how time flies- Ramadaan is coming up soon! Going to miss the iftaars and taraweehs on campus last year! Can just imagine how difficult it will be working during Ramadaan:( InshaAllah we can all make adequate preparations and have a blessed month- Ramadaan collection was planned on Fri here in Jhb and begins soon- think that we can co-ordinate a national collection with each area doing there own independent collections and distributions, but just marketing and advertising it together… any ideas? And us working class people should also try to assist where possible- this is more than just a campus based initiative… look out for details and volunteer wherever possible!

It was a busy week for msa- had a high schools program at Wits on Saturday. When does one get old? It seems that suddenly you realise, “hey, I’m not that young anymore!” Spending time with the younglings is excellent for rejuvenating ones youthful spirit! And plus we played this cool game: aMSAing race! These events are instrumental in recruiting new blood- trick is to ensure an adequate follow up! inshAllah efforts will not have been in vain…

Mr Irv is preparing to bid farewell to the good life (some still think so!)- he marries in a week so we had to leave him with a taste of the freedom he is leaving behind! Went HUGE with all ‘the youths’ on Sat night- had a few extras come over from Durban specially for the affair! (Okay, maybe Sun Youth Conf had something to do with it!) Our entourage went Paki (Bismillahs), a bit South (Melrose) for surreptitious variety of another sub-continent experience (Indian muslim heartland) and finally kicked out all traces of ambience and culture, from the hallowed halls of the Michelangelo’s lounge- it all walked out when the 20 of us walked in:p

The Beards (and I’m licensed to use the lingo coz I also have one:p) held the Youth Conference in Azaadville on Sunday. Rashad and the Durban members made the Great Trek to the holy lands especially for the event. (Azaadville is the 4th Holiest site in the world- Ihraam must be donned at the Miqaat and Ziyaarahs are available solely for the super devout!) God willing the event went off very well- again, the trick is to ensure adequate follow-up to obtain maximum benefit for all efforts!

We watched the home video of our Moz road trip last night- its flippin brilliant! Release for public viewing planned for later this year- it’s going to be the first in the evolution of documentaries- place your orders now and you will qualify for the early bird discount :)
I see some of you have visited my website- any comments, criticism, contributions, etc most welcome…

21 July 2005

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right!

Whew- its been a wholesome 2 weeks since my last email! Been to Durban and Mozambique- for bread and milk details of the road trip, log onto my blog and check it out: http://bilalsblog.blogspot.com/

Mozambique is a very interesting place- just came out of a gruesome civil war that ravished the country and set it back decades! Moz was until very recently the poorest country in the world! Interesting history behind what led to such appalling circumstances; Moz was a Portuguese colony that was apparently a chic hangout for the rich and famous, safe haven for many freedom fighters from all over Africa, and a holiday destination for all- around the 70’s or 80’s, the socialist party took over Portugal and the Mozambicans managed to wrench their independence! The Portuguese just got up and left- they took whatever they could carry (equipment and machinery) and sabotaged whatever they had to leave behind! Buildings and homes were rendered useless by pouring concrete down the drains, wells, dams and farm lands were poisoned, and factories and production plants were stripped of machinery rendering them impossible to function!
And where did they all go? South Africa- the government allowed them to enter our country and become co-occupiers! The government was also a sinister force behind the ensuing civil war that began post independence! Frelimo, the party that gained independence, led by Samora Machel who became President and was assassinated by the Apartheid regime, was challenged by Renamo, a rebel movement pronged and funded initially by Malawi, Rhodesia and the South African government!
The result was gruesome- thousands dead, even more injured by land mines (manufactured in SA and distributed freely throughout the countryside!), and a country which thereafter for many years held the position of poorest in the world! The lows that Mozambique sunk to were possibly the lowest lows possible! The positive side now being, that they can only go up from here now…
Since the end of the civil war in 1992, the country has been building itself up quite steadily, and now has one of the highest growth rates in the world. The recent floods took them back quite a bit in terms of infrastructure, but one can sense the drive and ambition of the Mozambicans that should take them into better times soon enough…
Our neighbours- we should be making efforts to assist them where possible! The north of the country was the most southern point visited by Arab traders- people of that region are majority Muslim and are also those still suffering the most… There, now you know!

Well, returned to work last Tuesday- after an absolutelty heavenly week in a semi-paradise, it really was painful! Only thing keeping me going are the good memories of Moz and building up excitement about upcoming trip to Palestine…

Irfaan and Ash are back from Qatar- it went so quick, hardly felt that they were gone for that long. And been quite updated about there happenings anyways since they left. Had a nice get together to catch up on finer details- seems like Al-Jazeera is the new hip place to be working at!

Went on an excursion to Zak Park Ulooms on Sat morn- quite an interesting experience; if I may say, quite like a visit to the zoo:) In the sense that they took us from classroom to classroom and let us sit and observe the locals in their natural habitat! But was seriously beneficial in making us understand what the beards have to go through in order to get their qualification. I hope this was a start to a fruitful relationship- pointless for us to just criticise everything unconstructively, but as outsiders with some sense, we should be able to give valuable advise about things that are not so noticeable to persons who have always been in that environment… and obviously vice- versa…

Sat nite also saw the launch of a Muslim Alumni network- the idea, as I understood it, was to reaffirm commitments to the Cause and try to provide a platform for young, dynamic, sincere Muslim professionals to meet, interact, discuss and strategise to achieve our goals as Muslims living in this beautiful country during these opportunistic times! Or something like that- you interested?

Drum- a South African movie about the very magazine- interesting; a bit too Hollywoodish, but it gets the message across. Like the journalist who was killed for writing for the magazine, there were many other unsung heroes of the resistance who gave their lives in order to make ours better! Maybe, just maybe, we should get these flipping capitalistic, profit maximising, materialistic, un-Islamic dreams and ambitions out of our systems for a while?! If that’s even possible!

I know that I promised the end of these emails- sorry, if you don’t like it then just don’t read it!
Remember an interesting but rather vague and maybe baseless quote: ‘the cynic commits intellectual suicide’- what the hell does that mean?

11 July 2005

Day 8

Left for Xai xai early in the morning- our last day of holiday and need to make the most of it! It was about an hours drive from Bilene- the roads in this country and terrible! You need to literally find bits of road in between all the potholes! Driving through the
countryside, you notice the stark contrast with life and infrastructure in South Africa. The beach in Xai xai was amazing- there is a natural layer of rock that separates the beach from the rest of the ocean. We went snorkelling and discovered an amazing shallow reef- it was like scuba diving without all the equipment! Big colourful fish and schools of smaller ones swimming all around you- also saw lion fish and some other weird looking stuff! Were supposed to be back in Maputo by lunch, but we had so much fun we didn’t want to leave! Ended up reaching Maputo in the afternoon and still had to pack car and buy prawns- border was supposed to close at 7pm and we reached there just at about 6:50! But rush was useless as we found out border closes at 10 during the holidays..
But it was good to be back on familiar soil- where we having drinkable running water and roads instead of potholes! Mozambique is not that far from Joburg and I think close enough to hit a short trip over the next long weekend!

10 July 2005

Day 7

Woke up early- went to Holiday Inn on the beach front to catch sunrise- really stunning sunrise over the ocean! The Maputo Holiday Inn is a very smart building but is actually not very big; apparently the original Holiday Inn building has an interesting history to it: you can still see this massive multi story, high rise building on the beach front- the concrete skeleton looks like a new building under construction. However, the building was put up many years ago by the Portuguese- before leaving the country after independence, the Portuguese sabotaged it by pouring concrete down the pipes, thus rendering the building useless and virtually impossible to complete! They also took whatever they could move (machinery and equipment) and damaged whatever they couldn’t! That could have had something to do with why Mozambique was until recently the poorest country in the world!
We picked up the keys and headed for Bilene- it is a natural lagoon; looks like a huge lake! Really beautiful place, spent the day on the beach- the water is very shallow and because it’s a lagoon there are no waves. We tried swimming across but were famished half way across! Had a braai and went to sleep- nice soft beds in the three bedroom house with hot water and a shower that was ours for the night!

09 July 2005

Day 6

Couldn’t wake up- the beds were too soft and comfortable! Managed to drag ourselves out of bed eventually. Went exploring in the city- found our way to the market that really looked like something you’d see in the movies! There are piles of fish and shellfish- perfect ingredients for a real seafood feast! The main commodity of Moz is its cashew nuts- we bought stocks for home and went on to do some exploring of the city. The architecture all over the city is really quaint and retro- all these cool old buildings that desperately need to be restored! Didn’t expect the city to be so different from South African cities- really interesting city to visit and explore…
Were invited for supper to Eb’s connections- they laid out this scrumptious dinner of huge prawns and chicken. There were actually prawns left over- not because we were being polite, but because they made so much! Had more than my annual quota of prawns and not going to be having then again for a while… I recall that there was some political talk going on during the meal, but I have no recollection of anything; was too busy shovelling them prawns down!
The uncle arranged a house for us in Bilene, and also invited us to his farm- somehow the offer didn’t seem too appealing… Headed home for an early night (actually only slept very late), leaving early morning for Bilene which is 120km north of Maputo…

08 July 2005

Day 5

Last morning waking up in a tent- just as we getting used to sleeping on a hard surface and in such close proximity to so many others! Went on our last scuba dive- definitely won’t be long before I do it again. Hope to plan a scuba adventure of an upcoming long weekend soon! Went for our last swim in the Point of Gold- that’s what Ponto Douro means in English. It really is a piece of heaven- the water is crystal clear and comfortably warm for the middle of winter. Think it would be an excellent investment to buy land in that place.
Packed up our 4x4 and hit the road for Maputo. It’s a 120km journey but takes 5 hours- there is no road, you just drive through the bush on a hectic dirt track! It was fun driving, but as a passenger it was flipping annoying!
Reached the bay across Maputo at night- the view of the city’s skyline was wicked! Taking a ferry across the bay was an interesting experience- mingling with the locals but sticking out like sore thumbs due to our picture snapping fanatics! Accommodation in Maputo was 5 stars! Three story luxurious house with hot showers and soft beds- was great! Maputo is a vibrant, interesting city- somehow there also seems to be an abundance of exorbitant wealth!

07 July 2005

Day 4

The lady camping next door asked how we managed in the fierce storm last night- we asked, “What storm!” Somehow managed to sleep through some sort of cyclone! The tents of other campers got flooded and blown away- we were totally oblivious to the chaos that was going on around us!
Went on our second sea dive- did all the emergency exercises and then enjoyed the dive... Didn’t get to see dolphins again but did find the turtle! I am totally blown away by the magnificence of the world down there!
Two Moroccan guys pitched tent next door- Interesting okes- one guy plays professional basketball in Belgium! They drove to Kosi Bay border from Joburg, parked their car at the border and hitched a lift to Ponto…
Managed to find some shelter for our braai- luckily so as it was pouring! But once we were done the sky had cleared up and their was not a cloud in the sky- made a bon fire on the beach and lay there gazing at the stars- the entire sky was lit up and I have never seen so many stars before- no artificial lighting for miles, you could actually see the constellations… (or at least that’s what the other said!)

06 July 2005

Day 3

This weather is weird- woke up and it was pouring, 2 hours later the sun is blazing and the heat is sweltering! Did our first pool dive- not that difficult to scuba in a pool; the only challenge of the whole exercise is to get comfortable breathing through that whole apparatus. Had lunch and we then headed for our first open water dive in the ocean! On the boat, heading for the reefs that we were going to dive at, came across a school of dolphins! Really neat- people normally pay big money for dolphin viewing tours and here we just do it by the way!
Scuba diving should be compulsory for everyone! It opens up a whole new world… Just like in the movies, you launch of the boat by falling backwards off the side of the boat. It’s like swimming in a big fish tank- school of colourful reef fish just swimming all around you! We did a 12 metre dive- bit scary at first coz you not used to the feeling of pressure building up in your ears. But honestly, if you haven’t scuba dived, I can safely say that you really missing out on an astonishing experience. Our instructor was super cool- we did none of the exercises, just enjoyed the exhilarating occasion of our first dive… Saw a huge sea turtle and even got to hold it- the colours of the fish are marvellous- all shades and sizes…
There was a guy spear fishing and he caught these two huge fish that would’ve have been swell on our braai!

05 July 2005

Day 2

Couldn’t sleep- the floor of the tent was too hard and my sleeping bag didn’t provide enough cushioning! Woke Eb up and took a walk on the beach at about 3am! We met two security guards enjoying a raging bon fire on the beach- tried to have a discussion with them but the language barrier proved too tough to crack! However, and we discussed this later, what could we tell those guys anyways? I mean, they work so hard just to survive- what do they care about seeking the Truth or the existence of a Greater Being! As the saying goes, ‘You can’t teach man faith on an empty stomach!’
The weather turned out to be really great- we started our scuba diving course and did a bit of snorkelling- the water is so clean and clear; vision was really good underwater! Spent the day bumming on the beach- it seems like our lives are revolving around food! We had breakfast and then started preparing lunch, finished lunch and soon after we getting the fire ready for supper:) The bread in this place is awesome: you get it fresh and hot from the small bakery just down the road in the quaint market- probably the best bread I’ve ever tasted! Had a scrumptious braai and ended the evening of with a bon fire on the beach: had a good discussion on the disparities we have noticed since reaching this country- everyone is so poor, yet so content... They work so hard, yet have so little… Anyways, off to try and sleep- hope that tonight works out better!

04 July 2005

Day 1- Moz Road Trip

The beginning of a new journey- if the rest of the story is as exciting as the opening chapter then I’m going to be ecstatic! The plan was to leave Durban at 5am (hehe) and head straight for the border and Moz.
In true road trip custom, we left a mere 5 hours after deadline- 10am saw us hit the road on the ‘journey of a lifetime!’ 2 Accountants, a doctor, engineer and politics/film studies student, all crammed into a Rav4 with a big tent and two cooler bags of meat..
We stopped in Richards Bay to do our grocery shopping (last minute- again, in true road trip tradition!) We were naïve to think that shopping for groceries is a swift process, but we ended up having an adventure in the supermarket itself!
So after shopping and lunch we once again hit the road- made it to the border just 5 minutes before closing! Entered Moz from the Kosi Bay border on the east coast. The SA side was a pleasant face brick building with police and soldiers in splendid uniform and the bright and snazzy SA flag flapping in the wind! The Moz border, literally 5 meters away, consisted of a converted container and a rickety prefab office and the border personnel were dressed in dreary, old uniforms… Such a world of variation in only a few feet! What I found most amazing was the language- a line drawn on the map by some foreigner (I presume..) means a change in language and culture?!
Well, the disparities didn’t end there- the tar road stops 10 meters into Moz- the rest is dirt road; nay, not dirt road- dirt track! A 10km drive from the border to Ponto Douro takes almost an hour! Got to the camp site just as the sun set- managed to find a camping spot overlooking the beach and pitched tent.
Jealousy makes people nasty- the curses of those covetous souls came true and the rain came pouring down! Wet, cold, windy, trying to start a fire to braai meat for supper- we had enough of camping within the first hour! Somehow managed to eat and get into dry clothes- then came the real challenge; trying to sleep with 4 other guys in a tent! Well, the good news is that things can only get better from here:) No regrets, yuhoo! Lying in a sleeping bag and listening to the waves crashing on the beach just a few metres away- tomorrow morning we going to rock that beach!