22 February 2007

Destination Cape Town

Fly Mango. It’s cramped, the pilot is so old that he keeps referring to OR Tambo as Jan Smuts (not even Joburg Int’l!) and they apparently always delayed! But its cheap and it feels cool flying in a bright orange aircraft! + the best part = a return trip to Cape Town is only R500!

Cape Town is like another country. I always say that- de hoop trip, shark diving trip, Argus trip and Msa conference trip- I go quite often but it’s always a pleasure! The similarities are still there- the major ones- and in some instances, like the income disparities, it seems to be much worse.

And you see it first just as you about to land- if you landing on a Fri afternoon (the sun sets sooo late!) you will see it reflecting differently from the different areas- first the shiny tin roofs of the locations which are furthest away from the cities, then the light reflecting off millions of pieces of broken glass from the flats of the Cape Flats, and lastly, the hundreds of swimming pools of the houses closest to the mountain. Look out for it next time you fly.

A good weekend of family (for a change), friends and fun! Always good to climb Lions Head and swim in the freezing cold waters of both the oceans. It was however a bit too early to acclimatise for the Argus, so going to have to get there a few days early once again:) Argus is in a month- any budding cyclists want to form a team and raise money for charity? Give me a shout…..

Back to work:(

15 February 2007

MiDmAr MiLe (onethousandsixhundredmeters)

*update*: Official Midmar Time, as per Midmar Mile website=
40minutes and 29 secs!

The sun was scorching- temperature according to the car was almost 40 degrees. And this was 8am in the morning! How hot was it going to be when the race started at 9:45?

He was tired. Had left Jhb Fri afternoon and spent the night in Newcastle. Not much sleep to be had there, as his family was excited about their upcoming Cape Town trip. Nevertheless, he woke up early, prayed the Morning Prayer and left as the run rose slowly on the horizon.

Thousands of people, numbers on their arms, in swimming outfits, complete with plastic caps and goggles, all heading for the starting line. The speed boats were still running up and down the dam, making last minute adjustments. The buoys were to be placed 400m apart, as a guide to the swimmers. Instructions were continuously being bellowed over the loud speakers, but he failed to pay attention to them.

9:30am and there are just 15 minutes for the race to start.
“Where do I go?”
‘To the start.’
“Where is the start?”
‘Way over on the other side of the dam.’
“How do I get there?”
‘Well, you could walk. Or take a kombi from this side.’
But it seems like almost every pale face in the country is standing in this kombi queue! Guess I will walk.

He eventually gets to the start line.
‘Sir, what is your race number?’ The guy at the registration desk asks.
‘Ok. Quick, the race is about to start. Just write your name down and I will find it for you.’
“Ok. Here you go. Thanks that’s me. Green cap. Ok, cool. So I just put it on and wait to start swimming? Ok thanks so much. Yes, I did pay attention to the rules and instructions. [Oops!]”

The gun goes off. A few hundred red caps can be seen running towards the dam. A few minutes later it’s the yellow caps. Now the green caps stand on the banks of the river, waiting for the instruction to start. All of a sudden there seems to be a drunken frenzy. Hoards of people, mostly white, old and young, fat and thin, are running to jump into murky, muddy, cold water! They push each other and jump in, some healthier bodies belly flopping. There is no space to swim for him to swim for about 100 meters. He gets kicked in the face and kicks a few others behind him in return.

Three weeks of training free style helps little. Breathing in choppy fresh water is not as easy as breathing in a pool. Breast stroke its going to have to be. First buoy is passed quite quickly- much quicker than anticipated. The second buoy takes much longer- muscles must be tiring and working slower now. The water is muddy and murky. The bottom of the dam can’t be seen. But the thought of what’s probably down there propels him on. That was half way. Only 800 meters to go!

The next buoy comes up much quicker- the muscles must be used to the circular motion of breast stroke by now. Only 400 meters to go and the finish line looks really close. In a few minutes it’s over. The midmar mile.

Apparently the buoys drifted a bit. The halfway buoy was much closer to the finish, and so was the third buoy. Possibly the reason he managed to finish it in plus minus forty seven minutes.

Check out GLOBAL MUSLIM for some humour!

02 February 2007

january too doubleO 7even

January is already over. Loads of work, mild depression and pure laziness has, probably to your astonishment, has forced me to compile just a monthly, instead of a weekly. And been having some scary thoughts!

What have I become?
I work till late at night.
I go to a gym coz I work during most daylight hours.
I eat costly take-away and fast-food.
I drive a car with electric windows and power steering.
I have short term debt and insurance.
Pretty much your typical middle-class bourgeoisie! When did this happen?

These thoughts, a hectic month, coupled with a life altering experience in Dec... *whew*

I guess I don’t mind working overtime for one month- if it means I cover up all the extra leave I took..

And I go to the gym coz riding a bike on Joburg roads is akin to attempting suicide- and + Joburg got no beach! Midmar is coming up- hope I survive. Apparently there are no rocks along the way to rest on:-(

Food- I eat when I need to. Try to eat smart as much as possible- but I am getting tired of veg and fish when eating with work okes! Once I asked them to order me vegetarian- and I get a tub of carrot sticks and broccoli :-P

Not planning on pouring more money into reasonably priced citi golfs so settled for something a step up- not me definitely, but I guess it was necessary..

Don’t even talk about debt- should further push the drive for reviving the economic systems and innovate creative new products and systems to change the current environment.

Bourgeoisie- hard to escape it!

On Palestine- see the transcript of my Jumah lecture below. [click here] Finally began work on documenting the account of my travels. Also did an interview on Cii and was told afterwards that I’m too harsh on the community- problem along the lines of what I said in the Jumah as well.

Blood diamond is an interesting movie- should hopefully discourage people from buying this stones that cause so much death and pain, to be paraded on the happy occasions of marriage. A huge portion of the occupying Israel’s economy also depends on them!

Poetry jam in honour of Bob Marley was phenomenal- poetry stand offs require real talent the whole vibe of the conforming non-conformist poetry dudes is awesome fun!

01 February 2007

Transcript of Friday Sermon

Palestine. Dec 2006

Where to start? Everyone knows a little. Since my last visit in 2005, expected things to have gotten better. But the opposite is the case.

You can’t help but come back depressed from Palestine. The first few days are shocking- but you get used to it. After three weeks of checkpoints, interrogation and a detainment, all I wanted to do was get out. It seems like a hopeless situation, but the people’s attitude is what gives me hope. As the slogan on the wall reminds you all the time- to exist is to resist.

Your first encounter with Israeli Occupation Forces is getting in. The border ordeal- the whole day, from 9am till past 6pm, continuous interrogation, searches, harassment, ‘drying out’. The idea, as I experienced before, is to make you go home and tell people, don’t go and visit Palestine- but believe me, its worth going through the border hell. The people appreciate you being there to help.

The questions they ask indicate that they just want to make things difficult coz you’re a Muslim- Are you Muslim? Do you pray? Do want to visit Al-Aqsa? I answer yes to all these questions but eventually do get in. So what’s the point! Oh, and the best question- Are you carrying any weapons?!

I joined a local youth organisation. Their concern is the development of the youth. The land will still be there in a 100 years time, but even if they get the land tomorrow, what use is it if the youth are messed up? The youth face the same challenges that youth all over the world face, together with the occupation. And the occupation is the priority at the moment. What will happen tomorrow?

The Occupation
The Apartheid Wall, Checkpoints, Road blocks. Each one is a lecture on its own. And behind each one of these elements of the occupation, there are millions of sad stories- each one maybe small in their own right, but put together it just adds up to an unbelievable nightmare!

Refugee camps
I lived in a camp for a few days. When you hear refugee camp you probably think tents, dust and a temporary place. But not in Palestine. No tents, but now closely built homes. No place for kids to play- but across the valley, kids in settlements play in swimming pools and soccer fields.

The camps were originally tents. People moved here thinking it was temporary. So much so, that a key is the symbol of refugee camps. The keys of homes that people left during the Nakba. Coz people held on to them in hope. They are still holding on. Some even had their bags packed and ready for a few years.

Tents were replaced with four walls. Few years later people had to move a story up. And then another. Very few foundations can take the forth story that many now need. And they build all this on land that they don’t own.

Land was leased by UN for 99 years. Almost 60 years gone. Will the lease expire with these people still refugees? And then what they ask?

UN is supposed to provide education, health and other services. So the PA does none. Reality is that the UN can’t always provide it all. Results- people die coz of lack of healthcare. Education and unemployment are serious problems in refugee camps.

19 camps in West Bank. Over 200 000 people in West Bank Camps, half a million moved into other towns and cities. And there are 50+ such camps in Gaza and the rest of the Middle East.

Political fighting, unacceptable. Scary at times witnessing internal fighting. And all this makes the Israelis really happy. Something for us to think about...

Built all over the West Bank. Have their own roads- doesn’t say no Palestinians- but that what it means!
Subsidised living. Up to three times cheaper living in a settlement as opposed to living in elsewhere.. And they make sure the settlers can’t see much. These are economic settles.

Israeli industrial parks also built all over the West Bank. West Bank feels like a big prison. Produce, goods, exported all over the world. Sold to people like us and used to support the occupation. The same farmer, whose land was stolen to grow grapes and avocadoes, can’t even get the produce her grows on his small back yard to the market in Ramallah. Yet the produce grown on his stolen land, irrigated with stolen water, is sitting on the shelves of our local supermarkets!

In Palestine a saw people homeless, because their homes were destroyed by the Israelis. But their neighbours took them in and cared for them.
I saw people hungry, because the international community has placed sanctions on them for exercising the democratic act of voting. But their neighbours, who had a little food, fed them.
I saw kids who became orphans because their parents were killed by the occupation, or sent to prison for resisting it. But the neighbours once again took care of these kids.

Here in South Africa we have freedom, democracy and opportunity. We enjoy many things that Palestinians only dream about today. And we should be doing everything in our power to assist them- boycotts, sanctions, solidarity and the rest.

But what are we doing for our neighbours here? Thos who are homeless, hungry, orphaned and suffering? Are we helping them like how the Palestinians help each other? Are we removing their suffering?