Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanks Giving Message

Thanks Giving Message

As most of you sit down at your Thanks Giving diner with your loved ones and say your prayers, I sit here in my lovely 2 apartment in Sandton South Africa, enjoying the peaceful night, sipping fine South African wine, listening to Latin music with wild crickets in the background by the flickering lights of candles I reflect back on all of wonderful or less fortunate occurrences of last year…

I say my personal prayer: Thank you Lord for giving us the fortunate, blessed, wonderful, healthy and happy life we have. Thank you for having the blessings of our wonderful families, the blessings of having such amazing friends and co-workers, for the jobs we still have, for the food we can share, the love we can give, for the love of others give us, for having more than the less fortunate and for having the ability to give to less fortunate, for the clean bed we sleep in, for a home to come to where the roof does not leek... Thank you Lord for all your love and blessings you give us each and every day!

Thanks to Jane and Michael for hosting the Christmas party to collect donations for the women’s and children’s shelters….Thanks to Shashi and Harsha and their 2 adorable children who give their pocket money to purchase and wrap Christmas gifts for the kids in shelters. Thanks to Mono and Neelu to put others in front and helping delivering the gifts on the Christmas Day, for hosting my B-Day party, and for being the delightful friends they are. Thanks for having the ability to go to Slovakia to see my mom and all my family for Christmas each year. Thanks to Alex who turned 2 years old last January and brining us the joy to experience the world though child’s eyes. Thanks for having Nate and Kara being born on the 1st of April. Thanks to Drago and Dave for their generous donations through the year and for having us over in their house for last years’ Thanks Giving Dinner with Dave’s mom. Thanks for Harry for coming to visit in Atlanta and helping with remodeling of my house and for volunteering with me in packing meals for disabled elderly on Thanks Giving Day. Thanks to all American People for voting for Obama to get our country on the right track and for having the ability to witness in person the historical moment of inauguration in DC. Thanks for meeting Perlie and his loving parents and friends. Thanks for having the opportunity to visit the Henry’s and the Blouch’s in Lebanon Pennsylvania who sponsored and opened the opportunity for me to come to USA. Thanks for all the travels I done last year, London, Prague, Slovakia, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Kiev and USA. Thanks for the blessing to have my bellowed spiritual sister Beruska and her family in my life. Thanks for having the opportunity to go to Tamarindo with Jane in search for the perfect wedding place. Thanks for the happy occasion of having to witness the blessing of Jane’s and Michaels wedding in June. Thanks for the ability to see Jane’s dad and mom and for meeting Michael’s parents. Thanks for my mom to come visit me and go back packing with to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Thanks for the safe recovery of my mom and my brother after their unfortunate accident. Thanks for the blessing of my brother’s girlfriend being pregnant. Thanks to Harry, David W, Alberto, and few others for donations to purchase books for the school in Chimichuri, Costa Rica and having the means to deliver the donation and meet the kids in person. Thanks for the fabulous “chicks” trip with Neelu and my cousin Janka, for surfing and paring our asses off in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Thanks for having the opportunity to socialize with Shubha, Lalit and Meera in DC. Thanks to Brandy and Shane, Yeng and JC, Wendy and Jorge, Amelia and Todd, Nathalie and her soon to be husband – for socializing with us in enlightening conversations and company. Thanks for Deborah Lonon to be the amazing woman/friend she is and for never declining a vodka/cran in my house. Thanks for Leon, Louis, Harry and David W for always being there for me. Thanks for my wonderful roommates Terry and Mike and taking care of my house while I am traveling. Thanks for Simba the fluff ball who brings love and joy to mine and other lives. Thanks for the blessing to meet Tiago. Thanks for having the opportunity to work in Joburg and to meet so many amazing people and have so many amazing experiences…thanks for this wonderful and amazing world we live in and the experiences we learn each and every day. Thanks to our Mother Earth for giving us the astonishing gifts every day…

I am quite sure I left out so many wonderful friends and quite important things, I most likely misspelled lots of names/places, so forgive me as it’s certainly not intentional but after such lovely bottle of wine who can remember it all right??? But so you know, you all are in my thoughts and prayers...

With THAT my loving family and friends I’ll let YOU ponder and reflect on YOUR last year events and experiences
Always love and light to you all M.

Apartheid Museum/Nelson Mandela’s house

-The B/W pictures are not mine, but just to give you an idea how emotional it was to go through this museum. - Content not suitable for children!
Weekend 11/7-11/8
Apartheid Museum/Nelson Mandela’s house

Before I get into my next adventure let me tell you bit about the history of Soweto and the historical significance it played. In late 1800’s South Africa experienced incredible gold mining boom. Workers were flocking in not only from all over Africa but European countries as well. In order for the government to keep a lid on the black populations, they moved most of the poor miners and their families to the outskirts of Joburg to keep them separate and confined creating massive townships where people lived/live till today in extreme poverty. Soweto came to be known by the world in 1976 when the government tried to enforce the “Africaan Language” instead of English language in schools stripping the population little by little of their identity. The students organized a peaceful march to deliver a memorandum. However the march did not go as peaceful as thought by the students and organizers alike. The police decided to shut, beat and massacre these poor school children and over 1000s not only the kids but others died during this time. The horrors of the 16th June, 1976 massacre are well documented in the Apartheid museum, which walks you through the horrors of that day and days followed. After these horror events the opposition went underground following the years of prosecution, hunting and discrimination only to finally end the apprehension by first democratic elections in 1994!

So naturally the next stop on our adventure was a visit to the Apartheid Museum and Nelson Mandela’s house. Soweto is not only magical in terms of leaning about the culture and its people but also for many momentous events happened here that eventually helped this country to turn toward the path of democracy. I mean which country can really say that 2 Nobel Peace prize winners come from the SAME Street in the SAME town??? Actually, I can’t think of any other then Soweto as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived here, few blocks away from each other.
It was an amazing feeling to be within the walls of Nelson Mandela’s house where the path for democracy was though and laid out, browsing thorough many speeches, looking through many historical photographs, touching the artifacts remembering the horrors of nights when the police stormed in so many times terrorizing the Mandela’s wife Winnie and their children. Seeing the bullets holes in the walls and imagining what was the life then like and what drove this forefather of South African democracy to never give up on the idea of freedom for the black population and willing to pay the price being beaten, threaten, terrorized and jailed for so many years!?

The journey continued to the Apartheid Museum. I was shocked and deeply moved by the photographs of the horrors, reading thorough the interviews of kids and witnesses, walking though the hallways and just looking and looking in amazement, in deep disbelief that people can be so bloody cruel to one another just because the color of the skin! I was truly ashamed for my race and I was very angry with that government for all the unforgiving and stupid purely stupid rules, thoughts, and apprehension they put on these poor people. I was also shocked to realize that even though the slavery ended in the US in late 1800’s the rest of the world was still in mid’s of discrimination and backwardness until very recent. It’s still hard to believe that the democracy was established here ONLY 15 years ago! I mean we all live in the modern world so how come we are still so ignorant and stupid to discriminate just because your color is different than mine, or you believe in different religion, or you have different sexual orientation and for whatever other reason people tend to discriminate for? Does the color or the religion really matter that much or should we rather look at the people and think that we are all God’s children and your color or your religion does not make you right or a better person then the others? When is the world finally going to wake up? Till today I am astonished to think about all this and I just hope that folks will wake up soon and will do the honorable things we supposed to do while on this Earth!

Plan B – Soweto

Soweto - at least the government provides the "loo"

-Typical street/"houses"

Merchant - selling whatever he was selling.

-Yummee "cow intestines-cooking" and our guide

-Kitchen and "sleeping quarters"

-Typical day in the squatting settlement in Soweto

-The children - no need for comments :)

-Women gambling/-Men gambling on the other side!

-Modern Soweto/power plant/modern homes
Weekend 11/7-11/8

Plan B – Soweto

I did go to work on Friday, at least I saved the day off so I’ll use it for next time. Managed to get back to the hotel at decent time to meet up with Anthony and his wife Cat and their daughter Erin. Very lovely, fun, funny and intelligent couple. Anthony is originally from Kenya however lived in London for at least 10 years, met up with his wife Cat who is originally Irish and now they have a gorgeous little girl 10 month old that was the star of the hotel guests and staff alike. We had few beers as that is much needed relaxation after mad day at work, cursed up a storm on the way things are going at work, but overall great chats!

Since my plans to Lisbon got cancelled I thought what a better weekend to do explorations around Joburg. After all I have not even seen the down town Joburg what a shame! So I booked a trip to go to Soweto! Naaaaah forget the big, tall, glass, concrete jungle of down town, Soweto sounded far more exciting! From what I saw in the movie “Tsotsi”, from what Jane told me about it and the little reading I done, I braced myself to see the reality of extreme poverty, humanity crises at its worst, dirt, disease, and illness everywhere!

Oooh mine was I in for a SURPRISE! Seeeeeeeeeee, this is what I REALLY love about being bitten by the traveling bug! Normally we receive information from media, books, newspapers, friends, etc. We receive, organize and collect the information and we create our own assumptions on how things are or how they function. Perhaps at times we may know the facts however the facts have been given to us by a completely different and unique person. Person with distinctive point of view, different presentation style, use of words, description, verbiage, language, vocabulary, his/hers mood at the time of the story, their education, background…. The list goes on and on and on… we get to read/see about things from their persona point of view not ours. So when we actually come and get to see the reality we may be shocked, overwhelmed, surprised, felt deceived, laid to…etc…but at last at this time we get to create our OWN view and story. And so I did about Soweto and so many other places I visited.

I went with my friend Jeetesh from work – who actually works for the client, and supplies me with beer! Well the nice thing is that our client has a lovely perk for their employees and they get bunch of free beer every month...I guess I know how to choose my friends huh? Naaahhh, I am kidding –the beer is not the only quality for J. I am sure I’ll write about him more in my later chapters…as he got very interesting story to tell. J! – pay back is a “bi…”

The tour guide picked us up in the hotel and off we went… My assumptions of Soweto were so different then the reality, in my mind I pictured little huts and squatting settlements build from boards and metal scraps, very deep red/burgundy dirt roads shimmering in the hot, hot African sun, women carrying water in jugs from far away sources dressed in native clothes, boys playing soccer form a newspaper ball tied up by strings, men listening to local radio…As we actually entered the township, I see all BMW’s and Mercedes passing us by, huge power plant in the distance nicely pained in modern graffiti’s, huge hospital stretching for several blocks, people busy hustling and bustling around, huge stadium ready for the world cup, and of COURSE let’s NOT forget the mall!!! Hmm what happened? The modern era caught up with the old charming Soweto! Yes, indeed in some ways it’s still the same charming Soweto housing more than 4Milion people and considered the biggest town ship in Africa, however is no longer as poor as it was before. The signs of modern technology, urbanization, and better economics certainly affected this adorable place. I was bit disappointed that it has changed so much as I loved the charm/vision of the old Soweto, but at the same time I am very happy for the people are living in better conditions and things are slowly looking out for them. The first stop was actually a squatting settlement. NOW that sounded more as the picture I had in my head! Little squatting houses made up from scrap metals, heavy rocks placed on the top of the roofs so the wind does not blow them away, hot African sun glimmering in the late afternoon’s lazy day reflecting off the dirt road, pack of men drinking beer and “gambling” away, kids running around playing soccer and building castles from dirt, a man cooking cow intestines on the open fire offering us a taste, folks just mining their own business. Though it may look like a scary and very poor area I have not felt threatened a one bit, actually if I had a choice I would love to stay over with one of the families just to experience how the weekend life is. Our tour guide took us to his “sanctuary” that was considered quite luxurious as they actually had slab foundation! Wow is that all they need for luxury?! We walked into the tiny kitchen which had all the necessities family of 5 may need, tiny room where they had TV! Oh yes, and they were “borrowing” the electricity as many other hundreds of thousands families do from the government without paying the bill. And ONE bed…so he explained that he lives with his aunt and uncle and their 2 daughters! Both men sleep on the bed and the women share the slab floor! What the heck!!! I would have kicked his as$ for that one, but I guess here its normal, so I kept my mouth shut, but I really had few naughty words for him after that one! What the heck the men think of themselves that they are the “God’s gift to women or what???”
When in fact men could not survive without women as we RULE!!!! He he he…Sorry you guys but we do RULE!
While walking around I was smitten by the most adorable children I ever saw! They had huge brown eyes, most adoring smiles, cute curly hair, amazing soft dark skin, wearing bit ruggedly and dirty clothes, most of them barefoot, looked well fed and actually happy. They looked so innocent and just stunning! I have seen many children in my life however I have looked at these completely different, as they were even more beautiful and more innocent then I have ever met. I think the main reason is that they grow up in such harsh conditions, playing in the dirt right next to the raw sewage, walking around barefoot, and yet from their little compounds they can see to the other side of the creek with beautiful big homes and fancy cars. When they looked at me with wonder in their eyes I really questioned what they actually thought? They looked so happy with just the little things they had, were they ever wondering how come we are so different or did they even know the difference? I wondered how many of them will have the ability to go to school or even university, how many will end up living in the same squatting settlement as their parents and grandparents? How many will become more and break the barrier and grow into new heights and dimension if they only got the chance to do it? I was also thinking that we all easily can blow through $700 bucks a month on silly things like dinners, Starbucks coffee, or shoes when that would be more than enough to put up a house for another family? Or even better start a school in the settlement where they could come in to learn computers and learn the “other” world that right now may seem so far far away yet only across the creek at the same time? Let’s just say after this visit I was so speechless and emotionally moved, I did not wanted to talk just pray and hope that one day these kids and all less fortunate people in this world will get to experience the “finer” things in life as clean water, or shower, or actually flush toilet rather a raw sewage and dirt.

Till today I am moved and hoping to find a way if not here in South Africa but anywhere in the world to give back and to help and make lives better. One life at a time... it will make the world a much better place.

Lufthansa Troubles...

Weekend 11/7-11/8

Lufthansa Troubles:

This weekend I actually planned to go to Lisbon Portugal. Yah, I know what kind of logic is that going from Joburg to Lisbon for a weekend!? It’s called Miriam’s logic! Ha ha ha, well I got the Friday off, my back pack was packed, the company pays for my flight, got friends to visit and places to see…so why not???

Off I went! Before boarding my flight I stopped at a bar to have a beer or few and a smoke to celebrate my long overdue “DAY OFF”. Not to mention the fact that I was tremendously looking forward going as I hear so many incredible things about Lisbon that I just had to go find out for myself! Sat in my seat of Lufthansa, got organized, relaxed as I was psyching up for the trip I watched the lights in the distance pass by as we were rolling from the gateway to the runway…

GRRR… STOP! Not so relaxed anymore I watched lights to pass me by as we were rolling from the runway BACK to gateway! Well I know I had couple of beers but am I really dreaming? The captain comes on “Ladieeeeeeeeees and gentleman…announcing in his deep circus announcers voice in funny German accent “We have a technical difficulty with hydraulics on the wing, we are looking at the issue and we should be moving in 30 minutes” An hour later, he tells us “hmm the problem is bit bigger than first thought, we are currently looking for the spare part in Johannesburg” Now he got my attention!!! Oh shiatze!!!! They are looking for a spare part on Thursday night @ 9.30 in Joburg??? Good luck! We are not leaving!

Well my assumptions were correct, after 4 hours on the plane, with no air, food or water, they finally announced that the flight is cancelled and rescheduled to Friday. NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! I wanted to scream out loud!!! I wanted to kick someone’s ass so badly!!! But nothing I would do would make the situation better! Hmm my wheels were spinning…but there was nothing I could figure out to do, even though for the most part I can quite excel in crisis management, I quickly realized that this one is out of my hands. To travel the next day (Friday) for me is not good!!! As it would literally mean get to Lisbon, see some historical sites, have some fun and come back! So I decided to completely cancel the trip and come up with plan B.

Ahhh I was so so heartbroken and disappointed. But I guess me trying to find the positive in everything, I figured it’s better to be on the ground and safe, rather than discover the “mechanical problem” up 30,000 feet! Anyways I also made a conscious decision that from now on I’ll never fly Lufthansa again as their fleets are way too old and I am NOT risking to miss another trip!

About Jaco...

Bit more about Jaco.

So Jaco is truly an interesting person. At times I am very puzzled how he makes it though the day, as he is vibrating in such higher energy and flying in the heights to us only imaginable and the physical plane does not mean much to him. He is surely a white African, bright blue eyes, fluffed up blond hear all over the place, happy smile at all times, and very happy, joyous person. He was born to a privileged white African family proud of their heritage and lots of wrong ideas/assumptions about the black folks. Somehow his best friend turn out to be small black boy from the nearby village and by spending so much time hanging out with this black boy he learned the language of Songoma’s before he even learned African which was truly a shame on his family. Ever since he was a young kid he was incredibly connected with nature and the plants. At early age he decided to run from home to find his own way. He went to a black village and was accepted by the local tribe. The medicine man of the village called “Songoma” took fond of this young boy and was teaching him the magic of plants and ancestors. He spent several months out of the year just traveling with the Songomas learning and experiencing. His thirst for knowledge of the nature quickly outgrew the simplicity of Songomas and he went off to find his own path. He studied hard and became an “herbalist” over 20 years ago. His life if interviewed with very interesting stories which I am collecting every time I speak with him and one day I’ll write a book on his stories and experiences. He used to have quite successful herbal business in Cape Town, but moved due to his kids to Joburg. He finds Joburg quite challenging as he actually have to advertise his business to make money which does not make any sense to his spirited soul. We started to discover the idea of seminars, and if for anything I am inspiring him to do some wonderful seminars on energy healing and herbs. Folks today are more and more turning toward the natural ways of healing rather the spending tons of money for medicine that pushes the symptom down rather than solves the problem, despite the aggressing advertisement of huge pharmaceutical companies. He makes herbal tinctures, oils, lotions, soaps, perfumes, and many other things which I have not tapped into. I hope by hanging around him I’ll learn some of the magic of herbs and their healing abilities in order to pass the knowledge on. He reminds me off this “happy go lucky” type of guy who is never concerned with the money or survival, as he always has the inner knowledge that he will be always fine, rather he is concerned with healing and helping others no matter of the financial incentives. I have never met a person like him before and I am stunned by amazement how things just purely work for him.

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

Weekend 10/31-11/01

Day 2 St. Lucia and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

The next day I was up early again and we took off to go to the St.Lucia Park; we drove through it but did not see many of the animals perhaps the growls of my upset stomach were keeping them away. Though I did have lovely wake up call. As we were entering the park I decided to take a nice shot of the sunrise, but the fence was in my way, so I got closer and closer and then “Zzzzzzzzaaaaaaaappppppp” I was electricuted by the freaking fence! I jumped as if a wasp stung me and jumped up and down like mad Miriam! He he he, what a lovely wake up call. My dear friends, if a double espresso does not do it for you early morning hours, get zapped by the electric as I can assure you that truly works! As for the rest of the day despite my upset stomach I was quite alert and zapping everyone and everything around me…!

We got to the place by the Indian Ocean called “the Rock” and what an amazing place. The sand dunes were huge, according to the captain of the boat ride from yesterday the sand dunes are over 150 meters tall and they grow 7 centimeters per year. These are the 2nd tallest sand dunes in the world after some in Australia. Amazing beach vegetation was growing on them, and we wondered upon a beach were on one side we had tall sand dunes, in the middle 2 million year old fossilized oyster beds and at the end crashing waves of the Indian Ocean! What a site! What a place! Since it was quite early in the morning, the beach was deserted so we wondered aimlessly around, picking up rocks and shells and playing like a kids in the pools created by million years of erosion and pounding waves of the ocean! The moments were magical and what a spot for prefect mediation! Once we walked out of the magical land the day was bright, happy and sunny!

We went back to the guest house, packed our stuff and took off for Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve which was on our way home. We entered the park to find out that foreigners have to pay 3x the entrance fee as the locals.... hmm what kind of discrimination should I call this one? Despite the hefty fee, the park is truly a jewel in the Zulu land. Surrounded by rolling hills, bushy and vibrant vegetation, tons of amazing wildlife for viewing, winding river in the valley, and lovely Zulu huts on the way. Loved every bit of this park. We saw many amazing animals, lots of giraffes, gazelles, water bucks, spring bucks, other kind of bucks, wild bores, colorful bird spices, of course the rhinos and even a water bull in the distance. I think the most amazing one was to come across a family of 4 HUGE rhinos with a little baby rhino roaming around us. They were ready to cross the road when we showed up. I do not think they can see very well, but they saw us and would not move, so they stood there kept looking at us, us looking at them and each of us holding breath on what is going to happened next. I guess the rhinos got tired of standing still, so they just lied down and it was funny to see how they put down and pick up their massive bodies. I do not know how to tell the difference between white and black rhinos, though all I know that these were incredibly massive and their horns were SOOOO huge and just absolutely PERFECT! What a magnificent display of Mother Nature at its best! It took us several hours to pass though this park, as every curve, every turn and every bush was hiding more and more surprises for us and each time we saw something new we went “uhhhh”, “ahhh”, “look…look”. We completely lost the point of time and distance and just soaked the nature in and tremendously enjoyed every moment of this was and beautifully rugged place.

Well after that it took us forever to get back to Joburg, as the road was winding around gorgeous valleys and mountains, rivers and scenic Zulu villages with the most stunning sunset ever! What a beautiful site! When we got back to Joburg it was late and I could barely stand still on my feet. I was exhausted with the incredible moments of the day and more then anything with the exhausting drive back. As I was failing asleep pictures of animals were running through my head and I could not help but to smile and thank Lord for all this beauty that has been brought to my life.