Tag Archives: south africa

reasons to visit south africa / avoid FIFA crowds

apartheid museum

a friends chandelier. you won't get to see it. But it's THERE.


protea — CONNECTION — plett and grandmother

queen protea

The year we spent waiting for my grandmother to die has come and gone. Mostly I ran on beaches and clambered through trails overlooking the meeting of Atlantic and Indian oceans. Plettenburg Bay – a place tourists spend thousands of dollars to reach. They plunge from the highest bungee jump in the world and watch herds of whales drift by – a watery safari.

I am 10 years old. In front of me lies my grandmother; her body stretched to either edge of a splintered wooden box. Mother’s mother. Stuffed tightly around her edges are queen proteas. They overwhelm her. Their furry thick petals and wild green leaves look like heaven (not in the religious sense but the feeling of it). Her casket is awkwardly placed on the coffee table. It pushes up against the green couch, she had chosen to face sliding screen doors overlooking a hilltop of proteas and the distant sea. There was importance and there was vague memory before death, after death and in-between.

I knew my mother was there, at her bedside, when everything slipped away. Their two hands clasped, my grandmother’s breath growing shallow (as I’ve heard it does when death is slow to come).

I don’t walk up to the box that holds her awkward shape; long, cold, stiff. I obsess over the wild beauty that surrounds her. Flowers soft to touch. I imagine her closer, I touch her skin – pull on it.

Family gathers around a deep hole in the garden. I don’t come within five feet of the hole as I watch each person drop handfuls of dirt into it. I’m not afraid of seeing the box carefully placed in its cavity. I’m scared of standing in front of a crowd. Like a magnet, I stick to the side of my mother. Her edges are corduroy, soft and crumpled.

All faces are a blur, except for my aunts. Her yellowish skin and excessive sniveling shock me. She sucks in air through her nose. Every movement made is monstrous and cruel. All else is fine. The air that wraps her face is new air, thin and whispery. The grass under her feet perfectly kept, sculpted around a wild garden. The rest is sea, dirt, tree and protea – a good death.

broadcast bob — a story from a former prisoner of war who got his start in broadcast during WWII

Today Canada remembers veterans of war. I spoke to my great uncle Bob about his experiences as a POW as well as his journey through a broadcasting career. This audio piece was used a few weeks ago in At Humber, our daily hour long current affairs show out of Humber College. The show is produced by final year journalism students at Humber and is broadcast on 96.9FM Radio Humber. Enjoy the story. Everyone should interview their elders about the past, there are so many stories out there.


radio LOVE –CONNECTION– Mandela’s release, Feb. 1990

My radio on the right is over 23 years old and still working.

My radio on the right is over 23 years old and still working.

I really got addicted to radio at the age of seven, upon the completion of almost a year living in Canada. Sitting practically on top of a small metal encased radio, I was afraid of just one word escaping me and as a result all other content becoming disjointed and placed out of context. While listening attentively to the lyrics of a song or a talk radio show I still become frustrated when others feel the need to start blabbing overtop the sound waves.

It was February 11, 1990. Mandela had just been released and CBC’s Cross Country Check-Up (a call in show) was chiming in. If my memory is not playing tricks on me I believe Rex Murphy was hosting at the time. Later on that day the whole family would be glued to a TV for at least an hour. Who was this mysterious man that most South Africans revered, but who many were taught to fear?

As commentary filtered in and out from across the country I began concocting my own words. I imagined how MY voice would resonate from one end of Canada to the other. There were guests throughout the show, South Africans with some insight into this momentous occasion.

If Canadians felt they had something important to share on the matter I knew that I definitely did as well.

“Mom, I think I want to call in.” I pronounced. Some friends were over as well and they all encouraged me to go for it. My arm was a little shaky as I gripped the phone and dialed. I paced the kitchen a little, just like you see nervous people do in the movies, exactly like that. After some time I got through and was placed on the waiting list.

I don’t remember my exact words, but I do know that they were placed carefully, thought over and edited down. The gist was that I expressed why I thought Mandela’s release was so important and what it meant. I think Rex said something very generous about my insight and his guest attentively responded… Beyond that I’m not sure of the details. It was pretty exciting to be on the radio though and a good day to participate. Radio LOVE from then on.

Nelson Mandela addresses Parliament in June, 1990 soon after his release.

BBC broadcast on release of Nelson Mandela

pink elephants –CONNECTION– mpumalanga, south africa


anna and jamie

Elephants emerge everywhere in pop-culture, to sell product, and in ancient-traditions, as symbols of wisdom, nobility and gentle strength.

It is obvious that large, apparently gentle, and beautiful animals are major selling points when it comes to the protection of wildlife. But how can the graphic of an Elephant or a Polar Bear protect Hungerford’s Crawling Beetle, a tiny yellowish, brown creature found in streams connected to the Great Lakes. It can’t unfortunately but humans seem to be attracted to big, cute and cuddly or colourful, edgy and therefore ‘totally cool’. Yellowish brown is not that hip in tiny crawly form.

And so on a hot winters day (August 2008) in a north-eastern nook of South Africa I too was enticed by a lovely pair of elephants presented on two dangly earrings. What’s more, they were pink elephants, and they’d been painted in circus like attire for my fashion conscious purposes, elephants that pop.

I had just completed a short hike to view God’s Window with Anna and Jamie, two friends from North Carolina. Gods Window is just west of Kruger National Park and near the little town of Graskop. For us city dweller / consumer types it connects the experience of viewing natural objects in nature with our spiritual sensibility AND with product. Like many stops along the Kruger National Park route, vendors wait on tourists filtering in from around the world.
Generally not a shopper, the experience simply stresses me out, I will avoid stuff and anyone pushing me towards a particular product. In this instance, however, there were few tables, it was a dusty warm day and the absence of department store music put my body at ease. Pink elephants will now connect me to the details of that day. Sometimes stuff makes you remember.

Pink elephants = A slow stumble towards the precipice of Gods view, its window; and I can dress her / him / it up in whatever clothing I wish. Maybe I am the God of Gods Window.

Pink elephants = road trip across South Africa, with two gutsy and glorious girls from North Carolina (from a cultural reality that through their stories, I learnt a lot about).

No human could deny, Gods Window has a spectacular view and is even a spiritual experience (whatever that may mean). Maybe it was made more spectacular by the fact that, the projection of my life has increasingly steered me towards the city and away from a small town setting. Everything not made by a being looking like me feels unique and of-course romantic (that’s a selling point). Aaaaaaaaahhh wins you over every time.landscape_vert