Posted in Friends, Kind Businesses

Justice ‘Restored’ in Stellenbosch

Here’s something we can all agree on: It’s nice to see good things happen to good people.

And anybody who knows Justice knows what I’m talking about.

Justice Shamba is one of my favorite people that I encounter during my frequent outings in the town of Stellenbosch, where I live. Earlier this year, I used to see him nearly every morning after class at my favorite local yoga studio on Andringa Street. He worked next door, serving up Hazz coffee behind a neighboring retail shop window.

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Posted in Prose, Strangers

A message to the sidewalk sleeper that he will never hear

When I woke this morning, I heard you fighting across the street with Cleopatra in the vacant lot that you both regularly inhabit.
A Wednesday morning turf war.

We started calling her Cleopatra when we moved in last year.
Every night I would hear her from the vacant lot, screaming the most pearl-clutching Afrikaans profanities at phantom companions.
I would count the number of times she would shriek “Jou ma se….####!” until I could finally fall asleep.

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Posted in Poetry, Prose, Strangers

To the Lost: A bricolage poetry series

On Sunday, May 31st, my favorite newspaper, The New York Times, published a list of nearly 100,000 names of the victims of COVID-19 in the United States. On its front cover were the names of 1,000 victims, along with their ages, locations, and a brief line from their obituaries.

I was struck by the array. Some of the lines read like poetry, some made me laugh aloud, and some made my heart ache in their brevity. I imagined each of the people behind these names, and I winced painfully at the thought of many of them dying alone, without their families surrounding them. This tribute from the Times affords them even the slightest recognition of a life lived and now concluded, with dignity.

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Posted in Strangers

A true ‘kind eyes in strange places’ moment!

Posted in Nature Writing, Travel Writing

Gorilla trekking (part 2)

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[Uganda, Part II] • When we were close, our guide pulled us close and gave us a quick primer: stay 7 meters away, don’t make loud noises or impersonate the gorillas, don’t call them over to you but if they approach you, act natural. We could take photos, but no flash and nothing cheeky. We were in their home, and the bottom line was to deeply respect them during our visit. • We had one hour. • • During John’s little pep-talk, Carla and I saw a gorilla in a tree, just in view. We both equally suppressed squeals and then tried to get John to finish his schpeel—every single one of us was buzzing with anticipation. • • When our guides led us to the Nshongi family, it was a juvenile male of 4 or 5 that we had seen sitting in a tree. He was casually munching on a branch and looking at us, thoroughly unphased yet certainly not welcoming. The first thing I remember him doing was taking a nice, long, uninhibited fart to welcome us. • • Two babies came over to join him. They tumbled and played like the tree limbs were a jungle gym which, I guess to baby gorillas, they most definitely are. And then, the silverback. The head honcho, the pater familias. Each gorilla family has one alpha male (all other males have to abscond from the group upon maturing, or challenge the silverback for his throne.) This silverback was 32. He’d been in this forest, living his life, against the toughest of odds, since 3 years before I arrived on this planet. I chewed on that thought as I watched him exist. • • His back looked bald but it shone metallic and silver in the sun. He acknowledged the two babies in the tree above him and chewed some more, a mere body’s length away from us. This was certainly less than a 7 meter distance, but our guides and the trackers kept cutting down obstructing brush with their machetes and drawing us to come closer. • • Two adult females came out of the brush and began to lodge under a shaded tree next to us. The silverback went to join them, crossing clear in front of us, and the 3 of them laid, lazily grunting and picking each other’s fur (what I learned is an action of friendliness and fidelity.) • • (Continued in comments)

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Posted in Nature Writing, Travel Writing

Gorilla trekking (part 1)

Posted in Prose, Travel Writing

Unconventional Types of Loneliness: A List

You know that adage about how Inuits have 47 different words for ‘snow?’ I think about that sometimes when I come across a feeling that can’t be explained, or one that doesn’t seem to fit into an appropriate category. Maybe we just don’t have a word for it in my mother tongue. Or maybe the closest word just falls short? Such is the case with loneliness. Wouldn’t you agree?

It’s such an intricate feeling, it can encompass so many different experiences. Loneliness isn’t always a sad feeling, and it isn’t even always experienced in solitude. It’s possible to be lonely in the middle of a room full of people, or on the happiest day of your life. It transcends.

A few months ago I came across a post from Mari Andrew, one of my favorite writers on Instagram, where she outlines different types of loneliness (I’ve included her greatness at the bottom of this post). I loved it, like I do with most of her stuff. But one type of loneliness that she included just hit me right in the gut: “Loneliness of needing to verbally process with someone who is trapped in another time zone.” This! This.

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Posted in Personal Update, Prose

Radical Acts of Gratitude

It is a Wednesday in November. And I feel heavy.

I’m halfway through one of those weeks that started off bad and quickly got worse. My mind is spinning with tasks of privilege. I mentally recount all that is wrong: My puppy has her period (for 22 days and counting) and she is bleeding all over everything. Our washing machine is broken. Our cleaning lady bailed on us three weeks ago and we haven’t heard from her since then.

I cross Borcherd Street from my apartment to the vacant lot with the Bluegum tree, adjacent to the public parking lot on the corner of Banhoek and Andringa. Moira is perched under the tree like always; Dino isn’t far away. They both approach me with gusto and I can tell that even though it’s 11 am, they’re both three sheets to the wind. Dino asks where my dog is while Moira hugs me and asks me to buy them a loaf of bread. Sometimes she is very belligerent and sneers at me when I walk by, muttering under her breath in Afrikaans. Today she tells me I look beautiful and tells me, “I’ll be waiting for you, sweetie.” She will forget about me by the time I walk back home.

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