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#Internationalmountainday: It’s like moving mountains

By now, you are well aware that I love the outdoors. If not, welcome to my blog. In this post, I would like to highlight how hiking is like moving mountains for a millennial hustling on the university. It turns out that the crunching sound and whistling noise of the Cape Doctor puts many minds at rest. But, it is not always readily available as we think.

This is just one take on how the cost to something at the foot of your campus can mean the value of your safety, time and friendship. This is a reflective piece on how access to something as clear-cut as a mountain, a walk in the park and sometimes just wine tasting requires the person to step outside their comfort zone and walk with others on edge.

I am a Matie. To those who do not know, it means that I have registered, paid my fees and graduated from Stellenbosch University. I am a product of Stellenbosch University. I am what you can say a product of the good, the bad and the ugly. As a result, I know what it is like to be isolated because of race, religion and ideological beliefs. I am also privileged to be one of many matriculants awarded an opportunity to study because of the recruitment bursary.

That said, I have also become more of myself because of this institution. I have come to embrace nature as it was on my doorstep. To commemorate #Internationalmountainday, I would like to acknowledge that because of Stellenbosch University, ENSTB and a small group in the heart of Stellenbosch, I was able to forge a relationship with people from different racial groups, walks of life, sexual orientations, religions and age groups.

Stellenbosch University is seated at the foot of Coetzenberg Mountains. Yet, many students are unable to join hiking societies such as BTK, i.e. Berg Toer en Klim on campus. Yes, it is readily available for students. It is really cheap to join society. I won’t say that they exclude students. Never. I do not know the history of the organization. But, that small fee was too much when you have class from 8: 00 until 17:00.

Then again, the cost of the hiking society was too much when you had to take care of your family members on weekends. The small cost of joining society was too much as they asked you to bring along things which you just could not afford at the time. So, you opt out. You excuse yourself. You forget that these societies exist on campus.

People say you don’t speak about it all the time. You might tell me. Why, Gabby? Why remind us of things that students don’t complain about. We do not speak about it. Why make an issue of it? It’s just a field trip. It’s just a hike. You should be studying after all. Well, I would like to draw your attention to a small thing that can exclude someone just because it is impossible to include on your small student budget.

The reality is that when you study a BSc or take on additional modules to count for your HERMIS. You do not have time to do the things that most people do.

I should perhaps remain quiet about it. But, the reality is that you wait until vacation or the end of the semester to actually hike. But, then. With who can you hike? You cannot hike with members of your community. Because, you left your Coloured community to study in a different town, a different city. So, who are they to you to ask the neighbors. They are not your hiking buddies.

So, you wait. You wait until someone from campus invite you on a walk to Jonkerhoek or Lions Head, Table Mountain, Scarborough, Kirstenbosch, and Tygerberg Hills. You are reminded by your community that remembers those are “white” people or scouts things.

How did I come to terms with a narrative that hiking is for a particular group of people? How did I shift my thinking against a voice that said it is never safe for women in South Africa to walk alone in Rhode Memorial site? How did I shift my thinking and actions about walking and running in the hills and valleys of my beautiful motherland?

And, yes. It was a mental shift. It was moving from rock bottom. I had to shift my thoughts from chances are that I will be mugged in Cape Town. I had to change my thinking that it would be safer to be among men than women when I am out in the mountains. But, it had to start with accepting the invitation.

Trevor Noah jokes that “Black” people in the generic sense of the term do not do what “White” people want to do in fear of being reminded of poverty. They will not camp in a shack or the outdoors because it tells them of their past. Well, I would like to add to his comment that millennials hustling on university or jobs do not participate in extracurricular activities similar to their wealthier colleagues or classmates are because they are pushing. You are given a choice, and then you renegotiate the terms of participating in social activities.

Things changed for me the moment I left my bubble. I had to shift the thinking, and the narrative perpetuated by my community which I was raised in that things were off limits to me. Apartheid is over. But, the descriptions of exclusion still exists within our communities. It is subtle and pervasive. It might not come from your parents. But, you hear it from friends and family.

It took me a while, but over time, I came to realize that there are beautiful things that you are at liberty to enjoy. Yes, you are hustling to finish a degree. Yes, you are working two jobs. Yes, your parents took a loan to help you through private schooling. But, you are at liberty to live. You are at liberty to walk with the people that appear to make it on varsity.

Samantha, Precious and I started a friendship in the darkest time of our lives. We knew each other as acquaintances in church, and in class. We honestly got to know each other when we walked down the lanes of Stellenbosch. We truly learned from one another when we walked along the coast for hours on end. And, the pounding of our feet, the swaying of our arms and the beats of your hearts knew no age, race or color.

A hiking buddy knows the importance of walking with you. I hope that like many before and many to come in my life. People will realize that hiking is genuinely an act that not everyone can take. It appears that it is readily available to all. But, it’s not.

International Mountains Day commemorate the key hiking trails and mountains across the world. I would like to highlight that it will take a mental shift to have everyone enjoy the beauty of hiking, walking or sitting in the mountains. It is not as readily available to everyone as we post online. So, when you can afford it, feel safe to do it or have the opportunity to invite a student or colleague…just do it.

Invite the person who is hustling or worked themselves to the bone. You never know if you are moving mountains for them. Feel free to post comments on how you have assisted a millennial or colleague hustling this year. How have you moved a mountain for someone?

 

 

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To the rebel, I never said, “I love you”.

all the boys I loved

Tonight, I am medicating myself. I have had neck spasms and headaches for a few days now. Initially, I thought it was because I had terrible sleeping positions. Then, this morning, I could not lift my head without using my hand. It was terrible.

I reached out to a friend and my co-teacher, six hours later, I visited an orthopaedic doctor in Gochang. I received treatment in five minutes. I had Xrays done. I received my medication and had acupuncture done.

I was off to bed. Checked in with my friends on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat, SMS, email and Skype. Then, I went to bed. I told most people that I survived a Korean medical checkup. It was really good, affordable and nonjudgemental.

But, it was the movie that I watched after my nap that made me stop and think. It made me want to apologise to all the people that I wrote about that I never got the courage to say, I love you.

I know you might be thinking, why Gabby, why. Well, people have been ridiculing the whole Asian movie boom. Please select the following link to see actual reviews on the movie, https://planamag.com/to-all-the-boys-i-ve-loved-before-has-creepy-racial-things-going-on-ad513e4dd470. Also, there are so much written about Korean Pop and K DRAMA. And, truth be told, I am not a fan of Korean Pop or Drama. I love Indian Drama. I love how women and men go to these outlandish extremes to be with one another. And, dance or sing about it. So, if I wanted a drama set, I do Indian Dramas.

But, tonight. I watched “To all the Boys I wrote love letters” on Netflix. And, I want to say that in some ways, I know the feeling. I was this girl in so many ways. I wrote about so many people I liked. I was very cryptic about it and sometimes so overt.

But, I was never real to one person who I knew meant the world to me in high school. I think it would be awkward, to say the least, if this person knew now. But, screw it. I am done with faking a lot of things in my life.

I won’t mention names. I will say that when a clever, very reserved person fall for the school rebel or jock. It goes against everything you stand for. You try to fight it. You deny the existence of your emotions and feelings. You try to rationalise that in this world two opposites and that law of opposites attract do not exist.

So, I fell hard for a guy once. But, I was so caught up in the fact that I was a new girl at a school. I didn’t want to be trashed as the girl who moved from a private school to a public school. He had a reputation. He was known as the male whore.

Yet, people did not know that he was smart. He was hot. He was real. We could speak about anything. Literally, anything under the sun. But, I have one rule and one rule only in school. Do not be the Pastor’s kid with a reputation for being slutty.

And, I put off dating to save my reputation. I was not going to use high school as a way of rebelling against my parents. There is a common truth that Pastor’s kids are known to be the worse sinners. Well, deceit and deception is something we learn from a young age. You learn to cloak your emotions. You avoid opening up to people. You tell them a version of the truth that would make them comfortable enough to know that you are still human.

To be honest, I want to apologise to the rebel that I never expressed my emotions. I created an invisible contract between us. And, I am sorry. I know right now that you have a life partner. The last time we actually spoke was in 2008, April. We said that everything would be okay after leaving high school. But, it never returned to normal. I felt used by you.

To be honest, my parents did have the over eighteen dating rule. But, in my mind, I had this rule throughout my entire formative years. I was not going to be typecast as another slutty pastor’s kid or your conquest. And, I pushed everyone away who tried to start a relationship.

Then, I watched this movie highly medicated. I want to say that I have learnt the following:

  • Don’t hide from the rebel. He will find your letter.

I am a very shy person. I am worse when I like someone. So, I am sorry for not reciprocating. At the time, I was super introverted. All I could see was that you were a rebel. You smoked, drank and had a motorcycle. You were a PK, and I was not going to date another PK. We know that we are damaged goods. And, I was not ready emotionally for it.

  • Don’t let your secrets out on paper with an address.

Right, here I am blogging about my high school crush. But, I feel this is cathartic. I am sorry for writing about you and not being honest about my final year in school. I have three guy friends whom I will go to the grave for. My parents know about it. And, I think that you know it by now.

I remember that I was shocked the first time a guy friend told his girlfriend’s mom about me. I won’t forget the day that I visited my friend’s girlfriend’s house. Silly me. I thought that I was going to do a casual visit, show her my matric ball photos and the photos of us.

I never got to tell you after our matric ball or pram.

G told K’s mom that she should remember that there will always be another woman in his life. There will be his mom, sister and then me. I did not know if I should be offended or loved. But, I saw K’s Mom’s face. She was disgusted when I walked in the door and said, hi mam, I am Gabriela.

Her response remains with me today.

“ Oh, so you the Gabriela”.

I am sorry that I am choosing paper once again to say that you were right once. There was more to us than just friends.

  • Be careful when you dump a friend before leaving for university.

I am sorry that I dumped you as my friend when I left for varsity. I was an ass. I was scared that things will become serious and you won’t take up the opportunity to travel. So, I called it quits. I was a mean girl. And, I ghosted you.

Perhaps, if the turn of events was different. Perhaps, you have a different narrative of how our relationship ended. But, I am still sorry for not staying in touch. I know that you had a good relationship with my family.

  • Be honest about your fake contract.

We did not state things clearly to one another. There was always something hidden. A hidden script if you call it what it is. Really, the other thing you should know about being a Pastor’s kid. I was not prepared to date another Pastor’s son. We were from different denominations. At the time, I was reminded by my church that “you can never be unevenly yoked”. So, us being together would not make sense for our parents.

I am sorry. I was not thinking about us. I was thinking about our family ties. I was a kid from a Pentecostal church. You were from a very conservative Dutch reformed church. Also, your family was super famous. I was not ready for it. I wanted to live an anonymous life. I still do.

We sat in the front row. And, people think it is okay. I dread sitting in the front pew. All, I wanted to do in high school was be invisible. Us being friends was a spotlight. But, you created a private space too. Thank you. I am sorry that I didn’t see it, then.

  • Learn from the imaginary or fantasy you create about relationships.

Perhaps, I did imagine everything. Maybe, just maybe…There was nothing between us.

But, I do recall you asking me to go with you to Oxford. And, I was scared like hell. I was scared you would desert me there. I was afraid that the moment we arrive and you were with your family, I would not matter anymore.

I should have known better. I guess. You never left my side when we changed schools. You protected me when I allowed you. I was, no, I am an aloof person. So, I am sorry for not trusting that our relationship was real. Our friendship at least was real. And, that you would protect me wherever we go.

I just didn’t know the future. I should have known. No one knows the future.

  • Don’t be ashamed to tell the world that your best friend is a guy.

I will be the best man at someone’s wedding. I was so scared of admitting it. I was ashamed that I had very few female friends. I could relate so much with my guy friends. There was no BS. So, I have been asked many times to be the best man, and I turned it down because I was so concerned about what others would think. What society would think of me dressed in a tux on hills?

Well, I am sorry for not being public about our relationship. You and G have been so close to me. I could not have asked for better friends in high school.

I hated school. I was bullied. I was taunted. Girls physically and verbally abused me. But, changing schools and meeting you, changed my views on life. You and G were rebels. You were everything the world would say was bad for a naïve girl from Rhenish Girls High school, a 17-year-old. But, you saved me from attempting suicide again. Thank you.

  • Tell people your true feelings.

I was raised never to tell people your true emotions. They will use it against you. So, I am sorry. I am sorry that I didn’t get to say thank you.

  • Thank you for helping me work through a tough time in my life.
  • Thank you for moving with me to a new school when the teacher’s strike affected us.
  • Thank you for seeing the good in me when I didn’t see it.
  • Thank you for being yourself, even, when I rebelled against the type that I like.

I would like to end by saying, I do not regret being your friend. We are miles away from one another. I know that you left for our neighbouring country. Well, it took me a while to leave. Life happened. You know how it goes.

But, I think this movie reminded me of what I couldn’t do as a young woman on high school. I placed other’s needs before my own. And, I am sorry. I should have said it. But, that’s life too. The should have. Would have’s. It is all part of life.

PS:

To the readers of this blog. Do watch this movie on Netflix. I know it is cringe-worthy. You will judge the racial slurs. You will judge how they stereotype mixed – racial couples. You will see the authors of the Netflix movie drew on a lot of stereotypes and Korean dramas to support racially biased towards second generation American Korean families. It was a good movie to watch while medicated.

My neck still hurts, but I can sleep. I can sleep knowing that I do not need a social contract to be involved in a relationship as a PK. I need trust. So, I am writing this to shed light on my stereotype as a PK once in high school with a crush.

But, to my friends and family who might come across this post. Perhaps, now you will understand why I like an intelligent, extroverted, alpha personality, man – bun, hippie or very jock kinda person. The fit person is sexy. I am sorry, I do not think this will change now.

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Two worlds collide

Two worlds collide

My two worlds collided when I stood on the stage of my former high school to deliver the Rachel’s Angels Annual Lecture. The reality of my life came in clear view. The one public school that gave me an opportunity and the mentorship programme where I volunteered at Stellenbosch University hosted an event. I was granted an opportunity to address my former high school teachers and my current friends and mentors from Stellenbosch University.

I can devote this post to my speech that night. Also, I can write about meeting Jo-Ann Strauss. Instead, I aim to focus on when your past and present experience merge – what do you do with that opportunity?

For four years, I volunteered in a mentorship programme at Stellenbosch University. Media24, Stellenbosch University and 21 public schools had hosted several workshops and social entrepreneurship initiatives to assist students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. I entered this programme as I knew what it meant to have a mentor. I truly understood the value of a mentor for a Person of Colour in a community who shuns academically inclined students.

People are proud of you when they see your awards. They are proud when they see the accolades. But, they do not provide a stimulating environment for students who are raised in a community where working or pursuing academics are perceived as placing pressure on your parents. For years, my family and church friends felt that my parents were over-investing in my life. It was never easy to speak or communicate with community friends my age about aspiring to become a professional outside the norms.

But, I had teachers and parents who never stopped believing in me.

Hence, I am a firm believer of coaching or mentorship programmes. I can say that it is never easy to participate in a mentorship programme or start one. But, it is rewarding for the mentee and mentor. For further information concerning mentorship programmes at Stellenbosch University or Media24 mentoring programme follow the link below.

My reality is that I was a grade 12 learner who was affected by the 2007 national public service strike (Slaughter, 2007). I know that SADTWU and many teachers will confess that it was worthwhile. There were a cost and benefit analysis done in commencing national teachers strike. No doubt. The work environment and conditions for teachers need to change across the globe.

But, I was affected by this experience. For four months, I was without teachers at Kuils River Technical High School. We would attend school as learners hoping and praying that someone will teach us something. The begging and pleas persisted for months. Finally, my parents searched for a school that was willing to take a Grade 12 learner three weeks before the MOCK examination would commence.

And, they did. I won’t forget the date. It was the 18th of April 2007. My parents sat me down and told me the news. I didn’t have time to inform my friends. I had to leave the next day. I was transferred from a Technical school to a public school.

I thought my world would come to an end. I did not have months to adapt or adjust. I was forced to reconcile the reality that I was in a public school surrounded by 48 students in one classroom intended for 25 learners.

I had to come to terms with girls fighting with one another about boyfriends. I had to see how queer men were seen as acceptable, but queer women were frowned upon. While attending the school, I had to face teachers sneering remarks. I was called “alien”, “unwanted” and merely not part of the real school.

But, amidst this chaos. The principal and my Mathematics teacher remained constant. They saw me for who I am. Despite having completed my portfolio at my previous school or having to adapt to the large classes or the manner kids spoke to one another in public schools, they never left me alone.

Therefore, the night, I returned to my high school to speak about mentorship. I chose not to focus on the negative things that happened. I chose to acknowledge the mentors in my life.

Since, then, I have started and participated in mentorship and coaching initiatives in every work environment. I realised that your worlds will collide. The past and present. You will need to deal with and manage these two worlds and opportunities that create doors to enhance your skillset.

My school environment was fraught with ups and downs. I could be resentful of the South African Education system. I can be resentful to my parents for moving. I can hate my bullies, teachers and my community. Instead, I have learnt how to adapt. My past has taught me how to become a flexible worker.

As a result, I am less stressed about changes in the work environment. I know change is the one constant in my life. I have come to terms that your audience in life will reemerge. And, when you are the speaker do not use the platform to wound those who have hurt you.

An opportunity to speak to your past and present audiences, ie. Acquaintances, friends and family are rare occasions. Do not waste it with the details of the past. Create this as an opportunity to meet people at a middle ground. The audience can teach you something when you embrace them for who they are in this particular moment.

Reference:

Ras, M. 2011. Rachels Angels Trust. A CSI campaign. Available at: https://www.behance.net/gallery/1937283/Media24-Rachels-Angels-Trust (Accessed: 16 August 2018).

Van Dyk, G. 2014. Mentor inspires new generation. Available at: https://dokumen.tips/documents/tygerburger-elsiesrivier-7-may-2014.html (Accessed: 16 August 2018).

Slaughter, B. 2007.South Africa: COSATU calls off public service strike. Available at:

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2007/07/safr-j14.html. (Accessed: 16 August 2018).

SAM_0923

Resource:

Stellenbosch University

Centre for Student Development

Website:

http://www0.sun.ac.za/ssg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=215&Itemid=1072&lang=en

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“My first encounters with SAFFAs”: The representation of Uncle Trevor and Bra Trevor in South Korea.

So, you’re from South Africa. I know that place. Your accent, it sounds familiar. You must be from Cape Town… (sic). Right, I know Cape Town. And, I know South Africa because of Trevor (Incheon, February 2018).

Trevor Noah

trevor manuel

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were the responses upon discovering my nationality by Expats in Korea. The introduction, the very first encounter with a South African is what stood out for me. I could see that many of the  Guest English Teachers had some or other encounter with “one bff”, i.e. A South African. It was not the joke, oh, I have a black friend. No, in the teaching community, people will say…I have one South African friend. Then, there was Trevor.

 

At the Spring 2018 EPIK Orientation closing ceremony, the MC asked people to stand as he hailed their country. Members of the audience stood up. Every person cheering along as they stood up as a patriotic act. But, the remark that he made about South Africans left me wondering about our selection or what being a South African abroad meant.

 

The MC said, all you truly need is one SAFFA, and the party is on (February 2018).

 

I chuckled at this comment. But, since starting this process and now living in Korea, I have visited several South Africans. There is one South African in every part of this country. The Korean government has the one native teacher per school rule. So, it is difficult to find another native speaker at your school. Hence, on weekends, I devote time to spend away with native speakers.

 

I have been in touch with SAFFAs teaching in South East Asia since my arrival. The community of South Africans is great. They connect with one another. We speak about wine, netball, rugby, surfing, hiking and cricket. The heated things are the politics. The list goes on. There are members in all walks of life. Our interest groups overlap in areas such as language exchanges, Churchs / faith, Cooking and Bowling. Indie Music, MMA, Taekwondo, Kick Boxing, Chess, and Badminton. I have been to Geek nights. Yes, board games with SAFFAs and Expats.

 

Whenever I am alone…I know that I can reach out to my fellow SAFFAs.

 

There are key arguments people make when they start a discussion about South Africa. Even, the taxi drivers. They will say, Oh, Nelson Mandela. They will speak about Table Mountain, and then the discussion ends. However, when I started to speak to my British friends, they will reference the size of houses, our backyards and the fact that people had pools. We had land for more inhabitants. Yes, the Brits spoke about land.

 

My American friends and their parents brought up something that I never thought about. But, this was their point of reference. It was Trevor. My neighbour’s Dad came from Ohio, and his response made me reflect on the first idea of South Africans abroad. He spoke at great lengths about the history of South Africa. We had a very good discussion about Democracy, Apartheid, and then there were the Trevor issues.

 

Mr K responses were focused on one particular individual.

 

You know my son, and I watch Trevor Noah, and that is how we learnt more about South Africa. We are able to understand and see the comparisons between our country through his narrative. I was amazed at the impact Trevor had on my American colleagues and their parents (MAY, 2018).

 

Many of my American colleagues are educated as Engineers, Physicists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Teachers, Language Specialists, Social Workers, Designers, Computer Programmers, the list goes on. But, they all had this experience with one South African that changed their views of our country. It became clear that the influence of one can have ripple effects.

 

The same could be said for the power of one name embodied in two people and different spheres of influence. There are two men in the Post – Apartheid history which shaped a narrative of being South African. When I speak to matured individuals or students, they know one or the other. It appears that both men have brought my country to the centre stage.

 

I choose to speak about the two as speaking to two different audiences. Mr Trevor Manual is an honourable and well-decorated politician in South Africa. He has served as an academic, teacher, economist, vice – chancellor and activist in South Africa. At face value, there is the impact on SARS, the ANC and economical forums.

 

Then, there is Trevor Noah. I did not know much about Trevor Noah until my friend, a well-known KfM DJ presenter introduced me to his video “The Daywalker (2009)”. After that, I followed her infantilisation with this man. I have learnt more from this fan following than I have from self-exploration.

 

I won’t bore you with the details of their biographies. Please see the links below for further information. However, it is what these two men have done that allowed a very narrow-minded expat community to understand that South Africa is not just a country at the southern tip of Africa. For that one reason, I am focusing on them.

 

Up until a certain point, there were two distinct men in my frame of reference. They spoke to two different audiences. Now, that I am in Korea. I have met young and older Expats. The young speak of Trevor and their exposure to life in South Africa. He informed them of the nuisances they took for granted. Also, the unintended discrimination towards Black people. I am in awe of how the taboo racial categories are illuminated by comedy to these young Expats.

 

When I speak to their parents, when they visit their kids in Korea, they speak about the history of South Africa. There is a comparative discussion between what does economical reform mean for the Uncle Trevor generation and Bra Trevor generation. I juxtapose this as a way to speak about those that try to push for change in their country by using different work environments.

 

Why “Uncle” and “bra”? I have heard people take these names and made it a household brand. Mr Manual allow my senior expats to talk about a systemic change from apartheid to democracy. Uncle Trevor spoke and used economical reform as his domain. Now, Bra Trevor is using comedy to steer us to an open discussion about the pain and hurt across cultures. Trevor Noah has become a vehicle for speaking about the taboo. Satire is used to illuminate the inequality experienced in South Africa and across the globe. The name Trevor as a brand allow different generations to understand the changes in my country. The birthright changes, racial divide, poverty, corruption, rape, inequality and reform.

 

As a bookworm, I am compelled to inform you about two books about these men that will challenge your views on my country. I have heard people speak about them because they saw them on shows or economic forums. The first book is CHOICE NOT FATE: The Life and Times of Trevor Manual by Pippa Green. It is a concise and lengthy biography of the life and entanglement of choices. A pertinent book to read when you are left thinking about the everyday choices you make. Sometimes, we second guess our decisions in life. Well, the author attempts to narrate linearly how choices inform one another. I might not agree that these choices were always in the interest of our country or democracy. But, Honourable Trevor made decisions as a rationalising being attempting to balance the personal and political domains.

 

I must admit, I do not know if I could be as blunt about my life as Trevor Noah has portrayed it. I have been classified by birth a Coloured. My experience of being known and documented as a Coloured is different. He writes in a manner to illustrate how he came to terms with the unaccepted. The author keeps the audience captive by using terms which borders vulgarity and taboos. The racial terms signify how he has made it ordinary for himself. A well-documented biography of a comedian and the process to achieve emancipation from an identity given to him as a birthright. Born a Crime is a retrospective account of his childhood.

 

Today, I am living for six months in Korea. I am still in awe at the history and entanglement of being a South African in Korea. Honourable Trevor Manual and Mr Trevor Noah have personified the tensions of my country to my expat acquaintances and friends. People are aware of the vulnerability of being different in thinking and living in a diverse country. Hopefully, my interaction with people will change the Expat narrative about South Africa and why we choose to work abroad.

 

 

References

 

Green, P. 2008. CHOICE NOT FATE: The Life and Times of Trevor Manuel. Johannesburg. Penguin and Random House.

 

Noah, T. 2016. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. New York: Spiegel & Grau.

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I am no Zola Budd.

20180127_084110I was never a runner as a child.  We were required to run barefoot. It was not my style. I do not walk barefoot. Why would I run it?

Needless to say, Belhar Primary school would make every one audition for the yearly athletics. You had to complete every field event. I do think that my teachers pitied me. I was thin and frail. I was unable to do many things physically at the time.

Throughout my schooling, every sporting event was a social activity. I did chess, tennis, netball. I was every P.E. teachers worse student. Underweight, timid, shy and an uncoordinated person. Academics came first.

I think that running became a necessity when I stayed at Hypocrates. There were times when I really just wanted to be alone. The close proximity of living in a residence can be overwhelming. I was living within 50 metres of my roommate. We would see each other in class, in the shower, kitchen, room etc. I really just wanted something that was my own.

Running was an opportunity to clear my head. Nothing else mattered. I could run in the morning. I ran in the afternoon and at night. When I left medicine, I studied BSc (Human Life Sciences). I stayed at Lydia in Stellenbosch. This was God sent. I ran every morning at 5:00 am. Here, I learnt how to study, run and party hard.

I became accustomed to a new way of life. It was not frowned upon to be a social runner. I became accustomed to a culture of running. So, when I returned home…to a Coloured community. Reintegrating myself into the (none) running community was difficult.

Upon graduation, I returned to the community where people ran once a year for sporting events. It was not a lifestyle. It was only after parts of my community gentrified that things changed. I came to see the other side of being a social runner. Fitness and running became a new fade.

I started working as an intern and informed my manager of my desire and longing to run. She informed me about Park Run. I told my brother and father about this event. A running community existed. People could meet up with one another and experience the joys of running. It was in a safe confined space.

No one felt threatened. I loved it.

Once, we received a dog. This dog became our running alarm. Snowy would wake us up in the early hours of the morning to run. She would sit beside her strap. I remember with fondness as she jumps on my bed to wake me up to the sound of trainers.

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On Saturdays, I volunteered and ran the 5km park run. On Sunday afternoons or mornings, my friend and I would run along Strand or Blouberg for about 7 – 10 km. Running became a new habit. I no longer dreaded the call to run as I did as a child.

Now, I am living in Korea. The first few months…I was ill. I could not run as often as I had hoped. It took me four months just to familiarise myself with the environment. Now, I am comfortable to run at 5:00 am.

I run along a river walk across my apartment on weekends. I try to run at least thrice a week. On weekends, I try to squeeze in a hike on a Saturday. In the absence of a charismatic church in my rural town…I jog up the closest mountain in the town. I take it as my #eatpraytrailrun with God moment.

When I do the big City visits, THEN, I run early Sunday mornings. Korea offers church services at 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. It is perfect for those who party late. And, it is perfect for me. I can run and worship in one day.

I might not do this barefoot. But, I am doing this as a toddler to the trail running community. I am still not running barefoot. But, I will start documenting the different trail runs, marathons and hikes that I have started in across South East Asia. I do not intend on stopping that which brought me inner peace.

I love not being bothered by others and having the opportunity to push my body’s thresholds. Trail running allows me to find a healthy balance. Running and hiking have taught me self-acceptance. It is the hardest lesson to learn how to navigate life one foot in front of the other.

Zola Budd was infamous for running barefoot. She is known as a South African long-distance Olympian. I do not intend on climbing the ranks of ASA or the UltraRuns. Instead, I would like to maintain this balance again of running, working and partying hard. Zola Budd_20180705

(Taken from http://bfinaz.blogspot.com/2012/06/runners-you-should-know-zola-budd.html).

 

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Chronicity: a glimpse into a career-driven woman’s closeted pain in middle – income communities.

career womanI had a friend not so long ago who wanted to write his PhD about Chronicity among low – income communities in South Africa. His proposal aimed to focus on syndemic chronic diseases. While working with the Desmond Tutu TB Centre, I realized that fewer articles and research concentrate on chronicity among middle – income households. There are gaps in these narratives for upcoming middle – class households. I do believe the closeted middle – class pain needs to be discussed in public health research. Continue reading “Chronicity: a glimpse into a career-driven woman’s closeted pain in middle – income communities.”

My rationale FOR #eatpraytrails?

 

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Dear Book reviewers, bloggers and Instagrammers,

I will confess. I have not read this book. I have not watched this movie. Since 2010 I have adopted the hashtag #eatpraytrails. Perhaps, a simple request to any book fairy out there. Please forward the English book to a bookworm teaching in South Korea.

I want to make it known that the reason for choosing the hashtag was that I had one motto in my life. I had to find fulfillment in all aspects that define me as a person. I love fine dining, good wine, my faith with my deity is paramount in my existence, and I love the outdoors. I enjoy spending time with nature.

I do hope someone can send me this book as a gift someday. I found the Korean version in the coffee shop below my apartment. However, #eatpraytrails have become a mantra to define a way of life.

I return to this as a reminder of who I am. It is tough when there are prescribed ways in which people define people. I hope to live my authentic self as best I can. So, I always remind myself of striking a balance between body, mind, and soul. I have from a very young age.

Feel free to recommend books that address striking a balance between the psyche, the spiritual and the physical. These can be autobiographies, monographs, anthologies, etc. I am an avid reader, and I would like to continue this view on striking a balance between body, mind, and soul.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Yours truly,

talkativeGP.

 

P.S. There is no end to education.

 

((The picture above was taken  during my Masters’ fieldwork at a high school on the Cape Flats, South Africa.))

It is graduation season. It is the end of a semester and academic year. Some people will graduate others will not. The following blog will be about those moments when people ask you, “How far you with your studies?” “When will you finish?” “When will you be done with this studying?” “Are you still busy?” The reality is that you have no comment for the onslaught of questions from your community. They expect a return on their investment or social expectation and gaze. In reality, nothing you will say or do will be a simple response.

I heard the very same questions over and over again as I was finishing my Honours and Masters. And, it was impossible to explain to my community members that my degree was structured in a manner that I had no authority over the progress made. The structure of my thesis and the development of the project was done in conversation with my Supervisors. It was not a one shoe fit all sizes. Yet, the community expectation wants to know the expiration date of your education and not the quality first.

This is when anxiety creeps in. We do not call it for what it is. But, here goes.

I have conducted a nine-month in-depth ethnographic study of an NPO. I have become involved in the lives of my participants, the organisation and the schools. Throughout, my fieldwork, I did not receive any counsellor or proper debriefing. Through my pursuit of knowledge and my nagging, as it might seem to some, I was able to offload to the seniors in my faculty and acquaintances who became friends.

But, was this necessary. Was this really what should have happened to me? Was I meant to feel alone throughout my Masters’ fieldwork? Was my multiple emails and rants to my supervisors supposed to fall on deaf ears? It was not until I sat down and spoke to different Anthropologist and a Clinical Psychologist, that I realised that the very thing that you felt was your safety net could leave you traumatised.

I never wanted to write a rant about supervision or my Master’s degree programme. Some will say don’t burn your bridges in the academy. I never wanted to write a blog about the isolated and lonely journey postgraduate studies is all about. But, in the wake of my Godsister’s undergraduate degree graduation and the comments I have received about the long journey of my studies.

I will put pen to paper. Because I do not think our so-called supporters understand that our silence as postgraduates or lifelong students causes internal damage. If I dare speak up, I will burn bridges in the academy. But, if I never speak up, my community, my so-called family and friends will never understand that the social expectation to complete education caused me to be traumatised and alone.

So, while thousands will graduate this week in South Africa. There will be one student seated in their community finishing their thesis. There will be someone finalising their dissertation this month to graduate in March or next year. You know why. Because life happens.

While many people watch with magnifying glasses at the number of pass rates or drop out rates on schools and universities. We should learn to support people in education as a lifelong journey. You might sneer at this remark. But, right now, I can promise you, someone is returning to their books because they have a Dean’s exam.

And, even, if you think your remark of how your child was able to complete his or her degree within a minimal amount of time is a reflection of your child. Be mindful of those around you. There are students who have done everything that they possibly could and still felt alone.

There are students who have failed because they faced the worse things possible to an adult. Yet, they rocked up for the first exam. They did not take Ritalin. They did not sleep within someone to obtain the papers. And, yes, they did not cheat the system to drop a module and extend their degree by a semester, do twice the workload in the new year to reflect that they did not fail it.

I can recall a colleague who termed her thesis, i.e. “the thing that should not be mentioned.” So, we never spoke about her thesis. Because, to her, it reminded her of something that was not perfect. It had not arrived at the absolute correct level of perfection.

After seeking counsel for what I later realised was PTSD, I want to say that postgraduates across the world are in a crisis of lifelong support. I read a blog which stated many people who have PhDs or are completing their PhD suffer from depression. But, I wonder if the lack of understanding and support results in people suffering. I wonder if the lack of empathy from supervisors and classmates leave the student feeling miserable. To add onto the loneliness, you then are pushed into a corner by the social expectation to complete something in a timely manner because your community expects you to support your ageing parents.

I became less anxious about the change or how I am able to work under pressure when I spoke to someone that truly understood what it meant. It took months to actually speak to Professors, academics and friends who were genuine about their experience. It is the sad truth. But, it took me breaking down in the office of a Professor in UCT and pouring my heart and soul to realise that my masters meant something. I was so focused on the social expectation for so long that I did not see the value of two years of work.

I hope to pursue a career in academia. But, I also want to acknowledge that I will enter into an area where there is an expiration date on funding given to the grant holder. There is also an expiration date given by society. I am not oblivious to the fact that you need to start something and end it. No doubt about it.

But, I want to say that if you are feeling alone. If you feel that this education has been bleeding your soul, do reach out for support. Many people will not understand because their eyes are focused on the podium. Some people are silent because that is how they have chosen to deal with their trauma.

Does this mean that I am against HEI? No. Does this mean that I am against people asking postgraduates about their studies? No. All I am saying is be mindful when you speak to someone extending their degree. Be mindful when you speak to someone about their studies. This is part of the journey. Learn with them on how to deal with failing, extending your degree or renegotiating career choices.

*Please share your thoughts on how you dealt with the extension of a degree, renegotiating career choices or failing.

A Luddite enters Korea

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I am about to end my contract in South Korea. Like many before, I am counting off the days. I will return to my family for a while, then I will continue work or pursue my Ph.D. Therefore, I hope to reflect on social media and Apps in Korea that made my life easier.

Before RoK, I  distanced myself from the push to achieve connection with people on an online platform. Yet, I should admit, my reservation changed the moment I incorporated different social media platforms in my daily life, training, hiking, and shopping.

The names below are Apps that I have downloaded onto my Andriod:

  1. KakaoTaxi
  2. KakaoMetro
  3. Pinterest
  4. NH Global
  5. Instagram
  6. The Emirates Aoo
  7. Coupang
  8. Facebook
  9. Kakao Talk
  10. Samsung Pay
  11. Air Quality / AirVisual
  12. BBC News
  13. British Airways
  14. Careers 24 SA Job Search
  15. Indeed
  16. LinkedIn
  17. Cathay Pacific
  18. Cheapflights
  19. Deezer Music
  20. Emergency Ready App
  21. Eyewitness News
  22. FNB Banking App
  23. Guitar and Violin Tuner
  24. Hopper – Watch and Book FLights
  25. Incheon Airport Guide
  26. Kfm
  27. KorailTalk
  28. Korea Subway Bus
  29. Life.Church
  30. Naver
  31. Medium
  32. Netflix
  33. News 24
  34. Samsung Health
  35. Skype
  36. Takealot

Thirty – six applications have made living in Korea comfortable and convenient. I was never against technological change. I was afraid of what it might do to me. I was concerned about how disconnected one may become to the people around you.

Therefore, I chose to live a minimalist lifestyle for years. I would prefer to remain that way as I do not want to lose human contact. And, I think that has happened many times in Korea. Many of my friends have mentioned that they would choose a sexbot or things online to human interaction.

I guess this is one thing that I will miss the most about South Korea. The technological advancement. You can be on the mountain tops or in the valleys teaching a student, and there will be an app that can assist you. I will admit that South Africa needs to expand its internet and online business platforms to meet the needs of the new economy.

Technology is indeed a frenemy. It can deprive you of real human interaction, and it can enhance it. The positive outcome of being online in Korea is that I have a social network. I have learned about the Seoul Instagrammers, I have met and learned about Plus size Models in Korea, and lastly, I have met South Africans teaching in South East Asia through social media. Everyone use technology in a manner that allows them to retain their authenticity. I would not exchange this for anything in the world.

Best things in Life

I would like you to know that the Apps allow you to avoid the awkward language barrier there might be between you and another person. Everyone around you is on their phones. No one really pays attention to the person beside them. I am not a Luddite. But, I am concerned that everyone relying on technology to bridge the communication gap between Natives and Expats have led to greater communication divides than bridges built. In South Korea, the communication can be both verbal and nonverbal which is of utmost importance. The app is one tool to meet the needs of people. I wish that it won’t leave more people isolated from true human interaction.

Disclaimer: 

There are three Apps that I was forced to remove for mental health reasons. I was on two dating sites. But, the real person and the online person were never a good match. I refrained from downloading it again. Lastly, I was anxious about the possibility that I would be unemployed upon my return to South Africa. So, I have been applying for jobs for months. I have chosen to stop. I needed a break from the rejection emails. 

 

 

 

 

Sharing is caring and giving

I should forget about this topic. I guess I won’t be for a long time — the aspect of caring for someone that has a chronic disease. Right now, as I am typing this post, my mother is suffering from something the doctors cannot confirm as existing or not. So, there are recurrent visitations to private hospitals and GPs, Neurologists, Pulmonary Specialist, Oncologist etc. Moreover, while she is in a waiting room, I am applying for jobs. It is the eve of 28th birthday.

However, I am going to write about how you should allow people with multiple chronic diseases share their stories, their pains, their lives and their joys. You might think that I am nuts. I know that people do not comprehend the magnitude of persistent pain.

Medication numbs things. However, it does not numb life. It does not include the harsh words of people. Moreover, it doesn’t numb the inability of the person to attend to birthdays and weddings.

So, it is easier said than done. How can you, i.e., a layperson support someone with multiple chronic diseases? I would like to list a few ways in which you can support someone with numerous chronic conditions.

Step 1:

  • Listen to the good and the bad.
  • Do not respond immediately.
  • Take your time to give a response.
  • When you do, think of the people in the audience and if you answered the person’s need not your own.

Step 2:

  • Remember, this person will be selfish and self – centered.
  • They need to create a life for themselves. It is not an easy one. Your life is not as important. Every day is a gift. Accept it and move on.

Step 3:

  • Ask them what kind of support they need.

For instance, my work colleagues asked me how they can support me while my Mom was in the hospital. Truth be told, we needed breakfast, coffee, soup mixtures and things that was easy to warm up. We needed meal preps. That meant the world to me. They didn’t send a bouquet. They sent what I needed to make things easier for me to work and visit my mother in the hospital.

Step 4:

  • Allow them to bitch, and moan about modern life.

You are not their savor or therapist. The patient and the family are well aware of it. However, people who have chronic disease need someone who is nonjudgmental. If you cannot be that person, take a bow and remain an acquaintance. Their life is too short. They know it. Please do not waste their time with your ill-informed behavior.

Step 5:

Please do not take pictures of the person without their consent. Images. Yes, I repeat image is a big thing. They do go through cycles of weight loss and gain. There will be times when the hurt and pain will remove the desire to apply makeup. This does not mean that they want to be reminded on Facebook or one day in the afterlife about the lasting image.

So, before you select share, like, reblog or post, think what your actions mean. It is caring about the person who cannot see what you have done. Ask the family permission upon their death to post the announcement of the end. The tragedy of life is that we are easy to share but not honestly care. As a result, we have lost our ability to give parts of ourselves to one another in real time.

I started this blog post last year. Last year, I was in the waiting room for months thinking of my mother on the other side of a critical high care facility and may need to find a job. This year, my mother is battling another health setback. I cannot define it, because the doctors do not know what is causing multiple clots in her lungs. I cannot describe the origin of her pain in her legs or head since an aneurysm has been removed.

Today, I am seated in South Korea, and I need to learn to support my family from a distance. I need to equip myself to know how to be there for someone when no answer is the right answer. Every word and action is life-altering in this person’s life. But, for those of us who are affected by it. I want you to take a step back. Take time to recoup.

Perhaps, you will find a solution for how to deal with people’s sneer remarks. Also, you will discover how to bring joy to these families when festive seasons are never a pleasant time. You know that Christmas is the time when you spent it in a hospital.

So, take a moment and share of your time to someone who might not have much. Speak to the person about the mundane. Remind them of the taste of sea salt. Remind them of the flavor of ginger. Because life has left a bitter taste in their minds and mouth.

Will you be able to share that with someone this Christmas wherever you go? Share an actual act of kindness for those in the waiting room. They will need it even when the person is no longer with them.

FOMO: the case of a hiker dealing with the fear of missing out.

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How did I overcome my FOMO as an amateur hiker? Well, it meant becoming self – reflective of my other talents as a borderline introvert . I had to resort to my other talents. I love the outdoors. Being at home, well, it feels like I am cooped up in a cage.

On the contrary, I do not need to see you. I need to be in a different space. I need to engage with different people. I need to have the opportunity to engage with someone or something and walk away feeling enriched. If I do not obtain this mental stimulation, I get bored.

I have come to terms with the fact that I am teaching at six schools in Korea. It was a tough thing to realise. I do not have the opportunity to build relationships with my colleagues or students. I do not remember everyone’s names. I have tried, but it is not going to happen.

However, now that I am unable to run or hike due to a neck injury, I have returned to playing my violin. It has been months. I play every second day now. I have purchased a calligraphy set and started drawing again.

So, the silence and placing things on hold has helped. I know it kills me. Many of my friends are aware of my obsession with nature. I love trail runs. I love the fact that each terrain pushes the body’s limits. So, the ability to not run today hurts my soul.

FOMO is something we face in life in many ways. We miss out on family birthdays, deaths, celebrations, promotions and milestones. FOMO can be so many things for so many people. You can miss out on having a child, spouse or sense of community.

When I was unable to run, I would volunteer at Parkrun. When I am unable to hike, I walk along the river in my area. I have found ways to overcome the sense of FOMO in South Korea.

In the absence of my family, I have found a collective group of people in Korea whom I can be vulnerable with. I have girlfriends whom I can connect with across the globe about everything.

The fear of missing out. This is FOMO. According to urban dictionary, FOMO, means (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fomo), ‘the fear that if you miss a party or event, you will miss out on something great’.

There are situations when I cannot with my peers. I cannot connect with my friends who are married and have children. Initially, I did feel a sense of FOMO. I did engage in those moments when I wallowed. I internalised the absence of milestones in my life.

Then, I thought of ways to overcome the void. I need to come to terms with where I am right now. For instance, I cannot run every day. My body won’t allow me as I walk every day 2km. Also, I spend long days working. It is tough on my body to work and teach.

Then, there is also the aspect of hiking. I would like to hike JIRISAN. But, I injured my neck. The doctor said that I should rest; I need to take it slow.

I need to know that I will be carrying a heavy load. It will not be an easy hike. So, I need to build stamina and prepare myself physically and mentally for the next hike. Therefore, for the next twelve weeks, I need to do core and upper body strength training. My training includes incorporating HIIT in my week.

I am unable to attend every funeral, birthday celebration or church gathering while abroad. However, it does not stop me from celebrating it where I am. I need to shift my thinking to celebrate from where I am. How do I celebrate life with others from my position?

I have received invitations to visit my friends in Seoul, Daegu, Gwangju and Thailand. I need to think about the costs and benefits of visiting them. There are financial costs in travelling. I love it. It is cheaper than what it would be in South Africa. However, I cannot do everything. I need to ask myself will this bring me closer to my goal. If not, I need to discard the idea.

Many of my friends who live abroad have expressed the concern that I do not know how the re-entry will feel like when they return to their country. Well, as a borderline introvert, you are always re-entering into things in life. There are times when I need to shut off from people. There are times I need to regain my sanity. So, I choose to be alone.

I will sit in a mall. And, I am okay with the silence. The silence is soothing. I do not find it awkward. I can watch things happen and not feel the urge to be involved because I feel that I will miss out on life.

Like right now, I am watching a lot more Netflix than I did in the past. However, I know that once I return to a busy schedule. I won’t do it. So, I do not miss my rushed life. But, I know that right now. This makes sense. And, it does.

It does make sense just to live a little. To take things as it comes. I do not fear missing out. I have come to accept that exclusion helps my sanity. It helps me avoid the crowds. It has helped me live a less stressed life. I am no longer yearning for hiking while recovering from a neck injury. Instead, I am sharpening my other skills.

*Disclaimer:
This is a delayed post. I am catching up with my blog posts and writing. I have taken a break from writing for mental health reasons.

Reference:
FOMO. Urban Dictionary. Available: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fomo [Online]. [2018, September 13].