Don't say I didn't warn you...

Don't say I didn't warn you...

Me and the girls are off to our first family vacation in a very long time. And we are going all American. No, we are not going to take a trip down Route 66. We are not going to do a history tour of Boston. We are not going to stare at symbols of power in DC. And we are not going to be all continental in NY. Neither are we going to hunt for the world’s biggest ball of twine. Or go have hot dogs and beer at the ballpark. Forget the Keys and middle America. We’re not even going to follow the trail all the way to the Wild West. Getting married again by Elvis in Vegas will have to wait as well. None of that. Nope, we are going where real Americans go. We are going to the temple of America. Where Americans gather to pray to the god of vacations. Where you can see France, Brazil and China in one day without ever leaving solid ground. Where people gather to eat buckets of ice cream and drink gallons of soda. Where odd ears are celebrated. Where hot chicks walk around in weird clothes. Where…. You get the picture…

We’re going to Disney!

Of course my long suffering wife will be the only adult going. But they do sell booze at the hotel to calm her down and I’ve packed my stash of Starbucks coffee to keep me going. Me, my wife and my two little girls. We are ready to have fun-fun-fun!

Look out for some news headlines: “Angry African on the Loose in Disney”. And we are not talking about the lions in the park either. No sirree! I am ready to claim back a piece of the colony for my brothers and sisters back home. I’ve packed the spear and loincloth. I am ready to go hunting. Gonna get myself a nice little wildebeest on the fake Serengeti and then make a huge fire for a braai. It’ll be almost like home. Hum… Minus the spear and loincloth of course. We don’t really do that back home. We are way more basic than that. We have wallets and khakis instead of spears and loincloths. But sometimes we wear lioncloths…

Anyway… I am getting off topic again…

So we will be away for a little while. Back sometime around the end of June. Yes, 2009. I won’t be blogging until I get back. The laptop is staying while I am going. I promised the girls 100% of my attention while we are gone. And Jasmine already called asking for a date…

But you can follow me on Twitter while I am gone. I’ll update that as much as what I can in between rides and runs and food and punching Goofy and whatever you do at Disney. Click here if you want to follow. Or just type http://twitter.com/AngryAfrican.

Or you can just sit back and read a few of my greatest family hits – see below. Nothing but me and the girls having fun. And a few funny stories thrown in for good measure. Hope you enjoy. If not – see you on the other side! I’m off! Bye-bye! Hello, Jasmine… How you doin?

Love Is In The Air

I have two girls. Two beautiful girls. A little princess. And a slightly bigger angel. My girls. My life.

Quick! Pull my finger!

We all have our roles in our little family. My wife is the one that holds it all together. The glue that we stick to. The level headed one. The one that looks after us. And the one we all run to when we bump our toe or just feel like a hug. She is the centre. The foundation. The pillar. The sun we spin around…

She had to wee

There I was, just taking a pounding. One shot after the other. In the face. I tried to bob and weave, but I just couldn’t escape the fists snapping at my face. Man, this was getting tough. I could feel myself going down. But I had to fight back. Dig deep. She’s a girl. I know I am not meant to hit women, and this goes against every inch of my being, but I had to do something. So I started to swing at her. I got her with a couple of shots. Big ones. But she didn’t even flinch. She just kept on coming. Swing away. In that girlie way of hitting. But it hurt like hell. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I went down. Big time…

When dad came to watch

Today was the birthday of my youngest daughter. She turned the Big Five. Yes 5. So I took the day off. To spend with the girls. But let me tell you a bit about me as a dad before I tell you about today…

Martin Luther King Jr is white

I never noticed it before. It has been there for a while. This picture of Martin Luther King Jr on our fridge door. You know, that space that kids occupy. I hardly look at the fridge door – just open it to grab something to munch on or a cold one. But there it was. Amongst all the fridge magnets and numbers and pictures of the kids. I guess it didn’t stand out because it was white on white. Yes, we have a white fridge. The reason why it stopped me was because it looked a lot like my dad. And you know about the relationship between me and my dad

I love my wife

How do I love my wife? In so many ways…

I am a traitor

I am a traitor. A traitor to my country. To my countrymen. To South Africa. To my beloved South Africa. And to every South African out there in my home country. I hang my head in shame…

I just loooove your accent

Let’s just get something straight here okay? I do not have an accent. You do. In actual fact, South Africans have the most pure and perfect English accent you can think of. It is a little known fact that we speak with the most delightful English accent – and the purest of them all. I didn’t suck this from my thumb – it comes all the way from a very well known study of languages by Oxford University. Please do go and do a fact check. (And let me know if you find it because I couldn’t)…

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Do you remember The Angel Maker? The one who makes angels from us ordinary people? I can tell you so much about her and never tell you even half the story. She is an angel now. I know she is because she’s been looking after me and my family for these last few weeks. I know she has been here. But this is about a message that came from those around her. The last line in an email I got from Uncle D had a simple message: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” I am sure you know this line. But I didn’t.  

What takes my breath away?

My wife. She takes my breath away every single day. Words can never tell you how much I love her. Words can be deleted. My love for her can never be deleted. She makes me. She just makes me. I want nothing but her in life. Just a look. A smile. A little laugh. A hug. A whisper in my ear that she loves me. Squeezing my hand while we walk. Telling me she loves me more. Rolling her eyes when I do something silly. The way she drives the car and bitches at other drivers. Buying me a Starbucks on the way back from picking up the girls from ballet or school. Getting excited about the presents for the girls. Sharing a meal while the girls go wild. Lying in bed and reading a book. Just little moments when I know she is there. Twenty-four hours a day. She takes my breath away.

She takes my breath away by just being her. I always steal a glimpse at her when she isn’t looking. When she doesn’t know that I am looking. And my heart skips a beat. I look at her and can’t believe that we are together. That she loves me just the way I am. Warts and all. Craziness and everything.

She takes my breath away by just being with me. I can disappear in her lips. It’s the place where everything stops meaning anything. There is just her and me. Meant to be together. I love how I know every curve and how I am still amazed by the way she feels. Still surprised at how I love her more every day. I didn’t know it was possible to love this much and in this way.

She just takes my breath away. Every single second of every single day and in every single way imaginable.

We’ve gone through good times and tough times. But one thing always stayed the same. Us…

There has never been any doubt about us. Nothing comes between us. No amount of pressure will shake us. No amount of problems will break us. Everything makes us stronger because we know no matter what happens we are okay because we have us. The bad times make us stronger because it brings us closer. The good times makes us stronger because it brings us closer. Nothing can break what has no boundaries and no limitations. Us…

It’s amazing how we have been married for more than 15 years and it only gets better each day. I am amazed by knowing tomorrow will get even better even though I have no clue how it can get better than what we have today.

You know I struggle to tell you how I feel about her because words are just words… How I struggle to tell you how I love my wife.

Some say you should be friends to make it work. I don’t agree with that. We are best friends. I want to do everything with her and only her. It doesn’t matter whether it is watching rugby or going to the movies or exploring a new city or reading a new book. I just want to be next to her and share it with her. But I can’t be friends with her. Or rather… I can’t just be friends with her. She means more than that. She is everything. My friends and my lover. My world and my meaning.

And I don’t agree that you must “make it work”. Yes, you have to talk about things and share with each other. But it isn’t work. It’s just being. When you love someone totally and completely then it isn’t work. Work means thinking about it and planning it. Doing it because you love someone means you do it because it is the way it is. Naturally. Like breathing… You don’t think about it. You just do it because it is the way it is. Love is not planned. It just is.

That takes my breath away. Us. Because it just is…

Complete.

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I’m just a guy. You wouldn’t take notice of me if we walked past each other in the street. I look like anyone else you might see in your life. Someone sitting at the airport waiting for their plane home. Sitting next to you on the train in the daily commute. Just a guy.

I love what I do. I love what I do at home and I love what I do for a living. But I am a guy who doesn’t believe in a job in the way many people would think of a job. I am my job. What you see in my work is what you see at home. A little crazy but I love what I do. I seriously love what I do. And like my life because of the people around me. People who make me think and push what I do to the edge. How can we do it even better? How can we push the boundaries? How can we make a real difference? How can we make it better together?

That ubuntu – I am because we are. It is so true. I am at work because of others. They inspire me and they drive me. They ignite the flame inside me that makes me who I am in life and in work.

This is really difficult to explain… Let me put it in another way…

I am pretty good at what I do. I know that. I know that because people tell me so. And I know I am good at what I do because I have no clue why I think the way I do! But I also know that I am good at what I do because I challenge myself constantly. And I somehow always find an “angle”. I am proud of what I have achieved and I am proud of what I stand for. But not proud like in full of myself. I know I am only who I am because of others. I would not have achieved a thing without others. Every person and every team made me better and taught me new ways of thinking. Ebrahim Patel was a genius who taught me how to think on my feet. How to find new angles and solutions to problems that no one else even considered. Martin Kalungu-Banda taught me about being humble and a manager at the same time. How to be subtle about leading others by inspiring them and finding the best in them. Oh man, so many people made me better and made me who I am today.

The names just flash by – Adrian, Demba, Sophia, Sumi, David, Patricia, Cunningham, Herbert, Chris, Gordon, Vernon, Sahra, Robert, Jane, John, Siviwe, Peter, Themba and so many others. Names to you. More than just people and faces to me. They made me.

I hardly said thank you. But I hope that me just being me and opening up to them showed that I did appreciate every single minute they gave to me. Every single day that they helped make me who I am.

I love what I do because of some of the people I have had the pleasure to work with in my life. They are not clients and they are not colleagues. They became friends. They are people I want to have coffee with. People I just want to hang out with. And sometimes it happens that they want to hang out with me as well.

They are me. No. They make me better than what I am.

Here is another thing. Most people go out in life and find things in other people they don’t like. That is easy. It is easy to find the things that we don’t like and the things that are different from ourselves. It is easy and it is lazy. It is life with blinkers on. The people I have met along the way have taught me something else. Finding the things in people I like and building a relationship based on what we have in common. And celebrating the differences as the bits that make us unique. Those differences makes up the rainbow of life – flavors and tastes for everyone to share. It is one hell of a way to meet new people and learn from others. I am one lucky guy to have been able to celebrate these differences with others. One damn lucky guy.

But I can only do this by being myself and being true to myself.

All we can be is ourselves. Nothing but ourselves. We can hide behind a mask or be ourselves. I picked the “be myself” way of doing things. I don’t think about it. I just do it. I don’t think of the consequences and I don’t think of the reasons. I just do it by being myself. Like breathing.

But we all have good times and bad times. And sometimes you doubt yourself and your style. Should I not be a little bit more like this or a little bit more like that? Should I wear a suit more often? Ha! But you sometimes question your style and the way you work. Do I need to be different? But it won’t work. It’s just not in my blood. All I can do is be myself. And I like it that way. I am who I am. And it works for me.

Hell, I really don’t know how to write this…

So I go through life and I make friends. It’s just one of those things. I make friends because people inspire me. They truly inspire me to be the best I can be without even thinking about it. They inspire me because their genius touches me and teaches me. And I can only have these relationships because I am who I am. And you never ask whether it will pay back or whether it has any benefits. You just do it. You are just you.

And then you get an email from someone that really makes you realize that we live in a pretty good world with damn fine people in it.

I left out many names in that list at the start of this blog. Recent names. I did that on purpose. I am to sh*t scared I leave someone out! But there are many other people who have touched me and who have become friends of mine. People I hold close to me no matter what the distance is between us. Good people. Geniuses who make me better.

I got an email from someone not on that list who would in another life be seen as a “professional relationship”. But she isn’t. She is a friend. A good friend. And she emailed me and had these really kind words about me. It was really a bit of a shocker as I don’t do what I do to get credit or to make myself feel better. I just do it because I like it and I like most of the people that go with my life. They all somehow made me a better person for just knowing them and having worked with them. She reminded me that who I am is what drives me. I am a better person because of people like her. People like her allow me to be just me.

I won’t share the whole email but these words really hit home. I’ll give you a little bit from her email. Edited of course…

“small world my friend.  i was having dinner the other night with some folks at X…  i was ranting to them about all sorts of things we need to do…

somehow i mentioned your blog and X said — “wait a minute, you know (him)?”  then he told me they had been talking with you…  i of course waxed poetic about your big brain, smart savvy approach and your ability to get (people) to think about how to push to the ‘brave place’ rather than just the easy place.

seriously, it was a glowing endorsement.  …and we could light things on fire.”

That last sentence says it all for me. “… we could light things on fire.” It’s about the “together” isn’t it? It’s not about me. It is about us. I am because we are…

I wrote her a thank you email. And this is part of what she wrote back…

“you don’t owe me, you earned it.  it’s the whole kizmet / karma / destiny paradigm. you… make real connections and it all comes back to you.”

She reminded me of the good people I have met along the way. And she reminded me why I enjoy the hell out of what I am doing. She reminded me that I do what I do and I am who I am because of people like her. To that person and everyone else I have met along the way. Thank you. Thank you for being my friend and my teacher. Thank you for allowing me to just be me. A guy who likes what he does and who likes hanging out with people like you.

I owe you a life of living. You are my ubuntu – I am because we are.

Now let’s have a coffee together…

Make mine a four-shot skinny Venti latte. (I’m getting all fancy and checking my weight!) A Starbucks Ethiopian Sidamo, please and thank you. Strong and deep like Africa with a fleeting aroma of floral left behind from the men picking flowers when they return from another hunting trip. A little spicy and a touch of chocolaty taste to go with our sweet tooth. Hum… Some of us also recognize a bit of wine in there! And to give it a bit of a bite and round it off nicely, the best Sidamo coffees have just a hint of lemon. Who said us Africans can’t have a feminine side? First sip… Aah… That’s much better. Wait! Better still. Just hook it up to an IV and I’ll be just fine…

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You know about my father and me. We didn’t get along. We didn’t talk much. We didn’t do much together. None of that “dad and son” stuff. We might not even have liked each other much. There was bad blood. Lots of it. And still I learned so much from the man. Even when he didn’t mean it and I did…

We had many arguments. Many, many arguments. Almost always about politics. He was on the side of Apartheid and I was on the other side fighting what and who he stood for. He was a bigot and I was always happy to point it out to him. And I was just as stubborn as him. I refused to budge. I refused to try and understand. I refused to give him one single little bit of ground. I refused to give him or what he stood for the benefit of doubt for even a split second. He was wrong and so was everything he stood for. No movement on bigotry. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. I was right about Apartheid being wrong. Why should I move even an inch for any form of bigotry? I still won’t. I refuse to compromise just because it might make people feel better. Or because it would be the nice thing to do. I won’t. Not with bigots.

And I do expect people to point out my own bigotry. Trust me, I have a thick skin and I am a big boy – I can handle it. It’s the only way I can ever answer The Question…

Anyway, back to me and my father…

Back when we still spoke we had almost daily fights about Apartheid and the fight against Apartheid. He called those who fought the Apartheid government terrorists – Nelson Mandela to Breyten Breytenbach and everyone from the ANC to COSATU. Yes, we fought like hell. It eventually tore us apart completely. There was a moment when I just gave up. And there was a time that I realized he just taught me the biggest lesson of all. He didn’t know it but it has driven me since…

It was just one of those days again. We were arguing like hell. I can’t even remember what triggered this one. The ANC was already unbanned. It could have been him calling Nelson Mandela racist names again. Or him bitching about anyone who was black and who didn’t agree with his warped view of the world. Actually, you didn’t have to be black to be hated by him. Even Reverand Beyers Naudé was a terrorist in his eyes.  But we were off on our usual little boat ride down the rough river of arguing.

My poor mother was just sitting there half in shock as always. Every now and again trying to calm us down. But she knew it was a losing battle. I was never going to keep quiet. Not anymore. And it gave me a chance to fight him on every issues that I ever thought he was wrong about – from Apartheid to my mother. So once I started I would never let go. And he egged me on by pushing one button after the other. We were predictable…

He was on about the Apartheid National Party giving him a job and me an education. He was shouting at me that the ANC and Nelson Mandela will always be terrorists. I was throwing it back in his face that he must live with the fact that we have won. That it is over. You lost your right to bigotry and murder. No more. We won, you lost. And, to rub it in, that if Nelson Mandela is a terrorist then so is his own son.

It shut him for a little bit. He stared at me for a moment. I could see he was ready to explode. He was about to say something. And then it came. The question. I popped the question without even thinking…

“Tell me dad, what did you do?” (“Sê my pa, what het jy gedoen?”)

It shut him up. He had a puzzled look in his face. Not sure what I meant. That’s when I hit him with the meaning of my question…

“What have you ever done to make this country a better place? Where were you when they were murdering people? Where were you when all the killings were taking place? What did you do to stop all the madness? What did you do to end all the hate and bigotry dad? Where is the love and the peace and the freedom dad? Tell me dad, what have you ever done to make this world a better place? For me. For my sisters and mother. And for the kids we will one day have? Tell me dad, what did you do with your life?”

I only stopped when I saw his face change. I can’t even describe to you what he looked like. That expressions…

It was as if the life was sucked out of him. Like an animal in complete fear of his life and knowing that this is the end. That he has no more to offer. That everything is empty. That all that was left was this shell of a man standing in front of me. The look of a man knowing that everything he has ever done is meaningless and worthless in the eyes of his son. The look in his eyes was of a man knowing his life and what he stood for meant nothing to his son. Nothing. Like him. His life. Meaningless. All in a single expression.

it is difficult… I can’t really describe to you what he looked like…

But I will never forget it. That look in his eyes. It was something that made me shut up. I knew there was nothing more to say. I knew he was not my father anymore. He was… He was… Nothing…

Because his expression also told me something else. It betrayed him. It told me the answer…

Nothing…

I looked at him for a little while and said it one more time softly – almost a whisper, “Tell me dad, what have you ever done?”

His expression also betrayed something else…

It wasn’t just the question that cut him up. It wasn’t just his lack of answers that drained is soul. No. It was also my expression that sucked the life out of him. The expression of someone that felt nothing anymore. The look of someone who knew his father no more. The face of someone who knew a common love no more. The questions from someone who believed in his own blood no more. The end of the blood running through our veins. He knew that my own questions and eyes told him that we were no more…

That was what he saw… And what he heard…

And then I turned around and walked away. Leaving him there to… I don’t know… I just left him there without thinking about what I wanted from him. I didn’t want anything anymore. I didn’t need anything anymore. I got what I wanted…

I will never forget his face. I still see that expression. Daily. It drives me. That single question and that single expression drives me daily. Each and every single day. Because I never want to be asked that question. Never.

Maybe I am over sensitive to what is going on around me. Maybe I love my wife and kids a little more than what I would have if I didn’t know about that question. Maybe I get angry about bigotry and injustice and inequality more than I would have if I didn’t know about that expression. And maybe I see the beauty around me a bit clearer thanks to the face I saw that day. I don’t know. But I know this…

I never want any of my kids to ever ask me that question…

And I never want them to look at me the way I looked at my dad that day…

dont-ask

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Note: I should have added that I did make peace with my dad shortly before he died. I do understand where he came from even though I never agreed with his politics or the way he treated some people. But we did make some form of peace. Do I wish our relationship was different? I am not sure because I would not be who I am without him being who he was. I am at peace with how it all turned out – it could have been better but it could have been worse. I focus on the here and now. The question I asked him doesn’t drive me a in conscious way where I think of them daily. It is only when I think and reflect on what I do that I recognise some of the events that played a key role – and this was one of those key events.

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I’ve been asked about my “anger” many times. What do you have to be “Angry” about? Why are you the “Angry African”? Why indeed…

I would rather have a good meal. Maybe help my wife prepare the food. Get the table ready. Talk about whether we should have brocolli or peas or carrots to go with the maple syrup chicken and roast potatoes she just made. That’s what I would rather do. Just have a good meal together with my family. Sitting at the table and laughing at the silliness of my daughters. Making funny noises and joking with their mother. Good times. Me, my family and a good meal. I would rather have a good meal. No need for anger here.

But how can I? How can I just have a meal when I know that somewhere out there in Zambia is a family arguing about how they divide the last of the nsima. Maybe this will be the last meal they share together. Because tomorrow brings no food and no hope. Maybe tomorrow the kids will have to go down to the charity handing out food and slip some away for ma and pa back home. But will grandma make it? Can she wait another 24 hours before she gets a little something to eat. No laughing or poking of fun. Not when the bones on their bodies are poking hard at their skin. How can there be no anger?

I would rather watch telly. Just vegetate and do nothing. Stare blankly at the screen. Flip channels because I can’t decide between CSI Miami or Kitchen Nightmares. Or maybe I should watch that Bond movie I taped? Or watch Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King again? Yeah. That’s what I want to do. Just stare at the telly and think of nothing. No anger here.

But how can I? How can I stare at the telly when tonight someone might be staring at the barrel of a gun somewhere in the Congo? No channels for them to watch. Maybe tonight will be the last time they see anything. I can change the channel but they can’t change their lives. I can play with the remote but they are here. Waiting for me to think of them. Always hiding somewhere in my conscious. Waiting to flip the channel of my brain to their station. No static. Just their lives waiting to be changed while they live a reality life. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather read a good book. Maybe just finish one of the many I am reading right now. Should I go with Mao and his killing or read about hope through the eyes of Obama? Maybe just get away from all that stuff and laugh at Bill Bryson telling me about A Short History of Nearly Everything. Aah. That what I want to do. Just read my book and let my mind slip away for a little bit. No anger here.

But how can I? How can I read a book when tomorrow the children will go and work those cocoa fields? The pages they flip are the pages of their life going past. One empty page after the other. Or maybe it is a horror. The horror of their lives. Living a Stephen King life larger than even he can imagine. But maybe some khat will help numb the pain. At least it will take away the glint in their eyes. And the empty pages of their life can be seen in their empty stares. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather play with my kids. Play outside like the crazy gang we are. Wild splashing we call swimming down at the lake. And go down that snowy hill when winter comes. Just me and my girls. Crazy, crazy, crazy. All I want is to hear their laughing and more laughing at their silly dad. Egging them on. Come on! You can do it girl! That’s what I would much rather want. Me and my crazy girls. Having fun. No anger here.

But how can I? When the other kids are running away from the warlord down the road. Playing dodgeball with the bullets. Not a sound of joy and belly laughs to be heard coming from their mouths. Just cries of pain as the bullets hit. Lucky if it misses. Dodge, dodge, dodge. That the games they play in the Congo. How can there be no anger?

I would must rather lie next to my wife. Falling asleep and hearing her breathe next to me. I can feel the stress of the day just slip away. Here is where I belong. Always telling her how much I love her. I can never say it too much or too often. And I run home because that is where I want to be. Just there next to her. My lovely wife. The one who gives me meaning. No anger here.

But how can I? When the women in Africa have to walk miles and miles just to get a drop of water for their homes. Every day. Down to the river and back. In the rush forgetting to boil it clean. And they see their families die around them. From a simple thing like drinking dirty water. How can I look at my wife and not see those women carry Africa on their backs being beaten and beaten and beaten. Day in and day out. Rape and murder. That’s what lies next to them at night. Death and destruction giving them meaning. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather just go on holiday. Maybe take a trip to Europe and visit those fancy French. Some cheese and red wine. Aah, that’s the life. Or laugh and point at Mickey and Minnie down at Disney. Maybe get away for just a week or two and visit my friend back home. Another trip to Bucks County would be nice. Just me and my three girls. Hanging out in New Hope for a drink and maybe a small piece of memory for the mantle. No anger here.

But how can I? When the only break my people get is another trade deal that fails. Or another empty promise for those dying of aids or malaria. Or the breaking of another leg as the torture continues in countries down South and East. But also here in the North and West. Broken promises to go with their broken lives. How can there be no anger?

I really just want to hang with my friends. Or drink a coffee by myself. Sip by sip. A braai and a good old fire. Learn to play the guitar like I’ve always wanted. Or write that bloody book that’s been bugging me for years. Save some money and retire early. Go for a drive in my car to watch the leaves go all rainbow in fall. The good things. That’s all I ever really want to do. Take it easy and stay easy. A smile, a laugh and good times.

I don’t want anger. I hate anger. It’s not nice. And it is not me.

Why am I angry?

I know happiness. I know what it is. I have it. Oh boy, do I have it. But I can’t enjoy it. At least not the way I want to enjoy it… Fully. I want to give myself totally to happiness. I want to live my happy days by throwing myself at it. Just living it 24/7.

That’s what pisses me off. That I can’t just enjoy life because of bigots. Because of liberty for some. Equality for those who can afford it. Freedom for those who were born free. Justice for those at the top.

I am angry because I can’t enjoy my life thanks to oppression of others. My right to have a fun time is shot to hell because of the rights of others being shot to hell. Bullet by bullet. Every warlord pisses me off because they remind me of what I am missing because of them. They are taking away my happiness because they are taking away the happiness of others.

I am angry because my friends and people I don’t even know can’t just love who they want. I love my wife. I love my wife. But the more I love her the more I am reminded of those who can’t love the way we love. That their love is somehow less meaningful than our love. I am pissed at bigots taking away happiness because they are taking away the rights of others.

I am pissed and angry for purely selfish reasons. I don’t want to fight for the rights of kids to have a shot at a life. I don’t want to fight for justice in the world trade and aid system. I don’t want to fight for the freedom of African women. I don’t want to fight for the equality of my gay friends who want to get married. I don’t want to fight for the liberty of the slaves working the sweatshops or farms in China or Africa. I don’t want to do all this crap. I want nothing to do with any of this.

I. Do. Not. Want. To. Do. This.

I just want to sit back and enjoy my life. Just me, my girls and my friends. Happy times. Good times.

But I can’t. And that is what pisses me off. That is what makes me angry. That is what makes me the Angry African.

I can only go do nothing when there is nothing to be done. When others can afford to do nothing. When everyone has a shot. You bloody people. With your rights and freedoms and liberty and equality and justice. Just have it already.

Fuck. Dammit. And everything and anything else that go with that.

I am because we are. Ubuntu.

I can only stop caring about what to watch on telly when there is nothing to care about. I can only be happy watching my kids go crazy when you have a shot at happiness. I can only have the liberty to drink my coffee sip after slow sip when you have liberty. I can only have my braai in peace when you have peace. I can only be the equal of my wife when we all are equal. I can only have justice when you have justice.  My freedom is your freedom…

I can only be free when you are free.

I can only be me when you can be you.

Until then… I am the Angry African.

f_slavery_boy_map_africa1

I was thirty by the time I saw and felt snow for the first time. It was lovely. I never imagined it to be so white. And so quiet. Just beautiful.

We were visiting our great friends in Luxembourg. And Mr H drove us all the way up to the highest point to let us play in the snow. We found one little spot of snow and had a huge snow fight. Me and the missus. What a day it was. (Oh and N, his wife, was on her last days of pregnancy and he got into so much crap for being home late. But that is another story for another day.)

I remember the next time I saw snow – me and my lovely suffering wife sitting on a train coming from Brussels to Luxembourg on my birthday a year later and watching the snow from our window. We just stared at the beauty of it. Everywhere this beautiful white blanker covered the world. The train had to stop for a few minutes and we just sat there staring at the snow out on the farm lands of Belgium. Not a worry in the world. I love snow. Ever since I saw it the first time.

I never understood snow when I was little. All the Christmas cards had these pictures of this old dude with a long beard handing out presents. I always wondered why the hell was he in snow? It does snow in Christmas time. Not down South where I stayed. It’s beach weather baby! And why the heck is he white? Fat chance that the only dude in Africa handing out presents would be white. Never got it. Snow during Christmas. Imagine that.

Mr H from Luxembourg emailed us this really funny story a few days after they landed over there. The South African experience of snow the first season. We laughed at how funny it was. Now I am not so sure. I can feel the cold creeping into my bones. My African bones. These bones are made for weather above 15 degrees. Celsius. Around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything below that and I move 1 mile per hour slower for every degree that it drops.

I still love snow. Just love it. But the cold weather. Man, that gets to me. Need a huge fire to walk with me.

Anyway, about that letter Mr H emailed us. I thought it would be very appropriate to share a version I found online. You know, before the snow starts falling again. I tweaked it a bit…

Snow, lovely bloody snow…

December 8: It started to snow. The first snow of the season and our first ever snow together. The wife and I took our cocktails and sat for hours by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven, clinging to the trees and covering the grounds. It looked like a picture painter in heaven. So romantic we cuddled up the whole evening.

December 9: We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering the landscape, what a beautiful sight. Every tree and shrub covered with a beautiful white mantel. Can there be a more lovely place in the whole world? Moving here was the best idea I’ve ever had! Shoveled snow for the first time in my life and I loved it! I did both our driveway and the sidewalks, and even the neighbors place. This afternoon a snow plough came along and accidentally covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway with the snow from the street. The driver smiled and waved. I smiled and waved back, and got to shovel again. What a perfect life!

December 11: The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment! My neighbor tells me not to worry- we’ll definitely have a white Christmas. No snow on Christmas would be awful! Bob says we’ll have so much snow by the end of winter, that I’ll never want to see snow again. I don’t think that’s possible. Bob is such a nice man, I’m glad he’s our neighbor.

December 13: Snow, lovely snow! It snowed another 8 inches last night. The temperature dropped to -20. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks. This is the life! The snow plough came back this afternoon and buried everything again. I didn’t realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, but I’ll certainly get back in shape this way. I wish I wouldn’t huff and puff so.

December 14: 20 inches forecast. Sold my van and bought a 4X4. Bought snow tires for the wife’s car and 2 extra shovels. Stocked the freezer. The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that’s silly. We aren’t in Alaska, after all.

December 15: Ice storm this morning. Fell on my ass on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurt like hell and had to pay $145 to a chiropractor. The wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel, but nothing was broken. More snow and ice expected.

December 16: Still way below freezing and frigging cold. Roads are too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for 5 hours. I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm. Nothing to do but stare at the wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should’ve bought a wood stove, but won’t admit it to her. God I hate it when she’s right. I can’t believe I’m freezing to death in my own living room. Tried to keep from freezing to death with the candles and a kerosene heater. Heater tipped over and nearly burned the house down. I managed to put the flames out but suffered second degree burns on my hand and lost all my eyelashes and eyebrows. Car slid on ice on way to emergency room and was totaled. Had another 8 inches of the white crap last night. Both vehicles covered in salt and crud. More shoveling in store for me. That goddamn snow plough came by and buried me again.

December 19: -15 degrees outside. Not a tree or shrub on our property that hasn’t been damaged by the bloody snow. Electricity’s back on, but had another 14 inches of the damn stuff last night. More *&$^%# shoveling! Took all day. The damn snow plough came by twice. Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they’re too busy playing hockey. I think they’re lying. Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they’re out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they’re lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he’s lying.

December 21: Bob was right about a white Christmas because 13 more inches of the white shit fell today, and it’s so cold, it probably won’t melt till August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to piss. By the time I got undressed, pissed and dressed again, I was too tired to shovel. Tried to hire Bob who has a plough on his truck for the rest of the winter, but he says he’s too busy. I think the asshole is lying.

December 22: Only 2 inches of snow today. And it warmed up to 0. The wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning. What is she, nuts?!! Why didn’t she tell me to do that a month ago? She says she did but I think she’s lying.

December 23: F&%^$ mother-*&@#% in white &^#%$ keeps on coming down. Have to put on all the clothes we own just to get to the *&#%$% in mail box. If I ever catch the son of a bitch that drives the snow plough, I’ll chew his chest off and rip out his heart. I think he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then comes down the street about 100 mph and buries the (*&$% driveway. Power still off and the toilet is frozen. Can’t piss or *%&%^# inside. Roof is starting to cave in.

December 24: 6 inches – Snow packed so hard by snow plough, I broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch the son of a bitch who drives that snow plough, I’ll drag him through the snow by his balls and beat him to *&%^$# death with my broken shovel. I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at a 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I’ve just been! Tonight the wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was too busy watching for the !@#$$%^%^^&& snow plough.

December 25: Merry Christmas my #%$&%! 20 more inches of the damn slop tonight – Snowed in. The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. God, I hate the snow! Then the snow plough driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the *&%^$ head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. I think she’s a &^#% idiot. If I have to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” one more time, I’m going to stuff her into the microwave.

December 26: Still snowed in. Why the *&%#$ hell did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She’s really getting on my #@$&% nerves.

December 27: Temperature dropped to -30 and the pipes froze; plumber came after 14 hours of waiting for him, he only charged me $1,400 to replace all my pipes.

December 28: Warmed up to above -20. Still snowed in. The BITCH is driving me crazy!!!

December 29: 10 &^$%# more $#@#$ inches. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That’s the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am?

December 30: Roof caved in. 9 more ^%$&  inches of &#@$% snow and *&%#$ sleet and *(&%$ ice and goddamn knows what other kind of white ^%$# ^%$#@ fell last night. I wounded that &^%#$ snow plough dickhead with an ice axe, but the asshole got away. And now he is suing me for a million dollars, not only because of the beating I gave him, but also for trying to shove the broken snow shovel up his %$@#& ass. Wife left me. I think I’m going snow-blind. I can’t move my toes. My dick is almost frozen solid. Haven’t seen the sun in weeks. Wind chill factor is -33 degrees. More snow predicted – 12 more inches. &^%$@ white %@#*.

December 31: I set fire to what’s left of the house. No more shoveling.

January 8: Feel so good. I just love those little white pills they keep giving me. Wonder why they tied me to this bed?

 

I don’t know where to start… Don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t need hugs right now. Or love. There is a disconnect that comes in waves. And the wave pulls you under. You are under water and can’t get out. No panic. Just don’t breathe. Hold your breath and wait for your body to catch up before you break through for some fresh air again. Beautiful fresh air. But right now you are under water. Just lie back and float under water for now. Don’t panic. Just wait…

Do you ever feel like this? What I call “The Heavy”. Where it just seems as if the world gets a little bit too heavy. It closes in on you. When you feel it is just a bit too much. I don’t mean the personal stuff. There is no heavy there. That is always good. Always good.

But the world. This fucked-up world we live in. It sometimes gets too heavy.

It’s been like that for a few weeks now. Sometimes heavier than others. It’s like you are in this noise bubble. Your brain overloaded with so much bad news and visuals that you just can’t make out anything anymore. Like someone switched the lights off inside you but you are still awake – just not sure what is going on and can’t see much of what is inside. Like you’ve gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. Just tired. Just tired. And battered. This fucked-up world of ours.

There are kids dying out there. Of hunger. Of wars. Because the water they drink is bad for them. For no reason but for being born in the wrong place, in the wrong time. It’s too much. I can’t handle it.

I am not strong enough for this. God knows why Ubuntu is in me. It shouldn’t. I am not strong enough for it. I admire people who can work in the field every single day and see it happen. My friend Vasco Pyjama does it every day. Every single day. Somalia. God knows how she does it. She is stronger than me. I love her and Toaf for being able to do that. I am too weak to do it. I am paralyzed when I just think of it.

I never know how long it will take for me to get up again. Just too many faces. Just too many voices right now. Too much to do.

It’s just too much. I wish I could just walk away. Just for a little bit. Just not care for a few days. Just see the sun and smiling faces around me. Without it reminding me of those kids. And the people suffering. Just a few days please.

That’s the problem with this goddamn Ubuntu. It won’t leave you. Because it is you. Goddamn Ubuntu.

Most of the time Ubuntu makes me see the good and the bad. It makes me smell the flowers. It makes me smile inside when I see my little girls laugh and play. It makes me stare at the leaves on the trees changing colors in fall up here in New England. Ubuntu gives me time to appreciate the beauty that’s around me. But it also creeps up and punches me in the stomach. Reminds me that all is not well out there. And “The Heavy” sets in. Like dark clouds moving in. The other side of Ubuntu. Most of the time it is in balance. But sometimes it’s like this. “The Heavy”.

It’s like I am waiting for something. Waiting for the change to happen. For the world to wake up and go “Oh yeah, I forgot about the other people. Let’s sort that out quickly.” Waiting for the world to change. And make this suffering history.

But I know it is not going to happen. It’s not. People will die for no reason. And they will continue to die. No matter how hard I try. No matter what I do. It will always be there. The “others”. The waiting is for a bus that will never come. And it sometimes it gets too much. This waiting. This working. This treading water.

I want to walk away. Just throw my hands up and say, “Fuck that. It’s too much. You go sort it out. Just leave me out of it.” It’s not my fight anymore.

Why do this? I can’t change a thing. It is too big for me. I don’t want to do it. But I know I don’t have a choice. I can sit here and feel “The Heavy”. But in the end… In the end it doesn’t help. It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t change anything. It’s just me feeling shit. Feeling overwhelmed. I am not feeling sorry for myself. Just drained, tired, overloaded and helpless. But it’s not easy to shake.

The problem is that it is my fight. I don’t want it. But I don’t have a choice. I can’t walk away. Even if I want to walk away. They don’t have a choice. They can’t take a breather. They can’t stop fighting. They live it each and every single bloody day.

I don’t even know where it is. The Heavy. Is it in my blood? Is it on my skin? Where the hell does it come from? If I can find it I’ll cut it out.

Tomorrow is another day. And I am waiting for that day. I am waiting for that day when I will get up and not feel tired. Or drained. Or overloaded. Not feel “The Heavy”. The day I’ll take a deep breath and stare at the world and say, “Fuck you. You will not win. There are more of us than what you think. We will win. You know why? Because we don’t have a choice.” Maybe not in my lifetime. Maybe never. But it’s worth it. Because when “The Heavy” lifts the world is a better place. A place where we fight. And laugh at the fight we are putting up. Where we shout, “Come on! Is that all you’ve got? Bring it on!”

Just not now. I am in between rounds. Taking a breather. Staring at Mike and looking for where I am going to tackle him next. Where I am going to hurt him. I’ll fight dirty when the bell rings and “The Heavy” lifts. I’ll be scrappy. I’ll bob-and-weave for equality. And jab righteousness. I’ll bite the ear of bigotry and hypocracy with the mouth justice. I’ll kick poverty and injustice in the nuts. And I’ll bring hell with me.

Just not now. Just now. In a little while. I need “The Heavy” to lift. It’ll come. It’s just reminding me that this job isn’t easy. That I should never underestimate it. That Mike is one tough bastard. And there is no end in sight. We’re in this for the long run. It gets me down. And then it will get me pissed off. And then I will fight again. Like I have never fought before.

I get like this sometimes. Do you? Do you feel that it is sometimes too much? Too much to handle? That you want to walk away. Like you have lead in your shoes. Not enough air. Too much going on and too much for you to do. Too many leaks in the wall. A heavy weight on your shoulders dragging you down. That you feel tired to your bones. Drained of all energy. Like you are treading water. Overloaded with faces. Noises of voices filling your head. 

Do you ever feel “The Heavy”?