Sarah, the soft breeze

VANESSA SMEETS

She was only part of my life for a short five years, but Sarah Widman knew my pain of the past (losing both my grannies in the span of two years) and my visions for the future. It was a sunny autumn afternoon much like today when I heard someone calling from our school gate:
“May I come in?” she asked.
“Ummm… It’s a school, there are some rules.”
“I know it’s a school, silly. I have been hearing the children laughing and singing from my retirement home next door.”

I let her in, with the principal’s consent, and Sarah would keep coming for the next two years every Friday afternoon. She would read to the children or put on little puppet shows.
They called her “Gogo,” meaning granny in Zulu. This brought tears to her eyes.
“I always wanted to be a granny one day…” she said.
Sarah carried a dark secret. The loss of her husband decades ago left her scarred and afraid.
“We were robbed on our plot. He died protecting me.”

Her dreams of having children were replaced by hours of entertaining others. She found theatre as a way to deal with her grief and anxiety.
Sarah means “princess” in Hebrew. She was a princess in all my students’ hearts. She taught them to sing, dance, be confident and never be afraid to love, even when you lost it all.

Sarah, my only regret is that I had waited so long to see you again.
Your last words to me over the phone: “Have you forgotten me?”

After moving to another school with much more demands, I could not go see her every week.

“No, Sarah, I will come soon…”

The elderly often feel forgotten, cast away. After losing her sister, Sarah was not the same. She was quiet. After losing her best friend at the home, Dr Ebedes, she drifted into her own world. She also fell, breaking both her arms. She asked me to leave when I visited her then. She was too proud to allow me to see her so vulnerable.

Sarah had become my adopted grandmother. I envision her today greeting my biological grandmothers, my paternal one born in the same year as her… All three had an incredible zest for life and an incredible impact on who I am today.

I dreaded this day. I tried my best not to attach myself too much. But I couldn’t help it… Sarah was like a soft morning breeze that comes through the window, unnoticed at first, but so refreshing. She left this earth in much the same way, in her own peaceful way.
I will cherish you always, my dear friend. Shalom.

My previous post about her:
https://vsmeets.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/friend-sarah/

 

Cry the beloved country

VANESSA SMEETS

“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all,” Aristotle.

It has taken months to find the energy or a story worth writing, but watching these students burn, destroy and steal has ravished my soul…

Don’t get me wrong, the “born-frees” of South Africa have the right to be angry. They are experiencing high-cost of living like no one before. A loaf of bread is R15, a two-litre bottle of milk is R30, rent on average is R5 000 for a one-bedroom flat near campus, a BA degree is about R20 000 with registration fees soaring at R5 000 – R15 000, depending on you being a citizen or not.

However, is burning the varsities a solution? No.
There will be no education there tomorrow.

Is looting shops nearby a solution? No.
No one will take your cause seriously anymore.

Is using violence, beating policemen with bricks, the answer? No.
They will not protect you at your most vulnerable.

There’s a dark cloud above the youth of today. It disguises itself as honour and pride. They believe it is better to fight, than just survive.

While last year’s “Fees Must Fall” seemed noble, with students gathering around campus in unity, this year’s cause is dampened with innocent blood and soiled ideals. As predicted, the fight last year was quickly “shut up,” only to rise again this year as an angrier, more vicious corpse. The people of South Africa were given, as usual, temporary solutions to a major issue – to satisfy that moment, to kill that immediate need. Meanwhile, the solution infected other areas – varsities are going bankrupt, lecturers are not being paid on time.

“They can afford it!” the students scream, their shields made of mattresses and ironing boards high in the air. Their anger is sadly aimed in the wrong direction – the government’s expenditure that needs to be reprimanded, not the educators…

Varsities have not been able to continue with exam season.
Students are failing, as they are too afraid to come to class or be threatened on campus.

South Africa’s “rainbow nation” has continued to fade, suffocated by smoke, empty promises and an uncertain dawn.

Can we raise our children in a country where the only answer seems to be destruction?You want his car? Shoot him.
You want her to feel your power? Rape her.
You want that baby? Kidnap it.
You want free education? Burn it all.

Cry for our beloved country.
Cry on this thirsty land that craves for manna in all her forms – rain, money or change.

Powerful photographs by Lee-Roy Jason Photography.

Oppikoppi 2014: Odyssey

VANESSA SMEETS

“We are but dust and shadow,” The Odes of Horace

My third Oppikoppi and maybe ‘third time lucky’… I went for FREE! Thank you, Cinema Nouveau for choosing my random post on which movie best describes the Oppikoppi experience.
I chose “Searching for Sugarman” from the selection given, because we are all still searching for that experience/ that artist/ that time in our lives when we embark on an Odyssey, a massive adventure.

I separated myself from the city lights, embraced the dust and bushveld, was initiated by the full moon under warm winter nights and returned whole.

Many complained the line-up was not that impressive this year… But, for 20 years of Oppikoppi, one should know it’s not so much about the music, it’s about:
– discovering who you are in extreme conditions
– knowing what your best friend finally looks like without make-up
– making friends with strangers in long queues
– holding some celebrity’s drink while he/ she takes a selfie with a random
– catching the drumstick/ the CD/ the item of clothing full of hard-earned sweat
– sharing crazy “past Koppi” experiences
– making memories filled with dust, life and music

Here is a selection of my favourite dust, life and musical moments, accompanied by words from Homer himself. Long live this Odyssey!

Happy 31st, Zimbabwe!

33 years later….

Chica Papillon

VANESSA SMEETS

Independence Day

18 April, 1980. The ground shakes in Harare with stamping feet. Buildings tremble with jubilant voices. The crowds rush to see him speak. He is handsome, well educated and a great orator. A person for the people: calm and collected. Prime Minister Robert Mugabe is 56 years old when he is inaugurated, with Canaan Banana as president. But Mugabe is the stern favourite, speaking to the core of the masses.

“Long live our freedom!
Long live our sovereignty!
Long live our independence!”

The Shona people claim Rhodesian soil is red with the bloodshed of civil war. They are tired of 16 years of fighting and tired of Ian Smith’s policies. Rufaro Stadium is packed to its maximum capacity. John Moyo*, a civil servant at the time, attended the celebrations. He claims the media went mad: “Long live Mugabe!” and “Good old Bob!” ran as headlines for…

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The value of LIFE in Zimbabwe

Why today’s elections mean so much…

Chica Papillon

VANESSA SMEETS

As a child, I valued all living things. I would collect crickets and dragonflies in the kitchen and set them free in the garden. As I grew up, those small things transformed into valuable assets: the values of patience, integrity, honesty, courage, kindness and forgiveness.

During the June holidays, I was on my way to Zimbabwe, the land of my birth, after living in South Africa for the last 20 years. It was time to go back to the garden filled with those noisy crickets.

Patience

The plane takes off from Johannesburg an hour late. My brother and I wait patiently, knowing our dad has been expecting us for the last three hours.

In Harare, we are greeted with sour faces: “Why are you here? What do you want?” At R300 or $30 US (the country has decided its own exchange rate), we finally get our…

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Paradise Lost: Zimbabwe

A little bit of paradise lost found again…


2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 58,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

 

Or…

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 58,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 13 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.