Pausing to think

June 13, 2011 at 1:58 pm (Uncategorized)

Having finally finished reading Wild Law by Cormac Cullinan, I wanted to quote something of his. Because this is what I have been also thinking but wasn’t able to express so easily:

“Scraping topsoil, plants and the rich community of life off land and covering it with concrete is an assault on our inner world. If we continue too long on this course our consciousnesses, and those of the generations who follow us, will no longer be shaped through interaction with the beauty, diversity, and sheer unexpectedness of nature. Concrete parking-lots breed parking-lot minds: uniform, barren, predictable and devoid of any sacred or transcendental meaning. How many great works of art or literature do you suppose our parking-lots will inspire? How many laws on our statute books are inspired by this outlook?”

Exactly.

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Taxis and fat cooks

June 3, 2011 at 8:18 am (Uncategorized)

I am at the stage where everything is becoming relatively normal. I’ve been here nearly four months and can greet people in the appropriate way, get myself around on my own and can eat chicken’s feet and tree worms no problem.. in fact I quite like the tree worms. I have been spending every day going to the office. We make fire at around 6:15-6:30 in the morning, Mphathe’s houseworker and friend Rayna arrives with her 2 year old girl Konanan and we sit around the fire waiting for the water to get warm so we can bath. It is freezing cold in the mornings now, and bathing in the shack outside is like bathing in a shack outside in the wild hills of Cumbria (perhaps involving less sheep and more cockerels). We have a cup of tea (rooibos, no milk, ¼ teaspoon of sugar).. before walking to catch a taxi at the road.

A Vuwani taxi driving away, a common sight

The taxi system is the strangest and most frustrating thing. If you get there before 8 you might catch the fast ones that go straight to Thohoyandou, but if you are after 8 the taxis wait at the junction and take people to the taxi rank in Vuwani when it is full and then when you get to the taxi rank you have to get out and get into another taxi to go to Thohoyandou which you also have to wait in for it to get full. But sometimes the taxis at the junction are not there at 8, they are there at 20 past, and sometimes when you get to the taxi rank the particular taxi in the queue to leave for Thohoyandou isn’t there and you have to wait for the right one even though there are about 10 taxis hanging around the place. It can take 1.5 hours from door to door when it should take about 40 minutes. It would be VERY frustrating if I hadn’t reached a state of serene ‘nothing’s going to piss me off today’ type attitude nowadays (apart from a few exceptional circumstances). You have to accept that the system is ridiculous.. and eat some roasted peanuts (not as nice as the Ghana ones) from the fat lady who eats all the popcorn she’s meant to be selling at the taxi rank. Or maybe you could amuse yourself listening to men trying to get you into bed/to date/to marry/to believe that you have stolen their heart through the taxi window. Or take time to be interrogated by interested educated Vuwani citizens (“WHERE do you stay?” Here in Vuwani “NO!, whereabouts?” Over that side “What are you doing here?” Visiting “What’s your programme?” Don’t have one “What are you studying?” Nothing “you’re writing a book?” No “Your name?” Ruth “Rooos?” Yes “surname?” Leavett “What church do you attend?” I don’t I’m not a Christian “haahahaaa WHAT? Then what are you?” Um excuse me?) I am also quite into watching the ladies cooking chicken on the stalls by the taxi rank, from killing it, plucking it, gutting it and cutting it into pieces.. and trying to figure out what is in the tuperware boxes at the back of the shack. I THINK they are tomatoes, but if they are ‘fat cooks’ (sweet fried dough, probably mentioned them before) then there’s no hope for me returning lean, fit and beautiful, I’ll be a big fat cook myself, probably with the frilly maid hat too to hide under. So perhaps I won’t look too closely into that and will believe that they are tomatoes.

What I mostly do though is read. I was reading Soil not Oil by Vandana Shiva and now I’m reading Wild Law by Cormac Cullinan (www.wildlawuk.org) which I started in December 2010 I think.. serious. I highly recommend everyone reads Soil not Oil especially… for the benefit of the future of this planet.

At work we are struggling a bit at the moment because there is no money, we have had to freeze many of the programmes so there hasn’t been anything exciting on that front for me to report to you. These past few weeks though I have been developing the website, which I am very proud of; www.mupofoundation.org It is not yet finished, and I’m not sure how to take it offline while I’m editing it.. but you can look at the pretty photos and admire the little millet flavicon in the tab. Also if anyone can tell me why the pdf links won’t work on the Sacred Sites page I’d appreciate it.

Today I picked up my renewed visa from Makhado which I applied for over a month ago.. (and will have to apply for again next week). Makhado is a completely different town to Thohoyandou, a fair few Afrikaans people and shops.. but as soon as you step into the taxi, at the market place, it was like I’m the only white girl in the country again. A bizarre clash of cultures, and there’s a kind of invisible stumbling block that exists between them. There was a white South African girl in the taxi back to Thohoyandou this afternoon (the first time this has happened to me since I’ve been here) and she lives in Makhado but has never taken the taxi to Thohoyandou before. When we got there she was in need of directions to the place she was going and she asked me “are you not afraid?”… actually no, I’m not.. are you?

If you are afraid then you don’t understand something, and if you don’t understand or know something you don’t care for it, and if you don’t care for it; it is vulnerable to being destroyed. See the miles upon miles of land overtaken by pine trees, bananas and macadamia nuts (I haven’t yet seen anyone in Venda eating or using a pine tree or macadamia nut for anything, and there’s no way all the people in Venda could eat THAT many bananas), where villages and people have been displaced, turfed out.. See the tourist chalets being constructed in sacred forests where thousands of species are taking refuge from our greedy lust for money that is chipping away at the edges.. understand and really know the people, the place, the environment; be connected with the land, the life, and perhaps you wouldn’t be so quick to uproot it; denying beauty, diversity and life to future generations…

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