Saturday, February 23, 2008
Travelling alone is no mean feat. Yet sometimes that is what it takes to gain certain experiences and adventures. Some of which, admittedly, turn out to be undesirable.
Yes, it was a risk to make my tube and bus journey back to my hotel at Heathrow that late, but I was catching up with my friend Marisa (and time caught up with me). Luckily I did make the last bus from the tube station and double checked with the driver that he will drop me at the stop closest to the hotel. He agreed.
Next thing he stops in the middle of a very dark road in the middle of Middlesex and tells me to get off.
“Sorry, I made a mistake. This bus is not going to your stop.”
“So, how will I get back now?”
“Just wait at the bus stop across the road.”
So I did.
Not even a car passed by for a good fifteen minutes. Then a bus swooshed past with its lights off. I checked the bus schedule and found that my anxiety was justified. The last bus passed by here at 23:30. It was now 00:30.
With no airtime and no money (I spent my last pennies at the fabulous end-of-season sales in Oxford Street underneath the Chinese New Year lights) I was kind of left in the dark. The very, very dark.
Something moved in the bushes behind me. Should I follow the path through those crooked trees to the houses beyond? Will the witches get rid of me before I even reach a doorstep? The chill froze my screams and sprinted down my spine.
Eventually a lonesome taxi drove past. I lifted my hand. He stopped. When I heard his kind voice my tears came down like a rainstorm. I had never been that scared.
Sometimes I feel that my life has no weight. That I simply float through the world like a feather. But every time I find myself in a dangerous situation, an angelic figure appears to save me. There must be a reason why the higher powers want me to stick around.
That is why I will keep lifting my head and continue going where my soul guides me. Alone or not.
Friday, February 15, 2008
As a little girl I used to relish spending time with my grandfather early in morning, before sunrise. While my grandmother prepared coffee and homemade rusks, he would identify each bird as they start chirping at the first light of day.
These memories are flooding through me as I lie down for a hot stone massage at the Mangwanani Day Spa in Johannesburg. The open air African huts where the treatments take place are within close vicinity of the Kgotla dam, which is a sanctuary for Africa birds.
I can see a perfect little nest from the massage bed and the birdsong is much more comforting than the usual elevator music that float through most spas in the world. Perhaps it’s just me, but being that close to nature is relaxing in itself and helps to bring about inner balance once again.
The massage therapist kneads my muscles with smooth, hot stones and I feel at one with the birds and the sky and the breeze. I open my eyes and spot a single white cloud loitering in the sky. Perhaps there will be a thunderstorm later.
My eyes well up with tears as the tension leaves my body and I become aware of the love that the therapist is putting into this treatment. She doesn’t realize that she exudes love, she just has a big heart. All African people do. Our hearts are as big as the blue skies under which we were born.
Where does all the hate that brings darkness to this continent come from when there is so much love in the hearts of the people? There must indeed be a fine line between love and hate. May I never cross that line.
For more, see http://www.mangwanani.co.za/
Sunday, February 10, 2008
The first few weeks of 2008 had me pinching myself to make sure that things really were going that wrong for me and my travels. Well, luckily February brought with it an opportunity to start all over again: Chinese New Year.
I was fortunate enough to celebrate the Year of the Rat with my family in Singapore. It only took a few iced teas and lucky chocolate coins for my woes to dissipate. Ok, so my aunt’s loving face and the festive atmosphere in Chinatown also helped.
Chinese lanterns and animated faces lit up the streets, where Chinese and tourists alike elbowed each other to get to the stalls with the best sales. Everything was discounted, from New Year’s decorations to bed linen.
We tried some Chinese sweets from a vendor, who opened his eyes as wide as possible and wildly gestured for us to stuff a plastic bag full of it, ‘only five dollar’. Later on we discovered that these sweets come in more flavours than just pineapple and peanut – try pumpkin and pepper, ugh!
The closer it got to midnight, the more people streamed into the streets until it became a human river and we couldn’t walk anymore but rather had to lean in the direction where we wanted to go.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the parade and the fireworks but I did see a few dragon masks and dancers practicing in the streets. Anyway, I’m not much of a crowd person.
What matters is that I came away with a kitch red Chinese patterned fabric rat with big golden ears (I will call him Rattie) to hang on my bedroom door for all the good luck I clearly need.