To All The Strangers I’ve Met

My grandfather could always talk with strangers. To go shopping with him was an experience, as he spoke to people in queues and just wherever he liked. It was an amazing thing to see. People either stopped what they were doing i.e. unloading their shopping or scanning the items, or they didn’t respond back at all. Mostly people felt comfortable with him and he tuned in to them. Never did I think I would start doing the same, at gigs. 

I don’t go to gigs as often anymore. Startups are expensive and mostly failing at the start – for me that’s the truth. Money usually disappear before I can even get a whiff of it. But I’ve been to a few things over the years and this year someone pointed something out – I easily chat to strangers. No matter where I am, I just talk to people I have never met and most likely – not always – never see again. To those with me it’s awkward. I am sorry. But I just think of this as Real Life Twitter, it’s almost the same concept.
It is a skill I picked up when I started working with children and the ability to talk to them and their parents. I used to be so afraid to talk to other people and especially in front of people, I still dislike speaking in front of adults though.

The one person that stands out is from a gig. I don’t get wasted, I’m just there for the music. I really am. Sometimes I have problems keeping people away, I have crushed guys fingers and I’ve hidden in bathrooms – there’s even been “water spill means let’s go” signals. There was this guy Brad, who stood behind me, became the bouncer who stood in front of me. The awkward “guy with a van” and his friends who wouldn’t leave me and my friend alone, Brad scared them off. The drunk guy who wouldn’t leave me alone, Brad became the barrier. So thank you Brad, we’ve never met again, but you really left an impression.

I have met so many interesting people at gigs, book events and just random places. However, I have been a shop assistant – I HATED IT! I need small bursts of people. No matter what, I cannot imagine doing that again. People can also be the worst. People can kill my buzz extremely quickly as well.

The last music gig I went to, I was on crutches, which proved  difficult for me and the idea of standing for a long stretch of time tired me out fast. However, the crutches were a great taking point and a lot of people actually spoke to me. I met a guy who had knee surgery a few months before. A family who were celebrating someone’s birthday or a holiday (I can’t remember). A guy who was afraid that I’ll knock him out of the earth with my crutches. I had another random bouncer – he didn’t actually speak to me, nor did I get his name.

In all these cases I had a friend with me. The most obvious reason is that I still don’t have my license. But there has been a few cases where I don’t know anyone and I stood alone like dork, looking like an angry serial killer (I am serious and very sure about this), and this usually freaks me out. So far I have made some music friends, not always, but sometimes. The worst is going to a house gig and not knowing anyone and no one really interested in talking to you. This happens in Durban quite often where people just clique together and the outsiders just feel like aliens. 

Talking to strangers is wonderful. You guys have just accepted this random woman talking to you. I do think it is an art to achieve. We have become such an isolated society that when people talk to us, it just freaks us out. I don’t have a large friend group or acquaintance with tons of people, but sometimes it’s nice to just to get to know  your neighbour or just be okay with talking to a group of stranger. Sure, I can go out and do it, not everyone can. But sometimes you don’t know how much it is needed for the other person to speak to someone. There’s websites like postsecret that shows us that speaking or just releasing an idea can make a person’s day/week/month.
You don’t have to try it, you don’t have to initiate talking, but maybe you should be able to accept a stranger talking to you.
There have been so many strangers I have met, the cashier is still a stranger, but they are a known stranger. There’s so many stories I’ve been told, so many stories that were made and so many temporary memories that can never be recreated.

This blog post goes out to the strangers that have spoken back. Who have protected. Those who made me laugh and who spoke to me first. This goes out to the strangers who became friends and to those who have become a regular thing in my life. Thank you for entertaining the small ideas, the observations, the brief connections. Thank you to those who have not creeped me out or made me feel threatened. You guys are the reason why humanity works.

The Art of Connecting on the Internet

We are all connected. We have these quaint things, like facebook, twitter, whatsapp and snapchat. Most of us send off emails daily, we double tap photos that we like on Instagram. We carry on in such a way that we know people, that we know everyone because of what they say or how they respond. The truth is, we’re just skimming at the surface or are we?

I’ve met people I “met” on the internet. These people have been in my life for years. They know more about me than some of the people in my life knows me. That’s just how it works. People tend to notice and take into context what you write more than what you say. These are people I have connected with. They are people who, somehow, through the internet think it’s a good idea to forge a friendship in any form. They are however, a small group of people who take notice. How does one connect to people you’ll never know? Not just connecting to thousands when you’re famous or writing bad jokes that people sometimes laugh at, mostly they just ‘blow air through their nose a bit louder than normal’.

I realised there’s a subtle charm in connecting with people in a way that’s vulnerable and yet so truthful to most of us. Seeing that we are not famous, telling jokes but just living a normal life with a bit of sparkle. So when one evening, one of the people I have actually met, tweeted her “#MundanePoetry” for the day, I actually saw behind these quick quipped 140 characters, there was a bit more than normal. I felt a connection, not just a tweet that I’ll brush off until the next tweet. It hit a nerve, this was the truth. Not the rage we feel or the happiness, it was just that. The rest of the day not worthwhile tweeting about.

The art of connecting the the next person seems relatively painful. You don’t want people to know you. You don’t want to admit that your weekend was boring and that you did nothing, nor that your heart is broken. I know there’s some things that should stay private and should not become public. There should be that barrier, or else why does privacy exist? However, not informing people not to tag the both of you in a tweet, seeing that you are now divorced, can prevent some awkwardness.

However, we tend to speculate a person by just reading their tweets (and blogs) or watching their vlog. Year after year, people fake having a disease, they then manipulate their followers out of money. Or they fake being suicidal and then live tweet their run up to their “death”. Just for the fun of it. Does this make us distrust the people around us? Is this why we don’t want to connect to people?

We would not have survived without connection. This is why we date, start families, make friends and whatnot. But in this digital time, we don’t seem to be making friends, we seem to be as distant as we ever can be from people.

There’s an art to connecting to people, we should maybe try it out. Who knows what an adventure it may lead to. We shouldn’t be afraid to speak our mind sometimes, or be afraid that the human behind the screen is not trying to con us out of something. Maybe dabble in a bit of #MundanePoetry, because we have the power to connect with others.

Thanks to @wordsoflizdom on twitter for the Mundane Poetry, which prompted this blogpost.

Panic Attack. Music. Love. Music.

I had a panic attack today, over something silly. It wasn’t fun but I survived it. What was it about? Music. I know it’s strange. An old friend of mine is trying to make a comeback and my head went into a dizzy spin. Then I got talking about my non-existing boyfriend to a friend. He might exist or not, I haven’t met him yet, yet. I then started panicking. Would he understand the love for music I have? Would he realise that between books and music, that they have had my heart for way longer than any person?

I know that sounds cheesy. But this worries me. I have a real bad music addiction that I cannot describe to other people. In some ways it is exactly like a drug.  I listened to one of Mumford and Sons’ new songs – The Wolf and I got anxious, what if it’s too different for people to like? I know it’s not my problem, but it becomes mine, because that’s how much I love music.  I still don’t have a comment on their new stuff, it might just grow on me. I gauge people on how they respond on how much I babble about a certain song and I especially judge a guy on how he responds to my music comments or need to see of bands. I have to say those guys have been few and far between. People don’t like hearing Kendrick and Gangs of Ballet in the same sentence.

There’s a lot of people out there who understand the commitment one has towards writing and reading, so it’s usually acceptable to allocate time spent on that. But when it comes to music, they deem it unhealthy if you are not a musician yourself. I involuntarily started crying the other day when a musician went so off key that I had to sit down at a concert. I felt sick when a sax player went one octave higher and the lead singer went in another direction at a gig. Most people feel music, I breathe it. As a child I spent every waking and asleep hour with a radio on. There was always a radio on, not because I hate silence, but because of the need to hear music.

As young teenagers most of my friends had a boyfriend. Surprise, I didn’t, I was made fun of and was told that I would marry words and have music as a lover. I laughed, thinking this is an absurd notion. Now, now it makes sort of sense. Music has been my constant companion. The right music at the right time, to lift my mood or to accompany my anger. Be it jazz, the blues, the classics and whatever else I listen to. It’s always been there, I hear music when I do something. In the background of my head there’s a song playing while I think of anything else. I do sometimes annoy my family by singing whatever is in my head, this may be the same phrase over and over again for the rest of the day. I did that the other day, I sang the first sentence of Milky Chance’s Stolen Dance.

I have certain playlists for writing, this I keep on changing, I really can’t tell you which playlist was used where. However if you repeat an album for too long you the lyrics may slip up into what you’re thinking. I once accidentally named a short story ‘In the Light of Day’, it bothered me for the whole evening until I realised it was a Jeremy Loops song. So the practice of having an album constantly rotating has gone, because it becomes the norm. I try to change up my music as often now.

If music was a real person, I would be clingy sometimes and not that interested or impressed sometimes. This comes back to the question, would he really understand? I am not sure, maybe that’s why I fall for musicians. They do get it. Do they? I remember the hours I spent on facebook talking just about music. I mean hours, not the mere 2 hours whilst Jon Savage was on air. I mean hours. Maybe it’s because I sometimes behave like a rockstar – said by a musician – or maybe it’s just for the love of music. But future person who I may be interested, please be aware that I care for music just as much as I care for you.

Things I Miss From My Childhood

We all have to grow up. This is one thing we need to accept, so I usually don’t miss my childhood – I just miss some of the memories I made as a child. This is why you never re-watch a childhood favourite film or cartoon. As adults we laugh at the innocence we had. What we really miss is the little responsibility we had as children, we just tried to have as much fun as we possibly could.

One of the things I do genuinely miss is fresh fruit and veg. There were always something bound to be growing, be it spinach or tomatoes. There were figs and pomegranates, they were free and delicious. The best was climbing into the mulberry tree to eat as many as you could, we always climbed out of the tree with stained clothes. The smell of fresh peaches and apricots cannot be replicated, forever a memory of my great-grandmother. As one grew older and moved, there were new fruits such as plum trees, to climb and hide in. Before my grandfather passed away, he planted papaya trees, banana trees, a walnut tree, litchi bushes, somewhere there’s a guava tree – I still smell it in the summer, an orange tree, a grapefruit tree and a lemon tree, those are the ones I remember. No one tends to them anymore, I haven’t seen a papaya grown here in years. But that was my childhood, fresh fruit and veg. Now we only have two avo trees that we still collect the spoils from.

I miss my grandfather. As a small child he used to take me out in the late afternoon and we used to go water all 1000 rose bushes that he owned, just the two of us. I used to get away with so much. In primary school I used to cycle to school, it was about 5km away but I couldn’t cycle and carry my bag on my back without falling backward. If they were visiting, he would pick up my bag and I would cycle home. My most treasured memory would be the day before he passed away. I went to visit him in the hospital, he kissed my hand, said goodbye and that he loves me. I got my closure.

I miss making friends as easily as I did. I know, there has to be one strange thing on here. I lived in a complex and I knew most of the neighbours and the kids. We knew most people in the street as well. That was just how life was. Everyone knew almost everyone and even when you fought with another friend, no one used to gang up or leave. Now I just hear the next door neighbour’s band, now and then. They aren’t that great but at least they use an electric drum kit. The guy across the road knows us, because he’s the head of the neighbourhood watch. Friends are few and far between.

I also miss travelling. Those were the days. Going on holiday was something new and fun. It was outside the norm. It may have been to the sea, but it was an adventure. We travelled far and wide as children and teenagers. There was always something new to be discovered. Now it’s just staring at the same few walls, wishing for a holiday that will never come.

Then there were the small things, like not being pressured into meeting a guy – because boys were friends and that’s all they were. Remember those yummy multi-vitamins we used to take? The closest I get to any ‘yummy’ vitamins are the chewable calcium tablets, they are supposed to taste like oranges. Scrapes and bruises were the biggest worries we had. Now it’s work, an income to make sure you stay afloat, medical aid – those scrapes and bruises are a bit bigger and worrisome and everything else that keeps you awake at night.

Life may have been less complicated back then, but I don’t want to repeat my childhood. Growing up is an adventure. There’s so many things that you can do and the failure may seem like the end of the world. Back then adventures were all just made up, now they are reality. Travelling as a child may not be taken as serious, but now you will remember and cherish those moments. Learning isn’t just confined to a classroom anymore, now one learn anywhere and everywhere. People pass on knowledge without knowing it, small tidbits are always thrown around. All I miss is making the memories I have, I wouldn’t miss making more of those.

Durban and gigs. Why are we so reluctant?

Let me tell you a short story, about my usual gig adventures. I see whomever whenever, Durban has a few live venues and they are half an hour from where I am. So going down into the city has to be worth it for me. But I do venture down the hill whenever I can, especially when I want to see someone live. My musical taste is quite eclectic compared to most of my friends. I have a soft spot for the blues, they don’t.

Now, for more time than that I always had an extra ticket or two. The first time this happened was in 2009, I had 2 extra tickets for some great line-up at Gateway and I offered them to people and then went onto Facebook and twitter. I was there and they could redeem them whenever they liked. No one took them, I was offering them for free. Over the years this has proven stupid. I have offered people free tickets and NO ONE wanted them, even if I offered it to them in person. Not that it was seated or anything like that. They didn’t need to be near me. And I knew how much they liked the music and was sort of hinting of going.

Now, this doesn’t happen anywhere in the country. I couldn’t use some tickets up in Jozi and I offered them to people I haven’t even seen in years and they took it. So this made me wonder. Is this a Durban thing? I know we are known not to attend music events in Durban. Even though I’ve been proven wrong a few times on that point, but then again Durban disappoints and I cringe internally.

I am not sure if people think ticket prices are extravagant. I know that music events are actually for the people more affluent than most. I get that, I sometimes have to say no and it hurts. But moping won’t get me anywhere. But not all gigs in Durban (for 3 bands) are R150, sometimes it’s R70 or less. So pick well. Or is it because it’s far from the suburbs? I have been to a house or two in the area near these venues. They are not old biddies, they are the young vibrant community that would most likely go listen to music. Is it because the right music is not getting featured?

I’ve pointed this out again and again. Why are we so reluctant? Or is there something that’s not being addressed? If so, well then – write about it, start talking about it.

Africa Isn’t a Country, but Knowledge Is Power

Africa isn’t a country. Wow, how many times must I have read it, seen it, heard it. How many times I’ve agreed and pointed it out? Who knows. A thought struck me one evening whilst watching Hector and the Search for Happiness, do people really think of Africa as a country?

In the film the main character, Hector, goes on an adventure, when asked “Where to?” first he says “China”. Beijing gets mentioned, Tibet gets shown. When asked “Where to?” lastly Hector says “L.A.”. All very clear but when asked “Where to next?” right in the middle he says “Africa.” This is where it gets interesting. I could not place where. It could have been Kenya,  Zambia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Botswana, the Congo or parts of South Africa. There were wildlife shots from Kenya, beer drinking (Castle) and taxi’ing (GP number plate) in SA. Sweet potato stew, clothes from Zambia, warlords, “cars are few and far between”, Italian mobsters, really bad planes with livestock, field clinics and a lot of security guards. Which came to my question. Where, oh where in Africa was this supposed to be?

We are not a country, there are 1.111 billion people here. You might use China to counter that point. We live on 20,3% of the world’s land mass, that is 30 065 000 square kilometres. That’s larger than most of the world. Does that prove a bit that Africa is not a country. 

However, does this prove that when people are told that “we are the biggest, the best and we don’t need to know about the rest” that they are ignorant? Yes, I know I’m pointing fingers at the rest of the world. Mainly pointing it to America. But films like that makes it clear what they think of us. It’s ignorant, selfish and almost infantilising us. Tell people that you’re better than the rest, well they will take it to heart and they will start stomping on other people. This is how the colonialists thought and in a recent article I read about what some Americans thought of South Africa and uranium, the conclusion I came to, was that they had the same mindset. 

But, a big one, the same can be said about those who don’t pay attention to the world. Let me explain, if you only have to focus on your work and nothing else, you might not know who Snowden or Assange is. You might just skim the top of the news sites. You might just get by to carry on with your life. Your life might consist of just sport or art or whatever. There are a lot of people that work like that, it’s ok up to a point when it becomes ignorant. There are people who don’t know that Georgia is a country who has a woman president, that there’s a place called Chad or Oman. I’m not an expert in either, I just know that they exist and they have different cultures and a variety of things happen in them. They might seem insignificant, but they aren’t because people live there and people matter. I know snippets but that’s a good thing, I try to get know things. 

This is not a lecture, this is however a plea. Not a usual one, but rather an interesting one. Broaden your horizons. I don’t mean you have to travel to Taiwan to get to know parts of the East. Just go read up on new things, explore something you’ve never thought you would. Press the random search button on Wikipedia or install stumbleupon on your browser. The World is teeming with new ideas and new possibilities. You might discover something you actually like. Start small, you would be surprised at how it might widen your vocabulary and horizons and you could make new friends. Knowledge really is power. People move forward and they grow with the more they know, read real books, read articles, explore, go on adventures. Mostly, support your local library those places are actually awesome. 

… because I was home

The furthest I’ve been from a place I called home was not that far. It’s not more than ±1800km. The only time I get onto a plane is to go up to Pretoria. But what is home really? My shortest answer has to be a title from AFI’s Sing the Sorrow – ‘…but Home is Nowhere’.

If I had to ask you: “Where’s home?” You’ll give me general location most likely. If we know each other better, you might even give me your home address. If you had to ask me the same thing, I would say the same thing, but on a good day I might give you another answer. Home used to be a place where all my stuff was in an allocated space. It was all mine and that constituted for it to be called home.

As a teenager I was lucky enough to see almost all of South Africa, for my 21st I went to the only place I haven’t been to – Cape Town. I loved and hated travelling, my fear to drive through Swaziland was lame – I had an irrational fear of heights that weren’t that high. But during that time driving up and down roads got me thinking, where is home? Do I really know where it is? I knew where it was, but the physical place was just that – an external home. It would have been the same as saying the sea is home, just because I have a connection with it. These places that I really called home, where places I felt anchored in. It was honestly a familiarity with the place.

There was however another thing that struck me, I never felt lost, as if home was so far away. I might have missed the comforts of my pillow or the access to my books. But the travelling used to be amazing. I remember there being a rainstorm right before Keetmanshoop and in the distance, past the cars in the place where the sun should have been, was a cloud emitting a light turquoise blue colour right where the horizon would have met the setting sun. Not for a second did I go “I am so far away from home, what on Earth?” nor did I go ” I wonder how the sky looks like at home?”, because I was home.

I realised that I was my home. I lived in a lot of different peoples homes. I’ve felt like I was in a house and I’ve felt like I was home and even then it differentiated. The only difference came from how I felt. No one person has made me go ‘this is home’, how can I give that big responsibility to someone? I know it must be creepy for someone going “But this is my home, you can’t be home here!” That’s not what I meant, the place where I lay my head, is just me anchoring a place to call home. Not that I would ever call a hotel my home. Home would be that place where I have a ton of notebooks, but some do go where I go.

Home is nowhere any everywhere, it is in a physical space and it is the place where I want to be. It’s in the comfort of the books I’ve read and the places where there will never be a trace of me. It is in the words I love and sometimes with the few people that I love. But most of all, home is me.