Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

People who are true food lovers will always say that eating is an emotional experience. From that point of view, Aimee Bender tells the story of Rose Edelstein who experiences her adolescence through the emotions that she tastes in the food she eats.

When Rose turns nine her mother bakes a special lemon cake for her, and this is where Rose's food tasting journey starts. Rose is horrified with the realisation that she knows what people feel when she eats the food they prepare.

Reality, Rose discovers, is stranger than fiction.

Aimee Bender writes heartbreaking prose that makes you giggle at one point and then plunges you in deep depression the next. She writes her characters in such a way that the reader can identify with them in all circumstances. We have all felt these emotions. We just did not realise that they are evident in the food we prepare or eat.

A thoroughly enjoyable book to read with such beautiful writing, that once you start, you just continue to turn the pages until you realise that the story is done and life goes on again.

Reviewer: Antonia Vermeulen

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things are to be used and people are to be loved.

People are meant to be loved.

A co-worker just sent me a message on BBM titled: Loved vs Used.
It says:
While a man was polishing his new car, his six-year-old son picked up a stone and scratched lines on the side of the car. In anger, the man took the child’s hand and hit it many times, not realising he was using a wrench.

At the hospital, the child lost all his fingers due to multiple fractures. When the child saw his father … with painful eyes he asked “Dad when will my fingers grow back”. The man was hurt and speechless, he went back to his car and kicked it many times. Devastated by his own actions, sitting in front of that car he looked at the scratches, the child had written: “love you dad”. The next day that man committed suicide.

The message continues:
Anger and Love have no limits, choose the latter to have a beautiful and lovely life. Things are to be used and people are to be loved. But the problem in today’s world is that people are used and things are loved.

In this year let us be careful to keep this thought in mind. Things are to be used and people are to be loved. Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actins, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character it becomes your destiny.

This made me think of the situation that I had with my mom over the weekend. We got home from Resego Mogodi’s funeral (Rest in Peace nana) and we were flippin’ tired, so we both napped.

She woke up before me and realised that my car was not under the shade anymore. While trying to park it nicely, she scratched it on the side against a heap of bricks that were close by.


She woke me up immediately to show me and to apologise. I was furious, but tried to contain my anger. Mistakes happen, you know. But, damn, I was mad!

But now, after reading this message from Tendai, I’m reminded that indeed things are meant to be used and people are meant to be loved.
What’s the fuss about? My mom promised to pay for its fixing? So why was I so mad?

We place so much value on material things. How would I feel if things were the other way round? How would I feel if my mom was hit by a car, instead of my mom scratching the car? Now that would be devastating.

Honestly, I rather she scratched the car and she was not harmed. A car is a car, it can be fixed, it can be sold, it can be replaced and as for my mom on the other had – she’s the only mom I have and I can never replace her and life without her would be not imaginable. 

I’m glad that a friend forwarded this message to me as a reminder that these things are just things and we should instead place more value on the people who love us, who would do anything for us, who want to see us happy and whom life without, would be hell.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Disability is not the end of the road

Musa Zulu

At the age of 23, Musa Zulu was involved in a tragic car accident that left him paralysed from the waist down. At 27, he became the director of KwaZulu-Natal Asiphephe (Let us be safe) Road Safety Project, a sub-directorate within the Department of Transport. “Our task was to reduce the number of road crashes that have led to so many deaths and cases of disability,” he says.

Zulu took time out of this busy schedule of being a motivational speaker and being involved in road safety campaigns to speak to me. The father of two daughters, Swazi (8) and Ziyanda (5) says the disability has changed his life in a sense that it’s difficult to never walk again.” Then he jokes: “The nice part is that my shoes never go old.” 
He says he remembers the night of the accident clearly. “I was young and careless. I hit a wall as a result of speeding. Now I tell people never to speed. They should only speed in their minds.”

At the time of the accident, he was working for Tongaat Mushrooms as senior personnel manager. A week before the accident, his employer informed him that he was earmarked for a promotion at head office in Johannesburg. Things were going very well for him as he was also talking to his partner about getting married.
But then his whole life changed and things were very hard after the paralysis. He lost his job (early retirement) and his girlfriend of two-and-a-half years left him. “Suddenly, all was gone and tears formed a veil through which I viewed life. I did not want to believe that it happened to me.
“After a full year of pain and wishing for a miracle, I realised that my family and close friends were beginning to lose hope that I would ever find a reason to smile again. My sorrow was affecting them as well, especially my father. I pulled myself together and vowed never to bow to failure again.”
Zulu says that listening to music gave him strength. Seeing other disabled people striving to live full lives made him want to achieve the same.

Zulu has always had great enthusiasm and energy for life. In 1989 at the age of 17, he started his university studies in social science.
“I have always been attracted to community development initiatives and issues. Social science offered me the opportunity to study my society and understand its dynamics. My wish was to make a difference, particularly to the marginalised black population whose lives have been disrupted by years of political oppression,” says Zulu.
He left the university towards the end of 1994 to join Tongaat Mushrooms. During his brief stay there, he initiated many changes that uplifted workers. “I was paralysed shortly after completing the job descriptions of all employees ­– an exercise that saw many employees receiving improved salaries because of a well-defined job grading system. Then came the accident,” he says.
In 1998, he visited the State of Victoria in Australia to see how they dealt with road crashes. “Apparently the state has one of the lowest road death/crash records in the world”, he says. While there, he met people from various disability organisations to learn from them how they assisted their government to meet the needs of the disabled.
Zulu says: “Before the end of 1998, I was part of the Department of Transport’s team that launched the first buses for the disabled – fully equipped with hydraulic lifts to provide easy access. Three of these buses are in operation in KwaZulu-Natal.”

He has since joined forces with his disabled friends and formed a support group. “Happiness revisited me. I found myself wanting to win back my sense of independence and control.” He bought himself a car and started visiting newly disabled people in hospitals.
 “While I was in hospital my father told me that everything happens for a purpose. I did not know what he meant then, but today I have found my purpose in life – to show the world that there is always a bright sky after a storm if we believe,” concludes Zulu.
Zulu says today he is happy to say that: “I have found a ‘home’ in my situation of disability. There is nothing that I cannot do. I have grown and matured as a result of the accident. I am truly blessed. I don’t live with regrets and my advice to people is to love life and be safe. 

A print version of this piece was published in Vuk'uzenzele January 2012. 


Monday, January 16, 2012

Some safe partying tips from DJ Zinhle

The parties and celebrations of the festive season is something of the past and most of us are back at work with a list of New Year’s resolutions. For some, the festive season was a wake-up call to be more cautious in future of things like drinking too much, driving under the influence of alcohol, unsafe sex an overspending.

Someone who has been observing people’s party behaviour and witnessed first-hand how people lose their sense of responsibility at parties, is DJ Zinhle.

Zinhle Jiyane, aka DJ Zinhle, stepped onto the South African DJ scene at a time when it was still very much a man’s world. But this talented lady quickly managed to turn some heads with her crazy skills on the turntables. She even grabbed the attention of some of Mzansi’s most respected DJs, such as DJ Oskido, and has today become one of the best female house DJs in South Africa.
I spoke to DJ Zinhle about some safe partying tips.

DJ Zinhle suggests:

The do’s:
·      Always let someone know where you are going and who you are with when you go out at night.
·      Have a party budget, so that you don't end up overspending.
·      Choose a designated driver who will not drink and drive.
·      Take a condom if you think you are going to be intimate and use it when the time comes. 
·      Keep your cellphone with you in case you need to make an emergency call.

The don'ts:
·      Don't drink anything anyone offers you, especially if it’s already open.
·      Never leave a party with a stranger, especially if you have been drinking.
·      Don't drive if you have been drinking, rather take a taxi to the venue and back if you plan to drink.
·      Don't use your cellphone while driving, except if it’s an emergency call.
·      Lock all your car doors when driving, especially at night.
·      Abstain from sex with strangers, especially if you have been drinking, as alcohol weakens your sense of responsibility
·      Don’t experiment with drugs.
·      If you are underage don’t go to places that have an age restriction

What to carry when going out:
·      Always have extra cash for emergencies.
·      I always carry pepper spray as a safety precaution.
·      Have your driver's licence with you if you are driving.
·      Have your ID with you.

What to avoid:
·      Avoid going to places you have never been to with someone you have just met.
·      Avoid travelling alone at night.
·      If you have to travel alone, make sure you have enough petrol and that your car is roadworthy.

Save for a rainy day
Ok, so there you have it folks. Remember, too much of anything is not good and that alcohol and drugs make you do irresponsible things.
Keep in mind to not spend more than you can afford; save some money for necessities to kickstart the New Year.
Make sure that you have enough saved up for school uniforms, stationery, travelling expenses and so on. 

A print version of this piece was published in Vuk'uzenzele January 2012