Another experience of synchronicity is a book I was given by my dear friend Amy Brown. The name of the book is called "The Presence Process" by author Michael Brown who is from, where else, South Africa. The book anchors itself on deep breathing and integrating (as way of healing) emotional pain. Jane and I had many moments of having to breath deeply as we witnessed the most incredible love and passion amid poverty that is still not even the worst on the continent. In fact immigrants from other parts of the African continent come to Cape Town to end up living in what we would consider deplorable conditions. Some how no matter what, when you look in the eyes of some of the people living in conditions of racism and poverty you could always find a light.
Two hours Northeast of Cape Town is a town with a population of 5,500 people called Riviersonderend or RSE for short. There is a literally a wall that divides the town's black and white residents. The wall is painted with social graffiti with words of inspiration, encouragement and a message to get tested for HIV/AIDS. In the town is a woman named Liti (Lee-dee). Her son John has created a foundation that serves the people of this part of town to support Youth development, Social Entrepreneurship and Environmental Sustainability. John lives in Cape Town, but when he comes into RSE, the youth he has worked with gather around Liti's home. He is a sign of hope.
In the black side of town many adults have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and there is a high degree of alcoholism. A significant number of children have developmental challenges due to mothers who drink while pregnant. The white side of town are comprised mainly of retired white South Africans. They own the businesses in the town and would like to find a way to "integrate" but they don't want to be exposed to the crime and illness that has become associated with the black or coloured South Africans. There is a distinction between being a Black or Coloured South African. You are coloured if you are not white, BUT you cannot be affiliated with a tribe.
There are some whites in the town that recognize that the illness and drugs in the black community is not a "black" thing. Part of the grant that enabled this trip through The Light Center, aided in endeavors to bridge the Black and White divide. Some of the Black grandmothers (aka "gogo's) in the town have begun sewing and knitting projects to sell. They are excellent quality. While we were there a White business woman in the town who is also master quilter agreed to teach the Gogo's how to quilt and will help them sell them in her shop.
My most memorable moment while hanging out in RSE,was when I was walking through the town, If you walk slowly it takes 25 minutes to get from one end of town to the other. I spoke aloud, "God I don't know what is mine to do here but I am willing to do your will. So I just began singing aloud walking down the street. I came across a young girl named Monique. She had me sing Spirit Is Alive over and over, each time we ran into a new group of children. I sang it 3 times on the street in the same manner as if I were on a stage. I also took the time to get to know their goals and dreams. One high school freshman told me he wanted to be a lawyer but his teacher told him that he was hopeless. I told him to tell his teacher that "Bukeka from America said that you are not hopeless and that you can be a lawyer".
On Friday the clinic dispenses free medication to AIDS patients and I sang I'll Light a Candle in Your Name to those waiting in lobby while several of them were brought to tears.
Blikkiesdorp (pronounced Blick-ees-dorp)
Bernadette is a woman about 5 foot with the power and a voice for justice that equals that of Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi. She is a force to be reckoned with. She is the voice of Blikkiesdorp a settlement that was created to take the homeless and squatters off the street prior to the 2010 World Cup Soccer Championship that was held in Cape Town. The people living in Blikkies were forcibly removed and given tin shacks to live in. Sound familiar (Aparthied-this time separation by class.) The Novalis Institute was asked by the Mayor of Cape town to help with this eye soar of Cape Town.
During our visit to Blikkies, there was talk of a possible outbreak of Meningitis. Bernadette uses her cell phone to negotiate with government officials to draw attention to this crisis. She shares with us that the nearby hospital wants nothing to do with people from Blikkies. She takes her daughter to the hospital frequently to help her with respiratory problems developed from the metal in which her house is made of. One day Bern (her nickname) stated that she sat in the emergency waiting room and 5 people died right in front of her.
The sentiment is that the government does little to help with sick and elderly in hopes that the now 21,000 residents of Blikkies will simply die off. Children play on swing sets with no swings that are built on top of a hard rock surfaced ground. Electricity runs through the units but there is no running water inside the "units". One outdoor toilette is made available for very 4 dwellings.
Blikkie means "tin". Bern and her husband Ashey were given a computer and uses social media to bring light to the blight is Blikkiesdorp and uses that media as a weapon pointed at the government to shame them into creating change. On some levels that seems to be working. She will stress over and over that they are not interested in relying on the government, but the government should be aware that they are not willing to be put away and left to die.
On the very day I left Cape Town, I spent a short time working with Robin Goff and care givers of individuals working with orphan children. During my portion of the presentation I introduced the group to EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or tapping, which flowed well from Robin's work of healing touch. They tapped to my song "I Am Worthy of Love".
They affirmed "I love myself unconditionally" and "It's OK for me to receive." Bea Juris who works at Novalis and overseas programs for OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) closed the day by reminding them that they are worthy and presented many of the workers with certificates of appreciation for the incredible work they do with children and youth.
My trip to South was the most amazing experience of my life. I have been noticeably transformed at depth. As I continued to practice being in the present moment and deep breathing through it all it aided me in dealing with the dichotomy of circumstances that make up South Africa. With all their challenges South Africa leads the world in environmental sustainability efforts.
I returned on Thanksgiving day. When I turned on the television Friday morning it was Black Friday and the news depicted shoppers rushing into Target and talk of "pepper spray". Immediately I shut the television off trying not to go into a place a judgement, which was not difficult to do.
Part of my shift in perception is that there are many many worldviews from where ever we happen to be on the planet. Somewhere in between insane greed and abject poverty lies a sea of humanity willing to give, produce, work, and celebrate the gift of being alive on a planet that is rich in substance, beauty and wonder.
With that, happy holidays, take NOTHING for granted and spend more time just being. Take time to practice deep breathing and simply take time to simply BE.
Love and Laughter
Videos and Images from RSE
A FUNNY moment of driving towards RSE and being faced by a herd of cattle "Oh my goodness".
Singing with kids at Liti's house The Universe is Calling and Guiermo singing Spirit is Alive while listening to the recording.
The Gogo's Sew
Garden along roadside
Solar energy panels on government housing
Social graffiti on the wall dividing RSE
Videos and Images from Blikkies
Asheleen who is in and out of hospital for respiratory problems
This YouTube clip is a South African group of classical singers visiting Blikkies to inspire and uplift. Many people who find out about Blikkiesdorp come to see for themselves and are moved to offer help and inspiration to the people that live there.
Above: Fezeka Choir Singing South African National Anthem, Below: Last day with caregivers at Novalis
Bea Juris and Jane Simmons touring through Blikkes
From left to right Billy Domingo, me, and Mzawi at espAFRIKA next to Cape Town Jazz Festival Poster
Fron left to right Sive Msolo, Me, Mzwandile and Mandisi at Bush Community Radio 89.5
Penguin Bay...Yes there are penguins in South Africa
Cape Point...where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet