April 22, 2010

Samkele

this is Samkele.  everyone calls him Sami.  he is 11 years old.  he is one of the first children i met in Delft.  

on my very first visit, he came to the home of Pamela Tobi -- the woman who first invited the Baha'is to come and begin children's classes.  he was very happy to show me some of his Xhosa dancing with his friend Yolanda.  two years later he has shown us he's the best boy dancer in the neighborhood.  watching him dance traditional Xhosa style is quite impressive and amazing.  i am always intrigued at how dance and song are passed down in more traditional or tribal communities.  the kids are born into and surrounded by song & dance which have layers and layers of meaning.  they tell stories, express praise to the Creator, demonstrate struggle and the beauty of life.  Sami goes into a different space when he is dancing.  he's very serious and focused, as well as radiant and energized.  this is one of the many aspects of Xhosa life that is full of richness and quality, holding the people together with joy and unity in a way i haven't experienced in European-based cultures.

Sami's life is very challenging.  his parents have been separated from before we met.  he was living in the neighborhood these past 2 years with his older sisters; his mom only visited once in a while.  i arrived one day and watched him peel a potato and fry it for his dinner.  he was 10 years old and so alone, so independent, so quiet and outwardly content with his life condition.  his home consisted of an old, small couch and arm chair in the living room/kitchen area; the kitchen had a 2 burner stove top but no oven or refrigerator.  the bathroom was really a toilet room; the window to the toilet room was broken and this small space was used to store the ironing board and few tools that the family owned.  a tv/bookshelf unit became a wall that separated the living room area from the bedroom, which consisted of a bed and some boxes..

no refrigerator; no oven.. no storing milk, veggies, or frozen foods... no baked potatoes, casseroles or cookies... Xhosa people do make a steam bread on the burner which is delicious, but their lives are accustomed to a hardship that is typical of most places in the world that live traditionally or in poverty.  now that i have close friendships with people who don't own an oven or refrigerator, i have grown to appreciate their way of life more than i appreciate having the modern convenience itself.  i really appreciate seeing how strong people are in how they survive and make do with the simplicities of life, like water, fire, blankets, basins for washing, cornmeal, etc.

a couple of months ago Sami's dad came and took everything out of the house, forcing he and his sisters to move in with their mom.  she lives in an area of shacks about 15 minutes away by car -- a world away in their eyes.  i went to visit them right after they moved.  they met me on a main road and then took me on the dirt and rocky roads (which were more like wide footpaths).  as i was driving, the rocks kept scraping underneath the car; i was full of fear -- not that anything would happen to me, but that something would damage my car and i'd be stuck where no tow truck could ever come and take it away.  it was a new experience for me to drive through an 'informal settlement' -- we were stared at like never before because white people just don't go off the beaten track, let alone into a township in general.  the moment i smile and spread love to all those who are curiously looking at us, it's as if the light just eliminated all the darkness of suspicion and mistrust, a light in which only souls are communicating.  this is how i like to live my life: soul to soul.  i do realize i am white, and am often called 'umlungu' in the townships, but i realize even more that i am a soul, and that most people are wanting to connect at that level of our shared humanity.  i don't live in fear but in awe of the human race, especially in terms of its perseverance against oppression and injustice.

Sami's outward living conditions are just one level of complexity that defines his life.  another is his family life which i don't know too much about.  the greatest contribution to the complexity of his life is his personality and unique expression of his soul.  he is a boy who loves dancing more than soccer, singing more than drumming, writing more than drawing.  he brings a radiance and energy to our gatherings in such a way that when he's not there we all miss him, we notice he isn't there.  whenever we come, though, we never can predict if Sami will be joyful or withdrawn.  If withdrawn, i will take him aside and give him a space that he seems to need -- a couple of those times he has given me a letter the following visit, expressing his gratitude for me being in his life yet it seemed like nothing significant occurred in that moment of space.  He reminds me of how precious children's lives are -- how utterly important it is for us to pay them attention, to listen, to offer guidance, or to purely and simply smile and show them love.
 

April 20, 2010

sharing gems

This is Zetu. She is 7 years old and lives in Delft where we have a Baha'i School. She is smiling widely to show me her new 2 front teeth that seemed to take more than a year to come in. She is the first 'gem' that i have decided to begin sharing on this blog. It entered my heart the other day that Gems Of Oneness must feature individuals whose hearts have touched mine.  Children are easily the biggest group of people who touch my heart.  They are simply irresistable in so many ways..

Zetu loves plants and flowers.  She was one of the youngest who showed interest last year when we were having a gardening project.  She began taking me around the neighborhood to show me various weeds that were so stunning in their adaptability and perseverance amidst sandy soil and blustery winds.  One day i came from Sea Point Primary School with a bucketful of native ground-covering plants.  She eagerly anticipated receiving some to plant in front of her home.  You can imagine how joyful it was to share some with her!  The next week she proudly showed me how they were still standing (or surviving, depending on how you look at it).  New plants require a LOT of protection in a neighborhood where homes are small and children spend most of their time playing and exploring outside.  The plants didn't make it but her heart was all the much happier from trying to nurture them. :-)

She is one of the students in my class of 7-8 year olds at Baha'i School.  She comes very often and despite being one of the younger ones and missing many classes at a time, her overall attendance these past 2 years enables her to demonstrate an ability to answer most of the questions and recite from memory a few of the prayers.

April 07, 2010

drops of One ocean

it's been quite a while since i have shared any gems of oneness from my life. instead, writing has ebbed and flowed mostly to individual friends and family, or as drops of thoughts on facebook's NewsFeed. after recently watching the movie, "Julie and Julia" (julie julia movie - Google Search), i felt inspired to integrate GemsofOneness back into my life as an expression of creative spirit out into the world of humanity. it feels essential that this little drop of my life experience be offered, even if it's just as a journal which someday our children will look upon to catch a glimpse of what life was like growing up from their mama's perspective. perhaps the web can be seen as an ocean of drops, and all of us who write and share information are part of that ocean of oneness.

this past year was focused primarily on developing the Baha'i School program in Delft, one of the townships in Cape Town. In January, 2009, Dash started to come every Saturday -- in the course of that year he developed a Delft American Football league which played 3 seasons and enjoyed 3 championships. we became complementary partners invested in the lives of many souls there. we have been going every Tuesday night to offer and share Devotions with the children and jr. youth -- these moments are beyond measure in terms of the spirit of joy we have all experienced! now in 2010 we are entering a new stage of development with the Baha'i School and it is quite exciting.

in addition, the past 6 months has been spent developing PJSweets with Dash, our carrot cake business. We now have more than a handful of loyal clients who order at least one cake each week. :)

thinking of drops of water which collect magnetically to one another, i am feeling intrinsically connected with our human family and it's many struggles and triumphs, it's pain and joy. i desire to share what inspires and moves me along a wide range of emotions and thoughts in response to this ever-changing, ever-advancing world civilization.

i am immersed in a sea of thoughts about what i have observed and experienced of African culture, specifically the Xhosa people. i have come to feel that my soul is especially uplifted and full of joy while spending time or interacting in some way with the Xhosa people. i am the happiest when our family is together in Delft, serving in various capacities to offer spiritual education and develop bonds of trust and love with all the cultures living there. striving to be an example of servitude while upholding and sharing the Teachings of Baha'u'llah is the dominating passion of our lives..there is so much to share as we continue to learn and grow.

more to share soon.. :)