THE GREAT ETHIOPIAN WAIT Part 2: A Wing and a Prayer

There’ s faith in Addis Ababa  – it’s everywhere – in the structure of the buildings and the soul of the people……

There’s also history – ancient and noble…..

…..Troubled  and complicated.

There’s also the memory of Hailie Selassie – and his legacy

There’s architecture – ancient and noble….

…troubled and complicated.

There’s a zig zag track where you can run a marathon – back and forth….

There are lots of markets – where you shop, get your shoes shined, buy a goat – or just wait…

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And there’s lots of food….and lots of coffee….

You can discover the root of all life in Addis……or you can  just sit…. and wait…..

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ENDS. x

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THE GREAT ETHIOPIAN WAIT Part 1: Wedding and Running

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‘And there are amazing cave churches, carved out of rock…..’  Judy told me this. She’d just come back from Ethiopia. A seed nestled, ‘Wow’ I thought, ‘one day I’ll go there too.’ Over twenty five years later, I made it. I didn’t get to see the rock churches, and sadly, the lovely young Judy Faber never got to see them again either, because she died in a car crash soon after.

So a quarter of a century later when Sarah said ‘Don’t you want to come and do the Great Ethiopian Run’ – my first thought was of Judy. I’ll do it for her. ‘Yup’, I said, ‘count me in!’

It nearly didn’t happen. With just a few weeks to go, a State of Emergency was declared in the country. But having waited so long, I wasn’t about to back out now. And so we ran – BBC journalist Sarah, photographer Caroline and Ethiopian chef Tutu….

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And so did Tutu’s dad, Melaku. Almost immobilised by a couple of strokes, UK based Tutu decided she’d that she’d help him fulfill a dream and push him on the 10km Run – in a wheelchair.  Sarah Parfitt who through her son’s school in Cookham is fundraising for an Ethiopian rural village community called Gende Tesfa, brought over the wheelchair – as well school teddy mascot and her camera buddy Caroline to cover the event. Irresistibly this feisty trio called their joint venture ‘Tutu’s for Change’ – and dressed accordingly!

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But before embarking on the Great Run – first there was the early morning-before warm up – though the traffic in Addis Ababa is quite hectic, one way or another….

We witnessed the city slowly coming to life with prayers, commerce, transport…. and waiting….

Tutu has a large and extended family at home in Addis, and many friends who she helps support – so when she comes back she celebrates with them. And very generously she invited us to join them all at a family wedding reception…what a privilege!

What started as a sedate event soon grew into a boisterous celebration – with dancing…..

And feasting….

Tutu, who owns a restaurant Tutu’s Ethiopian Table in the UK, went easy on the feast…but made sure her dad’s plate was filled – energy for the next days adventure!

Finally, the wedding party was over – and power cuts notwithstanding, a good time was truly had by all!

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Next stop was the pre-race Pasta Party at the Hilton Hotel, for participating internationals….where we got to meet founder of the Great Ethiopian Run, legendary Olympic athlete himself Hailie Gebreselassie – of whom everybody wanted a piece….

At dawn next morning, us and two elite Kenyan athletes staying in the same hotel, head out for the Start of the Run in Meskel Square. The city’s streets are closed to make way for the event – but there are also State of Emergency-triggered road blocks

But we get there – and the crowds are already amped and warming up….

So are the police – so is Caroline…..

Slightly worrying is that there are 42,000 people on this Run – but only one loo….

But with a little encouragement from South African star runner Hendrik Ramaala – Team ‘Tutu’s for Change’ is ready to roll…..

And then we’re all off…..

Coupla moments along the way….

…and a couple more…..

Till finally – the Finish….

…..the selfies and the interviews with, amongst others, Kenyan athlete Jorum Lumbasi, UK running rock star and organiser Richard Nerurkar and a beaming Hailie…..

But a Run in Ethiopia is not over till the party is done….and up at Hailie’s Yaya Athletic Village in the mountains we get to eat, drink and dance some more with the man who inspires thousands to run….and have a welcome cup of coffee….

So worth the wait…..well and truly blessed!

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The Great Ethiopian Wait – Part 2 to follow soon…..

 

LIT KULT IN K’LITSHA

Occasion: Kulture Book Fair  Venue: Kuyasa Library, Khayelitsha  Date: June 20

Congratulations on a great event…..!

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To visionary behind the Fair, Monde Kula of Inkululeko in Mind

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And thank you to Lungelwa Ciliba, reference librarian who gave me directions on the phone!

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And a warm wamkelekile from the check out team!

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Mama Sindiwe Magona opens the event with stories for the kids….

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….getting those little imaginations flying……

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And a good time was had by all!

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Including Prof Simphiwe Sesante of Unisa who got to share a moment with Living Legend Sis Sindi.

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Teacher and writer Lukhanyo Mangona picks up some inspiration……

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…while the impressive library itself caters for all tastes, and ages.

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Author of five books Nondyebo Booi has a story that grows and grows…

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…while actress, ‘artivist’ and soon-to-be published author Andrea Dondolo centres herself before sharing her story……

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….and inspirational speaker, founder of Lesdei House publishing company Tshepo Nketle reads from one his own 24 book titles…..and reveals that he is soon to be opening the very first book shop in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha!

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And may there be many, many more -book shops and Book Fairs in Khayelitsha…where there are so many old, and new stories  just waiting to be told. Thank you Monde, for an inspiring experience.

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ENDS.

HONOURABLE WOMEN

International Women’s Day and Daphne and I got to spend it in the company of some fine women!
Walking for peace in the Company’s Garden with the Cape Town branch of the International Women’s Peace Group and witnessing Lucinda Evans of Lavender Hill, founder of Philisa Abafazi Bethu receive her Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur award from French Ambassador Madame Elisabeth Barbier at the Alliance Francaise. What an honour for us to be invited to both events.
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Atlantis activist Barbara Rass
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Across cultures 026 - Copy
Across generations 013
Mum’s the word 028 - Copy
On the peace path 032
In the Mother City 037 - Copy

LUCINDA FOR PRESIDENT!
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Sharing medals and champagne with the Ambassador 063 - Copy
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The team behind her 042 - Copy
The man behind her, Frank Evans 044
Sharing the moment, poet Bulelwa Basse 067

What a proud day!

MAD DASH Moments

Lucky enough to have witnessed the recent BOOK DASH at the Centre for the Book in Cape Town, where in just one day, a whole bunch of ‘creatives’ wrote, illustrated, edited, designed and produced no fewer than 12 uniquely African storybooks for children – thought I’d share some of the moments…..
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The Old School Equipment009
The New School Equipment 038
The Brainstorm 014
The Buzz 016
The Rubbing Out 029
The Colouring In 031
The Lunch Read 033
The Chaos 036
The Order 048
The Madness 052
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The Proud Parents054
Great work guys! Loved it xx
There will be more Book Dashes – elsewhere in the country, soon. But for all the info, check their site: bookdash.org

LAST ORDERS LADIES PLEASE!

If ever you saw yourself as someone who supports raising the voice of women, now’s your chance to show it. Just about ready to roll is the Woman Zone book called Being a woman in Cape Town: Telling your story. And you can be in it! But you have to be quick – we’ll soon be going to press!
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The book tells the individual stories of 13 very different women – plus, how to tell your own. It gives details of women-focused destinations on women’s walks in the Mother City and includes extracts from the writing of some of Cape Town’s best loved women writers.
For R1000 you can be a Silver Sponsor and have your name included in the Who’s Who of Cape Town women champions – and get a copy of the book.
For R3000 you can be a Gold Sponsor, have your name and details of your business included – and get two copies of the book.
Alternatively you can simply pre-buy a copy for R250.
Here’s the link through which can sponsor or pre-buy.

https://www.quicket.co.za/events/8979-being-a-woman-in-cape-town-telling-your-story/?preview=t#/
If you’d like more info, let me know – or check out http://www.womanzonect.com
The book will be launched at 6pm on August 7th 2015 at the WOMAN ZONE Women’s Library @ Artscape during their women’s arts festival. It would be great to see you there!

NEUTRAL TERRITORY

I’m not big on snow. I grew up with it and memories of chilblains, washing frozen on the line and shovelling trenches so we could get to school are indelible. And I’m not that big on skiing either ever since my youngest son nearly ended his cricketing aspirations by buggering his knee on the first and last ski trip I ever took him on.
So I had mixed feelings about the Edelweiss airline invitation to Switzerland. Plus I’m very bad at heights – and those Alps eh!
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I need not have worried, because although Leukerbad in the Valais canton is 1400m above sea level with 52 kms of ski slopes and facilities for every snow sport known to mankind, it also has the gift of natural thermal springs. And so I spent the greater part of the stay there in hot water, straight from the ground. Bliss!
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I bathed like a princess in steamy pools, ate like a queen – a confirmed cheese lover (I could do melty raclette and fondue any day), walked like a lady on a village water tour and went up the cable car to the Gemmi Pass at 2,270 m – eyes closed like a complete wuss.
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I also spent a fabulous few hours in Zurich admiring this historic city with a river running through it – all efficiency, chocolate shops and clock faces. And I got to eat in the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe – bonus or what!
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I hope you may be able to read more about all of the above as I get round to writing (hopefully publishing) in detail. So this is just a taste.
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But I’m also not one for gratuitously singing the praises of airlines – a flight is a flight after all, A to B. I would however, like to say that the extra 15cm in Edelweiss’s Economy Max class made a surprisingly big difference enhanced by smiling, uber-organised cabin crew. Completely sold on their jolly, cartoonesque branding which echoes from the aircraft nose tip to happy pillows, gingerbread biberli to the office doors (yup, got to visit head office).
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But if 15cm was a treat, let me tell you about Business Class (not that I’m a connoisseur, it doesn’t happen often). Classy trays of amuse bouche with champagne and other meals arrived with alarming frequency, push-button massage seat to stretch-out bed was close to heaven – and I was lucky enough to have a rather divine young businessman as a seat neighbour who knew the whereabouts and how-to of all the finger-tip functions. Though such a travel companion can’t always be guaranteed, the rest of it was a bit like a dream after a lifetime of cramped economy.
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So thank you Edelweiss. This trip may even have conquered my antipathy towards snow and fear of heights.

CITY’S INFECTIOUS INFECTION

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Infecting the City – Cape Town’s art festival has come and gone. It was truly fab…..
There was night time dance…..
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There was poetry and words….
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….art and people…..
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…..hair and more hair…..
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…..and high wire…..
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Great stuff Jay Pather and teams. Look forward to next year

TRANS-ITION

TRANS-ITION
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So it’s gone – a paper mountain. The innards of a thousand files filled with reference and notes on stories written, done and dusted – over decades. The steel grey filing cabinets previously crammed to capacity breathed a sigh at their passing. Space! In a battery of black bags off to the recycling depot went the contents to be shredded into oblivion. Phew!
It wasn’t gritty determination and resolve for a fresh transition into 2015 – much as I’d like to think – it was having a few spare days and no excuses. I inherited the squirrel gene from my darling Mamma, and when she died it took us weeks, months even to sort through just the piles of ‘paperwork’ under every bed, in each cupboard and drawer. Carefully packaged, tied with string and labelled – and sometimes randomly stashed in shoe or hat boxes and the hallowed ‘deed’ box – they revealed a life well lived, loved and recorded. Letters and ledgers, drawings and ditties, reports, research……but it had to go. There isn’t place on this planet for all of life’s paperwork. And when my time is up…..I’d like to spare my boys the paperwork piles.
Having said that – there’s still plenty left behind! Now that I look at it, there’s scarcely a dent been made. Sorry guys. Two shelves of spiral notebooks, folders on every course ever taken, tearsheets from twenty years of magazine work – and five boxes of trannies. I was stressing about what to do with these last on facebook when a f/b friend asked what a ‘trannie’ was. You feel the might of the digital tsunami when you have to explain such sell-by dated terminology. In fact, what’s a tearsheet! And come to think of it – what’s to be done with the CD’s and cassettes of radio work. Please don’t anyone ask me what a cassette is. But it doesn’t matter – what matters is what remains in your head and your heart – and if it’s forgotten maybe it didn’t matter that much.
Symbolically and finally, I disassembled the deeply layered pinboard. Dust motes thick on curling photos, drawing pins rusted, sun decayed plastic, handwriting, photocopies and important passwords faded into ghostly images and hieroglyphs. Back in place the pinboard shrieks with emptiness, echoing the song of the filing cabinets. So here I sit now with a clear slate – well, clearer – and a laptop full of notes. Next stop, Dropbox.

And in another twenty years, someone will say, ‘What’s Dropbox?’. I may not be able to answer.

WINGED BIRDS – TWENTY YEARS

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die

Life is a broken winged bird, that cannot fly

This is the short poem on the back of the T-shirt I bought at the District Six Homecoming Centre on Tuesday 11th Feb.  They were marking 24 years since Nelson Mandela was released from prison, 20 years of democracy – and in a few months, the birthday of the District Six museum – and 48 years since the District was declared a White Group Area. Events not to be forgotten.

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On the front of the T-shirt is an image of a hand releasing a winged bird flying to freedom. It’s a piece by veteran artist Peter Clarke inspired by the couplet by American poet Langston Hughes, his friend and correspondent. Peter created this archive piece 30 years ago in 1984. The District Six Homecoming Centre have used it in turn as a 3D interpretation on the new forged steel gates at their entrance.

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To celebrate the gates, the art, the dream, the hopes and the memories – after the speeches by Director Bonita Bennett, artist  himself Peter Clarke with testimonies by his contemporaries, artist Peggy Delport and poets James Matthews and Gladys Thomas…..everyone marched peacefully up to an empty site in District Six to lay a stone on the cairn – with a banner that read ‘No matter where we are, we are here.’ Twenty white doves were released into the air and a brass trio played the haunting hymn, Abide with me. What a wonderful new memory.

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You can hear some of the recorded event on Sunday 16th Feb between 13.00 and 16.00 on SAfm Literature 104-107 when I’ll also be talking to Peter Clarke to hear his story.