BETWEEN A LANDLORD AND THE XENOPHOBIA ON THE STREET

Crowded in between a landlord and fear of Xenophobia in the streets of South Africa.

Crowded in between a landlord and fear of Xenophobia in the streets of South Africa. Photo John Robinson

The Madiengua family lives in a over crowded flat in the Point area of Durban, South Africa or “Little Nigeria” as it is known.

The Madiengua family live with their personal belongings packed in plastic bags in case of immediate eviction by the landlord of their building in the Point area of Durban, South Africa, Paty Madiengua stands with his wife Yvette and 4 children L to R Ephraim (15), Sabrina (14), Geffrey (10) and Genesis (2) in the kitchen of their flat ready be on the move again.

Yvette comes from the village Buta in Oriental Province, DRC. her parents were killed by the DRC army, she escaped to Kinshasa with her brother and sister where her brother went missing. Yvette met Paty an egg vendor on the streets of Kinshasa and followed him to South Africa with their 4 children.

Paty works night shift as a security guard in the city and Yvette sells clothes on the beach front. Mr Madiengua’s salary does not match up to the rent on their 14th floor flat, the landlords in the area are getting rid of families on the over crowding rule. While the Madiengua family feel safe in their flat they struggle to keep up with the rent and cost of a family and they are “fearful of the xenophobia in the townships”.

 

THOUGHTS WHILE WATCHING THE GOOD DOCTOR SEASON ONE

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I know of a family who’s daughter bounced out of a coma after massive brain trauma.

She will do somethings a little different now and other things way better then those around her; and to her parents I say not all is lost and much is gained too.

The Good Doctor is a television series about a gifted young surgeon in a hospital who also happens to be autistic. While the surgeon in The Good Doctor is a surgeon way above par, he battles to cope with social skills, obsesses about things and gets visibly upset because the handy man in the building where he lives fixes something that was not on his “to fix list”.

I cheer, laugh out loud and cry while watching The Good Doctor. The producers of the show have captured realities of post brain injury life. The presence of being a bit weird to others, not always having the word you really wanted and knowing that my left hand likes to do the funky without telling me first. On the other hand being so focused and perceptive now that I feel that my photography is enhanced and that the pictures I now take are some of the best and better then before I had my stroke in 2012.

I don’t want other’s pity, I am comfortable in my skin now as I now know the new me and am leaving that somewhat arrogant person in the past; there is no reversing option after coming around after a stroke in a hospital bed. There is no going back after brain injury, you have got what you have now got, like wetting my hospital bed ’cause my muscle control had to be still relearned. With time you realise that you have got more then first realised too. Rather then your pity I always like a bit of space when my brain is ‘rebooting’; often you won’t even realise that I am in pause mode as it only takes about 20 seconds and I am a master at masking when it happens in public.

While in that hospital bed I talked with a doctor doing her rounds “ma’am, people are supposed to die from strokes”. The doctor just said “yes”. A stroke is devastating. As devastating as it has been, my stroke has also proved to me a life changing event too. I live consciously now, every day, each day, I smell, see things as never before and I am stronger in mind and body then ever before.

I am shit awful at religion and in that class I am bad Johnny at the back, but I sense a greater being, I so believe. I believe in a God that let his son die a public death in Palestine and loves me more then any parent loves their child. Belief is different to religion, it’s not like a brittle dead stick, it has flex and it is so strong.

I really like my whole self now with all the quirks and yes my favourite colour is magenta. A friend who knew me pre stroke said that I seem different “you are more tender now, I recognise you as John but you have changed”. My CT scan report includes the following; “A large wedge shaped hypo density involving the grey and white matter is noted in the right frontal region with involvement of the insular region and the right basal ganglia… in keeping with right chronic MCA territory infarct”. I am not medically trained and I do not know what my right frontal region does or does not do now, but I do know about living in my body post stroke. I find other words when the ‘right’ word is not there anymore. Day to day I have slight fine motor skill loss in my left hand, a very slight weakness in my left lower leg and foot. I find that eating with my right hand is easier, riding a bicycle is better then walking long distances and living as though each day is a gift as I could have been already dead as the lady doctor said.

I would not like to back track anymore if it were even possible, I am now accepting of my self and I am a lot more accepting of others too. Though I cope much better when in a congruent situation be that my home office or on a bicycle rush hour traffic and I am so much more perceptive now.

I would not wish a stroke on anyone, but my brain injury has come to me as a bit of a gift in disguise and life is short enough as it is to not take hold of what is. – John Robinson

 

…WHILE WALKING DOWN DR PIXLEY KASEME STREET

Hate, fear and love are also 4 letter words; and by another 4 letter word, if I don’t grapple with their out working each and every day of my life.

H is now a friend of mine; she lives just off South Beach with her husband and works in her brother’s restaurant at the top end of Dr Pixley KaSeme Street across from the old grave yard. She makes a petite Ethiopian coffee that my homeopath should never know about, and with its clove infusion is my favorite shot of down town coffee. Her brother’s restaurant is a scent filled alcove, without a menu he serves meat and salad on a plate of injera; a sour flatbread from their home in Ethiopia. H’s coffee is roasted and brewed on charcoal in front of me, she serves it in fine porcelain that her friend G sells alongside the coffee beans from the highlands of their homeland. It is because of local ‘hate of other’ that the brother has said no to photos of H here, it is out of respect for him that H quietly shook her head to me when I took out the M6 just off this road in down town Durban.

F is fearful and is still the victim of a brutal hijacking about 3 years ago. F can’t go out at night alone, and has panic attacks in dark places.

Fear is so debilitating, it’s a part of the psyche of many people who I know around me. As an age we are preoccupied with the concept of ‘safety’, America has a department devoted to the safety of their homeland. South Africa is devoted to the issue of their ‘crime’. For all our other advances we are not a people of can do but a people of can’t do due to our fear. I would like to be able to take F for a walk along a down town street, to sample coffee with clove, I feel that it will be awhile yet before F is ready to browse for porcelain on Dr Pixley KaSeme Street. F’s fear is real, I can see it; there is nothing put on about it.

I will always love X, L and Y. But I lost my temper with L a long time ago, I did apologise and I am so sorry for what I did.

L is deeply hurt and I have to love from a distance. I live with these consequences and now know that love is not a fluffy thing. Love is deep like a river, it has a power of its own, and I have to love for all of us for now.

I will never stop loving and doing what I can for X, L and Y. I will continue to walk along side F and maybe one day we will go browse for porcelain together. I will be a friend to H and all others in little Addis Ababa on the top end of Dr Pixley KaSeme Street.

Names have been changed to protect all those involved in this down town walk of mine.

JR

THE CLANS OF THE CAVE MEN

I describe clannish behavior as following: One against his brother, brothers against sisters, siblings against cousins, a group of people against an other and so on to the end of the county. Bitterness runs deep; and there can be no forgiveness as it is beyond anyone to unravel the resulting multi generational mess.

Fiction writing has many examples of clannish ways, stories of ancient People who are caught by ways of the past; who cannot see new ways forward. History has more examples of the same; the Balkans is a place where the people of the same land have fought brother against neighbor over issues of old. Jean M. Auel also writes about a young girl; a medicine woman trained in the art of healing, shunned by her own people and forced to leave a place due to the infighting cave men in her land. It does not matter if it is your sister or your own cousin; it does not matter if there are issues of belief and appearance. sometimes it is just a matter of the potential gold in your pocket…

The shunning of the other in our midst or clannish behavior is the issue behind racism, xenophobia or genocide call it what you will.

We live in a communal village, and we are all cousins in the Human family…

XENOPHOBIA

Fear of the other took the United Kingdom out of the European Union; this takes me back to the Roman Empire and the Huns on it’s eastern frontier, and the ongoing mistrust between the sedentary and the nomad.

Both peoples have a thirst for land, and we all live in the same village now, it’s called Earth.

Understanding is a good antidote for fear-of-other or xenophobia. No country is really an island in the end. Humankind will have to live together, and just get to understand each other in our midst…

I AM NOW STATINLESS FOR SURE…

I went ‘cold turkey’ on my statins, I have given statins the boot for ever.

In one sentence, statins are a group of drugs used for cholesterol control, I have been on a daily dose of 20 mg statins since my stroke in 2012 till about 6 weeks ago.

I went for a Cranio Sacral session with Felicity Fernandes RCST she got me reading up about the side effects of statins that I was on at the time. It seems to me that these are ‘bad for me’ drugs; while on statins I am anxious, cannot focus on the task at hand, when in a crisis I can not remember what I had said or did just the day before, I was also confused at times.  The added gastric problems and aches and pain were the least of my troubles, I have to declare too though that while on statins my cholesterol levels did come down to more acceptable levels.

My cholesterol levels are down to around 5.3, my homeopath Dr Bryan Long is now happy with the decision that I took on my own. Dr Long has put me on some ‘alternative’ cholesterol control measures, tissue salts, cardio aspirins and the like and we will review my situation as time goes by.

I feel more alive now then any time since when I emerged from Northdale Hospital into what I believe became a 3 year statin induced stupor. Satins should only be prescribed when dietary measures have not worked.

Off statins I feel more clear headed, I am a lot less anxious, can now remember those events from the day before, I dream again and I can remember them in the morning too, I am coping better in confrontations too.

I don’t want a life walking around in a stupor, I would rather be dead. I am hopeful regarding Dr Long’s control measures, plus passing through the bright white light via a stroke would not that bad to go in the end…

I have always been a little off the edge and I guess I will now always be.

LIFE AMONG THE DEAD

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The flowered field has called once again, “come and return to the slopes of the dead once again, see if things are as they were on that day you last laid down the dead.”

Clouds skid low over this place, brooding over the fields of the dead. Mountain Rise grave yard in Pietermaritzburg South Africa is a place where simple wood crosses stand in lieu of their final claims.

‘Bread cutters’ are the rugged brush cutters operated by men and woman dressed in black. Fitted with a mask and gloves they scythe their way through the grass that covers the grave markers and wooden crosses.

The pastors and ladies of the church sway in tune with the songs of departing. Grandmothers and small children stand and watch the casket of one who should have be shouldering the dead. Instead he is lowered into his own fresh grave. Between these young and old, there are those who sell ice cream. Others parade in the latest fashions and watch the ongoing ceremony of the dead.

Rocks and clumps of grass are placed on the filled grave. A number is placed at the foot of the grave, the cross carries the name, age and date of the one who has just joined the many in this place.

A young woman leads her grandmother across the field she looks for the place that her own mother lies, picking weeds away from the soil that covers the spot she makes things as best as she can and waits for the old woman to finish her prayers. The old woman will be walked away and the cutters will be kings and queens of this place once again.

Clouds form a back drop against which birds rise up out of the long grass, they lift up into the sky with songs of life, they are not of this dead, yet they are the dead’s only hope of retaining a simple celebration of life in this place.

(Author’s note. Though Pietermaritzburg is recognised as an epicentre of global HIV infection, and though there are now over 30 funeral parlors operating in the city, due to a lack of concrete medical records it is unlikely that anybody will ever really know who was in the end a victim of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.)