Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The 25 most important things I learned in Africa...

So I am back in Canada and I just wanted to share the 25 most important things I learned from being in Africa...

1) Nice people around the world are rare, so treat the good ones like gold and feel blessed to know good people  

2) It is different to be kind so dare to be different

3) Intellectual people with no heart unlikely have any compassion, so don't waste your head on nonsense

4) People with all heart usually get exploited... so lead with your heart first, then your head

5) Don't be stupid and be too nice so everyone can take advantage of you and don't be too smart that you forget to correct what your ancestors never completed

6) Stop taking everything for granted and complaining about the smallest things, because the truth is the happiest people don't have the best of everything BUT they make the best of what they have

7) People who have less have ALLOT more fun than people who have plenty

8) The most important things in life are family, friendship and building relationships.  Friends are way more important than money

9) The only thing people really want from you is your time and attention.  Real people don't care about how much money you make or if you are too busy making it

10) If you have one meal a day your good, if you have two meals a day you're doing great, if you have three meals a day you might even be considered well off

11)  Eating healthy and well does cost money.  Most people in the world do not have the luxuries of flushing toilets, running water, electricity, good drainage systems and shelter.  So the next time you complain about something stupid that you don't have.  STOP

12)  Every minute counts because when its gone, it's really gone for good

13)  Never underestimate or under-appreciate everything you have in life.  Appreciate the people, the things, the nature surrounding you, the animals, the children, your brothers, your sisters.  Never underestimate the power that is in you and the light that shines in you and the light that shines in everyone else.

14) Compassion truly comes from not wanting to help others less fortunate than you but realizing that we are all one.  We are all interconnected.  We all here together experiencing suffering, winning, loving and loosing all at the same time.

15) Seriously find some time everyday to meditate, dance and sing

16) When you get a coffee with someone don't get it to go!  Sit and have a coffee with someone, being in a world where there is no take aways there is no cell phones at the table either.  Having one-to-one conversations while looking at each other in the eyes, it is a phenomenal experience

17) Say good morning, good afternoon and good evening to people or just smile at someone it is a great feeling for everyone.

18) Never be in a rush you have all the time in the world.  Things happen the slower you go. Things happen when you take the time to heal or when you take the time to appreciate things everything then unfolds they way its supposed to unfold.

19) In a world that is so busy all the time nothing is really happening, in a world that nothing is really happening there is so much going on...

20) People work so they can have something to do, and so they can socialize with other people. Without work there is only chaos for people mentally, physically and emotionally

21) Just because something is a mess doesn't mean that it doesn't work out perfectly.  Life is perfect even when it's not. 

22) Never judge anyone by their clothes or their looks it is truly their context of their character that counts.  Stereotypes whether you live in them or believe in them only exist for the lazy people who do not want to think outside the box.

23)  Wanting, needing and grasping does only lead to misery.  Find your true self and GO!

24)  Do not let people get away with their crap, because it only enables them to grow their mountain of crap even bigger.  Draw your boundaries from the beginning.  Don't help people that do not want to help themselves because in the long run it will be you that needs help.

25) Live your life, live your dreams and beat to the rhythm of your own drums.  Especially if you have the freedom of choice in this life, never take it for granted.  Never take anyone or anything for granted.  We have one life let's live it, no matter what you have BE HAPPY! When you travel it doesn't matter where you are or how far you go because your peace of mind always goes with you.

Please do not hesitate to add to this list our little epiphanies on the way is all that matters...take note


Here are some more pics that I haven't shared as of yet...

Monday, 14 January 2013

Really never take anything or anyone for granted…

January 11, 2013

Really never take anything or anyone for granted…

There is a Buddhist saying that when we strive to be alone away from the world we become squares when we are around other people and learn to live with everyone of different types of personalities we become round and more accepting of our selves and other people.
I have been having the time of my life here living in Africa for the last few months and I have been feeling so much love for everyone and feeling very loved in return.  I am so happy being in a culture and being around people that feel that the most important thing in life is about people and relationships.  Of course you get the bad with the good too but I never want to go back without living with so much people around.  I truly have a love for all people especially children and here it feels great to be around the same types of people that feel the same way.  When you go out for a coffee here you sit and have a coffee there is no take away or to go coffee.  Your friends and strangers always have time to talk about their families and what is going on in their lives and always have time to listen to you.  It so true that all people want is your attention and time, not money or material things all though to some people that is a bonus.  People here travel from far to see each other.  There are no schedules, no black berries, no iphones and no other thing that is more important than having a full conversation with a person or going to a social outing or going to spend time with loved ones here.  All I remember in Toronto when it came to socializing is people even when you are with your bestest of friends and family on their phones.  Everyone at the table at a restaurant or bar had their phones in their hands texting someone or reading an unimportant email while having a conversation with the person at the table.  Traveling on the subway or walking around in the streets no one greeting each other because they are to involve in what is on their pods and pads.  I was one of those people too and I will probably go back to doing that because it beats the reality of how lonely people can be or become but I prefer this kind of world when it comes to treating people nicely by paying attention to them and giving them your time HANDS DOWN!
The arts and entertainment culture here is just as amazing as the social life here.  There have been some great concerts and free live music I have attended here in Maputo.  We saw a beautiful female mocimbicana jazz singer live along with many Brazilian singers and the concerts here last forever and anything is acceptable bringing in drinks, walking in or out of a venue, children with you singing and dancing.  I had the opportunity of also attending many free concerts because Maputo was celebrating 125 years old and I saw a famous singer who sings the Marabenta dance song Stuart Sukuma but the song was originated from a Mozimbican in the 1920’s.  I also got to see Zahara live too, she is from South Africa and she is pretty famous here and quite phenomenal.  That was a special night because we had fireworks in the sky and even though that some of the sparks flew in my eye and in my friends hair (no one got hurt) it was still very pleasurable.  To be expected at free concerts it also comes with allot of rift raft floating around.  At one point, there were some very drunk boys in front of me and there were ladies walking around selling bags of peanuts for the equivalent of 1 penny.  The boy in front told her to give him 3 bags of peanuts but only paid for 2 and then stating that he only took 2.  Well of course all of his friends found this hilarious and then I couldn’t take it any longer and I told him to stop doing that and he ought to give her some respect because this is her work.  I did this all in Portuguese, and just like my Italian I am very fluent in a language when I am mad.  Well he just glared at me as he wobbled from side to side but I did pay her for it.
We also participated in a film festival they had here for 1 week and it was a lot of fun, most of the documentaries and films were about Mozambique and other African surrounding countries by a lot of different Portuguese and non Portuguese writers and directors both male and female.  Interestingly enough there are way more female directors in the rest of the world then there are in Hollywood.  There was one American movie called “The Age of Stupid” and it was great and if you have never seen this movie please do. 
As far as work goes I am now getting to go to the communities more often and work with a specific community called Costa Do Sol.  It is about a 10 minute drive from Maputo so you do not have to go far in order to see the majority living with very low means.  Children from this barrio are welcomed to a women’s backyard of her house and we teach the children there about literacy, writing and reading.  Some of the kids are not bathed for weeks nor fed.  Some of the children have hardly any clothes on or very torn clothes.  We bring recycle materials to make books, paint, crayons, pencils etc.  We also bring some peanuts and water to help the children concentrate more.  One time as a treat the American School came to volunteer with us and they brought the children juice instead of water and no one could control the line.  The children seemed ecstatic because they had juice; it was like someone brought in a magician, a pony, and toys for all the children (North American image).
Also, I have never seen children more engaged and focuses in doing something then I have seen in these communities when they have pencils, pens, and paint!  Most of the times we have to tell the children to stop what they are doing because it is time to go, it always takes a couple of hours or more. 
So one day I decided to begin to teach the children an English song, and then in return they had to teach me and sing a Portuguese children’s song.  So I sang there was a crocodile…and then they would sing one of their songs.  There is no other joy in this world that fills me up more than to hear children from Africa singing all together it is like when a baby laughs and times that by 100.  One of the children asked his mom to ask me, if there was anything I like more in the world than being with children?  I said no probably not.  So, the next time I see the kids was at the Children’s Day Fundraiser that we had in the park in Maputo city and the minute they see me they start yelling “Tia, Tia there was a crocodile…” They remembered the song!  So we all gathered around and sang the song they appeared to love.  I also think it could be the way I am quite dramatic and expressive from when I sing to children to the way I tell a story to children.  At work we all went to a workshop here with Rafael the artist and amazing storyteller from Peru.  Rafael came to our place of work 3 different times to teach us different ways to tell children stories.  On the last day he told me that I am a female storyteller, just like he is a male one.  Rafael complemented me and said you are so natural at it and you tell stories wonderfully.  Rafael was also at the fundraiser in the park and all the children were gathered around to hear his amazing stories with no books, props or pictures, just his animated self and his words.  I was so engaged sitting there in the green blouse with one of my best friends Ellen. 

One of the things that makes me very sad here is how people beg for your food when you are at a restaurant eating.  Most of the restaurants here are outside, and when you are done and if there are any particles of food left in your plate.  People will beg for that and you do it with or with out the servers knowing.  I can recall many moments now when I was a little girl and my mom telling me to finish everything in my plate because people in Africa are starving.  I am so much more aware of things here, I finish everything in my plate now at home more because I do not want to throw any food out because of the creepy crawlers in my apartment are always lurking.  But other things my mom use to do was save the oil from cooking, or boil our drinking water and then put it in a glass jar, or memories flood me now of how I would wash the clothes by hand with her and we would hang them up on the line together.  Or how my mom got rid off ants by boiling water and cleaning the house with it and adding vinegar to it.  All these things I just thought growing up, wow my family is so weird but now I understand fully that there were saving and economically friendly at the same time.  These are the ways in which they learned in Italy how to live and now here I am in Mozambique, Africa doing the same things!  Wow what a trip! HAHAHA
So what VSO has failed to mention to all of us is that during the times of October, November and December it is very dangerous here.  Its like how no one every told us to bring rain boots (they do not sell them here) because every time it rains here there are big and small puddles everywhere because of our lack of drainage systems so the city becomes one big pond and flooded everywhere.  Due to the festive season there is a lot more robberies and pick pocketer’s.  The time of Christmas season is so pleasant here though there are no busy malls or any propaganda that makes you sense that it’s Christmas or lets you feel pressured that you have to buy gifts.  Also, the weather is wonderful, summer here has finally started, kind of an oxymoron, I know!  Boxing Day is called Family Day here and not allot of people return back to work until late January or even February is where you start to see the city back into gear.
So, I did celebrate my 40th birthday here with my friends and some strangers and it was great!  My friends threw me a party and there was a professional Mozambican DJ and cake.  I was so touched by everyone and everything that I felt like one of the richest people in the world.  Abundance is truly part of being surrounded with good friends and family, good people, food, drinks and pure happy moments.  At that moment and after I truly felt that I had everything I ever wished for even if my ass is broke!  HAHAHAHA!  We also decided to go out to an Indian restaurant a few days later that was very good too.

So I returned back to South Africa to meet up with my Yoga friends and do more of the Guru’s Itta’s workshop.  We worked on the throat chakra and the sex chakra.  It was quite intense but very helpful as always.  We stayed at a beautiful lodge called Utopia.  I have met some of the most wonderful people in SA and who are all part of the Kundalini Yoga experience there.  I feel blessed to be around so many like-minded people.
After returning from the Yoga in SA my friend from Canada came to visit that I met in the Ottawa for the training of this job.  Candace is placed in Malawi and was on holidays traveling Mozambique and I have to admit seeing a Canadian friend was also so warming and welcoming.  Candace and I decided to go off to Tofo beach together for about 6 days.  We traveled there by a chappa (bus but the size of a mini van) for what felt like eternity and I came back with my lovely friend Lorraine who decided to come to Tofo for the weekend.  It was so heavenly coming home in a SUV with 3 people including me.  I crashed in the back seat for 2 hours and woke up drooling.  In Tofo I had one of my most beautiful moments in life again, I met back papers from all over the world and they asked me to do some yoga on the beach for them and as luck would have it I brought 3 different kriyas (sets of classes) with me.  So during the day Candace and I would hang out on the beach and talk to all the kids that were making (from beads and sea shells) and selling bracelets.  At around 5pm 3 days on the beach I would go in front of the back papers stay and start a yoga class.  We started off by about 4 adults and then all the kids from the beach would come and join doing yoga, chanting and meditating.  It was the best experience I ever had!  I had a best friend there his name was Carlos and he is 8 years old.  Carlos does not speak much but we decided to go for a walk on the beach.  During this walk I realized that Carlos has a fear of the ocean, he was even afraid to walk on the shoreline.  I reassured Carlos in a non-verbal way that he was safe with holding my hand and walking with me, and so our walked continued for about 1 hour or more.  When Carlos joined me on the beach for Yoga time he always sat right beside me and seemed happiest to chant.  I was so happy and thought OMG this is my son!  Allot of people were taking pictures from the back papers I turned at one point and saw many flashes of cameras.  I hope one day those pictures come back to me too.  By the time I left Tofo Carlos I did observe Carlos talking allot more especially to his fiends and I respectively taught Carlos the Sa Ta Na Ma meditation with the thumb touching every finger (the pinky being the last one MA), which every child seems to like.  I told him to do this meditation every day and especially when he needs it.  Carlos learned everything very quickly and I stopped teaching him when I was reassured that he might never forget it or me!  One evening after the Yoga Candace and I had to walk back to our lodge where we were staying and it was about a 40 minute walk.  All the beach kids selling jewellery walked with us and at first I was a little scared but then they all started singing a song called “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” and they put my name into it.  So I had 20 kids singing me a song!  AMAZING
I also tried surfing this time in Tofo and went for a few hours lesson and it hurt.  I fell a lot and got pushed around by the board allot but I did get up a few times and I would definitely do it again and again.  Surfing has such a calming experience to it too.  The only time that I did feel successful on top of the board when I was the calmest and the ocean allowed me to be on top of her and with her.

Friday, 7 September 2012

I am catching myself smiling more often…

So it has been 5 months that I have survived Maputo and I can honestly say I have even surprised myself.  It helps that I am working with children every day and I feel blessed that I have been given the gift to work and help children with all abilities.  I have been writing and running educational programs for a Holiday Club, the moms & toddlers program and the Alphabet Soup Literacy workshop and I have even surprised myself how the creative ideas are flowing out like I have stroked the fountain of youth.  I am not myself until I work or get to be around children, it is the greatest blessing to be around the smartest people on this world.  Every time, I travel to a new place I notice the children’s spirits and how they are getting along there and I thought that New York Manhattan streets were full of some of our best but I am really starting to fall in love with the kids here too.  They are so mature for there years and so calm.  I have met a few little ones that I would like to adopt for sure… 

I bought her some clothes and I allow her to come to the library every chance I can and I try to teach her everything I can from spelling her name to labeling colors.  My love lives with her grandmother and I thought she was going to be very upset when I bought the clothes but she wasn’t she was very happy and grateful indeed.

So I have been at the Library for the last few months running programs for toddlers and children from ages 4 to 11years of age.  It has been a very busy month and exciting at the same time.  I instantly fell in love with all the children coming to the programs and at first I was working with 3 teachers from Zimbabwe, Africa.  They started to come to the school intermittently and then it became an issue of how they spoke to the children when the children were not listening or just bored with the program.  They used words like “punish and naughty or bad boy or girl” then the topic of “beating” children came up.  One teacher told me "That our cultures are very different and in your culture you just hit kids but in the Africa culture they "beat" children to teach them a good lesson." This was said with pride and my response was “Why do you beat kids here what does it accomplish, all your teaching children when you “beat” them is that violence is ok." Then I added, "I wonder if Gandhi and Nelson Mandela thought the same way that violence is ok to instill in our children?"  The teacher just responded with silence and what I really wanted to say was, yes our cultures our different but I am here volunteering in your culture not the other way around.  All 3 teachers eventually stopped coming to teach at the school and that left just me and a wonderful, loyal Zimbabwean assistant who has been with the school for many years.  It was hard work but we managed and the children seemed very happy and would chant my name when I would come in the mornings and jump all over me and hug me.  I tried very hard to individually program plan for each child because we would have no more than 8 children at majority of the times.  I was very tired but I loved it!!!  It is not uncommon here to discover that teachers do not even like children here, it's a job and low paying too.
Things I am learning about the culture are interesting but some things are so international, it is just really about viewpoint whether your right side up in Africa or upside down in North America.  For instance, relationships here are very funny, women and men both cheat, men are more flamboyant about it while women are more hidden about it.  People do not seem to have any close-minded issues about love being monogamous however the desperation for having any type of relationship still doesn’t reside within me.  The women here are still treated very unequal in relationships.  My Portuguese friends back home have the best saying “Its better to be alone than to be in bad company: Amen.
I think I am actually getting use to the streets and the broken sidewalks and the beautiful beaches and scenery available to me.  A lot of people really like Maputo and Mozambique because it has a lot more freedom then other places in Africa.  People here are lot more free spirited and open minded in comparison to cultures where white and black people do not even dare to mix. 

I went to South Africa for a Kundalini Women’s Health Yoga Retreat/Workshop for the weekend.  I went with some other teachers and students and I can honestly say it was a slice of heaven.  We stayed at a country estate and the yoga studio was on the same estate was so beautiful and the women Claudia sharing her home to all 10 women plus the Yogi was amazing.  The little homes were on a land so expansive and full of nature.  There was bird watching on the grounds and I have always wanted to participate in it.  I know a lot of people do not know that about me but its true maybe it comes from growing up with a father that loves bird and tried at times to capture and tame a few wild ones.  It is also quite spiritual to be a follower and an energy sender to birds it becomes profound at times that you cannot even explain it in words.  While staying on this estate I saw an owl, many, many colorful birds (one day I will know their names), hawks, guinea foul, deer’s (doe), antelope, and a monkey while we were driving on the road.  

South Africa is so beautiful and picturesque and home to Krueger Park (a safari where you can see all kinds of animals-my next destination) and has food, stores, shops, clothing etc.  A little civilization that is good for the eyes and soul.  I do have to admit though you do miss Mozambique and just thought of anyone wearing a capalana in South Africa has you eschew from embarrassment.  It is known that South Africans do not seem to like Mozambicans they were many killings of Mozambicans in South Africa a few years ago because of issues like Mozambican taking jobs and not being clean.  So they decided to start fighting racism with more racism.  Racism exits with whites and blacks and blacks with other blacks.  It exists in every culture within every race, skin color, sex and gender and abilities vs. disabilities.  

So back in Mozambique, we decided to take a little tour of the Salt Lake in an outside borough where they make salt and have a little salt factory and also they are flamingos that reside nearby.  Also, part of the tour was a visit to a local artists home and have lunch there.

So I will be starting a Babies & Mom Yoga program at the school this coming week for the next 8 weeks because the kiddies are back in school and the Holiday Program does not begin until November, December and January again. 
I must admit too that I am completely and utterly homesick too.  I miss my life and wonderful friends and family surrounding me but for now I am at my present and I have to go deeper into my journey of self.  This is what it is all about the people you meet along the way and the getting raw with your true self and so far so good.

I had to take a picture of this boat at Catembe it had my mom's name on it ESTER.

Love & Light to ALL of you ALWAYS and please send white light, mantras, meditations and prayers my way and send love to all the people that I may be able to help here.