Generosity vs charity

My wonderful nanny, Noloyiso, has just moved her 10 year old son down to the Western Cape from where he’s been living in the Eastern Cape with his granny (her mum), like so many other families where the mother/father/both have to work far away from home in order to earn the money required to support the family.

It is school holidays at the moment (so my 3 year old son, Daniel, is at home with my 11 month old daughter, Isla) and so I suggested to Nolo that she brings Zukhanye to work with her the next few days before she goes on leave. She agreed and they both arrived here this morning.

Daniel immediately fell in love with Zukhanye. He is a charming little guy with bright eyes and a dashing mohawk. The two of them have spent the day playing themselves half to death, with not a harsh word between them. They have bounced on the trampoline, done circles on the back stoep with the two (motor)bikes, built sandcastles in the sandpits, made a house under the table on the front patio, played with all the toys, read books, and even caught a few zees when all the excitement got too much and they succumbed to sleep.  They shared lunch, strawberries, toys and giggles, and seemed to find a way of communicating perfectly, even though Danny can’t speak Xhosa and Zuki can’t speak English. Danny howled when it was time for us to take Nolo and Zuki home, and his last words before he drifted off to sleep tonight were ‘I love Zukhanye’.

Why, then, have I had this prickling sense of discomfort the entire day? All I had thought by inviting Zuki around was that it would be nice for him to be near his mum after almost a year of not seeing her, that it would be nice for her to have him in her sights rather than wandering around Khayamandi with some ‘cousins’, and that for Danny it would be nice to have a buddy to play with. And of course the fact that I love playing ‘happy families’ so somehow for Nolo to have her little boy and my little boy (her usual charge) together, it would all be a bit lovey-dovey.

I was gripped by how very much, how sickeningly much, we have. The size of our house, the fact that when I said to Danny to show Zuki his (Danny’s room), I knew that it is twice the size of Nolo’s entire ‘house’ (container). The fact that I was the fun one who was playing with the kids while Nolo cleaned the toilets and mopped the floor. This perpetuation of the stereotype of the white ‘baas’ and the black ‘worker’. Every thought that I had about how much Zuki would enjoy the various things that we have on offer here, was counterbalanced by the realisation that we have so very much, and that perhaps, instead of having the desired affect of making Zuki happy, it would make him sad for all that he didn’t have. Danny with his dozens of toy cars, and Zuki mesmerised by just one. It made me want to pack them all in a bag for him, but then again made me shudder at the thought of giving this beautiful, proud child the impression that he was a charity case.

I am probably overthinking this, but wow, especially in the run up to Christmas and all the mindless overspending that goes with it, it has made me stop and consider how much we take for granted and how very, very much I have to be grateful for.

And I hope that for Zukhanye the fact that he is with his mum at long last is good enough for him, and more than makes up for any lack of toys, trampolines, books etc. I’m sure it does.

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Yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it

A great book review by Getaway Magazine’s Adel Groenewald: I was automatically drawn to the title and had a good giggle when I read the final line: ‘…the wandering, fragmented journey is an enthralling read for anyone not looking for self-help and inspiration’.

Reciting this rather lengthy name in a bookstore usually results in a referral to the yoga/self-help section. Yet this collection of travel tales is quite literally the opposite. Geoff Dyer is on an undirected, and rather unmotivated, search of his home. He’s certain that his real home is not it, one of his reasons being that the most memorable moments in his life happened away from this home. Yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it is a memoir of personal experiences as Dyer explores the world in his laid back fashion, guided by his own curiosities and moods rather than guidebook activities.

Whether it be in New Orleans or Paris, Dyer is never a tourist. Rather, he goes to these places to do ordinary activities in them. While in Cambodia he writes: “Some men are fussy about always going to the same barber – or hairdresser, rather – but I like having my hair cut by cheap barbers all over the world.” He tends to deromanticise places, making them seem even more attractive than in standard, idyllic descriptions. Yet there are a few places that forced even him stop in his tracks and stare in amazement.

Dyer is an honest writer. While in Ubud with his girlfriend he admits to completely forgetting some of the scenery and casually confesses that these details are lost forever. When lonely in Detroit he makes no secret of his less than enthusiasm for being there, but knows that it’s better than being at home. His conversational style gives the reader the privilege of being his best friend on the road, there for the crazy times and there for the sad times.

Each chapter jumps to a different, and sometimes unexpected, country. But there’s a lot of fun to be had as Dyer takes the reader to a full moon party in Taiwan and chases after the ultimate Amsterdam experience. He stays true to his personality and tends to find himself in several hilarious situations. Whether he finally finds his true home is for you to find out. Either way, the wandering, fragmented journey is an enthralling read for anyone not looking for self-help and inspiration.

Yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it (257 pages) is published by Vintage and costs about R120.

http://blog.getaway.co.za/travel-ideas/book-reviews/yoga-people-can%e2%80%99t-bothered/#comment-5352

I’m so happy for you

I recently read a lovely thing that said ‘Take delight in the good fortune of others to create more happiness for yourself’.  It made me think about how often I am surprised by how many people seem to struggle to rejoice in other people’s good fortune, luck, success, achievement, joy, happiness – call it what you will. 

Case in point: having had the staggering privilege of my firstborn coming into this world healthy and happy and, within a relatively short period, sleeping through the night, I was astounded when not one but two of my dear friends commented, when I fell pregnant again: ‘well, you’re going to get your comeuppance with this one’ and other comments along the lines of ‘you’ll never get so lucky a second time around’. It was all I could do to stop my jaw from literally hanging open.  Never  mind the fact that we worked hard at it (thanks to a fairly strict bedtime routine – it doesn’t work for everyone and not everyone approves, but it worked like a charm for us), whatever the reason for our good fortune, I would have really thought that the wish would rather be for me to have exactly the same wonderful ‘luck’ with the second baby (who, by the way, slept through even earlier than my son). I know it’s unyogic to gloat, but I did have a little, tiny, miniscule gloat as I typed that. As I said, I  have a way to go along my ‘evolutionary path’ (as my yoga teacher calls it) and I obviously have a lot to learn from Patanjali’s teachings…

 I was reading recently about the brahmaviharas (the yogic teachings on love), which show us the way to a kinder, more compassionate relationship with ourselves and others, and thought how interesting it is that so many people seem to be scared of yoga, finding it all esoteric and a bit spooky, where in fact the teachings of the ancient sages are actually so beautiful, so helpful, and so very focused on helping us become more. I was amazed when I first read Patanjali’s Sutras and realised that they are actually very similar to the Ten Commandments – only, in my opinion (and it’s all subjective, obviously), more user-friendly and easier to digest. 

More than two thousand years ago, both Patanjali and the Buddha taught the practice of mudita as an antidote to the feeling that your happiness is threatened or diminished by the happiness of others – mudita is the ability to take active delight in others’ good fortune or good deeds. In one of the Sutras, Patanjali advises us to take delight in the virtue of others as a way to develop and maintain calmness of mind. We’ve all probably experienced how painful envy can be, and how much it affects our mental well-being, and the fact is that any feelings of envy that we may harbour don’t diminish the happiness of those we are jealous of, but they do diminish our own serenity. And then I read a lovely thing about the Dalai Lama who speaks of mudita as a kind of “enlightened self-interest.” As he puts it, there are so many people in this world that it’s simply reasonable to make their happiness as important as your own; if you can be happy when good things happen to others, your opportunities for delight are increased six billion to one! It works for me!