Thursday, December 24, 2009

Malema Madness

I often wonder how plainly unintelligent people manage to gain and maintain any kind of power in the world. Exhibit A: George W. Bush. Exhibit B: Julius Malema etc etc. Because the things they say would have us on the floor laughing if we didn't have to take them seriously.

In the past year Malema's statements have sunk to the lowest of the low- in my opinion the worst was when he called Zille 'a racist little girl' who chose her cabinet because they are 'her boyfriends and concubines, so the she can continue to sleep around with them.' I find it scary that such an immature, pathetic comment has been uttered by a politician and that no one seemed particularly bothered. Tambo and Sisula must be rolling in their graves at what their legacy in the ANCYL has become. And that Madiba has to witness this, after he once lead the youth league.. to pass on his legacy to someone like this is, in my opinion, tragic.

Malema may represent a generation that were failed by the Bantu-education system, and perhaps many people look to him to stand for them. But do we really need "leaders" like this, who perpetuate a shallow and victimized way of being? How can the youth and others have any kind of meaningful, real conversation about this country when Malema continues to make statements such as this? As Chris Roper (editor of The Mail and Guardian Online) says: 'with Malema writing the script, we're veering towards Looney Tunes.' Does anyone else find this worrying?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Human / Dancer

Photo by Orli Barnett

Add 'The Killers' to the blog post below. Definitely something I'm loving right now. Their concert in Cape Town was one of the most phenomenal things I have experienced in a long time, and went way beyond all expectations. I mean, when you are in almost the front row of 15 000 people, and this band explodes into 'Human' as the first song, what more could you want? The energy, magic and pure art of that first song continued throughout the show, in a slick, sensational and stunning showcase of sound.

Brandon Flowers not only has an incredible voice but is a fantastic performer- with charisma, sensitivity and sexiness he captured the audience from the start. His powerful stage presence and talent gave the show that extra edge that left people speechless. Add his multi-talented band, pyrotechnics, lighting and an explosion of stage production, and it was truly a flawless musical experience.

And I watched it all from the third row. Deciding that if we were going to do this we were going to do it properly, we got Golden Circle tickets and were at Val de Vie by about 4pm. We didn't face any traffic on the way in and the Golden Circle queue was well organized. We found a spot at the front easily, where we relaxed in the beautiful surroundings of the wine estate. The mountains, greenery and sunset definitely beat a stadium!

Yes, returning to our our car we faced the chaos of being parked in by cars everywhere. Yet we kept our cool, made new friends and waited it out, still enjoying the adrenalin of the concert pumping through our veins. Parking marshalls and car rows would have been simple ways of organizing things better, and hopefully Big Concerts will take note that such bad organization will always taint a brilliant event. Capetonians should be proud that they stayed relaxed for those 3 hours after the concert, made it to work the next day and did it all with smiles on their faces. I know that even with the traffic, I would have done it all again in a heartbeat.

So, are we human or are we dancer? I think everyone was a bit of both that night, feeling alive and dancing our hearts out.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What I'm loving at the moment...

Osumo: I have them on speedial. Amazing, delicious salads, incredible smoothies (and also wraps, sandwiches, breakfasts...). Capetonians are a healthy tribe and Osumo makes our lives easier! They are leading the way with their innovative, fresh and exciting food & brand. "Osumo!" (as the Osumo ladies say!)

Slick: Favourite clothing store for many years. Today I found beautiful summer dresses there. They are great for unique finds and on-trend pieces. With their friendly and warm staff, their clientele are extremely loyal!

Mr Price: For their always-affordable, perfectly fashionable finds. You have to look for the right pieces, but it's worth it! Found my summer gladiators there! and check out their fashion blog for glimpses at what is happening is the fashion world...

Style Guide Cape Town: And talking about fashion blogs, this is simply the best in Cape Town. Enough said:

Summer in Cape Town: Sweet, sexy and sultry, its worth waiting for. I feel so blessed to live in this place- the sun on my shoulders, watching sea and mountains and sunsets (all draped in perfect light), Kirstenbosch concerts, beach days, tanning, swimming in the icy Atlantic ocean, partying, perfection...

Coral: Loving this summer colour- on nails and clothes... it perfectly complements tanned skin, metallic accessories and a summer smile!

Twitter: I still love Facebook, but Twitter is growing on me! It's great for networking, especially in the media industry. Follow me!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Perfection of Coincidence

I recently finished re-reading On the Other Side of Shame by Joanne Jowell. I hardly ever return to a book once I have read it, but something pulled me back to this one. And I read it even more vociferously- inspired by the work, captured by the narrative, drawn into that past, and astounded by the beautiful, perfect coincidences that surround this story.

Says author Joanne Jowell in a BOOK SA interview: “Synchronicity landed this one, fair and square, in my lap. My hairdresser put me together with his client with the amazing story. She turned out to be my cousin – and the bearer of a long kept family secret that I had never heard of.”

The review continues: 'In Cape Town in the 1960s, 17-year-old Lynette Zinn hid her pregnancy for seven months before her conservative Jewish parents discovered it. It’s a ‘shunda’ [Yiddish term for a scandal]. They refused to hear her protests about loving Max- her boyfriend- and wanting to marry him, and forced her to give up the baby for adoption. Some 18 months after the baby was given up for adoption, Lynette and Max married and went on to have three other children. The matter of their first child was never discussed, and was kept a secret.

Forty years later, Anthony Egnal, living in Seattle and working as a family physician, tried to adopt a child of his own. He had never felt compelled to find his birth parents until he came to adopt a child, which brought him face to face with the raw shame that people experience when they give up a child for adoption. That led him to discover how much he wanted to find his birth parents, to tell them that he was happy and grateful for the gift of life.'

Egnal managed to easily find the details of Lynnette and Max Langman, his biological parents. On a quiet Sunday evening in Cape Town, the phone call they had arranged rang out in the Langman's Bantry Bay apartment. 'That's your son', said Max. 'You better go answer it.'

That phone call began a conversation that would blossom into a reunion in many layers and many forms. As Lynette, her husband and her children reconnected with this lost son and brother, they completed a circle of life and living.

This book inspired me in that it was written using Oral History methods. In my studies I learnt about this historical approach and was able to apply it in my own work. Jowell's text is an example of oral history methodology in its element, where what people say and how they say it can shed light on the complexities of the past. Jowell conducts extensive interviews not only with Lynette, but everyone involved in the story, even those on the periphery (such as the adoption social worker and Antony's sister, Mandy.) The result is a multifaceted, nuanced, rich and complex narrative that makes the story all the more intense. It is like looking at a cut diamond in your palm, as its various faces glimmer in the light.

“Lynette Langman wanted me to tell the story to tell the story of adoption because it affects so many people. It had to be a good story, a good read and it had to tell the true story. I used a method of research and writing pioneered by Stubbs Turfell, which involves using the verbatim accounts of the interviews conducted with a range of people.
“The aim is to listen, engage and record without influence and then to sift through the material as a prospector through silt trying to find the diamonds in the rough.” The process involved conducting interviews across the oceans, and distinguishing the gloss of memory from the grime of real life", says Joanne in the BOOK SA piece.

This story also grabbed me because it is embedded in the South African Jewish community- my own community. The narrative is my grandparents' experience- the Muizenberg holidays, the dates and dances, the immigrant atmosphere, the conservative Jewish attitudes, the singular experience of Jewish homes and upbringings across the country. This story is a therefore a glimpse into a past that I relate to in my present and my identity. Further, the story swirls around my contemporary surroundings- Camps Bay, Bantry Bay, Hatfield Street, Charley's Bakery, Jammie Steps. It is enjoyable for a Capetonian to read the book from this angle.

What drew me in the most is the perfection of coincidence that pervades the narrative, as well as the people involved in the book. It begins with the birth of the book, where Joanne hears of the story and discovers that the narrator is her cousin- and it continues with the birth of the baby in the story, and his life. I will not tell you all the startling moments in this silver thread of synchronicity, so read it yourself to discover them. Reading the book reminded me of our place in the grand scheme of the universe- its playful yet perfect patterns that suddenly come together. The universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings, even if this is not clear to us at first.

The book flows and is well-written, and you will not put down until you've finished it! Taking a real-life story and shaping it into a gripping page-turner shows that the author is extremely talented- and that truth really is stranger than fiction.

The cover artwork of the book captures its essence. It is designed by Kim Lieberman, an established South African and international artist. She 'explores the invisible energies that travel between people and the impacts these currents have on our world. Investigating concepts like The Butterfly Effect and 6 Degrees of Separation, she has created artworks exploring the interconnectedness of human experience.'

Monday, November 23, 2009


Goldfish is a solid gold South African success story if there ever was one- the little fish swimming into the big sea, and making waves out there!

'We're like fish out of water. Englishmen in New York, or in this case, South Africans in Ibiza. Musicians in an ocean of DJ's. To say we are out-numbered in Ibiza is an understatement- But that is what makes it so damn exciting, coming here as outsiders- with nothing to lose and everything to prove', write Goldfish, known to fans as 'the fishies.'

For Goldfish take partying to a new level. They are not just DJ's, but musicians- and the combination is intoxicating. Dominic Peters and David Poole (or just "Dom and Dave") are deeply involved in their music. While others may have been messing around in garages, both took music degrees at UCT, becoming qualified jazz musicians. Their music became increasingly influenced by electronic elements, and the two joined forces to form a partnership that would revolutionize dance music, starting in SA and soon spreading with their international gigs.

It is the unique blend of electronic sound and the magic of live instruments that draw their audiences again and again- a rich cocktail of music, sights and sounds that surround you. The old school grooves of sax mixed with the deep beats of bass added to upbeat electronica lead to an irresistible mix that is the soundtrack to summer. And Goldfish are the ultimate live act– no matter if it is an intimate venue or 7 000 people at a Pacha Ibiza party.As they said in an interview with Cape Argus Tonight,they ‘feel like we have touched a global nerve.’

This year has been all about consolidation for Goldfish- 'from having the crowd sing your track back to you in Brazil to cracking a nod to play Glastonbury', Goldfish is making soundwaves worldwide. This year they toured Europe while basing themselves in Ibiza, where they have a residency at king of clubs, Pacha. Moscow, Dubai, Portugal, Milan, Switzerland, Cape Town...

Yes, the Fishies always remember the Goldfish, bowl, where it all began. In its third year, they are playing 12 exclusive parties: Submerged Sundays at La Med in CT- 'where the world meets Cape Town.' It's summer at its sweetest and sexist, the perfect way to end the weekend and party like you're in Ibiza! See the event here: With sushi from Tank, summer sun and sunsets, and La Med's refurbishment complete (there’s a more spacious Dance Floor, a new VIP area and reserved parking) the stage is set for a summer to remember. I went to the opening party on 22 November and it was like diving into the sea on a hot summer day- refreshing, wild, submerged!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Running in Cape Town

I feel blessed to live in such a beautiful city, and to be able to explore it on my feet. The photos above were taken on runs I have done in the past week- one up to Signal Hill, and one on the beach front. Running these roads, breathing in the addictive fresh air, appreciating the strength and power of my body, and feeling connected to nature and the world around me are all reasons why I love to run outdoors.

I am so lucky to be able to do this is such a beautiful space. Whether it is appreciating earth or ocean, mountain or beach, I am surrounded by sumptuous scenes that awaken my senses. Surrounded by the silhouettes of the mountains and the green-blue-beige of the landscape, I feel the intricate connection of all things and all people. To do this is to experience connection and humility- I am part of something so much greater than myself. These stones have witnessed this city; these mountains cradle us, this sea is a timeless rhythm of reassurance. And as my feet push me forward and my breath brings me life, I am part of it all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Millennium Trilogy

I just finished reading the final book of the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson (for a rundown of the narrative and a great review, read

Somehow in SA I think this trilogy has been dismissed by many as just another thriller blockbuster series, without much substance. If anything, the opposite is true. I have not read such a monumental and intricate work of fiction in a long time. Without wanting to sound disrespectful, it is not surprising that Larsson dropped dead of a massive heart attack after giving the Millennium manuscripts to his publisher. (In the third book, a character drops dead of a heart attack after working too hard, eerily forshadowing the author's death in many ways.) Not for a long time have a read such detailed and descriptive fiction. Whether it is in the realm of journalism, medicine, law, politics, women's rights or computer hacking (to name just a few of the many subjects this series delves into), Larsson presents it in researched, painstaking detail and knowledge. The result is a book where you have to concentrate on the intricate details you are presented with, and where you learn about everything that Larsson incorporates into his story.

Not only this, but Larsson exposes his country, Sweden, in all its flaws and flavours. What is startling to the reader is how this book is so deeply entrenched in Swedish society, and how un-Americanized it is. Larsson shamelessly splashes Swedish names, places and words throughout the text, so that it is completely and utterly steeped in that society and its history. The result is refreshing and powerful- even if it is just for the fact that you feel like you have travelled Stockholm's streets by the end of it. Larsson leaves it up to the reader to orientate themselves with the unfamiliar Swedish words and names that fill the narrative, which gives the reader a sense of empowerment as he orientates himself in a new landscape.

Or perhaps I should say she. If anything, Larsson is a champion of women's rights, and this emerges brutally and beautifully throughout the trilogy, as the theme is woven throughout the narrative, the characters, and the structure of the book itself. The heroine of the series, Lisbeth Salander, it the epitome of this motif, standing as both a victim and a champion of the rights of women. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire both examine the abuse of women, particularly in human trafficking. Before each section of The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest there are detailed descriptions of how women have fought in battle in history, foreshadowing Lisbeth's own battle against the forces of injustice have ruined her life. As it says in the article I mentioned above, in the concluding pages of the final book, 'Blomkvist sums up the nature of Salander's experience: "When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it's about violence against women, and the men who enable it."'

Finally, Larsson's trilogy is a perfect, meaty, magnificent story. It is complex, fast-paced yet detailed, and utterly addictive. He masterfully weaves together a fleshed-out cast of characters and a nuanced, multidimensional narrative.

This trilogy is about morality and justice and the systems that enable these to flourish or die. It is about the victims of systems and the power of words and actions. After reading the series, the loss of Larsson as a literary talent is all the more potent and poignant, and it is a tribute to his legacy that we read his thrilling fiction.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What. Are. You. Doing?

What are you doing?

Twitter asks you to answer that question, to fill a space made just for you. Facebook asks what's on your mind, as if its clearing a spot on the couch for you to sit and vent your thoughts. They may be small spaces, but they ask you to fill them. I have come to realize that as our lives begin to become more attached to these social networking sites, the question 'what are you doing' becomes a pertinent and pressing feature of our everyday existence. In turn, we are forced to think about what we are doing, and most importantly, how we would like to answer that question.

The ultimate result of this is that people are aware of not only what they are doing, but what they would like to do. This means that they begin to do more. And they begin to do things that they would ultimately be happy to represent them in a 'tweet' or 'status' online.

Therefore I feel that social networking is subconsciously forcing people to get out there and do more, or in turn do things that are personal goals, so that their life and brand are represented positively in the online world- one that is increasingly becoming a parallel universe to our lives. While people could 'lie' about what they are doing, social networking is about representing the reality and of living in an online form- so lying about it is the antithesis of Twitter and Facebook. Rather, one would fill the space with the truth, but to do that one must go out there and do whatever it is that they would like to represent themselves.

So while some may claim that social networking is forcing people to stay at home and live in a virtual and unreal world, I feel that the opposite is true. People are forced to answer the question by going out there and doing things, or making things happen to represent their personal and professional brand. This is where the contradiction comes in though, because a person will only flaunt the things they do that they find positive, creating a 'surface' representation of themselves, as they would like the world to see them. But this in turn could force a person to question how it is that they would like the world to view them, and make changes in their own lives.

We see this in extension on Facebook, where photo albums are made to show where the person has been and what they are doing. Someone may go to an event or make an effort to do something they may have previously been too lazy to go to, because they are subconsciously compelled by the space they've been provided to document their lives. And who would want to leave that space empty?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'To save a child is to save a world'- the work of Save a Child's Heart

On 4 January 2008 in Iraq, Donya was born with a large hole between the lower chambers of her heart, and thickened muscles in the right ventricle. She was also diagnosed with Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), which is a very large fissure between the upper chambers of her heart. All this meant that she urgently needed extensive cardiac surgery to repair her heart, which her home community could not provide.

Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project that works to help children like Donya. Their mission is to improve the quality of paediatric cardiac care for children in developing countries who suffer from heart disease; and to create centres of quality medical work in these regions. SACH is devoted to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of that child’s nationality, religion, ethnicity, gender or financial situation.

Motivated by the age-old Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam – literally translated as ‘repairing the world’, SACH contributes to the futures of children from around the globe by mending their hearts regardless of their origin and, in turn, uplifting their families and societies.

The variety of treated children and their origins is extensive and astounding, and one can browse through endless such stories on the SACH website. Since 1995, Save a Child’s Heart has treated more than two thousand children, from infancy to 18 years old, and from more than 30 countries. 40% of the children are from Africa; 49% from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Iraq; 4% from Moldova, Russia and former USSR and 7% from China, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Yet more than 1000 children on SACH’s waiting list are still in need of this life-saving surgery. SACH primarily provides the life-saving cardiac surgery for these patients, and their ultimate goal is to create centres of competence in developing countries, where children can be treated in their own communities and by their own medical professionals. SACH therefore provides medical personnel with in-depth post-graduate training in all facets of paediatric cardiac care. Training is held under the auspices of the Sackler School of Medicine of the Tel Aviv University and the Centre for International Cooperation of the Foreign Ministry of Israel. Since its inception in 1995, SACH has trained 50 physicians and nurses from China, Ethiopia, Moldova, Nigeria, the Palestinian Authority, Eritrea, Kenya, Russia, Vietnam and Zanzibar at the Wolfson Medical Centre.

Mikhaela Levitas, A University of Cape Town student, spent time volunteering at SACH this year. “I fell in love with the kids and with the organization,” she says, describing how she helped care for the children on a daily basis. “There are children from all over the world - the Palestinian Territories, China, Ghana, Nigeria ... a Palestinian child can get operated on by a Jewish doctor. In medicine, there are no boundaries to saving a life. ” she adds.

It is through such extensive and intensive work, training and dedication that SACH manages to save so many children’s hearts. On 1 January this year, three days before her second birthday, Donya was operated on by doctors from Save a Child’s Heart in Israel. By the time she returned to Iraq in February, her heart had healed completely and she began to live a normal and healthy life.

For more information please visit SACH’s website:

The SACH International Photographic Exhibition will be in Cape Town:
Presented by the SACH Foundation and the Western Province Zionist Council
Artscape Theatre, Foyer 1
8 to 14 February 2010 (Valentine’s Day)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween & History

There's something about Halloween that I love. Yes, I hear your protests of selling out to a silly American custom, but I still feel there's something more to it. People love to dress up, wear masks, indulge in fantasy and a bit of fear. There's something intoxicating about it. Think about how different cultures embrace dressing up in a ritual way- for example Judaism has the festival of Purim, where Jews wear masks and dress up in celebration.

Anyway, as a history student I have to delve into the history of Halloween. Where did this strange tradition come from? Got this from

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

As European immigrants came to America, they brought their varied Halloween customs with them. Because of the rigid Protestant belief systems that characterized early New England, celebration of Halloween in colonial times was extremely limited there.

It was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups, as well as the American Indians, meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge.Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition.

So there you have it. Halloween does have a history that adds further dimensions to it than it being a silly American custom. I think this shows how human beings have always gravitated towards the unknown, and expressed this by alternating the reality of the self by wearing fantasy dress.

I hope everyone had an amazing Halloween. I celebrated in style!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Power of Nothingness

Thorn bushes. Rocks. Sand. Mountains. Silence...

Last weekend I went on a field trip with my Cape History class, to the Tankwa Karoo. Somehow I didn't catch the memo that we were really going to the desert, but this quickly became clear when we slipped out of Ceres and the landscape seemed to empty of its features, greenery and energy. It was somehow unnerving to be swallowed up into this desolation, which was so remote that it was almost exploding with nothingness. I didn't even notice that my cellphone signal had disappeared, not to return until we crossed over those mountains home. Like with most travelling, if you knew what you were about to experience, you may have had doubts about going (at least for me, the homebody). So maybe its better that your knowing leaves you, to be replaced by more urgent yet alive instincts, and that you are rooted and present in each moment, each hour that pulls you along with it, steady yet fragile in its continuum.

Therefore perhaps it was easier to have a quick and painless transition into the desert world. Suddenly we were on a dusty road, surrounded by shades of earth and ochre; and the emptiness. Leila, sleeping in the back, oblivious to the changing landscape and the lessening signals of civilization (later, complaining to each other but both knowing that we were actually loving getting away from it all). Brenda the department administrator next to me, checking on Leila, talking about her children, asking Nigel questions like "why are the rocks black? Did they get struck by lightening?" Abi the budding archeologist from our class, quiet and rooted and fitting into this so much more easily than Leila or I. Stuart in the front- older, quiet, strange. And Nigel the lecturer driving, making inane and hilarious comments in between sharing his expertise on this region of the world and its lost people.

The emptiness therefore weighed heavily, the silence lying on the landscape, all the more loud because of what had been forgotten here. We came to this place to look for a grave that had been found in the Roggeveld mountains, a range which stood imposingly on the edges of the flat desert plains. The grave possibly held the bones of a San person, maybe one of many who died in the trekboer commandos that decimated the indigenous peoples in these areas.

This landscape is intimidating, alien. Coetzee's Heart of the Country emerged urgently in my mind- Magda's senseless narrative as she slowly goes mad in the colonial outback made sense against this emptiness. Nothing to look at, nothing to admire, nothing to absorb the self... it is only you, there, now. You have to turn inwards and face yourself; and the imagination is forced to populate the landscape.

So we went on a hike to try find the San grave. We had photographs from when the grave was found two years ago, but beyond that there was no map, no trail, and no real idea of where we were going. We started hiking straight up amongst the thorn bushes and rocks. I felt great on the way up, strong and fit. I never run or walk with other people so it was good to see how I had built up my fitness. But I knew the way down would be a different story...

When we got to the top of the mountain part we hit a section of boulders, and I started getting a little tired and very nervous. I'm terrified of heights, and I just can't climb or walk on extreme downhills. I have memories of my dad helping me totter down Lion's Head. Since a hike in a canyon in the desert in Israel (2005), I've never hiked again. In that hike I was the last person of about 120 people to come down the side of the ravine, and since then I haven't hiked because I hate downhills and holding people back as they help me down a mountain. Anyway, on a boulder in the Tankwa Karoo, I realized I was in that situation again. I had to stick with the group, which meant I'll eventually have to climb down here. I had no idea this hike was going to be so extreme- no one did.

And the next part was extreme. We found ourselves in a ravine "kloof" area, which was rockier and greener. It felt like a sanctury in a way, and Nigel's theory about San coming here to escape, then being massacred, became more real. After all, no one would carry a body up here to be buried.

We eventually found the grave- a skull and some bones clasped by the earth wall. It was definitely worth it to witness something so historical and real. We left him/her there because of bureaucratic reasons, and there s/he would stay in the silence. Ultimately, the timeless, organic sense of nature's breath existed out there. I sit here now, picturing that skull in the quiet, as it continues within the elements.

To get out of the ravine we climbed down steep boulders, which looked like they must have once been the path of a raging riverbed. We then reached the mountain, where we walked straight down (no trail), through thorn bushes and rocks that scraped my legs with every kind of sharp, pointed plant you can think of! My legs were so red they practically radiated. I only got down that mountain because of Leila and Sandy, who helped me step by step, and talked to me about varsity and men to distract me.

So we got down from that place, and went back to our house for the night. Leila and I could hardly speak we were so exhausted! But we also felt strong and alive and proud and part of something.

Driving out of the desert, we met a guy who is cycling from Grahamstown to Cape Town through this area. Bleached hair, British accent, brown dust- he epitomized someone embedded in this landscape, embracing it. So open to the extreme elements, he demonstrated balance and peaceful acceptance of his circumstances. A living, breathing example the desert's voice if there ever was one.

The relief of leaving the Karoo could be seen and heard. As our cellphones began to beep, as buildings and people began to dot the landscape, it was like being given back reality. Yet beneath the easy welcoming of comfort, I felt grateful for the cleansing, powerful nature of that nothingness, to contrast with my own everything.