Tag Archives: frustration

#7 ~ Library Hustle

The library used to be a place of utter un-productivity for me. The silence, the stuffiness and the feigned concentration all brought me into direct contact with the greying boarder of a comatose state. But then I discovered working in my room just meant extended nap time – so me and the library had to sort out some kind of effective working pact. Yet, now traversing my final year, there are a few things about the library and the evident hustle that takes place in it, that I have decided to take some real issue with.

No .1 – The Stage Whisper.

I work in the SPS library. It should stand for Select People’s Study Library considering very clear-cut gang lines develop as the year progresses. Territorial possession of tables and glowering stares are the welcome party for newbies who have not been pulling solid 9-7’s since October. But it stands for Sociology Politics and…I actually don’t know what the last S is for. It could be Social Anthropology….i’m genuinely not sure. But anyway, this library, designed to let natural light caress your double-strength, high-gloss text-book pages, is open planned. It means sound carries. The librarians, a pretty chilled-out lot, occupy the lower level, so us students have free reign up top – yet the taboo of speaking still holds court. So to get around it, happy homework gangs, crowded around adjacent tables decide to whisper. But not the imperceptible whisper that is conducive to putting together an escape plan while your kidnapper is negotiating with the police. A stage whisper. You know, the type of whisper that takes place by actors on a stage to convey the idea of a real whisper, but audible enough so the AUDIENCE CAN HEAR??!!

What is the point. Seriously? Why go to all those lengths. Just talk normally. Because when said culprits whisper all this unchartered air begins to gush out between their teeth as they start to over enunciate and develop an elongated lisp so all I hear is the crashing waves of sss’s and punctuative, plosive ‘ps’ and ‘bs’ that sear through my headphones. And then they laugh – because obviously essay planning can only be endured with humour. Imagine that – a stage whispered laugh. If you can’t, it sounds like rapid fire heavy breathing and asthmatic inhaling. Why? Just. Why?

No.2 – Adopting the Studious Position with Pzaaaaz

You know those people. They clomp up the steps, huffing and puffing so all the tables shake and everyone raises their head in anticipation of their entrance. Swinging their backpack/handbag some kind of holding device off their shoulders they let it land on the table, wham, the impact rippling through the stacked books and forcibly re-arranging the metal casing of your laptop, so that your equipment ends up with a sympathetic dent. Then throwing themselves onto their chairs, they sigh at all the (un-called for ) effort they have expelled, before scrambling (loudly) to unpack their chargers, snap open their laptops, smash their (constantly vibrating) phones in the space that separates your elbow from their sprawl of papers.

Click goes the top of the highlighter, preeeeessssss goes the nib engraving their thoughts into the very psyche of the long dead table their elbows are pressing studiously into. They exhale, nostrils flaring as your skin is engulfed in a stream of air.

WHY SO MUCH EFFORT PEOPLE. Making notes just isn’t that deep. The library is a quiet place. Learn to unpack quietly. Learn to notes take quietly. Learn to BREATHE quietly. We all know that this year is a hustle year, we’re all getting into gear, but being extraneously noisy is at best a distraction at worst an inconvenience. Stop, please and learn the art of gentle working.

And last but not least….

No.3 – “Hey, i’m in the library…what’s up?”

Are.You.Mad. It’s not a question, it’s not even a form of rhetoric, it is the sound of utter exasperation. Not only is your phone ON (and at this point i’d like to also call out the jingle for what’s app messages – that is seriously getting to me, a still non-smartphone user), but you both register the call, register your surroundings, and answer – in a more than AUDIBLE voice. At this point I urge you to bring back the somewhat redundant stage whisper at least. That is better than the blatant causality with which you engulf all within sonic reach with the ins and outs of your life. Stop.

I’m not saying i’ve never answered my phone in the library. Sometimes things happen. But when they do, you cup your hand over your mouth, whisper ‘in lib, hold on’, and dash down the stairs to the freedom of outside. Upon your return, you nod your head apologetically to all who greet your presence, place said phone in your pocket where its’ vibrations will not be heard, and return to your work. The precarious peace has been restored.

The library hustle is a serious thing, but let’s make it a hush hush hustle.

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#350 ~ Miscellaneous.1: Sticks and Stones

(Written during my month long absence)

Sticks and stones may break my bones – but more often than not words really do hurt me.

They can be pernicious and penetrating wriggling deep into the crevices of your heart, your inner sanctuary, the hidden caves that even you are fearful of entering. Do you ever do that thing, when you send off an email or a text, and you know that you’ll be disappointing someone – letting them down. Maybe you have to quit an activity, pull out of a race or even miss a class, because you’re about to fragment into a million shards of flesh and bone, and you know without your glasses you’ll never find all the pieces or the thread to stitch yourself back together again. You gather all the courage that lingers like used up dregs of tea in your none assertive self, and click send. Boom – into the ether it zooms.

You wait – linger, hover on the thresholds of depressive anticipation, and then you get a vibration, or a new email pops into your inbox, and you wait, tentatively. Doing everything you can to not click open, at last your finger slips, or the dredges of courage somehow coagulate and you stupidly think you’re brave.

Shot down like an enemy plane, even the most polite response blows you apart. And English people have a way, a very tricky and sly way of phrasing reproof in a cold, polite but detached manner which encourages you to implode on your own – with no promise whatsoever of Red Cross aid.

Once the initial damage has been done, and you realize what a complete failure and disappointment you are in the eyes of whoever you had to let down, when you are aware that your excuses seemed like puerile dribble in front of their retina, and they are not in the least bit understanding, but rather more incensed or even pissed off by/at you, you begin to wilt faster than watercress in a nursery kitchen. Even after you’ve rationalized and played their argument over, seen it from their side of the fence, and even, to a marginal degree, agreed with them, all the confidence to keep trundling along and getting the rest of the work completed evaporates.

You find yourself writing a blog post for a 365 day blog that you have neglected for these past 40 days or so, instead of focusing on the presentation on poetic symbolism which is due in 30minutes. You get frustrated, and begin scratching your well oiled scalp until the coconut lubricant builds up under your fingernails, and your head is once more exposed to the raging elements which have washed your university city in a cluster of unromantic water pellets and dirty puddles – and all the while you’ve allowed somebody to make you feel shit.

You are fearful of the impending meeting in 48hours, trying to work out whether you should try to bold face your’e way out, put on a nonchalant attitude of –  Dude, it was in the past, get over it, and hey, this is life, people be busy – but you know that any balls you might’ve had at conception certainly never dropped. You aren’t like that – you’re a crowd pleaser. At your best this is wonderful, at your worst it makes you cower, fearful of even attempting to be assertive. You hate letting people down, because you have sold yourself into the fetters of someone else’s opinion – someone you don’t even know well enough to truly care about, but because they have a title, you submit.

And you’re angry. Angry as you realize this is a constant feature of your character, but the whirlpool of depression still hangs round you, tainting the edges of your being. Could you have done it any differently? Well, no. You were exhausted, you woke up 20minutes into the class and hand’t done the reading or the essay that was due in 3 hours. It was never going to happen – but you still wish it had, even if it was just to please them. Will you make promises and denigrate yourself even further as a worthless fool who shouldn’t be participating the extra-curricular activities which actually give you a reason to live (and might also provide a job in the next few years), you probably will say Yes to that.

Will you always be fearful of someone else’s words? Or will you get to a point where you acknowledge them, but can ultimately move through them, the sticks and the stones to create your own words, your own works and one day, be the writer whose texts are being discussed – and smile benignly on the student who won’t hear them, as their too busy doing their own stuff.

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#308 ~ One Hundred Words and a Photo: 28

picture28I hated that picture. You know the one, of the bay. So perfect it was fake. So bright it gauged my eyes. Why did we ever frame it? She was never very good at taking photo’s anyway. They were too…neat, so linear, like the press ironed lines  of her A-frame skirt. The colors were lifelessly rich. The street unstained, no one walked on it – like her closet, never worn, picture perfect boredom. Why did we ever frame that bloody picture, of the ferris wheel rising in the background, the giggling and laughing that never creased into a smile?

Copyright: Victoria. O

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#257 ~ Ithemba Projects : Day 22

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

That was a bizarre proverb I never quite understood. How could the image of ultimate evil, be in any relationship with the concept of ‘goodness?’ It didn’t make sense. Yet so often, in aid work, good intentions when not thought through, or when not carried through with a good heart, can cause more problems than anticipated. This morning, as I was teaching at Mountain Home Primary, a shiny van pulled up with eight bright red bicycles at its back. A unanimous ‘Ooooh’ saluted the people as they stepped through the barbed wire gate into the littered playground. I was intrigued, and will admit, a slightly hostile attitude crept into my heart. These are my  children, who were these people coming here now, who were these people with their shiny-red bicycles and clean clothes who gingerly stood on the verandah and did a small wave? Who were they, and what did they want?

Community outreach is such an important aspect of aid work, especially in a country like South Africa, where affluent communities closely boarder extremely impoverished ones. The people who arrived at ‘my’ Primary school this morning, where there to present the top students with prizes. Now, I don’t want to slate the work that they are doing, nor do I wish to undermine their initiatives and incentives. The fact that Mountain Home has more than one interested party excites me. Yet, for the first time, as this group of people stood talking to the children, I found myself no longer a ‘European’ or a charity worker, but one of them,  a teacher at Mountain Home, a member of their community,I felt protective of my students, and hurt.

These bicycles, sponsored by Coca Cola, were the size of my bike back at University. Standing at 5″10, I’m a pretty tall lady, so I have a pretty tall bike. Yet these children range between 5 and 9 years old. They are, literally tiny. Not only that, but these bikes are only awarded to the children in the top grades who had achieved the best in some exams. Of course they would have, they are the eldest, they  have had the most education, they should  be the smartest. At the realisation that the whole school was standing to attention, the lady who was heading the team whispered “Oh no, I have nothing for the grade R’s 1’s and 2’s.” A great way to create incentive and to be inclusive?

Not only that, but Sweetwaters is a rural area. The roads within the community, though smooth, aren’t tarmaced and are extremely rocky. We fear getting car punctures let alone bike punctures. Throughout my month in Sweetwaters, I have very, very rarely seen anyone ride a bike. Could these children ride bikes? When you learn, often you need stabilizers. There weren’t any stabilisers on these huge bikes. Even the teachers, through pleased, found it amusing the gifts weren’t really suitable for the children. Moreover, they had to be kept within the school till Sunday when the parents were expected to come and legally sign for them. In between now and then, the school has just potentially become a prime looting arena. And what happens when these bikes are careened through Sweetwaters? Will these homes have space? What if it rains, and they get wet, and rust? How will they pay to get them fixed, will the presents even be useful at that point?

Obviously, on one hand, I can clearly see that I personally felt hostile towards the project. Having worked with Ithemba Projects and seen the ground work they’re doing, though presents are few and far between, they are working towards building a future, implementing strong foundations to be built upon. And it made me think; how often, do we have a brilliant idea to bless those in need, but don’t really think the process through. We see how  we  want to bless them, but don’t necessarily see their need. See that, perhaps it would be more beneficial to provide the top students with school equipment, pens, papers, books to read which will not only be useful, but further their education and also bless and help other students, than a larger than life bike, which they might not be able to ride (especially considering the extreme gradients the Sweetwater roads follow), may potentially become obsolete, get stolen, or create friction.

Prayer for Day 22: For relationships between the various charities that work in Sweetwaters to be strengthened, so they can work together for the best impact in the Community. For wisdom when we desire to give, bless and support outreach work, that we really see and do what’s best long-term for people, and not what makes us feel better. For a heart that welcomes others working in our areas, and to pray against hostility.

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#241 ~ Ithemba Projects: Day 8

I asked God to break my heart for people who are suffering. Today he made it bleed. It hasn’t stopped.

Zanini Bantwana (Come Children) is a charity which does outreach in three government hospitals in Maritzburg; Edendale, Northdale and Greys. Run by Alan Gaston and his wife Sheila, the charity has been providing much needed childcare and attention in the impoverished children’s wards of these ‘black’, therefore poor, hospitals.

Private Medical Care in South Africa is at an excellent standard. Most people who belong to a middle to upper class have Private Medical Care. That means, considering the incomprehensible gap between the poor and the rich, Government Hospitals are the domain of the poor black population.

At a Government Hospital, located in a former ‘white area’ therefore perhaps a better standard than some Hospitals, there is a little girl on the children’s ward. Her name is ‘M’. She was abandoned at birth. Just over a year old she has HIV, TB and severe social problems. Her eyes are unfocused like Girl’s in the Drop in Centre Creche. She doesn’t form relationships with the staff. She refuses to recognise anyone. Why? The knowledge that she is unloved, worthless and unwanted has already been imprinted onto her fragile infant brain. She could be my daughter.

When I was three weeks old, I came down with a cold. My gums turned blue, my mouth sealed shut, I could barely breathe. My nose was filled with mucus, yet my nostrils were so small my Mum had to suck the mucus out because she couldn’t grip my nose with tissue. I was rushed to hospital, because at three weeks old, I was dying. My mum was by my side every day. My twin sister didn’t sleep. The doctors did everything they could to save my life.

I’m alive today because I was wanted. Yes, I’m asthmatic, but I row. Yes, I have a poor immune system, but I can afford drugs.

‘M’ is the same complexion as myself. She has the same droopy cheeks I have in my baby photos. She has similar almond shaped eyes. Her nose was caked in mucus. A tube ran out of it, probably similar to the tube that ran out of mine when I was three weeks old.

A nurse thought she was my daughter.

She could be my daughter.

At best, she’ll die before she reaches 11. At worst she’ll die within a year. If she lived in Hilton, and had parents that could care for her, TB wouldn’t kill her. There’s medication for those who can afford it.

Her name is ‘M’. She is an abandoned black child who comes from a township. She has no one to buy her those drugs. No one to care for her.

And my heart is screaming, and I have not cried so hard today as I have in years, as I prayed to God. How can I go to church with fellow Christians who believe we are all made in God’s image, yet don’t consider adopting a reflection of God? How can I live within a faith where we preach loving the unloved, and yet we are so blind, blinded by an irrational and an inhumane fear, that we never set foot in a hospital five minutes from our homes? And yes, I am painfully angry at South African society right now, but also British. How often, do we step into a hospital to visit a sick relative, and ignore the patient on the bed next door who is in distress, because we don’t know them?

When will the Church rise up, not out sentiment, but out of duty. Because our theology compels us to love and to nurture and to comfort those even when it harms our idyllic lifestyle, our hopes and dreams our finances. Paul does not preach the Gospel because he wants to, but because the Spirit of God compelled him to, and he had no choice!

And I see ‘M’, who could be my daughter, whose name means flower, and I am angry. I am angry at a world where people can spend up to R180,000 (about £18,000) a year on a child’s education (Hilton College, the most expensive school in Africa), and can’t even give enough spare cash to their community neighbors to have a basic education, diet, medicine. I look at the UK, and how, though in Zulu culture people are loath to adopt incase they inherit the Ancestral spirits of the adopted child, how we are loath to adopt because we place our genetic children as a greater priority. I need to take care of my own. Charity begins at home.

I am torn with a frustrated, righteous anger. And though I yearned to capture every moment I experienced today in words, I have failed. Because I don’t think I can make you see. I don’t think I can make you look into the vacant eyes of ‘M’, who was disposed of after birth. I don’t think I can tell you what it feels like to hold a child who cannot afford the right medication to fight TB, something i‘ll never have to worry about. To know she may be dead in three years time due to HIV. And that no-one cares. Because there are millions like her.

And her name means flower.

And I cry. I am so angry. I weep. I groan. My chest is torn. For a few hours today I could love her as she deserved to be loved. Yet there are a million like her. And her name means flower. She could have been my daughter.

She could have been my daughter.

Prayer for Day 8: That people would love like Christ commands us. That we would be compelled to create a home for the homeless in whatever capacity we can. That our eyes would be opened to the M’s in our own communities, and we would make a poignant decision to love them, to give them hope and a future. That we would be compelled to act justly, love with a God like mercy, and be figures of hope. That we would become parents in whatever capacity we can, to whoever we can.

Please read this next post in order to transform the potential pain of this experience into one of hope. Thank you

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#196 ~ Bob

Over half way, just, stretching for 3/4’s, before realising one is yearning for some inspiration. It’s not that the insipid, random, banal thoughts that trail across your mind or which play themselves out in the sad reality of reality cannot be captured immortalised in text; nor is it solely the desire to please whilst questioning the agitated question: what did I write which gripped people’s attentions so much in the beginning?, but it’s the acute sense of fatigue. An interesting story scurries across the banner which laces the bottom of a T.V. screen and whispers: Pick me! Pick me! I can make them read your work! – but then the artist, the professional within that at times is bursting at the seams of the ossified cage which incarcerates your poet’s heart, journalist’s muscle, your spiritualist’s soul, flutters, murmurs, and beats that.little.bit. s.l.o.w.e……r…..

Oh the effort. Even reading Wikipedia has taken its toll. Scrounging through the back stories, the histories, the comments and complaints which give your writer’s eye an angle that happens to be more obtuse than acute, flinging up a dirty glaucoma induced film of mottled, milk grey, whose gloomy lining which hugs the edges of your pupil tells you it’s easier to sleep than to write. Easier to breathe than to find something that makes that brown inhaler seem more appetising in the morning.

Is it boredom? The very vogue Ennui of literary critics, modern and post artistes, students on long summer holidays? A lack of inspiration, or perhaps it’s the block of wood that regularly lodges itself into the brains of people who like words, and like conjuring them either on paper or dirty, smudged, grease printed LCD screens?

I think, to get the ball rolling, that lumpy slab of a London Plane Tree should be given a name.

How about….Bob.

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#175 ~ Home Sour Home

We like to paint an idyllic scene of family life. Mother is in the kitchen, father in the garden, the children are in their rooms building imaginary castles. A combination of umbilical cords, heart-strings and wedding rings bind the family together into a cohesive unit of wholesomeness. A sweetness, like the nectar that drips from Keat’s tautologically over-ripe flowers, drools it’s sucrose body over the tantalising image of family.

Yet family, the idea of strangers who may even share genetically different blood types, living together due to a fusion of a nucleic acid called DNA, is not a sweet, saccharine infused construct. It is sour, bitter, tangy, zesty, repugnant and sensual. It elicits a range of responses that, in the moment, may seem wholesome and appetising, just as teeth do when they graze into a lemon curd pie, yet as it slips down the back of the throat, twists the lips into a pleasant grimace. Family evokes a response. The frictions that rail at the boarders, within the heart, over the dinner table, are the same frictions that define the overarching presence of unity, one-ness. A wise man once said, “the members of one’s own household are their greatest enemy’; yet, they are also their greatest friends, lovers, protectors.

Returning to the familial embrace, one does not rub up against the smooth, oil of Olay soaked skin of a Lothario, a debonair or even a baby’s bottom, but the weathered, grizzled jaw line of a Father, a menopausal mother, pubescent brother or even, hormonally imbalanced sister. The irritations, grazes, and frustrations however, are the most authentic kisses your cheeks will ever incur.

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