24 April 2016

Dear Future Self

Imagine if you, at your current inexperienced- or experienced- age could defy all that you know about the stress producer and experience contributor-time, and rewind.  Imagine if we could back pedal to one night ago, maybe one year ago or maybe even three decades ago; what advice would you give from your current self to your younger self?

If Steph (aged 10) could give Steph (aged 13) a single piece of advice it would be this:
Don't worry about the people in your primary school- you'll never speak to most of them again. In high school you'll meet a boy and he'll break your heart, but you'll heal (despite what you think and what you feel). You will be faced with a great sense of 'failure' and a great lack of self-belief but I promise there will come a day where you will believe in all your hard work. In the romance department you will be a late bloomer. Don't worry about that. Live your genuine life till then. Oh, and Steph, you'll make some pretty amazing friends in high school and get 37% in a maths test in grade 10 but go on to get an A for mathematics but most importantly Steph, Kiddo, you'll make it.

There are a copious amount of individuals who wish that "Had I known what I know now...I would/wouldn't have done that... or I would have done it differently." I'm aiming this post at those people. You. There are often times when a single decision defines the person we become and the life we will lead. A defining moment. That single moment could lead to so much goodness, but contrastingly so much hatred, anger, resentment and other negative emotions.

This question will ask of some people to venture into dark, web filled corners which have not been journeyed to in sometime. Others will rove past a conglomeration of both jubilant and blue days whilst another will seek out advice for a happier time. This requires ones current self to journey back to ones past self and give advice for the future.

I'm not going to tell you to forget that moment whether it be one night ago or a lifetime ago. All I am going to ask you is this: Think about one piece of advice you would give to your younger self- maybe when you were 10, maybe at 65, or maybe even 24 hours ago. If you're up to it, send me an email at socialspying@gmail.com and I'll feature it in the next feature 'Dear Future Self'. And please do include a photo of yourself or an image of a sentimental/relevant object or a snapshot of a memory or even a post-card and scan it through, if you wish to do so.

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, for the first time ever I bring you Dear Future Self.



Age: 53
Occupation: Domestic Helper
Nationality: South African

Dear Future Self













Sincerely,
I-thought-I'd-be-a-Teacher 



Age: 17
Current Occupation: Student
Nationality: South African

Dear Future Self












Sincerely,
Date-less



Age:55
Current occupation: Unemployed
Nationality: Greek

Dear Future Self
 
Sincerely,
Bankrupt and Jobless



Age: 26
Nationality: South African

Dear Future Self
Sincerely,
Diana



Age: 17
Occupation: Student
Nationality: Cypriot

Dear Future Self 

Sincerely,
P



Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Nationality: South African

Dear Future Self




















Sincerely,
Minnie Mouse



If you have a piece of advice that you wish you'd been able to give to your younger self what would it be?


Send it to socialspying@gmail.com along with a visual, your age, nationality, current occupation and a name which you'd like to be known as and I'll feature it in next month's addition of Dear Future Self.

Till next time-
Steph

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17 April 2016

Documentary Review: He Named Me Malala


Documentary Review: He Named Me Malala
                                 


The hour and a half long documentary entitled He Named Me Malala, produced by David Guggenheim and released on the 2nd of October 2015, opens with a Pashtun tale which Malala Yousafzai's father re-told to his wife's rounded tummy when she was pregnant with his daughter.

The tale's protagonist finds herself on the battlefield between two nations- England and Afghanistan. The folklore teaches that the teenager observes, in dismay, that the Afghan warriors in defeat and in a down-trodden state running away from the scene of the  Maiwand battle. The loss of hope for the Aghan troops was tangible, according to the narrative. The young, courageous girl supposedly trekked up the towering mountain which stood surveying the battle ground below. The young Pashtun girl raised her voice so that all the fighters across the clash of the two nations could hear her. The teenager encouragingly spoke up saying that "It is better to live like a lion for one day than to live like a slave for a 100 years". Afghanistan, lead by the vociferous teenager, came to defeat England and lead them into a spirited victory. The initiator of hope, courage and light amongst the darkness of war was later shot and killed in the very battle which her commanding words helped to win. Her name was Malalai.

The correlation between Malalai of Maiwand and the story of Malala Yousafzai's life thus far is striking. Globally, the latter Malala is a house-hold name. In 2012, the oldest of the Yousafzai children was shot in the forehead whilst in her classroom (although further research online states that the teenager was indeed shot on a bus on her way back home from writing a test at school). A Taliban militant walked into the room, according to the documentary, where Malala was present and simply said "Where is Malala?". When all the fearful eyes in the room turned towards the young teenager from the Swat Valley, the trigger was pulled.



Malala with her father in England
1. Malala Yousafzai in hospital, shown from left with her oldest brother, her father Ziauddin and her youngest brother.
The documentary shows that a BBC reporter went from door to door asking girls, in particular, from the Swat Valley to speak up about their feelings towards their every-day life. Many shut their doors in fear of what the consequences would be-not only on themselves but on their families. Quite controversially, it was Malala's father, Ziauddin, who had put his daughter's name forward. Under the pseudonym of Gul Makai, Malala wrote about her every day experiences, once writing that "...there is no peace" which accurately reflected her hometown,which was once a paradise. Eventually, Malala emerged from the shadows and the protection which the pseudonym offered her and put her face and birth-given name out for all to see- including the Taliban. Her voice grew louder, her support grew stronger and people's ears became sharper to the issues which the young Yousafzai was expressing.

Malala, who is described as being "addicted to books" by her younger brother was an avid reader from early on- an influence from her Father, who started his own school in Swat Valley. Malala grew up around education and believes in equal rights with a particular focus on girls owning the right to attend school. The young activist realized  "the importance of a voice when there is silence" a sentiment echoed at her speech to the United Nations on the 12th of July 2013, only 9 months after being shot.

What struck me throughout the documentary is Malala Yousafzai in her home environment.She is unexpectedly an 'ordinary' teenager. Now living in Birmingham, England, after moving from the Swat Valley, a couple miles away from Pakistan's Capital City of Islamabad, Malala is shown bickering playfully with her two younger brothers, with remarks such as "naughty" aimed in the young activists's direction- which is immediately contested followed by bouts of laughter. Malala's younger brothers claim that she is "violent" but the oldest of the three siblings jokingly comments that it is all done "as a sign of love".

A medium close-up shows Malala teaching her dad how to tweet and post a link on Facebook- which is something many of us in the 'neo-technological' age can relate to. The triumph of a tweet and posting on Facebook is celebrated with the 'clap' of Malala and her father's hands coming together in a 'high-5'. Guggenheim shows Malala at school, interacting with her peers where she admits that she does not share her true self as she is unsure if her fellow teenagers "will like" her or "be interested" in her-which are sentiments shared by teenagers universally without exception. Malala shows the viewer her 73% in a recent Biology test and another test where she achieved 61% in physics. She chuckled in embarrassment at her results (as many teenagers have) but quickly brushed it off by stating that she was not at school on a particular day when a particular section was taught-and points to the affected question in her test. Furthermore, Malala harbors feelings of doubt when it comes to understanding her "new society and (its) new rules"- which many adults and youth a-like can relate to when placed in a new environment.

My take on the documentary and its central figure:

To begin with, the cinematography in the documentary was well-balanced. Hearing the voices of so many people involved in Malala's story added many perspectives to the biography. The stills of a decimated Swat Valley narrated asynchronously by those who were affected by its destruction the most added a very personal note to the documentary. At one point, cross-cuts of blood splatter on the side panels of trucks really drives home the reality of the documentary. This war is at a cost. It has done immeasurable  damage on so many families- just like Malala's.



2.  "The vivid tints and tones of warm scarlet reds or oranges
 like the sun was to me a statement to the Taliban"



A noticeable pattern in Malala's clothing, in my opinion, throughout the filming of the documentary was the opulence and saturation of her colourful hijab and loose-fitting dresses. Colour is a symbol. The vivid tints and tones of warm scarlet reds or oranges like the sun was to me a statement to the Taliban.  It is a sense of triumph. It states, boldly, that the Taliban cannot take away Malala Yousafzais happy sense of nature. 
She is going to shine and conquer and make people hear her voice. And no one-or no thing-can stop her.


So often I have been angry towards people or a situation-which upon reflection were petty. Malala possesses no fury toward the man who shot her. Her father states that his daughter was not shot by a single man, but rather "an ideology". Malala continues that her anger cannot be compared to the smallness of "an atom, or maybe a nucleus of an atom or maybe a proton"- which is a statement that made me chuckle as I have recently studied the Periodic Table at school. Malala tells the camera that "Islam teaches us humanity. equality and forgiveness" which is a statement which had me hitting pause on the documentary. The recent acts of terror which have plagued Europe, Turkey, Syria and Kenya among many other countries are supposedly done in the name of Islam.  How can a religion dictated by three of the most positive values, in my opinion, be skewed to encourage acts of killing and torture?

The documentary ends with Malala's words that "my father only gave me my name, Malala. He didn't make me Malala. I chose this life. It was not forced onto me. I chose this life and I must continue it."

One of Time Magazine '100 most influential people in the world' goes on to say that "I tell my story not because it is unique...but because it is not."

Malala's voice does not represent a lone voice; Her globally recognized strong yet sweet voice represents a chorus of 66 million voices which are growing louder and louder.

I was aware of the name Malala Yousafzai for a long time and had foolishly thought that I was aware of her story. The documentary provides valuable insight into the cause which Malala was almost killed for and the cause which she continues to live for-equality.

I give the documentary 9/10 Stephells and encourage all living bi-pedal organisms (that's you, humans) to watch it.

If you have already feasted your eyes upon Malala's incredible story (either in text or on screen), please do let me know your thoughts.

Till next time-
Steph



Sources in order of appearence:
http://live.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/Malala-Yousafzai_Antonio-Olmos.jpg
http://www.malala-yousafzai.com/2012/10/Malala-news-from-England.html
http://i4.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article2247889.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/Malala-Yousafzai.jpg



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10 April 2016

Notice of Change

Do we really fear change? There is a saying that 'many fear change' but upon reflection I have found that we fear more what change brings. The same goes for love. Most do not fear falling in love; we fear the rejection and the misery of heart-break which we could face as a result of 'failed' love. Similarly with change- we fear rejection, judgement, confusion and so much more which accompanies doing something new or stepping out of one's zone of comfort, but change in its true essence, like love, should not be feared. So here I am fueling my dreams. I am trying something new; Armed with the 26 letters of the English alphabet and staring confusion and doubt in between the eyes. Here goes:

If you wonder back to my very first post and read my intentions for this blog you will find that my intent was very different from the type of blog that it has become. My purpose was to show how no person is isolated from the world for there is always another soul who suffers the same as anoher.
Although I still believe the above-mentioned statement to be true, I no longer want to be defined by a blog theme.

I am very excited for the changes that I have in mind for this blog.

I have recently decided to re-name the blog and post commentary on topics which I find relevant, suitable and interesting and all from my persepctive.

There can be multipe perspectives to a single story; and from now on, I give you my own.

Till next time-
Steph
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4 April 2016

A Shaken Street in Soweto

Last week South Africa hosted its annual ProudlySA Buy Local Summit and Expo, in Johannesburg, the country's economic capital city. The highly publicized summit aims to encourage local trade and employment across industries in the country. South Africa's deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, when speaking at the summit urged South Africans to consciously buy goods produced in South Africa saying "When you buy local, the money you use stays in the community and in the local area." Ramaphosa further mentioned that South Africans are yet to recognize the "long-term benefits of buying local goods."
Whilst attending Thandi's funeral (refer to previous post) I became aware of the impact of a single local business on a struggling community.

Miriam's home was over-crowded with mourners who toppled out of the garden, passed the wide-open gate commemorating and celebrating a short-lived life. The over-crowded drive-way was spotted with faces well known to me.Townships often boast a closely-knit community, and Zola is no exception. Anyone and everyone who had briefly connected with Thandi were present and accounted for on that afternoon. This included many people who had met Thandi over the 17 years of her working career. As the street began to fill, so did the number of familiar faces. In a corner of the garden, to my right I recognized the always smiling Phumi- the company's cleaning lady who had left the business some time ago due to a heart condition which rendered her unable to continue working. Slowly shuffling through the crowd I was suddenly met with a long,warm and nostalgic embrace from behind. It was Mavis this time. A middle-aged, well-rounded lady who is a leading role in the fragments of memory which remain from my visits to my parent's workplace as a little girl. She too had left over five years ago after working for the company for well over a decade.

In one street, in Zola, Soweto, I was able to witness the impact which a local family business had on a community. My family and I were received in a never-before-visited close-knit community with warmth resembling the heat which escapes from fire-places in the cold of a winter's night. I was in awe at the impact which my family's small manufacturing business had on a single community in the heart of Soweto. I realized the full impact of the opportunities which this small business offered these inviting,eager and appreciative people-despite, their amicable...or inharmonious departure from the business. Present at the funeral were past, present and future individuals who would be impacted by this family business and similarly have an impact on it.

These familiar faces (due to the nature of the business) have saved countless lives and contributed to the operation of a company which has been manufacturing for over 30 years, which has accordingly provided jobs to hundreds of South Africans. The business, in return, has given Phumi an opportunity to correct her heart condition, whilst providing others the opportunity to expand on their confining, pre-apartheid given homes.

Imagine if the purchasing of local goods surpassed the amount which our country imports. If we were to support the bid to buy locally, we could consequently promote more localized enterprises. We could multiply the impact which this one family business has had  on a single street in a small township by several thousand times. If only this could be multiplied to scores of streets,suburbs and towns across the country. That would be one very powerful nation.

Till next time-
Steph



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