The Tenant – Part Two

For the first three months, there was no sign that anyone else besides the newcomer lived in the house, save for the bill that came on the first day of each month. On this day, a little slip of paper, of the same make as the advertisement and welcome note, would be on the floor, just in front of his bedroom door when he woke up. This he would meet as requested by leaving his rent money in an envelope (which was always waiting for him on the side table by the front door on such a morning) and by the time he returned home from work, the table would be empty, and no more correspondence would be had until the next month’s rent was due. So, we come around to the beginning of our story. The fourth tenant lived like this, more-or-less contentedly, and did not think to ponder the peculiarity of his situation until one morning, after an unhappy meeting at work.
“Alright ladies and gentlemen!” began the school’s principal in that overly-conspiratorial way of school principals who have never made an effort to get to know their staff, yet treat them like childhood friends with whom mischief was wrought. This they do only when they want some sort of favour at year-end meetings. This principle was a stout, grubby-looking man with thick fingers and a fat caterpillar of hair perched upon his upper lip, that wriggled around whenever he spoke. The various members of staff looked around subtly enough to be noticed by their colleagues and were noticed just enough by colleagues and principal alike to be awkward. The newest member of staff, our tenant, had no such alliances with whom to share overtly secret glances, and so stared the principal, sheepishly, in the face. Seizing his opportunity, the man lifted a stubby finger to point delightedly and, the tenant thought, somewhat victoriously, at the poor unallied man. “You there! Errr… math teacher was it?” The object of that accusation cringed. “Art tutor”, he corrected. “Yes, yes, exactly!” the principal chuckled and, as he did, held his belly in such a way that for one grotesque moment he looked like a boozing Father Christmas. “Well sir, you are new here aren’t you?” The art tutor felt like he was being herded but could see no way of escaping what he couldn’t see. The glint in his questioner’s eye said that he knew the tutor was already conquered. The rest was just for show. “Well… I have been here a few months-”
“A few months! Barely half a year am I right?”
The tenant sighed “Yes, that’s correct”
“Well well”, the caterpillar man began, a smug smile tugging at his (what could be seen of it) lips. “You have been here almost half a year”, he paused there for dramatic effect and sent his gaze over the rest of his staff before continuing, “and have not yet received your initiation! We can’t let him get away with that eh?” His eyes swept once more over the now puzzled room and so did the art tutor’s. The expressions that greeted him were such that the tenant guessed there had never been such a thing before. Even so, they slowly began nodding and one or two even smiled in relief. The principal waited until everyone understood his drift- through the art tutor still did not- then clapped two thunderous palms together and boomed: “Marvellous! That settles it then; our year-end function will be at the new-bee’s house!” The staff room cheered and began to get up from their seats as if the matter was quite settled. Naturally, our tenant began his objections immediately, but the sounds were drowned out by the bavarderie of his – he looked at them as if it were his first meeting and settled on the word loathsome – colleagues. All the rest of that week, they dropped hints about the kind of theme they would prefer or the type of wine that they like. He tried in vain to point out to them that he had no intention of hosting a party, that he was sure the principal would heed his objections and that, anyway, it would be a breach of contract to even dream of doing such a thing. To this they merely chuckled, winked at him and said something along the lines of “you won’t get out of your initiation (they added a conspiratorial drawl to the word each time which eventually confirmed his suspicions that it was a thing created for him alone) that easily!” and strolled away before he could emphasise the sincerity of his refusal. That night, when he got home, he decided that he would have to take up the issue with his fellow tenants. Unsure of how to attempt the expressly forbidden communication, he sought out his lease agreement for clarification. The rule was unambiguous. He was not to even try meeting with any of his housemates, lest he forego his own tenancy. Not knowing what his next move should be, he opened his bedroom door, stared down the corridor with all its rooms leading off to each side and considered his options. He could start by simply knocking on one of the doors, but which should he approach first? Big Jim certainly didn’t inspire the confidence of a visitor, nor did the austerely named Alistair. Between those was the silhouette’s room and he still had not worked up the courage to slip so much as an ‘I’m sorry’ note beneath that door. He could always just wait until one of them emerged, but for one thing he wasn’t even sure any of them were even at home. They could have gone on a six-month long vacation for all he knew. For another, based on the incredible lack of morning coffee schedule coincidences (even on weekends), he doubted whether he could stand there long enough to catch a glimpse of any of them. Then he remembered the coffee table next to the front door. The one portal through which all his correspondences were had. Perhaps if he left a note there it may be taken up in much the same way as his rent money. He supposed that it would be more likely to end up in the hands of the right person that way too. Feeling a little relieved at not having to face a series of potentially awkward and eviction-preceding bedroom interviews (he shivered at the thought of being stuck in such a confining space with “Big Jim”- he fancied that the smell of used sweat clothes was bound to fill the room of a man so-named). His rent was due in another two weeks, so if his note alone was ignored, he could slip it in with his rent money.  At last, the calculation that he had six weeks before the fated party gave him faith enough in his chosen route. So, that night before bed, he penned his request in as neat a hand as he possessed and crept down the darkened passage to leave it folded on the correspondence table. He had chosen not to switch on any of the passage lights so as not to disturb his house mates. As he turned from the table to make his way quietly back to his room, he noticed that there was a slight breeze in the place which had not been there before. He turned to check that the front door was securely closed. It was. Then he realised, with a different kind of chill, that the slight draft was not coming from the direction of the front door, but from down the corridor. He frowned slightly, but made his way, cautiously down the passage. Had someone left the kitchen window open? There was a door there too, but he had never opened it. He hadn’t the key for it either if he wanted to. Having chosen not to use the light, he had to feel his way along the walls. The kitchen door sported frosted glass in its centre, allowing for some moon light to guide him to the front. On the way back that light was a hindrance. He moved along as quietly lightly as he could, taking special care not to let his fingers fall too hardly upon one of his neighbours’ doors. The air got cooler as he got further down the corridor until, with a heart-skipping moment, his hand travelled from the wall into an empty space. He froze…

Continue reading Here


The Tenant – Part One

There was once a very unextraordinary house. It sat in a line of similar looking shelters on a none-too-exciting street. Many houses had been built like it before and many more would be after; a product of recycled plans adopted by architects whose creativity had long ago burnt out. You would think, at least, that on opposite ends of the continent these wet creatives stood apart in some finite detail of brick or tile or piping, but this was not so. They were, each of them, entirely predictable (I imagine that they meet up bi-annually and, huddling over old ideas, scratch through the rotting pile to salvage one or two because “this design still looks to be in fashion” or “this design is most practical” or because a certain handful of sheets is least affected by decay or the destruction wrought by scavenging mice. Then they shake hands in sober agreement never to come up with an original design again, married to the boring lines on peeling pages trailing ever smugly behind them). As to the inhabitants of the dis-inspired house, there were allegedly four. They lived in general harmony without having any physical interaction with one another, despite the fact of a shared kitchen and only two bathrooms at their disposal. I say allegedly because of this unseen quality which most of them had and, indeed, our story barely touches on any but the fourth. Contractually, they had agreed never to actively seek out any of the other residents (and if a passive meeting occurred, not to acknowledge the other party at all). Never to host a dinner party, afternoon tea, book-club or any other such social gathering and, above all, never to stray from their scheduled habits. Not ever.­­ In this way, the fourth tenant lived in a state more-or-less akin to quiet contentment. He was happy with his unorthodox situation as it seemed a luxury compared to any of his previous housing arrangements. Becoming a tenant had been a smooth, unsocial process. Every bit of correspondence had been conducted without actually meeting another tenant, or the proprietor (which he assumed was probably tenant 2). Before you pass judgement on this man, for not noticing such oddities as these and naturally linking them with something being off in that place, I offer some small defence on his part by way of telling a portion of his story. Context, as they say, is everything. He was raised by a small handful of mothers at a children’s home in the countryside, a thing that could serve as a child’s kingdom, battlefield, or faery trove. At least one of these scenes rang true- though not for a metaphor. True, he had his comrades in arms but even oaths sworn with an ‘x’ to mark the heart (and hope for death if ever the oath be broken) was a thin shield against a beating or a hungry tum that kept him from sleep. Still, it was a home- if not an iconic one. In retrospect, he believed that the mothers did the best that they had known how to do but he had not looked back the day that he left. Even casting back to the memory of that place was a task he seldom undertook (and it felt arduous enough when he did to keep his thoughts from straying that way again for a while afterwards). And, so it was that at 19 he packed his meagre possessions, including a watch which had long before ceased ticking (and, somewhere in the few years between his digging it out of the earth and leaving the farm, had relinquished its wrist strap), and left the farm. ‘The farm’ is what the orphans had taken to calling their home on account of it being a self-sustaining institution run by past orphans who, upon turning 18, found themselves without any immediate plans or prospects and so, took the job which every child received as an 18th birthday offer. Some stayed for as long as 10 years, happy or complacent with no real drive for anything else. Others, like our tenant, stayed just long enough to accumulate enough savings for a bus ticket and one months’ rent, with markedly ungenerous portions of food, until they either got some prayed-for opportunity to work or to study, or until necessity drove them back to the farm. The latter group was rare, but on the odd occasion that one returned, he or she was treated as though they had gone on a holiday -albeit a disappointing one- and they were allowed to quietly slip back into old duties. The holiday story was one…

Continue reading Here

I Am An African

I am an African;
An ivory- keys- melody sending Nkosi Sikeleli from my heart to the galaxy
And the galaxy smiles when I play. It says,
I love the sound of home in your chest, dear Africa.
Under the stars I am stripped of pigment.
I am whatever colours they shine onto me and they shine them all.
We fall in-love.
I with those gaseous fireballs and they with
White, african me.
Dear humanity:
Being white does not make me un-african.
I was born on the furthest tip of Africa’s tongue and I rolled from her lips
A secret.
Like so many baby-tooth-truths before me,
My arrival was whispered.
Because laced with this undertone of pink
Is the justification behind
The eviction that you have assigned to my race.
Tell me, dear sister, robed
In ebony:
When you ask for my name and say
That the letters taste foreign
What reaction do you expect from me?
You’ve asked me to rehearse
to rehearse
to rehearse and caress
The letters that outline you
Because they are sacred,
Because they carry your identity like a precious commodity
Because they are the first
In this anthem of camaraderie
-the same anthem that lulls our children to peaceful sleep-,
But you seem to have forgotten your side of that lullaby.
Leaves my lips,
Aiming straight for your ears,
But something in the historically gun-smoked air between us
Distorts the rhythm of my words and
Your ear-
No wonder they beat so furiously.
I know that you are angry
You have a right to be, but me telling you that
Is like holding a book and telling the pages:
you have a right to be bound.
I hear your story.
Do you hear mine?
My pages have a right to be bound too.

I am an African.
My veins are laced with animal spoor,
Backed by this drumbeat-heart beating in time
With the elephant serenade of yet another marula-framed sunset.
Tell me that my skin is too pale to capture such brilliance
And I will ask you,
What artist has not started with a still paler canvas?
Artwork me is pleased with the palette that I was painted in,
Is in-love with the way that the sun tints my skin,
Is no less awed by artwork you,
Is soothed by the feel of  wind dancing in strands of my hair.
In fact, my hair is an african masterpiece;
Not quite the colour of chocolate or gold,
But some less idealised in-between.
Like the freshly unearthed riches that birthed the streets of Egoli,
I belong here.
I can feel it in the way my toes find home
In the same stones that once littered the dragon-backed Burg.
I can smell it every time my airways flood with childhood memories
From taking a breath in the veld.
I can taste it in Black Boy’s poetic rendition of mama’s cooking,
Like the way to liberation has only ever been through a heart-warming meal.
Black Boy Be onto something.
I can see it in the shades of feet that greet the stage,
Like poetry is the lung through which honesty breathes
And honesty breathes heavily
-Airways choked with ink-
Because there was never meant to be enough ink for what Africa has to say,
But we write for her anyway
And hope that the poetry, more than the pain,

I am an African
And I love my Africa.
Africa is a big place,
You say and you’re right, it is.
But I am a wordsmith too, so you’ll find
My Africa is a place where there are 11 official ways to say,
Welcome to Africa, white girl.


Dear reader,

Welcome to the interior of my mind. It’s an odd place, but the designer was feeling somewhat experimental when He put it all together so, for your own safety throughout the tour, please attentively read through the following guidelines:

The tour will feel a bit like walking down a corridor with rooms on either side, each with its own uniquely designed door. Some doors will be open and waiting for you, others will be closed, but unlocked for you to open (or not to open) yourself. Others (these are the disclaimed ones) will be a bit stuck.

> The open doors:
These are what most people come here to see. They are easy to navigate because, as you will find once you enter these rooms, they are usually singularly focused. Poetry dominates in terms of furnishing, but the individual items can be just about anything. When you enter these rooms, please make yourself at home! As an example of rooms in this category, look out for Sonnet 01; The city and the stars and A beautiful reaction.

> The unlocked doors:
This is where the corridor starts winding a bit. These rooms are less about the comfort of the guests and more about sharing the personal journey of the mind you find yourself walking through. Less standardised than the previous set of rooms, when you enter, you will find that each room has it’s own character: One may be an exhibition of  how to tame water, while another might be in a constant state of refurbishing. In short, these rooms are all themed, but that is where their shared characteristics end. If you came to see these, please look for the doors labeled, Breathe, girl, breathe; Gros bisous and China: The initial experience.

> The stuck doors:
This is interesting, because it comes two-fold: Though visitors are often timid in trying to shoulder-nudge-open these doors, they hold the foundation of this entire mental abode. Each of these rooms is a sort of factory-of thought. Here is where heavy introspection lurks, the kind of introspection needed to fuel the building of planks and blocks that line these walls and carry your feet. A lot of what you see inside, may be a developing thought, or a thought no-longer relevant, but kept with all the respect of a relic. If you came here for deep, we will direct you towards such rooms as Soldier on; Beasts I’ve known; What I wish she had said instead and Shiver.

DISCLAIMER: If you feel dizzy or confused, let me know by leaving your comments at the door of whichever room is responsible as you leave. Note: some rooms may feel like they do not actually have any solid floor or walls, but rather have the feel of a mist drifting in and out of focus. Don’t panic, I said this was an odd place after all.

Enjoy the tour!



China: The initial experience.

I’ve been in China for two months now and the months are mixed in the lessons that they have brought, the reactions they prompted and the reasons I remember them, but they are all bricks on this path I’m walking to the other side of being able to say “hey, I lived in China when I was 22!” Because I have a lot to say, I’ve set-up the structure here, so you can skip to what you’re actually interested in reading about:

-Part 1: The 4 phases of culture shock.
-Part 2: The people I’ve met and work with.
-Part 3: Learning to speak and eat Chinese.
-Part 4: Poetry things.
-Part 5: Is God in China?

This post is more focused on my personal experiences here, but I’m aiming for the next posts to be more focused on China as a place. I hope you enjoy!


The four phases of culture shock:

1] The honeymoon phase. To be honest, I think I may have skipped this phase completely. I never came to China with stars in my eyes, but rather with a mission; to learn Chinese and do my career a favour. While those are wise choices, I have had to actively look for things to love about this place – they’re here, just not so easy to find- and for a while the feeling of leaving my heart behind was close to overwhelming.

2] The negotiation phase. Ahh, yes. I know this place well. This is home to that part inside of me that just loves to be angry and moan and get frustrated at everyone and everything. That little monster had a field day with me, everyday, for as long as I was willing to feed it. It’s really difficult being somebody who talks as much as I do and having people look at me blankly and say shi ma?- what? When I’m just trying to order a bottle of water.. or coffee (don’t get me started on how difficult that can be). In short, I stepped off the plane and was almost instantly annoyed with the people, the culture, the language, the place. For a while I kept asking myself “what possessed you to come here?”.

3] The acceptance phase. This happened gradually and with the help of my bible (more on that later). I started counting my blessings. For instance, my apartment; it’s so, so nice. I still can’t believe how blessed I am to call that place home. I prayed that I wouldn’t be stuck living in some cement block surrounded by cement everything. I live in one of the nicest parts of Linping- there is a small lake across the street, attached to a magnificent park which has a newly opened tea garden nesting in its heart -where I happened to stumble just at the right time to meet the right lady to invite me to try some of China’s more traditional teas and styles of drinking them. Suddenly I saw the light; China is filled with kind, patient, caring people. Slowly I started to look around and (occasionally) I liked what I saw.

4] The mastery phase. Aaaand here I am (most of the time). These last two months have been a ride and a half, but this place is so beautiful in many ways and I’m excited for this adventure that I have embarked on! I don’t know what’s coming or where I’ll have been in a week from now, But I’ve shifted my goals somewhat: I am here to learn the language and explore the country. I know where the pandas are, I know where the tigers are, I even know about the stone gardens in Kunming and the mountain range that inspired the director of Avatar to design that world as he did. All that’s left is to grab a bag and go!


The people I’ve met and work with:

In general, my experience of Chinese people has been that they are very kind as a nation. One of my first experiences here involved sitting in the park during my first week in China, ambitiously trying to count to 10 in Mandarin, when an elderly man walked up to me, smiled and helped me with my pronunciation for each word. Eventually he said a phrase to me in Mandarin which I repeated. He sad it a second time, more slowly and, assuming I had not pronounced it correctly the first time, I repeated it a second time, just as slowly. After a few more back and forths with this one phrase, he decided to write it in my book. I smiled and nodded at him in thanks. He smiled, and went on his way. Interested to find out what my new sentence meant, I asked a colleague at work, who laughed and then wrote out the translation. The sentence that I’d kept repeating was this: Ni shi na li de? which translates to “where are you from?” ahhhh the embarrassment! In my mind’s eye I went back to some of the expressions that had touched that old man’s face and now I see that a lot of it was patience gently folded between some lines of confusion. However, it was just one of the many ways I’ve become accustomed to as being “the way” to learn language; try, fail, get up, laugh, try again and (usually) fail again, but this time a little wiser in doing so.
I’ve met all sorts of people, especially in the context of poetry: I’ve become involved in a group here called the Hangzhou Writers Association International. This has been a ball of light for me on the days where China feels like a dark and lonely place. There are 4 South Africans (myself included) at the school where I work – It seems that while China spreads across the globe, South Africa is slowly infiltrating China- The people I work with here are pretty cool and as much as I’m not the office-job type, I enjoy the dynamic in our staff room. I’ve especially grown to love a small handful of fellow teachers and I’ll share one experience with them that I think I’ll always look back on with a smile:
Summer course was finally over. 6 weeks of non-stop work. 1 day off a week for six weeks of up to 13 hour working days had drained us all, but we held our cool with swagger. The achievement ceremony (AC) was over, we had presented our classes to the parents and done our ridiculous dance for their entertainment (as if taking all our sleep for the purpose of readying their children’s performances was not enough to appease their desire for a show. Nay, we too had to don a hula outfit and pretend to enjoy swaying our exhausted selves from side- to- side). Now came the time for a celebratory nap- or so I thought. Sneakily, a few eager souls decided to book a room for one of the most popular Chinese past-time activities; KTV. I found myself swept up by the conspirators and an hour later, six of us were in a smallish room furnished with a couch, two tables, 3 suspicious-looking microphones and two television screens. In-case you haven’t already guessed: KTV stands for Karaoke Television. Yup, I found myself enjoying a cool cider in a Karaoke suite and it didn’t take much before we were all singing our hearts out and dancing to the likes of Despacito, Thriller, and random Chinese hits. One of my favourite moments of the evening was when one of the possy, a Chinese colleague who speaks almost perfectly accentuated English and looks a bit like Elvis, belted out every word to Billy Joel’s Piano man. If our lives had depended on his passion for the lyrics, we would all have been saved.
We go on team building events with the other EF schools in Hangzhou (there are 8 of us in total) and my first one was heaps of fun! We were told that we were going rafting in a valley two hours away, but in typical Chinese fashion; this was only a fraction of the truth (the click-bait). I didn’t mind, because although rafting only took an hour of our day, I thoroughly enjoyed the hiking and zip-lining that preceded it. First, we did the hike, which took us past a small temple where people pay to bow down with a couple sticks of incense. The temple was “guarded” by a huge tortoise on the one side, and a giant bell on the other. Moving past the temple we found ourselves at a waterfall, where we were told not to swim, but the more we pushed that boundary, the more we were cheered on by the same people who had prohibited it! By we I’m referring to myself and two other lads who struggled with the idea of not going for a mid-hike swim in the heat that seems to permanently blanket China. Next we took a convenient slide down the part of the mountain we’d just hiked up (China is all about convenience), and climbed a good few steps to the top of the zip-lining hills. Something that my rafting-partner pointed out was how angular Chinese mountains are and how they stand out from mountain ranges around the globe. The zip-lining viewpoint was a great place to observe this phenomenon; It was beautiful. The zip-line was over quickly and then we headed to the rafting, which was a tonne of fun (and slightly painful), but also full of natural beauty (I should point out that this trip was the first time I saw clean natural water in China).
These have just been some of the highlights which keep me going and wanting to explore this very interesting country.


Learning to speak and eat Chinese:

I’ve hired a tutor that I go to see every two weeks in a café on the Yuquan campus of Zhejiang University. This has been a healthy something for me to spend time on in-between working and being stuck at home (because moving to China is very expensive and it takes some time to catch up with the cash you’ve lost). I think the Chinese language is fascinating! I especially love the characters and am able to have (and write) a basic conversation. This phase of learning a language can go two ways (and it usually tries out both): You’re either in a state of constant frustration and lack-of confidence, especially when it comes to speaking, because you’re so aware of how foreign you sound when trying to community and even when you’re sure you used the right combination of words to order coffee this time people still look at you like you’ve said something ludicrous. The truth is people are usually just shocked that a foreigner is speaking Chinese, or they have picked up on your accent and are trying to filter through your odd way of pronouncing their words. Push through. Tell yourself that daily and progress in your linguistic prowess is soon to follow. I am enjoying the linguistic journey. Some points of interest: In China, people don’t use the commonly known ni hao ma? Like we use how are you? They usually just ask if you’ve had anything to eat!
The food here is good, though I’ve struggled when it comes to cooking for myself. The problem is walking into the shops and not knowing what anything on the shelf is, especially since most things on the shelf in China are not on the shelf back home, so they aren’t visually identifiable either. That being said, food is very cheap here, so it’s not unwise to just buy a meal from a small restaurant every day. Chopsticks are great, I’ve even bought my own set! One of my favourite foodie things here is Jiaozi – dumplings, though they are quite difficult to make (I’ve had a few failed attempts already). Another is flower tea. I love, love, love flower tea! It’s just so delicately balanced in flavour. Mmmmm.


Poetry things:

I already mentioned that I’ve gotten involved in a poetry group that’s based in Hangzhou. I’ve also had one of my own poems recorded, I Am an African. It’s cool to be able to carry on with what I love, even if it’s in fulfilling a different role to what I’m used to. is the site you can go to if you’d like to check out what’s happening with all the poetry projects I’m working on. I’ve just become the new web master for their blog and I’m excited for all the potential that it holds! I cannot post my own poem online yet, as it is being entered into a competition that’s based in Minnesota (Button Poetry)and one of the pre-requisites is that it’s an un-published entry, but once it’s out there I’ll make it known to the masses!


Is God in China?

This is a question that weighed on me quite heavily before I left South Africa. The answer, of course, is yes, but I think there is more required by the question than just an off-hand yes or no. God has certainly been with me in China and I’m grateful for the peace that knowledge has brought me when I’ve felt on the edge of a deep sadness or panic. I do my bible readings, listen to Christian podcasts and journal my spiritual walk, but when I leave my apartment, my Christian safe-bubble (in a sense), I’m affronted by the intensity of sin around me. There is a trend of drug-taking, casual sex and complacency in the rhythm of life here. How do you walk through a room cramped with dirt and come out clean? Sometimes that’s how it feels and it’s a difficult thing to navigate- especially when that same navigation brings me to a mirror where I can see some of the dirt starting to dust my skin. Then it’s back to my safety bubble where I scrub and pray and it all starts over again. I met another Christian two days ago, but we were parted before having the chance to exchange contact details and there it was again: loneliness. A different kind of loneliness that echoes the verse: “where two or more are gathered in my name…” so I look at the mirror again and wonder if my reflection counts.
Before this gets too depressing I’ll get to the point: I was wrong. Sin may be all over, but that is the nature of people: We are a sinful race, that’s why Jesus came, that’s why He died and that’s where thoughts should turn when the sin in the world feels overwhelming. Frankly one needn’t look at the world, only at the story of his/ her own life to see a tidal-wave of sin, but that’s the thing: Sin is everywhere and God is everywhere too. He is with us in the darkest and lightest places (and all the medium-lit ones). There is a deep hope stirred in with that truth.
So, maybe a more inclusive answer to my headline-question is this: God is far more everywhere than sin and sin is in just about everything. Maybe you don’t like that answer, maybe I won’t like that answer in a month from now, but as it stands that is my full attempt at honesty.
To conclude: I am thankful that my China adventure is becoming a God adventure too. My faith here has grown and deepened, and I am more aware of the importance of my spiritual welfare than I have ever been.


That brings me to the end of my first China update. I’ll be back with another in a month or so.
Until then, zàijiàn!


Beasts I’ve known

One day, when you are brave enough to dive so deep that darkness becomes part of the landscape, that’s when you will find my fears. They drift about in hopes of colliding into someone or something they are strong enough to digest. Friends, they are almost always strong enough. Love is a catapult shooting soldiers into the darkness, soldiers equipped to hand-grenade fears, but they rarely know where to aim. Aim at me I plead. So few take the challenge, but preciously I guard them, like a heart trying  to protect its sentiments from the mind.

Hate is not the opposite of Love, Fear  is. Hate and Love tend to co-exist like a tree tolerating a vine, but Fear suffocates, it makes Love feel like the enemy, it psychologically dismembers and reassembles a disturbingly low reality of self-worth. Hate explodes, Fear cripples from the inside. Hate is a broken limb, Fear is cancer. Hate is slapping a friend, Fear is never daring to have one. Hate is a relationship, Fear is loneliness. Hate lives, because Love was there first. Fear stops Love from taking its first breath.

It takes courage to overcome Fear, real adrenaline-filling, heart-stopping, breath-hinging courage. I’ve learned to talk them down, but eventually every feeling needs acknowledgement. At some point, I find myself looking at those hungry beasts drifting in the dark.

We know each other well,  I say and throw a Love-grenade.

What I wish she had said instead


Baby girl, mama loves you. You are so beautiful. You are so beautiful that sometimes people won’t be able to resist the way that looking at you just makes them feel alive because you remind them of what God can do; You look like hope to the downtrodden, but, baby girl, sometimes people dream in their prison-cell minds of how this world would better suite their death-in-life if there were no better dressed in hope, or beauty, or God. So watch who you let in. There are armies all around you, armed with the kind of smile that strips skin from skin so subtly that it takes a tidal wave of acidic grins before the gravity of what they have taken from you sinks in. That’s why we’re called to arm ourselves in Him. Some days, this world will pull your gaze to something more tangibly lovely, more welcoming than that age-old dance between Grace and Sin. Don’t forget, my love, even then. Don’t forget that the day you were born, Time could be heard as he breathed his last sigh, and then collapsed, satisfied, into you have arrived! That’s why hearts amass in beat-skipping eulogies each time you smile; you have an hourglass laugh filled with every grain shaped since Calvary. Don’t forget how, at the moment of your birth, shorelines across the earth were simultaneously filled with the sounds of rock defying ocean-tides that night, like the waters knew that they were holding to the foot of a miracle. That miracle was you. The first time you cried, your song set the darkness ablaze. The first time I held you, I could feel a heat emanating from the hearth that God set in place of your heart. I knew then that you would be a flame, but flames can sometimes be too fierce for loved ones to linger in so, when they are burnt by you, when your tears induced by what you have done threaten to douse your spirit, I will pray for you. Though I have never seen an angel, I’ll pray that they swarm to you like bees to a bottle-brush tree and when they do, I’ll pray that they make a sanctified honey of you. That way, when you go back to sooth the hearts you have singed, they’ll find themselves stuck on you. And when you completely envelope them, they will know what it means to live in the spirit.

Baby girl, mama loves you, you are so strong. Sometimes, when I talk to God about who you might become about the mistakes you’ll make and if they’ll look like mine, I smile because baby girl, mama knows that he’s got you. Trust me, when I was my mama’s baby girl, when I watched life leave her like the way to heaven was through her eyes and the doors were slowly closing, when her despair was a photograph of the baby girl that should have been sitting beside me, when I watched her do the math; She made three of us, meant to watch three of us grow and throw ourselves at His feet, but He welcomed one of us home one lifetime too soon. Then there were two of us, desperately trying to untie the noose that baby sister baby girl’s absence offered to her neck, when mama left, He never did. And when I shook my arms, trying to sever myself from Him, He filled my arms with you. So, when I think of your life, and of how many mistakes you might make that look like mine, I smile because he’s got me too. Sometimes, He will speak to you in ways that take years to understand, but He will show you, in time, what the whisperings mean. So, though I know that you –like me- will stay up all night trying to dissect dreams, I’ll tell you anyway to let go. Live free, but don’t misconstrue what that means- baby I want you to know Jesus. He is the standard to live by. Guard your heart, like He tells us to, but take risks too. You will never know how far love can stretch if you don’t. Grace means that we get to try again and again so, when you make that mistake, the one that spells not good enough in cracked fragments of mirror, know that God doesn’t give up on us for anything. Darling, don’t you see? You are far more precious to Him than you are to me and to me you are everything. So pick yourself up when life knocks you down, when days taste like failed tests, like scraped knees and no friends, like burning closets and cobwebbed rooms like nobody understands and being all alone with nowhere to go- not even home, like no missed calls after 3 suicide tries, like what’s your name again? with more than a hint of spite, like overdosing on heartbreak and substituting air with numbness, love with fear, joy with pain. Baby girl, pick yourself up, lift those eyes to the hills and try again.

Baby girl, mama loves you, you are so precious. One day, you’ll fall inlove and you’ll get hurt. You’ll discover how heart break has a way of making it hard for you to breathe and all at once you’ll realise the mistake in wishing for someone to take your breath away, but you’ll be okay. Better if you learn to embrace how much heartbreak can re-focus heart things. See, heart strings can make a beautiful sound if only you find a musician who knows how to play. So keep tuning yourself to the Word and he’ll come along with all the right compositions to make that heart of yours sing. At last, baby girl, don’t ever give up on poetry. It’s the lung that kicks in when life knocks the wind from you. You will write about so many things, in some ways poetry will give you courage. In others it will take courage to write that poem. Keep writing. Pens will always be beautiful to you; use them as spades to dig up the ink stuck just beneath the surface of that next blank page. Ask your questions there. Find your answers there. Let poetry be your roadmap to constellations of dreams and let scripture be your compass. Together, they will navigate you away from black holes and solar-flares to a life hand-sculpted by the sculptor of you.

At last, baby girl, know that there isn’t anywhere I would rather be, than here, with you.


Singing in the shower is underrated

It’s a big bad world we live in kids, better get your shit together, or you’ll be left in the dust of those that have theirs already wrapped.

Savoury image. Thanks for that…

Baby girl, all you have in the world to depend on is you, so don’t you let anyone in. Build those walls high enough to give China a run for its money, but not so high that they become an attraction -you don’t want to be somebody’s challenge.

I love. I love so openly. I love so openly that even heartbreak feels more like home than never having had a reason to nurse the pain. I will love them all. I will take every beating of fists as a challenge and transpose them to beating of chests.

Don’t live so loud, you’ll draw attention to yourself. 

When I shower, I sing at the top of my lungs -unless a whisper would better suggest the lyrics. When there is music, man oh man, I can’t wait to dance! When the weather turns warm, I sing and dance and play under the sun. When it rains, I splash.

People might stare.

Let them.

They will ostracise you for being too vivacious! Too alive! Too young! Too bold!

I will be vivacious, alive, young and bold still.

They will judge you everywhere! School, home, social circles…


Even church.



Life is unforgiving regardless of whether or not we choose to sing in the shower.



A beautiful reaction

Define ‘awestruck’, she asked them. They stared at her, resolved to fill the air with a dumbfounded sort of silence (which is almost the same thing but not quite as profound) as she steadily met their gazes, allowing them to search her frame for any betrayal of that daring countenance she bore as regally as though it were a crown.

And just what did those probing pairs upon pairs of eyes find? I cannot speak for any pair save my own (I was, by default as a student to the lecturer, part of that fore-mentioned ‘they’), so this is whom my eyes met: A lady, around the age of 25. her hair fell like sighing grain that yearns for the support of a shoulder- just out of reach. Her neck held up that grain-framed face with poise and when she unlocked those coffre-fort lips to speak, her palms would spontaneously drift to elbow level and turn upwards, as if in worship of her subject. Her subject was poetry.

She answered her question like she was delivering a ration of some long-kept secret; to be awestruck, she said, is to be silenced because of  an overwhelming feeling that follows having directly been exposed to grandeur.
My mind, as party to the reception of those words, tripped, then raced, then soared. I felt as though revelation had just taken place without so much as a ceremonious “How-do-you-do?” and I was left wrestling with how  best to phrase this one experience of beauty.

This then is how I processed that experience: I derive beauty from hearing her definition of awestruck. The word itself is not particularly beautiful, but the exposition of what it could mean, is. Awestruck is the description of a reaction- a reaction to grandeur. The potential of grandeur to be beautiful, is truly what I find beautiful and perhaps what it stands in contrast to; the possibility of never actually achieving that potential. The fragility of balance in that conflict is beautiful too, is it not? 

I chose to write about this gem that passed- almost unseen- with those sand grains that separate our pasts from the rest of time, because I thought I owed it to that ever-growing cycle of experiential beauty.

Sonnet 01

A wounded Pride will not rest ere Revenge,
The cold, the savage, the bitter to taste,
Has pressed its cracked lips to a smiling face
And felt such soft skin- from the broken- cringe,
As that of petals hoping to bloom again.
Those broken lips rip holes through petal-space,
like nightmares through a young dreamer’s rib-cage,
And Pride lets slip its control of Vengeance.
So, if flowers are prey to chasm kisses,
Then Hope is a soil for fleurs to steep in
And Revenge can kiss like a strong pesticide,
But for all blackhole and nightmarish threats
There is a garden, with a dream growing
Of Love and of lip-balm and a healed Pride.