Religion and Politics: A Dangerous Marriage/Working and Travelling in Africa

Before I deactivated my Facebook account (which is now reactivated :-)) I had quoted one of Stephen King’s characters from The Mist: “As a species we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?”
This is not my quote. This is from a work of fiction. But clearly it is an idea the author has thought about (but does not mean that he believes it). There was a time when it made sense to me. And it still does to a large extent. But I am older and wiser (I hope) and have a slightly better understanding of both religion and politics. They both (need to) exist to bring us together towards a common vision to create a better world than we live in today. Religion brings us together and politics keeps us on the path to achieve our collective vision. And with my better understanding of these concepts is the realisation that they can and sometimes are being used for evil purposes. And so I would rephrase it slightly to read: “As a species we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room and the most insane of us will force us to pick sides and use religion and politics to dream up reasons to kill one another.”
This is a very cynical way of looking at things, but after the attacks in Kenya and Nigeria how much can you really argue against it?

Shoppers leaving the mall with their hands up to show they're not carrying weapons. From DailMail Online.
I wrote before that I had fallen in love with Africa. It is a difficult love. Imagine coming home every day to your wife or your husband knowing there’s a possibility s/he will snap and kill everyone in the house. What would you do, stop coming home? Sleep with your own AK-47 under the mattress? You may think it’s farfetched and ridiculous. But when you get to Nigeria for the first time and you are escorted by armed guards to your hotel, or you arrive in Zanzibar and read about the tourists that had acid thrown at them in the streets, well you begin to wonder. And when 67 people are killed in a relatively cosmopolitan city in Kenya in a shopping mall, people like you and I, then wonder turns to belief.
This is what travelling into Africa has become. Sometimes it’s not as easy as divorcing your spouse and not coming home. Sometimes you love them too much to leave them.
And what if love is not enough? Well, the answer to that is it has to be enough. Some of us may have the luxury of the option to live somewhere else. The rest of us must recognise that not coming home is not an option, that Africa needs us as much as we need her. But first we must accept our fundamental insanity and understand how easily religion and politics can be manipulated to exploit that very insanity within us.
I love my country and I will continue to nurture my growing love for Africa. Not despite the recent attacks but because of them.



My Last Meal in Zanzibar

My food has arrived and after the first fork of tuna the world around me seems to fade out of existence. The squid and passion fruit salad I had as a starter was an explosion of flavour in my mouth. This. This is something else entirely. This is a feeling that goes so deep and touches so many parts of your being it’s difficult to describe. It’s an intense orgasm of taste. I don’t want it to end.

I finish my food and drink from my forgotten glass of shiraz-grenache.

My dessert arrives. Its all sugar and small amagwinya. I dispense with the cutlery and use my hands. The couple next to me get their food. They look like models here on honeymoon. Even the smell of tobacco from their smoke is fine. It adds to the atmosphere. Enhances it somehow.

I finish my dessert and my wine and ask for a black coffee. It’s time to go home.

Stone Town


This is not paradise. It is not a honeymoon destination. Unless its the stay indoors and enjoy each other’s company kind.
You cannot possibly go to Zanzibar and not visit Stone Town. It is in almost every way the opposite of what the travel agents sell you. Where it is the same however is crucial however.
Stone Town is dirty, smells of sewage and you will spot a rat or two. You will be accosted by tour guides, taxi drivers, porters and homeless women on bicycles. But you will also see a wonder of history and a mass clash of culture.
This town is too small for its history. Somehow the run down buildings are testament to this. Instead of neglect I see a town struggling to cope with all that has occurred within its walls and on its streets. It reminds me of Istanbul, except that city bore it better. Perhaps the degradation and spirit breaking slave trade was the difference.
No matter. Hidden in plain sight in those decrepit tun down streets is the charm of Zanzibar. Charm is a strange word to use. But it fits perfectly. I walked the entire day until my feet were sore and my stomach reminded me I better eat before I take the two hour ferry back to Dar.
From the Old Fort to the boutique hotels in the middle of town where I managed to catch the last bits of the Boks game against the All Blacks; the old post office to the Old Slave Trade market I fell in love with the place. I could’ve walked the rest of that day to experience this beautiful run down town. I don’t possess the words to describe the slave centre and the church built atop it.
On the catamaran on the way back, still savouring the seafood pizza from Mercury Restaurant named for the Queen maestro who was apparently born there, I thought on the day I was leaving behind. It was a special day. I wish I could package it and let my friends and family experience it.
I look forward to seeing it again. I intend to pry back the covers and get intimate with it. Know its secrets. Learn what it has to show me.

Wordslinger Apprentice

Travels With Ced – Istanbul, Turkey

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So we were off to Turkey for two weeks. It was never one of the places I would think of to visit. So I quickly go into Google to find out more about the country. And I’m blown away!
Istanbul is(was) Constantinople! There was an entire syllabus dedicated to this city at school. And one can see why. The rich and complicated history in one city is rivalled only by Jerusalem in my opinion. And perhaps some of the Greek and Italian cities. But this is not a history lesson.
The only natural transcontinental city has rich culture on both the Asian and the European side. Since this was a work visit and the factory is on the Asian we had cross the Bosphorus on the day of arrival to get to our hotel. This is the river that separates continents, in the same city! The river itself is something to look at. From what I could see there are only two bridges across the Bosphorus. On arrival we sat for about two hours on the Trans-European motorway bridge in traffic crossing to the Asian side. We quickly learnt that this is a daily occurrence. Fortunately there are a number of ferries that cross the river. And that became our mode of transport across.
When we got to where we would stay for two weeks we could see that the Asian side is the true residential and industrial area. The European side has become a hub for business, tourism and entertainment.
It was a bit unfortunate that it rained the entire time we were there. We only got two half days of sunshine. But that didn’t dampen the fun or the experience.
I can truly say it was one of the best times in any country outside South Africa I’ve ever had.
The highlight was without a doubt the Hagia Sophia. I’m pretty certian I had a spiritual experience there.

Travels With Ced – Bangkok, Thailand

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I travelled to Thailand a while ago for work. Have always wanted to share my experience there but never knew I had a platform. Now I know and here it is :-).
I was there for work and most of the time was spent doing work and visiting the factory so we didn’t really have a chance to visit other places like Phuket and we stayed in Bangkok throughout. Also, I didn’t really have money for Phuket. Will do this next time.

Where to start with Bangkok. Firstly, it’s an incredibly beautiful city. It feels like each building, each piece of road is deliberately built to be appealing to the eye while still being preoccupied by whatever business has brought you there.
The traffic is crazy but very well organised. But still crazy. On Saturday morning at about 11 a.m. the roads are jammed with traffic. And they have a very well oiled speed rail system.
The culture and religion is a huge part of life in Bangkok. You see this whe you visit the Palace of the king. Or when you step outside your hotel. Or when you’re making your to the MacDonalds down the road.
Speaking of which if you have to resort to MickeyD’s then you haven’t really experienced the food culture in Thailand. Food in South Africa is very spicy. This is due to the spice trade, the large Indian community and the even larger western influence on our culture. These things have meant that a new culture that embodies all of these elements was born. Now, Durban curry is spicier than Mumbai curry. Cape wines are as good if not better than any wines in Europe. Thai food reminded me of home. The first meal/dish I had there was a soup. Full of flavour although lacking in body.
There is your typical restaurant cuisine next to the fast food joint, but the locals and any brave visitor prefer the road side delicassies. And these roadside braais are very mobile. The pavements are empty during the day and then at about 16:00 you see people setting up tables and starting fires and bringing out the meat. By the evening you have a row of cookeries and the sweet smell of cooking meat fills the street. You just have to be careful of the elephants on the road as you walk there!

And if you’re a guy travelling on your own or with a group of other guys, then I suggest you stay away from the red light district. Things can get a lot rougher than they show in The Hangover 2. Unless that is to your appetite of course, then things can be a lot smoother. The street right outside your hotel is filled with shouts of ‘Free look! Free look!’ Should you show any interest you are then bombarded with samples of exactly what it is you’d be looking at for free!
Strangely enough the most vivd memory I have of Thailand was this:
I’m on the train coming back from dinner and seeing some of the night life. A girl walks in. She looks to be in her mid-twenties. She’s wearing a skirt with a light coloured sweater. She looks small in that sweater. She also looks tired as if she has just put in the longest day at work. Her eyes are red as she sits down. Before I leave the train I look at her again and see tears going down her cheeks.

Travels With Ced – Cape Town: Table Mountain

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So after gallivanting through the Kirstenbosch Gardens we went up the mountain! What a view! As good as, if not better, the view of Rio De Janeiro from the top of Corcovado.
The most beautiful site though was not the mountain, or the flowers growing up there against the odds, or the view of the city and the stadium or even the trip up there on the cable car. This honour was reserved for the guy who asked his girlfriend to marry him and the girl who said Yes right at the top of the mountain!