The Oscar Pistorius (Media) Trial… and the bad taste it leaves

Image

Firstly, let me say that I have not watched very much of the trial and I don’t watch a lot of the news in this country. I did read some of the stories about Reeva’s death when the story broke.

Secondly, I met this man. I was at Hardford House, a beautiful bed and breakfast in South Africa at the same time that he was.
I liked him the moment I met him. He is very handsome, he is very well spoken and he is very charming. He also has a very good sense of humour, which I know because his then girlfriend (not Reeva) was driving a rental car to meet him on the Saturday. She was in a white Mercedes Benz and she didn’t know how to properly activate the handbrake and the car rolled into the door of the chalet Pistorius was staying in. The only reason no serious damage was done, was because he ran at the car, dove into the driver’s side head first and activated the brakes as the car rolled down the stairs and into said chalet. My companion and I dashed over to his chalet–we had watched this event unfold from the pool of our neighbouring chalet–to make sure no one was hurt. He popped up out of the car, all smiles and took no credit, laughed it off and was thankful there was no real damage. Later that night we all shared some laughs as he cracked some jokes over a drink before dinner. 

Handsome, charming, humorous and fearless – what’s not to like?!

Granted, I did not get to know him well but I am intuitive and I believe that my first impression of him was an accurate one.
I thought then that he was a genuinely nice person. My opinion has not changed, however, even genuinely nice people make mistakes and I am not one of the people who believes he should be given leniency due to his celebrity status in the wake of Reeva’s death. Whether accidental or not, he shot her and he needs to pay the price for his actions. Cause and effect. Action and consequence. It’s simple.

People are asking the most ridiculous questions, like “Why was he on the internet on Valentines day?”, probably checking his Facebook, who actually cares and is that even remotely relevant?
What gets to me most is that there is an entire channel dedicated to this, South Africa’s ‘Trial of the century’.

I am of the opinion that he must go to jail. There is no question about it. A woman is dead as a direct result of his actions. No one but Oscar will ever know if he honestly knew that Reeva was in the bathroom behind that door. Let the evidence speak for itself and let’s please leave the media out of it.
Regardless of his celebrity status he deserves a fair trial, away from the prying eyes of the media and the ever judgemental and scandal hungry public. There are far more horrific crimes in this country that we neither care to know the details of nor desire to see broadcast on their own channel.

You can argue that he is a public figure and that as such the details of this case and his life are public property, but I find that argument rather empty and superficial and probably says more about your voyeuristic tendencies.
The people I feel for most in this situation, are Reeva’s family. The daughter they loved and cherished is about to posthumously have her life with Oscar and all it’s intimate details aired for all to pass judgement on and I find it distasteful.

We all saw what happened with the OJ Simpson trial, a media farce which became larger than life and all charges of which he was acquitted of. Would it have been any different had he had a media free trial? Who’s to say? Speculation and nothing more.

I guess the problem I have with this entire thing is our voracious appetite for details into other people’s lives. Are we really that bored with our own lives that we need to see into the intimate lives of others?
My attitude to gossip may be a direct result of being the fodder for school playground gossip and the long lasting effects it had on me.

I have a hard enough time reading actualities without also being exposed to the garbage in the tabloids. Imagine for a second that every single action you took and every mistake you made were being photographed, pulled apart, skewed and flagrantly displayed in magazines and in newspapers without those people knowing the first thing about you.

I hope that despite the media circus, Reeva’s memory is treated with respect, that Oscar is treated with respect and I hope that justice is done.

Let’s be more concerned with own lives and making a positive difference in the world we live in than passing judgement on people we don’t even know save for their achievements and public personas.

Thank you for reading.

Advertisements

#SOSVENEZUELA Please Read

#SOSVENEZUELA Please Read

Please pray for Venezuela!

In Her Words Avenue

I write with tears in my eyes, tightness in my chest and fire in my fingers. I speak to you who are reading this, to help me pray and support my beautiful country Venezuela during these difficult times.

Students are fighting for their rights to speak up against the government system and express their freedom of speech. Why are they assaulted, harmed and killed by the authorities that are supposed to protect them? Why parents, single mothers and elders are made to wait in long lines to find the most essential things to live like toothpaste, paper toilet, soap, milk, rice and medicine to say the least? The TV channels are censured to only show what the president has to say? Why is the social media is completely shut down when exposing reality? Why do the people have to live in constant fear? Why can’t my generation and the next…

View original post 152 more words

Back from Paris! Where to now?

And so I’m back from my trip to Paris. I am very happy to be back with Mr M and the time and space we gave ourselves has made it abundantly clear where we are, where we want to be and to some degree how we will get there. So great news on that front. I have also been made to promise that if I decide to take another long trip somewhere, Mr M comes with. I told him it was a deal!
The separation, though not completely unmanageable with all the technology we have at our disposal, was difficult and not something I’d like to do again in the near future.

Looking back on my time in Paris I can honestly say I achieved what I set out to do. I finally and firmly closed the door on my past and made peace with it. I challenged myself in ways I have never done before and I came out the other side better for it. I started learning a new language and in one’s early thirties, this is nothing to sneeze at.
I am accustomed to picking up concepts quickly and so learning a new language was one heck of a challenge.
Language just doesn’t work the way most other things do but I took comfort in the knowledge that it’s an ongoing process and it is something I am going to continue to pursue. It’s also the greatest way to exercise your brain and we can all use some grey matter aerobics! It’s what keeps us young!

Some of the highlights of Paris include seeing an astounding amount of beauty and being confronted with history at every turn. The architecture in Paris is breathtaking at times, especially that of Sacre Cœur, Les Invalides and La Tour Eiffel.
I also met some of the most amazing people on this journey and it went a long way to restoring my faith in humanity somewhat.
We get confronted by so much horror and pain on a daily basis that in some ways we have become desensitised to it. It is so comforting to know that there are people out there who genuinely care about what happens in the world and are getting involved in what ever way they can.

After returning to South Africa on Monday I was afforded the opportunity of visiting Jabulani. A rural outreach programme that houses and feeds impoverished members of the community. Mr M has recently gotten involved and heads up the trust that has been opened to assist the community in self sustaining work and development.
They have recently received their first donation and are already implementing the funds and getting the programme up and running.
I met a woman at Jabulani, named Thandi and she is piloting the “grow to eat and sell” initiative. She will be the model on which Jabulani will structure it’s business plan to show the donors where their money is going and to show the community itself how well the programme can work.
In the coming weeks I’ll be sure to let you know how things are going.

I have been looking for another avenue in which to utilise my talents and Jabulani seems to be a very good fit. There are not handouts. It’s education and self help – teaching a man to fish and all of that. The one giant and–at least to some of us–glaringly obvious flaw of all the ‘just give’ programmes in Africa at large, is the lack of education. By simply handing out food to people starving in countries like Ethiopia and the Sudan we began to perpetuate a vicious circle.
People living off of handouts, having more children and creating more and more indigents who have to rely on handouts making the problem ever greater as the years stretch on. I’m not saying we should leave people to starve but I do believe that without proper education and giving the tools to people to help themselves, you are wasting your time treating the symptom and not the root cause of the problem. This is something Nelson Mandela agreed with. Mandela was a supporter of Mike Kendrick, who founded the Mineseeker Foundation who warned that Africa was becoming a spoilt child due to all the handouts it was receiving from the international community.
Aid handouts did very little to help the people of Ethiopia. The only thing aid in Ethiopia served to achieve was well meaning yet poorly executed symptom relief for some of the millions of starving people. What started to change day to day lives of people in Ethiopia was the implementation of potato farming and the education of local farmers.

This is how we go about changing lives, by educating people. Nothing worth having ever came for free. This isn’t the first place you will read this and it also won’t be the last, but if you are unhappy with how things are, do something to change them, in whatever way you can, do what you feel you can. The world needs more people who care to get up and make a difference.
If you cannot find an organisation who does things the way you think they should be done, start your own. Just start something.

Thank you for reading.

Le Panthéon, Musée Carnavalet and Musée Quai Branley

During my final days in Paris I visited The Panthéon, Musée Carnavalet–also known as the Paris history museum–and Musée Quai Branley.

Firstly, The Panthéon… WOW!
Remaining true to it’s name The Panthéon is the final resting place of some of France’s most illustrious names including Marie and Phillipe Curie, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Alexandre Dumas and Voltaire to name just a few.
This incredibly beautiful building is a wonderful example of architecture in the neo-classic style. The first basilica on this site was built by King Clovis in 507AD after his conversion to Christianity and was destined to house his tomb and that of his queen, Clothilde.
Later in 1744 King Louis XV attributed his recovery from illness to St Genevieve and vowed to replace the abbey with an edifice worthy of the patron saint of Paris. Goodness did he succeed!

Sadly the pendulum was down for routine maintenance. If you don’t know, the Panthéon was home to Foucault’s pendulum which demonstrated the rotation of the earth and was one of the first non-celestial means of showing this.
The original pendulum was housed in the Musée des Arts et Metiers however in 2010 the cable snapped and caused extensive and irreparable damage to the pendulum and indeed the floor of the museum.
The replica has been swinging in the Panthéon since 1995.

Musée Carnavalet bears the historical legacy of Paris within it’s walls. It is one of the oldest of the municipal museums in the city and holds within it’s walls a veritable treasure trove of discoveries, paintings, porcelain, carvings, furniture, war memorabilia and writings dating back to the French Revolution.
The collections in the museum are so vast one could spend days writing hundreds of thousands of words on them so I will just give you my highlights.
I was very surprised to happen upon a Picasso in the Musée Carnavalet, called Le Square du Vert-Galant, a beautiful cubist rendering of a small green park on the Île de la Cîte.

Le Square du Vert-Galant - Picasso
Le Square du Vert-Galant – Picasso

Another highlight for me was the dress breastplate of Napoleon Bonaparte, made from engraved brass, the central motif of which, was designed by Vivant Denon.

Dress breastplate of Napoleon Bonaparte
Dress breastplate of Napoleon Bonaparte

Finally, I visited the Musée Quai Branley also known as The Primitive Arts Museum. I got to see art from Oceania, Africa and the Americas. There is a veritable wealth of historical treasures there, some of which are bizarre. I say that because there are human skulls that have been decorated with paint and jewels to honour the dead or they are disfigured if the skull belonged to an adversary.

There are also some truly beautiful wooden carvings, early Ethiopian Christian paintings and artefacts and some beautiful painted fabrics. If you have an interest in the Americas, there is a particularly large and beautiful totem pole depicting the story of a bear who fell in love with a woman and their half bear, half human children.

The architecture of the museum is also really beautiful and modern and though in contrast to the rest of the area (the museum is near the Eiffel Tower) that’s really part of it’s appeal. One cannot speak of Quai Branley and not speak of The River, which is really unique and something I’d not seen before.
Commissioned by the museum, it is an installation by scotsman, Charles Sandison. The River is a digital river along the ramp to the entrance of the collections of 16,597 names of all the peoples and geographic locations displayed in the museum’s collections.  

Preserved and decorated human skulls at Musée Quai Branley
Preserved and decorated human skulls at Musée Quai Branley

A friend of mine also took me to a wine bar near Rue St Honoré which is where the famous Paris Ritz Hotel is. Beautiful Bordeaux and a scrumptious cheese platter was a great day to finish off my day before I headed back to La Tour Eiffel, primarily because I wanted some photo’s of the tower all lit up. It also happened to be a full moon so I got some absolutely beautiful photos.
I also succumbed and bought a Nutella crepe from a stand near the Trocadèro metro station. I’m happy I did, it was delicious!

La Tour Eiffel and the light of the full moon
La Tour Eiffel and the light of the full moon

Musée Bourdelle, Les Invalides and The Seine

In my penultimate week in Paris, I have visited Musée Bourdelle, Les Invalides and the tomb of Napoleon and I have taken a cruise on the Seine with Bateaux Mouches. 

The garden at Musée Bourdelle
The garden at Musée Bourdelle

Musée Bourdelle was a surprise. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I didn’t know very much about Antoine Bourdelle before going. It is a wonderful example of a late 19th/early 20th century working studio that has been turned into a museum. Bourdelle himself began the process of turning his studio into a museum in the early 1920’s.

The museum has an amazing array of works including plaster casts of his most famous sculptures, including Hercules the Archer which now exists in many versions, one of which I saw at the Musée D’Orsay and one of which is at Musée Bourdelle. Versions are also in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tramwell Crow Centre in Dallas, Texas.
The museum is also home to some of Bourdelle’s personal art collection which includes such illustrious names as Carrière, Delacroix and Rodin, who was also one of his teachers.
Bourdelle is also responsible for carving the marble decorative series of friezes executed for the exterior of Auguste Perret’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.

Napoleon Emperor of France
Napoleon Emperor of France

Next up was Les Invalides, which will go down as one of the highlights of my entire trip.
If you don’t know, Les Invalides was built to house and care for war veterans, which it still does today, though for a vastly smaller number than the ±6,000 it housed and cared for originally.
Today Les Invalides is home to the Musée de l’Armée and is the final resting place of some of France’s most notable war heroes, members of Napoleon’s family and of course, Napoleon himself. One of the most influential and most beloved men in French history, he remains one of the most studied political and military leaders of all time.
The Napoleonic code included such laws as freedom of religion, forbade birth related privileges and dictated that government jobs would be given to persons who were most qualified. Historian Robert Holtman, regards the Napoleonic Code as one of the few documents to have influenced the whole world. 
Napoleon’s reforms included a tax code, higher education, road and sewer systems and he established the Banque de France (the central bank of France). 
As Napoleon said: “My true glory is not to have won forty battles…Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories. … But…what will live forever, is my Civil Code.” and indeed his code was adopted across many nations in Europe, the Americas and Africa and as such is still in use, in large part, today.

Napoelon’s remains were brought back to France and marched under l’Arc du Triomphe–which was commissioned by Napoleon after the battle at Austerlitz but which he would never see completed–on 15 December 1840 en route to their final resting place at Les Invalides at the behest of King Louis-Phillipe. The sarcophagus of Napoleon is made of red quartzite resting on a base of green granite and was completed in 1861. A beautiful and moving final resting place for one of the world’s most influential men. Truly an honour to have visited.

Pont Alexandre III
Pont Alexandre III

Finally, I was able to take a cruise along the Seine. Despite the freezing cold weather it was a most beautiful way to see Paris. I went with Bateaux Mouches whose boats depart every hour (in winter, they may be more frequent in summer and spring) and I got some amazing photographs!

This week I have another City visit with the school I am studying French at, L’Atelier Neuf and then I am cramming Le Panthéon, Musée Quay Branley, Musée Carnavalet, Le Bon Marché and a jazz club in before leaving on Sunday.

Until next time, thank you for reading!

Empathy: A blessing and a burden

Empathy

I was on the metro a few days ago and a woman jumped on just as the doors closed. This is not unusual. Her attire, also, not unusual. What caught my eye was the juice packet in her hand, the soft kind that you squeeze the juice out of, and that she was squeezing it too hard. I thought to myself “Wow, she’s really getting every last drop out of that juice pack”.
I took me about two more seconds to realise that it was probably because she picked it out of a rubbish bin. I don’t know how, but I just knew it.
It was just then that she put the juice pack into a bag she was holding and pulled out a litre bottle that had some liquid in the bottom, about a tenth. I watched as the woman–whose shoulders I now noticed were bent over, making her recede into her jacket, trying to look small–took a sip from the bottle and I literally felt her recoil. I can only assume the liquid had gone bad or it was something other than what she was expecting. Every thing about her was sad, from the drape of her clothing over her slight frame, to the way her shoulders stooped and how her head hung down. The manner in which she was squeezing the very last drop of juice from that silver packet.
At the next stop, the woman hopped off the train and disappeared into the crowd.

This entire scene unfolded without me so much as seeing her face. I can tell you that her jacket was a light pink and that she wore a long dark skirt, that her hands were elegant, long fingered and creamy in tone and that she wore a very simple thin gold band on her left ring finger.
This scene went completely unnoticed by those around me and it took me two days to get over the emotions I experienced as a result. I could not stop thinking about her and I was heartsore for days.

I have always just believed I was overly sensitive and in fact, people, including my father, have asked me why I’m so sensitive. I never understood why I was so emotionally erratic, vacillating from one emotion to the next with little explanation as to why, always looking inwards for an answer. I never understood why things affected me the way that they do if there was something wrong with me that could explain why I cry after television adverts, when I read the paper, when I see cruelty, when I hear of bad things happening to people I have never met or when I watch the news, why I would get so angry as a child. It has occurred to me that I was subconsciously being affected by my brother’s anger and frustration. (Out of respect for him that is a story that won’t be told here).

I have always been this way, so I have tried to simply avoid seeing and doing things that will upset me but inevitably, because of the world we live in, I am confronted with sad or horrifying news on a regular basis, especially living in South Africa–where we have one of the worlds highest rape statistics, on the same scale as a country at war.
Every time my reaction is the same. Usually tears, most often extreme melancholy for days and there have been periods of melancholy for weeks.

It was actually Mr M’s observation that set me on this path of discovery in terms of my highly emotional tendencies. He, after telling me a particularly heart wrenching story about his past, noticed how I, firstly, reacted and secondly, how it affected me emotionally and remarked on how empathetic I am and how I have the ability to feel exactly what someone else is feeling without having the benefit of personal experience to draw on. He also said that it was one of the reasons he was so drawn to me initially.

That thought began to percolate and I started reading up and researching empaths, the different types and categories they fall into. For instance, you get Cognitive and Emotional empaths. Those two categories are each divided into about four sub-categories, depending on where you are doing your research. Furthermore, you get developed and undeveloped empaths. I am an Undeveloped Emotional Intuitive Empath. As soon as I started reading up on the typical characteristics of an empath, I wondered why I didn’t see it earlier.

I am called ‘undeveloped’ because I have little to no control over how deeply the emotional white noise around me affects me. It’s a very large part of the reason I find crowds and large groups utterly draining and why I prefer the safety and comfort of my loved ones. Incidentally, it’s probably the same reason I detest hospitals–the air itself feels heavy.
I have reasonably well developed social skills and I am somewhat articulate, couple this with my ability to empathise and relate to people from all walks of life and this leads people to believe that I am firstly, an extrovert and secondly, that I enjoy crowds.
Few things could be further from the truth. I am an INFJ according to the Myers-Briggs and a Blue/Red according to the Color Code. Being an empath falls squarely onto that foundation and really shouldn’t surprise anyone, least of all me.

So where to from here?

More research, more reading up on the subject and forming a clear visual of the type of empath I am and how I then go about developing the mechanisms to help me field the emotions of those around me more efficiently so they do not affect me as much as they have been, up to this point, because it is utterly exhausting. I am either going to have to adopt better coping skills or let other people’s emotions tear me apart on a daily basis. I choose the former, it’s far less traumatic.

It has been said numerous times before that knowledge is power. Knowledge is also the first step in effecting change in your own life.

Thank you for reading.

The Best Views in Paris

Everyone knows that when you go to Paris, you go to the Eiffel for it’s 360 degree views and this is true, however, it is most certainly not your only option!

I was looking for ticket prices and availability to book my place to go up La Tour Eiffel. All pre booked tickets were sold out until after I am scheduled to leave Paris. Merde! Tickets are limited this winter as the Eiffel is undergoing some renovations and they are putting in a glass balcony and floor at the first level of the Eiffel–at least this is what I could glean from reading the French signage under the Eiffel.

Well, now what? I typed ‘Where do you get the best views of Paris?’ into my search engine and after doing a bit of research, I formulated my plan of action to circumvent ascending the Eiffel altogether.

Sacre-Coeur
Sacré-Cœur

I started with Sacré Cœur in Montmartre. From outside of the front of the Basilica you get a 180 degree vista, including the Eiffel Tower.  These views are free, as is visiting Sacré-Cœur itself and if I’ve said it before, I will say it again; Sacré-Cœur is an absolute must when you are in Paris. By far one of the highlights of my entire trip.

View of Les Invalides from Tour Montparnasse
View of Les Invalides from Tour Montparnasse

Secondly, I visited Tour Montparnasse which is located in the 15th arrondissement and right in front of the metro station Montparnasse-Bienvenue on line 6. Follow the signs to the main exit and not Tower Montparnasse so that you get the full effect of seeing the tower as you emerge from the station! Get your ticket (reduced rates for students when producing a student card) and hop into the automated lift that whizzes you up to the 56th floor within seconds, making your ears pop! There are telescopes, which operate for 1€ and large interactive screens to help you identify what is on the skyline you’re looking at.

I got some utterly amazing photographs of Paris and various landmarks, like Sacré-Cœur, the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, The Grand Palais, L’Arc de Triomphe, The Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame & Sainte-Chappelle and so many others! You get a 360 degree view of Paris that stretches out for 40km! Be sure to go up to the viewing deck on the 59th floor.
Another great thing about Tour Montparnasse is that you can have lunch, or a coffee and pastry, that will not cost you a small fortune, like at the top of the Eiffel. The ticket prices are cheaper and the views are just as magnificent–some critics of Tour Montparnasse say it’s the best view of Paris because being there means you don’t see it. Be sure to check the weather and go on a clear day as they don’t tell you when visibility is poor at the cash desk.

The 360 degree Viewing Deck at the top of Tour Montparnasse
The 360 degree Viewing Deck at the top of Tour Montparnasse

Lastly, in my trifecta of views excluding the Eiffel, was L’Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. It stands on the Place Charles de Gaulle at the apex of 12 avenues, including the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées and it honours those who died in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars and has inscribed on it’s inner and outer walls, the names of all victories and the names of those Generals involved.

L'Arc du Triomphe
L’Arc du Triomphe

Commissioned in 1806 by the Emporer Napoleon, he would never see it completed and instead his remains would be marched under it en route to their final resting place at Les Invalides.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI is underneath the Arc and all subsequent parades and marches are made around the Arc, a custom honoured by both Hitler in 1940 and Charles de Gaulle in 1944.
The Unknown Soldier has an eternal flame which burns for all the men who died in WWI (now both world wars) who were never identified.
The slab on top carries the inscription ICI REPOSE UN SOLDAT FRANÇAIS MORT POUR LA PATRIE 1914–1918 (“Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914–1918”). A poignant moment  indeed.

After climbing a seemingly innumerable number of stairs to the top of the Arc, I was presented with some of the most breathtaking views yet! Again, I got views of the Grand Palais, La Tour Eiffel, Les Invalides and it is truly spectacular to be up high so you can see all the roads that meet at the Arc. It is both beautiful and impressive and showcases the unique Parisian cityscape. The souvenir shop inside the Arc du Triomphe is one of the better priced I’ve seen in the city, so if you want to take something home to friends or family, this would be a pretty good place to get them. I have seen street vendors with more expensive curios than the Arc.

So, if you can’t go up the Eiffel, for whatever reason or you have already been up the Eiffel, these are my picks for the best views in the city. Tour Montparnasse was an absolute highlight for me, there are less tourists, less scam artists and far less queues!

Thank you for reading.