Nov 30, 2008

We would never be divided.

It was ShahFarid who sent out the email warning about traveling in India. Having no idea about what's the reason behind, I just accepted his advice as I know him as an international trader who always have the first hand update about what's going on in the world.

I was certainly turned down by his email, cause we were just planning to have a backpacking trip in the colorful country.

By then later on, the cancelation of the India trip was not anymore a big turn-down for me, the real big disappointment and great sadness for me, is the failure of human acts like a human-being.

Mumbai was attcked, by stupid, short-minded, narrow-sighted, cold-blooded, ignorant, arrogant, self-isolated, retarded-minded people, called terrorists.

It's sad, it's painful, but those animals won't tear us apart. They can't segregate the unity of human being in this world, I promise.

We would never be divided.

"We citizens of India, and countries around the world, from all faiths, backgrounds and walks of life, declare with one voice that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai have not divided us, will not divide us, and that we stand together, as one people, against all violent extremists who shamefully target the innocent. We call upon all our political and religious leaders to come together at this moment, and take effective action to prevent the spread of violence."

-- I've signed the petition. I hope you will do the same by clicking here.

Because I still want to travel to India, and to the rest of the world, to see how human-spirit shines when we human-being finaly intergrate and embrace each other, regardless of all the diffrences that the so-called civilization have brought us to see.

PS.. The posters are taken from a newsletter that I received from an Indian Online Community I joined few years ago.

Nov 24, 2008

Cape of hope..

" guys must have a lot of accidents like land-sliding or loose rocks falling off onto the road, right?" I asked, never turned away my sight from the spectacular mountain range.

"What?" Ismail was concentrating on his driving.

"Look at the boulders," I pointed to the large stones spread over the flank of the mountain range along the sea side winding road.

"Those rocks? Owh.. no, they are not loose rocks. We don't have those kind of accidents here." Ismail was still concentrating on his driving, while trying his very best to entertain all my weird questions about his country, South Africa, and his home town, Cape Town.

"I think they are loose rocks, that fell from the mountain -- the only way they are there" I tried to explain some geology to him, having a boost of self arrogance of being a geologist that knows better about rocks than Ismail.

Ismail responded to my explanations with a smile. The 4pm sunshine shone on his face. Typical South African figure who went through some harsh experiences in his past. You can see that aura in most of the 40s - 50s South African here.

June 1976, the world witnessed the Soweto Uprising in South Africa. The black youths of the country triggered an uprising to go against South African authorities.

The riots grew out of protests against the policies of apartheid. Ismail was involved in the uprising.

"It's always right to go out and fight for what you wish to have, rather than just sit there and blame what you don't have."

-- Until today, I still can vividly remember Ismail's calmness when putting all his messy and emotional past of involving in Soweto Uprising, into this one 'simple' phrase.

His words seemed simple and light, but I could feel the intensity of it.

The time must be a chaos. I looked at him. Trying to squeeze some words out of my mouth.

" are things become better after the uprising?" I asked, realizing that was another stupid question that might make Ismail recalled his tough time.

A visit to Table Mountain is a must when you are in Cape Town. That's what they said.

Hence I escaped half-day from the geological conference that I was sent to attend here, rode on the cable car that brought the tourist to the top of the iconic Table Mountain.

No doubt. What they said was right. Period.

Table Mountain features a flat top that geologically speaking, it is what remained after a tectonic uplift and millions years of period of severe erosion.

Literately speaking, Table Mountain is a survival of the million-year touch erosion. And that makes her gorgeous.

"Look at the sandstones here.. it's so coarse and so hard.." Mr V approached me when I was touching the surface of the 'table' top. Mr V is a geologist from Budapest, Hungary. He was supposed to be in the geological conference too.

We both stood up, and looked down. The 'Lion's Head' is another peak of the same mountain range that seen at the left of Table Mountain. "That is another survival." Mr V continued his lecture. I nodded, thinking to myself that I need to get out from this conversation -- I'm not here for a geological field trip..

"Right from the top here you can clearly see those rocks that was left behind after erosion. See those boulders? They are not loose rocks.."

Something hit me. I heard the same thing before.

"While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering.
We would want it to be a triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil;
A triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small minds and pettiness;
A triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness."

-- Ahmed Kathrada, anti-apartheid activist, long-serving political prisoner on Robben Island.

A visit to Robben Island was emotional. In 1962 Mr Nelson Mandela and his comrades of anti-apartheid including Mr Ahmed Kathrada were banished to Robben Island for almost 20 years.

Robben Island at the time was served as a prison during that time for its tough living condition and far abandonment from mainland of South Africa.

During their prison on Robben Island, the world outside was rioting and having "Free Mandela"campaign; inside, on the island, Mr Nelson Mandela and his comrade, despite of the hardship and suffering, insisted on their own education, and they used every means to reach the information from outside.

Everybody was keeping their faith during that time. A faith that brings South Africa to what she is today.

The place is called Boo-ka. Cape Town's one of the Muslim's community housing areas.

It was Ismail who brought me there for the first time; then I jogged from my hotel to there again after the conference; the third time, I brought along my Nick'a.

Because Boo-ka is simply lovely. "Boo-ka means Upper Cape." The driver who drove me to the conference centre every morning explained to me, "and many film-makers go there and do film shooting."

No surprise. I would love to have my scenes shot in Booka if I'm a film director, but I only have my Nick'a, an amateur SLR.

"So how do you know Boo-ka, sir? It's quite hidden. "
"My friend's mum stays there." I was talkng about Ismail's mum. She lives in the green color house in Boo-ka.

When Ismail first brought me here, I used to ask him this question:

"Who put the colors on?"

"The local people, because they feel that they can do something to actualy attract tourist to come and visit their place."

The third time I visited Boo-ka, it was another colors that grabbed my heart.

The kids in Boo-ka.

"Here, sir, your Rooibos tea."

"Rooibos?" I turned to him. It was Kyle, the hotel staff who took care of me since I checked in.

"I din order it, Kyle."

"No sir. This is for you. Remember you mentioned about Fynbos last night? Rooibos tea a prodcut of Fynbos plants." I could feel some sort of pride when he talked about Fynbos, like Malvin I met yesterday, who showed me what a Fynbos is in Halord Porter Botanical Garden.

Fynbos is a type of vegetation that only found in South Africa. It's the type of vegetation that have attitude. Fynbos grow strong under the dramatic living condition of medirterannean climate, and what made me really impressed about Fynbos is, the seeds of fynbos will only germinate after the intense heat of a fire.

Fire. I repeat.

"Things are getting better now. The condition did not change right after the uprising, but things are getting better slowly in this country."

Sitting in the couch traveling from Hermanus back to Cape Town, I recalled the answer from Ismail when I asked him the question about Soweto Uprising. The couch passed by the samesea-side winding route that Ismail used to drive me on. I saw the boulders again.

Everything about Cape Town flahsed back in my mind. There's something about Cape Town that touched my heart, but I'd yet to realize.

Outside of the couch, there's a spectacular view of Atlantic Ocean, sparkling under the sun, marginized by the mountain range that Table Mountain belongs to. From times to times, I could even see whales breaching out of the sea surface -- Hermanus is claimed to be the best land-based whale watching spot in the world.

What made the whales to come to Cape Town? I started to ponder. I also saw penguins in Cape Town, and also sea-seals. Yes, we all know it's due to the weather or what not, but my thinking was something further:

Why Cape Town?

Outside of the couch, there's a spectacular view of Atlantic Ocean, sparkling under the sun, marginized by the mountain range that Table Mountain belongs to. I saw whales breaching out, from time to time; Robben Island lies somewhere far away from the coastline, in the middle of Atlantic Ocean; I saw boulders on the flank of the mountain range which are the survivals of a series of severe erosion, like Table Mountain; maybe there's fynbos scattering on the flank too; I saw people in Cape Town living happily in the life they'd fought for; I imagined Ismail's mum and her neighbors painted their houses in such a vibrant color in Boo-Ka, adding cheer and happiness into their life; and the kids, they are laughing happily, I could hear them..

.. then I know why cape Town. I smiled, but it was heart-breakingly sad to realize this.

Cape Town's beauty is truly derived from her strength going through all the tough times she had. The people in Cape Town, the rocks, the Fynbos -- everything in Cape Town fought through their way to get the charm that they get today..

That's why Cape Town is so heartbreakingly beatiful -- because God gives all the best to Cape Town, not to only compensate the scars and tears of her survival, but also to the hope and faith that hold firmly on this land.


ps.. No, my Cape Town trip was not another holiday after the 4 countries in Europe (How much I wish it was!!).
There was an international geological conference over there where I had to present my MSc. thesis, showcasing it to the experts from all around the world and got questioned by them. It was tough to be challenged techinically but I think my Cape Town trip taught me something about stay strong with faith, and never give in to harshness..

Nov 1, 2008

What's your favorite?

He came to me and hold my hand, another small hand of his touched my camera. He looked at me and asked:

"Can you take a picture of me?"

I did not expect the kids in Boo-Ka (Upper Cape) are so friendly. They do not seem at all to be afraid of a stranger like me who looks different with them. Or maybe it was just me who sees the differences that I just shouldn't be seeing.


Of last 7 days, I was in a land that would probably be my top-ranked favorite destination so far. A land that opened my eye, a land that hold mt breath, a land that moved my sense, a land that touched my heart.

Look at my DestinationsMap below.. it's a land that in red circle.

A land that called Cape Town, South Africa.

(of course, more pictures and stories to come..)