Tuesday, August 19, 2008

broken iron and shattered glass....

you know, there's a lot i can take out here...in africa. where i've lived my entire life. droughts floods death shortages no power wars street kids witchcraft man eating lions malaria imbalances between the rich and the poor. the whole scabby lot. but one thing that scares me, that can scare the hell out of me if i allow it to , is the dark. the night. robbers who come stealthily, hiding in the shadows, walking by the light of the moon. pangas gleaming silver and silent. pistols held carelessly by desperate stoned bandits. shiftas. jambazis. robbers. murderers. and the dogs barking into the wind. into the night.

i lie and talk quietly to my mind at night - making it see the sweetness of the full moon framed in my loft window....to distract it from the silent footfalls through the acacias outside, under a deadly moon. to distract it from plans. ok . will run and get the kids, run back up. switch on alarm. distract it from images of blood on walls and the taste of fear, like metal, in the back of my throat.

i read dostoevsky until two in the morning. or deepak choppra's Grow Younger Live Longer bollox. what a load of poppycock. perfect to fall asleep to. to deaden the mind.

a borrel of cab sav does the trick too - i become really brave and have images of me with our inherited rigby shotgun, standing like joan of arc upstairs in my room, my children safely behind me, victoriously blowing away mother fucker robbers as they arrive in their jambazi (baddies in swahili) hordes into the office below.

these images are short lived.

the fear of the dark is something that has always been with me since a child. growing up in 1970's zambia - where things were rather wild, wooley and hooliganic. what with the war for the liberation of zimbabwe going on, and a large zanu pf freedom fighter camp at the bottom of the garden...... cairo road was filled with hectic jimmi hendrix wannabes - afros, platformed shoes, bell bottoms, booga mina booga wena sunglasses (funagalore -a language from the mines - for see me see you glasses - aviators with the reflective lenses - or elton john styled ones), and lots of illegal ivory being sold on the streets - carved into trinkets, necklaces and bangles.( i still have a few. i tell anyone who asks, that its false. unless i am in the mood to be otherwise.) and lots of AK 47's and bank robberies and dead whiteys and their dead dogs and their stolen cars. security was definitely an issue.

i remember my father walking out into very thick starry nights, night jars twittering amongst the brachystegia, standing under the mulberry trees and shooting his elephant guns " to scare the robbers". i overhear my mother saying "ron. someones been watching the house all week. sitting in the tree on the corner." and such things. i remember coming home from a friends house, who convinced my mother to stay the night, not to go home alone with the kid (my sisters were at boarding school) because "you know how things are now dorothy..." walking into my bedroom the next morning, the windows smashed into my bed with a brick. glittering menacingly in the white nine o clock morning light falling through the empty window. all of my mothers clothes are stolen. all of her shoes. everything. mega mega robbery but " thank god we're ok. thank god we weren't at home," i hear her on the phone.

into lusaka we race, in her datsun sports car, sucking peppermints - to margos, the only boutique in town. small and fashionable. my mother spends all the money. well nearly all of it and is so pleased with her purchases. to replace all the stolen clothes. we stop at the hardware for putty and glass to fix the windows and when we get back to the car, the windows are smashed in and all her new clothes and shoes are gone. gone. i remember her crying under the hot eleven o clock zambian sun. head down. and i looked down and saw her white sandals all orange from the orange earth, and her toes dirty and orange and simple. surrounded by broken glass. little bluey green nuggets twinkling in the orange dirt. and me feeling so bad. so sad and so scared. of the dark.

this week, the wild mountain wind blew in "baayad thangs" down in the valley below. my friend. alone with her kids. hears the dogs barking. it's nearly full moon and only eleven o clock. she gets up. throws on a shirt and thinks "damnit, where's the askari? why doesn't he shut the dogs up?"

suddenly someone is standing outside on the verandah, with a torch saying "open the door mama. it is your askari." she quickly notices the man is too tall. too nervous and suddenly realizes, in the pit of her stomache, what is happening.

she runs down the passage. barefoot and fleet. to hide her kids. she presses the alarm and throws on a kikoi (east african wrap) and lies on the bed. she hears the door getting smashed open. bent grotesquely with a tyre wrench- glass splintered, shattered everywhere. she hears the siren scream and sees the torchlight flashing down the passage towards her and her children. she hears her heart in her ears. main lining adrenalin.

MOTHER FUCKER! MALAYA (whore in swahili)! three men explode into her room, in the dark, shouting, screaming, high on adrenalin and ganja, armed with pangas, stinking of fear in the room.

she jumps up, "samahani samahani tafadali...iko watoto..." please please there are children. please." trying to be calm.

so they make her switch off the alarm. the neighbours call to see if it was a false alarm. she can;t answer the phone because there are three men, with pangas, in her bedroom. they rob her. they shout at her. they do not rape her. they do not harm her children. thank god. thank god.

so fucking scary. so terrifying. so bloody unacceptable. but we decide it must not affect us in a bad way. oh no. oh no. because this is home. we play rummikub in the bedroom over a glass of chilled white wine, to clean the space, to make it what it was before.

not funny this time. oh no. everyone on the ngorobobs are off to a security meeting this evening. i have another askari. and we sleep with one ear awake and the iron gates locked. and we are not afraid. no. oh no. i refuse to be afraid. fear is the most destructive emotion on the entire planet.

when i started boarding school, in "rhodesia" as it was then known, i listened to all my friends (and lots of the grownups too) talking of gooks and terrs and realized (slowly i shall have to confess!?) that these were the same people camped out below our garden back at home. once, at lunch at the Presidents house (yes, indeed, The President of Rhodesia's House - the Honorable President Clifford du Pont - who committed suicide i think - and happened to be my best friend's uncle hence the situation of a small 6 year old zambian (enemy territory) sitting at the presidents sumptious sunday lunches) i remember being in awe. silent awe. little. and knowing, with great seriousness, that i shouln't let the side down, let the H P C du Pont know that I am zambian...that's enemy territory. for sure. so there i sat, in my sunday pinafore, chasing green, sweet fresh minted peas around my porcelain presidential plate, and buttering my melba toast and wondering, with great frustration, why presidents insisted on such crunchy breaky toast at sunday lunches?

and then he said, The Honorable President Clifford Du Pont, " And So Janelle. Where Are You From?" in deep deep royal rhodesian colonial bastard english.

righto. ruse over. i am sunk. stow away has been discovered. jail and torture ahead.

i swallowed hard, thought of the huge freedom fighter camp below our garden, knowing they were the enemy, knowing that there were lots of them, and squeaked " from zambia," staring hard at my shattered melba toast.

i thought there was a slight pause, as he raised his eyebrows and said " armenell tells me you are a keen horserider? your favourite horse being Bombay? well then. i think it's time we went and explored the stable yard, don't you? check up on the race horses...."

and off we strolled over manicured lawns, past clipped hedges and immaculate rose gardens with running streams and little bridges, down to the oak lined stable yard. all those sepia coloured sundays years ago...

and that was that. i was free to go. the rhodesians eventually bombed the camp, towards the end of the war, a few years later, in an operation called Operation Zambezi. fortunately we had just moved from the house but apparently the garden was filled with shells and every window was broken. shattered.

cheeky buggers, the rhodesians. they flew in below the radar, ordered the lusaka control tower to ground all planes. " no problem bwana" responded the tower. afterwhich they roared over lusaka, raining down their bombs intended for joshua nkoma.

and those freedom fighters below our garden....

Kitchen Board: Tuesday 19 August 2008.

Contributors: Veronica & Janelle

Comments: pass. what can i say? another hideous shopping list. and proudly completed today. hooah. toodely pip and all that. xxx janelle


lorix5 said...

so many emotions running through my mind at the moment. anger.frustration.fear.sadness.helplessness. so glad no one was harmed. i know that in life it's best to just do what you have to do, get on with it. but some of us have so much more(to get on with) i think thats why you have been blessed with such strength and courage...that and your sweet wit and sense of humor. i will pray for the crazies and baddies to wake up.

bellananda said...

wow. oh my god, wow. thank the gods and all that is that your friend and her kids are safe. *shudders*

you know, when you hear accounts of such things on the news, or read them in articles and such, it never seems quite real. never, until someone who you feel a connection to describes their own personal experiences with it -- the Fear, the fighting, the hopelessness that can come of feeling so helpless about it all. i'm so glad that i found you and your blog to help me realize and remember that the great majority of people in this world are living with the wolf at the door, and to be thankful that my current situation has pushed that wolf a little further away down the lane. i glimpse it now and again, like when there was a in-broad-daylight drive-by shooting in the idyllic neighborhood shopping area a few blocks away from my house, with the shattered windows, the screaming security alarms and police sirens, the shocked people out for a midday stroll or a bit of shopping (none hurt, thank the gods) and the patches of burnt rubber left on the street in the racing lunatics' wake (on their way to the kansas state line, no doubt), but it's never so real for me as it is for you, i'm sure.

may you and yours be kept ever alert but always ensconced in a protective bubble of safety and love. *hugs*

Ernest de Cugnac said...

that's all very nasty j. poor you. security is so basic to one's quality of life. indeed it is the most basic aspect of law, the preventing of people who are stronger, better armed or more violent than you from depriving you of your property or your life. the story of your mother was so sad.

one's outraged respose is shoot the mothers, but not so easy. you need the resolve and be successful otherwise you really are in shit and i suppose there is the risk of retaliation from the larger clan?

v tough indeed.

Catofstripes said...

I am scared for you and proud of you. Your life is so different to mine. Protective thoughts are on their way.

jen said...

i think you are one of the most courageous women I have ever encountered.

my heart was in my throat the entire time but above all the knowing that you will not let fear overtake you. that's the courage that is most astounding.

ciara said...

how scary! i would have been a mess. i'm glad everyone is alright. even in what would be consider some of the safest places it's not safe. we have had some break ins here in the community where i live...teenagers robbing other kids, etc. they say there's nothing to fear but fear itself, i'm glad you were brave. i think i would still be shaken.

Cyndy said...

Please stay safe! That sounds so frightening.

Miranda said...

Ah Janella, you write so so so so beautifully. Love this post and all its raw emotion. Well done you. You hear our president has died? What now for poor Zambia?

Janelle said...

thanks y'all for your amazing words. and thoughts. i just want to say, that my life is usually so full of Light Freedom Inspiration...last week it was dark and i couldn't not mention this hideous incident which happened to my darling friend.which brought up all these thoughts and expereinces.. so i dragged you all along to the Dark Place. but as i said, no, we don't do fear. oh no. could become an adrenalin junky though...NOT.
Lori - thanks for your positive thoughts!
Bellananda - thanks for sharing your experience and would LOVE an invite to visit your blog. yes please.

ernest - yes exactly re guns. if you have them you must be prepared to use them.....hmmm..not sure i can do that. but if someone is threatening my kids i most certainly will. no problem.

cat! its really really not scary. only sometimes. but thats the same for everyone....promise. thanks for you protective thoughts! i had them last night..THANKS! X

jen! you are so sweet. i try and be, as i said, joan of arc like ish..HAH! XX

ciara and cyndy - thanks for visiting and your kind words too. as i said - its normally not bad...only sometimes. but we chase it away with sunlit thoughts.

and mo darling MO! lovely you are back. see you in stretch class in thirty minutes. yikes. better be out the door...and cross fingers the cops don't stop me en route..bastards! HAH !m XX

Mud in the City said...

I had tears in my eye reading that - my heart goes out to your friend and her kids. I do hope they are alright.

Being scared in your own home, your sanctuary, is awful. It feels like a violation.

So hard to know what to do. Violence can't be the overall answer, but when someone is threatening one's family I don't know a single parent who wouldn't resort to what ever measure necessary to protect them


ExAfrica said...

I had to leave. I couldn't do it any more.

Though for me - growing up in small town first world - I wasn't raised with it so I could never grow used to the constant paranoia of crime in Africa.

Stay well - let the sunshine - light - and all that is good in Africa keep you going (and the "red" helps, too).


Janelle said...

thanks exafrica.and quite agree..chin chin and all that! xx janelle

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

This is just riveting stuff. Such nice writing. Bravo.

Janelle said...

thanks maryam! well. LOVE you site. LOVE it! xx janelle

Dumdad said...

This post was brought to you by the Tanzania Tourist Board....

....No, seriously, this is a terrifying tale. How can you live under that stress? Thank god your friend is safe now but psychologically she must be in a mess; I know I would be. I'd certainly arm myself and I'd shoot to kill if my children's lives were at stake. Without a second's thought. Or so I would like to think but one never knows how one might react in those situations.

Take care.

Janelle said...

hey dumdad! heh heh indeed re: TTB!? good to hear from you. its just life. one creates an awareness. my friend is FINE and amazing and truly inspirational..and so grateful she was unharmed. its an hideous thing to go through...but today - the sun is shining. been running. going riding. all is fine. just fine. . . hell. i would be TERRIFIED in london new york or paris...not knowing which direction i was moving or where i was going...? xxx janelle

tam said...

Hey Janelle, all the horror and fear aside, you really do write it so well. I suppose one kind of fear is a biological necessity and you are right, no way you can let it become constant paranoid fear... its a magnet. Yeah, Joburg is also crazy and lurking with all that, but we do have wonderful rich free lives as well. Ain't it weird. Love you babes. Be safe.

Irene said...

Reading this fills me with a whole lot of emotion and a lot of thoughts are struggling through my head, one tumbling over the other, seeing injustices all over the place and being very, very worried about what happens in Africa.

I am not anti-white and I am not anti-black, I am for human beings treating each other well and with dignity, but that doesn't seem to happen in Africa and you can't say that one group does that more or less than the other group.

I worry deeply and I don't know where it will end. It seems to be very dangerous to be a white person in Africa now, but then again, it seems to be dangerous to belong to any other minority group in Africa.

I was in South Africa once and have been fascinated with it ever since. I have awe and fear for it all at once. God only knows what the future will hold.

I wish you much courage and strength and very many safe nights.

Janelle said...

hey tam tam! lovely to hear from you. yeah you get me babes. you get it. der. love love you x

irene...thanks for your comment. i don't think its a race issue. it's economic, most of the time. and crime is crime anywhere in the world. and thanks for your wise words...yes. diginity and respect all round. indeed. xx janelle

M said...

You're an amazing writer with a powerful voice and I am so glad I found your blog. You prove to me that there is amazing strength in the world and that most of us others are living in comfortable cocoons. The other day my dear husband alerted me to a quote:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
- Calvin Coolidge

Janelle said...

wow m. thanks for inspirational quote! we all like our comfort zones. here, as in most third world countries, reality sits on your doorstep, gaping widely in your face, hanging onto your ankles as you walk. i like it that way. it keeps my thoughts sharp. ish. xxx janelle

M said...

Glad you enjoyed the quote. Yes, when reality makes itself known the thoughts do perk up! My own version of that is the experience of witnessing and taking part in hospital ordeals of loved ones. I grew up in a tiny little shit town in a very safe country. Then I moved to a very big city in a different country. Sometimes when I feel the intense numbing effect of city life I threaten to move into the forest. One day I might. Because I also like to keep my thoughts sharp.

Janelle said...

exactly! when i have raised the children i intend to live on a river with hippo, next to a forest with elephant in a little mud house with a grass roof. i think i should be perfectly happy there... xxx j

Val said...

jeez well said - every comment i think of sounds trite so just to say stay safe and focussed on the bright side! There is a western saying I read that went "love your enemies but keep your guns oiled" maybe that has relevance here.... also the cab sav is a good plan :-)
hope your friend is ok now?

Janelle said...

hey val! good to hear from you...yes she is fine, of course. we are rather a tough breed, aren;t we? love they saying about love your enemies but keep your guns oiled..indeed!! XXX janelle

Jocelyn said...

This post reads like a riveting book. But it's not fiction on the page. It's got blood thrumming in it.

I'm breathless for you.