15 August 2012


The earth is estimated to have a surface area of 510,072,000 km2, 29% of which is land. This land is shared by approximately 196 countries.

On the 12th of March 2012 it was estimated that the population of the world had exceeded 7 billion. That is 7,000,000,000+ people or 7, 000 million. Keeping in mind all this, I want to tell you about Alice. In this large and comprehensive world is a mid sized country in the heart of Southern Africa I am proud to call home. In the Eastern part of this country is a province called Eastern Province where a town called Petauke lies. In Petauke, about an hour's drive from the town centre is a little village called 'Ngozi'. In that village which literally is a bush, along the main dusty gravel road lies a grave yard. The grave yard is clearly old as it is has long trees all over it. If you walk from the road into the grave yard at just the right point, a few metres from the road you'll find among several others a grave with a cement cross that marks it on the ground measuring about the average length and width of a grave. A poorly handwritten inscription, 'Alice' is made on the cement cross that was evidently made with a little stick before the cement could dry. No surname, no date of birth or date of death. Nothing. Just 'Alice'. Judging by the very few more informative graves around Alice's, Alice died in the late 70s to early 80s.

Because villages tend to be more akeen to their heritage, if you dug deep enough, you might be able to find out where Alice's descendants or family is and ask them about her but even in a village set up, you may not be able to and in a few more years you will certainly not be able to find any information about who Alice was.

In all likelihood, especially judging from how relatively well Alice was buried, Alice grew up loved and cared for. She probably got married and lived to a ripe old age and had 'other sons and daughters'. And yet a few years down the line nothing is left of her other than a cement cross on her grave with an inscription of her name.

Don't be so quick to pity Alice. That is pretty much going to be your fate also. One day, and it might be sooner than you think, even with all you are and have achieved or amassed, you will be nothing more than a name on a stone in a cemetery somewhere. No one will know anything about you other than what will be inscibed on your tomb stone. You will be lost in the great wave of history just like a drop of water in an ocean.

It is a rather depressing fact. No one wants to have themselves forgotten and unidentifiable a few years or decades after their death. Everyone wants to be remembered. One way of achieving this is doing something remarkable. I am reminded of Achillies the great mythical warrior who was asked to come to battle a giant. A little boy was sent to find him as the challenge was that whoever brought down the giant would win the battle for their people. The little boy delivered the message and saw Achillies get up onto his horse to ride to the battle field where both armies waited for the two men to go head to head. Worried for the average sized Achillies, the boy warned him that his opponent was unbeaten and was perhaps twice Achillies size. "I'd never agree to fight him," the boy told Achillies. "That is why you will never be remembered." Achillies replied.

Unfortunately, not many of us get a chance to leave an outstanding mark in the anals of history, nor would any of us have the ability even if the chance was presented. The only way is to leave an impact that will last and be felt long after we are gone. I believe the little phrase puts it best; "Only one life, t'will soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."

11 August 2012

The Rose That Grew From Concrete

Tell it to us again mommy,
How did we become a sight so catching?
Well, little buds, today we boast of being,
The most remarkable sight worth seeing.

It all began with Pete,
The first rose to grow from concrete.
Told he would never be anything,
Pete strove with his everything,
To achieve something great.
Something to alleviate the threat
Of the garden being covered forever,
By the laying of a mortar layer.
With no sunlight or air,
We all soon began to wilt and be laid bare.

But Pete pushed through the hard ground,
Till he saw light all around.
And spurred with the thought “Pete has done it!”
We all soon pushed through the dooming concrete
And remain today the most remarkable sight in Auckland,
Of roses growing out from sealed ground.
And so we honor the great and mighty Pete,
The rose that grew from concrete.

I wrote this in response to an invitation to submit a poem titled "The Rose that grew from Concrete".

09 August 2012

The London 2012 Olympics

Chad Le Clos
On the 31st of July, A young South African swimmer beat arguably the best swimmer of all time in the 200-meter butterfly finals of the London 2012 Olympics. Chad Le Clos had watched video clips of Phelps swimming for two entire years over and over and practiced hard to beat Phelps. He actually won because of a miscalculation by Phelps who made his final stretch to touch the wall of the pool a tad bit early. He should have put in one more stroke and then stretched but Chad got it right. When he looked up to see if he had it, you couldn't miss just how much the 20 year old was overwhelmed to discover he had won.
The presentation of the medals was particularly moving. Chad was all smiles as he stood on the podium and stooped down to have the coveted gold medal placed around his neck. His parents were up in the terraces oozing with pride as his mother blew her 20 year old boy kisses and his father waved the South African flag with both hands.


After the silver and bronze were also awarded, the three stood still as Chad's national anthem was played. As the anthem played Chad's eyes welled up and soon the tears poured, in no time he was sobbing. He had made his parents proud and had brought honour to his country. He would go down in history as the young 20 year old who took the great 27 year old Michael Phelps on and beat him.

Chad during the playing of the South African national anthem.

It is truly a great honour first of all to be chosen from all the countrymen and women who have dedicated their lives to master your particular discipline to represent your country. It is an honour to compete with the best people on the planet and to come out on top... very few things come close to such an achievement. To put your country in the history books as having come out at the top. What an honour indeed. Can you blame Chad for breaking down really? I think I may have shed a little something myself. It is truly remarkable.

Usain Bold-Fastest Man on Earth
Many have achieved even greater things than Chad. Michael Phelps himself is probably the greatest Olympian of all time with a total of 19 medals, eight of which he took at the Beijing Olympics, and all eight were gold! Alexei Nemov competed in the 96' and 00' Olympics where he garnered a total of 16 medals. Who doesn't know the man whose name tells it all, Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth? He broke the world record in one Olympics and won gold then came back to the next Olympics and broke his own world record and won gold again and has now cemented his name as the fastest man on earth yet again at the London 2012 Olympics. And what about Joyner's success from the 80s? She is a five-time Olympic medalist. In her first Olympics in 1984, Flo-Jo captured the silver medal in the 200 meters. She really stepped it up at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, collecting gold medals in the 100, 200 and the 4x100 relay and silver in the 4x400 relay. And then there's Nadia Comaneci who became an international star during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Comaneci holds the distinction of being the first gymnast to earn a 10 in Olympic competition. Incredibly, Comaneci was only 14 years old when she captured her first gold medal!

Yet, here is the unfortunate thing, how many of these people do you know?

Chad? Phelps? Alexei? Bolt? Florence Joyner? Nadia? These are men and women who have achieved, in competitive sport, things that we could never even dream of. Men and women who have brought pride to their countries and families and have etched their names in history as the greatest in their disciplines and yet, we don't even know them! If we walked passed them we would not even recognize them. If they stopped us to introduce themselves to us by name, it would not likely ring a bell. That is really unfortunate. Sure when you achieve great things like this you get money but that money runs out, you get fame but that fame is clearly limited. The next generation is eager to erase your name and replace it with its own. You'd think that after you are long gone and have died atleast your name would remain on the lips of those who remain behind, but if so relatively few know you while you are alive, what are the odds?

No wonder the wisest man on earth said life under the sun is meaningless. If you can work so hard to achieve so much and still be relatively unknown, how meaningless life must indeed be. I support those who pursue olympic gold medals and world records, they will realize much more wealth and fame than the average man ever will. It is certainly better than sitting around picking one's teeth. But when it's all said and done, what they get out of it will never equal what they put in.

On that rather depressing note (truly life is depressing when you ponder it, even Solomon got depressed considering all these things), Happy Olympics!

 "Only one life, t'will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."

02 August 2012

Zambian Culture: The Visitor

I think Zambian culture is pretty interesting. People do not marvel at something they see everyday, but my own culture leaves me wowed sometimes. Granted I have not been brought up in a very traditional set up and perhaps that's why I notice these things and are left mesmerized. But there are certain things I have certainly observed. Take for instance the place of a visitor in Zambian culture.

The Visited

Receiving visitors is a special thing. It is part of our culture to make someone feel welcome. In Zambian culture when a visitor comes to your home, life comes to a halt. It doesn't matter if you have an exam tomorrow that you are not ready for or work for which you are rushing, the visitor immediately becomes priority number one. The visitor must be welcomed into the house and offered a sit at the very least. If the visitor comes close to meal time, he/she is immediately catered for. The visitor must be entertained. If the home owner is away, the children know that theirs is the responsibility to entertain the visitor until the owner gets home. The visitor cannot be left with a television or radio to keep them occupied. If the visitor is ignored the parents are tagged as people who have not brought up their children well and even the children are tagged as rude and even disrespectful.

If the television was on, it is usually muted or turned off to give the visitor full and undivided attention. Also it is rude to ask the visitor what has brought them to your home. Anything which even hints at looking forward to the visitors departure is left out of either conversation or behaviour. Smiles are maintained and interest levels are kept high in the visitor. It is up to the visitor to divulge his reasons for being there.

The visitor is usually served with a drink at least and usually something to eat. Again if a visitor is not served with anything to eat, it reflects badly upon the family. That's where there is an anomaly in Zambian culture. Very rarely will Zambian's share money, but they will certainly share food! If the visitor comes from out of town, they needn't even warn their hosts-to-be of their arrival, they can simply come in, and preparations will be made for them to have a room and a bed. Limited space will mean the eviction of children from a room to the sitting room to leave the room for the visitor(s).

Many families will school their children in what to do when visitors come. Their reputation as a family often hinges on the report that visitors send to others when the leave the home they visitor.

The Visitor

Because of this high value that is placed on the visitor, many have abused our lovely culture. There are some who devise brilliant schemes to take advantage of the place of a visitor in our culture. Some, especially bachelors living on their own and also lazy relatives, will target certain homes and happen to visit those homes at meal times. If they use tact and plan well, they can literally have three meals a day for an entire week being sure to make the visits as apparently abrupt, infrequent and random as possible.

Other relatives will visit with a bag of clothing and spend some weeks staying at a home. They will survive that long because to make a visitor feel that you do not want them is the biggest blunder you can make as you would be disrespecting him/her and be damaging your own reputation. Thus the family can only wonder how long this relative or friend will be around. If the visitor is smart, they will absorb as much hospitality as they can and move on to their next victims in good time before being seen as a burden or inconvenience. This is true especially of older relatives, Uncles, Aunties and Grandparents who have the added advantage of not only being visitors but also being older in age and the value of the visitor in our culture is already high, add to that the value of being older in age and you have someone who cannot be touched!

The visitor however is also in danger of picking up a bad reputation. If the visitor is discovered to be one who employs the schemes described above to take advantage of his/her high value, if word does it's rounds, the visitor will soon discover that they are being avoided and it also becomes easier for the visited to send them off because if the the visitor attempts to share that they were treated very poorly, obviously, it will not carry any weight.

Thankfully, the are those who bring honour to the place of the visitor by being a joy to host by the visitors. Many times, regret is admitted by the family to see them leave and at their departure, an invitation is immediately extended that the visitor return soon. May we all be that kind of visitor!

Finally, the high value of the visitor in Zambian culture has made the sharing of the gospel a very easy task. If you go to a home as a complete stranger you will almost in all cases be given time. Many will let you into their homes and some would even serve refreshments. Thank God for the high value placed on the visitor in our culture!

"Visitor always brings joy to a family, either by their coming or their going."