Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Last Saturday night, some of the kids from the HBMPT (Hout Bay Music Project Trust) went to a local braai (BBQ). Upon witnessing a boy beating up his girlfriend, one of our boys, A, a cellist just 17 years young, intervened.

When the girl managed to run away, the boyfriend then flew into a rage and stabbed A to death in front of everyone. Another fellow cellist, who was injured in the fight but is now out of hospital, carried A, who was his cousin in actual fact, away. A eventually died in his arms.

Now the community is shattered. The boy who committed the crime has turned himself into the police, but only because he knows the community is after him and would not let him get away with something this horrendous.

Here, where the police cannot always be depended on to enforce the law (a topic better left for another day), the concept of community and neighbourly watch has a totally different dimension.

What angers me the most is that the kids in our Music Project have consciously made a choice to pursue a lifestyle after school that doesn't involve crime, drugs or gangs. They commit themselves to 6 days of practice every week and numerous gigs each month. Through music they learn about teamwork, discipline and respect, for others and for oneself. It seems just plain wrong that this can be taken away so suddenly, and so violently.

It will take some time for the orchestra to heal, for the kids to come to terms with losing one of their fellow members. It is just not right for children to lose a friend to such senseless violence.

When people say "this is the reality here", I'm left with nothing to say and for the past few days, I've been going through a cycle of feeling shock, anger, sadness and confusion.

It certainly puts into perspective the safe and violence-free childhood i grew up in. If anything, all i know is that these social projects, scattered around the community, must continue to reach out to even more kids in order to bring some sort of peace in the longterm.

R.I.P Ahkona

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

chez nous

It's been just a little over a week since we moved into our new home.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by an Egyptian Goose who had laid about half a dozen eggs the size of my fist in one of the potted plants on the patio.

She's gorgeous, and I wonder how she manages to keep warm when the unrelenting wind is howling at night.

It's been a hectic week: unpacking, organizing, hammering, drilling, cleaning, washing, and dealing with painters, multiple furniture delivery men, alarm system installers, Telkom agents and DSTV (cable tv) operators.

And in between, i'm trying to keep a steady routine with yoga and my work/projects.

We took last Thursday night "off" and went to see The Magic Flute, a "joyful version of Mozart's much-loved opera with an African beat - with thirty singers, marimbas, drums and township percussion. Pure magic!" It certainly was.

And, of course, on Saturday night we, along with every South African and British person in the world, watched the final match of the Rugby World Cup.

Alas, the Springboks prevailed in the end, a game that was mainly all about pure brutal force, penalty kicks, and a controversial decision made by the video ref.

Well, despite us being 2 of three people in the pub wearing the English colours, it was nice to be in South Africa when South Africa won.

So it's been busy as usual, but at least the view is worth it all.

It's such a treat to wake up to see the ships leaving and entering the harbour, the waves from out in the sea washing up on the beach.

It's even more of a pleasure seeing the sun set at dusk over Sentinel Mountain, like watching someone in the middle of painting the entire sky a different colour every second.

Perhaps this is why the Goose picked our place to make her nest. Nothing beats this view.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

tick tock

I am so excited and giddy about moving into our new home I can hardly sit still.

See the pic taken from the beach at Mariner's Wharf in Hout Bay. Our house is one of those in the top right side and it overlooks this beach.

Ooooh, this time tomorrow evening we'll have unpacked our worldly possessions and will be enjoying a drink while looking at our new view.

Living out of a suitcase for more than 7 weeks, but not actually travelling, made for very lazy habits!

But first, we'll be going out to cheer on the South African Springboks in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals against Argentina tonight.

After last night's spectacular comback from the England team, anything can happen!

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Today, this afternoon specifically, I was awed and inspired by the simpleness of people who are determined to do what they love and what they feel is best for them.

What beauty I heard this afternoon coming from that string ensemble at the Hout Bay Community Centre!

It brought tears of joy to my eyes, and so much emotion poured into one seive and opened up like this huge vast puddle of hope.

Friday, October 12, 2007

life is ...

This week has been very positive in the job-hunting department. Got myself set up with some fantastic projects, one with a literacy program at a local school in Hout Bay and a Leadership & Community Service program with a private all-girls school in town. Lots to say but won't do so now.

I love how things just fall into place as they do. The only issue i have yet to resolve is what to do about a work permit. It isn't the easiest thing to obtain and i'm still trying to decide what the best action plan is.

Also I'll be getting involved with the Hout Bay Music Trust Project, where we teach kids (from the townships here) how to play a string instrument.

Together, the orchestras, ensembles and quartets perform all across the country for all sorts of government officials (Mbeki in a few weeks!) and celebrities, and some of them even do the Royal Conservatory examinations. A lot of the pieces they learn are classical, but djembe drums are added for the "African effect".

The Project has grown so big, there is significant lack of practice space, storage and teachers. I will do as much as i can to help with the resource problem, teaching violin and theory and accompanying them on the piano for gigs and exams.

I was moved to tears when i went for the first time. Situated in the Hout Bay Community Centre, there were a couple dozen kids ranging from the age of 8-16, all practicing furiously away at their pieces.

I took a few into a separate room and taught them a new piece. Not only did they pick it up in just under an hour, their enthusiasm and determination was just unbelievable. I was totally in my element again: working with kids and creating music.

After, the "older kids" (those who have been in the program since its inception 4 years ago) played some Vivaldi for me, followed by the Schindler's List theme piece.

I cannot express in words how moved i was. These are your regular kids, who have, unfortunately, less opportunity than most, but they are kids nonetheless. And all they want is a little attention, a little mentoring and once that is given and trust is earned, they shine - and then some.

I cannot wait to start working more regularly with the group.

I've been most overwhelmed by the number of helpful people I've met over the past few weeks. Genuine, sincere and utterly kind. People will go out of their way to put you in contact with their friends, and i've learned never to turn down an invitation.

So a good week it was. Overwhelming to say the least. I have caught a little glimpse into the lives of the illiterate children here in the Hout Bay townships and of the polite young girls in their clean uniforms and manicured school lawns .... I'm left not knowing how a situation can ever get so bad, how a society can become so imbalanced. I know there must be a balance between one's conscience and one's actions that needs to be struck in order to live peacefully, safely and honestly. That balance i'm still trying to work out.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

wonders just a drive away

On the 26th of September it was mid-autmn festival (mid-spring on this side of the hemisphere).

No mooncakes here to snack on. Instead we went along with some friends from frisbee for a hike up the mountain at Delvera Farm near Stellenbosch.

Although we started off a bit too late - and ended up missing the sunset and the moonrise at the summit, it was still a gorgeous walk. See pic of vineyard during sunset.

After sipping our mini bottle of red wine, we stumbled back down the mountain in the dark, rejuvenated.

That weekend we embarked on another mountain hike, this time at Silvermine National Park .

We chose the 2+ hour circuit that takes you around the reservoir and up to the summit and back around on the ridge.

From the top, you can see the whole of Hout Bay spread out in front of you. Stunning.

Also from the top, the wind howls so wildly and severely it knocked me back off my feet! A bit of a fright when you can imagine the fall down would be most unpleasant.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

La Belle Rosemonde

Like clockwork: once a week, on Friday afternoons, for almost 10 years straight.

That is how many times I saw my violin teacher, Rosemonde Laberge. I just found out that she passed away late this summer, and although she was quite old and frail, it still saddens me.

I would walk the 20 minutes to get to her house, violin clutched in my hand. I would greet her dog, who never quite learned how to "sit" or "be quiet", and we would talk about school and family before warming up with some scales.

In the beginning, I was petrified of Rosemonde. Scared of the mistakes I made and how I never really practiced everyday like I said I would. When she lapsed into French, I knew i was in for it. But as the years went by, and as I matured and hit my teenage years, our relationship deepened. She was a constant part of my week, something that was certain when life seemed to be in adolescent turmoil.

It's funny though. As much as we focused primarily on the study of the violin, the theory and the dreaded examinations for all those years, the image I hold most fondly is the one of her indulging in a cigarette, sitting in her rocking chair, dog on lap, and us chatting away.

When I left Cornwall, to "see the world" as she put it, I would return from time to time and we would again sit and catch up on each others' lives.

She always called me "Miss Wong from Hong Kong!" though little did we know I would be living there later on in my life. I sent her many postcards from HK and signed them just like that.

It pleased me to no end when she made the trek to Ottawa in July 2005 for our informal wedding get-together at my parent's home. See pic of her and Therese (cellist friend who also accompanied me on piano during exams) with us. It was the last time I would see her.

Only now can I begin to understand and appreciate the value of having Rosemonde while I was growing up, as my teacher, my mentor, my friend.