Living outside of One’s Comfort Zone

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Just before having to get out of the way

My Weekly Musings #4

Last week, our American friends invited us to visit the camel bazaar outside Cairo (on the Giza/Sakkara road). We’ve been living here now for just short of three years and I have never been outside of my comfort zone so much in my life. It is literally a daily thing. It is good for me – especially for spiritual me. Not only does it teach me plenty about the world around me, the people of this country, their strange culture and their fanatic religion, but it also teaches me a lot about myself. Living in a culture where you do not understand the language and isn’t even able to read their alphabet or have the same traditions and customs or worship the same God, things can get quite uncomfortable.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing being out of your comfort zone. It confronts one’s own beliefs, upbringing, culture, customs, world view and lifestyle when you are thrown into a world where nothing is familiar or make sense to you. Not only do you question the behaviour of the people around you, but you question your own. It is not a once off thing, but an ongoing everyday introspection. And not only do you learn to value what is ‘own’ to you, but you also learn to embrace and appreciate diversity. Very early on in our stay here, I have decided that I don’t understand much (not even a reasonable bit) of this culture, but that I am not even going to try to understand it. It makes life here a little bit easier and less complicated to observe rather than to label.

Back to the camel bazaar. I’m sure that this place wouldn’t even exist in a Western country. It’s a raw experience. Camels, by their hundreds, maybe even more, are brought together on a Friday morning to be sold I was told, mostly for meat. Men and (some very young) boys herd the animals – hopping along on three legs as one of the front legs is tied with rope to keep the animal from running away – towards the various ‘auction stations’ with long bamboo sticks. It isn’t a pretty picture to see. On the surface and in the viewpoint of a foreigner like me, it is a harsh place for a camel to be. And also for the people involved.

Upon arriving there, we were only four females in a sea of males – something that already pushes the discomfortometer into the red. The sticks hitting the camels’ bodies – be it on the humps, legs or head – is another difficulty to deal with. Furthermore, none of the camels looked like they had the potential for dinner I would want to see on my plate.

But I realised that it wasn’t my world. It wasn’t my place to judge. With that I don’t condone the behaviour of the people or the suffering of the animals. Sometimes in life things just are what they are – people making a living, surviving the only way they know how to the way they did for centuries – maybe even millennia. My disliking it, my discomfort and the fact that I might disapprove of their way of doing as a foreigner in their country, is not going to change that. I’m not going to alter a country’s culture, customs and actions which are way older than my own culture. What I should do is learn to appreciate it for what it is.

I realised that I would probably be out of my comfort zone many, many, many more times in the period we have left here in this interesting, phenomenal country. How I handle my discomfort is what is important. If I can’t change people’s behaviour or world view, I can at least work on my own. I can learn to value the diversity of this place and the other countries we are visiting, as well as that of my own country when we go back. Hopefully, when we are back in our own culture – which is just as diverse – I will be able to feel less uncomfortable in the mixture, while still staying true to my own upbringing and beliefs and being more tolerant towards people who are different from me.

In the end, when one sees the bigger picture from a forever-living-worldview, we are reminded that we who confess Him as our Saviour are one body in Messiah (Romans 12:5). One day we will be immersed into His culture and all the discomfort of worldly customs, poverty and illness will be something from the past.

PS: I spelled necessarily correct without using spell check or a dictionary.

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

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The Hole-in-the-wallet, Laborious, Frustrating Process of Acquiring a Travel Visa

My Weekly  Musings #3/2017

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We are planning a visit to friends in New Zealand next month and with that, we are trying to obtain travel visas – something that wasn’t necessary for South African citizens only two or three months ago. But thanks to people abusing the system or hypocritical red tape or whatever, the New Zealand government now finds it necessary for us to get that little hated stamp in our passports. (And now the South African government reciprocated by implementing visas for Kiwis to visit SA! It makes no economic sense.) We are currently residing in Egypt and to get a visa, one’s passport has to travel to Dubai for this privilege! As if that is not uncomfortable enough, the costs are enormous! Not only is there the fee for the sought after stamp or little paper glued into your passport, but there are handling fees for the passports to get there and more separate handling fees for them to get back. And apart from the cost, the effort is just silly. After all the documents they’ve required were attached, they requested some more documents after receiving the passports.

There are many reasons governments give for requiring visas. Some might be legitimate, but I sometimes wonder if the visa process doesn’t just keep the good guys out. Because when there is an attack somewhere in the world and everybody is surprised by a person on a terrorist watch list carrying out the attack, l really question the system. Obviously, he loopholed the visa requirements. How can they get into a country so seemingly easy and us good guys have to carry out time consuming efforts and pay the financial penalties? As if travel tickets aren’t expensive enough.

We’ve received our passports back yesterday. There are no visa stamps or stickers in. Instead, they informed us that the visas are electronically issued against our passport numbers. We will get an email to confirm that.  An email! All that effort for an email! Where is my visa stamp?! I hope it works, because when we arrive in New Zealand after two flights of four and sixteen hours respectively, and they don’t allow us into their little country, I will leave a piece of my mind there!

Thankfully, after our patience being tested going through the process, I’m reminded of a place where we won’t need visas to go to one day. All we need is to confess the Truth. It is that simple. Or that Complicated. The choice is ours.

“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” (From the Bible – Luke 8 verse 10)

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

The Myth of Free Speech

My Weekly  Musings #2/2017

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

― George Orwell, Animal Farm

A lot of things happening in the past months and recent years made me think real hard lately. Life had changed in almost every way in the past decade, thanks to technology and other developments – some for the better and some for the worse. Our world had become used to terrorist attacks in the form of shootings, knife attacks, sexual assaults, cars and trucks ramming into people, people getting beheaded etc. This last year we saw laws, policies and governments change – strange changes that are still very difficult to believe or to get used to. I’m starting to think that maybe it is a totally natural thing that is happening. In history we had build-ups like these which led to the tower of Babel, the Flood, the Crusades, the First World War and WW2. Talk is that we might already be in the middle of a Third World War of sorts.

When a bucket gets too full of water, it overflows – naturally. There is a saying: Give a person enough rope and he hangs himself. Bucket overflowing or too much rope? It’s the same thing. Balance always needs to be restored somehow. The Western world is playing with its very, very long rope and so is the anti-Western world. And as individuals, agreeing or not agreeing with current directions, we are all steered into, hanged along and sacrificed in the process as collateral damage.

We live in a world where our words, our Twitter feeds, our Facebook statuses, our email (only normal people, not presidential candidates apparently) could get us fired – not only for big things like threatening state security or threatening people or libelling or acknowledging theft (except if you find yourself in certain positions in certain governments) or something immoral like that, but also for being moral. For having values and principles. For believing in the God of the Bible and the Word of God. And for having the audacity to have opinions about religious or any other fundamentalism, abortion, marriage, parenthood, crime, gender issues, sins and the likes. Defend unborn babies, marriage between a man and a woman and stand up for your rights if you are not a person of colour and whatever you say is branded as ‘hate speech’ – no matter if and how sympathetic you are towards these issues in general.

There is no room in the world anymore for a person to speak freely without being branded or bearing far reaching consequences. We are being told what opinions to have, what to think and what causes to support. Would anyone in the Golden Globe audience have had the courage to disagree with the actress’ speech the other night? Probably not, because she was speaking on behalf of the ‘trend’ right now and no-one with a reputation to uphold can afford to think differently? There was a time when, even if they were wrong, people could speak their minds in the democratic West.

We are navigated into believing that it is our right and even our privilege to live perversely. Consequences for our actions and responsibility for our choices aren’t relevant anymore. Sin had become a non-mentionable word. And where does God fit in? Well, He just doesn’t, does He? Modern man – oops, sorry! – Modern, genderless, colourless, faithless person is its own god now. All that matters are ‘it’, ‘itself’ and ‘its’ inner-god, and happiness is its ultimate goal and religion. Its behaviour, lusts and needs are to be practiced to ultimate satisfaction. Anything goes in our little ‘self-god’ world. And the little gods are not bothered for one moment that they are ignoring their Maker’s Instruction Manual. It is like a person trying to use a refrigerator as a washing machine. The plug will fit into the wall socket and the power will go on, but the water put in will freeze as the clothes stay dirty. Eventually, the person would have to reassess and use the appliances for the purposes they were manufactured for.

Life is like that too. Nature has to go its way and imbalances have to be addressed. If man doesn’t do it, God does. And His way is never the easiest way for man.

Be blessed and stay strong, because we are living prophesy.

The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:4)

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

I wasn’t Planning on Writing Anything Newyeary

My Weekly  Musings #1/2017

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It’s that time of year that everyone who writes, writes about having New Year’s resolutions or about breaking them or about their goals for the new year. This year was no different and those who believe they cannot write or are too lazy to write something themselves, sent their friends funny/silly/nice/beautiful/religious/rude/crude messages and poems written by some funny/silly/nice/beautiful/religious/rude/crude writers to wish them a good/blessed/prosperous/whatever 2017, because apparently 2016 had been the worst year in the history of the world according to social media users or liberal American voters or both. Of course it had been a bad year for some individually, but I was just wondering if every one of the WWI and WWII years for example, might not have been worse in general? Anyway, who am I to differ with the social media experts?

I didn’t want to continue on the topic of this most plastic, man-made phase of the year, but hey, while I’m on it… Today’s date is just a date. Dates maybe rule our work lives, but they don’t define our character. Yes, we do remember the things – good and awful – happening to us by the Gregorian date that we use, but to wish a ‘year would die because it had been the most awful of them all’? Really? Is that what life had become for modern us? A date on a man-made calendar with absolutely no guarantee that the next da(y)te on the almanac bring only prosperity/happiness/blessings.

I’d hope that we can rather thank our Maker for every new day, no matter the ‘date’, because He says that He makes every day new and every day His mercy and loving-kindness is anew (Lamentations 3:22,23). Of course we will remember the awful past (even that terrible, dreadful 2016), but eventually we will also remember the beauty and the joy and the memories it brought us. Bad memories have the tendency to be overshadowed by good ones in due time. I don’t say this lightly, because some of us had real hard times and others had horrific things happening to them in 2016.

Let’s be thankful for another day, whatever the date may be, because how evil 2016 might have been, there had been good times and 2017 hasn’t shown its true colours yet. Let’s be grateful for waking up this morning and being alive for just one more moment, maybe even one whole day. I know it sounds like such a cliché, but in the end all we have is now. Enjoy it to the fullest.

Be blessed.

(Blog entry/ies vaguely related to this topic: https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/01/08/my-favourite-days/)

 

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

In Favour of the Roads Well Travelled

 

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Travel articles and blogs about ‘the road less travelled’ are in abundance. People, I included, love reading about strange, foreign, exotic and off the beaten track paths – places where only the most daring dares to go and where the rest of us probably will never set foot. I reckon that’s why we love it so much – reading about far-off places and dreaming impossible dreams, knowing that we will probably never make it there and instead, we admire those adventurers who do.

Few writers today still bother to write about the roads well-travelled other as in travelling advertisements, because what self-respecting, do-things-differently, adventure seeking person these days would find the London Tower or the Eiffel or the Wailing Wall exotic enough to read about and dream about to visit. Travel articles nowadays must be all about exploring the unknown, the almost never-visited before, to be attractive enough to publish.

Travelling had become fairly easy in the past three decades. We live in a global enclave, which makes almost every place on earth accessible within a day or at most – two. So why bother with the ‘mundane’ travel destinations if you can be the first Western person to be seen in some remote jungle village of some South American tribe, living without any modern conveniences? Or sail to the most southern uninhabited island on earth or go to a quiet corner of the Antarctic to witness the consequences of global warming first-hand? It’s just more exciting! It’s exhilarating! It sells travel magazines. It generates more traffic to blogs and online mags.

But as someone who had only travelled a little bit and will probably always be limited to visiting only a few of the many, many, many places I dream about, I believe that there are still words left to be written about the roads well-travelled. Because if your opportunities and resources for travelling are limited, one tends to want to see first-hand those most ‘common’ sites you always see in movies and on TV.

Naturally your walk in the Bog Nature Trial in the Soomaa National Park in Estonia would make grand dinner conversation. Of course you would first have to  orientate your guests on a map to where Estonia is! Or imagine telling you bird watching friends about you seeing one of the last Great Indian Bustard nests in India? And obviously, you can’t go wrong with showing off your photos taken from Uhuru and Kibo peaks on Mount Kilimanjaro, because even if it had become a bit of fashionable trip to do these days, you can still get away with it under the ‘adventurous’ label. You will after all be only one of about 22 500 people in the world who did it this year in comparison to the millions who have travelled to London to see old Buckingham Palace! Yawn…

But for the person who will only travel once or a handful of times in his or her lifetime due to reasons such as limited resources or health restrictions that keep them from hunting great adventures such as walking the swamps of the Amazon, intruding on the habitat of petrifying Anacondas – visiting the Taj Mahal in India or the pyramids of Giza in Egypt or the Garden Tomb in Israel, will still be more than awesome! It will also be the fulfilment of a lifelong dream, just as the Amazon-thing is to the extreme adventurer.

For us, the travellers with limitations, the mere site of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked, is absolutely breath taking! And to have a photo that you have taken yourself of the Eiffel on your own camera’s memory card, is a dream come true! Because you may have climbed a hill on precisely the right day of the year to harvest one of the world’s rarest truffle in the French countryside, but imagine your friends’ faces when you arrive back home and they ask you about the Eiffel and your answer is “No, I haven’t seen the Eiffel, but I did harvest the world’s most exotic truffle!” Except, if you are a foodie and all your friends are foodies too, it will sound outrageous!

Us normal people of limited resources are satisfied to see the Eiffel and Wailing Wall or the Tower Bridge or the Big Ben or the Colosseum or maybe even the beautiful blue roofs of Mykonos and Santorini (instead of a less visited Greek islands with rarer stones to see). We are quite okay with it if we can only visit one of those magnificent places we see in movies and on TV programs in our lifetime. And when we watch a movie or TV again and we recognise one of those places and know that we had been there and that our feet walked where so many others have walked before – the fortunate and the unfortunate, the famous and the not-famous, the conqueror and the loser, the adventurer and the… us – we will feel thankful and privileged. Just because we were given the opportunity to see it with our own eyes.

There is still much to be said about the roads well-travelled, and very few of us will be able to travel all those roads, so if you get the opportunity – take it! And think of it this way: Even if you will never have the ability to visit any of these well-known or less-known places, you might live in a place on someone’s bucket list.

Explore your own surroundings. Visit that ‘boring’ battle field again that you had to visit on a school field trip. Go to that monument, read up on the beginnings of your town or city, because chances are that you are living near a place that someone else dreams about visiting. Go today. Pay it a visit. Take a picture (or a selfie if you can’t convince anyone to go with you on your ‘adventure’) and put it on social media. And know that your feet have walked where other feet had fought or made history or had new beginnings. Because even though we sometimes don’t realise it: One man’s home  can be just another man’s dream destination.

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Our family at one of those ‘boring’ well-travelled places – The beautiful island of Mykonos in Greece.

 

© 2016  – I, Fielies (also Riëtte) De Kock is trying hard to be an awesomest wife and greatest lover, finest mom and to write something all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s two cats and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function normally.

Article on Writing: Thinking about Life

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*  This blog entry is introductory to next one about journal writing. Read it at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-journal-writing/

To be a good writer, one must have a ‘writer’s voice’. To have a ‘writer’s voice’ it is important to have opinions about lots of things in life. To have opinions one must spend a great deal of time thinking about various subjects and issues.

We are Spirit within a Body

A human being is not only a piece of meat filled with bones and blood and water. Man consists of body, mind and spirit and soul. We are complicated beings. We must understand that we don’t just have a body to look after, but also a spirit/soul/mind. Not only needs our body to be fed with food, but our spirits also need food. Most people are religious and believe in some or other god. I for instance, believe in the Living God of the Bible. So for me to become a whole human being, I need more that only food for my body. I need to learn of and communicate with God in order to feed my soul/ spirit. We are spiritual beings in fleshly bodies.

Making Sense out of Life

Sometimes things happen that don’t make any sense to us and true to our human nature, we want to make sense of it. Sometimes we talk to a trusted friend about it and sometimes we keep it to ourselves. It happens to every person at some stage. It is good to talk to someone about our problems and worries and concerns. But sometimes there isn’t anyone to talk to. Or we don’t want to talk to anyone about certain things. What to do then?

Dreams and Goals

Apart from experiencing things and having fears and problems, we all have dreams and goals in life too. Those dreams and goals will not just happen without us doing something to make it happen. Therefore it is good to think about the things we want from life and write it down – because when we write things down, they start to become real in our minds.

If you don’t think about life and what it is that you want to do, then you will probably end up doing whatever comes along and not what you are supposed to do with your life.

We all have different dreams, talents and passions. Unfortunately, there are many people today who don’t know what their life’s dream is, because they never take the time to think about life and to learn to know themselves. Don’t let that happen to you.

It is therefore important that we learn to know ourselves – our dreams, talents, passions, short falls and behavioural patterns. Just as a sportsman have to practice every day to become fit and to master every bit of skill there is to master in his sport, so we have to ‘practice’ every day to become the best we can be.

Only you can be you, so be the best you you can be.

(Yes, I know it sounds cheesy and I don’t know if someone else had said it before.)

How do we go about Becoming the Best we can be?

By thinking – thinking about ourselves, our behaviour, the way we handle things and the way we don’t. By thinking about things that are important to us, things we don’t like or things that we do like. By thinking about what we want to do for others and for ourselves. And by thinking about our points of view on different issues we hear about on the news, such as global warming, abortion, human rights, world politics etc.

Make Time to Think

These days we seem to be too busy to think. We have school or work, sports, chess practice, piano or violin lessons, extra maths classes and then we still have to watch TV and DVDs, listen to music, go to the movies, keep up with our Facebook and Twitter friends and do homework. It’s exhausting!

We don’t have time to become quiet and listen to ourselves. That way we get used to other people thinking for us and making decisions on our behalves. Teenagers wear what Hannah Montana wears and listen to Justin Bieber because they are told to listen to him.

Children make their parents buy them toys they can’t afford, because the TV ads say that everyone must have them. But do all girls really like to look like Hannah or like to listen to Justin or do children really need those expensive toys?

Most children today don’t know the answer to these questions. They just do as they are told because they don’t know what they really like, because they don’t think for themselves.

The same applies to adults.

Introduce Yourself to Yourself

I want you to make a stand and change all that today. I want to encourage you to start thinking for yourselves.

Make time every day to spend thinking. It can be early in the morning (if you are an early bird) or in evening before going to bed. Or somewhere in between. Go to your room and switch off everything so that you can hear the quietness. (And leave your cell phone in another room.) Or go outside and sit or lie on the grass or sit on the porch. (And leave your cell phone inside.) Just be quiet and allow your thoughts to flow naturally. Eventually you will start thinking about the things that are important to you. Keep a notebook or your journal close and write done things that you don’t want to forget.

A Few Exercises to get you Started

  • Make a list of the people you love most.
  • Make a list of the people you don’t like hanging out with.
  • Make a list of the things you like doing most.
  • Make a list of the things you really don’t like doing.
  • Make a list of your favourite subjects at school/favourite tasks at work.
  • Make a list of your least favourite school subjects/least favourite tasks at work.
  • Make a list of five things you want to do in life (like climbing Mount Everest or run the Comrades Marathon, writing a book etc.)
  • Make a list of ten places in the world you want to visit.
  • Make a list of your five best character traits.
  • Make a list of your five less attractive character traits.
  • Make a list of five things you think you should become better at.
  • Write down five nice things about every person in your immediate family. (Yes, everyone.)
  • Write down five jobs you think you should like to do/ had done.
  • Write down five things you like about your best friend.
  • Write down five things that you would want your friends and family to say about you.

Creative Writing Exercise

By doing a few of these exercises you will be ready for the following blog entry on journal writing. Read it at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-journal-writing/

  • Take a 20-minute thinking session on your bed or outside in the garden. Take a notebook with you.
  • Do at least two exercises on the list above in your writing club journal.

For more writing related articles, follow The Writing Club / Die Skryfklub on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thewritingclubdieskryfklub/?ref=bookmarks

 

©2007 Riëtte de Kock