Life and Times Blog

Too late…

We used to have a weekly team meeting when I worked at Goldman Sachs.
It reminds me of sitting in lectures,trying your best to pay attention,then you drift.Come back to presence of mind at the tail end of something that sounds really important…and you can’t ask questions because it may be something that was covered already.Too late to go back.Then in the midst of trying to patch the convo together u drift again.I think of Homer Simpsons fav exclamation ‘tsOwH!!’…the cycle repeats itself.One hour later you hope you survive to the next week’s meeting without having missed something that’s going to cause your name to be on next weeks agenda.Too Late.
Like life:you lose track of important things,realise them at intervals,get distracted,come back,over and over.Until one day you’re reminded abruptly,when your name IS on the agenda,ie somethings either gone wrong,or you’ve lost complete touch with what you were supposed to be vigilant about.Too late.
And further down the line,(which may be the next day/hour) one day you’re on the plains of Judgement.No time to look back then,just a terrible,gripping reality,your entire past wrapped into that final moment.Every nuance…to hang with you for eternity.TOo late to go back and amend.

July 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Day by day details

Those who would like the details of the course:(thedowra.com)

Details of the schedule:

03h15  Awake and perform optional meditative prayers before the pre-dawn compulsory prayer.

04h00   Perform Fajr, the pre-dawn prayer, in congregation

04h30   All those members in congregation do the common greeting. The person at the front of the congregation stands up against a wall, beginning to form a line. The second person stands up, shakes his hand and stands alongside him. This is repeated with the third and all subsequent persons shaking the hand of each of those who stood up before them in the line, with the result that at the end the entire congregation has formed rows and shook the hands of each other person present. ‘Team Building’ as termed in corporate speak.

05h00     Lessons in the rules of eloquent recitation of the Quran/Lessons in the Prophetic Sayings/ Lives of Man by Imam Haddad

06h00    Post-dawn optional prayer

06h30      Nap/breakfast

10h30    Study of the guidance for cleanliness, sound prayer.

12h00    Midday Prayer in congregation

12h30   Lunch/rest

15h15     Mid-afternoon prayer in congregation

15h45     Lessons on gnosis (striving for self control in the pursuit of spiritual mastery)

17h15     Rest

18h30     Sunset Prayer in congregation

19h00     Study of text on: Unity of God, Beginning of Guidance by Ghazzali, Participation in building of civil society by Habib Ali Jiffry

19h30     Evening congregational prayer

20h00      Social commentary on the world we live in/ Commentary on the Quran/ Stories of the Prophets

21h00      Hanging out with the fellows till bedtime, around midnight.

 

Once a week on a Thursday we go to the swimming pool (weekends are Thursday and Friday).

At least once a week there are excursions to areas of interest in the region.

During the last week we spend a few days at the coast.

 

Setup:

There are 25 male students, mostly from the UK, 3 of us from South Africa, a few from Canada and the States, 2 from Kenya.(a total of approximately 360 reside in the attached institution, whom we join for prayers and certain larger group lessons)

We live in an air-conditioned house, 5-6 per room, and 4 bathrooms.

3 meals served a day, no chores to do.

Laundry can be done yourself or sent to the Laundromat which charges a low $1 a load.

 

There is a parallel course run for ladies, with the same setup and schedule.

 

Cost for the month: $700 including meals, excursions, accommodation.

Additional spending: $50-$60 per month on luxuries

 

Ways to get here, fly to Sana’a, the capital, and get an internal flight to Seiyun, the closest airport, a one hour drive from

the town of Tarim.

Fly to Abu Dhabi and get a direct flight to Seiyun.

July 28, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Yemen #2

The detox is magical in what it reveals about who you have become, it strips away the distractions you’ve created and peels away those pseudo extensions you’ve built of yourself.

The first few days in the new environment were jarring. The pervasive human goodwill catches you off guard, the calm makes you restless. Lack of activity, lack of sensory assault, silence. It screams inside your head.A psychological solitary confinement.

I still struggle, 17 days in. The day is filled with teachings of good conduct, manner of worship, history. But the underlier is the challenge to seek and refine the core.

The Core: what will remain once your physical self passes. All the ambitions expired, all the worries rendered useless, all the pretence stripped. All that remains, the soul, its relationship with God. The core.

I don’t think I’ve met this core before. I had a vague sense of its background, but little in common with it now. It has become an awkward stranger to me, like an old childhood friend with whom you’re supposed to have a familiar, intimate link with, but don’t. I found myself unable to hang out with this core, it’s just awkward.

So I logged on to the internet, I chatted to those around me, asking about their lives back home, searching for distraction. I read, I wrote. I avoided hanging out with myself, to ask it what it is, without everything else.

I was afraid of what I was likely to find. I suspected that through years of non-specific neglect my core lay very ill and it was its depleted shell that I was finding awkward to confront, I suspected that I have long ago forgotten the language which it speaks…

I was right. I still haven’t fully confronted it, but day by day I get closer.

It lies there, in the recesses of my created self, dishevelled, starved, neglected, forgotten.

Day by day I try to revive it, to re-establish a link with it, to strengthen it to the dignified and foremost state that it is meant to occupy.

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Yemen #1

It’s easy to fall into the belief that the world is homogenous. That the way of life, philosophical outlook and issues of primary human concern, as established in much of the ‘televised’ world is the Status Quo.

It is not.

There are numerous pockets of human life in the world that are not overwhelmed by these standards, by choice.Vast sections of the human race for whom their Status Quo is completely different.

I find myself in such a place. Tarim, Yemen. I am on the remote edge of a remote town, part of a larger remote city, in the fairly remote country of Yemen on the coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

I am here for 30 days after spending 4 months in London.

London, city of approximately 11 million people, glitz, glamour, grime, opportunity, possibility, wild success, dismal failure. My time in London was typical of a first time resident; 25 hour days which was partly motivated by a deliberate choice to take in all the city had to offer, but was mostly due to being unconsciously swept along on the wave of energy that is a common thread in the city’s occupants. Young people from all over the world, a centre point, the centre point for people with the personality type seeking vibrancy, ‘Experience’, exposure (& of course the ever appealing GBP). A melting point of the restless and their abilities and curiosities.

Switch tracks to Tarim, Yemen.

People greet in the street, with the universal Islamic greeting of ‘AsSalaam-u-Alaikum’. Peace be upon you and the mercy and blessings of God.They greet randomly, drivers reach out of their windows to smile and greet pedestrians, motorcyclists lift an arm, and storekeepers welcome you into the store with this greeting. All strangers, but acknowledging solidarity via this greeting, a sincere well wish to grace, based on the common binding humanity of all.This acknowledgement of solidarity and expression of humanity extends to all areas of human interaction.Trade is a means of facilitation, rather than accumulation, rules and regulations are a means of maintaining order, not an imposition of authority.

The transition to this new environment is however challenging, but in the sweetest most satisfying way…

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Drifting…

I haven’t started this blog as a travel blog specifically, but being on the road at the moment, it naturally will focus on my travels, or rather my thoughts on these travels.

It’s taken me some time to figure out why I travel, it definitely isn’t to see landmarks. I think it may simply be to experience a new environment.

Even within this, I’m not sure what draws me to it; I suspect it’s the fact that I find it refreshing for the brain to be jarred out of its established routine in a pleasant way.

It also feeds a sense of curiosity about what lies over the hill, which in an ironic way, makes ‘home’ more comfortable. A quote I once read ‘…travel the world to return home and to finally know the place for the first time…’ I read that ‘knowing’ as ‘appreciating’.

Many people don’t have this itch to know what lies over the hill, most do but unfortunately find themselves in circumstances which don’t easily allow for this.

Who’s better, those with the itch or those without? Neither, they just are who they are.

On the road, I always feel closer to God. It’s either because I am reminded of my vulnerability in the foreign world or because the variety of the exposure stirs me to marvel at the extent of His supremacy and genius in the world He has created and sustains, effortlessly.

Thanks to very generous and open thinking parents, I have been fortunate to have travelled extensively as a child, England, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, India, the UAE, Egypt, Portugal, Ireland, Palestine.

As a university student, I travelled Southern Africa quite thoroughly too.

Botswana, Tanzania (by bus from Johannesburg via Zambia and Zimbabwe, a 4 day epic road journey) Mozambique; scuba-diving at Ponto d’Oro

South Africa:

North West: Mafikeng (my mom’s hometown), Potchefstroom, Rustenberg, Zeerust, Swartruggens(!), Wolmaranstad (my dad’s hometown), Westonaria, Carletonville; Vryburg.

The Northern Province: Polokwane and Potgietersrus (the new name eludes me, Makhado I think)

Mpumalanga: Nelspruit, Pilgrims, Ermelo.

The Cape: Knysna, George, Oudtshoorn, Cape Town, Plettenberg Bay, Jeffreys Bay, Transkei.

Natal: Durban, Drakensberg, Tinley Manor, Verulam, Port Shepstone, Newcastle.

Gauteng: Being my home province, there’s not much I haven’t seen, from Vereeniging in the south to Ga-Rankuwa in the North, Benoni in the East, Randfontein in the west.

In 2005 I performed the Hajj, the once-a-lifetime Muslim pilgrimage. A physical and spiritual journey requiring a post of its own…

Finally done with the major leg of my formal studying/training at the end of 2007, a qualified Chartered Accountant (a person well trained in the habits of those rats who run the wheel), I had no specific commitment holding me to a certain place anymore.

Before any such commitments presented themselves, I hit the road, spurred on by the non-specific restlessness that comes from being in one place too long, 25 years in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg.

First trip: December 2007 – Cuba, Spain, Morocco.

Second trip: February 2008 – Qatar, UAE, UK.

I stayed in the UK for 4 months, working at Goldman Sachs. I didn’t travel Europe as much as I could have whilst in the UK, visiting only Switzerland and Belgium.

Inside the UK, based in London, I visited Brighton, Birmingham, Cambridge, the Scottish Highlands and Cardiff in Wales.

Empowered by the GBP’s which I earned in increments but am spending in tranches I set off on another trip, which I am currently on, Yemen-Mali-Egypt, before planning to return home after 7 months in the September to come.

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Blog is born…

‘Life and Times’ began about 3 years ago when I entered the world of formal employment, with me mailing random thoughts to group of friends, inviting their thoughts and comment, as a group discussion. The frequency of hose mailings declined as my working years wore on.

This is a result of either the working world restricting my ability to think, or the gradual and tragic decline of curiosity and mental agility that does but doesn’t have to come with the passing of time.

I begin this blog as an extension of that mailing list, hoping to obligate myself and at least all those original Life & Timer’s to document their thoughts.

July 22, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment