The incredible lightness of being: that's how I experience the people living in Prague. They are light and happy and friendly.
That is in comparison to the heavy sense of trauma that I believe South Africans constantly live under: the trauma of extreme inequalities on every level; the trauma of our past, not even to mention our present; the trauma of being constantly confronted by violent crime. Then, for me specifically, the trauma of the digust and rage I feel for the corruption, sleaze and greed of our rulers whom have so quickly - within a mere 20 years - fallen from a pinnacle of grace into a pit of sleaze and shame.
Right now, from a distance, I am ashamed of many aspects of my country. It is also clear to me at last that neoliberalism has failed globally, and that neoliberal economic polices are set to sink my country and its people even deeper into gloom followed by inky darkness...as the poor will get only poorer there, that the gaping chasm between the haves and have-nots will crack even wider there. I need to think about how I am to negotiate this personally.
I will never be the same after this journey. Something happened as I delivered the penultimate paper of the empathy conference at 16h00 yesterday; my words, my writing changed me, they also changed, deeply impacted the forty people in the room. I did not know that would happen, that I would recieve an ovation. I happen to 'own' a power (in humility and without ego) that is not really mine; it's not unlike living with a tumour in one's brain and mouth that has a life, but for good, of its own. Something changed last night, the world is a different place.
I am not the same. I'm a politcal being now, the gradual transformation has happened, late yesterday afternoon the first but crucial phase of the process was completed... now, knowing that even where I choose to lay my head at night, particularly at night in South Africa, is a political decision.
In the early hours of this morning I walked out of my hotel in Prague 5 for a breath of fresh chill air; the foyer lights and music were dimmed, it was empty and sedate and cozy-warm; at the door I turned right into Radlicka street surprised that it was merely cold, not chill.
I walked 100 metres down the deserted steet and then turned right into Lidicka. I walked past the 24-hour and well-lit flower shop where a short woman in baggy clothing whose face I could not make out rearranged stalks and blooms. At 2am.
With deliberation I walked past the dregs of the Sunday night folk, mostly youngsters and one or two homeless, who huddled at the numerous tram stops on Andel square.
After the square I kept going straight down the long road towards the river tripping now and then on the smooth and ancient cobbles.
I crossed, very slowly, the Palackeho bridge savouring my aloneness beneath a northern hemisphere sky in the centre of the river and of the city and of Europe; it was comforting and powerful.
When I got to the other side, close to the Czech restaurant - that's along Masarykovo nabr, between Fred & Ginger (Tancici dum) and the National Theatre - that I've taken to frequenting I turned around and retraced my steps.
Back in the soundproofed coccoon of 303 I opened my iPad and keyboard to begin this post. I didn't get far because I could not keep my eyes open for a second longer.
It is why I am typing these words in an extraordinarily comfortable Starbucks with free wifi on Vaclavske nam in the city centre, probably not even 50 metres away from where I stayed with my mother, here, almost 8 astonishing years ago.
My mother. Whom I feel is drifting away... .