Greetings to all.
After a long and painstaking process, I have finally set up my online store. if you like one or more of my paintings, you can now purchase a branded, digital print on RedBubble.com. Each of my paintings is available in various sizes. You can also get the image you like on clothing, cell-phone and tablet covers, etc. On that site you will also find some of my wildlife and nature photos. Take a look, support the arts, and tell a friend or ten thousand. :-)
Have you ever gotten on a bus just to see where it goes? I do this frequently while traveling, and while visiting Swaziland in the summer of 2016, I discovered just how awesome Swazi people are.
I was staying at a bed & breakfast in Nelspruitt, South Africa. This is the biggest town near Kruger National Park, and the hosts were very accommodating, even providing private game drives (mini-safaris) for me, the visitor who showed up without a plan. During one of said game drives, my host asked me if I planned to visit Swaziland, which is very close to Kruger. I replied that I was heading in the opposite direction, towards Zimbabwe, and would probably miss Swaziland this time around. She replied “that’s a shame, because the Swazi people are the nicest, most genuine people in the world.”
I kept playing those words over in my head until about a month later, when, due to a change in plans (could not get a ride from Botswana to Namibia), I altered my course and went south to Cape Town, then on to Durban and eventually to Swaziland.
The odyssey involved in getting from Durban to Swaziland is the subject of another post – a thrilling, beautiful experience in being just partly lost half way around the world.
So, what does this have to do with a bus ride? Travel in Swaziland is done mostly in minivans, and being a passenger is not for the faint of heart. Every day during my stay, which I extended simply because the people were so lovely, I would board a minivan to get to my destination. One day, I stayed on the bus just to see where it might take me. As it turns out, the bus went for a loop, through rural towns outside of Mbabane, the capital city. At the turnaround point, the driver turned to me, and with a big smile, asked whether I was getting off the bus. I replied that I had boarded just to see where it went. His response was so genuine and lovely and pure that it melted my heart. I asked if I should pay for the return trip, and he just waved me off with his big smile.
This kind of interaction with Swazi people was the norm during my visit. Everyone from the hotel clerk who was so curious about me and where I was going and what I was doing there, to the waitress at the Indian restaurant who took my drink order and then went across the parking lot to buy me a beer from a convenience store, and then brought it back on a tray with a big smile. By the end of my tour of Swaziland, I was so enamored with the people I had met that I made it a mission to tell everyone I know about the experience.
So, next time you find yourself in South Africa or Mozambique, look for that little land-locked kingdom in the north-east corner of South Africa, just southwest of Maputo. And know that you will be greeted by all with a big, warm, Swazi smile.
And get on the bus without a plan…
Have you ever walked into a room full of strangers, and had people turn to look at you, and ask yourself, what are they looking at? I am sure this happens to most humans at one point in their lives. Did you feel self-conscious at that moment? Did you ask whether your zipper was open, or whether you had spilled hot sauce from your Taco Bell lunch on your fancy white shirt? Or perhaps you thought that someone in the room thought you were attractive, and could not take their eyes off you. All are possible, but likely untrue. Let me explain why.
When you walked into that room full of strangers, the people turned to look at you not because they were interested in you. They did so because you, upon entering, interrupted their intense focus on themselves. That’s right, the sound you made entering the room broke their concentration on their own lives, their situations, their problems, their cellphones and social media posts, their photos from last night’s gathering. I am not writing this to sound negative, rather, to make a point about the solitary essence of human existence.
We are all born into this world alone. When we arrive, the people we meet adore us, generally, and cannot stop focusing all their attention on us. When they introduce us to strangers, the strangers too marvel at how wonderful, pretty, cute, and adorable we are. We internalize this attention from a very young age, and throughout our early years formulate strategies to use our cuteness to get what we want. When we want milk, we cry. When we want attention, we cry louder.
Children grow up strategizing how to shape the world according to their own vision, so it is no surprise that, as adults, we have learned to focus most of our attention on ourselves. So, when we walk into that room full of strangers, and everyone turns to look at us, we assume it is about us. But it is not. For us, it is about us. For them, it is about them, and whatever thoughts about themselves we interrupted by entering their space.
I am not suggesting that we are unimportant, or that nobody cares about us. My intent is the opposite. We are all beautiful, flawed, multi-faceted, emotional, cognizant, willing participants in life. When you enter a space occupied by others, they may notice that you have entered their temporary domain, and perhaps taken them momentarily away from that Instagram photo, where they are surrounded by beautiful people who love them. But they are not thinking about you – they are momentarily distracted from themselves by your entry.
Now, a counterpoint may be made. Perhaps one of the people in the room looked at you and found you attractive. In this case, you might conclude that they were focused on you. But let us look at it another way. First, the timeline suggests that the interruption happened prior to the attraction. Second, the fact that one person in the room finds you attractive is about them, not you. Why is this true? Because when one person finds another attractive, they want to meet that person and engage them for the purposes of their own pleasure. Think about it. When you see an attractive person across the room, and you want to touch or kiss that person, you are focusing on what it will feel like for you to touch or kiss that person. What it might be like for that person to be touched or kissed by you is not your concern. In fact, it likely never enters your mind.
So how do you enter a room full of strangers? Just walk in confidently, acknowledge anyone who looks in your direction, and go about your business. They will go back to their business after you have taken your place in the room. And if you find someone in the room attractive, go talk to that person and get what you want. And if someone in the room finds you attractive, let that person know that you know, and just go for it.
Being the object of another person’s attention is a beautiful thing. It feels nice to know someone cares about us, even if they just want a one-night stand. And though we enter the world alone, and spend most of our time thinking about ourselves, we also know from experience that being with others is one of the greatest gifts life offers. Human beings are amazingly complex and lovely creatures, and we need each other.
Say hello when you enter a room. And remember, it is not about you. Unless you make it so.