The Rules of (Oceanic) Engagement

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Well it’s been a little over a week since we arrived back from the sunny shores of Umtlodi Beach. It was one incredible family trip filled with fun, laughter and loadsbof adventure. We did relax a little too!
I was quite forcefully pushed back into reality as university started the weekend after we arrived home. Ever since, I have been focused on Jane Austin, Oscar Wilde, the history of Southern Africa from 1652 and Cognitive Psychology!

Now, since my first swim in the swirling sea, this post has been playing on my mind. As a result of no internet and being in-between mobile phones, the chance to write it has not arisen until today!

So, what does Rules of Oceanic Engagement mean? This, in my mind, is the “do’s” and “don’ts” of swimming in that big blue mass that we humans call: The Ocean!
Here we go:
1) Always have a feel of what the terrain you are swimming in, is like. For example: if it slopes up or down, if there are sharp shells and rough sandy areas (as this may cause you mild amounts of pain if a wave throws you into it)

2) Always swim in a place where you are able to stand – don’t ever go deep enough to the point where the water is above your neck area. Rather be safe and stand where the water up to your shoulders.

3) Always keep an eye on the type of wave coming your way – if it’s just a normal swell, jump through it. If a large amount of white water is coming your way, swim with it, otherwise you may just be dunked violently!

4) Keep your eyes on the water all the time – know what your facing so you can react properly and “take” the wave on in a non-dangerous fashion. (Unless you are going to swim with the white water coming toward you. Refer to Rule 2.)

5) Always swim in-between the beacon provided by the lifeguards.

6) To avoid being pulled in by the backwash, dig your feet firmly into the sand and move your arms in an anti-clockwise direction. If you feel yourself being pulled in, swim with the next wave toward the shore – never go to deep into the water!!

Finally, have fun, enjoy the beauty of the water but always remember to be careful!!
The Ocean is truly a magnificenct place filled with all the wonders of the world. It is G-d’s untouched territory…
However as all things go in the natural world; at times  it can be quite a deceptively dangerous place!

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Holiday Hallabaloo?

Well folks, tomorrow I’m off to catch some waves and perhaps a tan in a remote area just off the East Coast. I see it as taking a leaf out of a birds book, (If I can say that). Migrating from the colder weather of the highveld to the warmer, sunnier climate of the coastline. It’s quite strange to think that this is our first actual family holiday in over eight years.  I always wonder why people stress out before going on these big breaks… They are suppose to be relaxing you know and the preparation is suppose to be exciting!

On that note, I would like to mention that our last holiday was nothing short of a December “disaster”. We decided to go off to a nature reserve far up north in the middle of the summer. Not the best idea as we learnt over time.

This all began when my father was stopped on the journey by an officer who fined him for speeding and nearly knocking him over because I was sick in the back. Then, as we arrived to our room, we found that it had not been serviced, so it was in a complete state of anarchy and finally just to add to our frustration, there was no air-conditioners. As a result, any attempt to stay in our Chalet during the early afternoon could be seen plainly as playing with fire – not in the literal sense, so don’t worry. I recall getting a bad bout of heat-stroke and my parents having to take me to see the doctor on-sight who happened not to speak a word of English. Afrikaans was his first language, and although both my parents came from a place where Afrikaans was predominantly spoken, they hadn’t used it in a long time. So communicating was just a tad bit on the difficult side!

However, one thing I do remember as being quite enjoyable was sitting on the veranda, just after a delicious Braai and watching the Game roam the grassy plains as the sun-set on the horizon. A few times we were wildly startled when some boars came bashing through the reeds. As night came creeping in, we would turn off all the lights, grab some binoculars and watch as different airliners flew over in the distance.

Yes there were definitely heated moments over that trip and yes, when we got to air-conditioned area’s, it  ‘cooled’ down nicely and yes, that may be the reason why my parents were put off going on family vacations but today, thinking back on that debacle of a vacation, we see it as part of a great adventure that was had by all. As they say: we just “roughed it a bit.”

Here’s to hoping that this trip will be a lot smoother (we’re flying this time) and p’G a restful break from the hustle and bustle of the usual City life. To all my readers, wherever you are in the world, wishing you a wonderful summer (or winter) vacation. Stay safe, drive carefully and just enjoy this wonderful time with your family and friends – it’s precious.

Be the example!

There is something inexplicably special about the bond that is created between a Channicha (Youth Camp Participant) and a Madricha (Youth Camp Councilor).  It is something that nobody really tells you about while you are being trained. Perhaps it is not an opportunity that all councilors are privileged to have.

In December 2011, I attended my first Bnei Akiva Summer Camp as a Madricha. I had never done this properly before and although I had had a great amount of contact with my Channichot  (Girl Campers), over 2011, I had never actually “taken care” of them as their Guardian without any adults present. It is actually an incredible thought to think that this camp is literally run by the Youth for the youth of South Africa.

As a Madricha, one is expected to put up certain boundaries and abide by specific ideals. Yet as one grows closer to ones campers, one finds that these boundaries begin to subside a little and eventually with enough care and consideration, these barriers are eventually laid to rest and something new begins… This something is called friendship.

This afternoon was proof of this special bond. I happened to invite over a friend (who also just happens to be one of my Channichot) to come and bake cupcakes with me. After a lovely time baking, chilling, chatting and frosting our creations (Cake-Boss here we come), it was time for me to walk her home. On my short walk back to my house, I realized something; it is all good and well to practice the method of being a Madricha BUT putting the method into practice is what being a Madricha is really all about. You may ask: What does this mean?

Well, there is a very wise and truthful saying that goes as follows; “the best example, is to be the example.”  As you continue grow your relationship, this friendship begins to blossom and you now have the power to make or break the example that you are about to set in this relationship. You can chose to become the strict, methodological Madricha that is all about being morally correct, you can chose to become the “cool, slick” Madricha that allows the kids to run riot OR, you can chose to be honest and truthful – in other words, just be yourself. Now from experience I can tell you that the first two options can really do you more harm than good, as I learnt in my first weekend away with the Girls in March 2011. I managed to get myself into quite a pickle and after some great advice from my very wise sister, I realized that I had to find a balance and not only that, I had to show them who I really was. The next time I spent time with them, I put away my two “acts” and introduced them to the real me. The results were a roaring success and from there I have slowly become very close to this wonderful group of girls.

I know that while I interact with them, I have the responsibility to show them what a true mensch is. Although we joke around and have our good fun, I do my best to make sure that there is some sort of “Kosher” message being put across. Something memorable and practical for life that is intertwined with our action. This may be a quick Halacha (Jewish Idea/Law), Mitzvah (Good deed – like saying a blessing before food) or even just something that shows them what it means to be a good person.

What I have learnt during my time as a Madricha, is that these Channichot are just itching to find openness and honesty within their relationships, whether it be with friends, peers, teachers or even their family. And I know that as their Madricha I have been privileged to be just that. This my friends, is truly an opportunity of a lifetime.

As Oscar Wilde once said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Too Socially Advanced?

Question: Have we become a generation that uses technology to hide-away from true face-to-face dialogue? Do we use technology as a means to hide our true selves or to fool the masses into thinking that we are something that we are not?

I have slowly started coming to the realization that just as technology, social-networking and social-media have advanced, so too are we both regressing and digressing from our ability to be socially coherent in a face-to-face situation.

I, myself am not innocent of this not so petty “crime” and I have noticed that I find it easier to send someone an email, a tweet or even a text as opposed to plucking up the ‘courage’ to give someone a call. So folks, has technology turned us into a ‘mildly’ social-phobic people? Do we use it to hide shyness?  Anxiety? Unwanted personal traits? Looks?

Think about this: When we are eating dinner with the family or we’re out with friends or even just watching a movie, how often do we find ourselves furiously typing on our Blackberry’s or Social-Networking applications instead of being sociable with those around us? Just the other day, I was out for dinner with my sister and some friends and at the end of the evening we all found ourselves using our mobile devices – “Tweeting”, “Whatsapping” or “BBMing”. As a joke (or somewhat experiment), during that time, we decided to speak to each other over “Whatsapp.” Low and behold we found that the conversation was buzzing wildly over this application as opposed to the face-to-face dinner talk that took place earlier that same evening…Is that not saying that something is radically wrong?

I asked myself the above questions after I was given a job that entailed calling up different speakers to address a student audience on specific matters. After being asked to call certain people that were unknown to me, I found myself texting or even ‘Whatsapping’ them rather than merely just calling them to ask if they would be willing to chat to the students. Then, things gradually got worse, if they would call or even if one of the speakers who I knew well would call, I would allow my voice-mail to answer it and respond via text or email. Soon I started using this method with anyone who called me on my mobile – my teachers, lecturers, old friends and even my closest of friends.

So, what did I do to get myself out of this terrible and unsociable habit? I forced myself to be more sociable of course. Slowly but surely my social-confidence beagan to trickle its way back into my face-to-face and ‘over the phone’ contact and communication. Now, I force myself to answer my phone wherever I am, (as long as I’m not driving or in the middle of a conversation). In addition, I make it my business to actually chat to people in person (and not just over a social-networking applications). I have made it my business to be sociable while I’ m out with friends or having dinner with the family.

Whether it be answering an unknown number or relaxing with a close friend, I know that if I am going to beat this ugly bug of technological social-media advancement, I’m going to have to work extra hard on being a real social-butterfly… Who’s with me?

 

Studies All Round…

I am happily back from my two month Hiatus. Before I began this project called a “blog,” I made a promise to myself that I would keep this up and running no matter what my schedule at university looked like…
Unfortunately I didn’t keep to that promise very well… As April rolled into May, the work load seemed to get heavier and heavier to the point where I even had to pull a few “all-nighters” (never again). In true fashion, the paper-pile grew higher and higher to the point where I couldn’t even see over my desk (that may be an exaggeration).
Well before I knew it Mid-Year Exams were upon me and I found myself frantically trying to remember all the dates of famous American Presidents, Wars and even trying to remember all the painstaking moments of the African-American struggle, from Slavery to Freedom – Something which seemed fairly familiar to me and my Jewish religion. Something we are reminded of every year during the Jewish Holiday of Passover.

Once History was over, I had to remind myself of the different Media Theories, Media Metaphors and Media Companies….definitely not the most enjoyable task and it was lucky I decided to take the time to review the “Media Metaphors” an hour before the exam… Need I say more?

From there we moved onto Psychology. At the time there was literally a 12 hour break between Media and Psychology and before that, there had been a Jewish Holiday. One of the laws, especially on this holiday, is that one should not technically look at Secular Studies…I had to get a special “Heter” or “permission-slip” which allowed me, just this once to learn for my two immanent exams. However on the first night of this holiday (the evening before we ‘receive’ the 10 Commandments once again) I was absolutely “forbidden to even touch the stuff,” and luckily I didn’t – but that is another story altogether.
So: from Freud to Vygotsky and then all the way to Klein and Bandura, I somehow managed wing-myself through certain parts of that exam by picking up not-so-obvious clues…if they were even clues…well time will tell!

Finally I ended off with my favourite Shakespeare, “Hamlet,” and my not so favourite “Titus Andronicus…” throw some Christopher Marlowe and some “Canterbury Tales” and you have an interesting English exam to contend with.

Marks still have not been released – Go Figure Wits – All I can say is that I’m here to stay and this time around I look forward to posting many more enthralling tales and inspirational thoughts. So stay tuned.

Divine in your Justice? True to your Judgment?


My Poetic Response to Justice after Reading Dante’s Inferno, Take a look:

Divine in your Justice? True to your Judgment?

The world alone cannot explain, 1

Your words are tough in my domain.

How do you speak with such harshness?

Your judgment, your fear, your will to believe,

The dangers below in the darkness.

Alas, it is treacherous just to breathe, in this land filled with grave starkness.

Dante, you want more than you shall ever receive. 5

Your Beatrice is waiting, so hurry if you please.

You are a martyr, a saint, a hero not in vain.

A poet and a savior,

In your own woeful eyes.

How does one live through your voyage to this demise.

Your journey into the Hellish lands, 10

From G-d to Evil and beyond the times of sand.

Why Dante? Oh, why in Canto Three, do you begin?

Describing the journey before your life is not even spread thin.

The Gates of Hell, the judgment is sealed;

There is no going back for any who have sinned.

Even if there are good deeds, your troubles shall never cease, 15

For your actions are too evil to ever bring relief.

No, there was no Christ in your time,

so your life cannot be weighed up like yours or “mine.”

Or those who lived After His Death –

Ha! For you, limbo is your eternal conclusion, 18

Although you did no bad deed but not see Him live, you just fell into this confusion.

No, this is not fair, and to me, to my religion, not remotely true,

For good deeds are always seen in the eyes of G-d.

Unless you have blasphemed His name, committed the Adulterous sin, that of an Idolater,

Or If you have killed or taken your own life…

To Heaven you will go after the Eleventh Month. 22

Your soul will be purified; all evil shall be gone,

And you will live in harmony in the Paradise of G-d,

Along with all your kind, in peace for always and eternity.

And those once great, philosophers and all, are sent to the fields,

like those of Pelennor, from Tolkien’s “Rings.” 25

Quiet and beautiful. Green and strangely bright.

Yet danger waits patiently to spring his ugly plan, with all his might.

This is the fortress of Knowledge where there is no escape.

No light of G-d, just heavenly hate.

For in your eyes, Dante, they have done no good, 30

Never mind, the way in which they have transformed the world.

Harsh judgment is thy end and no reward for any good deed they shall see,

For they did not believe like you or “me”,

That is the fate of your brave teacher Publius Vergilius Maro.

Shall I go to Hell for not believing in your Christ?

Should I be punished for this “unlawful strife?”

If only once I committed a sin, told a lie or took revenge,

In your eyes, would you send me to my depths? 35

Down to Hell where the Kindly Ones dwell.

Where ones soul is ripped to shreds or one is chased through thick, thorny forests,

Forced to eat the muck of your fellow transgressors or worse…

Meet the fate of Judus, Brutus and Cassius –

The Horror and the fear draws near.

To Come face to face with G-d’s evil doer, his fallen Angel, 40

that wicked Satan.

He oversees your cruel justice and rules the eternity of pain.

Only your one sided view is what counts,

you do not take pity or true reason into account.

You only believe in what your Virgil says –

But beware, dear Dante, it may not work out,

For his confidence is weaning.

It begins to turn to dread and doubt. 45

As your time came in the City of Dis, the Angel,

That proud Messo arrived just in time to save your life.

This is proof that you should practice what you preach.

For indeed you are a great hypocrite for acting in this way,

Against your enemy Fillipo Argenti.

He stole your possessions, enjoyed your grief,

And even took pleasure from your strife…

Yet if you were in his shoes, would you not act the same? 50

For this you deny your guilt and call for him to be destroyed,

To get rid of any of the evidence that reminds you of the truth.

But alas you are never silent; your ideas are very strong.

And although I do not agree with all that you say,

There are many lessons that your story does tell.

A warning, a sign, to be a good person. 55

Be truthful and G-dly, be honest and obey the law,

For if you do not, there will be a price to pay.

You will be sent down to the depths of the Earth.

To Hell you will go and suffer in the after-life

Until the end of Eternity comes unto death.

Copyright © Ilanit Chernick 2012 

The Magic of the Opera

I had a lovely evening with my sister and a few friend last night. We went off to see the Phantom of the Opera at Montecasino. It was absolutely phenomenal!

My first real exposure to this wonderful production was when I was in Grade 5. A small theatre company came to perform this in a simple manner for my Primary School. I fell in love with it immediately. I remember insisting that my mother rent me the 1925 silent version and 1986 Movie versions of the Production from the Local Video store. I was absolutely enchanted and went through quite an “obsessed” phase.

I had to have the “Christine” doll, posters, stickers, you name it – I had it. As I got older the obsession faded but my love for the music and storyline was always there. It came in phases!

In 2004, my “obsession” was renewed, the Brand New Film Version (directed by Joel Schumacher) was released. Starring the GORGEOUS Gerard Butler and Beautiful Emmy Rossum. Once again, I was enthralled with Andrew Lloyd Webbers Musical.

So of course when the Production came to the Johannesburg Theatre (a few years later) I went to go see it too!

Yet, of all the versions I have come across, (without giving too much away), nothing can beat last nights performance. The acting, vocal talent and special effects take this Musical to new heights, from the rise of the Chandelier in the Overture scene to the underground Boat scene, you felt as if you were right there, watching this events unfold before your very eyes. Andre Schwartz, star of the Cape Town Performance played the part of Erik, the Phantom. As always, he did an absolutely astounding job. (Although Jonathan Roxmouth was missed!) The vibrant costumes and flawless orchestra make this a production an absolute MUST-SEE. Whether you’re a fan or not, it will truly inspire you.

The Production is Running at Montecasino until May 20th.

Thomas Newman – Musical Mistero

There is something mysteriously beautiful about Score Pieces of Music. They add an emotional air to a scene within a movie. It just may be that the music you are hearing in that specific scene reminds you of a moment in you life, it recalls a painful, happy or sad memory. Thus, you have a deeply emotional connection to the scene.

OR

It may be that you understand how that person feels within that situation. It can also be the idea that one hopes that a part of ones life will either play out in that specific way or perhaps NOT play out in that way at all.

Maybe it’s just that; we base the way in which we hope situations will turn out too much on scenes within a movie or television show. The way we fall in love, the Happily Ever After or that ending we don’t hope for – the dramatic music and the overly-dramatic ending…. Think about it, just for a second, what movie scene relates perfectly to the way something in your life has turned out. Have you based what should or could happen in life on the rest of the movie or TV show?

We all have, even I sometimes imagine that I will meet my “Prince Charming” spontaneously, that he’ll rescue me from a treacherous dragon or perhaps that we may meet when I drop my coffee or a bunch of books on the ground in the middle of a bustling New York Street or even the idea of that dramatic fight before I marry just to get proof of how much ‘he’ actually loves me (like in the scene of the Blender in Father of the Bride with Steve Martin) yet knowingly and undoubtedly, we will make-up and live happily ever after with that beautiful love song or that breathtaking score music “playing” in the background…To dramatic?

Although there are no lyrics to it, score music is something that is truly unbelievable. It brings real feelings forward, touches a chord and even allows us to perhaps see things in a brilliant or different way. It can even change your mood – without that score music in the background, would you really shed a tear during the saddest scene in a movie?

For example: listening to a hopeful piece such as Thomas Newman’s “Pay it Forward” theme, may give you strength and hope. It can even turn your mood around…well it does for me anyway!

Of all the composers that create score music, the one that touches a part of me most, is definitely Thomas Newman and his *insert appropriate adjective here* pieces. My favourite piece is a toss up between “The Letter That Never Came” from the Lemony Snickets’ Film, A Series of Unfortunate Events and of course that of Road to Perdition. (An excellent film I might add with a great cast – Tom Hanks is flawless as usual).

There is something ultimately perfect about the way he composes his music, the instruments he uses and even more so his technique and control.

In my opinion, the use of score music is specifically aimed at provoking a psychological reaction. With the perfect score music; a movie can make a strong imprint and impact on the audience. It is this genre of music that actually connects everybody, all over the world. It makes us one, provoking similar feelings or idea’s within each and every one of us.

No lyrics, yet overtly powerful.

As the say – less is more…

Jason Isaacs and the Car Crash of Secrets…

NBC’s new show “Awake” is definitely a rare find. As they say, a show like this is “rarer than rubies.”

I discovered it while watching an episode of the David Letterman Show (I think…) and there was a preview. I must say I was intrigued.

I watched the Pilot Episode and for the first time since the legendary ABC show, “Lost”, ended I found myself feeling the exact same way… All I wanted was more! Obsession much?

Yes, I got to watch the next four episodes and yes, all I still want is more.

Jason Isaacs, as usual, puts on a brilliant show and flawless American accent. He’s one actor (among a few) that until now, has been completely under-rated despite the fact that he really can act. It’s about time he gains the respect he deserves.

Now….I’m holding on tight for Episode six and until then…

*SPOILER ALERT*

The questions which plague me are: Which reality is real? Could Michael be Schizophrenic OR is it something deeper –  Could there something supernatural behind all this? and What was all this curiosity over the “Little Guy” at the end of episode 2? What does Captain Harper (Laura Innes) know that we don’t… (Suggestions are welcome!)

All I can tell you, is that the excitement or moreover the anticipation is growing and until all this mystery behind the fateful car accident is solved, this show isn’t losing this girl as a fan.

P.S. Here’s to hoping they don’t “can” this show, just like they did “Eli Stone” – viva la Season 2!

“Niece Times.”

Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending the whole of the afternoon with my 18 month old niece. When I arrived she was standing at the lounge table, playing with play-dough, something she had never seen. I watched her for a bit. Her look was of absolute fascination. She kept pressing and squishing it and then looking at me, wanting a reaction.We made a few shapes together and then that she was suddenly off…

Running to her bedroom. I found her eating a wet-wipe…well more like chewing on it. Poor kid is teething…again!

So, it was just me and her. Chilling out. Spending some Real quality time together. Something I haven’t done with her in a while.

The best moment was when this gorgeously cute child, was lying on me. I cannot explain the sudden feeling that came over me, there she was, my little niece lying on me, quietly and happily looking at her favourite “Teddy-Rabbit”. Then suddenly she did something she’s never done before:

She turned her head, looked me in the eye and gave me the biggest smile I have ever seen. She then proceeded to top it off with a huge kiss on my cheek. At that moment I wanted time to stop so I could fully take in the incredible moment that had literally made my day.

So, you must be wondering “Ag, why did I have the need to share this story?”

Well, all too often, we don’t appreciate the beauty of the quiet moments in life. We get way too caught up in our busy lifestyle, our work, university, social networking (don’t think of me as a hypocrite here!) and we don’t take the time to really look at the little mercies we are blessed with. These little things, like a smile, a hug or a friendly conversation can really change the way we look at our world and the things that take place in it.

So fellow friends and Bloggers, take a moment, look around you and appreciate the things you take for granted because in the end, it’s these little moments that make life worth living.