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WHEN I’M HERE
NOTE: Contributing to discussion on UNSTUCK – The Refinition of Manhood
“I live with no doubts. If I have any doubts, I don’t do it. If I do it anyway and get burned as a result, too bad. What’s done is done. If I die, I die. Closed chapter. If I don’t die, no regrets. I pay the price I have to pay, and move on; assuming that I can still breathe, stand, walk, and think,” Simon Chilembo.
It was as a four-and-half-year-old on my first day at school in Lesotho that I first became aware of my hereness. That was as an immediate response to the awareness of my differentness. The latter arose from my consciousness awakening to find me surrounded by many people. I somehow just understood that all were school children of all ages. There were numerous of my age, and others older. My guide, Dineo, was an older girl from the estate where I was staying not so far away from the school.
I found Dineo alternately being aggressively protective of me, and talking proudly about how far smarter I was compared to local children: I was of course tinier and blacker than all the other children because I was not one of them; I was not of their blood since my father came from a land far, far away in the north. In this so distant land, no Lesotho person had ever been. Dineo emphasized.
She went on to remind everyone about how ruthless her father was. So, if anybody was unkind to me, her father would come and destroy their lives the whole lot of them! Also, my father could do terrible things to them using powerful wizardry from his lands. Otherwise I was a sweet and happy child easy to be with, Dineo concluded.
This was a strange and fascinating scenario I could only watch without uttering a word. I did not only not know what to say or do, the atmosphere was also overwhelming in its simultaneous bewilderment and euphoria. The following day my grandmother took me to another school. I recall hearing whispers that word had been going around in the village that it was not safe for me to be at the first school. The alternative Peka Catholic school would be a safer bet for me, therefore.
At Peka Catholic school I recall being initially received by a group of nuns and the parish priest, Father Hemmel. The next thing was that I found myself in a room with several other children. We were singing “I am a tea pot. This is handle. This is mouth. Pour me out! Pour me out!”
Tracking animal pictures pasted up and around the walls of the room, I recall us repeating after the teacher, Mme Blandina, “A baby cow is called a calf. A baby sheep is called a lamb …”
And then, “A cat mews. A bull bellows. A hen cackles …”
Such began my school career. I would be at Peka Catholic school for four years, 1965-69. These remain the happiest years of my school life. This is the time I understood that I somehow grasped lessons faster than the lot of my classmates. I further found out that the teachers were extra fond of me. All nuns. The warmth they afforded me is unforgettable.
My popularity extended to older pupils, especially girls, in higher grades. At the same time, though, there were older boys that were not fond of me at all. They used to engage me into fights almost every day after school. I got my beatings much as I gave my share of the same. It ever infuriated everyone so much because I was unusually strong and stubborn for my age and, especially, body size.
I never thought too much about limitations of my personal attributes. All I knew was that I could never allow anybody to beat me up and get away with it. This was particularly so from age six, after my mother had instilled in my head the warrior heart attitude of learning to fight my own battles and settle scores alone.
I was already a seasoned fighter by the time that in my older youth years, my Karate teacher, in response to a report about a legendary fight that I had put up against some of the most notorious and dreaded street-fighters of Lusaka, Zambia, said, “If you must fight, fight. But don’t lose!”
That ethos drives my survival instincts in all situations to this day.
In the commotion typical around street fighting scenes, I would pick out ludicrous utterances that I was the way that I was as a hard-fighting child because of the strange blood that I carried from my strange, alien father. I was a little wizard that had to be killed whilst I was still a child because I was going to kill everyone else if I was to be allowed to grow up into a man.
These were really not nice things to hear for a child not even eight years old then. Now I’m a grown-up man soon to be sixty-years-old. Not a single person has perished in my hands yet. On the contrary, I have in my work saved more than one lives.
I thus learned how to balance getting unwanted extreme attention very early in my life. That, together with receiving much love on the one hand and buttressing myself against prejudice and hatred on the other, inculcated in me a strong sense of awareness of where I am at any one time.
Therefore, when I’m here, I’m here. What has to be will be. I shall do what I have to do to sustain my hereness for as long as possible, or for as long as it is necessary. If I have to love, I shall love. If I have to fight, I shall fight. The assumption being that my presence is valued here and now, and that my being here is not detrimental to my continued real and conceptual existential imperatives.
It’s not uncommon for me to hear that I take too much space when I’m here. It’s of little interest for me to seek to impose my hereness to personal and conceptual spaces that cannot, or are not willing to accommodate my being here.
If I’m here for a specific reason, I’ll do what I have to do to the best of my ability according to expectations, if not instructions. If it is really fun, I tend to go beyond, though. I’ll perform and deliver to the extent that what has to be done is compatible with my values and defined obligations vis-à-vis the given situation.
If I succeed, I succeed. If I fail, I fail. If the latter is due to factors I can correct, I shall do so accordingly. If it’s beyond my powers to correct, or do anything else in order to attain the original desired outcome, then I let go and move on to next level challenges; paying the price I have to if need be. It is what it is.
I never carry on with regrets. I carry on with new learned experiences that often empower me to perform better in the next level, even if the next level may not be related to the previous fiasco in any way. What matters is the new mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical fortification I’ve attained for the new way forward.
Throughout my life I’ve lived with the consciousness that I’ll meet all kinds of resistance in my endeavours to live my life as I see it, and as I wish to live it within the parameters of established life-supportive societal norms. I learned very early how to exert my presence with all my outward expressive faculties. This was an important skill to develop given the fact that I, as earlier stated, was a tiny child in a partially but grossly cruel world. In my adult years I never grew up to be the physically biggest man around either.
My mind, my intellect is my weapon. I load my mind with knowledge acquisition pursuits. I fire with my words: I write, I speak. I can sing too. My body is my combat machine. In this state of being, self-doubt is a known but non-applicable phenomenon to me. That is how I’ll always rise above negative forces working against me. Indeed, I might fall and lose one thing or another.
Actually, I have lost a lot of tangible and intangible things during the last twelve-to-fifteen-years. If I don’t die, I’ll rise again. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, but I will rise again. I am on the rise again as it is. My death can wait. I ain’t got no time to die as yet.
It happens time and time again: for each knock and fall I get, for each loss, at least tenfold new options for the better present themselves upon my rising again. For that reason, I never cry over spilt milk. When it is clear that the milk loss is inevitable no matter what preventive measures I may apply, I let go without shedding a tear.
No resistance. When change is gonna come, it’s gonna come. If one of the new options emerging after the milk loss will be a dairy cow, I hardly ever get surprised. Nevertheless, I remain ever humble in the face of continuous favours bestowed upon me by nature, my ancestral spirits, and my God. The resilience I put forth in times of trouble, in my darkest hours, does wonders for my ego. But that resilience is of origins far beyond the realms of my ego’s mind games’ current manifest performance and ultimate potential.
Deep down inside of me I know that constant pursuance of being a decent human being is my inclination by default, much as are my human fallibilities. When I get a knock for my own failings, my inadequacies, I shall with dignity take the punishment I get. My sense of dignity gets even more profound in the face of injustice and malice directed upon my person. Always.
I am cognizant of my strengths and vulnerabilities. These two qualities annihilate any sense of self-doubt I might have in any given situation. Because I know, i.e. my personal cognitive and intuitive data bases are adequately supplied with relevant information and energy, I’ll always have options in both good and challenging times.
The phrase Machona Awakening came not only from that moment I finally understood for myself that a place called home can be more a function of thoughts and feelings, contra its being one’s place of birth only. Machona Awakening is also about that moment in time it dawned upon me that I, indeed, am that I am. I am that I am with all the beauty and the ugly that define me in the eye of the beholder. That with respect to the conscious and unconscious display of my deeds as I dance through the intricacies of my life for as long as I live.
Fear I might have. Insecurity I might have. These may arise in times and situations where I lack applicable functional and conceptual knowledge. When and where I don’t know, I’m likely to be invisible; silent. If I’m ignorant relative to a given reality, it may perhaps be because it’s neither interesting nor important for my existential needs here and now, or there and then. Knowledge is power over fear, insecurity, and self-doubt. It’s about knowing what branch of knowledge is relevant where, how, and when.
I’m not a thrill-seeker. As such I’m not given to blind pursuits of the unknown at any cost. So, let it pass. Ain’t no love lost. No regrets. Self-doubt possibilities eliminated. But does that not limit maximal growth potential? Well, all things considered, I can only grow to the level I reach today. The next levels of growth tomorrow and beyond are only dreams with today’s growth experiences as their launch pad; as certain as the sun shall rise tomorrow for all living creatures of the earth. No doubt from the self, neither from nature. Solid knowledge. Self-doubt expunged.
March 02, 2020
REALITY IS I AM HERE, I LIVE, I LOVE, I DANCE.
I AIN’T GOING NOWHERE
“Winter is coming now, Simon. If you have any doubts about coming back to Norway you still have a chance of returning to South Africa, you know,” said Sofia.
“Are you sure you have no regrets about coming back to Norway, Simon? You still have a home in South Africa, not so?” several others remark this way many a time.
I live with no doubts. If I have any doubts, I don’t do it. If I do it anyway and get burned as a result, too bad. What’s done is done. If I die, I die. Closed chapter. If I don’t die, no regrets. I pay the price I have to pay, and move on; assuming that I can still breathe, stand, walk, and think.
If I can think, I can contextualize my feelings. If it feels right to do so because it’s turned out that I’ve really screwed up, I’ll beg for mercy if given a chance to do so. When I’ve been unfairly screwed and the perpetrator is cool about it, exercising their own capacity not to regret unjust screwing up of other souls, I leave them where they are. I never look back. I never go back. I’ll always find new playing spaces.
I’ll always find new playmates. We might play on until our dying days. We might wear each other out in the midst of the golden years of our lives when some shit suddenly happens: somebody gets screwed up somehow, another one bites the dust, whilst the other glosses in new-found glory at the expense of the screwed. It is what it is. That’s how we roll. Falling out of glory is like milk spilling out of a glass. I never cry over either.
Exactly one year ago today, I came back to Norway more shattered than I was when I left for South Africa six years ago. At that time, I watched with dismay as the success empire that I had built came crumbling down. Getting to South Africa soon felt like I had evacuated a sinking ship without any safety equipment to wear or hang on to. Because I’m not a good swimmer, I knew that the only thing I could do was to let go and allow the ocean to take me where it pleased.
If any creature of the oceans came to eat me, I prayed it would be a shark: agile, precise, in perpetual motion straight on ahead. In my naked least-to-no-resistance state of mind in the middle of the waters, I decided to play dead, though. I survived. I marvelled at watching the last vestiges of my extended empire go with the wind to places beyond my fantasy.
By the time my mother died I had been thoroughly humiliated for five years and three months in South Africa. She died a disillusioned mother of a once indomitable son that had come on the verge of falling into the dreaded pit of poverty that is the fate of the vast majority of Black South Africans. On my part, I had long read and understood her despair. I had already long made peace with the fact that her inability to help me to fix my world would slowly but surely kill her. It was not only about me, but my two siblings also. But I had previously been a pillar of strength for the family.
I know that in her old age, my mother’s fear of living in abject poverty ate her soul like cancer did body cells. So, I am convinced that her death released her spirit to a place of lasting peace and abundance. I know that that’s what she aspired to achieve during her life time, anyway. My fourth novel and sixth book, Machona Mother – Shebeen Queen, is inspired by my observation of hers and other mothers’ and wives’ lives in South Africa. Through this I reflect on the challenges of wifehood and parenthood in oppressive societies the world over.
On the eve of my mother’s burial, I was threatened with a bullet in the head. My torment in South Africa had come to a head. I had to leave. Three months earlier, she had in fact finally acknowledged that my future in South Africa was bleak. The only thing she could do was to give me her blessings, and I’d have to find my way back. I should leave whenever I could. She was laid to rest on October 13, 2018.
Eleven days later I landed in Oslo. In grief. Tired. Bankrupt. Homeless. Businessless. Jobless. At total mercy of other people and the state for the first time in my adult life. I received unprecedented overwhelming support and love. This gave me a refreshing new taste of humility in my heart.
Alas, I’m still shocked by the discovery that love has inexplicably diminished, if not vanished altogether in certain quarters. But then again, love is like milk: when it’s spilt it’s gone. No salvage. No cry. Like milk, fresh love abounds. Always. Spilt milk tends to be messy. Post-spillage clean-up is ever so necessary, therefore.
Left unattended to, spilt milk can go stale and stink. Poison. There is a poisonous dark cloud of love lost hanging over my head. Apparently, this cloud is at alarming speed spreading itself throughout the extent of domains that are crucial for my continued existence as a free and happy man of the world.
I now feel that the time has come for me to dissipate the treacherous cloud. Had I lived a hermitic life somewhere oblivious to the real world of real people, I really wouldn’t bother. My imperfections notwithstanding, as an ethically conscious man living in a morally charged world, I have no doubt as to my personal integrity in every step I make every day of my life. It isn’t just about my ego. I respond from a need to protect the honour and legacy of my late parents. Through the latter I reach out to my ancestral spirits throughout the entire Sub-Saharan Africa.
My own legacy matters too. It’s not just about me. It’s all in the name of the living of my people in the afore-mentioned part of the world, particularly my clans in Zambia and South Africa. I have in mind my bosom friends, my godchildren, my teachers, and colleagues all over the world throughout my life’s journey thus far as well. I intend to stay the course until my last breath on earth, which won’t be tomorrow. I’m here for the long haul.
My thoughts also go to all the people the lives of whom I have impacted before, I impact today, and I shall be allowed to impact in the future anywhere in the world: my raison d’être. It is my wish and hope that all the people falling into this broad category shall never feel shame, embarrassment, guilt, or fear at the mention or thoughts of my name, my deeds. My legacy.
I’m proud of my roots. I’m protective of my heritage. I value highly the love and faith of my confidants. I am in awe of the big religious and philosophical thoughts of the world that daily inspire and guide me in my search of liberatory enlightenment in the labyrinth of life. Truth must never shy away from me.
With the poisonous dark cloud of love lost hanging over my head cleared, the following shall be revealed:
- I have been unilaterally charged and convicted without a trial.
- I am not a sexual pervert. I am not a dirty old man. I am not a sexual predator.
- I am not a paedophile. Neither in practice nor by inclination.
- I am not a rapist. I am not into the habit of imposing my sexual power over women. I am not in the habit of taking advantage of sick, weak, and vulnerable women. I am not a sexual manipulator. I am not a philanderer. I shall never engage in sexual intercourse at any price, with anything.
- I love power. But I am not power-hungry. I am not a powermonger. The essence of my being is not defined by the power that I wield as attendant to the things that I do. For example, when I’m revered for being a 6th Dan Black Belt Karate Master, I don’t take it personal. I am nothing more than a conduit between higher knowledge and the people that my position empowers me to serve.
With or without Karate and its inherent existential and functional attributes, I remain the same original Simon Chilembo ever aspiring to be a decent human being each and every day of my life, my fallibilities considered. Karate does not define the essence of my being. It is but one mirror of many that reflect the infinite potential of the essence of me as a human being, a social change force.
I shall never fight for power acquisition and sustenance at any cost. But I shall fight with all of my life against deliberate malicious application of unfairness and injustice as tools and manifestations of power against me, my own, including the values that I stand for.
- I am addicted to love and peace.
- It is preposterous to seek to delete my existence in the historical developments of certain phenomena in my worlds. History never forgets. The wise will always query. Answers will have to be given, no matter how murky.
Having stated the above, I encourage anybody with any compelling evidence to contradict me to come forth and present their cases. This evidence shall be tangible, derived from real-life circumstances. It shall not be derived from ill-founded conclusions obtained from subjective misinterpretations of my literary works. It shall not be derived from malicious rumours about me either. Otherwise, people can just lay their weapons down and move on with their lives. We all deserve happily-ever-after living once love has found new hearts to entice. That’s the way of the world.
Character assassination claims and rumours about my person have been doing the rounds in Oslo and environs especially since the publication of my debut novel, When The Mighty Fall, in November, 2015. I feel strongly about these. Such that, in the unlikely event that it can be objectively proved that I am a molester, I will kill myself. That not as a manifestation of any suicidal vice about my character. Moreover, I will consciously choose to kill myself for my sins to save society resources and troubles of arrests, tedious court cases and all that goes with dealing with issues of crimes against humanity. It ought to be as simple as that, really.
I am not a fan of capital punishment. However, my abhorrence of sexual abuse, especially with respect to children, ignites the most primitive of my human instincts. Were I to be found actually guilty in this case, I wouldn’t hesitate to execute upon myself the ultimate punishment that my primitive instincts see as justifiable against child molestation.
I will publicly nail myself on the cross. I will invite the world to come and practice archery on my body until there’ll be no more flesh and bone left for an arrow to pierce. Then my corpse must be set on fire whilst on the cross. No funeral services. No urns. Let the wind blow the devil’s ashes away to places far away into outer space. No memorial services. Denialism of my place in history will be just fine, then: I was never here. I was an accident of nature. I was a figment of my imagination. I was just an illusion.
I say to my enemies all the time: you don’t know me.
Tel.: +47 925 25 032
October 24, 2019
PEAK PERFORMANCE TOOL
1986 shall remain an exceptionally memorable year for me. That is because:
- I finally became a university graduate with a cool BA degree in Humanities and Social Sciences. Then I went straight into a job in the Bank of Zambia (BOZ), a prestigious employer at that time. At relatively late-bloomer age twenty-six, I’d finally join the ranks of my contemporaries in Lusaka. Some of these had as much as an eight-year lead ahead of me as university graduates at various levels of further academic development, or as already practicing professionals in various fields.
What mattered to me at that stage was that I had also “finished school” and landed myself a great job. I envisioned that like everyone else I’d soon start making big money. Yes, I’d also begin to regularly travel to the UK and the USA on business trips. I’d buy myself a Mercedes, get hitched, build me a mansion, and make many children with my wives. Indeed, I’d maintain several mistresses with my numerous extra-marital affairs children too. Oh, yes, I had become a man, at last. Hallelujah!
- I was at the height of my Karate training, competition, and leadership career in Zambia. At the same time, I was caught up in a mean power-struggle crisis with influential rivals in Lusaka. My crime was to ruffle feathers in conservative Zambian and Zimbabwean Karate establishments. Everybody loves a super star. But superstardom can create serious enemies as well; it comes with the territory.
- Perhaps during the previous year, 1985, a pioneering professional fitness centre was opened in Lusaka. What was then, by Lusaka standards, state-of-the art equipment in Slim-Trim Gym attracted the Health & Wellness conscious middle class in the capital city. Jane Fonda-inspired Aerobics classes were offered too, led by some of the most beautiful young women in town. I had to join the gym too, of course.
In no time I had become a well-paid Personal Trainer for several business executives and sports personalities, notably senior players of the Lotus Cricket Club of the time amongst them. I balanced the PT work and my own specialized fitness training needs as a national team athlete during lunch breaks; also during the hour between knocking-off at work and Karate teaching at the University of Zambia. I worked on weekends too. This was a very hectic schedule, to say the least.
- During lunch hours over a period of several weeks I had noticed a former high-ranking Zambia National Defence Force officer making a nondescript entry into the gym and going straight into the Physiotherapy treatment section. He’d come out about sixty minutes later, and leave as quietly as he had come in. I used to notice that each time the senior officer came out of the Physiotherapy section, he seemed taller and more at peace with himself. He also walked with a more agile gait, just like it would be expected of a man of his vocation.
One day, during a pause between clients, Physiotherapist John caught me staring in amazement at the General as he was exiting the gym.
“Perhaps you are wondering why the big man comes here for treatment instead of the Army Hospital, Simon,” John said.
“He needs privacy, I guess. His juniors mustn’t know of his vulnerabilities, no?” I replied.
John, “You are right about the privacy need, yes. But the big man is not sick at all. In fact, he is in superbly robust health. He comes here as often as he can only to come and relax; to recharge the batteries, you see?”
Simon, “How is that?”
John, “Well, I give him Therapeutic Massage, which I learned in Holland. On the one hand, massage can be deeply relaxing during the treatment session. On the other hand, in the hours and days following the treatment, people become more energetic and resilient. This benefit of massage becomes more evident over time as people get more and more treatment. You might say that the big man is addicted to massage now. Actually, he often falls asleep during the treatments. He says this is the only place he gets to relax totally.”
Simon, “Oh, I see! I’ve often wondered what it is that goes on in there because he seems to take longer than anybody else.”
John, “Maybe you should try it too, Simon. You are a very hard-working man, which is good. But it’s not hard to see that you are very stressed. You know, massage can make you more dynamic in all aspects of your hectic life. You must try this!”
I then booked my first ever professional Therapeutic Massage treatment. It changed my life forever. By the time I left Zambia two years later, I was on top of my game all round. In 1996/ 7, my brother-from-another-mother, Saul Sowe introduced me to something he called Idrettsmassasje.
“That’s Sports Massage for you in Norwegian, Bro. As a Karate Master working as hard as you do, you must include Idrettsmassasje in your overall work routines. Come to my gym Trim-Tram, I give you some good massage and make you even stronger!”
Then my massage experience and journey went to another level. Such that, immensely fascinated by the power of it that I could personally bear witness to, I decided to good to school and study Terapeustisk-/ Klassiskmassaje, Therapeutic Massage formally. That was in year 2000. In relation to professional and personal development, including job satisfaction, my life took an exciting and enduring trajectory that has brought me much joy since.
Through the years I’ve met and worked with all kinds of people from all over the world. They’ve all had variable needs regarding their wellbeing as professionals, family members, and responsible value-adding members of society. It’s ever a thrill to look back and reflect on the thousands upon thousands of hours of my Massage work that have had lasting impact on people’s capacity and desire to work at Peak Performance levels.
It is scientifically verifiable that people shall be all-round high-level optimal performers when stress and bodily pains do not impede their ability to work with both mentally and physically demanding endeavours, regardless of duration. I’m myself a proud living proof of that. Therefore, it is with the highest confidence that I invite you to dare to make massage an integral part of your personal “Live for Success” package. Book your appointment with me on the link https://akerbryggelegesenter.no
Massage enhances your ability to ignite and radiate your inner power with confidence. Massage improves your posture and the way you carry yourself around. Investment of time and money on massage is an investment in your health. Investment in your health is the best investment you can ever make.
Terapi massasje spesialist/ Therapeutic Massage Specialist
Aker Brygge Legesenter: Telefon – +47 92 300 200
Telefon: +47 925 25 032 (Simon, priv.)
April 14, 2019
REMEMBERING A WARRIOR GRANDMASTER:
JAMES BONAR NOBLE, SENSEI,
DECEASED August 11, 2018.
- This is a very personal tribute. It’ll describe a special relationship that I had with Sensei Noble during the years 1978-88.
- I write with the kind of clear conscience that he taught me about. Furthermore, I write with the have-no-fear sense that he instilled in me. I write with the selfless attitude that he demonstrated in working with me individually, and as part of the broader Karate collective in Lusaka. That said,
- I write neither doing anybody a favour, nor expecting any favours from anybody. I write out of the sense of devotion he showered me with. The kind of devotion I have for, and have striven to show to my own Karate students, has been an attempt at replicating Sensei Noble’s Karate-Do spirit.
- I have not had any direct connection, at any level, with Sensei Noble since I left Zambia, in June 1988.
- Situations and events that are necessarily going to be mentioned in this piece are done so to the best extent my memory serves me. Any inaccuracies arising I apologize for in advance. Names of people mentioned are also done so with but only the best of intentions, and respect. If any inaccuracies arise here, or any insinuated malice is detected, they shall not have been intentional on my part. For that, I apologize in advance as well.
In 1986-88, my relationship with my fellow senior students of Sensei Stephen Chan is at rock bottom. We were the core group of the recently formed All Zambia Seidokan Karate Kobudo Renmei, headquartered at the University of Zambia (UNZA) Karate Club, in Lusaka. The issues were around mutual misunderstandings vis-à-vis organizational and club leadership roles. They were also around stylistic interpretations, and expressions of our new Karate style, Seidokan.
My biggest sin, though, was to decide to unilaterally take on Zimbabwean, Jimmy Mavenge, late, under my tutelage. I had trained the latter, and subsequently graded him to Sho (1st) Dan Black Belt in Seidokan Zambia Karate. The goal had been that he would, upon his return to his country, take Karate to the people, de-racializing the sport in the country in the process.
I was, inwardly, a devastated man during that time. One day, after briefing my mother about my difficulties with my Seidokan Zambia colleagues, she says, “Why don’t you leave these people, Buti? You cannot fight them alone; there is no need to. You can always form your own club, can’t you? Do that, for your own peace of mind, man!”
“Sure, ‘Ma, forming a new club is not a problem. But, you see, taking them individually, these people aren’t too much trouble, really; they are all driven by group power. However, I still have one person I think I can rely on. That is Sensei Noble. If I have him on my side, then, all these people can go to hell. However, should he side with them, then, I’ll quit.”
Jimmy Mavenge’s rebellious Black Belt grading took place during the middle of the second half of 1987, if I recall. The Seidokan Zambia Black Belts I had invited to witness the event weren’t, of course, willing to be part of the grading panel. That included Sensei Noble. They decided to take up positions on the mezzanine in the UNZA Sports Hall. So, I carried on solo.
In superb fitness state, his former guerrilla mutinous spirit tuned high, Jimmy ran through his gradings’ required routines like a possessed man. He passed with flying colours. Awarding him his diploma, I took my personal black belt off me and passed it onto him.
From the mezzanine, Sensei Noble exploded, throwing his arms up in the air in exasperation, “Did you see that? Did you see what he has just done? Now, it means we cannot annul this grading!”
Before he would turn and walk away, Sensei Nobles’ eyes and mine met ever so briefly. However, I didn’t see the intensity of negative emotion I had expected. His facial expression radiated a sense of wonder that I had seen many times at training with him before. At the same time, it was like he was saying, “Sorry, Semmy, but you are on your own now!”
And, I thought to myself, “Well, this is it, I’ve lost my trusted ally! But I ain’t quitting before my job is done. I owe it to Jimmy to help him make a smooth transition into Zimbabwe. And, I have to use the 1987/ 88 academic year to revamp the UNZA Karate Club (UKC).”
The club had almost collapsed following the squabbles of the senior Black Belts. At some point, only Jimmy and I would turn up for training. When he left for Zimbabwe, a few weeks after the gradings, I was left alone.
I do not recall if I ever did get to have a formal position in the then Zambia Karate Federation (ZKF) Board of Directors cabal. But I got to coach the Zambia Midlands Karate Team in 1986-88. That meant that, although the Zambia Seidokan deliberately excluded me from certain events, Sensei Noble and I would often meet in connection with our ZKF work. The Sensei was the active patron of the ZKF, then. In the ZKF domain, our relationship was as amicable as ever.
I shall take the writer’s prerogative and postulate that I have sat 10 000 miles with Sensei Noble in his car; all in ZKA related training and administration matters in Lusaka, and between Lusaka and Kitwe, in the Copperbelt Province. That would also include a trip to Harare, together with the Zambia National Karate Team, in 1981.
Sensei-Student bonding does not take place on the training floor. In the dojo, the Sensei and his students just want to kill each other, whilst, at the same time, the former’s job is to constantly remind the latter that “life is good, people. Love it, preserve it!”
Although I had no idea of it at that time, my Sensei-Student bonding with Sensei Noble took place in those 10 000 miles I’ve sat with him in his car.
“You have upset many people, Semmy. Stephen Chan Sensei is not happy with you at all. You have infringed upon Sensei Chiba’s territory. No good, no good at all, Semmy!” Sensei Noble said to me during one of our trips. This was sometime in early 1988, about six months after the Jimmy Mavenge gradings scandal. By then, I had already been to Harare to check on his progress.
I responded, “I’m well aware of that by now, Sensei. That withstanding, the work that Jimmy has already done since he got back home is amazing. It’s one of those occurrences that, to be believed, they have to be witnessed personally. I’m, now, even more convinced that we did the right thing.”
I went on to explain how Jimmy had started to train children and youth at Harare’s Mbare township, where the not so fortunate people lived. He had also started to teach Karate at an orphanage run by a close friend of his. All for free. On the other hand, Sensei Chiba ran a private dojo in the city centre, catering for the paying middle class, predominantly white. Efforts to reach out and pay a courtesy call to the senior Japanese sensei had been futile.
“Alright, Semmy Sensei, I will give you that one. But the others don’t know what you have just told me. We have to do something about this, then.”
I’m not quite sure now, but I have a vague recollection that, not long after I had left Zambia for Norway, Sensei Noble did drive out to Harare to check on Jimmy. On the trip, he had taken along one of my absolute meanest detractors. The rest is history.
While giving him the report on Jimmy, what I did not tell Sensei Noble was that my work with the former was, in a large measure, influenced by his off-the-mat teachings.
Sometime in the first half of 1979, tensions at our former Trinity Karate Club had become extreme. A point had been reached where either Sensei Noble or the bunch of new young lions Sensei had to go. If I recall, it was after the last training session that he would lead at the club, that he offered to drive me home to Chelston. The latter is nearly 20km on the opposite part of the city, in relation to his residence at the Andrews Motel, about the same distance away from the mentioned reference point
“You see, Semmy, everybody wants to lead. But people don’t realize that leadership is something you grow into. I’m really not sure if those guys are ready to lead the club. However, they want it, so they can have it. My conscience is clear, I have taught them only the best of Karate available in the country, if not all of Africa. If they now feel they know more than I do, fine by me. They’ll soon find out that real Karate is not found in books. Books guide. They don’t teach. Lasting knowledge is learned man-to-man,” Sensei Noble said.
He continued, “People don’t know that I have nothing to prove. I have no need to want to prove anything. Do these guys want me to break their bones to prove that I am stronger than them? Do they want me to jump and fly like a teenager to prove that I am a good Karateka? Rubbish, if you ask me!”
The Sensei was in his forties at this time.
With his left hand, pointing at his head, and tapping on his left side of the chest, Sensei Noble went on, “The point is, Semmy, I have it all in here. I can’t fly, and I have no desire to, so you know. But I can teach you how to fly. By the way, as from this coming Sunday, and subsequent ones, until further notice, I’ll be teaching special classes to interested Brown Belts and above. That’ll be at the Evelyn Hone College. We start at 9 o’clock. Feel free to join us.”
“Oh, thank you, Sensei, I’ll be there. Of course!”
“I know that public transport is a problem on Sundays. So, don’t worry, I’ll come and pick you up. And, do, please tell your parents that I’ll bring you back home safe afterwards, okay?”
“Yes, Sensei, thank you! You are very kind.”
“A sensei is like a father, Semmy. When you are good, he’ll be good to you. Always remember that!”
One year later, Trinity Karate Club was in such leadership crisis that it had to close down.
Indeed, my work with Jimmy was a well thought out venture. I did it with love. I believed in the man and the cause he pursued, in that regard. My conscience was clear: I had no pecuniary, nor power interests; I was simply doing what my heart told me was right; I believed I had acquired sufficient knowledge to empower Jimmy to shake up the then racist Zimbabwean Karate establishment, and it worked; although I felt no need to prove it, I knew that I was strong and skilful enough to give anybody a good fight should the situation degenerate to that level. I would have been just too happy to break an enemy’s bone or two, actually. All this I had learnt from Sensei Noble’s way of Karate.
I do not recall how long the Sunday morning training sessions lasted, but it was many, many Sundays. True to his word, Sensei Noble would come and pick me up from, and take me back home. No complaints. No demands. Just training. I used to find it strange that this man, who also taught children at the Lusaka International School on Saturdays, did not take even a Sunday off in order to be with his own children and wife.
More than twenty years later, Martin Rice, a very special, Sensei Noble’s younger protégé from Ireland, is visiting us in Norway. Naturally, we begin to talk about our experiences with the legend. I mention the Sunday sessions, and the lengths to which our grand Sensei went to accommodate me.
“But, Simon, on those Sundays, after dropping you off at your home, he would, then, come home to me for another two hours of private lessons!”
Sensei Noble’s devotion to the Zambian Karate community that he raised single-handedly, at least in the Midlands, up until the 1980s, has made a lasting impression on me. That he even had the extra capacity to work with the select few of us in the manner that he did touches the softest of my emotions to this day.
There has been a time I asked Sensei about his level of engagement in Karate. He replied, “Well, Semmy, funny that you should ask. You know, once the spirit of Karate gets into you, it consumes you. But, each time you see the good things Karate does for people, and, by extension, society, you can’t stop it. You can’t live Karate half way. You can’t teach Karate halfway. People will come and go. But you have to be there all the time. One day, a student of your calibre, Semmy, walks into the dojo, and you, then, know that there is no way you can let this talent down. And, so, you just give and give. It’s such a joy, Semmy. My family understands that Karate is an important part of my life.”
Back in Zimbabwe on a normal civil servant’s salary, Jimmy no longer had the kind of cash he used to have whilst on his diplomatic tour of duty in Lusaka. He couldn’t afford to pay for my visits to him. I visited him twice during the first half of 1988.
In his humorous way, Jimmy had a brilliant idea, “Shamwari Sensei, you mean after all these years together you haven’t learnt even just a bit of diplomacy from me? Soften yourself, be nice, go down on your knees and ask the Seidokan Zambia people to sponsor your trips here. We have already crossed the Zambezi, anyway, and Seidokan Zimbabwe is here to stay. So, they better work together with us now!”
I had already started to make my own money then, “No, no, no, Shamwari Sempai, Senseis sponsor themselves and their students, you see!”
Through working with Sensei Noble, I learned that a Sensei must be self-sufficient. A Sensei that depends on sponsorships and donations cannot do his work effectively.
On a drive from Kitwe to Lusaka, Sensei Noble is cruising at between 140-150km/ hr. A Mercedes Benz overtakes us like it was a bullet, and soon disappears from our sight up ahead. Perhaps 15 minutes later, we approach a road accident spot. The Merc had overturned. It had rolled several times, apparently. Totally wrecked.
“Yes, that’s what you get when you drive at a speed like that on roads like these, Semmy. Karate teaches us to always be aware of our surroundings in relation to the actions we wish to undertake. From that, we can calculate and predict likely outcomes. I knew that that car wouldn’t reach Lusaka, driving at that speed,” Sensei Noble spoke wryly as he drove past the accident scene. We would learn later that the driver of the Merc had died on the spot.
The grand Sensei has told me that when he first came to Zambia in the early 1950s, he had only the amount of pocket money a fresh university graduate from Scotland would have in those days. Not much. He landed somewhere in northern Zambia, somewhere around Lake Bangweulu, if I’m not mistaken. To pay for his hotel stay there, he offered to hunt game for the establishment. That’s how he started off in Zambia, a place he had come to with no intentions of living in permanently.
From that experience, he has said something like, “You see, Semmy, as you get older, and you start travelling the world, you’ll soon discover that there is more to you than who you think you are: your race, status, education, and the like. You’ll find that you get to places where none of that counts. So, in order to survive, you have to look for solutions in things that you never even knew about before. That’s how a Karate man’s mind works. Just like people fight differently, you can beat anybody with the same techniques, but adapting them to the kind of man attacking you. That’s how life is, the essence of you does not change, but your attitudes can, and have to, according to where you are, and the circumstances you find yourself in.”
I applied that Sensei Noble’s philosophy in Norway. Whilst in a place I was not supposed to be, for an act I was not supposed to commit, a colleague saw through me, “You Simon, I know your type. You are a survivor. Don’t tell me that you are a Massage Therapist because that’s a career path you had planned all along. I know you are good at what you do, but you chose to study Massage Therapy out of survival pragmatism needs, given your life circumstances in Norway. You are cut out for greater things, and I know you know that!”
Yes, Sir, I do. But until the greater things come my way, I’ll do what I gotta do to survive here and now, as per my Sensei Noble’s teachings.
Whilst in Harare with the 8-man Zambian National Karate Team, in 1981, I was singled out to join Sensei Noble as he joined two other Zimbabwean senior Black belts (whites) to tea at the home of a Japanese diplomat. I do not remember the name of the diplomat. Present were also the dreaded Sensei Chiba, and two other Japanese Judo Sensei. I was a not so sophisticated, little 20 year old schoolboy, then. But the grown up, senior Budo masters were real nice to me. I recall Sensei Chiba advising me to use whatever nature provides to train with, if I cannot go to the gym. “If you do not have a punch bag, there is always a tree to punch!” he said.
Driving back to our hotel, Sensei Noble said, “You were highly honoured today, Semmy. High-ranking Japanese don’t just invite any strangers into their homes.”
“Hoss, Sensei!” was all I could say.
An aspect that is not spoken much about is that, in his pioneering work of opening up possibilities and teaching black Zambians Karate from the late 1960s, Sensei Noble was, actually, treading on thin ice. That’s because, in my view, that was a time of numerous state coup d’états across the African tropics countries. White mercenaries, whom the media romanticised as Martial Arts experts, led many of these coups. “Mad Mike” Hoare is the first name that comes to mind here. A reliable source has disclosed to me that there were concerns that some of Sensei Noble’s Karate students could be enticed to join the lucrative (for those who don’t die!) mercenary bandwagon. So, relevant Zambian State Security organs closely watched him, and the whole lot of his prominent senior students.
I am sure that there are many others in the Zambian Karate fraternity who’d concur with me that Sensei James Bonar Noble gave us, individuals, and the collective much more than we could ever ask for. He, like other ordinary mortals, was not perfect. I, for one, am not in a position to cast any stones. Unfortunately, by the time the roses in my garden bloom in the spring, I’ll have relocated to another abode.
My heart felt condolences to the Noble family in Lusaka. The same applies to the Zambian Karate fraternity, if not the nation, for the coming to an end of a life of an illustrious service to the people through the Martial Arts. Many of Sensei Noble’s students and their own protégés continue to tread upon the selfless path of humility, giving, and devotion that he started. Their impact is felt across the cross-section of the Zambian society. Some are also forces to reckon with in various parts of the world.
Sensei James Bonar Noble may be gone, but he shall never be forgotten. His legacy is just too deeply engrained in the psyches of many of us. May his soul rest in eternal peace!
August 13, 2018
MOYA NKHABU: TRIBUTE TO A ROLE MODEL
Growing up in the old, subdued black South Africa, I could never see myself playing serious football in a formal club setting. From the point of view of personal drive, the game has never charmed me that way. I could never say whether or not my lack of success as a junior street football player was due to being untalented, or simply that my passion was never aroused strongly enough. I’m inclined to suspect the latter.
In the old, apartheid South Africa days, football talent groomed itself, and thrived on the township streets, and rural playing fields. It was raw, pure, and ecstatic. Paradoxically, it provided spaces for all the joys of a free childhood in a then tyrannical state. Moreover, my childhood street football reality provided escape from the attendant ills of poverty in many a black South African home: all round domestic violence, woman and child sexual abuse.
Like most South African township boy children, I imagine that the first expression of my active physical power, from the time I managed to stand up, balance, and walk, was probably to kick at something. I have been kicking for as long as I can remember. Ball control, reading the game, and stopping opponents from scoring against my street team were my forte.
Dribbling was never my inclination. But, I recall, even the very best of our dribblers during my street football active years, up to age 12 years old, knew well not to fool around with the ball around me. If I had any football talent at all, it shone brightest whenever we opted to play a rather rough version of the game. Often, if it’s genuine street culture, it has to be rough; it has to be tough, it has to break all the rules, like Rock & Roll.
Here, the object was not to score goals, but for the competing teams to incapacitate each other’s players until there was only one young man standing, with the ball. If the one team totally demolished the other, the winning team’s members went for one another, then. Thus, the last man standing outcome. It gave an unforgettable, ego-boosting adrenaline rush. Great, great fun, it was.
In this brutal game, we had to be subtle, but extremely effective. That was so that if any adults were watching us play, they wouldn’t understand that we were, actually, out to deliberately injure one another. A strict rule was “no ball, no attack”; meaning that we went for one another only to the extent that one side had ball possession. And, direct kicks to the legs above the ankle were not allowed.
The idea was to “slice”, or “chop” each other’s legs at the ankles, much like Karate players execute the devastating leg sweeping technique called “Ashi barai”. Serious injuries, necessitating hospitalization, often occurred here. I never got injured. Several casualties have pointed to me, though. In action, I can be light and quick on my feet. I developed this ability from this dangerous kind of football playing. I would, later, take the skill with me to Karate. Fifty years on, I’m still standing, rocking as if there’ll be no end to my rolling life. Truth is, I want to live forever. I am a dreamer, and so shall it be.
My street football career was much fun, whilst it lasted. It gave me lasting valuable life lessons, as well: street survival alertness (“Tsotsis”, violent street hustlers, didn’t play football!), and fierce competitive spirit, or killer instinct cultivation. Street football also afforded me the first real taste of leadership, going into puberty and subsequent young manhood. The leadership trial run would reward me with just as premier and unforgettable taste of the thrill of victory. That owing to the coaching my impromptu leadership role empowered me to do with my team, one day.
A team had challenged us from another part of our township, Thabong Location, Welkom. Our challengers were notorious for severely beating up their opponents when they, the former, lost matches. These guys were a little older than us, and they had some of their neighbourhood supporters following them everywhere they went. Our team, on the other hand, was, usually, an ad hoc affair. It spontaneously organized itself around whoever was available on our street, and wished to play, there and then.
Unfortunately, on the day of the challenge, whereas we had more than what we needed of potential players, no one wished to play. All were afraid of getting beaten up by the visitors, in the event of the latter’s loss against us. The problem was that the visitors were still going to be violent if we chose not to play. These guys, the challengers, were crazy: when they won, they still beat up the opponents, if only to teach the losers not mess with the bad guys! So, either way, we were in trouble. Catch 22.
I do not seem to recall what led to my team prodding me for a solution to the dilemma we were in. They even decided that I should be the team captain for the day. Because I had already started training boxing by then, a thought struck me that if I made my team believe we were strong as individuals and as a collective, we could win in such a way that the bad guys wouldn’t want to fight us afterwards.
How? Let’s wear them out, whilst we remain strong all the way, throughout the match. How? Let’s do what nobody else did at that time: do a pre-match, team spirit enhancing jogging and calisthenics session! It’s called warming-up these days. Doing that would also give us a psychological edge over the opponents. It worked like magic.
My team played with the intensity and unity of purpose that we had never thought were possible before. In my head, I still vividly see replays of the match to this day. Playing on what we, then, called the “12 hurra!” principle, we beat the bad guys 12-0. The loss, combined with my team’s upbeat, super confident mood, overwhelmed the bad guys so much that they left our zone running as if they had just seen snakes, or some scary monsters like that. Eventually transferred into Karate, I have enormously enjoyed sports leadership and coaching since. I’ve won, I’ve lost. I’ve been stupid, I’ve been wise. I’ve made friends, I’ve lost friends. I’m here. I live. I love.
Adult club football was a different ball game altogether. I enjoyed watching this, not so much for the thrill of the game, but out of the fascination I had for those players that stood out as the best in the game, regardless of position played. The fascination was about the aura these guys seemed to carry, both on and off the field. They seemed to be ever so strong and happy.
It’s always been a great fascination for me as to how men, and women these days, running after, and with a ball could, at the same time, induce so much euphoria amongst the spectators. Off the field, the super star players seemed to wield so much power that it appeared, for me then, as if they could be rulers of the world. That was despite the fact that I, at that time, I had no real clue as to how gigantic and complex the world really was. They had all the beautiful girls. Attendant hyper fornication scandals I didn’t care much about. Rock & Roll is what it is: you burn, you burn. If the highway to hell is short, let it be. I’ll talk to Mother Mary another time.
One of those super star players was Abel Nkhabu, a.k.a. Moya, or Mgeu, late, 2017. May his soul rest in peace. I first came to personally know, and look up to him in the years 1972-74. Looking back, I like to think that, actually, this man was my first real-life, non-family Super Hero. He seemed larger than life, and, yet, he could touch me, ask me about my wellbeing, and encourage me to be good at school always.
There were also some of Mgeu’s generation of original black South African football mega stars around. By status, they were bigger than him by far; they have remained so, and are, today, living legends in their own rights. I still look at them with awe; still getting that tingling sensation in my hands and feet I used to get at their sight, on and off the pitch, in my early teens.
These men, in various capacities at club and national association levels, continue to steer modern South African football. They are doing so with the same inspirational class I recall from the early 1970s. In them, I still see hope for this troubled land of my birth, South Africa. However, these men are still far away from my immediate spaces. They have yet to touch me like Mgeu did. A consolation, though, is that, in my eyes, they carry on his spirit, and that of numerous other giants of the pre-1994 South African football scene.
Much of my desire to defy and beat the odds in order to succeed in life, be a super star, and live forever, is owing to these men of wonder in the history and development of this land. There is more to football than just seemingly mad twenty-two men chasing a ball around a stupid rectangular space limiting their freedom to run away with it, the ball.
Inspired by the big and strong, unbeatable Hercules in the bioscope, I liked making leather wristbands for my friends, my lebandla, my street gang, and me. The finest I ever made was of some fine, thick, nicely patterned leather piece from one of my mother’s old handbags. Mgeu liked that wristband so much that he borrowed it for a while. He wore it on several big matches he played, with Welkom Real Hearts FC.
“Monna, dude, I, actually, feel stronger and more courageous when I’m wearing this band. And, you, know, the other thing is that people on the field get afraid of me, believing that the band is a fortifying juju gear. I like it very much!”
I refused Mgeu’s offer to buy the wristband. Of course, I was taken by the symbolic power effect it had on him. I wanted to have the power too. When he, eventually, gave the wristband back to me, he was overwhelmingly effusive. An ordinary older South African man would have bullied me and kept it, anyway. Mgeu’s return of the band permanently cemented the bond that we already had. Before that, no other adult man had ever shown me that kind of respect for my personal integrity. It was gratifying for me to find that there, in fact, were still some grown up men one could trust.
As first-born child in my family, I was raised to love, protect, and support my younger siblings, that as a matter of course. My general love for children and youth derives from my upbringing values. From the time I became aware of my sibling position and role in the family, fondness and caring for those younger than me, to beyond my home, was something one just did without question. It was something I never put much thought to, even.
My younger, and last-born sibling, Lucy Dintletse’s birth, in 1974, brought the real intensity of my love for children to my consciousness for the first time. Lucy’s affectionate family nickname is Sonono, often shortened to Sono. The very nearly nine years of her life would thrust the love to heights I have yet to fathom. MHSRIP.
I see Sono in every child of the world. Whenever I see children of the world suffer under mankind’s proclivity to wars in outrageously vain attempts to impose peace upon one another, her sweet face emerges above the misery I see; the pain, the hopelessness I feel. And, then, faith that, someday, we gonna be alright, is rekindled. Through every child whose life I touch wherever I am in the world at any one time, my steadfast hope and wish are that, one day, these children will grow up to be conduits of love and peace for all mankind.
Mgeu was one of the pioneering black professional football players in South Africa, in the early 1970s. He made a dashing and influential figure, to his grave. His entire life, he was fiercely anti-apartheid and black people’s oppression. From Mgeu, I learnt that a man could be big and strong as a super star, but he could still have time and energy to engage positively with children and youth. This has remained one of the key defining moments of my life.
Whereas my father remains the formidable force behind my formal dressing taste, my smart-casual dressing style has heavy Mgeu undertones. My father was laid to rest twenty years ago today, July 04, 2018. MHSRIP. I remember him with immense love with this article too: my father, the finest of gentlemen, my hero; the original Machona – (the) Emigrant, the traveller, the gypsy from the warriors of love mystics of my Tumbuka people, Eastern Province, Zambia. If you jump into Malawi, Tanzania, and, partly, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), you’ll land into the midst of the extended empire of my people.
The one quality I’ve not quite been able to grasp, though, is the phenomenal “Ladies’ Man” tag Mgeu proudly carried to the very end. If we meet up again on the other side, I should ask him for specific coaching on this one; assuming that there’ll still be ladies abundance when I arrive there. But then again, we might find that the ladies on the other side are more work than what I have down here on earth. Nnnahhh, we let this one pass.
In the presence of Mgeu, I’d always feel like a 12-14 year old boy, if not even younger. In the photo accompanying this piece, we are meeting up soon after I had arrived in Welkom, from Norway, Christmas time, 2006/7. You know that sweet, loving feeling you get when you are with your favourite uncle, I had it at the time the photo was being taken; I’m feeling it as I write this article, at this very moment. Thanks, football, for one of the most significant men in my life!
I was fortunate enough to have had a few good men to relate to during my formative years. Many of those that were not so nice to me never lived to see the close of the 1970s. Good riddance. A lot of these not-so-nice men were generally unkind to youngsters. It’s just as well that longevity was never to be their gig. Morons!
In my dealings with children and youth, I endeavour to be, at least, as good as those adult males that have, each in their own special ways, contributed to my being the mad energy bundle that I am, now as a fully grown adult myself. I have never been able to think of a better way to express my deep felt gratitude for the presence of good men in mine, and other children’s lives.
In the early 1970s, Mgeu, together with a host of other first generation of black professional football players were organized under the auspices of the then National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). In my forthcoming 6th book, 4th novel*, read how these transformed the lives of the black people of South Africa, at a time when the then South African apartheid regime was at its most venomous. The NPSL effect is played out around a particular family’s life in Thabong, Welkom. Watch this space for more information about the impending book release. Coming soon!
REMEMBERING A SENIOR WARRIOR:
It is almost two weeks since Svein Sørlie died on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 in Norway. He shall be buried on Tuesday, August 29, 2017. I believe that wherever his soul is in the grander universe, it is thriving in the best conditions of the afterlife; resting in peace, hopefully. There is no rest for the hearts of gold. Gold is forever; larger than life. Such was Svein Sørlie as I knew him, feeling as if it had been all my life.
Svein Sørlie: my student, my friend, my mentor, my protector. In time, he grew to represent a formidable father figure for me as I strove to curve a space of my own in a land that is not of my forefathers, Norway. With his death, it feels like a large chunk of Norway has just been ripped off my heart. The hurt I feel is profound.
I have known Svein, since March, 1989. During much of this time, I’ve watched with awe how he would ever so elegantly balance, sometimes in one and the same space, the role of a father, grandfather, brother, uncle, lover, in-law, friend, teacher, student, colleague, citizen, and community member. I could never get enough of the warmth and love that, on the one hand, Svein exuded, and received, on the other.
It did not matter whether we were in Norway, or travelling in Greece or the UK; he was ever so easy to get along with. I guess it had to do with the aura of humility and compassion he radiated, long before he would open his mouth to greet people, and introduce himself to strangers.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall; dojo, camping, competitions, seminars, party, home, city centre, beach, everywhere: Svein Sørlie was the ever green, the ever wonderful. An IT expert, a former naval officer, and Judo adept, he was a knowledgeable and wise man; a man of the world. His terrific sense of humour made it a joy to talk with him about many subjects of common interest, any time.
On Wednesday, March 29, 1989, Anne-Britt Nilsen helped me arrange and host a public meeting to introduce Karate in the local community of Blåbærstien, Nesoddtangen. I was accompanied by my first ever Norwegian Karate student, Knut Arild Midtbø, who I had already started to train in Oslo since October, 1988. He would translate my message, since I hardly spoke a word of Norwegian, then.
In a packed, rather small community hall, the reception we received was mixture of curiosity, enthusiasm, scepticism, and outright hostility. During an altercation between my assistant, Knut, and a man who was totally against our mission in his neighbourhood, my eyes fell on a bespectacled older man. A little girl was sitting and playing at his feet. As our eyes met, the man gave me a gentle, reassuring smile; I thought the look on his face told me something like, “Never mind him!”
The friendly man was Svein Sørlie, and the little girl was his youngest child and daughter, Toril. For the next ten years or so, the Svein-Toril family duo would be the heart-beat of Blåbærstien Karate Klubb, now Nesodden Karateklubb. It was such that at a time when I had to make one of the most decisive choices in my life, I weighed my options against, amongst others, the joint pillar of strength Svein and Toril jointly represented for me in the club, if not the country Norway … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
August 28, 2017
HOME AT LAST! Part 32
BETRAYAL IN THE DIASPORA
I do not know José Mourinho personally. I would be very surprised if he would ever be interested in knowing whether I exist or not. We live in such divergent worlds, miles upon miles apart. I refer to him here only for the one reason that his recent fall from glory and grace finally brought it on home to me that, as leaders, makers, as well as movers of men and women, when the mighty fall, there is one common thread connecting them all, … That common thread is betrayal. Jesus was betrayed to the cross by one of his disciples, Judas. His Chief Disciple, Peter, would disown him three times at the very last minute. But I won’t go there … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA AWAKENING – home in grey matter”. Order other books on Amazon here).
December 29, 2015