Touched by an act of violence.

November, now long past in most of our memories, had been a very interesting month for me. I was busy up to a point of exhaustion at work, I was busy with NaNoWriMo and I had a couple of my own things to sort out. To top it all off, I had managed to acquire an ear infection, one of the first ones I’ve had in years. To say that I had a lot on my mind would’ve been an understatement.

Which is partly why events happened as they did. I didn’t pay attention, I should’ve but I didn’t.

On the 16th of November I found myself coming back from a farmer’s day that I had had to attend in a nearby province. It was a hot day and my ear was in a state. I remember sitting in my car and wishing that it would all just end. It had been a hot month and, for someone who spends more than half of her time in a car with no air-con, it was excruciating. My way of regulating temperature in my car is by opening my window up as wide as I can, shoving my hand out and directing the airflow into the car. When I entered cities, towns or any are that looked a little dangerous to me, I’d close the window, tough out the terrible temperatures and then open the window up again just when I was about to faint. On this particular day though, I wasn’t as alert as I normally was and it turned out to be a mistake especially because I took myself through a really dangerous part of town. My route home on this fateful day took me through a very dangerous part of our city. Now, of course, knowing that it’s dangerous has never stopped me from driving there. I used to look at people and think: Well, they’re just as tired as I am. They just want to get home, as I do. Yes, there are thieves and murderers among them. But, they’ve got no business with me, I have nothing that they want.

I was wrong.

When I stopped at a traffic light (or robot as we like to call them here in South Africa) I didn’t close my window as I usually did. Instead, I looked down at the radio and was fiddling with the dials trying to find a good radio station. My ear was sore and pounding and I only vaguely heard a voice as it suddenly stopped next to my car and said:

“Ma’am, I want money for food.”

Now, this is a phrase we hear quite a lot in our country. With more than 56 million people who are jobless, South Africa has a LOT of beggars. You get used to them, you ignore them and if you’re me, you tend to get quite irritated with them. I’ve had more of my fair share of sob stories, you can’t tell me one that I haven’t heard before. And, of course then there’s the case of this seemingly contagious crooked leg syndrome that they ALL have. You’d see them limping around the stop, then – if you’re not watching, they’ll walk normally or run to catch a lift… I don’t hold with it at all. And, I didn’t hold with the way this man was demanding money from me. I turned, irritated with myself for leaving the window open and immediately out to close it.

It was only then that I realized he had a knife in his hand.

It was the longest, yet shortest second of my life. I looked at the man, at his dark face and eyes, at the blue overall that he was wearing with a white company logo on. I managed to give the window one last turn but I knew, I knew that it was going to be too late. That I had made a terrible, terrible mistake in letting my guard down. Before I could even complete the turn on the window, the man pushed his head and arm through the window, coming at me with the knife as if he intended to cut my throat or stab me in the chest. They always say that the world slows down in times of crisis and they are right because I had the time to think that I had to stop it, that I had to grab the knife regardless of the risk to be cut, the risk of AIDS or the course of action I had to follow afterwards. I reached out immediately and grabbed the knife, pressing it against his arm with both of mine. I half expected pain, but there was none. Then, a second later, I realized that I had him and that I could just drive forward and drag him next to the car. I started to pull away but he put his other arm through the window, pulled my leg off of the petrol and turned off my car. He tried to take the keys out but I kicked his hand up against the steering wheel with my knee and put my knee over my keys so that he wouldn’t try it again. Now my car was off, but I still had a hold on his arm. He was shouting obscenities at me, some in his own language, some that I could understand all too well.

“I’m going to kill you. I’m gonna stab you and kill you. I’m gonna take you out of this car and take you there. I’m going to kill you.”

I’d say that I was shouting back at him, making threats of my own, but the truth was I was just shouting ‘no!’ over and over and over again. He tried to unlock my door but luckily my dear Corsa’s frame had shifted slightly making the lock picky. No more than a minute could’ve passed since he first came into the car.

It was then I think, when he wasn’t able to open the door that he finally realized that he had most probably bitten off a lot more than he could chew. He tried to yank from my grip but I am a strong girl. And, I was starting to think again. When the initial shock left, I realized that I had to do something. Speeding away in the car, dragging the MF behind me was obviously not going to work. So, I had to get him to let go of the knife some other way. I tried to twist his hand back, but at first I think I worked a little against myself. Then, I managed to get my brain kick started, shifted my hand into a better position and used every last ounce of strength that I had to twist his hand. Meanwhile he started scratching at me to let him go and kept trying to go for my face. I like to believe that I felt something shift in his hand when he stopped suddenly, yelled and me and said.

“Okay, okay! I’ll let you go!”

I stopped yelling no and shouted, furious: “LET GO OF THE FUCKING KNIFE!”

He did, pulled out and I could quickly turn on my car and speed away. I was so angry, so shaken that I threw the knife that I now had in my hand, out of the window and sped off. I got about a kilometre when my body started shaking so much I could hardly keep the car in gear. I was suddenly so mad. So very very angry. The thing is that I’m not the kind of person who cries, or moans her fate in life. I’m angry. I do anger like a lot of people does breathing. It flared up inside me like a flare and I vaguely remember typing some sort of angry message to someone who had texted me in that time.

I became aware of the burning scratches on my arms, the throbbing in my leg where I had hit it on the dashboard when I tried to keep him from getting my key. But, I realized suddenly that I wasn’t cut. That my hands were unmarked. It was a miracle. I don’t know how it happened, I don’t know how it was possible, (I believe firmly that it was God who helped me) but I hadn’t cut myself when I grabbed the knife. Maybe it was blunt. Maybe it was a toy knife. But, I still remember its texture and I know that it wasn’t.

I managed to get home safely and spend the evening in a daze.

To be precise, I spend the rest of the month in a daze.

The thing is that, in my country crime isn’t a foreign concept. It’s the norm. People get robbed, raped, torturned, beaten every day. Our news lies about half of the reports that come out but the truth is that we’re in a silent war. And, it’s getting worse. The maliciousness of the crimes are getting worse. Everybody gets touched eventually and this event was just my turn.

It took me a while to get over it. I’m a stubborn, proud person. I didn’t go see a trauma counsellor but when enough time passed and I could tell the story without shaking, I started telling people about it – if only to get it off of my chest. I’d wake up in the evenings with this man standing beside me then realize that it was just a dream. I still take a deep breath every time I get into my car and pray that I’m kept safe. And, I’ve learned my lesson. I keep my windows closed whenever I’m in a residential or city area. I watch all the sides of my car at all times. I’ve stopped listening to ANYBODY who wants to tell me something beside my car.

I won’t be caught again. I’ve learned my lesson.

But the thing is also that – it was wrong. And, it is wrong. We shouldn’t be living like this. We shouldn’t have to fear for our lives every day. There is no improvement in this country of mine. There is no progress. No future. It’s world that’s turning in on itself. Violence, crime, it’s all allowed.

I cannot write a conclusion to this, because there is none. It’s happened to me and it will happen to other people. Other crime, other acts of violence will and has happened to those closest to me.

There is no dream of freedom in this country, not anymore.

There will be no end.

 

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Who is Femshep?

If you’ve been following my tweets you’d have noticed that I’ve been tweeting quite often of Femshep, the character associated with the epic game series Mass Effect. You might’ve recognized this tag, or you found yourself thinking: What is this woman on about? Why is she so obsessed with this character?

Well. I’m glad you asked.

Femshep is the nickname for the female Commander Shepard, the main character/protagonist of the Role Playing Game franchinse from Bioware – Mass Effect. For those of you who are not that familiar with gaming, it basically means that she’s the woman who’s back you are constantly staring at. She’s one of two main characters of the series, the other one being Broshep or Maleshep, her male counterpart. When you start your game you can decide whether you want to play as a male or as a female and this choice effects not only who you romance but sometimes on the odd occasion who people respond to you. Broshep is voiced by actor Mark Meer and modelled after actor Mark Vanderloo. Femshep was voiced by Jennifer Hale and modelled after… Nobody. You see, up until now, Femshep had been the ignored and forgotten child of the franchise. Bioware once claimed that only about 18% of all gamers played as the female counterpart of the series, which probably meant that they felt justified not to spend that much time on her… But, I still think those percentages are wrong.

You see, Femshep is popular. I’ve seen it in fan fiction and I have monitored (and from my own experience I should add) how passionate the fans of our female heroine could get. After the release of Mass Effect 2, there became a slow but steady outcry to Bioware to use FemShep in marketing too. We wanted her to be acknowledged. We wanted Jennifer Hale to be acknowledged. You see, this woman, this voice actor is one of the best around. Not only has she now earned herself a space in the Guiness World Record books as the most prolific voice actress (ie – she’s been in more video games than your average Joe and Jack…) but she was also nominated for the best performance by a female voice actor by the Spike Video Game Awards in 2010. She’s, in a word, awesome. Which is why it’s been so disappointing to find that only Mark Meer had been used in marketing up until now. Now, please – I realize that there are people out there who feel about BroShep the way I feel about my FemShep. I’m not saying that he’s bad, I’m just saying he’s not right for me and for numerous other fans out there.

The thing is that you get involved with Mass Effect. You stand there with this woman and make difficult choices. You fight against impossible odds. You find yourself having to make a choice between who of your friends to save and who not to. You can destroy nations, save cities and face down evil overlords. And, all the while you’re doing it alongside this woman. You’re doing it with Jennifer Hale and it’s only fair that she gets acknowledged for the amazing work that she’s been putting into this series. She’s done just as many recordings as Mark Meer. Why not split the marketing 50/50? Heck – if they marketed her more from the beginning, that 18% might’ve been very different…

And, this year it will be. Although the marketing had not been split 50/50, Bioware listened to their fans and said that they would make a trailer in FemShep’s honour. We were going to get a trailer. And, we couldn’t wait. Today, the 10th of February, has been dubbed FemShep Friday (and if you’re on twitter, use the #femshepfriday hash tags!) in honour of the trailer’s release. Today. After all that waiting, after all that anticipation. After thinking that it was going to appear at the Spike VGA’s (and then disappointed) we were now going to finally catch a glimpse of our heroine in action. I am beyond excited. I feel like a dog that had just caught a car that he had been chasing. For months. Every time I go onto twitter and I see the fan’s support for both FemShep and Jennifer Hale I feel my heart swell with pride.

So, today is our day. Today, is the day where the fans of Mass Effect and FemShep can celebrate and thank Bioware for listening us and for supporting us. Today is Jennifer Hale’s day, to honour the amazing job that she had been doing, for the part that she played in making this game so wonderful.

Today is FemShep Friday, and I will show my support. And give my thanks.

And, watch that trailer when it comes out.

Now that the Connection is open again…

I guess I have to catch up with what’s been happening.

The world has turned into a new year and after some increasing pressure and a few kicks from my mate @Stilldormant I realized that it would probably be worth it to start blogging again. I have realized a few things from last year.

  1. I don’t like feeling pressured to write. Setting goals for myself on this blog, forcing myself to blog, had been a mistake. I grew resentful and with so many other things on my plate I did the one thing I know how to do well. I cut it off and forgot about it. Till now that is.
  2. I’ve become a gamer. Oh dear. Yes. The obsession with Mass Effect is still abound. Now, more than ever, I find myself geeking out with the rest of the community, waiting anxiously for the beginning of the 9th of March. The release date of Mass Effect 3.
  3. I’m a nerd. Well, I didn’t realize this last year, but it’s just been reaffirmed again. Oh, how proud I am of the Nerdverse, oh – how frightened the rest of the world should be of us.
  4. I’m not writing to please anybody. I still write because I enjoy it. Writing with any other goal in mind (and yes, that includes publishing) just doesn’t work for me. I like to sit down and do what I do best. Write for myself. Write to escape. Write because I have to to do so to keep me sane.
  5. My country sucks. No, I didn’t get accepted into veterinary science. I’m too white. You can’t get much whiter than a red head unfortunately. And more pissed off about the matter. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to fix the ache that I have over not being out there studying again. I didn’t want to return to my job. I didn’t.
  6. I can face down a guy with a knife. Yes. I’ll blog about that later. Come on, it’s exciting. And, it’s worth it to know that nobody should mess with me.
  7. I didn’t turn out too bad… Having felt that I’ve been weighed, measured and found unworthy (or just too pale) by the veterinary department of Onderstepoort made me do a lot of soul searching. Yes, I knew it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t selected, but still – I had to think about me for a bit. I like to do that, to sit down and measure whether or not I’m still alright with the person that I am. I faced a couple of things, realized some others, remembered a few more and came to the conclusion that although I might not be the nicest person out there in the universe, I’m pretty balanced. And, that’s alright.

It’s also worth a mention that I’ve put my creative gamer juices to good use and I’m now writing for a website called NerdTrek once a week. My articles range from gaming news, to movie reviews though when I have time I’ll probably expand this to a few oddball articles as well. It’s fun and rewarding.

So, watch this space returning, new and loyal readers. There will be more. I can’t say when, but there will be.

Alyss