The red star of the revolution is on Godwana’s door. I don’t know who put it there or what they meant by it. But an eager jazz band plays there on the weekends. As I sat watching the crowd on Sunday, dancing, drinking, having fun and mixing freely I realised that this, in a way, was the society that I had dreamed of in the eighties.
Café Godwana is on the beachfront and Sunday evenings see a crowd of students, jazz lovers, black and white, young and old. Not self conscious or contrived but just comfortably enjoying the space and time together.
In Rundu (on the Angolan border in 1987) I knew that there was something wrong. I was intensely aware that we were in an abnormal situation, an abnormal and distorted society. I sensed clearly then that a new society would emerge, completely different and transformed. I remember thoughts like these playing through my mind,… but mostly then I remember being on a personal quest, brought about perhaps that I felt intensely different from those around me.
After arriving on the plane on that hot, bright white air strip, I came to find that we were in Rundu. We were driven on the back of a Samil 100 troop carrier away from the runway into the bush. Here we found our new home in the bush on the edge of the runway. Chopper tents, under camouflage nets around the 35mm Anti aircraft gun and radar system. Our mission… to protect the runway, the northern most airbase of the South African Defence force from Cuban Mig 23s and other Angolan military aircraft.
Intelligence reports had been received of “high level bombing” that would happen on the evening of the next full moon. Our defences were inadequate, so we spent the next week re-digging bunkers in the soft white sand. Repairing camouflage nets and building sandbag walls around our tents, around the guns around the radar. It was back breaking work, in hot weather, in a foreign country, in a war zone. But in this intense discomfort I came to one of the most significant realisations of my life. A truth that has come with me to this day. Walking up a steep “gun ramp” embankment with a sandbag on my back in the blazing sun; dirty with sand in my teeth, my ears, my hair…. I simply chose at that time not to be angry , frustrated or despondent. I chose at that moment and in that space to be happy. I knew on that day that I had stumbled on a great truth; the truth that happiness is a choice we make for ourselves, that happiness does not come out of circumstance, that happiness is not a product what we do or how we are treated, that happiness is a state of mind that we choose to claim for ourselves.
When the full moon evening came at the end of the week, the night was cool and clear. The “high level” bombers never came. We were not bombed… This too caused me great happiness!