February 18, 2009

Discussions with Brian Konkol – 9

Posted in Economics, Education, Friendship, Guyana, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, South Africa tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:40 am by randallbutisingh

“f-words….” by Kristen F. Konkol

Report from South Africa : February 2009

(To read with pictures go to: http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com)

Super Bowl fever has now begun to subside as the days pass following all the publicity and fanfare. It is a strange phenomenon, really, when living overseas. You do see the international news showing bits and pieces of the multitude of stories leading up to the game, but you certainly don’t feel the same excitement surrounding questions of how sports fans will spend the day in the US. When I think about such an event, a lot of f-words” come into mind (not the ones where people are yelling at the TV!). Typically the football game is associated with food, fun, family, friends and funny commercials. In fact, I saw a statistic that said that Americans spend approximately $40 million dollars on food alone for Super Bowl parties….that is a whole lot of chips & salsa!!!

Outside of the US football means something very different as it translates to soccer to the rest of the world. Here in South Africa the preparations for very different football events on the world stage are underway as the nation prepares to host the Confederations Cup (champion national team of each continent) in June 2009 and the main act being the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Stadiums, roads, communication and many other facets are being prepared for the first ever hosting of a World Cup on the African continent. Both in Guyana and now here in South Africa I have been fortunate to be a part of football (soccer) both with children and young adults. To see the passion and the skills that are displayed are amazing where proper shoes, fields, goals, balls or equipment are not pertinent to get a game going. One simply plays with what you have where you are… whether it is out on the dirt lot with no shoes and a make-shift ball or on a nice thick lined grass field with all the nice uniforms, cleats and balls. I have thoroughly enjoyed these diverse opportunities and all the wonderful children and young adults I have worked with and played alongside.

When one also thinks of foods that would be typical for an occasion or event, I have enjoyed the variety of staples that countries around the world have in their diet. For example, it was typical for one to say in Guyana that you haven’t ‘eaten for the day’ if you haven’t had rice as it was synonymous with food in many areas. In South Africa the staple product would be corn, or mealies. There are seemingly endless varieties of mealie dishes that have been at the center of African family life for centuries. Mealie pap is the most widely eaten food in South Africa and it is thinner (porridge) or stiffer (like thick mashed potatoes) depending on where or when you eat it. It can be made sweet (thinner breakfast porridge), salty or rich. Thicker pap may be mixed with a variety of other vegetables or tubers and used with sauce or stew. Mealie meal is finely ground maize. Phutu (in Zulu) is a dish of crumbly maize porridge, often eaten with soured milk. Umngqusho (Xhosa word) would be samp (dried and crushed maize kernels), boiled, then mixed with beans, onion, potatoes, chilies, lemon and salt and simmered. Although these are just a few to name, I can not glaze over the mealie itself, which is simply a cob of corn that is popular grilled or boiled as a snack (although unlike in Wisconsin , most grill it without the husk). There is also a traditional beer (umqombothi) made from water, malt, maize and sorghum which is served at many celebrations from big beer pots. That is certainly an acquired taste!!

(See more at: http://www.zulu-culture-history.com/zulu_traditional_beer.htm)

Family is also something thought of very differently than we would think of as typical in the US . For many, when you say mother, father, siblings…this would constitute your immediate family. However, in some South African cultures, especially Zulu culture, your family is much broader. For instance, the same word in Zulu for mother and father are used for aunt (if it is your mother’s sister) and uncle (if it is your father’s brother) such that they act just as your parents. The word for cousin would be the same as brother or sister for the children of your mother’s sisters and your father’s brothers. It basically follows immediate lineage. The ties become much more communal and the family unit constitutes a larger circle.

The one f-word” that people here express very freely is that of expression of faith. For faith is not something that is taboo to talk about from Mon-Sat and is in so many threads of individuals everyday life. Personal faith life as well as congregational faith life stems into many aspects of ones existence, not just the time spent sitting in church. It is a topic talked about and discussed as frequently as politics and sports. It is a lesson that we can all learn in thinking about our comfort level and commitment to our faith and how we express it. In my experience here in South Africa church is not something to just “get over with” and get on with the rest of your day, but rather the main focus of the day for which the day revolves around. Attending worship here can take many, many hours…for instance, yesterday’s consecration of the South Eastern Diocese bishop was a 7 hour long service and program with approximately 9,000 in attendance. When the singing and dancing of songs takes place in that kind of setting, you are hard pressed to not be moved and feel blessed by the experience.

There are many differences in how various cultures express “f-words” such as family, football, fun, food and faith. What I am continually challenged with is how much I am able to appreciate the differences, embrace them and allow myself to be enhanced and learn from another culture. There are many preferences we have in how we express these f-words”, but the real question is how open are we to doing, experiencing, and seeing things in a new and different light as opposed to fitting it into that nice little box of the familiar.

With peace & blessings,

Kristen Konkol


May 1, 2008


Posted in Economics, Education, Environment, Poetry, Religion, Thoughts tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:32 am by randallbutisingh

Thought for today:


This is my letter to Brian and Kristen Konkol, recently appointed as missionaries in South Africa. They are dedicated and committed individuals, who were missionaries in Guyana before moving to South Africa a few months ago. They are now settling in and have asked my advice on: “How to reduce Poverty in Africa”. Here is my reply dated April 21, 2008. Your comments and advice on this most important subject are welcome. Feel free to contact Brian and Kristen Konkol with your help and ideas at:



To: Brian and Kristen Konkol:

Before I attempt to give my opinion on “how to reduce Poverty in Africa”, I will attempt to define Poverty. In my opinion Poverty is a relative term. How? An individual may have very little, and it takes very little to sustain life. He may live in a one room shack with one or no shirt on his back, but he works honestly for the little that he has; he is always cheerful and will gladly share the little he has and his shack with a needy stranger. He is the personification of contentment; his conscience is clear, his sleep at night is sound and unbroken and he lives without fear. Would you call such an individual poor?

On the other hand a person may be laden with this world’s goods, like an overburdened camel, much more above his needs; But he is the personification of greed; he cannot have enough; he is discontented; always wants more and more, never shares what he has with the needy for concern that it will diminish him. This makes him grouchy, irritable, and cheerless. His sleep at nights is unsound and broken because of fear that someone may come and rob him of what he has. Would you call such an individual rich?

Now, how about reducing Poverty in Africa! Africa is a continent, beautiful and potentially rich, but it has been exploited by foreigners and recently, after independence by its own leaders. There were very few leaders, among them being Nelson Mandela, who did not succumb to the plague of corruption. Billions of the country’s wealth and foreign aid have been stashed away in foreign banks by corrupt politicians while those whom they have been supposed to serve go hungry.

This brings us to the question of education. If the populace is not adequately educated in order to understand the issues and the ability to confront injustice wherever it rears its ugly head, exploitation and corruption will continue to have a field day. Recently two benevolent Americans have been working in this field. They are Oprah Winfrey who is spending millions to educate over a hundred girls in South Africa to become leaders in the future and Bill Clinton who is spending millions to improve Agriculture in one of the countries in Africa.

It should also be noted that Poverty is an attitude in some of the countries. The men leave all the hard work to the women. When they do not hunt or fish, they gather in groups and idle away their time while the women work in the fields. Recently a group of women banded together in a community, and refused to slave for their idle husbands.

We need people who can educate, motivate and inspire these people, raising them from their present level, especially the women to one of respectability. Here is where you and Kirsten can fit in and I know that with the meager physical resources you have but the abundance of will, dedication and commitment, you will make things happen.

Africa does not need to be spoon fed. But while they are given the tools to progress, effort should be made meanwhile to eliminate hunger and disease. You cannot preach to a hungry man about God; you have to fill his belly first.

Remitting of debts will be of little help if attitudes do not change.

Love, joy and peace,



April 30, 2008


Posted in History, Politics, Thoughts tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:22 am by randallbutisingh



(Another peep into history)

Letter written to the Guiana Graphic when Kwame Nkrumah. The Ghanian president was removed by a coup in 1966.

I am in thorough agreement with your leader on Tuesday last – “Civil Servants or Civil Masters”. I would like to add that I am disappointed in the attitude of the Ghanian premier..

In this age when good relationships are necessary for international peace, I consider his remarks uncharitable and of bad taste. It must have been humiliating to the Britons present who served the country in its Colonial Status. As a leader who practiced some Gandhism for the liberation of his country, he has not learnt the lesson.

Humanity is indivisible and it is our duty to welcome all regardless of race, colour or creed as equals. Colonialism is an important stage in the development of some countries. It is only hazardous when it fails to raise the standard of living and the quality of life of the individual. It is the childhood stage of a nation in the making and has many advantages. Nkrumah himself is a product of what he calls Colonialism, and he is no mean product.

Life is made up of the bitter and the sweet, sorrow and joy, the rose and its thorns. If Ghanians had paid for their Independence, as India did, with Blood, Tears and Sweat, it would have meant all the more to them, and they would have all been stronger for the experience.

A struggle-less existence results in a moral namby-pambyness which is degenerating and disintegrating. Let Guianese too learn this lesson.

Randall Butisingh

Background Information:

In 1950 Nkrumah initiated a campaign of “positive action” when he practiced Ghandism by involving non-violent protests, strikes and non-cooperation with the British Colonial authorities. In 1952, he became Prime Minister of the Gold Coast. In 1957 he became Prime Minister of the Gold Coast and British Togoland when they became an independent state within the British Commonwealth.. It was here where he made the tactless utterance: “You may remain here as civil servants but not as civil masters”. By a plebiscite in 1966 Ghana became a Republic and Nkrumah its President with wide executive powers under a new constitution. Nkrumah did well at first and the country prospered, but later he became involved in campaigning for the political unity of Black Africa. He began to lose touch with realities in Ghana. He became involved in magnificent but ruinous projects, so that a once prosperous country became crippled with debt.

In 1966, when Nkrumah was visiting Peking, the army and police seized power. Nkrumah found asylum in Guinea. He died of cancer in Bucharest in i972.

April 10, 2008


Posted in Education, Environment, Guyana, Philosophy, Politics, Thoughts tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:16 am by randallbutisingh



When men are subdued by force they do not submit in their minds, but only because their strength is inadequate. When men are subdued by power in personality they are pleased to their very heart’s core and do really submit.

Mencius (Meng Tzu}


The power of personality or charisma or ideas can be more powerful than the might of the sword, or the cannon or the bomb. The use of force can capture and suppress but it usually cannot maintain allegiance when the force is removed. True power is invisible and accepted consciously through acceptance of the ruler and his methods of governance – conscious submission.

Great leaders have the ability to enthuse others and to garner support with their words and actions and their leadership qualities. People follow and obey their wishes and such leaders thrive in the power vested and bequeathed to them by their people. They have little fear that the people will rise up against them.

The same concepts ccould be applied to the conquering armies of the old civilizations of the Greeks and the Romans. Later, the great European colonial powers of the Industrial Age showed their longevity in controlling millions of subjects with minimum physical force. In some cases they may have conquered initially by force, but they were only able to retain their power through mutually beneficial policies like trade and power brokering with the local factions in their colonies e.g. The Indian Raj of Britiin’s colonialism of India.

Even in the historical writings of little Demerara, now Guyana, that the Dutch ruled from 1581-1781 it is said that the Dutch settlers did not subjugate the native indigenous Amerindian tribes. The Dutch settler policy was to actively befriend local tribes with gifts and trade so that they became allies and protectors of the Dutch interests there. This policy also ensured that their slaves, imported from Africa, did not successfully escape as they were quickly tracked down and returned by the Amerindians.

It can therefore be said that the likeable personality, like the pen, is mightier than the sword. That endearing personality can be embodied in an individual or in a whole nation or people, as they are perceived by others. Their rule is accepted by their subjects who consciously submit as they are pleased with their method of governance.

— Cyril Bryan – cybryan@gmail.com