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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Podcast: Paul Morris Speaks About His Time as a Soldier and his Book Back to Angola

Back to AngolaPaul Morris spoke to Michele Magwood on the TM Live Book Show about his book, Back to Angola.

Magwood points out that the war in Angola happened more than 20 years ago now, and while some men who were conscripted can forget their experiences, many are haunted by memories of the war.

Morris took an epic bicycle journey across Angola recently; it was a journey of healing for him. He took detailed notes in his journals while he was riding across the country, because he wanted to remember it. This became his book.

In this interview, he speaks about how he ended up fighting in Angola. He was sent to the border after he became superfluous as a driver.

Magwood’s TM LIVE Book Show streams online every Thursday at 2 PM.

Listen to the podcast:

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Paul Morris Sets Out to Excorcise the Ghosts of War in this Excerpt from Back to Angola

Back to AngolaBack to Angola is Paul Morris’ story of how he dislodged the gloomy picture of Angola he had from the war. He was conscripted in 1987.

Morris set out to cycle across the country on his own. It was a journey he took to free himself from the shadows of the war.

Namibiana Buchdepot has shared an extract from this book. In this excerpt, Morris describes the start of his journey in Angola. The experience of war shapes, to a large extent, how he perceives Angola.

Read the excerpt:

Setting out from Cuito
Cuito Cuanavale, Angola, 24 June 2012

I’m so full of war and feelings I can’t explain. Feelings that swirl and suck like the sea in a rock pool on an incoming tide. Tears narrow my throat and I swallow hard because I’m with people I don’t know. I’d swallow harder still if I did know them. This place is thick with the past, layers of it piled atop the sand on the ridge. It rusts away slowly in its armoured wrecks and in my soul. I am deep in my own history; it stares boldly at me and I can’t look away.

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The Charm of the Desert Explored in this Excerpt from The Historical Karoo by Chris Schoeman

The Historical KarooFor many people, the Karoo is just an inconveniently large and unrelentingly hot patch of dust in the middle of South Africa. But it is land filled with history. The Historical Karoo by Chris Schoeman colours in the dry landscape by pointing out the landmarks and places of historical interest.

The Historical Karoo is organised by the three main routes through the Karoo, with short histories and interesting stories about each town along the way. This excerpt, shared by Namibiana Buchdepot, is about Wagenaarskraal and an introduction to the Karoo.

Read the excerpt:

In the Karoo you seem to be going up a winding ascent, like the ramps that lead to an Indian fortress. You are forever pulling up an incline between hills, making for a corner round one of the ranges. You feel that when you get round that corner you will at last see something: you arrive and only see another incline, two more ranges, and another corner, surely this time with something to arrive at beyond. You arrive and arrive, and the more you arrive, and once more you see the same vast nothing you are coming from. Believe it or not, that is the very charm of a desert – the unfenced emptiness, the space, the freedom, the unbroken arch of the sky.

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Video: Paul Morris Discusses Back to Angola and Shares Footage of His Return Trip

Back to AngolaPaul Morris went to Angola in 1987 as a reluctantly conscripted soldier, and two years ago he returned to the country to replace the war map of the country in his head with one of peace, writing about these two experiences in Back to Angola.

In this video, shared by Random House Struik, Morris speaks about the intense emotions that rose to the surface while cycling through Angola: “It was like some energy was trapped, which I needed to do something with and this very physical journey, which had this very strong parallel inner journey running alongside it, that really seems to have finished it for me.”

Watch the video:

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Podcast: Paul Morris Discusses Back to Angola: A Journey From War to Peace

Back to AngolaPaul Morris recently joined Michele Magwood on her TM LIVE Books Show, which streams online every Friday at 2 PM.

In the podcast, Morris opens up about the journey he had to undertake in order to write Back to Angola, after completing a 1500 km bicycle trip across the country where he saw so much suffering during the South African Border War.

Morris explains how South Africa got involved in the war in the first place, how his time there affected him and why he decided to write about his experiences. He also shares the story of how he came to join the SADF as an immigrant and how he came to be trained as a member of the mortar platoon.

Listen to the podcast:

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Cycling Through Illness: Paul Morris Describes Part of His Solo Trip in Back to Angola Excerpt

Back to AngolaIn 1987 Paul Morris was sent to Angola as a reluctant conscript, in 2012 he returned for a 1500km solo cycle trip with the intention of replacing the Angola he experienced before with a more peaceful one in his mind.

Morris has written about the trip and his army experiences in Back to Angola and Voices of Africa has shared an excerpt from the book in which Morris describes a particularly challenging section of his cycle journey. Riding along an isolated dirt road on the way to Cuchi he has to push through an illness, which has left him feeling weak: “There’s a man walking next to the road as I put on my shoes after a third crossing. As we talk I realise how weak I am. I struggle to form words and can’t seem to think straight.”

I wonder how fucked I’d be if something bad happened. My self rescue plan has always been to hitch a lift to a place where I can find help. There’s no traffic on this road, this bush track; no prospect of rescue. It will be better once I reach Cuchi and the tar road starts again. I hope the advice I’ve received about the tar starting again is accurate, not because I’m not enjoying this quiet track, but because the isolation of it could put me in a difficult situation if I am unable to keep cycling through illness. I contemplate phoning Martin, my doctor friend, for advice. It seems alarmist so I don’t. I battle on alone.

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Paul Morris gesels oor vrede, sy aandeel aan wat vir hom ’n onetiese oorlog was, en manlikheid

Back to AngolaIn Back to Angola vertel Paul Morris van sy reis deur die land waar hy as jong, onwillige SAW-soldaat vir “vier maande in die hitte van die stryd in Angola vasgevang” was. Rachelle Greeff het met hom gesels oor sy soektog na innerlike vrede, ‘n soeke wat hom na 25 jaar teruggestuur het na die land waar “sy aandeel aan wat vir hom ’n onetiese oorlog was” afgespeel het.

Greeff vra ook vir Morris meer oor die konsep van manlikheid, die moontlikheid dat die Suid-Afrikaanse boekbedryf oorversadig is aan oorlogboeke en die belangrikheid van vrede maak met jou verlede. “Elkeen het sy eie reis, maar ek dink almal kan uitkom by ’n plek waar die verlede nie heeltyd pynlik indring in die teenswoordige nie,” sê Morris.

Twee jaar gelede het Paul Morris, sielkundige en lewensafrigter, drie weke lank elke dag vir agt tot tien uur deur die suidooste van Angola op ’n tweedehandse fiets getrap. Die doel van dié 1 500 km lange trek, met ’n lading van 35 kg, was om vrede te maak met ’n kort maar ingrypende deel van sy verlede. Hy het mense, “met wie ek geen probleem gehad het nie”, doodgemaak.

Morris was, soos duisende ander Suid-Afrikaners, nog kwartpad kind toe hy opgeroep is. Dit was in 1986. Ná basies is hy as voertuigbestuurder opgelei om die werklike wapenstryd vry te spring. Maar die weermag se somme was verkeerd (daar was te veel bestuurders) en hy’s vir mortieropleiding gestuur.


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Paul Morris Discusses Writing Back to Angola and Discovering the Meaning of Pilgrimages

Back to AngolaPaul Morris spoke to Nadine Maritz about his recently published book, Back to Angola, in which he recounts his experiences fighting in Angola in 1987 and his return to the country in 2012 when he embarked on a 1500-kilometre cycle trip.

Morris explains that he had been resistant to the idea of the trip being a pilgrimage but that by the end of it he understood what it meant to go on one.

I loved the past and present comparisons in the novel. It somehow portrays your past- you and present- you. It’s definitely a reflection of growth. Not many people exposed to war are open about their experiences. What made you decided to actually put it on paper?

I suppose there are several reasons. I like to express myself in writing. I always wanted to write something about my war experiences but I never thought they were particularly remarkable. In combination with a trip back to Angola by bicycle, I thought I had something to say. A combination of personal growth, the peace in Angola, a window of opportunity in my personal circumstances all made the journey and the writing up of it possible. I think it is very important to acknowledge that everyone is different and will deal with their past in the best way they can. Sometimes, because there may be no safe outlet, the best way is not to talk about it outside of the closed ranks of former comrades.

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Excerpt: Back to Angola by Paul Morris

Back to AngolaIn Back to Angola Paul Morris recounts his return to Angola in 2012 after going there in 1987 as a soldier. Morris, who was reluctantly conscripted just before he turned 19, goes back to the country to try and put his memories of war to rest and replace them with images of a peaceful Angola.

The narrative switches between his solo cycle trip and his memories of the war. Random House Struik has shared an excerpt from Chapter 13 in which Morris writes about being stationed on one side of the Lomba River floodplain and being fired at by the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA), while trying to eat his breakfast of ProNutro.

Writing about his recent cycle trip, he describes meeting an English-speaking Namibian truck driver and finding it “as good as meeting someone from home”.

The man walks out of the darkness. He’s wearing a trench coat and a cap and his features are difficult to make out in the shade of his headgear. ‘You must put the light out,’ he says. His voice has the calm authority of a man used to command. He’s referring to the red tactical light that is on in the doorway of the Ratel. The section leader corporal, Dave, is writing a letter. ‘I thought the red light would be fine,’ says Dave. He’s not arguing; he seems to sense that even if he has the rank in our vehicle, this man’s authority comes from his experience rather than from anything displayed on an epaulette. We’re fresh and frightened. ‘They will see it,’ says the man. Dave switches off the light. ‘Do not be afraid,’ the man says before he turns and disappears into the night.

John gives a nervous little laugh. ‘Those UNITA okes have fuckin’ seen it all. I feel better knowing they’re just over there, hey?’ He jerks his thumb in the direction of the UNITA platoon.

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Paul Morris Exorcises the Ghosts of War with a Solo Cycle Trip in Back to Angola

Back to AngolaNew from Zebra Press, Back to Angola by Paul Morris:

In 1987, Paul Morris went to Angola as a reluctant conscripted soldier, where he experienced the fear and filth of war. Twenty-five years later, in 2012, Morris returned to Angola, and embarked on a 1500-kilometre cycle trip, solo and unsupported, across the country. His purpose was to see Angola in peacetime, to replace the war map in his mind with a more contemporary peace map, to exorcise the ghosts of war once and for all.

Morris’ journey starts at Cuito Cuanavale, the scene of one of the last major battles involving South African forces, where he meets a Cuban contractor who fought to defend Cuito Cuanavale at the same time that Morris was with the SADF forces advancing on it. From there on, the narrative shifts between Morris’ vivid memories of the war and his experiences in peacetime Angola. In addition, the book is punctuated with fascinating and thoughtful reflections on childhood, masculinity, violence, memory, innocence and guilt.

Back to Angola is an honest, intelligent and deeply moving account of war and its effects on an individual mind, a generation of people, and the psyche and landscape of a country.

About the author

Paul Morris was conscripted into the SADF just before his nineteenth birthday and trained as an infantry soldier in Bloemfontein. On the border he was posted to the well-known 61 Mechanised Battalion Group. Since then, Morris trained as a psychotherapist, and has a master’s degree from London Metropolitan University. He lives in Johannesburg, where he practises as a counsellor and coach. Morris has spoken at conferences and seminars about his war experience and recent return to Angola. These include a seminar at Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Rhodes University’s History Department, Th!inkfest at the National Arts Festival, and the Legacies of Apartheid Wars Conference. His blog has attracted those interested in the war in Angola as well as people from the bicycle touring community.

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