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Willem and Fig Tree Offline I transform into mild-mannered Willem, 28 years old, living in South Africa, who loves trees and all other living things. Here you see him standing in front of a sycamore fig tree (Ficus sycomorus) growing in the Letaba rest camp of the Kruger National Park.

But here on h2g2 I am the Unmentionable Marauding Pillowcase, smasher and shredder of stereotypes, defender of the freedom of the soul, ravenous seeker and ingestor of stimulating tidbits of knowledge.

At this moment in my life my head is still spinning from the extremely rapid changes that have taken place in my country over the past ten years and that are still taking place. South Africa is a great country, the people here are terrific, but we got problems like you won't believe. It's difficult to even talk about these things, but basically we need to conquer the following opponents:

1) Racism. It's everybody's problem. It has taken on a life of its own and it's not going to die easily.

2) Poverty. Millions of people living like the scum of the earth, concepts like freedom and equality meaningless if you don't even have food to eat, no future to look forward to. How do we even begin to make things better?

3) Environmental problems. In the USA you just talk about it, down here we see and feel it. Farmland turning to desert. No food, no water. People poisoned by huge mountains of chemicals and waste lying right next to their homes and water supplies. Rare species being slaughtered and driven to extinction - people have to eat, after all. Dirty air, dirty water, dirty everything, the most beautiful place in the world turning into a bleak wasteland.

4) AIDS. You may not think of Africans as people, but we are. It's not just villages of grass huts. Many of us live in brick houses, we have electricity, we drive automobiles, and as you can see some of us even have computers. We start out as kids, go to school, grow up and have jobs. We're not stupid, and we have feelings. So try and get a concept for millions of real people dying of AIDS. Do you have any idea HOW many? Even around here we are not sure, but at the moment it seems as if a fifth to a quarter of all people in this country is HIV positive. In many other countries it's more. And it's going up fast. Millions of people have already died, but this is only the beginning of the dying. Men, women, rich, poor, old, young. We are losing teachers, nurses, policemen, doctors, lawyers - valuable members of our communities, people with skills that will be hard to replace. There are millions of very sick people who we need to take care of. We can't just leave them to die alone! Millions of kids are growing up with no parents. We can't afford AIDS medication, we can't afford safe sex education. We can't afford this epidemic, but we're getting it anyway.

5) War and violence. Political systems just don't work here. Things are out of control, any guy with a grudge can get together an army and start a war, nobody even knows who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. The precious resources of the continent are used to buy weapons and finance armed uprisings while the general population starves and degenerates.

This may make it sound like Africa is the gaping pit of Hell itself. Some times and some places, it gets pretty bad. But amidst the trouble people go on with their lives. There's peace, there's beauty, there's prosperity - not always the kind you expect, but it's there. There's optimism. We have here some extremely intelligent, extremely caring, extremely dedicated people. You're going to see miracles yet. We can get over this, we can pull through. We're human, and to be human is to be capable of extraordinary things. Just watch and see.

About myself: my ultimate belief is that all life is sacred. Plants, animals and yes, even humans. I believe in human potential: we seem to carry within us the seeds of unimaginable greatness. But it will just stay seeds unless we give it soil, water, nourish it so that it can grow. We must change society, so people can really be the most they can be. Nobody can have self-respect or accomplish anything while living in undescribable squalor. Teach people respect, for themselves, for others, teach them appreciation, show them beauty, show them all the interesting things the world has to offer, show them love, talk to them, communicate with them, be involved with them, stimulate, motivate and encourage them. Then they will grow and you will grow.

If I sound a bit preachy, it's because I care very deeply. I am also willing to listen, I am willing to change my views and be persuaded.

Apart from my Utopian ideals I am interested in nature, I like to hike and climb mountains, I lift heavy pieces of iron to stay in shape when I'm not hiking, I am somewhat artistic and I sketch and paint a lot, I am a great lover of music. I'll be checking out what some of the folks on H2G2 have to say about that, sounds like there's quite a few musicians in here.

Peace, Love, Harmony, Spiritual Growth, Ecstatic Happiness and Eternal Fulfillment to all of you!


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The Unmentionable Marauding Pillowcase

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