James de Villiers
My most precious possession when I was six, in small-town Ceres, was a picture book full of Bible stories - a gift from my grandparents.
Every night before I fell asleep, diligently, I would read it’s stories, imagining how great it must have been to be alive back then.
How great it must have been to be an Egyptian prince alongside Joseph, or to rule Israel with King Herod from the mountain tops of Masada?
But no story captured my imagination more than the story of the Babylonians who built a tower so tall that it threaten to reach into the heaven - The Tower Of Babylon - that God decided to sow confusion to slow them down.
I have been living in a high-risk coronavirus city since the start of the outbreak.
When worried friends and family asked me if I was scared or if I wanted to come home, my first instinct was, and still is: I am staying in Busan, South Korea.
In November 2019, I set out to travel in South East Asia while finishing up my Master's Degree in Political Science.
I was eager to take a break from the mundane academic environment.
I am also a complete foodie and was craving an environment radically different from my life in South Africa. Hence, South Korea sounded like the perfect place to start.
I mean, what could go wrong?
There is a stigma that surrounds suicide. The stigma is when people think that if you attempted suicide you are “weak” or “a coward”. What many people fail to realise, is that, people going through this aren’t really weak or cowards. A lot of people out there suffer alone, they are either scared to open up or to reach out for help. I have made this my mission and it’s my passion to help where I can.
It was a great loss for me when I lost my entire family when my father murdered my mother and my two siblings and then killed himself 20 years ago. I was 12 years old away on a holiday in Johannesburg while my parents and siblings were at our home in Durban.
My dad on the 11 December 1999 shot my mum, sister and brother and then himself. I never knew his reason for choosing suicide. My life changed after this tragedy. I became a victim and a survivor of suicide. After the tragedy, I had to live with my maternal family. I was grateful to have a home and family to go to. But it wasn’t home.
At age 19, I had a breakdown.
My close relative, who was ill all throughout my university career, passed away. Their passing triggered something inside of me.
A week after the funeral, I was back at university attending a short course, trying to normalise my world.
And then, while in a taxi driving for a weekend away, I felt my mind experience a mental eruption. My brain felt as though it had exploded like an atomic bomb.
And, yet somehow, nothing had changed. Everyone was still seated in the car. My blood was not splattered on the seats. But, my mind, was gone. My thoughts ran faster than I had time to process them.
I had no control or say on what they might do. To lose control of oneself is scary and lonely. All I could do was watch my life play out like my worst nightmare.
Jeanne du Plessis
I met him after work at a nearby restaurant. Drinks turned into dinner and it was an easy conversation. It was a decent evening. Sparks didn’t fly, but he was the first one that I wanted to see again.
The first one out of the five dates that I had been on from the online dating site.
This was before online dating meant everyone was swiping on faces on their phone screens during their lunch break. It was 2011 and online dating in South Africa was, in many eyes, just one step up from the lonely hearts pages at the back of a gossip magazine.
It had taken weeks before I was brave enough to put up a photo, lest someone recognised me on there. It took almost a year before I could admit freely that this was how we met.
He had no qualms about it. Online dating was simply the workaround in an alpha male society: As women, we had become so accustomed to defending ourselves against overly aggressive advances, that many friendly conversations couldn’t stand a chance.
We thought we were just having fun.