I’m baaaack!

Kayamandi, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, township, South Africa

Beautiful Kayamandi

After too many months of avoiding this work, avoiding the feelings and questions that going back to my time in South Africa would necessarily invoke, I am finally ready to think about South Africa again.

A thought-provoking conversation with one of my brilliant mentors at UW yesterday really got the balls rolling in my head in terms of thinking about how to approach and conceptualize the ‘doing’ of this research. She has gotten me thinking about identity politics, and what that might mean someone who identifies as a white Canadian woman is able to say about race, power, identity, and poverty in South Africa. It is not that I am unable to speak of these things, or that I am not allowed to, but that I can only do so from my own subjective position. I know that. I have always known that. But I think now I am coming to understand that.

I am also coming to understand that one of the reasons that I have struggled and avoided facing this work is because I have been grieving. I have been grieving the loss of the life that I loved in South Africa, the loss of all the treasured friends I made there. I am also grieving the lost opportunities to better understand.

I must confess – and no disrespect intended at all to all the lovely people who spoke with me about my project – but I feel as though these interviews and photos are so secondary to what I actually learned throughout my time there. Don’t worry Heather! – my research questions are up on my desktop, I’m not losing the thread. But my head and my heart keep returning to all that I learned there in my day-to-day. Joining in for Sunday chill, eating dinner and watching the soapies with Mama and the rest of the family, the Reconciliation Lunches. Amazink. I learned so much through these experiences and encounters. I miss them still.

Amazink, Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, township, South Africa, Cape Town

Amazink at sunset

Stellenbosch, township, Kayamandi, Cape Town, South Africa, reconciliation

The Reconciliation Lunch gang

And yet there is still so much that I don’t understand, so much that weighs on my heart. My friend who was stabbed, who waited so long to go and see a doctor that I legitimately feared he might lose his hand. Why was I the only family ‘member’ that would take him to the doctor? There was no lack of love or concern, to be sure. How is it that that fell to me? Why is it that several friends of my dear young friend who is drinking himself to death asked me to speak with him to try and help him. Why me? I don’t have any particular expertise or insight into what he is going through. I have heard that he isn’t doing well.

I also think about how we had no power in the township for the last two days I was there, apparently because thieves stole the copper wiring. Hundreds of people stood in the cold wind and rain, literally for hours, to get kerosene for their stoves and heaters. I watched them from my window, drove past them in my rental car. Where do I file that heartbreak, that shame?

Stellenbosch, Kayamandi, township, Cape Town, South Africa

My friends

I miss my friends who tried to help me understand all of this; the Viviers, Elsa, Patrick, Franky, Roots, Monde, Jedi, Pakamisa, Anathi, Mama, Bongani, Nozi, Joes. I feel as though this is just the beginning of a torrent of questions and feelings as I try to unpack some of this. More to come, no doubt 🙂

Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa, township

When he saw this picture, Patrick said: “This is the whitest I have ever seen you!”

 

Feeling like a boss

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The view from my new abode in the Township

I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling pretty good about life these days. I had a wonderful trip to Thailand, connected there with some truly inspiring and fun people, and now I’m back ‘home’ in South Africa, ready for whatever lies ahead. And I came home to friends! My dear friend Jane, who was my boss when I was an intern in Tanzania back in 2008, was travelling with the new crop of interns and I was lucky enough to get back in time to spend the day with them before they flew home to Canada. The first part of the day involved a lovely stop at a vineyard, including an oddly gendered lunch:

Then we decided to drive down to the coast and look at the penguins. Penguins!! I saw them once before on Robbin Island, but these guys were just waddling around right next to us. Penguins!

They’re such funny little things. We capped off the day with a gorgeous sunset over the Cape and a fantastic seafood dinner on the ocean. IMG_3996IMG_20160414_190501756[1]

I loved being able to spend the day with my friend and to get to know the interns, who are so full of ideas and energy and I was invigorated just hearing about the work that they are initiating in Durban and Dar es Salaam. They reminded me a little bit of that first crop of interns from so long ago 🙂CIMG1743

And I came home to mail!! Honest to goodness, in the mail, stamped and everything mail!! I am a lucky human.On that note, I dig once again into The Greatest Gift, feeling pretty classy 😉IMG_4002

IMG_4003.JPGAhahaha, so wonderful! Thank you again and again Kimberly!  You’re right – no one would ever mistake us for classy, but we do have more fun than ‘normal’ people, whoever they might be! xox

And this is now my room 🙂IMG_4004