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A Sign Of The Times

October 6th, 2009 6 comments

segregationI had a bright yellow blanket – Blankie (not very original). It had soft, satin edging that I would rub against my top lip while sucking my thumb. Everywhere I went, Blankie went. We were inseparable. When I stood under the washing line, Blankie flapping in the breeze; good and clean and fresh tra-la-la, my mom decided something had to be done. Blankie was cut up into Blanklets, which meant that one was always in the wings, when another was in the wash, or lost.

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Alma Mater or I’m-A-Maatie

August 10th, 2009 11 comments

1994

I sat curled over my notes and cried. Every night it was the same; my hand stiff from hurried scribbling, eyes strained from pouring over the scrawl, head buzzing with too little understanding. I slammed my Tweetalige Woordeboek shut and threw my pen across the room. I stared past the midnight garden to a flickering street light and squinted; fuzzy, sharp, fuzzy, sharp, “The country is changing but Stellenbosch won’t … Die Taal’s final outpost … What am I doing here?”

Focus.

Sliding out of my chair, I went in search of my pen and collapsed onto my bed. Four years loomed. I tried to swallow my resentment by taking a long, slow sip from a glass of half-full.

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Categories: Afrikaans Tags:

Fly, South African

July 26th, 2009 16 comments

When you leave home, you never leave in one go. By the time you’ve decided to leave you’re already one foot out of the door. Then you say good-bye over and over until you actually go. I’d been saying good-bye for days.

saaI started packing the night before I left. Textbooks and trinkets disappeared into deep cardboard boxes. The packing tape strained and squawked, their fates sealed. Wiping my hair from my eyes I turned to my backpack gaping hungrily on the floor. I pushed up my sleeves, again, and studied the checklist stuck to my cupboard door. Rolling and folding became squashing and squeezing and within minutes I’d reduced my life to 75 litres. The night-time hours crept.

In the morning I was left with a quiet house and time to soak up the familiar. I wandered from room to room, to smell, touch and remember. By the afternoon I fidgeted, held captive by my departure time.

One by one, my parents arrived home and I teetered downstairs, blood racing, stomach churning, careful not to crush anything with my load. As we waited for my brother, I passed a South African flag to my mom to sew onto my pack—to be attached. My passport secretly tucked, it declared to the world that I belonged. My mom stitched, my dad paced. I sat.

packingThe telephone’s rings pierced the waiting room. My brother’s car had been stolen from campus! South Africa: your legacy, my heritage. Dad made plans to fetch Roger from UCT and meet us at the airport. Mom cut the thread. Good-bye dog-log, good-bye house, good-bye street.

I stood in the SAA check-in queue, fumbling and staggering under the weight of my bag. Eyes wide, voice small I asked for a window seat. My family huddled on the other side of the stanchions, smiling encouragements, waiting patiently. We sat at a coffee shop until it was time to go. Time to go. And the tears came thick and fast, hot on my already-flushed cheeks, tumbling into crumbled tissues. A girl divided, I wiped my nose on my sleeve.

I bear-hugged them, shaking in my Docs. Good-bye mom, dad, Rog. I slung my daypack onto my shoulder and shuffled forward with a syncopated heart. I wanted to go but I wanted to stay for just a little longer. The guard, cloaked in indifference, thumbed my passport. I smiled bravely and sniffed, and wondered whether he’d ever left home, his country.

I looked back one last time. There they were, waving, grinning and blowing kisses. I returned them all, smiled and turned the corner. Good-bye Cape Town. Good-bye South Africa.

Categories: Realisation Tags: , , ,
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