Saturday, 14 January 2012

No One Does Skies Like Africa

South Africa has been amazing. I've had such an incredible time getting to know the country. 

Upon returning home I expect to have to answer a lot of questions about my trip but sometimes after a long and eventful time away you don't want to talk about it too much. It's fresh, its sitting in you as you slowly adjust back to life as you know it. 

When asked about my trip I'll say "yeah, South Africa was great, amazing, stunning", I'll smile and look off into the distance until I'm asked if I'm alright, then I might cry and let it all out... 

I'll talk about how I stayed at the Valley Of A Thousand Hills in a Zulu Village and the Xhosa family I met along the coastal Eastern Cape. I'll talk about the Muslim family I stayed with and the wedding I went to in their local Mosque. I'll think back to the christmas I spent in a township with a Christian family eating seafood after attending sunday morning service. How I stayed with a white gay couple who adopted and are raising a black South African daughter. I'll mention the white lesbian couple I stayed with who are raising a mixed race son. I'll talk about the work I did with orphaned children, severely disabled (wheelchair bound) children, the mountains I climbed, the lone travelling across the wild coast via public transport (something I was advised not to do because of common road accidents & muggings) I'll  get animated as I recall the smells in the mini buses, trains and taxis, how I was crammed next to chickens and big boned African women with babies and baskets of fruits and veg. I'll talk about what it's like to sky dive, to go kayaking by waterfalls, to drive an old school Piaggio scooter across Cape Town in the city heat.  Where I was when I spotted my first whale and how I lost count of all the seals and penguins I saw. I'll say I survived a shark cage dive, how I walked with elephants and baboons, ate crocodiles and ostriches, raved at underground hip-hop spots, watched b-boys break, graffiti artists paint and skaters skate. The writers, poets, teachers and activists I met, how I felt their hunger, their anger, their idealistic visions of the future, how tormented they are by their own history and how intensely I listened to their struggle with African identity. I had conversations about apartheid, African politics, European-ism, Pan-African-ism. I had the kind of conversations you walk away from feeling enriched and uplifted. I met people who made me laugh until I cried, people who annoyed the fuck out of me, people with stories, incredible stories. I'll look very serious as I talk about how I almost got robbed on a mini bus and had to fight my way out. I'll tell about the morning someone broke into my flat while I was asleep and stole my watch and cash - how I had to go to the police station and confront the guy in his jail cell. I'll hold eye contact as I talk about the people I met going through grief, divorces, people who just got married, just had babies, just bought their first house, just lost their job. I'll go on to talk excitedly about how I crawled through caves, swam in the Indian and Atlantic Ocean, sat on a grassy hill watching a sunset surrounded by cows and smoked weed grown in the gardens next to pumpkins and strawberries. I'll grin as I talk about all the colours I sank into during a mushroom trip sitting next to a river and the laughing fits, bless the laughing fits! I'll recall the candle lit jazz bars and poetry readings and the books I finished and how I wrote at least five love poems about the sky. I'll recommend a range of new African authors, poets and musicians (currently reading Half A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), I'll say how I realized I like eating olives, I like hiking, I like Milk Stout beer and South African wine and cheese. I like dancing, I really like dancing... I danced more than I have in my entire life. I'll look at my feet as I tell you I realised how hard I am on myself, how much my relationship with my mother and sister has matured these past few years - I missed them in a way I never have. I thought about past relationships and best friends I've moved away from. I thought about my compatibility with my city, other cities, ambitions, dreams, business. 

I am growing and I have grown through all of this, I can feel it already... I'll wipe my eyes and say I am in love, in love with everything... all the beautiful things and their shadows.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed "Half a Yellow Sun" not only for the writer's beautiful manipulation of language but also for all the things it taught me about Africa, "my own religion" and humanity.

  2. i love this ray - the outpouring. glad to know you're back, but even gladder that you went away and experienced all this. xxx

  3. Way to go. Africa's in your blood now! X