Saturday, April 5, 2014

Normal Things

It feels like I just arrived. And yet, there are things that are so normal and natural that I laugh when I remember how awkward, weird, and unknown they were at first.

Walking slowly down the road with my umbrella in hand, for walking at any other speed would induce melting, and if there were no umbrella…well, I don’t like to think what would happen to my skin.

Going to a neighbor’s house and walking straight through the gate and usually around back to their door, which can be found open at times and just saying ‘Ah’ or ‘ko-ko’ (knock-knock). Oh, and did I mention that I did not call in advance to let them know I was coming.

Having time to enter into another’s world and just sit and talk with them for a few hours. (This usually happens when I just randomly choose to walk over to a neighbor’s and chat).

The hooting (honking) of the taxi horns as they pass through every intersection looking for passengers to town.

Cars hooting whenever they see a fellow friend either driving near or walking. There is then a wave or hooting in response to the call.

My young neighbor friends walking across the street to call, ‘ELLE!,’ and have me come out to play.

Closing my room windows and door so that the mosquitoes do not come in to bother me all night.

Greeting my neighbors and many members that live in the houses along my walking paths to school and the store.

Growing food in our backyard.

Sweating as I sit still.

Saying ‘Ah’ quite often.

Having ants crawl over EVERYTHING.

Driving to someone’s house and not really know where it is, but be able to stop anywhere in the neighborhood and ask someone walking on the road where so-and-so lives and have them know who you are talking about and give you directions.

Not having street signs for every road.

Long lines.

Waking up because of the sun, usually just before 6.

Having people call me outside the hours of 8 am-8 pm. And yes, this morning I just answered a call from a friend who called before 7 am.

Eating pap with everything.

Being careful of where I sit because EVERYTHING is red due to the beautiful dirt.

Learning not to put certain things on the ground because they will turn red; it took a lot of instruction from my mom before I grasped this difficult concept.

Closing taxi windows as we drive. Yes, we sweat. No, there is not air conditioning. Yes, we close the windows.

Having people tell me “I’m coming” as they walk away from me and me totally understand what they mean. I now tell people regularly “I’m coming” as I walk away from them.

People tell me I, or they, have the flu because they sneezed. (Flu here-SA- is common cold there-USA).

This is just a short list of the many things that I have come to understand and love as normal about my life here in Shayandima, South Africa. 

Freedom Thoughts

This poem stems from many different things. The image of a tree comes from a beautiful book written by Eve Ensler, The Good Body. I have also been fortunate to have had some fantastic conversations with the women of my SA-YAGM group about freedom, identity, empowerment, and being a woman. This poem was written during some down time at our last retreat and stemmed from thoughts about who is free, how do you get freedom, and what does that look like.

I think I am beautiful.

My legs are my favorite. They are strong, curved, muscular, long, toned, squishy, hairy, smooth, flexible. I want to strut some days. I want to look at my legs and show them off in all their beauty.

Rarely am I in a setting where I feel comfortable to do that.

People will see my body and criticize and judge. Women will think I am trying to ‘get some.’ People will think I am not modest. Heads will turn as my white legs stand out. Men will whistle and stare, approach and comment.

My legs become objects. Things I have to hide.

I wish to stand like a tree, tall, sturdy, full of confidence, pride, and love. To have people look at me and love me as a tree, for what I am. They will see me in all my fullness, a bulging knot on my trunk, a branch that seems to be misplaced, slightly tilted to the left. But they will look on at the uniqueness and completeness of me. Still viewing just a tree. I am not defined by my parts. Nor do people think I am less of a tree because my bark is chipped and part of my root sticks out of the ground.

I am whole.
A tree.
A woman.