Monday, June 29, 2009

The fall of apartheid & the new south africa

Wonderfully relaxed morning. Woke up in good cheer (which has been most mornings lately) but not with so much spunk as to get out the door with Mick as he set off to confront DOT bureaucracy, so he set off alone. Ended up reading out loud to Kirsten from a book I found in a Vancouver used-book store: "South of the Limpopo." It's a travel account of an Irish woman, quite elderly at the time, who took it upon herself to bike south into SA from Zimbabwe in 1993, just after apartheid was officially ended, but before the first elections installed Mandela as president - and from there to pedal her way across the length & breadth of the country. She has a perspective in many ways in line with those of my mother & I, and soon the occasional quote became me reading the text continuously.

It was quite fun. I really enjoy reading aloud, and the glimpse of SA afforded by a like-minded foreigner, especially at such a pivotal point in the nation's history, is very interesting. Drank tea, ate rusks, read until my voice could read no more at sometime around three p.m. Kicked around the house a bit at that point before deciding to go to the beach with the banjo.

Sat out in the beach scrub, on a rise overlooking the liminal zone of crashing waves. Played and played, working through new rhythms and patterns, learning where the harmonious & dissonant sounds reside, rebruising my already abused fingertips. I'll be glad when the pain gives way to callous.

There were huge storms last week, and the previously clear beach has been covered with broken bit of kelp and sponge, dead sea cucumbers, little red worm things, plastic bottles, doll heads, lost shoes, & all the other things the ocean relinquished for a time. A large group of ladies where combing through the debris and playing in the waves, looking to be having a great time. Moved by their example, I zipped up the banjo & walking along the beach for a time.

I didn't get far before I sat down to play again, just behind the kelp line. After a while, the drifting group of combers drifted close to me, intent to explore the banjo-picking white boy, I suspect. Thrumming heart and shaky hands - performance anxiety! So rather than continue flubbing my sounds I turned to them and ventured an,"ugumnxhosa?"

They laughed and said,"no, no, we're not xhosa - except for you," only then remembering that one of their friends was, in fact, xhosa. She hung around for a little bit & I tried to talk to her, resorting mostly to english. Turns out they were a group of agricultural students from the interior on field trip to local farms. And to the beach. Some of them had never seen the ocean before. The one xhosa girl, whose name escaped me, had already found one matched pair of shoes and was looking for more - and pretty stones. After a bit of awkward conversation she resumed her search & I my banjo picking & people watching.

The other girls were having a great time pulling one another into the breakers, falling down, shrieking, smiling. Inspired by the playfulness I zipped up the banjo and commenced with the cartwheeling. I had discovered, on a previous walk with Mick, how fun cartwheels, handstands and flips are on the beach. Hell of a good workout if you keep at it continuously. By the time I leave here my wrists will be stronger & I will be able to do a controlled roll-over. Eventually I wound down & the xhosa girl came back & we talked a bit more. She was avoiding the revelry in the breakers, sensibly enough - I bet the wet ones had a cold ride back in the bus. Once again awkward language situations prevailed - it reminded me very much of the interaction I had in pdx with a guatemalan woman I'd met who was interested enough, but something just couldn't quite click. Oh well. She wandered off again & I went down to the very edge of the water to play cartwheels some more, all along the foamy sea edge.

Some of the girls in the breakers ventured that I should join them in complete soakage, but I smiled & shook my head,"Nooo." I was quite content to continue cartwheeling while (mostly) dry. A bunch of the boys came down after a while, screaming at the chill on their feet, but eventually stripping down to their underwear and jumping in. Much fun was had by all, me cartwheeling in the center of their fun - like some strange mascot or party trick. Eventually one of the boys cartwheeled over to me and we started talking. He was a shiney fellow by the name of Yeshwa or Themba, depending.
"Jeshua?" I asked.
"Yes! Do you know hebrew?"
"No," I smiled, going on to explain that I too had two sets of names.
He & I talked for quite a long time, it being a much more enthusiastic, congenial interaction. He had no idea where pdx was, but he does have kin in atlanta. Asked about their school, if he had heard of permaculture (no), mentioned that I too want to be a farmer, to which he seemed both surprised & delighted. I got the impression that their agricultural education is heavily leaned towards the industrial variety.

He asked about my guitar, & when it was clear that he'd never heard of a banjo I decided it would be easier to show than to explain. "Does it come from (i forget where)?"
"No," I smiled back over my shoulder,"from africa!" That surprised him.
I showed him the banjo and then sat down to play - *that* got all the boys over & many photos were had by all. One of them reminded me all the world of a oaxacan friend of mine (si estas leyendo este kobe: me espera tu energia amigo!) & i consented to give him my thumb pick later in large part because of that resemblance. Good thing i bought two ^_^
Themba asked at one point why i played. "For my heart," i replied, tapping my chest,"because it makes me happy." This answer seemed to meet with approval.

Much fun was had, many more tunes were played, many bodily inversions performed, & then it was time for them to leave. Many goodbyes were said, two of the boys told me we'd meet again, & I learned three new local ways of touching hands in friendship. All in all a very heart-warming. It would be nice to run into them again.

When I got home Kirsten had made delicious dinner and I went to sleep soon after, quite exhausted by the revelry. And then up again @ midnight, wide awake, writing a blog. :-p

1 comment:

  1. I learned three new local ways of touching hands in friendship.

    Way cool.

    I need to learn all of the ones you know. I love those sorts of interactions.