When you first land in a new place, there is an initial exhilaration of being a complete stranger where you know no one and no one knows you. Everything is brand new and foreign and to everyone you pass, you are just another body. That stage has not passed as I find that every day holds another lesson with South Africa and its people sharing more of themselves, but since returning to East London from Mthatha, I can say that I know people here and East London is not just another city on a map.
We know all of the driving crew at Dean’s Taxis; they joke with us about work projects and why they hadn’t seen us in a while and we ask them about the recent birth of a grandchild. When we first walked into our office last Monday after returning from the conference, we immediately ran into student volunteers we had met in Mthatha who were thrilled to see we worked at their campus. While walking down the hallway to our office, we were greeted with big smiles, demands of where we had been, interest in a Canadian’s impression of Mthatha, astonishment at our new Xhosa, and happiness that we had returned and were staying! While walking later that day, we ran into more people from the university as well as a contact we made at the conference who pulled over his car to give us a big hug and encouraged us to stop by his office. It’s a small world after all and this last week has been encouraging and rewarding.
I would like to thank the South African mosquitoes who had almost complete access to my entire vulnerable sleeping flesh last night, but who chose to target my right eyelid and just above my left eyebrow, rendering me a blonde Quasimoto.