Monday, June 13, 2011

East London: Round Two!

When I left South Africa with tears in my eyes and a suitcase full of memories (and Tennis coconut biscuits), we all decided to say “see you later” or “abeke babonana bayakuphinda babonane”, instead of “goodbye”.  This was more to comfort me even while I knew  deep down that I was going back to the other side of the world and perhaps this was a final goodbye.  Was it as small a world as they say?  This chapter didn’t have a clean ending and I wasn’t prepared to think this was the last time I would be in East London and forget all of the people I met or the work I  had been involved with.  As I sit here in the WSU offices, I almost still can’t believe that I returned three months later to a warm welcome and reunion.  It felt like landing in a “second home”, where instead of formal introductions, it was big hugs, laughter, and catching up on my time back home in Canada.   

In between my time in the Eastern Cape, I reunited with and love my family and bored them with stories, experienced some serious winter weather, painted the house, read a ton (check out the new entires on my reading list) and worked the federal election.  I spent a few days in the Niagara region and worked with Kyla (as well as got a crash course in how to be a superwoman when I stayed with her and her family) on what my six months would look like. 
After being hosted by Ms. Jordan and visiting Soweto, I barely slept the night before my plane ride to East London where Sis Ghana was waiting with a baggage cart, cellphone, and itinerary!  I was thrilled to help Sis Ghana and Dusty on the “Go Global, Live Local” trip where we visited Duncan Village, Mdantsane, Mthatha, Qunu, a home-based care centre, tomato cooperative, children’s home, Ikhwezi Lokusa HIV/AIDS Centre, the Department of Housing, WSU Centre for HIV/AIDS, and Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre.  I was proud to show them places and introduce them to my friends and colleagues and hear their impressions and observations.  I also liked the section on the itinerary where “Lise is to take charge”! 
Your two trusty group leaders and our swanky leather hats in Mthatha
It’s different living here by myself, although there is a Canadian diaspora currently in the city with the International Commerce co-op students (Joanna, Kyle, and Madjid), part of the “Go Global, Live Local” group, and the impending arrival of the CIDA interns.  But I had prepared myself for a different experience and it’s always good to learn how to be by yourself, no matter where you are.  But for some family time last week, I went home with Sis Ghana and her family (nine of us plus rugby and school bags in a compact car) where we had umvubo (sour milk and pap porridge) and then I fell asleep in her bed after helping out with homework.  I plan to make that a regular thing and just blend in with the furniture, as well as practice my isiXhosa with Gogo.
I am excited to hit the ground running and be a support for Sis Ghana, the new CIDA interns, and Niagara College, as well as to see the path that my six months takes and what can come of our big plans and ideas.  I am still intent on being (nearly) fluent in isiXhosa and broadening my culinary horizons.  Even though I’ve been here before, I know I’ll never understand this place and I am excited for what I see and learn this time around!

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