I reach my mom, sister, niece and nephew, who’ve gone ahead and are now waiting for me a little further. Mom is sitting on these beach cement benches with a broad smile on her wide eyed face, “Jabu, I was saying kuNozipho uthole iAlbatross (Jabu I was telling Nozipho that you got yourself an Albatross)” she’s already laughing out loud causing my youngest sister Nozipho Rakolota to crack up in a deep belly, throaty laughter as we tear ourselves away from the beach to foot it back to our holiday apartment. We watch slyly as the Albatross has finally loosened her hold on me and hotfoots it back to the beach. “Hey nina!” I exclaim “I was in trouble hey.” I confess. My sister still laughing says “I thought she was one of your students”. “No. I don’t know her” I tell her. “That’s what I thought too” blurts out my mom, “but your sister told me she doesn’t know her.” “Phela sengimangele (I am surprised) that she is now following me everywhere”. I make them stop walking to laugh some more. “There are many Albatrosses because we are at sea, that is for sure” mom laughs.
My Albatross had come to me earlier just after we had got to the beach. She was a pretty brown-skin girl with a Shona tinged accent and beautiful broad smile. She casually joined me just as I was minding my own business cooling myself in the sea. My family was scattered and I was alone at that time. She prodded.me to go further into the sea and asked me why I wasn’t going nto the deeper part. I jokingly told her that the idea was not to kill myself but to cool myself. The lingering heat had overwhelmed me such that it penetrated my skin making me sweat like I’d been in a downpour. That’s how this whole Albatross business started
The next thing I knew was that she was asking me to take pictures of her with her phone and mine whilst querying me about all sorts of small personal details like how long I was there for, when I had arrived, where I was staying, when would I leave blah, blah, blah… She found out that I teach when mom asked in isiZulu if she was one of my kids when I finally went back to where she was sitting and sat next to us. We were later to find out just as we were leaving that she could speak isiZulu. Fortunately we had not said anything bad about her.
She asked me about studying at university and said she wanted to be a teacher as she tampered with my phone to share her pictures to her phone. She had already forgotten that she had told me that she’s a tertiary student because she was saying she doesn’t have money to study further and her mom had told her she would meet somebody who would guide her about life in her trip. She was lying, I could feel it, just like I felt that she was lying when she said the two 2 litres cold drink bottles she had in a Shoprite store plastic bag were for some people who had asked her to bring back some sea water for them. I felt that this was her water she and was just unnecessarily too embarrassed to say it was hers.
Well, she didn’t leave. I worried about my phone because she seemed to like it a lot and touch it a lot exclaiming it’s a real phone. She offered my mom and I her bacon bites chips from the large packet she had, but we politely turned her down. She went with us to the beach showers to rinse off the beach sand from our bodies. She wore her dress to cover her nice swim suit. She followed us home. She turned back when I wittily told her it had been a pleasure to meet her, goodbye. That’s when she turned back to the beach. I just know that she was going back to get that sea water. At least that’s what I thought. Why else would she go back after dressing? Perhaps the worst would be to find another victim to hang around his/her neck. The Albatross #sigh 😂
For quite some time, one of my brothers was a petrol attendant with 2 university degrees, a BCom and Honours. He was struggling to get a job that matched his education. His peers who hadn’t studied further after matric felt that his education was useless. They even went as far as to laugh at him.
A couple of years later he secured a job that matched the degrees he had studied for. As I write this, he now lives a life that some only dream of. He is one of the best IT software specialists in SA, lives in his dream house in Sandton and lives the life of his dreams.
Yes, sometimes it looks like studying was not a good idea when you’ve graduated but can’t find a job, but once you do, it pays off for all that time you struggled. Education does make a difference even after you’ve had to struggle a bit. Struggles do end eventually. I should know because I was an unemployed graduate for a long time. #teacherspeak #academic #lifelongstudent #employedgraduate
Tjo! I open my curtains this morning and I see that car is still parked across the street. It’s all week now. Got home on Monday evening after a visit at mom’s and found this car parked just outside my place like the owner was visiting me. He had left me just enough space to not block me from driving through my gate. His window wipers were up. I was taken aback, annoyed and anxious all at the same time. Nkosi yam, what did this all mean?
When someone knocked firmly at my door a few minutes later as I was changing from my work clothes I was still wearing, I asked twice or thrice who it was as I walked from my bedroom to the door. I was not going to just open. This car had given me the creeps. A security officer from my security company identified himself and so I remembered that I had been slow in disarming my security alarm when getting into my house. As I opened the door I told the security guard that I had had to ask because I thought it could be the stranger who owned that car parked at my place. He quickly went to investigate the car thinking I had deliberately set off the alarm to call them to investigate. He radiod his office about the car and they told him to take down its number plate numbers. I was still standing behind my burglar door and couldn’t see everything properly when he called me a few minutes later saying the owner had come. So I unlocked the door and went to see him across the fence where they were standing next to the car. An unkempt young man was standing there. He introduced himself and where he stays, told me he is a soldier and had run out of fuel, would go and get some and remove the car. He said he was with some of my neighbours across the street, apologised and so the security guard left.
Sometime before midnight I awoke to go to the loo and took a peak through my curtains and saw the car was still there. From around 7 pm when the guy said he was going to find fuel, he hadn’t come back. I phoned the security company. They came and the girl from the security office called a while later to say there was no one in the car but because they had taken its identification, they would follow up if anything happened. As soon as the security guards left, I heard some rowdy Tswana conversation getting exchanged around the car. Parting my curtains, I saw about 5 or 6 guys pushing the car across the street to leave it the other side next to another house. The owner was saying he regrets parking it at my place as they pushed it away. On Wednesday after work I saw it was moved to where it is now.
It is Saturday today as I pull my curtains, there’s the car. It is still there. Thank God I called the security personnel who made the driver uncomfortable enough to move it away from my place. If I hadn’t, it would still be parked at my place. Reminds me of imoto kamnikazi, (owner’s car) someone had brought to my dad to check because dad was good with his hands. We were small and when we played in it our parents told us not to because it was imoto kamnikazi and the owner would be angry. The car was with my dad for years until we had grown up and started school. During my teens dad sold it to someone who volunteered to buy it. Anyway I regress.
Fuel problem? Can’t be.
My younger brother Mpumi says he watched a documentary about a research that proved that human beings are the only species that do not pay attention to their instincts. Seemingly we all have a sixth sense. Apparently, most people who end up assaulted, raped or killed ignored an inner tugging or signal that something was wrong about a situation they found themselves in.
My paternal granny’s sixth sense was something extraordinary. Once when we were small, she left our parents’ house to go and pray at the nearby mountain. She had not gone too far into the forest when a loud voice told her to turn back and go home. She looked around but there was no one. She walked further into the forest, but two more times the loud voice implored her to go back home. After the third time, she became really afraid and turned back. As she was turning to walk away, a man called out from behind one of the trees, “Mosadi o ska tshaba. Nka se go gobatse (Woman, don’t run away, I won’t hurt you)”. When she turned around, she saw a dodgy man half hiding behind some tree in the forest and waving her back. She ran away as fast as her legs could carry her until she got home.
She was fortunate because hers was a loud voice. It saved her many times. She used to always be on the road selling this and that, but there are many instances when she didn’t go and instances when she came back after leaving home because she had been audibly warned not to go.
The rest of us have an internal guidance. It is a still small voice that guides us. It tells us who we can trust and who we cannot trust. It tells us if we should go to certain places or not. It even tells us if we can or should not eat some people’s food. It tells us if certain roads are safe or not. It helps us with our decisions and tells us if we are making the correct or incorrect decision about money, relationships, jobs or education.
That’s why counsellors always say things we already know deep inside of our heart of hearts. We usually find that there is nothing we don’t already know. Sometimes we ask people about things we already have answers for. If only we could always listen to our inner voice, the Wonderful Counsellor, our lives would be easier and better. All the answers are in us.
“If we listen to our inner voice, it will grow stronger…”
My parents and I with our Mabopane neighbours were excited, excited. More than excited to say the least. For the first time black people were going to vote. The joy, the happiness, the ecstasy was thick and tangible in the air. I remember that people of every age like my family went to the voting station with their families in tow. Chairs, umbrellas, food, crying and laughing babies were part of the long meandering line at the local Dr Mokoma High School. There were hawkers who sold food but most people had brought their own food and they were prepared to wait even at dusk to put their tick against Mandela’s face. There were lots of laughter and slight tension as we all (young and old) wanted Mandela to win the elections.
Back home we sat in front of my dad’s colour TV. During those days, it was one of the biggest TV sets in our neighbourhood and most of the time our neighbours watched it with us. So some neighbours and my dad’s friends were there as we followed the results of the elections as they were broadcast throughout that day. I remember the noise and how we jumped and some ran out into the street screaming in delight with some breaking into song when the ANC won the elections. It was the happiest day. Freedom day.
Life as we knew it was bound to change and in so many ways it has. I have studied at a previously all white university, the University of Pretoria. I have worked in three multiracial schools and a university and still do. I live in a multiracial neighbourhood. One of my best friends is Jansen Potgieter, an Afrikaans speaking guy. I can go anywhere, whenever I like. I can study anything I want, eat anything I want, associate with whoever I want, drive whatever I want etc and my son’s name is Nkululeko meaning Freedom 🙂 .
Yes, there is corruption in this country and things are far from perfect, but thank God we are not where we used to be.
It is four this morning when I am awoken by loud banging. It sounds like it’s coming from the side of my wall except my wall is not made of zinc. As I jump out of bed, “Maak oop, maak oop!!! Polisie!!!” tears the silence of dawn further. It’s repeated a few times before a door opens and a voice calls out to the old man in the main house, the owner of the house,
“Oom Sarel! Oom Sarel!”. I try to peep through the window but can only see a wall of huge nicks and nacks leaning on the adjoining wall from their side. It’s an array of things some people hoard hoping they will use some day but never get to use. It is at that time that I realise that the tin shack that was being furiously built was not to neatly house these nicks and nacks but for the strange man/men who were building it quickly quickly as dusk settled yesterday.
“Gee jou ID” says die polisie. An argument ensues. I can hear that it’s a couple of polisie.
“die hele gementeskaap…” I loose some words from die polisie.
” ‘n mens soos jy moet nie met ander mense…” I loose some more words as the polisie depart with their person. I hear car tyres screeching away. With that the dawn is quiet again.
I go back to bed and only then realise that jumping out of bed irritated some physical pain I’ve been nursing.
In the morning I wake up with Afrikaans words in my head and I go towards the window to check out the scene in the 7 o’clock light as I think of sharing it on Facebook. Some strange man is sitting outside the newly mushroomed shack facing my kitchen window and I quickly move away from my window. My kitchen window will never be the same. As of today I’ll be at my sink, or peeling and cooking over this polisie scene… 😀
I guess how fast or slow we walk informs how fast or slow we drive. I don’t know how I got to walk so fast because I can’t walk slowly unless I am dog tired. I do remember though that as a little girl I used to see big school girls and boys passing by our house walking fast and I thought it is something that shows that one is a big girl or boy 🙂
So, once I started school I walked very fast even though I could never be late. I walked fast only because I thought starting school meant that I had become a big girl. I have since walked fast all my life, as if I am late even when I usually am not. Now since I started driving some years back, folk tell me I am a fast driver. My mom was the one to say it first. I thought that’s because when you drive other drivers they almost always have an opinion about your driving. They want you to drive like them. Scores of people have echoed her sentiments over the years. I have always told them I drive according to the speed limit. Lately however, I thought maybe they may have a point as much as I don’t want to admit it. I am that impatient driver who overtakes the slower drivers. I catch myself talking to them under my breathe “…and now? Why are we walking when we should be driving? Why are we sleeping in the middle of the road? Goodness! Why are you in this lane when there is a slow lane? Why are we just practically stopping to drive? Let’s go, let’s go, the robot is green!!! Why didn’t you put on a learner’s sticker cos you drive like one. Hey, hey, hey, let’s go, let’s go!”. That happens even when I am not late. So I guess my impatient walking translates into impatient driving. Wonder what the hurrying is all about 🙂
I practically ran to the public toilets at Oakmoor train station, Thembisa, and quickly gave a coin to the guy who was sitting at the door of the ladies side of the public toilets collecting money for the toilet from those who needed to use it like me. As soon as he gave me the folded piece of off-colour tissue paper, I ran in. I had been so pressed in the taxi from 2 that brought me to the station. The ladies was smelly and not really clean but nature was calling much too loud. I found an almost clean cubicle and just as I was starting to do my business, a sweaty stench filled my nostrils followed by heavy breathing above my head. I looked up to see an oily, sweaty dark man looking down at me from the top of the cubicle. He seemed to be standing on top of the toilet seat next door. “Hey wena!” I screamed and went on to scream a lot of things I don’t remember as the loxion Peeping Tom scrambled away. I was really shaken. I didn’t understand how a man had passed the tissue guy at the door to get into a ladies toilet. Now thinking back, perhaps the intruder was the tissue guy himself and in my shock I didn’t realise. The year was 2000 and I still don’t do public toilets easily…
“Once the bug gets you, it’s got you” my friend Thuli said at yesterday’s graduation as we sat side by side in the ceremony venue. Like me, the graduation was her 4th. You see, we are used to the rolls and the punches of academia that we are sort of addicted to the vibe. Then days like yesterday come and make it all worth it.
I found my thoughts wondering off to my late dad yesterday. My first memory of him is of his face buried in a book. Everyone called him meneer because he had been a teacher. He was forever studying for something at UNISA or other university. My first taste of a graduation ceremony was when as a kid we accompanied him to one in UNISA. It was not to be the last one I attended of my dad’s. I guess the bug bit me then. If only dad could see me now! These thoughts were echoed aloud by my mom who accompanied me yesterday. She who made me think school never ends because she and my dad were alike. She always had a book. As kids we attended her numerous graduations too. That’s the stuff I am made of and I can’t help myself from getting a thrill in academia. It improves life yes, but for me it’s more than that. I get a high from it I guess.
It sounds easy but it’s not. My journey started with me deciding to become a teacher like my parents which exasperated my dad. He wanted me to be a medical doctor. Sometimes I think my obsession with a red gown is also subconsciously to prove a point my mother made to him when she intervened and released me from my dad’s steadfast argument. I can still be a doctor without going to med school.
Unlike my mates I did not get a job after graduating in education. The trials, the tears, the hardships and near misses of that time are the stuff that breaks people. I miraculously did not break though. Somehow in the darkness of that time I decided to study publishing because I have been writing since I could well, shape words on paper. I thought maybe I was not cut out for a job as a teacher like my parents. Funny enough when I completed my publishing degree, I found myself lecturing it temporarily somewhere instead of getting into publishing. So teaching was for me after all. The thrill I get from getting new info herded me back to studying further. I wanted to be a specialist in something. I have studied without so much as looking at my bad financial situation. I have been in offices begging for financial assistance. I have been turned back many times and helped many times too. I have persisted. I have cried. I have even failed some of the courses and then passed them, got slowed down by life’s issues now and again but I have not given up.
I have walked to the Chancellor on a graduating stage exactly four times now and I think it has made it difficult for me to understand when others find good reasons for not following their dreams because there are no excuses to becoming exactly that which you wish. A step away is my red. If only dad was here…
Just remembering how long after apartheid there was a time I was getting paid R200 a month from the back pocket of some owner of a private school in Brits who just did not care that I was qualified for the job. He said that I was new and also couldn’t possibly get a man’s salary. Man’s salary was even the worst because I was teaching with unqualified men who were getting R5000 and more at that time. Can you believe it? I did not leave his employ because I was teaching Matrics and carried them in my heart. I however applied to another school in the area as soon as my Matrics had passed and promptly got employed. I will never forget how he threw all his toys out of his cot when I said goodbye. Tjo! I am not sure why I am remembering this unfairness this morning, but one thing for sure, nothing can hold one back if one takes steps to improve one’s life. I would still be there if I had not applied for something better.