02 September 2009


On the flight from Dulles to OR Tambo (Johannesburg) airports, I sat next to a woman who went to Cameroon to visit a friend five years ago, then ended up raising $10k to come work in Zambia for nine months for Grass Roots Soccer, an NGO that teaches about HIV/AIDS through soccer (a.k.a. football). Five years later, she's living in Cape Town working at their headquarters, where things are getting crazy in anticipation of World Cup 2010 in South Africa. We exchanged contact info and have communicated a bit since the flight. It'll be nice to see her, should things work out, once I'm in CT in a month or so.

Arthur Johnson, owner of Sunrock Guest House, came to pick me up from the airport and drove me the 10 minutes to my one-night accommodations. Within the first couple of minutes at the lapa -- a sort of poolside covered recreation area with chairs, pool table, bar, tables, etc. -- I realized that this was a predominantly Afrikaans-speaking establishment. No worries: Afrikaans and English are practically the same language ;-) I was having my first sundowner, on my computer, by a pool, with people who might teach me something about a language I don't know much about.

While having my first African sundowner and waiting for dinner, I was using wifi to send mails and update people on my arrival when some more people, and home-cooked supper, showed up. Despite having eaten about five times in the past I don't know how many hours without moving very much, I figured I'd try Arthur's mother's cooking. I sat down at a table rather than standing at the bar with my computer on it. People began to get food and sit down. I got the distinct feeling that I had somehow sat at what was the black table. It felt to me like there was a black side of the lapa and a white side of the lapa. Maybe I just expected to be some residual segregation so created it in my mind. Maybe not. No matter. I asked what language the guys who came to sit down by me were speaking. Sotho, they said. One thing I know about seSotho is that it took a lot of OCR to complete a seSotho project my team was working on last year. They were all mine workers of various sorts (a hydraulic machine repairman, other specialists, etc.) I was once again exposed to people who spoke at least three languages to some degree, and it doesn't seem particularly special to anyone around here. We were sharing a meal of roast beef, rice, gravy, mixed roasted squashes & other veggies, sweet roasted pumpkin & butternut squash, roasted potatoes, and an afterthought of a salad. Loved the pumpkin!

Following dinner, I re-orged the contents of my carry-ons while watching a movie called Rocket Science, a cute coming of age film about a socially and linguistically awkward kid who joins the debate team. After this I was flipping through channels and came across another movie I thought I'd watch for a while: Center Stage. It was about a ballet company in NY and the trials and tribulations of its students as they participate in a student workshop that partially determines the fate of their careers as dancers. Half paying attention to the film, I look up and see someone I know from Seattle on the screen. Craziness. I probably never would have seen this film or known of his fame in the U.S.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Gus: I traced back to this earliest post from you in Africa. So why are you in Africa? -Maya