First things first - Rosie called me today to ask me where
blue and red Pingu were (DVD's) AND that she's now wearing
big girl knickers! WOW!! Conversation with a two year
old, who is mastering the art at an amazing rate, is sheer
joy - particularly to grandma!
Good to talk to Ray yesterday. Now speeding out of Omaha,
Nebraska on his way to Chicago, Illinois he has spent two
days with John Onumbu and his family. We met John, a HUGE
Nigerian student, hot from Port Harcort, in September
1980. He needed digs, and we, down to one income with a
new baby to care for, needed his rent!
John filled our small house with life and colour. I
remember especially the lime-green shirt with a peacock
motif that he wore on arrival. I also remember realising
at once what a mistake it was to cook spaghetti for his
first meal with us! John was kindly, gracious and
immense. He quickly became part of our family - watching
in fascination as Ray cleaned house, changed baby and did
the washing. I believe I managed to persuade him that it
was NOT unmanly to do such things. My powers of
persuasion must have been sufficient, for he has stayed
married to his American wife Linda for more than twenty
With John began a love affair with Africa that was to
bring about many changes in my life decades later.
Anywhere In The World, This Is Your Home
Technically, my first trip to Africa was the belly dancing
escapade across Sinai, but the Bedhouin who escorted us
kept, with very good reason, themselves to themselves, so
I feel no particular attachment to the place. (Well apart
from the awesome day spent on Mt Sinai. I found a cleft in
a rock and sat there imagining Moses petitioning God to
allow him to see His face...See Exodus 33 v 22 ) We were
privilidged to meet their families on one occasion. The
wives and children must have been utterly bemused at the
strange customs of these white women; nevertheless they
taught us one of their dances and sold us beads...
I became Nomantombi Mlombile's adopted daughter in August
2002. I was a Global Teacher, funded by the UK Gov't
Millenium Commission to go to the village of Lower Kroza
(Eastern Cape, RSA)to help the staff of the
school 'implement the School Development Plan' - a task
which was the most surreal enterprise I have ever
undertaken. Nomantombi, the elderly widow of an Archdeacon
in the Anglican Church, and owner of the most secure Kraal
in the village, had been persuaded to host me.
I will describe a typical day on the Kraal on another
occasion, for now I want to record here my love for and
gratitude to this remarkable woman.
I had noticed that she regularly took meals into the
rondavel (my room was in a large five bedroomed 'flat
house' ie not round... )One day she told me the story of
the man in the rondavel, 'the son of my oldest brother' -
he was dying of AIDS and he needed to go to the hospital
in Kokstaad. I insisted she take 100 Rand for a private
taxi (about £10 then) so that she could visit him. Within
a week, he had died. I was enormously impressed by her
courage; South Africa was in denial then about the AIDS
epidemic because of the shame attached to the disease.
Even to the extent that her nephew's death certificate
listed, 'natural causes' as the reason for his death.
For ten pounds, I bought the loyalty and love of
Nontomole's entire family. Her sons and daughters are
professional people - teachers, administrators a doctor
and an airline pilot, but they have welcomed and treated
me and my family with great warmth. On the last day of my
assignment, Mama took me round the entire kraal, walking
me through every room in every house and said, 'Wherever
you are, anywhere in the world, this is your home.'