Saturday, March 11, 2006

Africans in New York

I recognized their African-ness and had to ask, "Where are you from?" There was a curious moment when they were wondering why I was approaching them. Why I would want to know.

"Botswana" came the answer. "Zambia," said the other. I beamed and waited a moment, relishing dragging out the suspense. "South Africa" I heard myself saying, focusing intently on reading their reactions.

Sheer joy, followed by a solid, complicated but familiar African handshake that all Africans know. We share something that we can't pinpoint. Yet we know we share it. And it is good. No anger, no resentment, no suspision. They know the tall, blue sky. They understand the nuanses of Africa. The heartache, the promise.

"All the Africans here are angry," he says. "It takes a while for the anger to go away. But eventually it does." Hope.

His son grew up here and rolls every "R" sound the New York way. "Are you an American?" I ask the four-year old. "I'm American. I'm African. I'm African American," he says with a straight face. The dad laughs and looks at me. He sees my childhood, knows my home.

I can't claim that heritage, I think by myself. I don't come from slavery, but I do come from Africa. My skin may not show it, but there's no denying it. Without a word from me, he says at that moment, "I call you my sister."

"I would like to go back, but there's nothing for me to do," says the programmer from Botswana. "It's been 11 years." But Africa never lets go, never leaves you. Even if you're a continent, a season and many time zones away.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Blogging Blows

Like independence, I came to blogging late in life. Journals and scrap books were sufficiently enjoyable teenage passtimes, but when the hormones settled so did the urge to write.

My laptop keeps me plugged into the matrix for times when the indulgent id resurfaces. Of course, never underestimate the ability of the ego and superego to interfere with the single-mindedness of the id. That nonwithstanding, the id can be persuasive, powerful, even seductive.

Blogging blows doors off any diary. It's a happy place where any stream of consciousness goes. Or is that blows?

Tuna Salad is Nie Slaai Nie

Ginnegaap... Jinne, Jaap! Ginny Gap. Ek kan my net voorstel wat 'n Amerikaner van hierdie naam sou maak. Verbaster en verbrou. En moenie eers dink om 'n diftong te gebruik nie. Daai mooi leeu kruip uit die kooi soos elke juffrou wat haar sout werd was ons geleer het.

So knoop 'n tong lelik en misfire die brein tot g'n mens meer kat of gat kan uitmaak nie. Om in Amerika te bly is om jouself van buite af te sien. Elke woord, daad en raad hou die spieel op vir wat 'n mens is, waarvoor mens staan, en hoe jy grootgemaak is. Marmite? Icky salty black yeast? You've got to be kidding me. Maar vir my is daar niks lekkerder nie, want dis die smaak van eerste pouse en kruisbeen sit op die warm teer. Afgerond met aarbei twizzers en sjokolademelk by die snoepie. Brown bag lunch, anyone? I don't think so.

Soms voel als hier in Amerika so bekend mens kom skaars agter jy's immersed in 'n ander kultuur, totdat iets jou onkant vang. It smacks you upside the head dat jy spin. How are you? is nie 'n vraag nie en tuna salad is nou eenmaal nie slaai nie.