I am an African, one of those who travelled to Europe for a short stay and then, somehow, did not return. In my case the lack of employment opportunities and relationships intervened. I have lived a good life; I have a house, food, a job and I work with fantastic kids. And yet, I dream of returning to my Africa, where I grew up, studied, did silly things; an idealistic vision, I know, that’s what dreams are. The poem shown on the left reflects a dream, of being at peace once more. A few days ago, I was chatting with a friend from Cape Town by text and I started describing a vision that I aspire to on retirement. Here goes…
The day starts with sunrise, actually a little earlier to make a cup of coffee, on the stoep (veranda) where we will sit quietly, contemplating life while the sun slowly rises over the horizon. It is slightly chilly, we are somewhere in the desert. It will be southern Africa, my first choice being the Namib desert, though the Richtersveld, Namaqaland, Karoo or Kalahari would also fit the bill. I say we, that will be a few animals and myself; humans may visit on migratory basis. I am an introvert, need my solitude, though the comfort factor of animals is always welcome. A cat, possibly many, will rule the house, while a dog will be my outdoor companion. The three of us will meet at dawn and dusk, the dog and cat each getting a belly rub and some chat. There will not be a garden as such, only a small space to socialize with friends and have a braai (similar to a bbq), the surrounding plants tamed somewhat by goats, possibly a springbok or two, an ostrich family; guinea fowl and francolin will peck away, small birds will fly in-and-out visiting the blooms. In spring and after the rains, the distant fields will be awash with blooms, a carpet of intense colour and fragrance. The bees will be busy collecting pollen, producing honey. Slowly the flowers will open to welcome the sun, we will watch the birds flitting about, maybe spot some kudu on the nearby hills. If we are fortunate, in the distance we may hear the call of a fish eagle or howl of a jackal.
Afterwards, the cat may go for a solitary stroll, maybe catch a mouse, then return to its favourite routine, sleeping. The dog will come with me on a walk into the fields, then we may take a drive in a battered, old land rover, the dog in the back, head out the window enjoying the breeze. We will return to the daily chores, clean the house, bake bread. The house itself will be simple; the kitchen will be the social centre point with a direct link to the fire pits outside to grill meat and vegetables, bake bread, boil water for coffee. My family and friends, beautiful people, will always be welcome to visit and enjoy the tranquil beauty.
Every few days, I will drive into the local village to go to the school, teach the kids and adults, learn from them, enjoy time with the local community. We will share the shade under a tree, smoke a pipe, enjoy a drink. I have been out of Africa for too long and will need to move away from my first world mindset, it will take some time. The African dust is an inherent part of me, it will happen sooner rather than later.
Every few weeks I will go on a road trip, cats and dog included, taking my camera – into the desert, east or west, possibly even to the coast. The land rover will be fully kitted, I have a hand brother-in-law who will have taught me properly, as he does on every trip I make to Namibia; they will, of course be invited along with their caravan. We will stop and camp where we want, stay as long as we enjoy it; meals will be simple, either a braai or a simple one-pot dish. The sun sets quickly, it does not linger; the dark sky is perfect for stargazing, spotting satellites and shooting stars. Not long after sunset we are asleep.