I’m here, jet-lagged, ears ringing, wakeful in the night, bleary and unfocused by day, but in love, enraptured, swept away by the beauty of parched golden-colored land, by the warm shy smiles of strangers, by the two-handed handshakes of old friends, by the echoing racket of roosters, by the squawking of great gray ibises (called Ha-de-dah’s by the Whites). I’m here, intoxicated by great clouds of lavender blossoming Syringa trees, by cascading bright green willows, by a fine powdery dust that makes the air glint in bright clear sunlight, by the music of the Sesotho language, by dog-bark and laughter heard across mountain valleys. Intoxicated with my privilege, I’m here.
I had my day with Christine after a night sitting up in an impossibly crowded plane (every seat taken). Six hours with Christine swept by as if it were half an hour. There we were in the City of Westminster drinking coffee, drifting through the past four decades of our lives as if we could see it from a distance, tears flashing in our eyes and gales of laughter. We caressed shared memories, we held each other’s losses, were embarrassed (that would be mostly me) by our foolishness. We saw what really mattered over the last forty years and what only seemed at the time to matter. We saw and affirmed for each other what is alike in us (great, fat generous hearts) and what is different (she rooted, me wandering). We saw what has driven us, what held us back, what we chose. We saw and held hands and commended each other, thanked each other, and planned she’ll come to the USA in 2012 and stay a while.
Then back to Heathrow (a nightmare of bad management and stupid policies with bad signage) and a second long night sitting up, cramped, back slumped and knees jammed) and finally to Johannesburg. On the plane I’d begun to feel my heart race with emotion hearing the different accents of Black-inflected and White-inflected English, feeling again the sharp and violent history of Apartheid, the still-new energy of freedom, the disappointment that followed the hopes, the memory.
On the plane I felt it, in the airport I heard the accents of two different kinds of White South Africans and the nuanced distrust between them; I heard cleaning women speaking Zulu and Xhosa; and in the transfer lounge I sat with a group of men from Swaziland and watched their playful ease: touching each other, holding hands, leaning on each other’s shoulders with easy affection that made my eyes smile.
Finally after delays, after a bumpy ride in a small plane even more cramped than the great crowded jets of the two nights, finally, at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon, I climbed down a rickety stair into a breezy, sunny Spring afternoon in Lesotho. I have written this between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Saturday as the morning darkness has filled with a rising chorus of roosters summoning a dawn that has not yet shown itself. Soon I will sneak out for a dawn walk and some photographs. Forget Jetzone and Advil PM. Nothing makes me sleep, I am alert at the wrong time, ears ringing, heart pounding, faintly nauseated, legs swollen (though the compression hose did help), eyes bleary.
My morning walk was divine, though I couldn’t stop myself and walked for an hour and a half, after which I collapsed and could not move for half an hour. Now I’m in Chris Dunton’s office, on his computer. I have arrived on a holiday weekend when the students are away, so we have some hope I’ll be able to post this on the blog, though even with the students gone, pictures are impossible. I’ll say more later about Chris and his welcoming home and table, our stroll around campus last night, our first talks. He had a bad fall six weeks ago that has left him with a sore back, so he walks with difficulty but insisted on indulging my hunger to see and smell and hear the land where I lived for two very eventful years. I find it even more beautiful now. I have had twelve years of separation to make it dearer to me than it was then, and I loved it then. After I post this, I will summon my energy, quiet my pounding heart, and go puffing and gasping up the hillside to M’e Mpho’s house.