Welcome to the Wild South

And thanks for visiting! I am Nandi, and possibly (1+7)+(9*4)+SQRT(9)-5 as well.

I think that it might be useful to keep track of a few things here:

  • GuideML Clinic because I am a newbie, and need all the ML help I can get, HT, Guide or otherwise.
  • Peer Review because it is so very interesting

I am an American expat living in South Africa with my South African Indian husband, and as one might expect from this unusual combination of culture and place, I'm a fan of all things multicultural. I have thought much about the issue of race - I have held it, studied it, tossed it about, kicked it, pulled it, picked it, ripped it up and scattered it to the wind. I have no use for it. I prefer to think in terms of a wild and wonderful diversity of human culture, just waiting to be explored, understood and honoured.

Under the African Sky

Africa has captured me and holds me in thrall. When the spring rains come to the Highveld1, they bring with them yellow and blue lightening storms of biblical proportions, many-forked and horizontal, running from point to point across the horizon. A pair of Hamerkop (these are flat-topped, chicken-sized birds with a magnificent 95cm wingspan) have built their huge, dome-shaped home of wattle and daub in a willow tree at the edge of my suburban garden. Nature is very expansive here, and it cannot be ignored.

My beloved husband and I can hop in our bakkie2 and drive for two hours and fall asleep in the bush, listening to hyenas bark and elephants rumble, all the time thinking with great respect about the mamba and other sly creatures undeterred by a mere game fence. In Africa, a stout gate and a hefty lock have their place, but only respect can keep you safe. Fear is the opposite of respect. I have learned to respect many things. The sky is higher here, the horizons are longer. There is much to respect.

My garden in Midrand3 is full of green life, even in midwinter. The Clivia seeds grow ripe and red, ready to harvest and plant. The Arum Lilies stand in the wet spot, taller than boys, with huge white blooms cupped like hands to catch the rain that won't come for months. The naked poplar becomes a dazzling perch best viewed over a morning cup of coffee, when colours seem brighter and birdcalls more melodic: the Grey Lourie, Redbilled Woodhoopoe, Blackcollared Barbet, Redbilled Firefinch, Olive Thrush, Cape White-Eye, Masked Yellow Weaver, Cape Glossy Starling, Red Bishop, Whitebellied Sunbird and Redfaced Mousebird are all common visitors. When I watch their beauty and grace I become aware that I too am a visitor, and I am grateful for the hospitality.

Culture Shock

When I visit my dearly loved family and friends in the US, my eyes burn from the glare of so much whiteness. The U.S. has been so thoroughly sanitised, scrubbed-clean, and conditioned with disinfectants, antibiotics and filters that an appalling number of children there are allergic to ordinary things in the world around them. When I go there, my soul stays behind in Africa, and when I return, she nurses me back from a toxic case of lifestyle shock. Western materialism is like malaria, once you get it, you've got it for life, it will go away for years at a time but will come back to lay you low again and again. I tell myself that I can make do, that I have no need for a microwave, a breadmaker, a stove with four burners that work. I must confess that in a dream my stove has worked, and the wonderful shock of it all was enough to wake me.

Favoured Pastimes

When I am not hiking, working in the garden or trying to cook tasty meals on an recalcitrant stove, I am a greedy reader. There is a corner of my productive little American heart that sees this as a character flaw in the escapist category, but bookshops and libraries don't seem to hold the excess against me, and for that I am glad.

For the past year or so I haven't been able to work due to regulations regarding the spouses of South African citizens who have applied for permanent residence. I can't even do volunteer work, because I might take that opportunity away from a citizen, and this seems to me to be a bit much in a country that could use help given gladly and without strings. If I could, I would tutor Tswana-speaking children enrolled in our local English and Afrikaans medium elementary school.

Although my unemployment has been a financial drag for me and my family, I do have time to read, so I will complain no more. I prefer contemporary literary novels with social and historical themes, African history and science fiction. For a few hours each day I take my current book with a chair to the sunny spot in the garden. I read and rove; moving my chair beyond the shade to stay with the weak winter sun, which is just warm enough.

1The Highveld is a geographical area in north central South Africa, characterised by high rolling grassland, some wetland, rocky outcrops and abundant mineral deposits. The Gauteng province, with Johannesburg and Pretoria, is in the Highveld.2a truck3a town halfway between Pretoria and Johannesburg


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