I sit at my favourite beach facing café in Mouille Point. The sun is setting and warms my back through the glass of the window behind me. To my left the sky casts a beautiful pink shadow on the big red lighthouse across the road. Directly in front of me, not far away, lies Green Point stadium, looking significantly less menacing then when grey skies were overhead a few days ago. Cars pass, coffee cups clink on china. I look around the café and see people reading newspapers, enjoying conversations with friends; others like me work on their computers.
In 10 days I will make the move to London. Leave behind the life I have built here, the friends, the home, and most of all, my kids, my learners.
Since I finished teaching a month and a bit ago, I have been to school a number of times – to meet with students, take care of various admin; tomorrow I will go again to finish cleaning out my classroom. Not unsurprisingly, returning to school these last few times has become increasingly more difficult and sad. When I am there, I spend my time in my classroom and don’t announce my presence at school. When I stopped into one of my classes last week to drop off some exam scripts, the whole classroom of students erupted in cheers and applause. It was so lovely, but I could barely look at them. As I hurried out, a few of them asked me hopefully – ‘Miss are you back?!’ A sad smile and shake of my head was all I could muster.
Mentally, I have already begun detaching myself from my life here. A coping mechanism, what have you, it is a necessary for me to wrap my head around the goodbyes that are coming at me fast and hard.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine here who reminded me that I have done this before – I have lived other places and left. And she is right. In my early twenties I lived in both Australia and England for a year. Much has changed since then though. One year when one is aged 24 is much different from almost 3 years when one is 31. Everything means so much more now. Time. Energy. Effort. Love.
At school yesterday to clear out the last of my classroom, at their request, I ended up doing a short story lesson with my grade 12s who were struggling with the material and said they missed the way I taught. Despite the sadness I felt at the departure date that is sprinting closer with every hour, when I was with them, I was unbelievably happy. They are such a wonderful group of young people, to whom I feel so incredibly attached and connected. And as I have said before, like most teachers who love teaching, there is little happiness greater than being in my element, with students.
But it’s more than just the time I have spent here and where I am at in my life. It’s the experience I have had with the students I have been privileged to work with at Fezeka. The endless encounters I have had with people here – both South African and from abroad. The conversations I have had. The walks I have taken. The music I have heard. The beauty I have been exposed to. The food I have tasted. The wine I have drunk. The scents I have smelled. The infinite greens and blues I have seen in the trees, mountains, skies, oceans. The warmth I have felt – from the sun, and from the people.
Two and a half years years ago I sat down and wrote my first blog on the flight here from Toronto. I had no idea what to expect, no clue about what awaited me. I read my early blogs and can’t help but smile at my candor. While being open and honest – particularly in my writing – is part of who I am, in the beginning my entries were almost child-like in their observations, not unlike someone discovering the world for the first time. And of course I was, discovering the world of Cape Town…learning about South Africa and its history..meeting new people, ideas, beliefs…being forced to wrap my head around how different things are in this country from other countries that I have lived in and travelled to. Over the years my writing evolved, along with my understanding and perception of this country and city – my exposure to the various facets of Capetonian life more broad.
In many ways, I believe my experience of living and working Cape Town has been quite different than that of many people who come here from overseas. For that matter, different from that of many people who come from here.
As it so happens, many of the people I have become good friends with here in Cape Town enjoy a particularly affluent lifestyle. By contrast, during the week, young people who are hungry and colleagues who struggle to put food on the table for their children surround me. It took me quite some time to mentally reconcile myself with this dichotomy. Eventually I did, although my reconciliation was and is more about a resignation to a harsh reality. My friends still comment on how much money I give away to people on the street. Reconciling myself does not mean I cannot justify giving away money that I know I will not notice and I know will mean someone can eat today. Enjoying the extremely privileged lifestyle that I do here only further cements this belief.
And as the sun sets and another day comes to a close, the moments…minutes…hours…continue to escape me…