Friday, November 16, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Some people just came round to cart off some of my furniture. Well, their furniture, now. With nine days left in the town that's been home to me for the past five years, I think it's time I made a list of the things I will miss about this place. Yeah, I've been here for longer than most students who pass through, and at times I've been so over this place that I've considered packing up and heading to Cape Town, but there have definitely been some highlights that will stick with me.

1. The proximity of friends. Being able to pop over to a friend's for lunch, or just to veg out on their couch. Without my driver's license (let's not go into that - I can hear your eyes rolling, family who read my blog) it's been pretty convenient to be able to walk everywhere in town within 20 minutes.

2. Being friends with my lecturers. This is something that I've heard is quite unique to this town. I've been friends with people who became my lecturers later, or people who used to be my lecturers, and I'm currently dating my flatmate's lecturer. The easy and close relationships that form between staff and students make this town such a welcoming place to live.

3. Open minds. I think if I had lived anywhere else, I probably wouldn't have realised certain things about who I am and what I want from life as easily as I did here. I probably would have kept little things that make me ME secret, hidden away, and maybe even hated myself a bit for it. Being able to be myself and know that I'd find people like me (who like me as me) is a wonderful thing about living here.

4. Psychotic weather. Summer in winter? Winter in summer? What, you think this town is going to play by the rules and have nice, orderly weather that takes its turn and comes at the right time? Here, have some floods. In the time that I've lived here, we've seen snow, a tornado, floods that ripped away a significant artery road into town, drought, and lovely sunny spring days with the scent of freshly mown grass and braais. At least it's interesting.

5. Small businesses. One thing I'm glad we don't have is a gigantic mall. Our biggest shopping center has a 1-screen cinema, a bottle store, a bookshop, and a grocery store. And that pretty much sums it up. Instead of the hulking eyesores that have been cropping up all over the place in Mauritius, here the cafes open up onto the roadside, or have balconies among the trees. Book stores know you by name (and remember your tastes). The health shop gives you a phone call when that one rare thing comes into stock.  And that guy who runs the hubbly shop lets you live in the back for two months when you're at the point of homelessness. Because he's a nice guy. I remember sitting in the rain with a box full of books once, waiting for the second hand store to open. The guy who owned the cafe across the road ran across with a mug of hot chocolate for me, for free, just because he thought it looked like I needed it.

6. Bumping into my students while walking around town, and chatting to them. The warm, friendly vibe of this town makes it so easy to get to know the kids whose minds you tweak each day, and it's always a surprise to have someone say "Hi ma'am" from the other end of the junk food aisle. This can be awkward, of course, on those all too common days when you schlepped to the shops in your pajamas to get some milk after a rough night out.

7. Ninja donkeys. In this town, donkeys roam wild. And if you see one lurking on your doorstep, you can bet your ass (badumdumTSH!) there are another five sneaking up on you. Their only threat are their mortal enemies, the cows, with whom they battle for territory, leaving steaming brown landmines to mark their land. Yum.

8. Flashmobs for birthdays and purple making anything and everything better.

9. Walking into a bar on a lonely night and finding that you know everyone there, including the bar staff, the owner, and the creepy toothless guy by the door. If you've been here long enough and aren't the type to stick to a closed group of friends all the time, this WILL happen. And it is awesome.

10. But even better than that is the way that the annual flow of people in and out of town means there are always new people to meet. And sometimes those people have been around all along, but you just never crossed paths until the very end, only to develop a friendship so strong that it breaks your heart to say goodbye.

And now I'm a little weepy. I'm going to miss this place, and its rhythms, the sound of the homeless guy strumming away at his guitar on the street corner outside, the rain drumming down on my tin roof, cicadas clicking in the garden, fresh bread at the farmer's market outside the old gaol, barefoot hippies fire-poiing just because they can, sprinting wildly through campus and climbing the statues and trees, treasure hunting in the hills around town, the last phyllo pastry parcels saved for us by the owner of the restaurant, chatting to the ladies at the Kaif, befriending the neighbour's cat, and lazy afternoons lying on the grass in front of the campus buildings.

But I'm also looking forward to all the new memories I'm going to make, and falling in love with somewhere strange, different and new. It's also a good thing that a lot of my friends are insomniacs, so there's always skype. And visits.

Here are some photos:

Writing novels as a group activity

Finding friends in strange places

Living in a National Monument

Being a ninja.

Crazy games

Befriending other people's pets

Taking costume parties too seriously

Rooftop drum circles

Abandoning any sense of dignity in the name of team-building

Flashmob birthday surprise parties

Waiting for a tortoise to cross the road

Being a ninja again

Doing insane things for charity

Purple Thursdays

1 comment:

  1. Grahamstown truly is a remarkable place. I have my own powerful memories of that place that threaten to water my eyes on occasion. One or two lecturers aside, Rhodes has fantastic people diligently training the graduates of tomorrow (and the drop-outs, but who's counting, eh?). Carry your thoughts of yesterday fondly and always keep them close.

    PS: Those donkey really are ninjas!