When I stepped into the Ithemba office, my co-workers re-christened me Zahara in celebration of the famous South African artist of the same name, who I apparently resembled. Travelling through Sweetwaters, even without my guitar in tow, the name sailed through the air, as adults pointed and grinned. If you asked any of my students what my name was, Zahara and a cheeky grin would be first on their lips. So I became this elusive Xhosa woman from the Eastern Cape, the dual identity integrating me deeper into the community. I had never heard her music, never even seen her, but I was part of her, in some respects. In the eyes of my children.
On my last day working with Ithemba a surprise birthday party awaited me. Poems and farewell tributes were presented. I wanted to cry, but was unable to. My eyes were so dry they almost hurt; my heart hadn’t registered that an Emirates plane was waiting for me. Yet, in and amongst the farewell presents and cake, I was presented with my doppelgänger’s CD. With her hair scraped back, and her guitar cradled between calloused hands, I smiled at the sweet resemblance.
Packing, can be both a cathartic and painful experience. As Zahara’s rich voice filled my bedroom, twisting itself into the crevices of my folded shirts and skirts, I felt a loss. A deep loss. Because now that Zahara and I had met, we were parting. Now when South Africa and Ithemba had begun to mean something to me, we were parting ways. I was returning home to the sounds of Oasis and Tiny Tempah, whilst Zahara still had her guitar. She consoled me, telling me in her famous song Loliwe, to dry my tears and not be worried.
Yet it is painful,parting ways, moving on. Remembering, that in many respects it was just a dream. Not that one didn’t experience the pain, the joy, the hopes and fears, but that another reality, a tenable reality was awaiting back home. One where the slog of being part of a journey every day, where there is no get out clause, awaited.
Prayer for Day 33: For a smooth transition back to home life. For a hopeful attitude to overcome me, hope for what is to come.