Monday, 15 August 2011

First things first - Rosie called me today to ask me where
blue and red Pingu were (DVD's) AND that she's now wearing 
big girl knickers!  WOW!! Conversation with a two year 
old, who is mastering the art at an amazing rate, is sheer 
joy - particularly to grandma!

Good to talk to Ray yesterday. Now speeding out of Omaha, 
Nebraska on his way to Chicago, Illinois he has spent two 
days with John Onumbu and his family. We met John, a HUGE 
Nigerian student, hot from Port Harcort, in September 
1980.  He needed digs, and we, down to one income with a 
new baby to care for, needed his rent! 

John filled our small house with life and colour. I 
remember especially the lime-green shirt with a peacock 
motif that he wore on arrival. I also remember realising 
at once what a mistake it was to cook spaghetti for his 
first meal with us!  John was kindly, gracious and 
immense. He quickly became part of our family - watching 
in fascination as Ray cleaned house, changed baby and did 
the washing. I believe I managed to persuade him that it 
was NOT unmanly to do such things.  My powers of 
persuasion must have been sufficient, for he has stayed 
married to his American wife Linda for more than twenty 

With John began a love affair with Africa that was to 
bring about many changes in my life decades later.

Anywhere In The World, This Is Your Home

Technically, my first trip to Africa was the belly dancing 
escapade across Sinai, but the Bedhouin who escorted us 
kept, with very good reason, themselves to themselves, so 
I feel no particular attachment to the place.  (Well apart 
from the awesome day spent on Mt Sinai. I found a cleft in 
a rock and sat there imagining Moses petitioning God to 
allow him to see His face...See Exodus 33 v 22 )  We were 
privilidged to meet their families on one occasion.  The 
wives and children must have been utterly bemused at the 
strange customs of these white women; nevertheless they 
taught us one of their dances and sold us beads...

I became Nomantombi Mlombile's adopted daughter in August 
2002.  I was a Global Teacher, funded by the UK Gov't 
Millenium Commission to go to the village of Lower Kroza 
(Eastern Cape, RSA)to help the staff of the 
school 'implement the School Development Plan' - a task 
which was the most surreal enterprise I have ever 
undertaken. Nomantombi, the elderly widow of an Archdeacon 
in the Anglican Church, and owner of the most secure Kraal 
in the village, had been persuaded to host me.

I will describe a typical day on the Kraal on another 
occasion, for now I want to record here my love for and 
gratitude to this remarkable woman.

I had noticed that she regularly took meals into the 
rondavel (my room was in a large five bedroomed 'flat 
house' ie not round... )One day she told me the story of 
the man in the rondavel, 'the son of my oldest brother' - 
he was dying of AIDS and he needed to go to the hospital 
in Kokstaad. I insisted she take 100 Rand for a private 
taxi (about £10 then) so that she could visit him. Within 
a week, he had died.  I was enormously impressed by her 
courage; South Africa was in denial then about the AIDS 
epidemic because of the shame attached to the disease. 
Even to the extent that her nephew's death certificate 
listed, 'natural causes' as the reason for his death.

For ten pounds, I bought the loyalty and love of 
Nontomole's entire family.  Her sons and daughters are 
professional people - teachers, administrators a doctor 
and an airline pilot, but they have welcomed and treated 
me and my family with great warmth.  On the last day of my 
assignment, Mama took me round the entire kraal, walking 
me through every room in every house and said, 'Wherever 
you are, anywhere in the world, this is your home.'