Change is always a little nerve-wracking: whether it be changing a job, buying a house, or even a political election. One never really knows what is lurking around the corner, and the best one can do is shine as bright a light as possible and hope to dispel any shadows that are bound to trip one up at any given moment. Life is not supposed to be lived in a vacuum, and I never believed that not leaving home is a desirable way to exist. There is a Kenyan saying: "The eye that leaves the village sees further" - as much as one can pay attention to the news, read about different cultures, and, yes, even be a tourist in distant lands, one can never imagine what it is like to live in that land as one passes through.
It is perhaps interesting that I was the only daughter of 4 (the youngest) that was born at home. My 3 sisters were all welcomed in the sanitary white of hospitals, but perhaps by the time #4 came along, my mother had figured it out and simply called the family doctor to swing by at the appropriate time. I recall a visit to his office during a teen year to be patched up after being bitten by fighting Afghan Hounds, and seeing my patient card with its first entry: "Baby" and the date.
So, after 18 years of living in that same house, leaving seemed the obvious thing to do. What? You mean that should really have meant finding my own home in the neighborhood and stay there for the rest of my life? Uh-oh. Guess I screwed that one up, since I spent the rest of my life moving, staying only in places 2 or 3 years, until I was familiar with it, and my feet started to itch again. I would joke that I never took a vacation, I would just pack up my stuff and move. Which is what I proceeded to do: birth home to Johannesburg to Pretoria to Cape Town to Johannesburg to Harrismith to Magaliesburg to Johannesburg to America.... I think that's the full list.
How ironic then, that I would find myself spending all but 2 of the last 18 years of my life in the same city, split between only two homes. Granted, that wasn't the plan - as much as I tend to make any plan at all - but Eugene, Oregon is certainly far from the worst place to live, and it did open its arms to me and allowed me to wallow in some level of comfort - certainly compared to the two years I spent in Los Angeles. Not a completely god-forsaken place, but there is absolutely nothing to recommend it. Absolutely nothing. Oh, Malibu Canyon is a pretty drive. And then there's.... I scratch my head to think of somethingthat would compel me to return. Apologies to the "freaks and the chic and the Aztec elite" as the ever-amazing singer/songwriter William Topley put it, but I can't think of a single reason.
What brought me from South Africa to America? I've been asked that countless times since 1998, and all I have is the honest answer - which invariably gets me a response that veers between somewhat curious to a definitive "you're crazy, but I'm too polite to tell you"-look: It was there. When I follow it up with the information that it was me AND my 5 dogs, that elicits the equivalent of someone slowly backing out of the room. It seems inconceivable that someone, least of all a woman on her own, would think of leaving "home" (at that time, a house in Johannesburg), taking her 5 dogs and flying off to a strange country, with absolutely no plan in mind. Frankly, as much as I can try to understand the reaction on an intellectual level, I still don't really get why that is such an "amazing" or "brave" thing to do. The world is out there, buy a plane ticket whenever you can afford to do so, and go see it. Granted, there is a very, very thin line between bravery and stupidity and perhaps I'm good at balancing. Taking the dogs with me was a no-brainer: I never considered an alternative for an instant - they were my family, my kids, and who would leave their kids behind? That would be somewhat sociopathic, no?
And now, after my second stint in Eugene of the last 7 years, it's time to move again. And it is the call of "home" I follow this time. My babies have long passed on, and I leave them buried in Eugene, taking merely their memories with me. The other big difference is that, this time, I have a ...... plan. I always hesitate to use the "p" word: for my entire life, every time I try to plan something, there is a Spirit out there that heaves his feet onto the coffee table, and chuckles darkly into his whiskey glass, conjuring ways to make any "p" go awry. But, this time will be different. This time, I get to say "fuck you", toss the coffee table over, and storm into a new life with a direction and a goal and a PLAN.
"Home". I hesitate to use that word, as I feel I don't really have a "home". "Home" has always just been wherever I am - and where my dogs were. While I am South African by citizenship, I disagree vehemently with the notion of borders and nationalism, so South Africa is "home" by virtue of being where I lived for most of my life.
The "PLAN": It's a little insane to launch a publication (let alone a series) with little to no support, and most especially in this Age of Information where consumers want to be informed about the world, but have no desire to pay for it. When my mother told me as a kid that I should study journalism, I rejected the notion immediately. My idea of journalism was to pry and poke into other people's business and ask awkward and embarrassing questions, and I was never going to do that. But, when I found myself repeatedly drawn to media: first on SABC in Johannesburg and working on television, then onto writing a column for a (now defunct) newspaper, and then in America where two radio stations opened their arms to me (and my odd accent), I had to finally acknowledge that I have a "calling". Life is like that, right? It keeps trying to put you on a path, occasionally knocking you over the head with a 2x4 in the hopes you'll get the message.... and then, the light bulb goes on, and you can no longer deny it.
As stressful as it is to pack and move across the world - again - I am using this time to launch "Perspective: Africa". It is intended to be a quarterly journal with news, views, editorial, photojournalism, and more, reflecting the incredible changes that are taking place across the African continent. I am constantly impressed, depressed, hopeful, exhilarated, at everything I see happening in Africa. I hope that in some way, I can bring that to the readers, who, as I've learned in 18 years of American life, generally know little to nothing of anything related to Africa - and sincerely want to know.
To add to my plate, as if the above wasn't enough, "Perspective: Africa" is intended to be only the first in a series, each focusing on different regions. So, once I've caught my breath from launching "Perspective: Africa", I shall be launching Perspective: Middle East/Europe". I have a feeling there's a lot to talk about there, too.
So, to anyone reading this who is in a position to support, advertise, or spread the word about any of these publications, I shall swear fealty to your greatness for the rest of my days. Either that, or I'll give you a discount.
I think I may have forgotten to mention that in the last year, I have written several narrative dance productions, and I hope to persuade some brave company in South Africa to work with me to bring them to the stage. Just in case I get bored, waiting for all of you to send me content...
But for now I sit in Eugene, in an almost empty apartment, 6 weeks from my flight away from America, stressing about things that I know will all work out in the end, curious about my future, hoping I can cajole people to work with me in some area, grateful for all that I have done, the places I've slept, and the people who have crossed my meandering path as each and every one has contributed something to who I am, and each experience has added some steel to my spine, giving me the strength to follow that PLAN.