I walked to the farm gate with a heavy heart. Today would be the last day in Acornhoek, the last day with the journalists, the last day of Amazwi. The past few weeks had been difficult. While with the journalists, flashes of thought reminded me that time was running out. It felt strange. Such a unique year in so many ways was soon to be the past. This circle was almost complete, and new ones would shortly be beginning. The journalists were clearly thinking this, too. Thandi had exclaimed that we were leaving so soon and she was really going to miss us. After replying in kind, I fell silent. There was nothing left to say, nothing that would change either of our realities or make the impending separation less painful.
In the few weeks before leaving, Briget, Lou and I had tried to help the journalists investigate and apply for other opportunities. Originally, they had had the option of remaining with Amazwi and making money in what would be a freelance cooperative situation. As this would not provide a stable source of income, many of the journalists preferred to find something more reliable. As it turned out, the option of remaining with Amazwi disappeared anyway. Due to personal difficulties, the founder has unfortunately decided to return to the States, and so Amazwi as an organization has now ceased to exist. The beginning of December marked the end of an era in many ways. As Thandi pointed out, even if she may not have chosen to remain with Amazwi, at least before she knew it was out there; now a positive source of security in her life has vanished. I felt helpless about the situation the journalists were left in, and sick to the soul at the thought that their remarkable talent may not have the chance to keep flourishing. I hoped that somehow they could continue to write and expand their skills, even if not as a full-time career.
On the last day, we celebrated with a farewell braai. Contrary to previous parties with the journalists, this one had a somber tone. I sat joking with Thandi outside the office. I didn’t know how I was going to say goodbye. And yet, I could not imagine staying, could no longer cope with the isolated lifestyle I had endured for the past eleven months. My head spun with questions: What would the journalists do now? When would I see them again? What was going to happen with my own life after this?
The whole year, I had been struggling with the question of what to do after my time with Amazwi. Would I go back to Canada? If not, where would I stay in South Africa and what would I do there? After months of nonstop rumination, it became clear that I couldn’t leave South Africa just yet. Although I missed my mother, sister and friends in Vancouver so much it hurt, the thought of leaving family and friends who I’d become accustomed to seeing regularly threw me into a state of immense sadness. No choice would be without pain. But to come closer to figuring out the answers, I needed more than this year in the middle of the bush. I would have to try living in a place I might actually want to stay. I decided against Johannesburg. Even with my family and friends there, I cannot imagine feeling truly comfortable in a city that feels so tense and restrictive. The other option was Cape Town. The few times I had visited the city, I had gotten a good feeling about it. I felt much more at ease there than in Jo’burg. The pace of life was more relaxed and the scenery was spectacular, providing many opportunities for natural respite from daily life. Still not knowing for sure what the right thing to do was, I decided to try it. I felt reassured that this move would still allow me to pick up the phone and talk to the journalists, that although we would now be in different places, we wouldn’t be so far apart.
At the end of the farewell braai, Cosi and Thandi walked me to the minibus I would need to take back to the farm that evening. As I hugged them tightly, I couldn’t help but cry, unable to imagine that I would not see them again in a few days time. As the taxi sped away, I felt my grief give way to a profound sense of gratefulness for the opportunity to create these unique connections, bonds I was certain would last a lifetime.
Although the circumstances of my life have now completely changed again as I adjust to city life in Cape Town, I believe a part of me will always remain there in the African bush, touching the land and touching the hands of the very special women I had the chance to connect with, who remain in the deepest part of my own soul.
Photos in this blog:
1) Dani and Thandi chatting on the outside step of the office.
2) Bongi dancing in her dress of many compliments.
3) Waiting for the meat.
4) Lydia camera shy.
All photos taken by Briget Ganske.