As I begin my ascent up Kloof Street, I am confronted with the late afternoon wind.ï¿½ My walk home from work is under ten minutes, but with the wind, it can feel like hours. I battle to keep moving forward, cursing under my breath. Exhausted already from a long day, it’s the last thing I want to deal with.
With blue skies and warm days, the weather in Cape Town has been almost perfect since I arrived in December – except for the wind. Unlike the constant breeze in Vancouver, which keeps the temperature from going beyond a certain level, this wind defies classification. Its erratic movement gets under my skin, disturbing any attempts I make at reaching equilibrium, already a challenge as I adapt to a completely new environment. I have begun to believe the wind is symbolic, a representation of what’s happening in my life at the moment, the continous shifting over which it feels like I have no control.
Once again, there is a strange blend of the old and new, a familiar paradox now being played out in a different way. I sit in the classroom, looking around at my students. I was used to teaching ESL to foreigners in Canada, but the participants here are not the same. Instead of Korean and Japanese students in their twenties and thirties, I have a multitude of European teenagers. I’ll never forget the class where the French girls spent their time staring out of the window, cheerfully informing me that there was a movie being filmed on the street below. It’s strange for me to listen to the South African accents of the other teachers, to be part of the norm rather the one standing out. The world map on the wall is used to show other countries, rather than explaining where exactly it is that I come from. And although I’m still as much of a newcomer to the city as most of my students, I’m happy to tell them about South Africa, to explain about the country which we are all actually now in. I am excited that they will discover my homeland themselves rather than by summarized accounts.
Shortly after I begin work, it comes my turn to give a school lecture. I am uneasy at the idea of speaking to 100 students, but decide to share my experience from last year. I tell them about Acornhoek. I explain Amazwi and the work I was involved in. I introduce them to the journalists and read a few stories, so they can get as close as possible to hearing their voices. As I proceed, I feel the journalists’ presence in the room, blessing me, and am glad for the avenue that has given them an entrance into my life here, a bridge between my new reality and the old, a world that often seems like a faraway dream.
Two weekends ago, I woke up excited to go to the beach, one of the purest joys in my life in Cape Town. I met up with friends at a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the sea and mountains. But the wind was ferocious. Drinks were blowing off tables, hair was flying in all directions. My vision of a relaxing afternoon under a calm sunny sky rapidly disappeared. The wind didn’t let up, and it carried with it a nasty chill. Eventually, I was sitting in the middle of South African summer wearing a fleece from Canada, the hood pulled up over my head.
Yet the next day will likely start off calmly, with clear blue skies and a bright, warm sun. As I walk to work, I’ll be able to see Table Mountain on my right. I’ll want to prolong the stillness. But little by little, this unpredictable weather is teaching me to let go of the need to know what comes next and allow myself to blow in the breeze until I land where I am meant to. Because no matter how steep the path I’m climbing, when I look the right way, I can’t deny its beauty.