These are some of the things I’m enjoying thinking about right now:
- I have begun to pick up a few words of zulu. My favourite is namhlange, which means ‘today’. The ‘hl’ bit is lose in the mouth like, um, like no word we have in English; actually, yes, it’s like that sound they use in Welsh, as in the Ll bit in Lleyn peninsular. So ‘ouso inate namhlange’ means ‘it’s going to rain today’. That’s spelt completely wrong, but I haven’t seen anyone writing zulu yet.
- That I’m so fortunate not to be a single colour. It gives me such free reign. This is true in the UK, but it’s massively useful here.
- I like all the respectful pre-goblins (don’t-know-don’t-care what the proper term is for a prefix in front of people’s names) that are used in the ‘black’ languages. They speak 9 languages in my office, not including English and Afrikaans, so when I do pick up words I have no idea what language they are apart from the zulu words above. So the respectful pre-wots include Sis, for example Sis Sarah which is said by women of similar age ; ma/mom/mam for a lady of a certain age, eg mom Bongi; tatti, for a gentleman of a certain age, eg tatti Simon (he drives our combi); daaa da, you can just refer to an older gentleman with this term; wooti, no idea how this is supposed to be used but it seems you can chuck it in almost anywhere and it vaguely refers to someone; ma’m, as in short for madam. This is what I get called all the time by the men I work with. To begin with it disturbed me cos I thought it had apartheid overtones but they assure me it’s just respectful, so I sometimes call them sir in response. And the ma’m thing doesn’t sound like it does in John Lewis. It’s somehow silky and warm and intimate… and… and… well, ladies, use your imagination.
- I’ve never slaughtered a chicken. It seems that at weddings, anniversaries, payment of labola (dowry) and countless other events the slaughtering of an animal is compulsory. And it’s not done by a particular religious weirdo or anything, it’s done by the remarkably lovable people that I spend my days with. In the combi the other day (all the best bits happen in the combi), they (the actors, all of whom are black) asked Fiona, who’s an Afrikaaner, what animals she’s slaughtered. None. None! I mean, what’s wrong with the woman? Not even a chicken? No, not even that. Much clicking of teeth erupted. Of course, they didn’t ask me or even flick a glance in my direction.
- That for the second year in a row, I’m avoiding Christmas in the UK. I’m spending Christmas by the pool with loads of unbelievably nice and likeable people in the HOT SUN. Oh yes.