I’m going home soon. Back to Bristol, UK. I’ve learned more in eleven months than I can process. Also, I can only see the facade of what I’ve learned. I guess my head will wander through the experiences I’ve had when I’m back on my sofa in my little house on forthcoming long Autumn nights. But these are some of the things I’ve learned in just the last three weeks:
– the value of having respectful, informal ways of addressing people. There are scores of respectful terms that people use when they address each other, like Ma, Aussi, Sissi, Aunty, Chief, Baba, Bra, Ma’am, Sir, etc. You use these words in front of someone’s name or instead of their name. The purpose of using these words is to show respect to a person, whether they are strangers or family-familiar. I really like the fact that I can lean over the counter in a café and call ‘Sorry, Sissi’ when I want to get the waitress’ attention. (Because I’ve been waiting 20 minutes for coffee and when it finally came it was tea – surprisingly regular occurrence!). By speaking in that way I show respect for that waitress. In the UK, I would just call ‘Excuse me’ with no simple way of addressing that particular person. The lack of an appropriate word to address that person seems to enforce the sense that we are strangers, that there is no connection between us.
– dancing and singing is not only for the talented, attention-seeking, eccentric, drunk or shameless. Here it happens everywhere. This suits me fine as I dance when I hear music I love. Here, when I jig around in my car while waiting at traffic lights, the guy in the car next to me will smile and maybe jig a bit too. At home, the guy in the car next to me would pretend it just wasn’t happening.
– jazz does not have to be a class issue, as I had always previously suspected.
– living under almost non-stop sunshine is a liberation – temperate climates are overrated.
– living in a house with lots of other people can be a wonderful and loving experience, instead of a source of annoyance.
– English people are ace fun.
– cockney accents are very sexy.
– Quakers are incredible people. The list of “active witness” activities they are involved in, in Southern Africa, greatly outnumbers their headcount. This year has made me feel privileged to feel like a Beginner Quaker, with all its radicalism, love and active commitment.
– I have more in common with European people than I ever dreamed.
– kids do not have to have hundreds of toys. Two or three is plenty. In fact, kids are not a species apart. They don’t need special-over-educational-attention. They don’t need loads of paraphenalia. Amazingly, I’ve found out that kids can be quite nice things, when they’re not over-indulged, when they’ve not learned that whining can be productive.
– chihuahuas are also ace. Can’t wait til I get old and I can attach one to my arm.