Awe, Unjani or Eta

by cirvant

Dear Ryan,

I am happy to read your letter. The sentiments seem to echo my current season. I am OK in Nashville. I think I am striving to find moments to live, to be present. A life of mere existence and remembrance of times I laughed like you, without reservation.

Over these last five years of traveling back and forth to Africa, a lot has changed. The strong sense of Ubuntu I once boasted here in Nashville seems to no longer exist. It seems with each trip the bands have stretched. Now, among those who once knew me, I feel alone.

I struggle to understand how a place that I once only knew as home makes me feel like I am a stranger. However, I have also learned the necessity in the season. I have learned to dance in the rain. I have learned to “push through” it.

As I read you letter, I thought of the time we spent hanging during your time in Tennessee. I thought about sitting at the picnic table at your mother’s home and telling you my story as you wrote. The days I would come to my sisters and you would be in town for the weekend. I miss that sense of family that alludes the system of community.

These last few months, I have tried my hardest to find it among the different tribes of this city. I sat with those who boast community and family, and felt alone. I have watched as an outsider as they laughed at jokes only they get and yearned to be a part. I think this culture has confused community with clique.

I aimed at being intentional in building thriving friendships; trying to gather sticks from under the tree, intent on building a raft that could carry me through this season. I found those sticks only useful for fire to keep me warm in those moments. I learned quickly the differences between hanging out and spending time with brothers.

Today, I miss South Africa. I watched an SA movie on Netflix and unexpected emotions erupted in me. Initially I thought it was solely seeing the mountains of Cape Town, remembering my last trip there, driving from Worcester to Cape Town. Driving among those mountains settled me.

I thought about the smell of the trains from Bellville to town. My mind then raced to the Gautrain and the freedom of traveling the big city and feeling a part of the people. Then faces begin to flood my mind. The faces of my South African family, both Cape Town and Jozi.

I miss walking in the village of Muizenberg. I can taste the Almond Honey Croissant at Knead. I miss being frustrated that Checkers closes so early. I miss the YWAMers, ha ha. I miss feeling like I belonged somewhere.

Nearly every Sunday evening in Jozi, we have a family lunch. It’s a good mix of us; Ashy, and my Zulu sisters Phile and Nontebeko, Solomon my brother from Nigeria, Anthony Lebanese a brother from the Congo, and Zipho another Zulu brother. Nontebeko serves as host most of the time. Others weave in and out, but mostly it’s just us.

We get together and it gets loud and often emotional. We argue and debate for hours. We eat and laugh your kind of laughs, loud. The neighbor comes up often to tell us to quiet down. From lunch, often we split ways or head to Rhema for Young Adult night. Monday comes, and we are all Whatsapp-ing like we have not spoken all week. We walk out life together.

The truth of it all hit me this morning. I am not searching for a group of people to hang out with while here. I don’t need another person to chill with at Fido. I am longing for people to walk out life with again. People who will argue with me and tell me I’m wrong. I long for people who will show up unannounced and without appointment, solely because we are a part of each other’s life. I know you know this well. The word that echoes in our stories: Ubuntu; I am searching for it for sure.

I am happy that you have found a place in Brooklyn. It seems you have found a purpose that prods the  justice fighter in you. I love seeing your updates. I have always been amazed by the profound profundity of your ability to celebrate the kids around you. You carry an innate quality that kids seem drawn to. I have seen it both in SA and here with my nephews.

I will greet them for you when I see them; they miss you. Mike-Mike was wearing the hoodie from SA the last time I saw him. Micah wears glasses now. It’s amazing to see how fast he and the girls have grown.

You must tell me about Brooklyn. Have you found any similarities with SA? What moves you? What has captured your heart?

Awaiting you words…

Grace and Peace,