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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reverse Xenophobia


I got a fright this morning when I thought I had woken up in South Africa (Mzansi)! I now live in a new part of town with a friend and my friend was happily entering the new day in another part of the house when I heard a knock. I assumed it was one of the people employed by my friend, I opened the door and found this little old lady on the door step. she is black so I spoke to her in Chichewa.

She responded in a strangely familiar English accent, it took me back to the time I lived in Swaziland and watched TV 1 (now SABC 3 or something or other). Now for those of you who don't know what TV 1 is, before Mandela's time, TV 1 was the channel in South Africa you watched if you wanted to watch the shows that appealed to Afrikaans-speaking South Africans. I picked up a few Afrikaans words and phrases thanks to that channel in those days like "Goeie more Suid Afrika!" just before the morning news and "Ja" and "Asseblief" etc. The English accents that were on there, correct me if I'm wrong, were Cape English.

This old lady on our door step was speaking Cape English. Now what was a little old lady with a Cape accent doing on our doorstep?

"I worrk here." She said to me, "My naam is Evelynn. Didn't the madam tell you that alrready? I come here on Thurrsdays." I recalled my friend telling me that, with relief, I opened the door a little wider and let her in. I asked her where she lived,
"I live in Kauma, but not the actual Kauma, that side called DURRBAN!!"

No alarm there, there IS a Durban section in Kauma. We chatted a little and I left for work. In the street another lady was pushing a stroller, chatting up a toddler in accented English, I didn't need to pinch myself, familiar Lilongwe came into view just then. I'm still in Malawi. Wouldn't it be scary to wake up a foreigner? Don't get me wrong, I love South Africa, just didn't want it to creep up on my doorstep while I slept. I've made a mental note to ask my friend about Evelyn. In the meanwhile, South Africa, I got nothing but love for you, say NO to Xenophobia!

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