Durban, South Africa



Music: Din Din Wo-Habib Koite

One of those days after a huge thunderstorm. Or must I say right before the thunderstorm? Cause you never know when it is going to rain, when it is going to be windy or sunny in Durban. Is it right before the rain or right after? And when it

rains…It is the tropical stuff. And when it is windy… It IS windy. South easterly…South westerly…It may possibly be the effects of global warming, but still, in Durban, in a day you can experience all seasons…Except the snowy winters of course. During these famous thunderstorm season, you even have a strong chance of hearing a ‘crack’ of a very old tree in front of your house.
I am not sure if I can tell you in details about what I experienced and will remember about Durban and South Africa. Last year, my dad wrote about his SA trip in his great 45 page SA diary. I am not as good as him in writing memories, but I will give it a try, in a few pages, in my own way.

I blink my eyes and remember the image of huge mushrooms and the bags full of golf balls sold by black young guys by the road, on the way to my home. I blink my eyes and see the waves. Oh, the waves…The Indian Ocean. Amazing. Every morning, driving my daughter to school watching the beautiful ocean view and the sweet sugar fields. Listening to Garret’s radio show almost every morning, sometimes laughing by myself in the car. Black people going to work, on the side of the road walking slowly, no rushing. White people going to work, always in cars. Everyone wakes up around 5 a.m. in the morning here, running, cycling, walking… It is normal to wake up very early here. And almost normal to go to bed at 9 p.m.! That’s the time we start our dinner back home in Turkey-especially in the summers. But this suits me perfectly. I wake up early, do my yoga outside with a little breeze on my face waiting for the sun to rise and embrace the day with its heat.

I feel like I was born here. Since the first week I moved here, I felt as if I have known this place my whole life. Maybe I lived here in one of my previous lives, who knows? I have travelled and lived in other countries, it didn’t feel this deep. It is like meeting and getting along with a person very well from the first second. The moment you see that person, you know you can connect with him or her and feel close to that person. No matter what. You always feel connected. The moment I stepped my foot here- which actually was 12 years ago on my honeymoon-I felt comfortable and it felt like home. There is something about this place that reminds me of home, whether it is because it is really a beautiful country, as at every corner there is some place interesting to explore, with its warm people, rich art and culture, amazingly beautiful nature and a good climate.

I smell fresh air, fresh grass, flowers…Spring is coming here. A new chapter in my life is starting…
The lady, coordinator of a home based community center that we took food to, with the organization called Feedback that I volunteered at, says; ‘please think about us if and whenever you are going to throw any food, even a piece of bread?’…That makes your heart melt. Or the look in the huge black eyes of a child when he gets a blanket or a loaf of bread… I am watching the orphans play soccer in the muddy garden, I am listening to a ‘mama’ who tells about how her neighbours, friends or cousins who died recently. How many times have they been to a funeral? I am watching them dance and sing, watching kids do the Zulu dance at their schools, watching them sing and pray in the queue before taking their breads, listening to them, calling each other ‘booties’ and ‘sisis’, feeling this genuine warm energy here, always friendly, as if everyone knows each other… Everyone is ‘one’, brothers and sisters…

I liked this place with its deep history, the unsafe places, all the bad things and good things that happen here, the unspoken dynamics of black and white South Africans’ lives, living together but actually being separate. With the things that I understand and with those things that I do not understand; like how the Zulu culture works and their attitude towards HIV. Having lots of babies although they know it is so difficult to look after them. Too many ‘not really’ monogamous relationships amoung black people. And of course too many deaths. Still, this place has lots to offer and lots to be liked.

Having travelled to most of the regions in this country –surprising but we have probably seen places than a South African has seen in his own country- the small things or scenes that will always stay in my mind. Not the places, roads or buildings, but the images or words that will always stay with me and remind me of this place: A dad playing with one of his children- probably one of his three- at the beach, two young guys sitting on the freshly cut lawn and watching the waves from far- planning their moves with the waves before starting their surf in a short while, people walking at the beach along the amazing Indian Ocean. They are so good looking and fit. My domestic helper singing Zulu songs while working. My daughter singing Zulu songs while playing…

I will also remember some personal moments that I experienced here; playing ‘touch rugby’ at the beach, the 216-metre bungy jump on the Garden route, waiting almost an hour in the police caravan in the middle of the night just because we didn’t have our passaports with us, losing all of my keys in the street and finding them the next day, fitting 9 people in my Cherokee, the Buddist Retreat Center yoga retreats, appearing in the local newspaper one day forreceiving a community award, my surfing lessons, the music I shared with my new friends here, my invaluable volunteering experience with Feedback, my walks and yoga sessions at the beach enjoying the perfect weather, good food at great restaurants with same prices and good value everywhere you go, the ‘no traffic, no pollution’ life in lovely Durban…And the dolphins. Watching the dolphins surf with the waves…Everybody including the dolphins surf here. With the waves, with the soft mood, with life…You feel alive….

And of course, the people I have met here…The people. People is what makes a place worthwhile to stay. And to love that place.

I feel I am kind of stuck between plans of moving back home and being here, trying to make the most of this place and my last few months. I have connected with this place so much it is almost as if leaving a lover behind, leaving a piece of my heart behind. Someone once said, ‘’You never really leave a place you love…Part of it you take with you, leaving a part of you behind.’’ Well, that is so true for me.

Divya Beste Dolanay
November 2007