Itâ€™s just over a week and I will be wending my way to Hanoi for my volunteering position at an NGO working with disabled young people. Itâ€™s quite a jump in terms of my life direction and I spend more time wondering what on earth got into me to do this, than being all confident about the move.
Got to change that attitude, for sure! What else is changing is that this blog will be more focused on my experiences in an Asian country and people with disabilities and less on commenting on the world and itâ€™s strange workings.
Itâ€™s been such a quick three and a half years that I have lived in the UK. In this short time I have had some quirky experiences with the English. And Iâ€™m going to miss it. Somehow it has felt a real home even though the African in me is ever present.
In fact one of the first things I had to learn was that the English spoken in South Africa is quite a different animal to the one used in England. Sometimes I even thought that there was no relationship at all between the two! Many misunderstandings later it dawned on me that the words and expressions often meant quite different things. Slow learner, I am!
But besides the many misunderstandings one of the things I truly love about the English is their use of the language. And the humour, both at themselves and anybody within reach, is often priceless.
One of the funniest I have seen was a conversation via TMS and posted on the BBC site that was going on during one of the Ashes Tests. The Ashes is a long time feud. read cricket competition, between Australia and England. This is not a game. This is outright war. And it is played with the passion a war deserves.
The discussion was around the excuse this one person had for lambasting the Australians. And he used a whole string of philosophers and their writings to excuse his pleasure (or Schadenfreude) at seeing the Australians being beaten. With other words he reasoned it was ok to gloat. It was a great dialogue and had me chuckling for hours.
What else will I miss? The English spirit of caring! They would groan if one were to point out that they are warm and generous people, open to having a chat and a laugh. The English think of themselves as reserved and unsocial. On the contrary. I have found them to be most welcoming and ready to participate.
And they love to dress up and play theatre. Even the guides around an old prison or park will consider themselves on stage and put on a great performance. It is truly the home of Shakespeare where all the worldâ€™s a stage. Itâ€™s such fun.
How about this one. Not many English people will agree with this fact. The country really works well. Sure I might be looking at it from a South African perspective where not much run by government actually runs.
In Cape Town, not rural South Africa, I have waited in line reaching outside the building to renew my driverâ€™s license. I had less than thirty people in front of me. The wait was over three hours. I got in line just after six in the morning that is two hours before opening time so that my wait would not be the whole day.
There would be pickets outside 10 Downing Street if that were to happen here! I got my UK driverâ€™s license. There was nobody in the queue ahead of me and it was posted to me and I received it within four days of my application. And it GOT to me by post. The postal system works here….
And talking about government employees makes me think of tolerance – there isnâ€™t any of that to be had in South Africa. In fact government and tolerance donâ€™t go together in SA. Especially when the citizen happens to have a white skin. A touch of reverse apartheid is a regular occurrence.
The English are unbelievably tolerant. Itâ€™s not just with respect to race but with all people of differences. Great support for gay and lesbians, religions, unbelievable system of caring for disabled folk and many efforts to look after the elderly and more. And always generous to donate to some cause. The UK gave the most, by far, per capita for the Tsunami victims in Asia. Totally indicative of the people.
The public transport is amazing. I have a choice of at least ten different buses and routes to get from the city centre to close to my home. I got a free bus card because of my age! I have free medical and dental health care should I wish it. Sure I have the benefit of an EU passport. But I have never lived in Germany.
One of the busiest railway stations around is Clapham Junction. Ask any person working on the platforms where to catch a train to any insignificant place and they can tell you at a drop of a hat what platform to go to. A bus driver in Birmingham could tell me what stop I needed for a training centre and he apologised that he had to think a bit. He didnâ€™t normally drive that route!
The place works.
Iâ€™m going to miss the English dress sense, or one might think the lack thereof. Will miss the pubs, although not the pub food. Didnâ€™t frequent them often, but when I did they were great fun. In retrospect, I should have gone more regularly.
My choir. The Brighton City Singers. No audition required, all welcome, donâ€™t need to be able to read music, just come and have fun. Itâ€™s given me the opportunity to sing in the Royal Festival Hall! At the choirâ€™s picnic on the Hove Lawns I played catcher in the baseball game. Couldnâ€™t walk for a few days – it was worth it. It doesnâ€™t get any better.
The U3A meetings and the amazingly affordably priced field trips to a string of great places I would not have thought of visiting. The bridge group, where I met many lovely people, was always great fun. And I could have participated a lot more if I had had the time.
The orchestras, choirs, music festivals both pop and classical are wonderful. There is support by government and the lotto of the history of castles, places, parks, historical monuments. Sure it costs to get into everything. But then the upkeep of these wonderful old churches and buildings is astronomical.
The list of good stuff goes on. Itâ€™s a great place!
Now itâ€™s a matter of saying good-bye to wonderful friends and acquaintances and getting on that flight in Heathrow. Thank goodness for email and Skype to keep in touch with folk. Nevertheless they will be sorely missed.
Oh. One more thing! Back to fundraising. So anybody want to help a bit towards covering the costs that VSO has to pay for my volunteering, please check the Just Giving button on the right hand side of this blog. All amounts, of whatever size, sooo welcome. Thank you.