Sunshine Overseas

Where I live right now is overseas.  When I hear anyone here talk about going overseas, I wonder why they would do that because they’re already here. In my vocabulary, the UK and Europe are overseas. Everywhere else in the world has a name.

(Please note that this is purely my perception and my take on this word.)

In my experience, the word overseas has always held a certain fascination and hint of glamour. I remember, as a child, hearing friends talk about going overseas on their school holidays. I would kind of melt into an envious heap, thinking,

“Ah, you’re so cool. You’re going overseas. AND you’re allowed to wear nylon socks with lace at the top.”

I have known and worked with people who have never travelled out of their home towns, let alone travelled abroad. Or overseas. One of my colleagues in Harare said he had no idea what overseas looked like. He then asked,

“Are there many tall buildings there?”

My younger son went overseas on a school history tour three years ago. The tour took them to the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany, and they travelled in March. The day he left, I took the day off work to spend with him before we took him to the airport that evening.

It was 36 degrees Celsius that day – a typically hot March day in Cape Town. He was flying to Prague, where temperatures were expected to be about 0 degrees Celsius. It was strange for him to think about feeling cold.

A delightful, older lady was working at our house that day and we enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with each other and share sighs at the hot weather. I told her my son was going overseas that evening. She looked at me, bemused.

“Is it very far?”

I said to her, “Yes, it’s very far. And it’s very very cold.”

She looked at me even more bemused. Her frown disappeared as the penny dropped.

“Ah. He’s going to Springbok.”
(Springbok is a small town in the Northern Cape in South Africa, renowned for diamonds, copper and beautiful springflowers, but also notoriously much colder – for South Africa – than most of the rest of the country.)

I smiled inside as I thought, “Yes, he might just as well be going to Springbok.”

At that time, I worked for a non-profit organisation that provided counselling services, and trained lay counsellors. The receptionist who worked there (I’ll call her N) was a cheerful and chirpy character and she and I used to laugh together plenty.

Our favourite was to try and beat each other to say TGIF to each other every Friday. It was our thing. If I got in first and said, “TGIF!” she’d look up and me and say, “Thanks, God.”

One day someone arrived at the office, and said she had an appointment at 10h00. N checked the counselling appointment book and saw no booking for 10h00. The consummate professional, she smiled at the new arrival, asked her to take a seat and proceeded to run through the offices and whip up a volunteer counsellor to see the awaiting client.

She found a counsellor who was available, made sure the counselling room was tidy, and told the client her counsellor was on her way. The counsellor came through, introduced herself and off the two of them went into the counselling room and shut the door behind them. Five minutes later, the two of them emerged with much hilarity; the appointment the client had come to the office for was a job interview with the Executive Director!

N and I laughed like drains as we imagined what went on in the counselling room, with the so-called client not able to talk about her job experience because she kept being asked how she was feeling. How funny.

One of my direct reports was the administration manager, G: divine, well-spoken, nattily-dressed, eloquent and the most gentlemanly gentleman you can imagine. He led a team of four staff members, and they had regular team meetings. Occasionally he would invite me to join them, and it was fun to be included.

One of the team was D, the handyman. He was a constantly recovering alcoholic who worked like a Trojan when he was present. But he often went missing. We all loved him, and he was a central character in our offices. However, he had no time for meetings.

The first time I was invited to join the team meeting, someone asked if D would be there. At that moment, D walked past the meeting room and G asked if he was going to join them.

D didn’t break stride. He flung his left arm in the air and said,

“Ag, daai’s ‘n klomp k*k!” (That’s just a crock of s**t!)

I guess he wasn’t going to join us.

The meeting began. G, ever formal and eloquent, welcomed everyone, made a special mention of the visitor (me) and asked if anyone would like to open the meeting by sharing something.

“Feel free to speak, if you have something to share,” he said.

N, along with many of us, often battled to understand what G was saying because he usually used really formal language and long words (thanks to his prior career in the diplomatic corps). She was leaning heavily on the desk, her elbow only just stopping her face from hitting the desk. She looked at G with incredulity, she frowned, she wrinkled her nose, and then said,

“About what?”

Moving on swiftly then.

G read an excerpt from a book of inspirational sayings, quoting Mother Theresa. It flew right over the head of everyone present, and N continued to look at G with that expression of WTF (Why The Funny-Sayings)?

G worked us through the agenda and, after about half an hour, was ready to draw the meeting to a close. He invited any closing comments. N stood up and cleared her throat, then clicked her tongue on the roof of her mouth.

“I would like to say something please.”

G welcomed her to go ahead.

“I think we should always have Nomalanga with us at these meetings. [Nomalanga is my Xhosa name, and it means Sunshine. She meant me.] Because why? Because it’s so nice having her here; it feels like we have someone here from overseas.”

She sat down, G thanked her for her input and said he would give it some thought, and the meeting closed. I’m so glad I write a blog, because this was always so going to be in it.

Sunshine signing off for today, from overseas!


41 thoughts on “Sunshine Overseas

  1. How exotic even *having* a Xhosa name!

    I agree about “overseas”! I never feel I’ve truly been on vacation until I’ve crossed an ocean or seen a country I have not yet seen — having seen 37 (so far) I’ve got lots more to get to.

  2. I love it, Sunshine. What a wonderful collection of stories from my very good friend who just happens to live overseas.

    Here, we use the word “abroad” quite a bit. We vacation abroad, we study abroad, we honeymoon abroad, we work abroad. And you’re right; the word always has that incredible mystique, much like nylons with lace.

    Thanks for the fun post on a Thursday!

    1. Thank you, Maura! Yes, I would imagine “abroad” has the same appeal, and I’ve heard it used a lot over here too. A a friend of ours, however, has been known to use it to excuse my silliness: “She’s from abroad, you know.”
      Hugs from overseas xx

  3. I love this post, Sunshine. I love your stories. I often wonder about people who never wander far from home, as I am indeed “overseas” on Planet Port-au-Prince!
    Hugs from Haiti,

  4. I love your Nomalanga name — it sounds positively exotic! And wonder of wonders, the translation “Sunshine” seems to be just as lovely and fits you to a tee! Thanks for reminiscing for us today.

  5. I started using the word, “abroad” when my children studied abroad. My daughter is in France right now, so I usually ask, “How are things across the pond?” I don’t think I have ever used the word, “overseas.” I think this would make a great discussion for my class the next time I get off topic. (which is every day.) Great post! 🙂

  6. I feel sooooo homesick for SA after reading this; what a great post!

    I loved the story of the appointment; you couldn’t make it up.

    I think ‘overseas’ must be a South African thing. We had a lot of ‘overseas’ holidays but we always meant the UK, of course. I never say overseas here; if I was going to SA I wouldn’t say overseas, so it obviously doesn’t work in reverse.

    I really enjoyed this.

    1. Thanks so much, Tilly – I thought you’d be able to relate a lot of this post and I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Funny that “overseas” is not really used in reverse, hey?
      The appointment story is one of my favourite … I’m sure the interviewee relates the same story, and I’d love to hear it from her perspective!

    1. I know, I’ve often wondered that. Like, “I know they’re a counselling organisation and everything, but when do we get to the interview?” 🙂 And maybe she thought that all prospective employees were counselled first, like a test! hahaha

  7. I’ve done a lot of travelling in Canada, having visited 8 of the ten provinces (but not the territories). I’ve only been in eight of the 50 U.S. states. Someday, I will travel abroad! I want to visit Tuscany, Italy, for sure, and Germany. Jim wants to go to England and the Netherlands.

    Loved the interview story!


    1. Thanks, Wendy – I love that story too! You’ve travelled a lot on that continent of yours, and it will be wonderful to travel ‘overseas’ one day too! Italy is also on my wishlist!

  8. It is awesome to have worked somewhere where you have so many happy feelins. I can honestly say that I have kept more bad memories of all the places that i have worked…… Sad actually. I remember cleaning puke off bathroom “carpets” in Waterloo(yes who puts carpets in a pub’s bathroom), dropping a veal meal on Christmas Eve while waiteressing, and wanting to slit people’s throats more recently. The surprizing thing is that those people still request me to be FB friends. I ignore!!!
    You far luckier!
    Sounds awesome. I do hope the “new” place you eventually end up in, creates as many special memories.

    1. Thanks, bokkie. Work places all have their challenges, and I don’t think any place is only wonderful. The things that make me happy and the relationships with special people are the ones that fill my memories. And the things that I write about.
      You’ve had some interesting work experiences – you could write a book! 🙂

  9. I also love the word overseas. When I was planning my move to SA and dealing with all these annoying administrative things, and didn’t feel like going into a long explanation of what I was doing, I would just say, “I’m going overseas.” No one ever questions that or asks you to elaborate.

  10. Fun post! Overseas does sound like setting off an adventure doesn’t it? And so often it is 🙂 Love the Xhosa name…but could you explain what Xhosa is? Would love to know how to say happiness in Xhosa coz that’s what my name, Harsha means!

    1. Thanks, Harsha! Sorry for not explaining what Xhosa is – it’s one of the 11 official languages in South Africa. It is an indigenous language of the Western and Eastern Cape, and it is spoken with three different kinds of clicks – it’s an amazing and expressive language. (I come from Cape Town, which is in the Western Cape.) I have learnt a bit of Xhosa, enough to greet people and share a few facts about myself.
      I’ll find out how to say ‘happiness’ in Xhosa and let you know … you suit your name!

  11. Sunshine,
    You reminded me of a dear friend of mine whom I met flying! (thanks for that!) He was from Cape Town. He would tell such wonderful stories…thanks for the perception of the term “overseas”…seems easier to say to each their own… 😉


Leave a Reply to Debbie Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s