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,
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!