I still have a South African accent. This isn't weird at all despite living in London since 2008. London is a global city. If you really want to get to know the unique flavour of a place, you have to venture off the track. London itself has a substantial South African community. It has about 3 million people who were born abroad. I love that. As someone who believes borders are stupid, cities are an opportunity for people to come together and redefine themselves. To create new flavours.
Yet, my flavour is still very much a Soutie. People whose accents change seem to be those who dive deep into local relationships. The sounds coming into the ear and bouncing off the tongue adapt. For much of the time I have been in London, my focus was work. I also spent a lot of time coming back to South Africa. My focus was not developing local personal relationships. I don't know the UK the way I know where I grew up.
While recently in my home town of Westville, I had a walk around. Past Curt's house where firecrackers were used in ways they shouldn't have been. Tom's house. Daniel's house. Tamryn's house. Graham's house. Karyn's house. Kyle's house. Past the place I was looked after after school by the kind lady who gave me caramel chocolates and had a steep driveway. When I ran the Comrades, I ran through the suburbs where my Grandparents, and my Aunts and Uncles lived. There was a deep history built around events and people. Sunday afternoon lazy family lunches around the pool. Rugby matches. School plays. Debates. Athletics. A million different activities. A million memory hooks. All those memories would have been built up over roughly the same period I have lived in London.
Connections don't happen by mistake. They happen because of meaningful experiences. They happen because of conversations, heart ache, celebration and gritty pursuit of something that matters. For the last 2 years, I have been starting to Kuier with London. I have been trying to build relationships, but it is difficult. People are busy even if I am not.
I am now staying in Langa in Cape Town for a couple of weeks. I studied at the University of Cape Town, and worked here for a few years. In all, I was 'here' for 6 and a half years. I have some of my closest friends from that period. Friendships got handed to me on a plate in the Fuller Dining Hall. I didn't have to put effort in. None of my friends came from Langa though. Almost all of them came from very similar backgrounds to me.
Aydn wrote about his coming to terms with how friendships change over time. A lot of us stop the 'art of community building' as we become adults. Our worlds narrow. We then look to Governments to change society. I think that is rubbish. We have to stop making excuses and get on with it. We have to start making time for the kind of play we allow ourself as kids. The play that builds our accents and our worlds.
Making time for fun