Home Coming: Ramblings of a Returnee

Dawn in Durban

I am a recent returnee. My American husband and I bought a flat in Essenwood, Durban, during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am relishing living in my hometown after thirty plus years living in the United States. I have spent these years travelling between the two places conducting research and visiting my family in Durban. Finally, I have a truly bi-continental life. Now I call both Los Angeles, California, and Durban, South Africa, home. I am the perpetual insider-outsider who sees tremendous change since apartheid, yet much that remains the same.

My days in Durban begin with a cup of tea on my balcony overlooking the ocean. The sea and sky are ever changing. Some mornings are bright and clear, the sea sparkling and the waves breathing, the sky blue and orange. Other mornings the slate grey sea and sky blend into one another, barely distinguishable. Every morning there are ships at outer anchorage. I feel the presence of my late grandmother as I drink in this view of Durban.

Birdsong awoke me and now, on my balcony, I watch as pairs of doves sit sunning themselves on the peaks of the clay tiled roofs of the old Durban homes. Sparrows twitter and flutter from eaves into nearby trees. Mousebirds settle on the umbrella bush next to my balcony. A pair of hadedahs sit on a roof peak nuzzling and grooming one another in the early morning sun.

The jarring sound of a pinging electric fence disrupts my reverie. In the apartheid era, there were no high walls and electric fences. Whites lived in a false peace whilst black communities endured constant invasions and fear of arrest. Now people of all racial, ethnic, and religious identity live side by side eating at restaurants together and shopping in the same stores. But there is a distinct unease beneath the veneer of integration.

A raucous ha-ha-ha-de-dah intrudes my thoughts as the ibis take flight. I take my tea tray into the kitchen and head out for my morning walk.