In his foreword, Vikas Swarup, an Indian living in Japan, which is “a world away from home”, concludes that one is never a world away from home. As borders collapse, “You are at home in the world.”
Greenberg’s Home Away, published in 2010 by Zebra Press, is a fascinating book, which details the experiences of twenty-four South Africans, its immigrants and emigrants, in a foreign city for 24 hours. What do you do in a day in a strange land?
Lagos-born Moky Makura goes home to visit her sister and is crudely reminded of one aspect of life in the city of her birth – that electricity is non existent. The Generator Man, who should have fixed the damn thing to prepare for her visit, did not bring the right parts. So ensconced in the stifling heat of a mosquito tent, her only relief is that the blood-sucking insects could not feast on her. Everything, from taking a bath to the luxury of a fan is a challenge without the generator. She is kept awake by the whirr of generators in the neighborhood and the singing from the nearby church. This makes her long for her adopted country.
Naomi Nkealah finds herself in Mainz in the wee hours of the morning, taking a train to Wiesbaden. As fate would have it, she meets a total stranger in a train, a troubled soul running away from his past. This man, Bryan, as he’s called in Germany, is actually Nkosana from South Africa; a gay man hounded out of his country of birth because of his sexual orientation. In his new country, he finds no peace either.
Phillippa Yaa de Villiers writes romantically about being seduced by Havana, Cuba. She sees a land of bare necessities, where people carry guitars because CD players and batteries are expensive. But they are a contented people with music in their hips.
When she has to leave, she wails inwardly.
One of the best pieces in the book has to be Colleen Higgs’ The Warm Arms of Kampala.
In the Ugandan capital, she is at peace with the world, what with pampered with fresh towels at her hotel and not having to prepare lunch boxes for school and reading to her six year-old daughter.
South African Sarah Britten is in Sydney, Australia, where she ponders the meaning of life after being retrenched. At 3 am in Sydney – which makes it 7 am in Johannesburg – she watches as Jacob Zuma is inaugurated as President of the very Republic many expatriates she meets Down Under have ran away from.
Zukisa Wanner is in Nairobi at midnight and her contribution, To Kill a Politician, reads more like a short story. She was born in Lusaka, Zambia.
Home Away is a great concept, edited by Louis Greenberg, who has always been fascinated by the story of migration woven into his own life. More and more people now edit collaborations from their ilk, just as Greenberg did with this.
© makatilemedia 06/2011