Published August 16th, 2016
This is the second piece in a series — Out of Africa back to America — where I am sharing my take on what it was like, is like, to come back to the country I was born. Seeing the United States of America again, from 2012 until today, with African lenses, has been more than interesting, to say the least…
I began sorting through my stuff, deciding which things to put in boxes and ship as cargo, which things to give to women's shelters, and what to leave in South Africa to use during visits. Mostly, my material possessions were clothes, shoes and books. Most of the shoes had a nice coat of African dust embedded in them and I knew I'd stand out in Miami, so I figured I'd go shoe shopping back on American soil. Almost all my work was digitized, so easily ported via laptop and external hard drive. I knew what I carried in my heart and mind was much more precious than anything material, and going through, folding, sorting clothes and stuff was really a chore. The most important thing was getting me, Tanya, safely transported across the pond.
My jewelry -- mainly beaded African pieces and some silver pieces I got from an amazing jewelry designer friend in Miami -- was my most prized possession, not so much for monetary value, but sentimental value. This all came with me in my check-in luggage on my flight out of Johannesburg.
I had dinners with friends, sharing stories about life, plans, hopes and dreams, and thoughts about when we would see each other again other than on video Skype.
Fortunately, I left during the cold winter season in South Africa, July, which was a good choice since I couldn't wait to get to warmer temperatures. I flew from Joburg to New York and then onto Los Angeles. My first stop was to be in California. I had registered for another yoga teacher training program at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad which would lead to my completion of my Vedic Master Certificate, and, I wanted to visit with my mom.
I stayed in Southern California for several weeks, focused on my work and communicating with my tenants about when I could get back into my home in Coconut Grove. It was September of 2012 when I landed back in Miami, and, for the first time, with the intention of making it one of my homes for a while...
The first month I spent re-assembling my space. Moving some furniture back that was at a friend's home, putting utilities -- electricity and Internet -- in my name, finding where to shop for food that I was used to -- fresh, flavorful and organic -- and water filters (for the sink tap and shower) as the city water was shocking to both my stomach and my hair. And milk, from the cow, or as straight from a cow as possible. A lot of things were much more expensive in Miami, although, fuel, electricity and Internet were downright bargains! I spent many an evening on my veranda after a nice long hot shower savoring abundant water, electricity and Wi-Fi. I was so darned appreciative and I told people how blessed I was, how blessed we are to have these things. I think my neighbors thought I was a little weird.
My home looks like an upscale safari lodge: animal printed chairs, photos of wildlife and art by a Tanzanian artist friend of mine. It is very Zen-simple and I have ceiling fans that remind me of Zanzibar. Many mornings I wake up and check in with a "where am I?" There is the sound of wildlife outside my windows, but it is not lions, or ibis birds calling, rather, there are resident peacocks that saunter around Coconut Grove.
I got up the nerve to drive again on the other side of the road (both Tanzania and South Africa drive on the left hand side) and I leased a car, a VW Beetle. And tried to get used to driving in Miami. It ain't easy. More than half the population, being from Latin America, do not follow rules of the road, like in Africa, yet another part of the population, being from other parts of the States, follow rules, like staying in lanes and always following robots (the term for traffic light in S. Africa). Put these two groups together on the same roads and you don't have organized chaos like you have in Dar es Salaam or Lima, you have downright chaos. It is always a practice for me in staying super aware and conscious when out on the streets in Miami.
I spent a lot of time alone at first, wondering how and where I was going to fit in. I worked on my book, studied for my Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga certification, and made coffee dates with old and new acquaintances.
There was a yoga studio walking distance from my home that I decided to walk into one day and introduce myself. The owner was actually there when I walked in and greeted me with the warmest, friendliest smile I had seen in weeks. I was so excited to share with her my ideas and about the healing wisdom of Africa. I explained that I had decided to move back to the States after more than a decade in East and Southern Africa. She looked at me and said with a most astonished look 'Why?!?" My heart sunk. I think she saw it. She noted how crazy America had become in the past decade and wondered whether I was prepared for it all. We became friends and when I practiced yoga at her studio the first few months I was back, she always introduced me and continues to support my work in Tanzania.
I had made a promise to myself that you can take the girl out of Africa, but you can't take Africa out of the girl. I was determined to live as much as possible in the state of consciousness I had nurtured on the continent, but how to do this in practice, I could sense, was going to be a bit tricky.
[to be continued...]