Running a risk
1 June 2012 § Leave a comment
This morning, after dropping the rental car off (Witsie, after Wits, the university here – sometimes we call her itsy bitsy Witsie), I checked out the Bailey’s Archives, which have all of the Drum issues, but they needed to compile it for me, so I ran out quickly and tried to catch up with Lewis, who was walking to Wits. I never found him, but once I had run for about five minutes, I just decided to keep running til I found the university. I didn’t have a map (and the one I keep running across is shameful, scarcely any streets are labelled), but luckily we’ve driven around downtown enough and it had taken us so long to find the rental car place again that I had a fairly good sense of direction.
Running along the sidewalks with some people going to and fro and some people lounging about and music playing here and there and trafficky noises and one-way streets popping up everywhere exhilarated me, and I was quite full of energy and ready to work by the time I reached the historical papers room. It’s a lovely place in the library with a congenially serious atmosphere and a little loft and shelves lined with old books about the Church in South Africa and kindly librarians who run off to fetch stacks of boxes for researchers. I’ve read through papers there on various days, when I’m not trying to reach people on my long list of contacts. Last week, I called about ten in a row, risking death by telephone, with mixed results.
One former Drum writer was in the hospital (I was horrified when he told me that; how awful to bother someone in the hospital! . . . why was he answering his telephone in the first place?), several people had message machines that they apparently never check, because I have received no calls from them (I can’t blame them; I check mine every four months or so), one person told me she would send me some good photos, one person took about ten minutes to figure out what I was saying (“I am doing research on L-E-W-I-S-N-K-O-S-I”) and then proceeded to tell me that he lives 3oo km from Joburg, and one person‘s brother answered, told me he was in the hospital, and bid me send a text message to him. This confused me; wasn’t he (the one to whom I was talking) holding the telephone? I followed his instructions, however, and received the most outrageous text, which I immediately recorded in my notebook, because it is definitely going in this thesis.
Anyway, he did not consent to let me interview him.
When I first arrived, I had two days of bymyselfness (except conversations with George, a tiny young man from Malawi who works at the hostel and gave me a lengthy description of the educational system of Malawi) that was gloriously ended by the arrival of Grace and Lewis one evening. The next day, we went with Lewis’s friend Dawid to Soweto (South West Township of Joburg) for bungee jumping. It holds absolutely no interest for me; hang-gliding or just flying (oh that my wings would hurry and grow soon!) are far more tempting, but it was fun to watch Dawid and Lewis flail about from marvellous painted (former) electrical towers.
That evening, Grace and I flew to Durban. It’s dinner time for this junebug, so stories about that trip will have to wait.