Safety and sure footing in the shadows…


I woke up at a little after 4am this morning, looked around me and in the shadows of my room, I couldn’t quite figure out where I was. It is hard to explain. For about 30 seconds, all I saw was shadows and figures and I was trying to figure out where I was. I sat up on the side of the bed for a better view and couldn’t figure out what house I was in.

I had the pleasure of being welcomed into several homes and hosted by several families during my stay in South Africa. In each of the homes I felt safe. Whether I was in a home in a gated community in a suburb of Johannesburg, a well-secured gated home in a suburb outside of Pretoria or homes in townships outside of Duran, KwaZulu-Natal, I always felt safe.  (They call it KZN. It is pronounced like /kay – za – REN/ with a roll on the R sound.) 

So when I woke this morning, I wasn’t concerned about my safety as much as I was with knowing where I was.

Then my feet touched the floor and I heard the squeak of wood. My sight had not been able to ground me and now my hearing was struggling to adjust as well. Why? Because in the areas of South Africa I visited – from Johannesburg to Pretoria to Durban – I do not recall seeing wood being commonly used for floors and I never heard a floor squeak.

tile floorsEvery place I went – from homes to grocery stores to restaurants to wherever – had beautiful ceramic tiled floors or some other stone flooring. There was so much tile. Someone always seemed to be cleaning the floors, so they were extremely clean as well… So much so that in some places people walk around without shoes. Ceramic tiles even beautify outdoor spaces.

I accidentally hit my head on a few walls while I was there as well and found they were made of strong material as well. But I don’t remember wood. The floors never squeaked. The ground beneath my feet was always solid, sure, and unwavering…

I guess Gene heard me shuffling around and woke up. He got out of the bed and asked if I was okay… I didn’t want to alarm him, so I just said I was gathering my bearings. His voice and presence helped ground me and remind me of the familiarity of my home and bedroom and squeaky floors.

And the shadows began to make sense again… and then I remembered and the familiarity of my home came flooding back to me.

I’ll have to ask Coach Green Gene about how the differences in building and construction materials affect the environment and why people choose to build and develop differently in different environments.

Now, if I my body could just remember when it should sleep and when it should be awake…
Oh, why fight it? Maybe I’ll just use those off-schedule waking hours to get caught up on some work and reflections about South Africa through my blog posts until things get back to normal.

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