Head in the Clouds, Feet on the the Ground

Posted: February 6, 2012 in Ramblings of an Idle Busy Mind

The more I grow up, the more I realise what rich roots I have. No, I’m not a trust fund baby! I’m talking about something way more important. Heritage. Imvelaphi.

Growing up, I had the privilege of having multiple backgrounds which all gave me a strong grounding for life.

My mother was born and raised in a rural village called Qombolo in the Eastern Cape and my father, in a township called Lingelihle in Cradock. In my formative years, my mother made sure that most of my school holidays were spent in either one of these two environments to know where I came from.

Both these environments taught me the meaning of ubuntu. The meaning of “umntu ngumntu ngabantu” – you are who you are because of other people. In both the village and township community, everyone knew their close and distant neighbours by name. When you ran out of sugar at home, you send a child to kwaMamQwathi, the neighbour to go “borrow” a cup of sugar. The neighbour gave it to you, knowing that the ‘borrowed’ goods would never come back.

And when you had visitors that were more than your small house could handle, you’d ask your neighbours to host them for the night. When you left your house unattended for a few days, there was no need for Red Alert Neighbourhood Watch because your neighbours would guard your house for any suspicious behaviour.

I remember one Christmas, I was about 13 years old, my uncle took us on a tour of Tsojana, another village which is my also my home. In the scorching sun, he showed us the forest and the mountain and told us the lineage of our great grandfathers who traversed the luscious green Transkei hills on horseback. How they enjoyed a simple life. ” My children, no matter how far you progress in life, don’t ever forget your roots. Don’t forget where you come from” he would say.

Despite these ‘ humble’ beginnings, I was always encouraged to dream big and aim high.
My father….(who passed away when I was less than a year old) believed that the only way a Black child could have a decent shot at making it in life, was to get a good education. He was an educator…and became a school principal before he was 30. He loved education.

Two other uncles of mine nurtured my love for books and for school from a young age. At 4 years of age, my uncle would buy me puzzles for 6 – 7 year olds to stimulate my mind. Throughout my schooling career he always encouraged me to aim to come first in class…nothing less. They never crucified me for coming 2nd or 3rd, but as long as my name was amongst the Top 10. They knew that if excellence was my ‘ bare minimum’ , I would not struggle to access the opportunities that ‘ good marks’ could unlock. They knew that if I had decent marks and the right guidance, money (or lack of it) could not inhibit me going for my dreams. They taught to never, ever despise my race…..and to never let anyone else limit my capability because of my skin colour.

My first year University tuition fees were converted to a merit bursary based on my Matric symbols. My second year study loan was converted to a bursary because of my marks.
My fees for my Honours Degree were fully paid for by a scholarship. And I’m going to keep climbing the ladder of knowledge using the mind that God has blessed me with and that many other people have helped to sharpen.

God-willing, I’m going to continue to build my dreams in high places……in the clouds to be specific…..while keeping my feet in the rich soil and dusty township gravel that form my foundation and keep me grounded. I may live in a suburb but iilali nelokishi are in me. And I thank my mom for making sure that I never lose that. She also taught me that the ground (kneeling on the ground to pray) is the best way to navigate. From my grandmother uMamBhele to uMaKhumalo, my mother, evening prayer was the order of the day at home. Someone once said ” He who kneels before God, can stand before anybody”

I’m no life coach, but as I enter another year my motivation and advice is ” Keep your head in the clouds and your feet firmly placed on the ground”

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