Monthly Archives: February 2013

Drinking from a Watering Can

I have been in settling mode: running errands, walking though town and campus, essentially attempting to nest. In the back of my mind is the expectation of what my nest will look like, moulded undoubtedly by what my prior nests have been. It is always an attempt to fit the unknown into some sort of material package that resembles home. What and who would we be without our loyalty to materials?

Unfortunately, the tap has been putting a damper on the efficiency of my ‘home’ packaging. Grahamstown water tastes bad, and I hear rumors of mercury and aluminum and early-onset Alzheimer’s. My nest cannot have bad water, much less water that is potentially making me sick. I am used to the luxuries of a healthy nest, and so that is what I will try and replicate.

Recently, I went out in search of a water purifier, like a Brita pitcher. A Brita in South Africa, what a beautifully familiar solution to my bad tap water inconvenience. Not being able to find one in a local store on my own searching I enlisted the help of an employee. I briefly described that I was looking for, a jug of sorts, that I could keep in the fridge, that would purify my tap water. Nodding, he said he would just go look in the store room for such a thing.

A few minutes later, after I had sufficiently read all the packaging information and ingredients on a bottle of parmesan thyme infused olive oil, the employee returned. He had found what I had asked him for, or rather how he interpreted what I had asked him for, a watering can. A big blue watering can, way too big to fit into my little refrigerator. I smiled, let out a slight understanding chuckle and thanked him for his help. There is not much else worth doing when experiencing the short-comings of intercultural communication.

Travel, and life generally, gives a sense of interconnectedness while only inherently accommodating for the physical. Last year, at the LIU Global senior orientation in upstate New York, students were given a large piece of poster board and pens and asked to depict what LIU Global had taught them. After listening to The Real Deal, by Goldfish (a South African band) I started in on drawing. LIU Global had taught me so much, but what seemed most unexpected was what it taught me about human’s disjointed ability to connect with each other. To perceive other’s: social, cultural, class, and gender conceptions, and our own ideological context, and relay our messages to each other with efficiency and ease will remain a constant struggle, that often goes unnoticed at home and abroad. Unfortunately, these ‘mis’translations do not normally come in the form of a big blue watering can.

On my poster I started to draw a collection of free standing hills with individuals atop them holding half a tin can phone to their ear and a separate one to their mouth. Tin cans that would receive the messages of an individual, on a different hill, speaking into its pair can connected to it by a rope or string. We see people as if there are no hills, and think that we know them, much like we see things and acknowledge their physical existence as totality, but seeing isn’t all knowing. The physical is never definite. We are all just standing on our hills, hopefully trying to strengthen the effectiveness of our ropes.

The Real Deal: