Tag Archives: Johannesburg

Faceless People

14 Jun

For the last 7 months give or take, my travel agent has been a faceless woman sitting in a faceless office in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I do not think of her at all, other than when I need flights or hotels booked. And even then, ours is a business transaction conducted online; I send her a furtive email with my itinerary; she arranges my flight, hotel and airport taxis and sends me my info neat little PDFs.

The only time I ever call her is when she screws up my bookings or forgets to send my itinerary in time. She is particularly good in this last one; much to my chagrin.

Let’s call her AV.

Boy, have I had my share of drama with this woman. Lord knows how many times I have threatened to let go of her services for someone better; and truth be told she does mess up a lot.

This morning I received a whatsapp from her asking if anyone from her firm had been in touch regarding my bookings for next week; which last minute Carole only requested last evening.

AV: “Hi. I’m in hospital and have just gotten access to my phone now. Did anyone reply to you re your booking?”

Carole: “Yes, M replied, thanks. And get well soon”

AV: “Ok. Cool. Thanks but breast cancer is a process”

Today AV stopped being faceless.

AV is now a real woman in South Africa battling breast cancer. I have googled her. She is no longer faceless. I see her now.

Guilt immediately hit me like a tonne of bricks. Was she so erratic all these months because she was juggling work and chemo appointments? Was she in pain even as I hustled her about my delayed itinerary?

Moral of the day: Always be kind, you never know what people are really going through………

As I sit here, still frozen not knowing how to respond to that. It’s such a personal detail, that I feel like it was TMI to drop it just like that into the conversation (I am not being insensitive). On the other hand, I feel like she’s such a brave person working full time while juggling this and it floors me, the strength of this woman. Am also feeling like I wish she hadn’t told me, because now that I know it sort of changes things between us. I also feel like I want to reach out and re-assure her – I keep composing and re-composing the text, but nothing I say feels quite right. Have we become chums just because she has shared this delicate and sad personal detail? At what stage is she in? Am I even allowed to ask? Yes, I am feeling and wondering about a lot of things.

Most of all, I am just happy for the lesson learnt; happy about my health and happy to be back here writing; when I should actually be at the bank, which closes in 14 minutes.

Love and peace,



Of friendly faces, places and People

29 Nov

Today I sat at Java Yaya Centre for over an hour, quite unplanned. I went in for a take away coffee, sat down to wait for it, and alas got chatted by a very charming Nigerian broda (hopefully he is not of those yahoo/wash wash ones; though he did sound quite cultured and intelligent). Shortly after he finished “toasting” me and left (I had by then given up on walking out with the coffee), a very lovely Ethiopian lady asked if she could sit with me and we chatted quite a bit on every conceivable topic (girlfriend at first sight lol), then later we were joined by her Swiss husband who coincidentally has worked in the same countries as me and we got to talking till I lost track of time. Long and short of it, I am having dinner with them before the year ends 🙂

Looking back, last week I stayed at a hotel in Johannesburg and in a silly twist of events, I found myself in the hotel corridor on the 3rd floor in my night clothes sans shoes and phone (went to take out the room service tray, forgot to hold the door and as fate would have it I found myself locked out of my room much to my dismay and consternation – not to mention embarrassment). After a few minutes panic wondering how to go down to reception in such brief clothing and barefoot at that, I worked up the courage to knock on the next room’s door and request my neighbour to call down for me and ask them to send a new key card up (Lord please don’t let him be a perv – or think I have come to sell “services” lol). Alas! Lo and behold, a Kenyan answers the door and saved the day (I could tell straight away from his chida ya matamchi {intonation/accent} ). Turns out we actually come from the same town (Karatina) and even know the same people. Small world!! I ended up having dinner with he and his colleagues from Toyota Kenya and Uganda 2 nights later. 🙂

I will not even mention the “elevator moment” I had a week before at my hotel in Cape Town, with the most lovely, elderly Kenyan-Asian gentleman whom I pleasantly found out lives at the end of my street here in Nairobi and who has invited me to dinner with his family  as soon as possible.

Notice a pattern??? Food!! Again. 🙂 🙂 🙂

And many, many more chance meetings that I could mention in just the month of November, with all sorts of wonderful people in the most random places. 

This got me thinking, how will the world be in 2090? Will we still have these borders, really? In my Nairobi in 2013 am more likely to meet foreigners on a daily than Kenyans (apart from my old friends of course). And I meet just as many Kenyans out there too. Borders sort of fade out….. I lose the point here….but you get my drift…….

Or maybe I have a face that attracts foreigners? lol. 

Food for thought…… ION, I hope ya’ll have had an awesome year and are well into planning new territory to be conquered in 2014.


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