Coming Home (The Thank You Blog)

Finally settling in back home. I’ll be swimming in photos for a few weeks, trying to sort them all.

Usually, while shooting I’m so caught up in the moment, focusing on what’s happening around me. It isn’t until later that I process what I saw and consider the magnitude of it all. Spending 24 hours in planes coming home gave me plenty of time to think about my experience in South Africa.

To witness what some consider to be one of the most important events in South Africa’s history was something I’ll never forget. More than that, I’ll never forget the people. For all that I heard and read about the dangers lurking ahead, everyone I encountered in South Africa was polite, accommodating, and very helpful. So many smiling faces transcended any event that may have been going on in their country.

At the risk of leaving anyone out, here are the others who made this trip as successful as it was:

I still can’t believe I get to be married to her. It seems every day I’m coming up with a few crazy ideas and her support and guidance is really what makes the “good” ideas stick and come to reality. My travels begin and end with her. The amount of work she does while I’m gone is sometimes overwhelming — and I do feel bad about that — yet she carries on without complaint. That I know of. Thanks, Tricia!

Ryan and Leyla (and Jonah and Rocky):
What great hosts! Ryan and I grew up on opposite sides of Houston. We spent much of our formative years hanging out within a larger group of friends. He now lives with his family in Johannesburg. Even though I hadn’t seen him in 15+ years, meeting up with him in South Africa quickly became like old times. Except he has a wife and kid, and dog. Leyla, who I met for the first time, filled me up with great conversation and home-made cappuccinos. They provided me with more than a place to sleep. They gave me a feeling of being home. Somewhere I felt comfortable and could relax. I was only supposed to be there a couple of days, but I stayed a week. Thanks, Ryan and Leyla!

Ryan, Leyla, Jonah and Rocky

Sometimes you get a fixer that acts like a tour guide. And sometimes you get a fixer like Nandi. A good fixer can make a world of difference in the final outcome of your work. Nandi not only took me to places I needed to go, but she helped translate and give the subjects a level of comfort as I took photos. She also gave me quite a bit of information, from history to current events, that helped guide my reporting. She also hooked me up with some tasty, authentic South African foods. Thanks, Nandi!

Nandi introducing me to South African food.

A native South African and former co-worker of mine, Lomi left the newspaper around the same time I did. Near as I can tell, she’s been traveling the world ever since. Her “no-time-like-the-present” mentality was a great inspiration for me when I was debating whether or not to go to South Africa. When she found out I was going, Lomi put the word out to her friends and family back home, who in turn offered their help in different forms. Thanks, Lomi!

The Cousins I had never met:
For as long as I can remember, whenever I’d tell my dad I was traveling somewhere, he’d say “You have cousins there!” (Persians like to use the word “cousin” as an almost generic term for just about any relation – by blood or marriage – that would otherwise be too complicated to explain.) Then he’d mention the names of people I’ve never heard of and explain the detailed roadmap of ancestry to how we’re related. Then, he’d say “Give them a call and let them know you’re coming!” This time, I did. In Johannesburg and Cape Town, I had wonderful visits with my cousins. Thanks, “My mom’s sister’s husband’s brother” and “My dad’s cousin’s children.”

If you’ve checked this blog at least once in the last few weeks, you probably know I’ve been looking for backers to help offset some of the costs of this project. Even with all the help listed above, it was quite an expensive venture. To those of you who’ve pledged (and those who are going to pledge), THANK YOU!

Okay, enough of this lovefest. More photos to come!


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