This man is Afrikaans

On a visit to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, academic Herman Wasserman gets reminded of home and how people perceive him.

Downtown Bulawayo (Photo: Damien Fauchot, via Flickr CC).

The waiter at the breakfast table here in Bulawayo starts speaking Afrikaans to me, before I even open my mouth to let my accent betray me. He had worked in Cape Town before, where he learned the language, and wants to keep practicing. But how did he know I was Afrikaans? I could see it on your face, he says: This man is Afrikaans.

I hesitate. What does someone who speaks Afrikaans look like? He also hesitates at first, then offers: You are very friendly. I know this could mean precisely the opposite, and that he does not want to be taking any chances. Is he happy to be back in Zimbabwe? Oh yes, he says. I am Zimbabwean. Things are looking better every day.

Photo: Damien Fauchot, via Flickr CC.

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