Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Musing about my inheritance

Today we would be celebrating my granda's birthday, and even though he isn't around anymore, I am still celebrating. You see, he left me an inheritance flowing through my veins which I am now stepping into, thanks to some awesome influencers in my life this year. Granda is also the reason I am a child of Africa, so there is loads to celebrate on his birthday!!
You see, my grandfather was Captain Francis Basil Pounder of the British Merchant Navy. He was stranded in East London, South Africa during the war where he became good friends with a lady (that I only ever knew as Aunty Leona). When Granda managed to get the stuff to repair the ship and headed back to his wife in England they decided to make this new friend the godmother to their first daughter, Varla Christina (known as Nina). This happened to be my mom (but only much later in the story...) When Nina was 16, her godmother brought her to South Africa on holiday and they visited pretty much the entire country!! They even went to this museum and snake park complex in PE which had recently aquired some dolphins... (For those who haven't had their coffee yet, that is my current place of employment!) Fast forward a few years, Mom has just got married to Dad (wow, who else could it have been?) and he is offered a job in either Canada or South Africa (as both were in the process of starting TV and him working for the BBC...) Due to Mom's previous trip and desire to spend some time with her godmother, they chose sunny South Africa. One year was spent in Port Elizabeth and then they joined the great trek that many people take and moved to Johannesburg, where I was born (three years after the move, two years after my brother!) I grew up far away from the sea, but with this idealised notion of it, especially since Granda was this imagined figure who only existed on a telephone (he still lived in the UK with the rest of the family!) I finally met him in person just before turning 13 and absolutely adored him! I sadly only got to spend the two holidays with him (one in Scotland, one in SA) but always felt this connection with him and knew that the love I felt for the sea came from his blood running through my veins!
With those two influences, it wasn't really surprising I ended up studying in PE after school, or that I turned to a degree in Natural Science after an abortive attempt at teaching (my passions had always been children and nature - I even wanted to be a vegetarian (I liked big words but couldn't say them properly) surgeon at one stage). A slight detour (of 5 and a half years) into fulltime children's ministry (with another abandoned attempt to complete a teaching diploma) and I found myself back in a nature related job (working with the reptiles at that Snake Park complex my mom had visited all those years ago.) A couple of years of experience under my belt and I knew it was time to head back to the studying I had taken a break from. Yes, I signed up for my Zoology Honours degree part time last year and thoroughly enjoyed being back in the research world! I had however lost the deep passion I had for many things, including the sea. My undergrad courses had given by a variety of lecturers, but only one had shown me a passion for what he did and so I was aware that that field could inspire passion. I found myself drawn to the terrestrial ecology aspects of the work and away from the marine elements. My job with reptiles confirmed the interest I had in terrestrial work and I was pretty sure going into Honours that I would walk away as a herpetologist a few post grad degrees later. Year 1 of Honours goes according to plan with me choosing modules related to the terrestrial ecology side, with one exception: Coastal Zone Management! I can still not explain why I chose that course, but can see that God had his hand in the process. Although I found the course content boring (legislation will never be my favourite reading material) I found myself enjoying that course the most, due to a lecturer who make the work applicable and interesting and obviously had a passion for the work being done in those areas! She just made it fun. So, the attempts I had made to organise a reptile related project when no staff in the department do reptile work all fell through and I needed to choose a projecct for this year. I asked two lecturers if they had any honours projects available - the terrestrial ecology lecturer who had so inspired me in undergrad and the coastal zone lecturer who made the boring work fun. The coastal lecturer came up with a beach ecology project in tandem with one of her PhD students which they swore was very very cool. Although I refused to admit that anything marine could be very very cool to me I signed up to work with the beach babes, and was informed I would come over to the dark side (light only penetrates 60m...) I started reading up about beach ecology and went on a prac and even met the beach guru and I started to see their point, but mostly I just sat and listened to them talk about sandy beach work and watched how excited they got about their work and I saw the passion I used to have, but had somehow lost. I thought back over what I had loved and walked away from over the years and the one thing that kept drawing me back was the ocean. I was reminded in so many ways that the sea is my inheritance and that a seafaring Captain's blood runs in my veins. I starting heading to the beach just to watch the waves and look for my Bullia (the awesome surfing snails I am doing my project on) and found that the joy and passion which I had lost was returning.The biggest challenge I have felt in the last few years is the balancing act of living in two worlds who often don't see eye to eye (although to me they fit together perfectly) those of science, specifically natural science and the christian lifestyle-relationship. I found peace when I was at the beach as I looked around and realised I was in that place - the place which is influenced by two worlds, which often seems to be attacked by the worlds on either side, yet remains, and prospers in so many amazing ways!
And so, on this day when I celebrate the fact that my inheritance is in fact marine, I am ready to shout from the rooftops that I have gone over to the dark side. Iguess you can just call me Darth Varla...

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