On the week of your birthday, I have been thinking about how truly grateful and blessed I am to have you in my life. Little did I know when I first met you six years ago, as I was shown around the office after interviewing for a new job, that the loud South African who looked me up and down with uncertainty would become such an important part of my life. That I would get to come to work every day with one of my best friends, and that any day you weren’t in the office with me would be about 90% less fun.
I’d never even heard anyone speak Afrikaans before I met you, was baffled by this alien language and how you were so well-spoken and fluent in English too. I’ve loved learning more about your home country, laughing with you about the many differences between our cultures, attempting to read Afrikaans or translate a phrase that’s simply untranslatable. We laugh SO much. You fill my day with smiles, whether you intend to or not (no, chiropody is not pronounced “Cairo-poddy”, and no, your words do not fall on “death ears”, and no, “my nose are itchy’ does not make sense unless you have a secret second nose you lunatic).
But despite our differences (and yes, there are many!), we have developed such a close friendship over the years, a friendship that is unlike any other that I have. We’ve spent more time together than I could possibly count, know the intricate – and extremely boring – details of each other’s lives, and can communicate with the tiniest flicker of the eyelid or twitch of the mouth: we know what the other is thinking before we’ve even had the conversation. You’ve stood up for me on so many occasions, given me the advice I needed to hear (even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time), made sure I did what I needed to do.
You care about others so, so much. You take on other people’s problems as if they were your own and do anything you possibly can to try and solve them or offer comfort: even if it means getting up at 5am to cook a meal or running around town to deliver a package. You’re one of the most selfless and kind people I’ve ever met; you absolutely love helping others. You’ve called the doctors for me, you’ve booked trains for me, you’ve travelled an hour out of your way just to keep me company on the tube. You always tell me that if you didn’t genuinely want to do something, you wouldn’t make the offer in the first place. And that’s you all over: straight up, saying exactly what you mean (occasionally to your detriment, hey!).
During the worst time of my life, you were there for me unconditionally. You cried with me, you made sure I ate lunch, you put me on the train when I needed to get home urgently. You posted Haribo to my house, you sent countless thoughtful messages, you bought a birthday present for my Mum even though you had never met her. And you used some of your precious prayers on me and my family, which means so much more to me than you know.
I’ve leant on your shoulder many times, and you know you can always lean on mine. My heart breaks for you when yet another friend moves back to SA; I can’t imagine how tough it must be to live so many hours from home. But I’m also so proud of how you’ve carved out a life for yourself in London. How I wish I could be as passionate about a hobby as you are about cycling; the amount of love you have for it makes me so happy, and I’m constantly impressed by how you strive to make it more and more a part of your life, with your own club and even sponsorship.
I see how you’re the glue between your friends: cooking big dinners in your favourite Le Creuset pot, organising intrepid activities (SO sorry I was busy on the day of stand up paddle boarding), always on hand to babysit or help out at church. I so appreciate being invited to your gatherings, quite enjoy being the token English girl even if I can’t understand what’s going on half the time.
You are so much more than a friend to me. We bicker like sisters: nobody else will tell me if they hate my new shoes or that my hair looks a mess, and I wouldn’t dream of being half as rude to any of my other friends as I am to you. But then I don’t have any other friends who would suck on the bone of a lamb shank in the middle of a restaurant do I?! It’s okay, I know it’s in your blood.
And in honour of your birthday, here are ten more things I’ve learnt about Afrikaans:
1. Time is a fluid concept. Now doesn’t mean now, it means I’ll do it perhaps some time in the next day or so, if you’re lucky. If you want something doing actually right now, you mean now now. There’s just now as well – perhaps not as soon as now now, but sooner than now.
2. A nartjie is an orange, but it’s also a satsuma, a clementine or a mandarin.
3. However you think it’s pronounced, it probably isn’t.
4. Banana is a savoury food item.
5. There’s only one jam, and it’s apricot. You can have it in a sponge pudding or with a curry. Cheese and jam is a logical combo.
6. Anyone older than you is an Auntie or an Uncle, but don’t call your friend who’s five years older than you an Auntie; she’ll get really offended.
7. “Fatcakes” is the name of an actual dish. And they’re absolutely delicious. But I guarantee you will not be able to move after eating two.
8. Some words mean two things. A backie (sp?) is a lunchbox, but also a truck.
9. One carb per meal is simply not enough.
10. Vegetarians?! LOL.
I really hope I get to come and see your world one day; I never tire of hearing about it despite how endlessly confusing and nonsensical it is. I know you think mine is just as weird sometimes, but could you ever live without your beloved ginger biscuits now?!
Gelukkige verjaarsdag my friend, and thank you so much for being in my life; I genuinely don’t know how I would have got through the past few years without you.