Before anyone else is up, I’ve already had my first dose. Fifteen minutes of current affairs radio while I make tea and Kreemy meal. It’s dark and still, and the last bit of night is lit only by a fragment of the dying moon, by the brightness of Venus just above the eastern horizon. No other language fills my mind yet. I let the words from the radio pour into the dream-ploughed blankness of my morning mind. I let them take root there.
A few sentences of English, the rustle of clothes and the creaking and shutting of various doors interrupt this dosage.
Depending on traffic, another thirty to forty minutes’ dose awaits me – some gospel music, religious motivation, news broadcasts and sports roundups, kwaito and maskandi and pop. If I really hit it lucky, there will be some izibongo zamakhosi along the way. An unlucky morning is one filled with American music or the latest Europop hit. Then the dosage doesn’t take.
If all goes according to plan, though, by the time I make the last two turns and drive through the school gates, I have changed. My brain is no longer primarily processing in English, but is instead tuned to and functioning in isiZulu. I am no longer Cullen. I am instead Mabhengwane.