Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

I Am From


I am from Africa. I am from blue skies, tropical breezes, and sunshine on my back. I am from tall trees that throw great shadows. I am from monkeys in the garden and a chameleon on a bush. I am from mountains that rarely see snow, beaches with huge waves, sharks behind the shoreline. I am from banana plants, sugar-cane and mealies. I am from huge moths and flying ants. I am from humidity, from thunderstorms that build up as black towers in the sky, and rain so hard it hurts my skin.

I am from eating outside. I am from the intense smell of a slightly under-ripe naartjie that I pick from its tree, dig open with dirty fingernails, and devour despite the sourness. I am from plucking granadillas off the vine and greedily sucking the juice. I am from braai meat, salad and crunchy white rolls. I am from mussels gathered from the sea.

I am from lucky beans. I am from a hoary old magnolia tree that bursts forth luscious, vanilla-scented blooms that decorate the Christmas table. I am from a red-brick house that looks out over trees and a hot town. I am from black and white tiles that cool hot summer feet. I am from the smell of dogs being washed. I am from the sound of Zulu hymns as I fall asleep.

I am from Marmite sandwiches. I am from a schoolbag digging into my shoulder as I walk home. I am from the smell of an over-chlorinated swimming-pool in my wet hair. I am from giggling. I am from eating all the cookie mixture. I am from marathon card games. I am from the thwack of tennis balls. I am from kissing boys.

I am from little brothers playing cricket on the lawn. I am from long car journeys. I am from beach holidays. I am from sand in my hair, from fairy gardens and dreaming I can fly. I am from blonde people. I am from children go to bed early. I am from fragrant grandmothers and laughing aunts. I am from a funny dad. I am from a little brother who shared my nightmares. I am from a mother who said, “You can do anything.”

Where are you from?

(With thanks to Susie J.)

Now available as a podcast! Listen here or here:

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

46 thoughts on “I Am From

  1. Charlotte, this is gorgeous, absolutely stunning.

    I loved this post.

  2. Brilliant! I’ll have to give some thought as to where I’m from.

  3. Your “I am from” stilled my heart on this busy morning as I rush to get the kids off to school. Thank you for the vivid images that helped me to see and smell your life. Vanilla on Christmas — how lovely. What a lovely gift to share with your children. Thanks

  4. Oh Charlotte this is simply wonderful! Through your descriptions I can almost feel again… feeling and remembering the smells and sounds… do you remember those little brown christmas beetles and the annoying sound of those huge fat mosquitoes in the hot humid night? Don’t you just wish we could transport our children back to those times and show them how it truly was?

  5. oh, this is just heart-stoppingly lovely. I want to go where you are from. Beautiful, beautiful prose. I’m looking forward to trying my hand at this one!

  6. I don’t know if I can do this one , but I do believe I will try. I don’t know if my “I am from” can be as idyllic as yours, however. “I am from kissing boys.” Yes, yes.

  7. Wow, that was really beautiful, and following the link path through the originating blogs was amazing too!

    I’m going to have to look up some of the things you mention so I can have a better idea of the sensations you are describing. Like braai meat, granadillas, and naartjie…the only time I’ve heard of that word is a children’s clothing store by that name!

  8. Be careful. Being so eloquent about where you are from will make a lot of people want to go there and take your place while you are away.

    Me? I am from outside Paris, aaand… that’s about it.

  9. Gorgeous writing, Charlotte, and I see very clearly now where you’re coming from.

  10. Simply beautiful Charlotte!


    I am from the smell of an over-chlorinated swimming-pool in my wet hair.

    …had me looking over my shoulder for the swimming pool.

  11. Hi Charlotte

    I’ve just spent about an hour on your site, loving your writing style and memories and tidbits about Germany. I am a South African living in Canada, after living in Taiwan for a while as well. I also trained as a journalist in SA. Did my studies at Stellenbosch and then went on to Rhodes for a year. Anyway, I do an online magazine for women with a global perspective and I would love to have your permission to publish your “I am from” blog post. You can check out the site and see if it works for you. I would really appreciate it if you can email me back.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


  12. Thanks, everyone, for the kind comments. I look forward to hearing where you are from. The simple structure of this form means you don’t explain anything, just access memories pure. I loved doing it, and as Susie warned, it did make me cry.

    For translation purposes, a naartjie is a general term for satsumas and clementines, a granadilla is a passionfruit and a braai is a barbeque.

    Idelette, I would be happy to share this. I’ll contact you per mail.

  13. I loved this post too, Charlotte (just seen it). It’s incredibly evocative. Some more memories, please!

  14. I am from evenings spent with new friends

  15. Thanks, Kathryn. Somehow it was soooo easy to write.

    Mike, me too! Looking forward to meeting you …

  16. Oh, Charlotte, now I’m trapped in your web. Reading you for the first time and finding this! It made my morning special. So beautifully fluid and vivid.

    Sig (biking-friend of Thomas and my husband), told me your writing was great – I finally found out for myself.
    Thomas is on my reading list already – now your added too! Thank you

  17. I would love to read a book set in this world. You brought it to life so vividly.

    I am from nowhere. I get a bit sad about that.

  18. I am from Africa too Charlotte. And it sounds about time you and Thomas got your asses back here too 🙂

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  20. I finally finished my personalized version of “I am from.” What a wonderful exercise. Thank you for the inspiration, Charlotte!

  21. Thanks Tittin – I’ve trawled past your blog too and loved being opened up to your world.

    Helen, I know you like the Seventies and these are very Seventies memories, because that’s when I was a child. Perhaps you are from everywhere rather than from nowhere – and reading some of your writing about the Shetlands, it would seem that large parts of you are from there.

    Thanks, Mike. Very tempting offer. We may have get over the slight hitch that our children are now from Germany!

    Ms HMH, I loved yours. It was a beautiful piece of work.

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  25. This is such a lovely idea I decided to have a go myself even though I don’t have any aspirations to be a writer. I can relate so much to your African childhood and the rootlessness, if that’s not too strong a word, of several contributors.

  26. thank you. You just made my day a little brighter!

  27. I can’t wait to listen to the ‘I am From’ podcast. I’ll have to prepare a large tissue box as the effect is bound to be even more emotional than on the first reading.

  28. Er, somehow I cannot access the link — something’s wrong — can you check it?

  29. This is my first visit here and I love this post so much! I am making an attempt to describe where I’m from on my blog now… Thank you so much for the inspiration and the totally beautiful writing!

  30. I read this again after I read your mixed feelings post, and loved it again. It feels so familiar, and yet so different – but I love the love you have for your country, and the way it’s deep under your skin.

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  32. I still can’t access Odeo to fetch the mp3 (access denied). Am I doomed?

  33. No, it’s not personal. Odeo’s gone and done something. Will check it out later and let you know.

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  35. Beautiful post. Made me think where I’m from… Especially now that I’m leaving that place… I’ll think more, and let you know.


  36. just discovered your blog and beautiful words.
    have to go to work now.
    i’ll be back soon.

  37. Wow Charlotte – I’m going to give it a bash and I hope that mine is a fraction as evocative as yours. Thank you!

  38. Whata gorgeous post!! I found your link on a friend’s blog.

  39. I like the format so thought I will give it a try…………………..

    I am a child: I am from Zambia. I am from Copper Belt lush forests and colonial house which are no more. I am from a father that fought in WWII. I am from white and black taboos. I am from apartheid long past. I am from wild animals and snakes in a pool. I am from a mother raising a lion. I am from riding a donkey, and falling off. I am from playful cousins as I have no brothers nor sisters. I am from sugar plantations and jumping spiders. I am from humid summers with thunder and storms. I am from dark nights and no city lights with a sky so clear you can see forever.

    I am a teenager: I am from outside movie theatres next to the river. I am from mosquito netting head to toe. I am from riding horses and bright orange chopper bicycles. I am from skinny dips in the dam and secret boys clubs. I am from my first kiss to my first heart break. I am from playing rugby and shooting hornets nest with my kettie. I am from carefree and no worries. I am from sadness and relocation. I am from gladness when making new friends. I am from studying on the beach. I am from long term relationships that lasted five years.

    I am in the army: I am from conscription for no reason. I am from training for war. I am from wasting two years. I am from secret clearance. I am from programming army bases. I am from driving Bedford trucks. I am from varkpanne and divvies and shooting at ranges. I am from Volk and Vaderland and defending my nation. I am free again.

    I am at University: I am from classrooms by the sea. I am from serving on the SRC. I am from computers and science and banking classes to swim. I am from scuba diving and water polo. I am from Plettenberg holidays. I am from jolling at clubs. I am from vodka and orange juice and Black Label beer. I am from beach braais and loud music. I am from langarm dances. I am from graduations and celebrations. I am from job interviews.

    I am at work: I am from heartache and sorrow as my father has died. I am from focusing on my work with a new partner by my side. I am from small flats with fires. I am from boat rides at sunset. I am from working long hours and developing code. I am from changing jobs and working at home. I am from honeymoons in Mauritius with a beautiful girl to precious moments and no cares in the world. I am from our first house together with a boy. I am from fatherhood now and have a son.

    I am married: I am from quality of life, not quantity forever. I am from long walks with my wife and the Staffie together. I am from fishing in the river with my son all day and wrestling on the carpet while we play. I am from worries and troubles as I ponder my debt. I am from concerns for the future of my child. I am from sadness for an old mother who has nobody by her side. I am from looking forward, not to the past. I am from giving the best as I never had.

    And now I am from Ubunto as I am what I am because of who we all are.

    Where are you from?

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  41. lol I am basically from the same place, all the images you conjured up are my daily life, I am from Durban 🙂

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  45. Nicely written!

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