I typed some of this while I was there and the rest I have just finished now.
Flying into Africa was a strange feeling. It's like coming home, but I realized almost immediately it's no longer my home. It's the first time I have felt like this, all my previous visits I breathed a sigh of relief to be back in Africa, to be home where things were familiar and life is vibrant and exciting. Now as I pushed my way through the rowdy masses in JHB airport, clinging to my bags to stop a "helper" from forcibly taking them from me while he showed me the way to my next gate I almost had a sense of foreboding. I know my visit was not of a pleasant nature which may have had an implication on my mood, but things felt so different this time. I made my way to the boarding gate for my last of the three flights, a short 50 minute flight to Durban, there was no plane at the gate and people looked confused. I took a seat and joined them. A pilot sat down next to me and then as we are about to start boarding they announce that they have changed the gates and we need to get across to the other end of the gates to board now. The pilot shakes his head and says to me, "Jhb airport couldn't organize a piss up in a brewery" and tells me not to rush with the rest of the people, the plane is not leaving without him. Welcome to Africa.
I guess by the time I arrived and cleared customs I looked travel weary, I was jet lagged and my back was in pain from a skating fall I had had a few weeks earlier, the customs guy looked at me and said "long flight? - never mind, you're home now". It Made me smile, but at the same time I knew my home was thousands of miles away in Canada with my kids and DH.
Below are a couple of random observations both good and bad from my trip to share.
|Umhlanga Lighthouse - Photo by: Jen|
There is nothing like the smell of the earth when it rains in Africa, especially after a hot day. It brought a tear to my eye when it rained the first day and the overwhelming smell hit me, I sat outside on my Moms patio and breathed it in.
Newspapers in SA are depressing. It's only local news, and most of the reports about the crime in the suburbs do not even warrant reporting on. Except for the sports pages, where local and some international sport (mostly European) is covered, it's all about violence and politics.
The food is exceptional. Even from the moment I climbed on SAA, the food was wonderful, SA'ers truly know how to eat. I am typing this while still here and I have no access to a scale, but I know I have gained weight and loved every minute of it.
I craved biltong (it was amazing) I craved a jam donut (it was a disappointment- I threw half of it away). I ate the best steak ever.
The lack of cable internet drives me crazy, even using my brothers ADSL line for dedicated access was slow and not like I am used to.
I did not feel safe. We walked across to the shops and I had the sudden thought that I should not have my bag with my iPad and wallet and phone over my shoulder.
I got used to driving a stick shift on the wrong side of the road and within 24 hours felt like I had been doing it for years.
Mosquitoes love me, does not matter the country, I am the one in the room that they will bite.
Biltong cream cheese is one of the best things ever made
It was amazing to see old friends, there are some people you can just pick up with where you left. It does not matter if it's been 7 years or 20 years.
I love the fact that they serve Coke Zero in restaurants, I missed bottomless soft drinks though.
Alcohol is cheap.
Having packers when you go through the checkout at grocery stores makes your life so much easier
Monkeys are cute
Loved the exchange rate, it was a pleasure being on the right side of it for once.
Clothing in the stores mostly sucked. What is up with the fashion sense there? It was either hippiesh 70s style or neon late 80s. I dont care if that is coming back...I am never going back to the 80s. And skirts that are short in front and long at the back are stupid.
I made a note to myself to open a bank account in my own name with some money in it. If your spouse dies and you need cash when all the bank accounts are frozen it's a problem. Especially when the funeral home demands payment on the spot....so much so that they will follow you to the bank and wait outside for proof of payment.
Having to drive with your handbag tucked under your legs out of sight is a pain, as is having to lock your car doors, take the gear lock off, the steering wheel lock off, de-arm the immobilizer, and have cash on hand to tip the car guards that patrol every parking lot.
|Hibiscus Flower - Photo by Jen|
The first time I really felt homesick for SA was the day before I left. We spent the day walking along the beachfront and sitting on the sand watching my nephews swim. I miss the ocean, I miss hearing it I miss watching it, I miss diving in it.
On every previous trip I have felt sorrow leaving, I felt like I was leaving a part of my heart and soul behind, I did not feel that this time. I was looking forward to getting home, home to DH, home to my kids, home to the monster dog, and yes even home to the snow. Don't get me wrong, a part of me will always belong to Africa, I will always support the sports teams and I will always love and miss the country, I was born there, I grew up and became me there, it's just that I realize now that home is where your family are, and for right now, home for me is Canada.