Monday, June 16, 2008

Journey To Africa: WINDING DOWN

Sunday, Jan 31st

Home again in Middelburg, we awoke to bright sunshine and Indian prayers being recited over loud speakers in the distance. Just as I was finishing my morning ritual of coffee, cigarette and the usual stuff, there was a light knock at the door. It was Alien and Jolien, who had come to serve us breakfast in bed and Jolien stayed and joined us for breakfast.

We had small triangles of pancakes which actually come closer to what we'd call crepes. In small containers were syrup, butter, grated cheese and some kind of dark, thick beef sauce. I watched Jolien to see what to do with the cheese as she filled the inside of one of the triangles with it. It was delicious, I'd have never have thought pancakes and cheese could taste so good together. She enjoyed the pancakes with syrup as we had ours and I never did figure out what the beef sauce was for. Jolien politely excused herself to go to the house to get some more coffee and it was all I could do to convince her to have a cup from our coffee pot... she didn't want to drink all our coffee up.

This Afrikaner community has the most polite children I've ever seen and I sincerely hope all the American television and music influence they're being subjected to doesn't change this in their lifestyles. It was most refreshing and unusual to witness such good manners from children.

We headed back out again to take JC's Mom home and visit with his brother, Butch. Heading back, we visited Alien's parent's and dined on fine Dutch cuisine. It was absolutely delicious and I realized where the table setting of the spoon above the plate came from. It's a Dutch tradition. I'd noticed since we arrived that formal dinners always had the spoon above the plate on the table. Also, everyone we'd dined with eats with their knife in the opposite hand to scoop food onto the fork, instead of scooping with bread as is our tradition.

We visited one of JC's sisters and then some friends, Deon and Elma Joubert in Germiston. They own and operate a company, Embroidery 4 U that designs and applies logos to T-shirts, jackets and other clothing items. While there, Gary chose the Ferarri logo from the many, many choices he viewed on the PC and we watched as the equipment was fed a disk and went to work on a golf shirt.

Following the Joubert visit, we finished the day with one of Alien's sisters, Carla (who owns and operates Cosy Campers), and her family. On the way home, we again stopped at Deon and Elma Joubert's to pick up my shirt, which had a beautifully embroidered South African Buffalo, very nice and high quality.

Monday, Feb. 1st

Jolien asked me to walk her to school, so off we went while "Uncle Gary" got up and started his own morning ritual. When we arrived at school, she asked me to go in with her so she could introduce me to her friends and teacher. It was delightful. :-) As I walked back to the van der Walt house, I have to admit, my heart was getting a bit on the heavy side. I sure was going to miss these people and this place and I can say, Gary shared my sentiment. A little later that morning, we split into two groups, JC and Gary went shopping for gifts from us to the guys and Alien and I went shopping for gifts for the gals. That evening, I prepared a chili spaghetti supper and we dined together with the realization it would be the last night we'd spend in South Africa, as we were departing the following day.

I created their family portraits in the front lawn by the flower garden and we headed out to visit some friends. Came home and crashed from exhaustion.

Tuesday, Feb 2nd

Awoke to bright sunshine and I realized it would be the last beautiful, sunny, hot summer day I'd see in several months. Also, it would be the last time I'd see South Africa and our dear friends for a long time. We were both feeling a bit down because we knew our great adventure was about to come to an end and we'd soon be heading back to winter in Kentucky. We spent the day with the family who we've come to consider as our very own, smiling and laughing over the adventures we'd had the past three weeks. After coffee, we went back to the apartment to start packing. Walked to town one final time and had coffee and an excellent biltong salad in my favorite hangout I'd frequented while there, a quaint coffee shop called "The Coffee Shack." Said goodbye to Susan, the owner and she presented us with a gift: an ashtry with the shoppe's name engraved on it. Back at the van der Walt house, we were visited by some of the many new friends we'd made while there and were presented with yet, even more gifts and we presented our own gifts to them. Oh man... we were sure going to miss these fine people.

We toured the police station compliments of Beertjie who is over one of the precints. There are many similiarities and stark differences to our jails here. The biggest difference I saw was a section of cells which have no roofs. I can tell you, I would hate to get into trouble and end up in this jail. It would sure make me think twice before committing any further crimes. I got a close hand view of the razor wire and I don't know why the stuff facinates me so much - I know we have it here as well. But I can say... those of you who've been tangled in barbed wire while hiking in the woods know how irritating that can be - especially to your clothes. But this razor wire... if you tangle with it, you're going to be in some pain.

Returning home, we ate supper of beef stew served over rice with the van der Walt family in an awkwardly quiet and sad atmosphere. It would be our last supper together for a very long time. Our great journey had come to an end.

Around 7:30 pm, all packed and as ready as we'd ever be to depart a land and family we really didn't want to leave (3 weeks was NOT long enough), we headed to Johannesburg. Said our farewells, boarded the plane at 9:30 pm, and at 10:10 pm GMT, we departed Johannesburg International Airport. I'm not going to get into the emotional end of this or I'll get choked while writing. It was also great to see Andre one last time to bid him farewell, too. It was regretable that we didn't have time to meet any of his family and friends, but that's what repeat visits are for. :-)

The flight was fairly empty and as soon as the plane took off, Gary and I grabbed center aisle seats and stretched out and slept as much as we could. Arrived in Heathrow, transfered to Gatwick, waited... and waited and departed for Baltimore. Waited some more, and on Feb. 4th at 1:00 am EST, arrived in Louisville, Kentucky to an airport that was literally closing behind us. (They even turned off the conveyer belt when we pulled our luggage.) Looked around for our ride, no one there. Took our luggage outside, put on our winter coats and waited for Gary's sister, Kim and her friend who'd taken the wrong turn. Didn't wait long before they arrived and we rode for 3 1/2 hours, extremely exhausted, home.

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