Thursday, December 31, 2009

My first Christmas in South Africa: 2009

I had a wonderful, wonderful first Christmas in South Africa thanks to my hosts, Sally and David, and their hosts, the wonderful religious community with whom they live.

For the first time since arriving in Africa, I felt I was finally enjoying the African splendor as their area is so beautiful: mountains, flowering plants and trees, baboons, birds, and community. I had an absolute ball and felt completely relaxed—also a first for me since arriving in South Africa.

I’m amazed that only a few hours away (six, to be exact) that the scenery can change so dramatically. I need to remember, however, that I moved away from the Kalahari Desert and toward an area that is mountainous and green with vegetation and trees. David and Sally are living in the Gauteng Province, just north/west of Pretoria.

(Pretoria, by the way, is officially renamed Tshwane, although I have yet to hear anyone refer to the city by its reclaimed name. I did notice street signs in the city with "Tshwane" on them. Apparently, the renaming is of great controversy here: one of the problems is the expense of replacing all of the city's signage.

During my time in Alaska, I noticed that the great mountain most people know of as Mt. McKinley, is referred to by the Alaskans by the mountain's reclaimed name, Denali. In the lower 48, and because of some very old Ohio state statute, we know it as Mt. McKinley.)

Oops! I digress. Back to my wonderful holiday...

David and Sally kept me wonderfully fed. David also makes a mean bowl of popcorn: my first popcorn since leaving the States. Sally made a wonderful cornbread that I couldn’t get enough of. (You’d think after eating all of the mealie pap/bagobe/corn porridge that I would be sick of corn. Not so! I guess I'm missing the more "American" ways of eating corn.)

Sally and David cooked a wonderful Christmas dinner with all the trimmings that was shared with fifteen of their community. David even made pumpkin and Derby pie! We were also invited to a lunch given by the sisters of the community the day after Christmas, so I had Christmas dinner twice!

So, I’m going on and on about food I see…

David and Sally had a coffee press so I had some really, really good coffee. I also tried the litchis fruit, which is new to me. (I think they taste like grapes.)

Since Sally and David live within the boundaries of a religious community, I was able to attend several church services, meet very, very interesting people, enjoy the beauty of the buildings and grounds, and enjoy the solitude. My only regret was the limited time I spent there: I would love to have more time with the members of the religious community—they are fascinating people!

But I enjoyed best of all, spending time with David and Sally. I’ve mentioned before that we share a common hometown (they have both lived and worked in Louisville, although they may claim Indiana as home). And both are very bright, interesting, well-read, well-travelled, kind and compassionate people. They are full of wonderful stories! And they have made their home in the mountains very comfortable. Also, they were very kind in helping me pep up a bit and gave me some good suggestions for adjusting my attitude. :-)

When it was time to leave, I didn't want to. David and Sally didn't make it easy for me either, as they tempted me with a trip to town to see a movie. A real, honest-to-goodness movie inside a movie theater! While originally I had hoped to see a movie during my visit with them, we were way too busy with the holiday and I can't imagine I could have left the beauty of their home to fall inside a dark "movie cave" for a few hours.

(While in AK, I was only there for three months and didn't want to miss a second of the splendor of the Alaskan wilderness. At one point I was invited to a friend's home to watch a rented movie. I went begrudgingly: I knew I could watch a lifetime of movies when I returned home and was painfully aware I would only be in Alaska for a short time.

Imagine my distress upon learning that the rented movie was one I had already seen!)

Oops! Digressing again…

Since I'm in Africa for two years, I would like to see a movie while I'm here. The new Morgan Freeman film, Invictus, is playing to great review. It is reputed to convey the true feeling of life in South Africa and is highly recommended by my friends (as is the book).

David and Sally have reassured me that another visit will include a trip to the movies! They also know a fabulous seamstress who has agreed to make me an African dress, so I’ll need to return for measurements, etc.

(There is no local theater near me; the closest movie theater to me is in Kimberley and is at least three hours away.)

When I did leave their home after the holiday, I felt rested, relaxed, recharged, and ready to resume my life “back home” at my permanent site. I’m excited that Sally and David extended their invitation for future visits: my stay with them has been the highlight of my time here in Africa.

There are more pictures of my holiday with Sally and David posted to my Facebook page and you need not be a Facebook member to view them:

Happy New Year! Karen