This time of year always makes me miss my trip to South Africa three years ago. My husband was born there and moved to Canada when he was 8 years old. His grandmother, an aunt and uncle and several cousins still live there. Three years ago we traveled there on our pre-honeymoon (we were married the following summer). I loved this trip. It was the furthest, longest and most memorable vacation of my life.
While there we visited a Game Reserve where we saw elephants, giraffe, lions, leopards, hippos, rhinoceros, baboons, water buffalo...the list is endless really. I remember the first morning I woke in a hotel on the way to the game reserve. I turned on the t.v. it was the BBC and the news was all about the African continent. No North American news at all. It was my first time being off this continent and I was so happy to be immersed in something so new and different. That day we visited a lovely small botanical garden and I remember that the smell was new to me. I had never smelled this pollen, this soil, these trees. It was a delight to the senses. I tried to drink in every moment.
There are many things in South Africa that are hard to handle for someone from a more sheltered culture(like ours in Canada). Child poverty is everywhere. Here it is much more hidden. The level of poverty in general is huge. The obvious division between white and black people. The systemic and often sub-conscious racism which was blatant to me, but was the lasting effect of apartheid there. On a political level what struck me the most from the trip was the hope and current of the people. Decades of oppression were lifting and millions of people who had no hope before, can now work towards a life of their own choosing.
This hit home for me on the gondola ride down Table Mountain in Cape Town. Dave and I were on the gondola with a group of school children probably 10 or 11 year old. As the beauty of their city struck them they spontaneously began to sing the South African National Anthem. This song is in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho. We asked their teacher what they were singing and when he told us I was just overcome with the love they had for their country. The possibilities are endless for them. They are a new generation rising from the ashes of apartheid.
We plan to go back one day when our child(ren) are old enough to remember it. It is a long flight and expensive but it has stayed with me for three years and I know it will always remain in my heart. That was something an employee of the Game Reserve we stayed at said, that Africa grabs your heart to never let it go. I have to say that it won me forever. The original home of us all.