Cheer and charm - talk and tinsel
Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
147Trip End Oct 25, 2010
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John and his lovely wife Kary were up and about, getting breakfast ready. ' Morning Katherine, how do you like your eggs?' I blink - my eggs? I am in England; the living room, the furniture, the wooden floorboards, the fireplace - it all oozes British comfort, but outside the sun shines bright, warming up the swimming pool in a tropical garden. Africa, yes, and it's a beautiful day; the breakfast table is set on the patio.
A wonderful introduction to life at Grahamstown. Pleasantville, as I kept thinking through out my stay. Everywhere I went, and John made sure I got the whole tour, that was what came to mind
I've visited quite a few towns and villages by now, and, to be honest, had no great expectations of Grahamsville, but was - pleasantly - surprised. The main street has a distinctive church and beautiful colonial buildings - again, you can imagine yourself walking down an old English village high street. It is clean and tidy, attractive shops, and all the typical things that come with housing a university; the pubs, internet cafes, bookshops, etc.
John takes me to his office, an impressive building. 'Notice the two entrances,' he says, 'a reminder of the old days.' I meet his colleagues and we have some interesting discussions about yesterday's debate, the newspaper articles, and about the situation in the country in general.
Next a visit to an eco-friendly, spiritual, shop, for a tasty lunch. They also sell gorgeous silks, batics and jewellery, along with works of art, candles and such - a business that would do very well in Amsterdam. Surprising to find it here.
John turned out to be a zealous expert on Grahamstown; showing me around, explaining, enthusiastically driving me all over the place, pointing out any thing of interest; the university, the townships, the cannons high up the hill
I loved the student's pub, the Rat and Parrot, a mellow hangout, just right for sipping on cider whilst musing over past and future journeys, passions and dreams - and food, for Kary was waiting with a delicious meal, prepared without much fuss, like everything she does, seemingly effortless. An enviable talent.
Life was good. Life seemed good for everyone; people on the streets, milling around the university and sports fields. Teenagers carrying their musical instruments, friendly folk walking their dog, some stopping to share a few words - smiling faces all around. Even the special needs children, we watched Kary work with them at school, seemed cheery and involved.
Have I missed something? Hidden squalor, screaming kids, unhappy, dangerous, disorderly people? I didn't see it, all was fine, I can see why John loves his home town so much and doesn't want it to lose any of its character..
Before leaving for East London, from where I shall fly back to Amsterdam, I go shopping and see the first Christmas decorations in the shops. Tinsel and silver bells adorning a barbecue - that's when you realise you are in South Africa. When we are huddling by the central heating, guzzling baked potatoes, roast turkey and Brussels sprouts, South Africa is having a Christmas braai on the beach!
So here's to my South African friends, enjoy, enjoy - I shall be with you in spirit as I gaze at the frozen canals this Christmas time. I'll smile and imagine splashing through the warm waves of the Indian Ocean, for I know we will meet again.