Cheer and charm - talk and tinsel

Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
Trip End Oct 25, 2010

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Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Next morning I woke up thinking I was in England. Snug in a proper bed, lots of cushions, a colourful spread, clean sheets, towels, pitcher of water and fresh fruit. Pictures and family photos, school diplomas, and something I had really missed: a bedside lamp - it was sheer bliss.
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. Charming.

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. [John, I think I need the book you gave me now :)]
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.

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jonmcconn on

So glad Grahamstown/iRhini made a good impression on you K-A. It's a reminder that there is much to appreciate about our town, lest we forget. We really do love living here. It was an absolute pleasure having you and getting to know you and if anyone else on a visit to South Africa wants to experience Grahamstown, I'd be happy to give them the 'tour'! PS, Sigidla sends regards.

Kary on

Thanks for letting us see Grahamstown through your eyes - it is always refreshing to get a perspective from someone outside the town. We have had sweltering days alternating with really cool rainy days .. very welcome as water is still very scarce!!! You will be enjoying a very white Christmas - our children have been freezing overseas and are looking forward to some sunshine. Look forward to your return. Merry Xmas - love Kary

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