Home sweet home

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Mar 16, 2009

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Flag of South Africa  , Gauteng,
Monday, July 14, 2008

To understand this little detour in our travels we need to flash back to July 2007 when Inge-Marie and I join the rest of the Hough's for a family vacation in Zanzibar. When the holiday was planned it made sense for us to meet somewhere between South Africa and Dubai where we were living at the time so Zanzibar was a perfect choice. About the same time as the Zanzibar holiday we had begun piecing together our final round the world travel itinerary and rough budgets. We knew our schedule was going to be busy with all the locations we had to squeeze in and the budget might often be tight but we also knew that we had to be prepared for any unforeseen eventualities.
It was a lovely holiday in an amazing setting and it gave us a good opportunity to catch up and of course discuss our round the world trip with the family. Inge-Marie's eldest brother, Andre (Jr) and his lovely girlfriend Sandri, who had also joined the family holiday, had been dating for almost a decade and we'd been suspecting for some time there was might be some announcements in the not to near future. We realised the holiday would also be a good opportunity to throw out some bait and either confirm or suspicions or not.
Inge-Marie and I had discussed how to approach the delicate situation as we didn't want to potentially spoil any surprises nor put Andre under any pressure so we decided I would casually mention it to Andre while we were alone. All I can say is Andre would make a good poker player as he kept his pose very well during our little chat but that might only be because I couldn't spot his little 'tells'. Either way we still knew something was brewing.
The good news was finally announced in October 2007 and things moved pretty quickly from that point. We were really concerned that there might be a chance that we would not be able to make it back for the wedding especially since we found we had slightly under budgeted for Australia and New Zealand and begun getting a little worried about finances if this trend was to continue. Fortunately Inge-Marie had amassed enough Emirates Skywards miles to possibly get a free flight back to South Africa so that gave us a little hope.
Once the wedding dates were finalised Inge-Marie didn't waste a second to hop on line and investigate flight options. The process turned out to be a lot more complicated than we anticipated as she firstly could not claim her miles since they were registered in her maiden name. When she eventually solved that little problem we could not stay connected to the Emirates website long enough to complete the online booking, very frustrating when you are so close but can't complete the process. At the end of the day Inge-Marie had secured a booking and best of all it didn't cost a cent! Now all we had to do was find one more ticket.
Our budgetary concerns were quickly lightened as we were travelling through South East Asia and found that we were able to easily live under our projected budget and we were quickly catching up where we'd under budgeted in Australasia. To make things even better, after we had investigated a few flight options it seemed that a flight back to South Africa would actually work out to approximately the same price as what it would cost to live in Europe for 10 days. It started looking like we were meant to go back home. To cut a long story short at the end of the day we both had tickets back to South Africa and were delighted that we'd be able to attend this important event and see family that we had not seen for seven months.
The days leading up to our departure were very exciting as we realise that overnight the though of going home had begun to make us a little home sick. When you are busy and constantly on the move you don't often have time to sit down and think about home. Especially then you know it's going to be a long time before you get to see family and loved ones. But once you realise that you are almost home you can't wait to get there.
Fortunately Inge-Marie and I were on the same flight leaving Munich for Dubai where she had a five hour layover before catching the mid morning flight to South Africa. Unfortunately I was not so lucky and even after standing in the standby queue for hours, so I found a little corner at the Irish Village, the airport's best little restaurant, and enjoyed a few pints of Guinness and Dubai's best pork and caught up on some travel admin. The only down side to this was that I would miss the dinner that Andre (Jr) and Sandri had planned for us on the night of our arrival. I later heard that I'd missed a wonderful braai and some spectacular wines, thanks Emirates!
Arriving back at Johannesburg airport the first thing I realised was how much I had missed South Africa. There just seemed to be so much more spontaneous friendliness about starting with the "welcome back to South Africa" from the lady at passport control to the general buzz of the airport that always seems to be under construction. It seemed that much progress had been made in preparation for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but that the airport was still nowhere near ready.
Back at my parents house it was as if I'd never left. The good thing about getting home is everything is so familiar which was a stark contradiction to the 80 odd beds and rooms we'd slept in over the past seven months. It was good to be home. We'd planed to arrive in SA five days before the wedding which would give us enough time to see most of our family and some friends before the wedding before flying back to Germany.
Inge-Marie and I both had very different itineraries for the week back in SA and for the first time in more months than I can remember we would not be spending a night together. This might sound trivial but when you spend almost every waking moment together and then every night together being apart stirs some very mixed feelings. We both knew a little time apart would be a good idea especially after tensions had began rising over the last few weeks. What we did not realise is how dependant you often become on each other and the void that is left when you are suddenly apart. The weirdest feeling was our phone call on our first night apart which reminded me of the days when we had a long distance relationship and how frustrating that often was.
For the next four days I'd be focused on arranging our last required visa for Canada and wrapping up other issues like the dreaded yearly income tax returns while Inge-Marie had a packed schedule travelling around visiting friends and family and making some last minute arrangements before our departure.
What I did not realise when I arrived back in Johannesburg that there were a few surprises in stall. Firstly there was the good news that my Grandfather who is now 86 would be travelling up from the coast to come and visit and then later during the week we had a surprise visit from my sister, Natalie and my nephew, Gabriel and newly born nice Ruby, whom I had not met yet. It was wonderful having the whole family together and a real treat to be able to meet Ruby who as you might see from the pictures is the cutest little thing with the biggest cheeks and lips ever. Gabriel and I also got to spend some quality time together and even had time to make our favourite stop at the zoo before watching the very funny Kung Fu Panda at the cinema. I could not get Gabriel to stop karate chopping and fly kicking through the mall much to the amusement of all the other shoppers. It was a real treat being able to see my Grandfather and Julie and I sorry we did not get more time to spend together.....
During the few days we were back in South Africa it was hard to avoid the fact that South Africa still had many challenges when it came to its high levels of crime and unemployment. Each day I picked up the newspaper there where terrible stories of how crime was affecting all South Africans and often the crime stats were quite disturbing. Having travelled through fifteen or so countries I have realised that although not every country has the same problems with crime and unemployment as we do in South Africa they do all have their own sets of problems. Whether it be a strong socialist cultures that lacks individuality and creativity to countries that although have a fascinating past but have long since stopped growing or transforming, to the more obvious problems like vehicle theft, pickpockets and muggers. These by no means can compare to the typically more violent crimes that South Africans have to deal with, but I do believe that this will not last forever.
After our visit to South Africa I did a lot of thinking about the political situation and problems South Africa was facing and how easy it would just be to settle in a country where safety and infrastructure are not a concern. What I also realised was that being in South Africa it was also easier to focus on only the negative aspects the country is facing like crime and electricity blackouts as they were sprawled all over the headlines of every paper. But what struck me most of all was the fact that so many South Africans still lived in the country despite this when they could easily have emigrated and most likely the reason they did is because South Africa will always be home to them and there is no place like home. For every problem South Africa has there are probably ten reasons why it is a great country. Strongest of which is the strong family and social bonds South Africans have.
I mean - how can you not love a country that has probably the best climate and rugby team in the world, has some of the most beautiful game reserves and animals in the world, has magnificent landscapes from north to south and west to east, boasts the worlds most beautiful city Cape Town (in my opinion anyway, 50 cities down and nothing close yet), has 11 official languages and better cultural integration than I've seen in any country, has the worlds greatest personality, Nelson Mandela, had the power to overcome an apartheid regime without a civil war while many countries still deny it exists in their own, has 'biltong', 'boerewors', 'braaivleis' and 'potjie kos', has some of the best wine in the world, has people that are friendly helpful and believe that their little contribution will make South Africa a better place.
Which leaves the question how will we make a difference when we return? The first thing I would like to see is a 'Good Newspaper' that despite the bad stories only reports South Africans positive and encouraging stories, stories where simple people have made South Africa a better place. So if any South Africans reading this spot something positive in local newspapers or web sites please forward them to us and any other South Africans you know abroad.
Other simple differences we hope we can make that we have seen make a difference in other countries, are simply purchasing locally where ever possible resulting in further job creation, helping to educate people by donating our time and sharing our knowledge and skills. What we can do right now, and this goes for every other South African who leaves our lovely shores, is tell the positive South African stories to every person you meet on our travels, we are South Africa's best ambassadors.
We often get asked by almost every new person we meet what South Africa is like? Typically they ask; "Is it safe?" "What about the crime?" "Are farms still being invaded?", "Does your country still prescribe garlic to cure aids?", "Do you live in houses?", to the most bizarre statements like 'you cant be from Africa, you are white!'. Many foreigners understand very little about South Africa and the little they do know usually comes from CNN or BBC and is typically the bad or 'sensational' news. So where ever we can we try and spread a little good news about our great country and assure people that was tourists they are more likely to get pick pocketed in Europe than see any crime in South Africa.
Sorry for this long entry and going off on a tangent but it seems the trip to South Africa was meant to happen for many reason. It gave us as a couple the opportunity to enjoy the feeling of missing each other once again, it gave us the opportunity to meet with some of our friends and families, old and new, and realise how much they mean to us and how much we appreciate them, it gave us a well deserved little break form a busy travelling schedule and it reminded us that we have a lot to be proud of as South Africans. Most importantly the trip back gave us the opportunity to share and celebrate Andre and Sandri's wedding. Inge-Marie had promised to supply a blow by blow commentary of this wonderful occasion which we were thrilled we could be part of.
Nuff said, let the travels continue!!!
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nataliezeid on

It was so good to see you both
Hi you 2.

I am so happy that we got to see you both in South Africa. It meant alot to us, only Ibrahim was really sad to have missed you. Its so true about your thoughts on South Africa especially the part about family. I miss family and friends so much and it is definately the biggest downside of living all the way on the northern part of Africa.

Anyway, the 4 of us wish you all the best in your future travels and hope that eventually your travels will lead you back to visit us in Egypt. The little house is always waiting for you, or the apartment if you need to be closer to the bar :-)

Have fun, enjoy life and each other.

We miss you both so much.


Nat, Ibrahim, Gabriel and Ruby Malaika...

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