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South Africa Will Open Your Eyes

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By Cheryl Brown –

Last week I wrote about my recent trip to South Africa and I have been speaking about it with various people. The question I have been hearing over and over is: why don’t we hear about the good things in South Africa? In the next few weeks, I will introduce you, the reader, to the country through my eyes.

Some people have asked did I kiss the ground when I arrived in South Africa, to which I responded no. When the pilot announced we were one hour away from Johannesburg, SA, I began to get ready to touch down in a place because of the vestiges of Apartheid and it’s horrid past, I harbored some ill will. My friends who had gone back home had passed away and I had only memories of their pain. But when I looked out the window and saw the soil of South Africa, I got a surge that came from nowhere and the tears flowed and flowed. I was seeing the land of my ancestors.

I was so excited and overwhelmed it was hours before I got my complete composure.

When Violet Gwamgwa looked at me and said, “Welcome Home Sister,” I really started crying, it was like something had been missing but I didn’t understand what it was. The first South Africans we met were the ones helping Mandy Mokae from the plane, “How long will you be here; how was your flight? We hope you will enjoy our country,” were the questions and comments they made as they helped us with our bags to meet the waiting Department of Arts and Culture representatives and the Protocol officer along with the (SABC) South Africa television station.

We travelled to where we were to stay, at the home of Dr. Jiyana Mbere’s house as Lorraine and Johnny Mokae, Zakes’ nephew, pointed out landmarks and points of interest, hard to see at night but a point of reference for later.

They pointed to the nature reserve and the botanical gardens and Nelson Mandela’s school.

One of the things you see in South Africa is that native South Africans are in charge of everything.

And Johannesburg is very cosmopolitan. Millions of people in every walk of life doing what people in every other city in the world are doing.

The one difference there is the work everyone seems to be engaged in to ready the country for June 2010’s World Cup, a huge undertaking that is creating jobs for many people. One of the other things there, people are engaged in business, everyone has some kind of business whether they are running it out of their home or in a converted mansion, or in front of their home, everyone is busy in commerce, unless they are professionals (ie. doctors, lawyers, nurses or teachers).

This was summer for South Africa and the fruits and vegetables were plentiful and at the peak of ripeness. I ate fruit and ate food I’d never seen or tasted before. The lychee fruit, an Asian fruit is delectable. I’ve never tasted it but others say you can find it in the US. It is even a big drink there.

The passion fruit is popular as well as watermelon, citrus, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, different squashes and other vegetables.

The staple foods are pap and salty pap (pronounced pop) a finer consistency than grits; the goat’s intestines, macudu, tasted like chitterlings; lamb, goat and chicken are the most popular. The Portuguese have influenced the dinner table and their olive bread is wonderful, like none I have ever tasted.

Every house we passed was behind a wall usually with barbed wire on the top but behind the wall were beautiful mansions.

Each one included a second smaller house on the property and even a maid’s quarters. Most people have help. I was warned to get innoculated before going into Africa, I was so glad I didn’t get them because I would have been too sick to enjoy the city. If you are going to venture out into the countryside you may need them but not in the major cities.

South Africa is a wonderful place to live, work, and play.

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