This Time for Africa

Me and Sam at the Hippo Hide!
It's an incredible thing to experience life with your sister in a beautiful country for 10 days. I wish I could live with one of my sisters always, because living with your best friend is the most fun and invigorating thing a person can do.

We had dinners with her friends in Joburg, did a four-course lunch with wine pairings in the bush, got 90-minute Thai massages for only $55, visited an animal preserve and pet a cheetah, took a game drive through Kruger National Park, stayed at a beautiful and peaceful B&B, interacted with elephants for an entire morning, and so much more. I got a wonderful glimpse into what life could be like if I lived in an affordable country with someone I love. Life can be worth living.

At The Three Rondavels
Next to the getaways, skyscrapers, nature preserves, and five-star restaurants, I also got to see the staggering difference between South Africa's "Haves" and "Have Nots." Men stand in the streets to collect trash from cars in exchange for a few rands, perform at red lights, or offer to wash your car. Others have bent the law to suit themselves - rolling stops are legal at night due to the high occurrence of "smash and grab" robberies that happen. Those who don't have a car either take the overcrowded van taxis that speed through or walk in the blazing sun, sometimes hitching a ride to make the kilometers go faster.

While walking with Sam and her friend Lorraine, I was confused as to why there were gates and walls everywhere. In the US, you usually see houses and apartment fronts as you walk or drive down a residential street. But in Johannesburg, high walls and electric fences are necessary to keep you and your belongings safe from robbery or worse. I realized how great the divide was when Sam mentioned that most black Africans walk to work in the homes of the wealthy, pass through a small door in the strong gates, and go in to clean all day before walking home.

At Thulamela, the beautiful B&B Sam and I stayed at for almost four days, I came close to tears when our African housekeeper came in on Friday morning, greeted us politely, asked if we saw the Big Five during our game drive, and then proceeded to get down on her hands and knees to clean our floor. A mop with a handle is too much to give her?

More Rondavels Love
Driving to view The Three Rondavels, God's Window, and other scenic views that Saturday, we passed dozens of men trying to hitch a ride; a man carrying an entire bench on his back; a jet-black steer in the shade of an overhanging tree that almost became road kill; roadside shops selling everything from avocados and oranges to blankets and jewelry; tired children walking with their even more tired mothers; and countless potholes that made the surface of the moon look smooth.

I kept asking Sam what I could do to help, but I think she's right in that it's not an outsider's place to come in and "fix" all of South Africa's problems. A South African has to accept that challenge.

Riding Kasper
As for my visit to the land of the springbok, it was incredible. In SA, Sam is very well off since she has a great job, she falls on the right side of the dollar to rands ratio, and the cost of living is super low. Because of this, I got to experience the best of both the Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces. I would go back in a heartbeat to see more, do more, learn more, and fall in love with the country more.

Lastly, my dating life is clearly meant to pop off in South Africa. Never have I ever been pursued like I was was while on the Continent. The man at Interscape casually said "I love you" as I walked to the double decker bus for our four hour ride to Mpumalanga. A parking attendant blew me a kiss as Sam threw XRM back, flipped it, and reversed it. Women touched my freshly braided hair, stared into my eyes and told me I was beautiful. And most notably, the security guard at Checkers was floored by my presence, and said that I was "the cheese" before asking if he could come with me.

Clearly, I was born in the wrong country. My actual future husband is apparently a short 17 hour plane ride away. A ride I hope to be taking again someday soon.

Tsamina mina zangalewa...