Rediscovering South Africa

Avenue of giant plane trees at KZN Botanical Gardens
Avenue of giant plane trees at KZN Botanical Gardens

Wow, I've been here in South Africa for a week already! Time is flying by and I am making the best of it.

Monday was an important day - I got our wheels! It's a Ford Fiesta, the perfect size for Zoze, me and any bags we may have on our trips. I was a bit nervous as it's been a while since I drove on the "wrong" side of the road. But like riding a bike, it came back to me quite fast! No boo boos turning into oncoming traffic!

The day had turned really hot and during my test drive, I ended up at the KZN Botanical Gardens, a huge, tree-shaded public park. Just gorgeous. The entry is an avenue of plane trees, which are not indigenous to the area, but were kept for the historical importance.

Only in Africa

Father Christmas visits a kindergarten class in the park
Father Christmas visits a kindergarten class in the park

And then a funny experience. Only in Africa! A group of kindergarteners, of all colors, with their teachers were visiting the park and then the cry went out, "Here comes Father Christmas!" I turned to see a man, dressed in a very cheap red suit, a white clip-on beard and wearing sandals, carrying two red pillow cases, coming towards me on the path. He stopped and said, "I didn't bring you a present!" I replied, "Can I just come and sit on your lap?" He looked a bit taken aback and kept walking!!

But the rest was very sweet. All the littlies sitting quietly on the grass, in front of him on a bench under a tree, angelic sunhat-shaded faces turned expectantly towards him. "Whose been naughty this year," he called out. And they all responded, "ME!" Cute.

I left them to it and wandered around the grounds. Enormous trees and a lovely wetland pond where terrapin were sunning themselves on a rock. The Pondoland zone is considered an ecological hotspot, with hundreds of rare, indigenous plants and it's fortunate many of the areas are being protected. As is common, it seems, in this country as in others, it is the people and communities that are making the difference in conservation as the government and so-called governing bodies are so corrupt, they would rather raid the coffers for a new Mercedes and a mansion than fund the departments they are supposed to care for.

But enough of that!

It's a whole new world here. When I was back about 5 years ago, I could feel the animosity. To me, it was palpable and was very uncomfortable. This visit is the exact opposite. I genuinely feel a shift in the climate, feeling welcome and and accepted just like everyone else. Of course, there are places I won't go on my own (there are some in Seattle and LA I won't go, either!) but overall, I feel much more comfortable here than I did a while ago.

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Lucky Me

I consider myself very fortunate, in many ways, to be staying with Mick and Debbie. And one of these is because they have a housekeeper, Sibonghele, who comes in four times a week. This translates to having time to do the things that are important to me, like photos and writing etc., without the feeling of having to get things done around the house.

It also means ironed jeans! What a pleasure that is, and what a sweet lady she is. Sibonghele has been with them for years and is really a part of the family. Her daughter is one of the first new generation who are well-educated and is an accountant. She will sometimes show up in her big SUV to pick up her Mum, so Sibonghele doesn't have to take a taxi home.

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