05 July 2010

Home away from home

Dear NLSC Readers, kingdom colleagues, neighbours, travelling companions, kin, cousins (old and newly discovered) and other interested parties—and miscellaneous folk I hope will be interested!

As many of you know, I flew to South Africa in May for six weeks. If you didn’t know, now you do.

While there I attended my dear friend Otto Beck’s 100th birthday (one of the primary reasons for the June timing), as well as my precious niece’s christening and 1st birthday, my dad’s 67th and my little sister’s 32nd (the main reason for my trip, of course!).

Bronwyn, my best friend since childhood, drove down from Botswana to see me, too; we’ll be apart for our 40th birthdays, alas, but have committed to being together for at least one of our 50th b’days in 2020/21. It’s a relief to pick up precisely where we last left off each time we see each other. I vividly recall standing in her mother’s kitchen in Faerie Glen, regaling Mientjie Hill with reminiscences from primary school; our giddy laughter rings in my ears as I type this line.

Late in May I flew into Cape Town, spent a sanity-saving week there with my favourite aunt, cousins and close friends, and then flew to hectic Johannesburg, where my sister picked me up from the airport and took me straight to the hairdresser (apparently I looked a mess!) where Neil cut my hair rather short. See Mari’s photos (find me on facebookphillips@gmail.com).

After a few days in Jhb the family drove to Kruger Park (directly from dear Otto’s party) and spent a memorable time there; we saw four of the Big Five (and most of the so-called Ugly Five) on the first day! Then I visited my parents up north in tranquil Naboomspruit accompanied by my niece and nephew, before driving back to Jhb and then flying on to East London to see my other mom, sister-in-law and niece (whose sweet poem forms this lengthy letter’s postscript, shared without permission.) Thanks, Ashleigh!

The spirit of soccer mania affecting the whole continent—and further afield—got under my skin, too (and into my orange hair), as you’ll see from our colourful Facebook photos. Along with my sister, I am wholeheartedly supporting the Netherlands team. “Nederland, Nederland, Nederland!”

I was also privileged to attend not one but two major family gatherings: my dad’s cousins (the Whiteford clan) and my mom’s cousins (the Joubert descendants of my ouma’s numerous siblings) got together to meet one another, get reacquainted and celebrate being part of the same family. Great fun and food a-plenty.

So many celebrations! Thank you, one and all, for the planning and preparation and general partying that went into these excellent events.

Late last night I arrived home after a very, very long flight—albeit minus my luggage. None of the Jhb/London luggage made it to Calgary; nobody is sure where it is right now. A few World Cup fans flew together and we all arrived sans suitcases. :-(

Sadly, there have been incidents of theft during the soccer festivities, and the reality is that I may not see my precious possessions ever again. Oh well, it’s just “stuff”—although some of it was rather valuable, including two original paintings (of a donkey cart and seascape) done by a relative and graciously given to me during my visit to East London last week.

I plan on lying low this whole week, in order to fully recover from jet lag as well as my recent bout with bronchial pneumonia and a rather nasty ear infection which made flying less fun than it usually is. (This is also the excuse I’m using for not phoning many of my friends and former colleagues while in SA; I lost some hearing in one ear—a condition further exacerbated by the cacophony of vuvuzela concertos at the soccer games I attended!)

I was truly exhausted last night (and 110% peopled out), but after a delicious meal at Smitty’s with my spouse and an hour or two alone in my wildflow’r garden, I am feeling much better today! (And returning home to my herd of Glenbrook Pond hippos is always a highlight.) Today I made the decision to continue my techno-free tradition one day a week (don’t watch this space). I only realise how much I value my life-giving solitude when I’m not alone for long periods of time.

At this point, suffice it to say that the trip was most definitely worth all the usual sibling stress—mainly between my sister and me; we truly love and appreciate each other, despite our inability to live together in uninterrupted harmony—and the many difficult goodbyes. Each time I return to sunny SA I know it may be the last time I see certain folk: a sad reality. But the memory of being together, even for so brief a time, brings me joy for months after each trip.

I’ll write about the countless highlights (and maybe even share a few low points) in the coming weeks.

Please accept my sincere apology if we didn’t connect while I was at a venue near you. Family was a priority this trip, and my unexpected illness further shortened my time with loved ones. Know that you are all thought of with great fondness!

To the small handful of friends and numerous relations I did manage to see, thank you for making my time abroad so memorable. I love you and miss you already. See you next time! Please keep in touch to lessen the distance between us.

To Readers across the Pond and around the corner, do drop me a line and let me know how and where you are this summer/winter. Thanks in advance for the reply you’re about to send.



—exhilarated to be back in my own home&garden/bed/WC/kitchen/study

No comments: