Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Welcome back to South Africa.....

Saturday, 30 January 2o1o

I walk out of the airplane with a smile on my face, because I truly love this country. I have a deep sense of comfort whenever I come here. Though I don't and never will fully 'understand' it, I feel a communion with it. Much more so that the States and, increasingly, the United Kingdom. There is a simplicity to it and a straighfforwardness to it. You get what you see. There is no mask in dealing with South Africans in their country. And that is not always easy to deal with when coming from countries that have a bottom line of comfort & stability. The general public don't have that comfort. Ah, what a luxury we Americans have as we haggle over whether or not we should should have a 'Public Option' on a bill in Congress that wants everyone to be required to have health insurance.

I arrive on Saturday morning to a beautiful & sunny morning. After the grey weather of London, it is a welcome sight, even if I am four hours delayed. Masie & Tod are waiting for me at the airport and we set off right away.

After paying for the parking, I notice how much more expensive South Africa has become. Not only had the Pound Sterling devalued nearly 5 Rand since I was last in 2oo8, prices in general for South Africans had greatly increased. 'All due to the coming World Cup,' Masie says. He has seen the increase from his home in Soweto and doing business in Johannesburg.

We spend the day queing for a variety of things: SIM cards for the mobile phone, food for home & a cable for our computer. Very little luck, this first time around. But Masie has the patience of a saint as he haggles and debates and questions all with a smile on his face and a chirp in his voice. Yes, he is bothered, but he knows this is the price of business, a certain level of frustation and he doesn't let this bother him, unlike me, the greedy Westerner who is used to having service (even in London) of a better standard. After queing for a SIM card that never comes about ('The computer is offline now, so we cannot process your purchase,' says the man behind the iron cage in the shop), I tell him, 'I am driven to drink,' but the inconvience just rolls off his back and we are off to another shop in the quest of this ever so slippery SIM card. I could learn a lot from his smile & his patience.

We have a wonderful meal prepared by Masie's mother soon after we arrive at his house, where Tod & I will be calling home for the next three weeks ('And one day,' says my wonderful, yet suffering, wife, 'You are gone for more than three weeks.'). Masie's mom ('Mom-Jobie' as she is affectionity called by her son) is fretting over fixing a vegetarian meal, as now there are two vegetarians living under her thatched roof. But she pulls it off with a selection of dishes from mashed potatoes & tomato gravy to beetroot, salad & cooked vegetables with curry sauce.

That evening, I go out with a friend for a quick bottle of Castle and, much to my surprise I am re-introduced to Andrew Mlangeni, MP for Soweto, Freedom Fighter who spent 25 years on Robben Island and interviewee for my research last year in Cape Town. With contained excitement, I go over to shake his hand. It is very different circumstances than the previous time we met. Then, he came around to Ahmed Kathrada's home in Cape Town before going to work in Parliament. He was dressed to the nines with famously clean glasses. Tonight, he is relaxed in his home enjoying himself and his family around him. It was a brief meeting, but I hope to see him again soon and conduct further interviews with him during my time here.

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