Sunshine, Family, and Good Hair

I haven’t posted for three months! I’ve got excuses though: a nasty bout with Shingles (the aftermath of which continues to plague me), and two botched eye operations. To top it all, I contracted bronchitis a couple of days before I left for South Africa to visit my son and his family, and to attend the weddings of my two step-granddaughters. Three weeks later, I’m revived, the bronchitis burned away by the 90-degree South African sun, plenty of sleep and hugs, evening chats by the pool, and hanging out with my hilariously refreshing sixteen-year-old grandson, Daegan. To satisfy my taste buds, I’ve been indulging in my old favorites: biltong, tangy gherkins, Peppermint Crisp, Bovril, fish paste, and nougat.

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Last Thursday, I was treated to a day-long visit to Dinokeng Big Five Game Reserve, outside Pretoria. The 490-acre reserve is partly-owned by my step-granddaughter’s fiancé’s parents. Get this, rhinos are rounded up at night and placed in a protected enclosure because of the poachers. The elephants are tagged and monitored. Definitely not the Africa of my childhood, but back then it wasn’t open season on rhino horns and elephant tusks.

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I was dismayed to discover I  couldn’t remember the names of the buck we saw, except for impala. My dad must’ve turned in his grave. All those trips we took through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, for all those years, when the animals weren’t always in game reserves, with him pointing out this buck and that, and then quizzing me. It has been a while, Dad. (That’s a red hartebeest male below.)

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We spent the night in one of the individual lodges. Something out of a House Beautiful magazine, with air-conditioning in the bedrooms and a jacuzzi right at the edge of the bush. Definitely not the round thatched huts I remember, yet it still managed to maintain its South African identity.

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My last wedding is this evening, an elaborate affair for Illanka near The Cradle of Humankind area, at Memoire, an old farm converted to a wedding venue. We’ll be spending the night, followed by a champagne breakfast under stinkwood, willow, leopard, and acacia trees. And then I’m headed back to Southern California, a nasty 22-hour flight. I’ll sorely miss my family. I’ll also miss  the “good” hair I’ve been experiencing!

Avoiding Joan

In June of last year, I booked my trip to visit Joan on April 17, 2012, in Morland in England’s Lake District and instantly regretted it then put it out of my mind. I could cancel later. I mean I feel like I’ve lived three entire lifetimes since I last say Joan, what on earth would we talk about? Would we even relate other than struggling to come up with names and events from the past? I am not into nostalgia.  It’s stifling. Nonetheless, here’s a photo of Kitwe High, during our time there.

The last time I saw Joan was a week after my wedding when she’d stepped in at the last moment as my bridesmaid after I had a falling out with the girl I’d originally chosen. At the time, Joan was living in Mufulira, another small mining town twenty-eight miles north toward the Congo, where she’d been for a couple of years. A week after the wedding, she had to return to the scene of the crime when it was discovered that there’d been a mix-up with our signatures on the official document that had her married to best man, Chris, and me and my chosen one still unattached. Should’ve been a sign to babes-in-the woods me and the beloved, eh? We signed in the right place, she remained single (for the next eight years) and we moved on, me to have a son and her to take the trip to Europe we’d planned together.

So back to my impending visit. Along with Joan, I would also be reconnecting with Donna Trott, who used to live in Itimpi, a tiny new community nine miles from Kitwe, along the road to Chingola. She and I played hockey and softball together. Her mother, “Ma” Lang was the coach. All I remember about her was her intensity, and that she always seemed to be dressed in a hockey skirt. During our school years, I spent quite a few weekends at their house in Itimpi, which was surrounded by bush and lit by Tilley lamps at night. I can still smell the thick raw and strangely comforting odor of the paraffin, and see the flame’s dull yellow light flickering along the walls, still see Donna’s gentle giant of a father hunched at the end of their double bed picking softly on his banjo. Local natives would come to the back door where Ma Lang sold them mielie meal and sugar. Donna and her husband (who is one of the coaches for England’s cricket team), live part of the year in New Zealand, and part of the year in Surrey, England. Her son is one of England’s premier cricketers.

 So here I was a month before my trip and I had a decision to make. Cancel or go? Meanwhile, Joan, whose email address is JOANBKS all caps—Joan Bramwell, Kitchen, Savage; she’s been married twice—had been sending me a couple of emails here and there, “looking forward to your visit,” along with photos of her many trips back home to Africa, where her three sisters live, and declarations about how much she missed it. Oh-oh, I thought. I don’t miss Africa. What would we talk about?

Go or stay?


Monkey’s Wedding–The Real Thing

I snapped a shot of a monkey’s wedding yesterday.  A classic picture, don’t you think?  The couple are spending their honeymoon at the Pacific Edge Hotel, downtown Laguna Beach where my friend Laural’s son got married last month.

Okay, I’m messing with you.  The shot I captured was in my front yard: a “real” monkey’s wedding–Southern California-style.  That’s when the sun comes out while it’s raining.  In other words, a  sunshower.  Umshado wezinkawu, the Zulus call it, “a wedding for monkeys.”  It is also the name of my first, as yet unpublished young-adult paranormal novel.  In it, Elizabeth and Tururu, her constant companion, are on their way to buy sweets at Mr. van Zyl’s shop in the middle of the veld when it starts raining.  Here’s an excerpt in Tururu’s point-of-view.

“It’s when the sun comes out while it’s raining,” Elizabeth said, turning to face him.  “Somewhere out there, a monkey’s getting married.  You see, they wait for the sun to shine through the rain and that’s when they get married.”

Wiping rain from his eyes, Tururu squinted at her.  Monkeys?  There weren’t any monkeys around here.

“You know?” she said, a mischievous expression spreading across her face.  “Married.  Like when white people get all dressed up with big flowy dresses and suits and funny hats, and there’s confetti and lovely big cakes with marzipan and white icing and everything.”

Tururu shook his head and wiped the rain from his eyes.  What was she going on about?

“Oh, honestly, Turu, don’t be stupid, of course they don’t really get married.  How on earth can monkeys get married?  They’re animals, silly.  It’s supposed to be a time of magic, when something’s about to happen.  You’re supposed to make a wish.”  She closed her eyes.

He glanced around wondering how long before Karari caught up with him.  He shivered.

She opened one eye.  “Well?  Come on, close your eyes and make a wish.  Something you want to happen, you know. Well, like for me, I could wish that I never have to go to boarding school, or in your case, you could wish that your dad wouldn’t be so horrible to you . . .”  She waited.  “So, are you going to make a wish, or not?” 

So, back to my shot yesterday.  Look closely, you can see the raindrops.