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Published: August 4th 2013
As is customary with our holidays we thought we should add a final word. Some people will see this as an exec summary of all we have done, but I always think of it as a bit where we can add our feelings about the trip, or adventures as some of our family think of our holidays.
This was always going to be very different to holidays we have taken over the past few years; the first half of the holiday was taken up with reinforcing the link between Berkhamsted, the school at which we both work, and Sandi Senior Secondary School in the Eastern Cape.
But this link has allowed to us to experience things we would never have had the opportunity to do if Meg had not stepped forward to be the link coordinator at work. To visit the church in Mthatha and witness the service conducted in Xhosa was amazing and to hear the massed African voices harmonising was something I never expected to experience. I could not help feeling a bit like an out of place VIP as we were welcomed at Sandi and the Junior School: their appreciation of what we do was beyond
my comprehension before we came here.
The Eastern Cape is very much what people expect Africa to be, rawer than our previous visits to this wonderful continent, but for me it made it a better experience and certainly more of an adventure. Not long after arriving here I saw a sign stating “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone” and this does sum up our trip here.
I don’t think there is one single moment that made this holiday and in previous final words I have always used the phase “well what have we done” so below are a few sentences on the highlights.
We have clocked up over 2000 km which is less than other holidays on this continent. But the state of the roads on this holiday is some of the worst we have experienced.
Standing up in front of a congregation of several hundred in a Methodist church and being asked to speak off the cuff was something I doubt we will ever experience again.
Driving after dark was always something we said we would never do in Africa, especially after driving in daylight where you can see the hazards.
But after dark, every shadow throws up images of goats and cattle in the road, and the single headlight travelling towards you could be a motor bike, a car or truck with one headlight and God only knows which side of the vehicle has the working light, or it might be a push bike and they ride on both sides of the road here. That first beer at Hartford House was definitely an “Ice cold in Alex moment”. The hotel staff were outside waiting for us like parents waiting for their children coming home late, so surprised and worried were they about guests arriving after dark.
I think the theme of our holiday has to be the new South Africa. I would not go so far as to say that our experiences on this holiday are unique, others have had chance to experience this before, but they have been fantastical and they are something that we will never experience again, because even if there is a next time we will have the knowledge of what to expect.
South Africa has changed since we were here three years ago, and in my opinion for the better. There is a
middle class, rising out of the previous disenfranchised population. I am not naive in thinking that some of the drivers of the Mercs and BWM’s aren’t some of the perpetrators of the corruption that people complain about. But not all are and the free press and criticism of government failings is good to hear even if it does remind us of news at home.
The owner of Hartford came up with a phrase that I think is pertinent to the new South Africa, “History is never kind to those that entrench the past, but is always kind to those that embrace the future” and this for me sums up the attitude here. There is a rebalancing in the status quo but it is being carried out through enterprise and involves training and hard work. There is still a long way to go but I am confident it will continue to move forward and I would recommend that you come and experience it for yourself; well maybe not the driving at night bit but the rest was... well, fantastic I think best describes it.
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