We had just finished one of the most exhausting, exhilarating things we had ever done: working at a camp outside Johannesburg for teenagers whose lives have been affected by HIV. There is not a day we do not talk about what we did or saw there, and probably not a week that goes by without one of us saying: “When we go back…” I learned so much on our trip, and at camp, that sometimes it felt like my brain was moving faster than I could process the information.
I loved it.
By the time we landed in Wilderness, we were ready to put our feet up, lay in a store of food at the Pick n’ Pay, buy some new books (I had given away most of mine, including ones I had not yet read, to some of the campers) and rest for a good long time. I had lost about ten pounds at camp from working hard, and getting dramatically fewer calories, since there was no alcohol and no snacks other than what my friend Manu brought back from Jo’burg and shared with us. Our hosts left for their own Christmas vacation — they went camping somewhere, leaving us the keys to their house in case we needed anything. The one thing she told us was: “Do not go to the beach on Christmas!” She warned us in great detail that terrible things occurred there on holiday that we would find strange and threatening.
So of course we did go to the beach on Christmas. Nothing terrible was happening, and it reminded us once again that the scars of apartheid were still very deep, for we suspected our hosts had actually never been to the beach on Christmas. Instead of the bacchanal we had been told to expect, we found extended families, grilling on hibachis, many wearing red and white fluffy Santa hats.
If you think this kind of racial disconnect is peculiarly South African, go watch D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915) why don’t you? Anyway, we had a lovely time socializing on the beach. We then went home and had spaghetti and salad for Christmas dinner, having agreed in advance that our gift to each other was this trip.
|On the Beach at Wilderness, Western Cape, ZA|
Anyway, Merry Christmas to my friends in Jo’burg, Soweto and Durbs: this post is really a Christmas card for you and a way of saying thank you, a year later. For those of you who are just home from Sizanani, I hope you are recovering from being wowed by the kids. Mbali, I’m sorry I missed you when you were here this summer, and please come back. William, be careful on Christmas brother, because we love you! Kabelo, big, big hugs for you, your mother and the children. Siza, don’t you give Mbali a harder time than she needs to keep her in line, ok Vocelli? Yolanda, I hope you are being good (not!) and that you moved forward on your business plans. Enos, when are you bringing your plays to the US? Eliot, stay sweet, ok? Kedi, I need a band-aid! Mphu, I will learn Zulu: at least some. I promise.
And dear Manu, our conversations and your music is always with me.
Merry Christmas everyone!