Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom & Ben

South African Journal: Day Twelve – Today was HOT, “like Africa hot,” as Matthew Broderick said in the 1988 movie Biloxi Blues. It was pretty obvious from early on that it wasn't going to be a very physical day. It was my mother's and nephew's birthday; mom achieving the age of 65 and Ben excited about being five. Ben wanted to go to the beach but it felt like 96 degrees in the shade at 10:00am. We decided to jump in the Land Rover, crank the AC, cross the Umzimvubu River, and drive north on a fairly bumpy dirt road to see what we could find.

The four kilometers of beach was nearly empty as the waters are a breading ground for sharks. We eventually climbed a few switchbacks which gave my mother white knuckles as she watched the goats navigate the near shear drop to the ocean just outside her car door. The hill finally leveled off to a beautiful view of a few villages that overlooked the Indian Ocean. These were black African villages, of the Xhosa people. Their colorful, conical thatched roofed, round houses dotted the bright green hills.

We came back down the hill and stopped off at the Cremorne Hotel for a late lunch. The college aged black waiter serving us spoke nine languages. And not like I “speak” Spanish (I can say 'beer' and 'I love' you and count to 100 on a good day). We lounged around the beautiful grounds of the Cremorne for most of the afternoon. Ben swam in their pool then met an Afrikaners kid about his age. Ben said hello in English, the boy said something in Afrikaners, they realized they didn't understand each others language and then played together for about an hour.

Ate dinner at Fish Eagle for the second night in a row. Some of the best thin crust, brick oven pizza I have ever eaten. My mother and I joined two tables by the river and decorated the umbrella with balloons for Ben. We ate pizza, ate cake and played a game of Cranium Cadoo. Just before we left, Ben gave away most of his balloons to three other kids at the restaurant. One little girl was so happy she walked around the restaurant waving the balloons for over half an hour. I felt 'white guilt;' the privileged, rich, white foreigners giving the poor African kids balloons. My brother-in-law must have sensed my feelings and commented that if these black families are eating in this restaurant, they were probably rich folk from Cape Town or Jo'burg here vacationing just like us. He said, “they probably all have Mercedes Benzs.” We walked to the parking lot which was full of Mercedes.

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