FILLING UP THE CANTEEN

Saying goodbye to Africa isn’t my favourite, but faced with the possibility of never returning, at least no time too soon, is nothing short of heartbreaking. My melancholy is due to my parents’ looming departure to newer pastures this Summer. They don’t yet know where in the world they’ll be moving to (how’s that for living), but they know it’s coming nonetheless.

I think I’ve said before that South Africa isn’t the same Africa I grew to love as I grew up in West Africa. It’s sort of a shadow in comparison (extreme capitalism will have that effect on anything) but beggars can’t be choosers. I was only too happy to spend a month sponging on their sunshine and  ribcage-rattling thunderstorms that I feel my canteen is relatively full.

This will be more like a picture-dump than anything else so, again with the beggars and choosers situation.

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This is a not-great picture of Chinaland, which is by far the least African, but by far my favourite thing about coming to South Africa. China Malls are the second best things to come out of China, following my girl Helen and my other China loves at Britannia. I spend far too many hours scouring sweaty stalls like this for jewellery that the likes of JCrew and Nordstrom will eventually pick up. If you’d like to experience a mini-china mall, please see me about touring my jewellery closet at home.

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This is part of a rainforest that I hiked all up and stuff. It’s actually situated at the top of a mountain, and is considered rainforest territory because the majority of the time, this day included, it is basically inside of a cloud. It was humid and cool, and greener than green. I like to tell people that my favourite colour is black because I feel it gives me an edge and explains why 79% of my wardrobe is black. But the secret I’m keeping is that green is my jam. In the rainforest even the rocks you amble over are covered in green mosses. I was well aware that the terrain I was trekking was riddled with tarantulas and other foresty treats, but I’m pleased to report that I both gave little thought to the matter and handled hiking like a boss. If I hadn’t gotten kicked out of the Girl Guides, I’d totally pick up the rainforest badge, easy.

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Anyway you hike and hike and hike, to the top of this rainforesty mountain, all with the promise of the third best viewpoint in the entire world (google God’s Window). As McKee luck would have it, the sky Gods were more satisfied in jinxing us. Here’s a view of the cloud I was in. So. Just imagine the third best view in the world between those two cliffpoints.

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This is proof that at least once in my life I’ve mimicked my daredevil brothers’ adventuresome insistence on testing limits. As I dangled my feel over the edge of this vertical drop to my death, wondering how Superman would even want to fly considering he’d have to be this high up, I clung to anything I could get my hands on behind me and tried to be OK with the thought that there was a percentage of chance that at any given point something could go wrong.

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We stopped in a small historical village in the mountains where the word historical was first invented. Pilgrims Rest was like a nineteenth century stop in time. We ate at a saloon and got gas at BPs finest establishment. I think old timey places are supposed to be charming and stuff, but I find them to be too museumy. I don’t like being in places that make me feel like I can’t touch.

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This was my favourite moment of the trip. I stood and watched this woman turn a basket full of wool or cotton or something (look I’m a consumer not a synthesiser) into a spool of yarn (I realise maybe I should know what yarn entails, but I don’t so get over it). She just sat and spun at lightning speed, not once realising I was looming (see what I did there?) over her. I could have been a ghost. That spool was her entire energy and being. Simple but sort of mesmerising and admirable. I don’t think I’ll ever accomplish that focus and attention.

Moving on…

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I’ve decided to include this as a feature of culture. I’m not embarrassed, I’m cultured. Anyway I saw these and thought Genius! What a good and aesthetic way to keep ones corn on the cob warm. My brothers quickly informed me that I was mistaken, directing me to the descriptive and culturally informative product label. So. [Social] SCIENCE.

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Here are some tribal dolls. I love these guys. I have a few in my room already and I feel like you who visit said room don’t appreciate them for their cultural worth (gotta make more cultural friends). Anyway, here they are on a shelf, depicting traditional tribal attire.

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On the other side of the spectrum, here are some of the creepiest ugliest dolls I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering. Literally lost a year of my life after rounding the corner to this sight.

IMG_9619I visited the tribal village of the Shangana. It was a quiet little village with not too many people knocking around. I guess most of them had beet captivated by the lures of modernisation and money. This is the sacred tree of the village, painted white with ash and wrapped in three symbolic cloths. The white symbolises life. Every time a new baby is born, it’s wrapped in that cloth. The red symbolises ancestry and the blood line. It’s there as a reminder to always remember their forefathers. The black symbolises death and that’s pretty self-explanatory.

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The chief of the tribe can have as many wives as he wants, and each wife gets her own house. I mean I don’t hate the sound of that.

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There’s the chief. Look at him, on his clay throne, just minding his own business. In the background there’s a hut with bones across the doorway. That’s the village cemetery. You die, you end up buried in there.

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We made it out to some waterfalls and I guess you could call them potholes. It was pretty impressive actually, maybe one of my favourite things to see. I tracked through the river at the top of the fall and let it cool me off a little. I don’t mind hiking so much if I feel like the terrain is like a puzzle and stepping in the wrong place could result in my demise.

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This little guy is the man of the crowd. He’s one male of a herd, and father to too many kids to count. Well not kids, they’re zebras not goats. Anyway Jack (we’re told that’s his name) let us hop out of our safari truck to take selfies with him. Safari-ing is one of my all time favourite things to do because you’re stepping into the animal kingdom in the most primitive and natural state of things. To watch them behave completely freely is something unique. It’s a little unnerving. We got out of our trucks to greet some elephants who were roaming a grassy plain.

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Elephants are humungous in person and they don’t stop eating. they are covered in mud- they roll in it, they flick it on themselves all throughout the day to keep them cool in the African sun. I was a little afraid to pat the and stroke them but I did- they were rough, but I think that was more the mud that anything else, because underneath it, it felt as though they were oddly squishy, with a marshmallowy consistency. They were strong. Every movement seemed slow-motion and somehow heavy. They were pretty friendly- mostly because we were feeding them branches of green goodness at every turn. Here we are with a momma elephant:

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We’re an adventuring family. And somehow always colour coordinated?

Here’s why I love “Africa”. Most of the time (Chinaland not included), I’m forced to be a tourist of God’s creation. In other places that hold my heart (like London), I’m a tourist- or mostly a citizen- of man’s creation. That’s not to say man’s creation isn’t impressive- it’s historical and loud and so varied it hurts my eyes sometimes. But God’s creation, the wildness of it and the harmony of sound, sight, smell and feeling- well I realise that I am home, because I am also God’s creation. I’ll not preach you to death, I’ll leave it there. Here’s some animals.IMG_9772

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