It was an opportunity of a lifetime – a free ticket to South Africa. My boyfriend at the time wanted to show me the country of Nelson Mandela, the country of Kwaito music. South Africa had been on my travel list for eight years.
We flew KLM through Amsterdam and my cigarette habit had me craving and cranky. The first thing we did once we touched the ground is going to the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which offered a job to my boyfriend. He desired to live there, but we continued to the place where we were staying in Johannesburg with a woman who worked for the SABC.
At night, we could hear gunshots and during the day we stayed within the safety of a car. I got used to placing my belongings in the trunk of the car when walking about for fear that someone might break in at the sight of something considered desirable.
We went to Sun City, which was vastly different in its greenery from the rest of Johannesburg. At that time in September and October, the grass in Jo’burg was beige, but the grass at Sun City was a vivid green. The sprinklers were on at all times to keep the lawns attractive to the tourists. It felt strange walking around grounds that blacks once were forbidden to go – and I was not the only black person there.
We moved to Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, where colonial-looking government buildings lay on cracked sidewalks. We passed through and moved further north, close to Botswana, then onto Zululand.
I had the most interesting experience in Zululand. A group of us tourists were inside a cave with Zulus. You could see so much history in their faces, in their eyes. They mentioned that the Zulus believe that when a person sneezes, the thought they are having at the moment will come true.
With a feeling of wanting more, we left Zululand and went to Durban. The beaches there aren’t bad and the Indian Ocean is quite a sight to see. We stayed at a hotel that had a beautiful view and my boyfriend proposed. I said yes and we went to Cape Town to look for an engagement ring.
Apparently, many people are choosing to select the shiny blue of topaz to a diamond for their rings. We did find one at Shimansky Jewellers that was shaped in a flower with seven tiny diamonds. I don’t have that ring anymore or the boyfriend.
I do have my memories of South Africa and a safari where I saw a lion (the animal symbol of my sun sign) for the first time.