Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Africa, then and now

Those of you who pay attention to my posts on Facebook have heard murmurings (and grumblings) about a spontaneous trip to South Africa that I'm taking with my mother. I thought I would write a bit about what is to come and ultimately why I returned to this blog.

My mother was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe. She lived there for the first decade of her life, before her family moved to Hamilton Ontario. My grandfather eventually returned, though I'm unclear as to when he moved to South Africa, where he lived with his second wife, Doreen. 

In 1995 my grandfather paid for my mom's and her sister's family to go to South Africa, and Zimbabwe. We spent 3 weeks meeting family I'd only vaguely heard of and could never keep straight. Suddenly I had all these new cousins and aunts and uncles (though, more removed than that, but I never get that stuff right). We were eight Canadians and at one point there were as many as 18 African family members travelling with us. We spent time in George (where my grandfather lived with Doreen), Cape Town, Johannesburg, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. We had layovers long enough that we got to see the highlights of Rome, too. It was a trip of a lifetime.

We stayed in a place like this in Vic Falls,
where a wall of our house was a canvas sheet that rolled
away so you could see the wildlife in your back yard. 

With the magic of the internet, we've been able to keep in touch with our cousins, in the way you do on Facebook. All of the cousins in my own generation are spread all over the world now, and are amazing and accomplished people, many with children of their own now, too. 

In December of 2007 my grandfather passed away and I knew I'd missed an important opportunity of seeing him one last time. I had been intending to return to South Africa, and Zimbabwe if possible, but life always seemed to get in the way. 

Until this Valentine's Day, when, while M was digging us out of another snow storm, I got a call from mom. I think she surprised herself. With responsibilities at home, the trip planning was almost impulsive. Doreen is the reason we're going to SA; she turns 97 this year, and holy crap that's an accomplishment! We're attending a celebration of her life, and then hanging out in Cape Town for a few days before heading home with Doreen and her friend and caretaker, Glynnis (who is family in every way but genetically ;) ) to the house in George. 

We've also managed to swing a stop over in Amsterdam for about 75 hours, and I have a 9 hour stop over in Paris on my way home (Mom is returning a week after I do).

So that trip of a lifetime in 1996 is now twice in a lifetime. As much as I dislike being unemployed (and all of the psychological bargaining that comes with it), I'm lucky that I have the time off to be able to go. M was invited, but he'd already used up his vacation days, which will reset 3 days after I get home. This trip was supposed to be one he and I did together, but sometimes life does that to you. 

Outeniqua Mountains behind George, South Africa