Up-date on the Month of March

Apologies, dear readers, for my prolonged absence from the Blogosphere. Things have been rather busy for the past month.

After returning from Cape Town at the end of February, I had a teeny tiny taste of what life as a full-time, working mom, might be like. The Best Friend invited me to a very impressive two-day conference that she had conceptualised and was hosting in Jozi. I have to say, it was fun to wake up in the morning and peruse my usually untouched wardrobe of beautiful shirts and suits from a bygone era. To meticulously insert lady-links and to pick out a pair of shiny heels and to feel super chic and ready for the day. Of course, my day had officially begun three hours earlier at 5am and so as I was getting ready to leave at 8am, it felt close to lunch-time. Happily, staying awake to listen to conference speeches and staying awake to entertain a small child require similar amounts of caffeine and so I remain well practised in this respect. Of course, when one is a stay at home mom, leaving one’s child for two whole days from 8am to 5pm brings with it all manner of feelings of guilt, to the extent that, on the second day, I nipped back home for an hour for a session of play with The Princess.

My brief return to the world of “work” (sort of) was followed by an two week return to the world of French. My Belgian host sister arrived in mid-March as part of the pen-ultimate leg of her one year around-the-world tour which began in Mexico in May 2011 and which will end in the Ivory Coast in May this year.

Her sojourn in Jozi led us to many historical sites – many of which I have been meaning to visit for years but have just never got to: Liliesleaf Museum in Rivonia, the Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill & the Constitutional Court and a guided tour of Soweto. This was interspersed by visits to Parkhurst, 44 Stanley, Melrose Arch, 70 Juta and the Neighbourgoods Market. Ages ago, my Parkhurst friend recommended a great “guide” to Jozi sites and life, when we were breakfasting at Nice: “Spaces & Places: Johannesburg” by Gerald Garner. The author covers all the cute little neighbourhood/ homely spots worth visiting in the “Village Life” section (from Parkhurst to Craighall Park to Greenside to Linden),  he covers a fortune to be discovered in the Urban Life section, especially when it comes to the CBD and “Braamies” and then also does a great synopsis on what’s should be visited in terms of struggle heritage. I think my host sister and I – often with The Princess in tow – did a fairly good job of experiencing Jozi in 10 days, if his book is anything to go by, although of course, there is way more we could have seen and done.

On Human Rights Day, we headed off to Clarens in the Free State, to explore a bit of the rest of the country and so that The Husband could cycle himself silly. We stayed 1.2km away from the edge of the common in the middle of the main street of Clarens. Here’s where our newly acquired Phil & Ted’s jogger came in handy. It has only been jogging once since its acquisition six weeks ago, but with Clarens’ dirt roads, we found an additional reason to justify its existence.

The Princess went on her first hike in the Golden Gate National Park not far from Clarens, safely esconsed inside her Baby Bjorn carrier on The Husband’s chest. The next day we visited a “replica” of a Basotho village – a tourist destination inside the park. We arrived at lunch time so we decided to brave the traditional menu at the restaurant. I convinced my host sister to try vetkoek for the first time, by offering to split a safer option of a toasted cheese and ham. The Husband’s idea of eating exotic food is ordering Italian so he also went for a toasted sarmie. Honestly, I haven’t eaten a toasted sandwich this tasty in about 20 years. I have distant childhood memories of yummy, greasy toasted sarmies where I guess the bread is basically fried and the cheese is oozing out of the corners, but whatever I’ve had in the last decade has tended to be rather dry and bland. Well, the Basotho Cultural Village Restaurant makes ’em like they used to – worth a visit just for that. And if you’re more adventurous you can drink home brewed beer from a calabash with the advisor to the Chief of the village.

On our final day in Clarens, I suggested that we meet The Husband at the end of his cycle in Fouriesburg. I had never heard of the place but my host sister’s Lonely Planet mentioned it, citing numerous old stone buildings. In hindsight, I think that’s all the Lonely Planet said about Fouriesburg because, well, there really is nothing else to mention. However, I would like to object against any mention of the place whatsoever because it really is a one-horse town with no redeeming features. We were forced to wait there for The Husband – I had bargained on at least an hour of “visiting time”, ten minutes of which we’d managed to deplete by filling up with petrol. For the remaining 50 minutes, we installed ourselves in the garden of a local pub. As there was no-one in sight to order coffee from, I ventured inside. “Inside” consisted of an enormous bar counter populated by white men in long, khaki socks, against the back drop of an old South African flag. The flag was autographed in numerous places but I didn’t get a chance to figure out by whom because I was the only female in the joint and to say that the old farts were looking on leacherously, would be polite. When I enquired about coffees from the owner surveying his territory whilst smoking a cigarette behind the bar, he looked thoroughly peeved that I deigned to interrupt his rugby game to actually try and patronise his establishment. In short, not my favourite town and we quickly changed our plans and headed back to Clarens for lunch.

At the end of my host sister’s two week stay in Jozi, we were joined by her wonderful parents who had hosted me in their home in Belgium for six months in 1997 and who, along with their three daughters, painstakingly taught me to speak French, took me to fascinating and beautiful places and made my stay in their country and home absolutely unforgettable. Now, fifeen years later I could finally “host” them and their charming relatives, if only for one night, on the day of The Princess’ first birthday.

The story of The Princess starting to walk and turning one, will be a story for another blog. In the meantime, happy holidays as the Americans would say and I will check in again after the long weekend.

xxx Natalie

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