Unexpected lessons

May 7, 2014 § 5 Comments

My daughters and I have just returned from an 11-day road trip across South Africa. We travelled about 3 500km in total, and it was wonderful bonding time.

Travel, they say, broadens the mind, even if it’s within the borders of your own country, so here are some of the lessons I learned, in no particular order:

1. South Africa still owns my heart. From the beautiful coastline and staggering mountains, to its broad plains and scrubby savannah, it owns me. Because quite apart from its natural beauty, it is filled with the most amazing, beautiful, pig-headed, funny, chaotic, interesting people. And for me, it’s all about the people.

2. There are more good people in the world than bad. We need to stop allowing the minority to to ruin it for the good folk. Start talking to strangers (yes, even you, Capetonians). Get involved. Make friends. Get to know people. If you don’t, you’ll be missing out.

3. To view a partial solar eclipse, it is not advisable to stare at the sun with the naked eye. (This is a lesson I keep having to learn.)

4. Once you’ve recovered from looking at the sun, you can use the dappled light through the leaves of a bush to create a kind of pinhole camera that will project the image of the eclipse onto a sheet of paper, or even your hand. It’s like magic.

5. Rediscovering childhood paths is a bittersweet experience. Your first love – the beautiful, blond boy who held your hand on those rocks at Storms River Mouth – is all grown up now, and so are you. And the bushes at your grandmother’s former house are bigger and more overgrown now, and you can’t walk all the way around the house on the concrete edging anymore without having to duck under them in places. But you will still remember where the chicken run and fruit trees used to be, even though she died when you were six.

6. Walking on the beach in the wind and rain will always be preferable to sitting on it for hours in the sweltering heat, and will top up your soul in ways you never expected.

7. There is nothing to compare with the feeling of wet sea sand between your toes.

8. Women wear far too much make-up. We should just give it up.

9. Some places are too beautiful to write songs in. You have to leave them and the special people they contain to conjure up the right balance of melancholy and longing. Or I do, anyway, and it hurts a little.

10. It is possible to be allergic to potatoes.


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