Fond Memories of My Time in South Africa
My30sTravelBlog has a new writer! Charlene is well travelled having just arrived on continent number five. So you will now see the site getting updated more frequently, hope you enjoy Charlene’s beautifully written posts as much as I do.
There are some travel experiences you know will never leave you, despite never having planned to experience them to begin with. Singing on the steps outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria with a group of South Africans in the dead of night is one of mine.
Despite the number of amazing things South Africa has to offer — from stunning landscapes, delicious food, and the ability to get close to The Big Five — I believe their greatest attribute to be the warmth of their people. The main purpose of my visit to South Africa in 2010 was to volunteer in tent clinics alongside staff from a local AIDS hospital. During my visit I was hosted at one of the local nurse’s homes. I expected I would basically be left to fend for myself, but what I received instead was a warm welcome from the entire street. Her neighbours came by with trays of food for a night of visiting and spontaneous singing. When they learned I had not yet had a chance to see the nearest city of Pretoria, and probably would not have the chance between my responsibilities in the clinics, they quickly whisked me into a car and caravanned the hour to Pretoria. There we stood, well after dark, on the steps of the Union Buildings, performing an impromptu concert for ourselves (my contribution to which I was thoroughly embarrassed by!)
I was amazed by their hospitality and strongly knit community. I’ve lived in large cities, small towns, and mid-sized suburbs in the United States and never had I seen this kind of familial welcome extended to a perfect stranger. They were excited to share everything about their lives with me. They offered their foods, their music, and even joyously shared the details of their relatively new political processes. They carry a pride in their country and an excitement about who they are and where they are from that makes any conversation ten times more interesting.
As I travel, I tend to pick out one thing from each country that I think they do best. In South Africa, there is no doubt in my mind that it is the people there who shine brightest.