Into Africa

Happy Holidays all – blogging has taken a back seat to The Season for a bit; I hope you are enjoying slow time with family as well.

We landed in Jo-Burg’s swank airport on Thursday Dec 22 before continuing to Durban, where good friends Karen Woolmer, Naftaly Ngugi and their son Nathan are hosting us for the holidays and some South African adventure.  Warm windy weather accompanied us along the drive from steamy Durban east to their home in the gardened suburb of Hillcrest.  The infrastructure here s quite good relative to Southeast Asia, and Hillcrest seams an leafy, affluent place, with more Mercedes and BMWs than motorcycles… I suspect we’re experiencing just one end of the African socioeconomic spectrum.

Karen & Naftaly’s cozy ranch house is down a long drive on an acre parcel surrounded by trees, shrubs and hedges.  Sue and I get the in-law cottage and the boys are in the guest bedroom in the main house.  Recently remodeled, the house’s large veranda faces north across a large lawn; its perimeter benefits from Karen’s English gardening talent, Naftali’s Kenyan farming roots, and Africa’s rich sun and soil.  The garden grows kales, carrots and most other vegetables, but the local monkeys are a thieving bunch, so no fruits.

Even here in the suburbs the wildlife is striking.  Trees seem to suddenly spring life as the monkey packs sling through branches.  Exploring the yards boundaries I find Naftaly’s chicken coop – the eggs are good here – and then I spook a large long-billed bird that screams an objection… an Ibis, which we soon find are quite common and noisy – Africa’s answer to the Rooster.

Taking in the yard with Karen and Naftaly, we see a rumble of bushes in the far corner of the yard, and Nathan emerges, brown barefoot and smiling… he is Mogli straight out of the Jungle.  The boys – starved for child companions – hit it off immediately and out come the cricket bats.  The game quickly morphs into baseball; the tribe of monkeys up on the roof enjoy our show.  When it gets too hot we all wind up in the pool playing Marco Polo.  Some neighbors arrive with their kids to share the veranda; they’re armed with meats and swimsuits.  The pool party grows, out comes the tea, and the dads fire up the grill.

Barbequing is an important tradition – here they call it a “Brai” – we share grilled sausages, steaks and burgers most nights.  Tea is served five or six times a day – even Cricket matches are halted for tea breaks.  South African wines are excellent and inexpensive too.  We welcome the trade of Asian rice and beer for African meats, tea and wine.



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