South African New Year

We’ll celebrate the New Year back at Karen and Naftaly’s Hillcrest home.  Yesterday’s lunch didn’t agree with Sue or Karen, so Naftaly and I take the boys down to the beach to leave them with some quiet recuperation time.  This time the weather is glorious, and armed with his new boogie board, Nathan is eager to hit the waves.  We rent a second board to share in the fun, leave Naftaly to mind our sandy shore base, and search for surf.

The waves are sloppy and the undertow is nasty so the lifeguards have corralled everyone into a narrow swim-safe area… but no matter, it’s warm and sunny, and good cheer abounds from the colorful mix of Africans, Asians, Europeans and we few Americans.  Naftaly and I tag-team shore-side security detail, and three or four hours later the boys are tired and hungry enough that we wander off the sand to into the shops for lunch.  Just outside there’s suddenly a parade of entertainers –Disneyfied groups of zulu dancing tribes, break dancers, bands, acrobats and a chorus create a performance circle and entertain the crowds.  Nice of them to perform between our order and food service!

Driving back from edgy Durban to suburban Hillcrest I can’t help but wonder about South Africa’s preoccupation with security.  On the beach the lifeguards remind us to always tend to our possessions.  Naftaly and Karen had to borrow a second car during our stay because theirs was stolen from a secured parking lot – apparently, an inside job.  Windows are barred and properties are fenced with electric or razor wire.  In suburban Hillcrest many homes have intimidating guard dogs – Rottweilers, Pit Bulls and German Shepherds are favored.  Gun stores and security shops are mixed in with hair salons and convenience stores.  Maybe it’s a reflection of an economically polarized society. Perhaps it foreshadows a future when we all think we’re safer with personal weapons… because everyone else has a weapon.  Either way it’s not a societal attribute I’d wish on my boys… I prefer our quiet, fenceless neighborhood of unlocked doors.

It’s new years’ eve and the boys brag and banter about how late they’ll stay up… but with the Moms recovering from a stomach bug and Dads tired from sun, surf, boys and dinner duties, we 50-somethings know we’ll sleep through the new year’s arrival.

…and we did.  No matter; I got to watch the Times Square celebration at 8AM.  With no football to entertain this Sunday January 1, we turned to backyard Cricket and the pool, then visited again with of Karen and Naftaly’s friends Debra and Matt for supper and tea.  We’re joined at their house by another family, and it’s a fine vegetarian New Year’s feast of salads and fresh fruits.

Debra and Matt have a business growing, packaging and selling fermented fruits and vegetables to a small following of helath conscious South Africans.  Their yard is a riotous garden of corn, kales, cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, beans and countless other vegetables, all arranged into raised planting bed blocks.  Theiving vervet monkeys are a problem here, so Matt has fashioned some large chicken-wire enclosed geodesic domes to protect tastier produce.  A large coop of chickens helps fertilize the garden, and a beehive fosters pollination.  In the back of the garden Debra’s turned converted a separate building from a dance studio to a small spa, complete with massage and colon cleaning rooms.  It’s funky Berkeley – meets – Africa, and it works.

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