That’s right, you will never see these scenes in Ireland (unless you look at my photographs), because these are all typical sites you would find in South Africa. Some of these are so normal to South Africans, it has taken me thirteen years of living in Ireland to realise these are not normal features for other places too!
Since 2004 we have returned to South Africa every two years or so to visit family, it’s important that our kids maintain relationships with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Apart from that we love the country and look forward to our trips with great excitement. I think my husband starts his countdowns about 9 months before we go.
In April of this year (2017) we went on a three week road trip that began in Cape Town, followed the ‘Garden Route’ to George and then on through the ‘Karoo’ up to Kimberley in the centre of the country. We returned to Cape Town via the same route. On our journey it was hard not to compare how different South Africa is to Ireland. Some of the differences are fantastic and others are not so good. Each time we go back I appreciate more and more the good things that both countries have to offer and mindful of the downsides of living in either. I recognise that neither county is perfect but both have so much beauty and charm.
We are well settled now in Ireland but I do miss so much from our previous home country. I miss the huge diversity of cultures and languages (11 official – Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu, most people speak more than one language).
I miss the spectacular variety of foods, the seemingly endless sunshine and outdoors life style, the wide skies where the mountains form a circle around the horizon 100km away, vivid blooms of purples, pinks and reds, the smell of baked earth and the sweet aroma of fynbos, the varied bird calls and the high pitched cheep of the cicada beetle in the heat of the day.
I admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the hard pressed folk, the positive attitudes of those who are most down trodden, the creativity and energy that has created such a vibrant society in the midst of the challenges of dire poverty, violent crime, dwindling education standards, overwhelming unemployment and corrupt governance.
I could list so much more that was remarkable and eventful. There is literally nothing like international travel for broadening horizons, especially for kids. Mine were struck by how different life is for many of the children in South Africa and how much we have to be grateful for. They also loved bonding with their cousins, exploring new sights, spotting wildlife and trying new foods. It is good to be home but it is going to be difficult having to wait another two years before we can go again.
Here follows just some of the sights from this trip that you would not see here in Ireland:
1. Restaurants can reliably serve customers outside under the trees in late Autumn without fear of the rain:
2. Boule + beach + bush hats + beer bellies:
3. Shopping trolleys used as a means of transportation for a business:
4 ‘Don’t care attitude’ Hitch-hikers waiting on the on ramp of the motorway right next to the NO Hitch-hiking sign:
5: Acres and acres of mega shopping malls with air conditioning, free parking, state of the art toilet facilities and car guards:
6: Vehicle guards wherever you park:
7: Friendly smoking signs:
8: Biltong (desiccated beef or venison) shops:
9: Wide horizons and 6 hours of driving through desert scrub:
10: Straighter than straight, straight roads:
11. Child buskers on marimbas earning a living:
12: Thorn trees on white grass plains (I really miss the umbrella thorn)
12. Using the open back of a bakkie (pick-up) for game viewing
14: Nests that hang like bunches of baskets (Weaver bird):
15: Picnic areas under gum trees with built in braais (bbq):
16: The MOUNTAINS of (cheap) fresh fruit and veg:
17: Koppies (table-topped hills) and towns sometimes up to 200 km apart:
18: Roadside farm shops, aloe and dust combo:
19: Kiddies climbing frame decorated with antelope skulls:
20: Shops selling a typical assortment of animal skins, art, bric-a-brac, preserves, meat and wood for your braai fire:
21: River beds with NO water in them:
22: You may get to pat a giraffe:
23: Men travel together in the same truck as ostriches:
24: The fields are green in Ireland but in South Africa they may be red:
25: Vast areas of corrugated iron shanty houses with satellite dishes:
26: Kids using the open ground next to the highway as a soccer pitch:
So that was a brief snapshot this crazy beautiful country but really, it would be better if you went there to see it for yourself.
PS IMPORTANT to KNOW: if you travel to South Africa with children, you HAVE to have their original birth certificate with you as well as a passport.