You need a holiday, man

2017-01-15 06:03

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The aphorism “You need a holiday to recover from a holiday” cannot be contested. It prompted me to find out why we have holidays at all.

Canadians often use “vacation” and “holiday” interchangeably to refer to a trip away from home or time off work.

In Hungary, a vacation can mean a recreational trip, official absence from work and the summer school break. The scions of New York City in the US love to vacate their urban abodes for lakeside retreats.

All good so far.

Then I searched for the same kind of meaning, or directional signs, for us Africans. What does the concept of a holiday mean to Africans?

Dololo on the net, besides some references to Kwanzaa – a celebration from December 26 to January 1, whereby African-Americans honour their African heritage and culture – and some African diaspora stuff.

It makes the case for another article, which I will leave to those better qualified for the task to cover.

As I write this piece, I am on holiday in Hermanus – in abalone country, to be exact. I can see “the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land”.

As one lowly placed newspaperman would say, it is time to credit former president Thabo Mbeki.

I could not have chosen a better setting. For I am an African, when it feels good to be an African.

I cannot help but think that the Africans will be tired when the holiday season is over.

As I write this, my mind’s eye is watching throngs of brothers and sisters trying to make their way through the borders.

I see snaking queues of holiday-makers at the various border posts, tollgates, taxi ranks, train stations and airports. It is the time for travelling, I suppose. The time for lugging.

I feel more sorry for the brothers than I do the sisters.

I flew to my destination. Duh. If you think that’s luxury, think again.

Spare a thought, for example, for the guy who checked in before me and had to be asked to step aside (that means reveal himself) so he could be identified. The reason? All the suitcases he was pushing, on two trolleys, were concealing his face.

I could identify with the question from the queue marshal, who asked him: “Sir, are you travelling overseas?”

“No, I am going to Cape Town,” came the gingerly answer.

“Are you relocating there, sir?” was the marshal’s retort, putting on his game face.

No further questions from the marshal as he observed the stop-it-or-I-will-kill-you gaze from the spouse, lurking about two paces behind the hidden one.

I counted 10 or more suitcases belonging to just three people: husband, wife and eight-year-old offspring.

And yet, no golf bag.

Help me do the math. I understand why the wife needed to take all her clothes and shoes to Cape Town for the one or two weeks the family was going to spend there.

One needs one’s entire wardrobe to be able to see the mountains and glades, n’est-ce pas?

The major issue about this scene, though, is that tensions are often high between couples at the start of holiday season. You see, the people from Mars are practical beings.

They carry as little luggage as possible to ensure they travel lightly. And they want to depart on time for that glorious holiday.

The ones from Venus, on the other hand, take their time, and are not the least bit worried about missing a flight to the haven they’ve been pining over all year.

And so the holiday, which is supposed to engender happiness, always starts on a bad footing.

The tension is palpable on the day of departure. For example, why is it that those from Venus want to pack all their clothes, line the entrance hall with multiple suitcases – which the man must pack, neatly and in alignment, into the boot of the car – and still create space for all the single items that invariably follow, including what looks like 20 hats and the obligatory padkos?

Of course, when everything is finally packed and he has reversed the car, someone remembers the passport that was left lying on the mantelpiece. Another quick delay.

Fast-forward to the airport lounge. It’s the poor dude who must get the drinks and fill out the forms to make sure that all the admin is done. Elementary stuff, Watson.

Sound like a Bell’s moment? Give it to the dude, he’s a regular Superman.

Let’s move on to the road travellers. After a long drive, they finally reach the border post, where everybody must present themselves to the officials.

They have to negotiate long queues before getting to the front. Predictably, when there are just five people left in line between them and the official with the big stamp of approval, said official disappears to who knows where for a pit stop.

Work with me, please.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for holidays, but I think they are overrated when it comes to their ability to generate oodles of joy.

Holidays are akin to hard work for the brothers. Take the guy who has to drive the family caravan from Bloemfontein to Bapetikosweti.

Poor chap has to load the vehicle with charcoal and gas, which means that on reaching his destination, he will no doubt be busy braaing.

Don’t forget that the caravan has an indoor loo, and someone has to keep it clean.

And who carries the umbrellas and the cooler box to the beach? Throw in the spade and a hammer, and only then will you have yourself a happy camper.

Those travelling by train are not exempt, either. Go to Johannesburg Park Station at the end of each holiday and you’ll see men lugging suitcases, moving two at a time, 10 paces apart, then running back to get two more, move them 10 paces, stop and run back. The process, in loop mode, is a sorry yet funny sight.

Now we come to the vrrr pha drivers. I’m not talking about the real racers, but rather, the Polo and Kia crew. These guys usually have a wife and baby, and when they go on holiday the whole house comes along.

I’m talking big suitcases stuffed with toys, teddies and the mandatory potty. Throw in the baby seat and you have yourself an overloaded Polo.

This couple usually holidays at Sun City for a few days and benefits from the concierge service at the Cabanas. I know nothing about the couple’s budget, but I am willing to wager that the concierge is their biggest luxury.

Behold same couple and kid going to Valley of the Waves. Young mum insists on pushing the big pram – the 4x4 type, which can only be referred to as baby transport.

It is stuffed with all the toys, nappies and towels you can find. Add in her book and the cooler bag, and voila! The young husband or boyfriend is on full-time holiday duty.

Consult your memory bank – you are bound to have seen such a young stud push a pram with one hand, while carrying a heavy cooler with the other as he makes his way to some outdoor venue.

The image is incomplete until you see where he’s going, right? He’s headed for his lady love, who is lying on a lounger reading a magazine, covered in what looks like a Mexican hat, waiting patiently for the sweetheart to pour her a cocktail.

It’s mos holidays.

I am not making this up, I swear. Next time you go on holiday, look around you. It’s tough out there for us guys.

Now don’t get me started about the uncle who travels in his 1985 Toyota Cressida, ZCC cap on the dashboard…

Ntshingila is a specialist marketing consultant and businessman

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