Can somebody please help me?

2015-02-11 12:16

Who do we believe and what do we believe about South Africa?

A. The doomsayers gloomy forecasts of a nation foundering off the edge of Africa, paralyzed by poor politicians, never to be reversed crime and too many a walk in the dark.

OR

B. The outrageously courageous optimists who despite overwhelming odds manage to survive, get on with life, make a difference and with a smile, report on the good, better and best of South Africa.

I follow both trends with alacrity.

The negative is easy. There is more than enough to go around. Facebook feeds, blogs, and of course newspapers and international TV news which revel in it. It’s their bread and butter. They can’t not. And lets not forget the topical prophets of gloom who voice their opinions loud and clear before the State of the Nation address.

The positive comes through subscribed newsletters, experiential evidence, magazines and feel good stories of friends and relatives. They make my heart purr with pride. Ons vir jou Suid Afrika…and all that!

So getting back to who do we believe as expats living far from the beloved country?

We recently spent a month in South Africa. By choice, because we love it there and consider it home. Given that this was a holiday, which, I admit can rosily tint even the most hardened pessimists glasses, I’m happy to report…..

The passport stampers at O R Tambo were cheerful and helpful and the lady directing the tired-passenger lines was happily bright and had excellent management skills. We found a baggage trolley that actually moved in a straight line and the guttural Soueffricen voice over the public address system was warm and welcome. Our luggage also landed, was intact and we relaxed in delight. So far, oh so good.

The telephone people produced new sim cards with efficient smiles and I have to say Wimpy coffee always delivers. Kudos to a great international airport, so far ahead of most in Africa and plenty of others around the world.

We travelled on wide, smooth roads undergirded by spectacular scenery. Surely we have the most beautiful coastline in the world. Fellow drivers used their flickers – a rare phenomenon in our part of the world. They also pulled over and let us pass followed by the obligatory emergency flasher-thanks. It’s an ever-so-polite game.

We slept with our windows and sliding door wide open - how else would you hear and smell the sea? The Weber stayed outside and was still there in the morning along with the garden chairs and cushions. Food is comparatively cheap and strawberries actually taste like strawberries. Nothing, no nothing anywhere in the world, compares to a South African steak and a good glass of red wine. Two beers, a cappuccino, a burger, Greek salad and a gluten free (nogal) chicken wrap at a very quaint bistro set us back R110.00! What?  I mean really! This is a gift.

Three nights at The Mountain Zebra Park near Cradock brought back wonderful memories of annual trips to the Kruger National Park as kids. Sanparks still have the same small soaps with the green kudu head, crisp white sheets and the services provided – dare I say it – have improved over the years. Load shedding? We used candles anyway, all part of the experience. The park is beautifully maintained; the staff up beat and knowledgeable and the Cheetah Tracking walk one of the highlights of our lives.

I approached a necessary excursion to the Department of Home Affairs in Port Alfred with trepidation – civil servants don’t exactly have a raving reputation (especially in light of the recent assault case in Durban). Despite the lady in the information booth being fast asleep and snoring loudly, I was treated by the other staff  in a very efficient and friendly manner. All i’s dotted and t’s crossed for a new passport in less than fifteen minutes. The curators of the green mamba momentarily redeeming its limiting features (ok, that’s a not so much fun story)

I could ramble on…and yes on occasion I cringed. When the aged shop assistant in an antiquated general store snarled in open contempt at a young black man and threw his goods and change at him, whilst we were given the necessary respect due to ALL patrons. Why? Perhaps she has chosen to remain in ages past, along with liquorice sticks at R2 each and multi coloured bubblegum balls. When an official police car pulled up at a fish and chip takeaway and all 10 people, both in uniform and not, piled out to feed their faces. Were they on official duty? Who knows?

What I do know is that South Africa is still a great and mighty country filled with vibrant life. Its greatest asset – everyday boer-maak-n-plan-people living their lives as best they can.

And surely where there is life there is hope.

My hope springs eternal as I answer my own question.

I’m going to believe myself - and follow the John Raaths and South Africa The Good News and the others who choose to be outrageous optimistics.

Just keep on keeping on ….please!

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