Crazy “ha ha” but also crazy sad. Especially lately. We all love our country but during the last few months our loyalty is being tested all the time! But don’t worry people from South Africa, I’m not going to talk about that. We get it in bucket loads full every day. That is really all people talk about, so today we will focus on some of the things that make it so wonderful to live in this country.
Like sunny skies
(For my overseas friends, that is a barbeque) Although we don’t know how long we can still afford the vleis… And then, my personal favourite:
Let me explain: I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of Unisa (University of South Africa) waiting for my daughter Lesley to find out why she has received no confirmation of her registration for the final two modules for her teacher’s certificate that she needs to be a registered teacher. She has in fact been teaching science to Gr 12’s for the past 4 years, and getting this certificate was supposed to be just a formality. We thought she would just run into the offices at the university, give them hell for their bad administration, and run out again, tops 30 minutes. So we took no survival supplies like food or water.
But two and a half hours later, still waiting. Instead of being irate, I was in fact having a good time listening to the radio, dozing a little and letting my thoughts run free. Then a song on the radio reminded me of London. I thought how nice it would be to go there again, but with lots of money to spend. We could eat in wonderful restaurants, stay in beautiful hotels and buy stuff. Then I thought, nah, been there done that. Who would I like to go with in any case? Some fabulous sexy man? (Remember, people, I am dreaming here!) No, too much hard work. With my husband? (yes, I do have a husband and I shall call him D in future). No, too boring! (sorry D, but it is true). We love travelling together, but I like the cathedral thing and D likes the pub thing. So, where else would I like to go if I had lots of money. Paris? Hong Kong? New York? No, again, been there, done that. Not another big city, so where is my favourite place in the world? Mmmmm. Oh I know, it is a no-brainer really! The Bush!
Sunset on Chobe River, Botswana (photo taken by myself)
We South Africans know the Bush. It is within an easy day’s drive from most places. You just need to know where to go. We have a great many places that we call The Bush. We are surrounded by National Parks that is home to the Big 5. What is the Big 5 you ask? It is Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard and Rhino. So what about Cheetah and Hippo? They are there too. I have not even mentioned the private game parks and lodges, they are magnificent but only for overseas visitors with their strong currencies, us South Africans cannot afford to go there. We like go to places where we can bushcamp off the grid, where there are no fences between yourself and the wild animals, where you sometimes see no other people for 2 or 3 days. Where you commune with nature in its most natural form. Yes, these places do exist, we go there two or three times every year. Like I said, you just have to know where to go. Surely one of the world’s best kept secrets.
But to get back to my jewellerymaking! I have to make a confession. Even to D! It is about the stones. In Southern Africa we have a lot of very beautiful semi-precious stones, like the Botswana Agate with its swirling patterns in shades of black, brown and white.
Here life is all about survival. There is not a lot of money for luxuries like jewellery, and most of our semi-precious stone is exported in huge chunks to other countries where it can be cut and polished. So I have to buy the stones that I need for my jewellery from overseas countries. The problem is that our postal service is virtually non-existent. To have something couriered costs an arm and a leg and is just not viable. But, (and here is my confession) I have discovered eBay, and become just a little bit of an addict! Just a small one! But I can stop any time I want!
I surf the eBay semi-precious stone sites for hours, sitting up in bed with my laptop on my knees while D is sleeping peacefully next to me unaware of his wife’s obsession. I inspect the stones carefully using the zoom function and then make my decision to bid or not to bid. I have become an expert on stones, people, even if I have so say so myself! I only choose stones that are sent by free shipping, and I calculate a 50% failure-to-arrive cost into the price. I have also become an expert on the bidding process. It is no good to bid days or even hours before the bidding closes. There are bad people all over the world sitting by their computers just ready to pounce. It has happened that while I am watching the clock tick off the last few seconds before the bidding closes, and suddenly a notice would appear saying YOU HAVE BEEN OUTBID, TRY AGAIN! With no time left to bid again. Oh, the outrage! Before I could stop myself I shouted “you *#@&>**, you stole my stone!!! Next to me D would move uneasily in his sleep. I would spend the whole day wondering where on this earth this despicable person lives! How dare they! So I have learnt to wait till just a minute or so before a bid closes to place my bid and outbid someone else. It is okay, I am sure they have a better postal service than us!
One of my blue flash Labradorites
Sometimes a bid closes in the early hours of the morning, then I set the alarm on my cellphone to wake me with a soft ping, and I will creep into the bathroom and close the door so I can do my bidding without waking D. Once my bid is accepted, I would say YES, YES, YES, and then the waiting begins. It normally takes about three to five months for a stone to arrive. Sometimes I get a big surprise and receive it within a month, but I have waited as long as eight months for stones to get to me. They arrive in our country within two weeks of purchase, but then they sit and wait at our postal customs department. I sort of visualize a huge mountain of parcels somewhere in the land of post, and every day elves go and gather up an armful of parcels and say, today we are going to send these out. So I am sure there must be a whole plethora of parcels (including mine) in the middle of the mountain that never sees the light of day. (What do you call a bunch of parcels?)
Anyway, I am not completely irresponsible, I keep a careful record of my orders and I have actually received 90% of my parcels. Not too bad, I think. I am now on first name basis with the ladies at the postal counter at my local post office. They really try their best. Seriously. And so I have acquired a nice little collection of semi-precious stones. It is always exciting to see what the stones actually look like in reality. Sometimes they are beautiful and exactly as they looked like on the photo at eBay, and sometimes they are a bit of a disappointment. D is always saying to me “you are not buying any more stones, are you? You have now really got a lot” Bless his heart. But as you all know when you make jewellery, you can never have too many stones. You have to look at them, touch them and admire them, and find just the right one for the piece you want to make. You also always need something to look forward to, so it is best to have a few outstanding parcels in the pipeline.
So we are off on our travels again, although this time not to the bush, but to the Western Cape. We will be visiting Sutherland and have booked guided tours to see SALT, the largest telescope in Southern Africa and to look at the stars and other foreign objects. Then we are going to visit the family in Paarl on their grape and olive farm, do a zipline in the mountains of Grabouw (I reserve the right to make up my mind about doing that once I see it, I think it is very high). Lastly we are going to explore along the southern coastline and inland of the Western Cape for another week or two. So don’t get worried if you don’t hear from me for a while! I will tell you all about it when I get back!
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Till next time …..