Roots and Lies in Africa


We are beginning to put down the thinnest and most delicate of roots here in Africa. We’ve been invited to a local family celebration and plucked the web of romantic destiny.  We’ve also been reminded that we are foreigners, outsiders – the other – and that is a position that requires vigilance.

Romantic Destiny

Our friend, Dhaval is back from India. He invited us to one night of the nine night celebration of Navratri.  So, on a Monday night, I dressed in my new Shalwar kameez and went to a Hindu festival of dancing.

As it turned out our attendance was fated.

As Dhaval showed us around the temple two girls kept showing up in our space.  I do not think, had he been by himself, Dhaval would have capitalized on the opportunity but, with Steve and me there to encourage him, he did eventually speak to them and even invite them to a Halloween party.

And from that a romance was born.

I believe we managed to pluck the web of existence here in this Dark Continent.

Local Celebration

It is an expatriate coup to be invited to a local celebration. And we were invited to Trevor’s 50th birthday party!  My next goal is to attend a wedding.

Still Tourist

One weekend we called up another American and drove out to the Lesedi Cultural Village an unabashed tourist attraction that is probably an embarrassment to most Africans.

It certainly appears to be an embarrassment to this participant.

The guide was charming, however, and shared very sincerely with me about the power of being called in a dream to become a Sangoma, a traditional healer.

Even though a real South African of any tribe would never go to Lesedi Village I did learn something about some of the many tribes of this area.

The Womble Story

All is not love and acceptance here. We still do not know who or what to believe.

For example, while on safari our guide, Arnot, told us a story of the endangered Womble bird.  According to our guide, wombles are endangered because they are very hard to raise in captivity.  He told us a story of a man who attempted to raise a young male by hand and now the male puts food aside for the man just like a female womble bird puts food aside for her chicks.

I had assumed the womble was not real and, when he told this story, I was skeptical but, given the delicate nature of the story, and the fact that everyone in on it was Afrikaans, a very conservative and deeply religious people, I elected to make no comment about the unlikely possibility of turning an endangered bird gay.

Knowing you are getting your leg pulled because you are an outsider is perhaps to be expected but it is not warm and fuzzy.

Another Story

To set the scene: here in the evening men work the streets as parking attendants.  They run out into the street and direct cars to available parking spaces.  The unspoken agreement is, they will watch the car and in return we will tip them R5 ($0.57).

It is a competitive business.   Those who are official wear reflective vest and tell us their name so we can find them again for the tip. Those who are unofficial hang about the car and try to snag the tip while the official guy is busy.

On Friday night last our attendant, named Surprise, tells us that the unofficial guy, who has tried to nab the tip, lives in the bush, meaning the vacant lots nearby. As for Surprise himself, he worked for the same family for 15 years.  Before that his uncle worked for the family but the people grew old and moved back to England leaving Surprise unemployed with a wife and family to support.

As Surprise relates his story to us the usurper shouts, “He tells lies!”

So, who do we believe?

“South Africans,” says Dhaval’s new girlfriend, “don’t give money at all because we know they will just spend it on ganja”.

So, who and what should we believe?  If a guide who makes his living from tourists, will try to trick us for the entertainment of his own tribe, how will we ever know what is true?



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9 Responses to Roots and Lies in Africa

  1. Jeanette says:

    Wonderful compilation of the many threads in the tapestry you are weaving during this adventure. I loved every word.

  2. sue ballentine says:

    I hear your frustration but am tickled that you are getting out and experiencing so many cultures within the SA environs. That Indian guy is Adorable and I think he should accompany us on our trip!!! You got to wear your new dress!!!
    Kate and I are getting passport photos done and will send off our package for the Indian Visa soon. You are missing the transition into winter. Hurricane was not a big deal here, and now snow flurries possible (ugh).
    Your neighbor (car purchase) called to say youall don’t need me (sigh) and they might come see how the trailer hauls some day. Glad the car is officially sold.
    What adventure is today’s plan?

  3. Mark Dunn says:

    Ganja? Who cares what one does as is their money. Sounds like a rational for being cheap, back to Reagan’s “welfare Cadillacs”? Everyone needs the essentials, food, clothing, shelter, a pint of ganja, and I admire those street huslers. Who cares about the “lies” as that is their problem while you acted in good faith. Spread those R5 around for the entertainment value and a vote of confidence to the receiver. Aren’t I preachy. We Americans are funny about begggers, street people, and even street musicians. A state of denial or we still think we are at Plymouth.

    That Womble bird. Googled it and the results are very entertaining. I think they are related to Snipes. You bring it up at the next get together with a long detailed account of the encounter. I think you can have kilometers of fun with Wombles, and Jack-a-lopes of North America, too.

    Hindu dancing. Those folks in Warrenton should have it so good. Curiousity and warmth seem to overcome all. Lesedi sounds like fun and I bet no gizzards for breakfast. ” What is an “English breakfast” after being run through three or four cultures?

    I think you two are great. Love your tales!!! Mark

  4. Toni says:

    The saga continues. I am captivated!

  5. Sue says:

    The story goes on!! You are certainly finding some interesting experiences there. I really enjoy hearing all about them.

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