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  • Schools are above all human organizations and the principal deals with it all from assessment data to blocked toilets, from differentiation strategies to paper jams in the copier. At school we deal with tears and anger, disappointment and frustration all the time. A child’s tears, a child’s anger . But my role has me deal with adults as well. Last week was a long week for emotion. My Friday began and ended with tears and anger, not mine, not directed at me, but mine to take in and absorb, to deal with. So I did and by Friday afternoon my usual walk didn’t begin to take me far enough from the week behind me.

    I decided a longer walk was in order, so, on Saturday, I walked to the Hazelwood Food Market.

    It’s 7 Ks from my place to the food market. I walked the quiet streets alone. The sun just slightly filtered by the mostly bare branches of the overhanging jacaranda trees. In a couple of months the streets will be purple fantastic but for now the lines of tree are mostly bare with a darkly gothic architecture and the earth is red brown and dusty. Here and there a brilliant green patch proclaims that someone has watered their front garden. The air has a tang of shit from the too fresh kraal manure people have spread as top dressing getting ready for spring. Along the office park walls across from the municipal soccer pitches the Friday night bottles are heaped and someone has done the best they can with a hose to spread the piss around. The private guards have set their plastic chairs out in the sun and wake up enough to smile and lift a hand as I pass by.

    The food market is jammed. The entrance is almost blocked with a crush of peddlers selling belts and small polished stone sculptures, beaded ornaments and wooden bowls. Their wares are spread out on frayed blankets and plastic sheeting.

    I flowed through with the crowd and did a couple of laps inside to sample all the stalls visually first.

    Heaps of deep orange dried peaches and apricots, sun yellow pears
    Stacked bags of sugar coated fruit leathers
    Pecans and peanuts
    Skewers of fragrant lamb and chicken and beef sossaties

    Ouma’s own boboties, lasagne, bredies, and frikkedelles frozen and ready to heat for a like granny-made-it, home-style, treat.

    At the smoothie stall a row of blenders whizzed up frothy mixes of fresh fruit and juices.

    Smoke rose from half a lamb on a spit-braai, a stack of beef on a schwarma stand, and rosemary chickens making the rounds on a rotisserie.

    A trio of African ladies ground mint and lemon for mojitos.
    Expressos and cappuccinos called the addicted home.

    The spice man presided over fragrant pyramids, mixing a scoop of this and a scoop of that, urging potential customers to eat it out of their hands. Once I didn’t pay attention and walked away with a kilo of rub.

    Dad’s pushed babies and watched the action at the jumping castle and slide. One shell shocked guy pushed a custom made, triplet buggy. He got a lot of attention but he looked like he hadn’t been out in the sunshine in a long while.

    Mom’s carried pedigreed dogs.

    Kids agitated for ice cream and cupcakes heaped with mounds of frosting.

    There were spring rolls and dim sum, custard treats and substantial looking savoury pies.

    A creperie listed more than 12 fillings from Nutella and banana to chicken and bacon and 12! combinations.

    Bakeries let their stacks of dark brown loaves fresh from wood fired ovens speak for them.

    A Polish flag hung over piles of smoked turkey legs, smoked trout and sausages thick and thin. A young guy with wavy hair, a wispy beard and oversized sunglasses sliced off samples and urged the passers-by to take a taste.

    Across the way, under a German flag platter of smoked pork and smoked sausages competed for the same market. The stall minder sat in the back and dozed.

    El Greco Deli had cheeses in great wax coated wheels aged 6 and 9 and 18 months. They leaned down on their two-handled cheese cutters and no matter what the customer requested the same family-size wedge always seemed to get carved off.

    ‘Leka Bek Kaasmeer’, their sign proclaimed.
    (scrumptious cheese spread – a pale and all too English translation of ‘Lekker bek’).

    I passed, farm fresh eggs, heaps of fruit and vegetables and delicacies, so the signs said, from Morocco, Greece and Indonesia.

    The Stir Fry Queen with her sleeves rolled up kept four woks going with the roaring blast of flame from the propane tanks under her tables.

    There were prego rolls, blistering hot with peri-peri sauce.

    Triangle shaped samosas and fried chili bites.

    Baskets of falafel balls seemed right at home next door to the flat bread, design your own pizza stall.

    A florist misted bunches of cut flowers.

    I saw a skinny man attack a half-kilo kudu burgers with blue cheese and bacon relish and marvelled at his swallows.

    There were eland steaks and wildebeest biltong, marinated olives and peppadews stuffed with feta.
    All washed down with wines, mead and beers .

    A symphony of English, German, Polish, French, Mandarin, Zulu and Sotho, Japanese, and the full, rich gusto of Afrikaans and sometimes three or four in the same sentence.

    I settled for:
    2 fried jalapeno and cheese wraps
    An energizer smoothie; banana, orange juice, aple juice, pineapple, and a swizzle of honey.
    A lamb pita ‘mit alles’
    Alles being homemade mayo, chilli, red onions, tomatoes, rocket, and salt and pepper
    A lemon meringue ice cream (I ate that first and it was creamy tart lemon and crunchy bits of meringue)
    And, finally, a coffee to settle my stomach for the walk back.

    I carried home:
    A twisty cardamom fragrant loaf with cinnamon and nut swirls from the Swiss baker.
    A serving of Moroccan chicken with lemons and olives with cous-cous.
    Some smoked Polish sausage.
    An irresistible little cheesecake.

    As I wandered, or waddled, home on the suddenly summer warm streets, I felt the sun and the walk stretch my legs and my mind. I was glad my back pack was small and walk was a full 7 Ks each way. It wasn’t until I walked up by the Pretoria Rugby Klub near the hospital that I realised my mind was clear again. Sometimes a little celebration of life is in order even if you don’t know yet what you are celebrating.
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