Considering the high cost of the twenty-five hour flight that starts in North Carolina and requires connections in Atlanta and Senegal, it hardly made sense to ditch the cat, husband, and work-in-progress manuscript for a trip to South Africa. But truly fed-up with global politics and economic woes, let alone rejection letters, my steely resistance crumbled liked feta cheese and I happily said cheerio to the cat and husband and off I went in July 2009 on a well-deserved visit to my family back home.
On the outbound flight I had the unexpected privilege of shaking hands with ex-president Jimmy Carter, who took the trouble to say hello to every single passenger on the aircraft. He was on his way to Johannesburg and would be joining Graca Macel (Nelson Mandela’s wife) and the Honorable Reverend Desmond Tutu on a trip to Zimbabwe with the hope of talking sense into the dense head of the less honorable President Robert Mugabe about the country's escalating humanitarian and economic crisis. The media would later report that Mugabe is not exactly a politician who welcomes ‘interference in his affairs’ and had, apparently, said “cheerio” before he’d even said “hello.” Well, let’s just say Jimmy Carter was back in the U.S. long before my return.
That’s Africa for you—where leaders dictate and the public disobeys, and if that doesn’t makes sense, don’t worry because it’s not supposed to. I was reminded of this peculiar African philosophy upon my arrival when I had to follow driving directions to my niece’s home—it read:
"Most back-roads aren’t safe since they’re prone to high-jacking, so stick to the main roads (except for those under constructions, like the M2, which happens to be the major arterial route, but what can you do—this is Africa!) Also try and avoid the badly potholed streets; actually, that would be all of them, so make sure to drive slowly (unless you’ve got a taxi on your tail, because they tend to ram cars from behind to force them out of their way). And if you think you can rely on road signs, don’t hold you breath—the illegal immigrants (mostly Nigerians) use these for building material in the squatter camps.
Now, I suggest you come down Christiaan de Wet Drive all the way past Northgate Shopping Mall; you’re bound to pass a road block in that vicinity, so I hope your driver’s license is still valid (these days you go straight to jail for that offence). From there you take Hendrik Verwoerd Drive until you get to the new bypass, where you have to turn left to go right. Follow the road past the Ruimsig Shopping Mall (on your right) and a little further the golf course (on your left). Soon after that, you’ll have to take a right; I’m not sure of the street name, but it will be at the broken traffic light (unless it’s a bad-traffic-light-day, in which case you’ll be truly screwed). At the t-junction you make a right on Hole In The Ground Street, which is ironic because this is a brand new street with no potholes—not yet—though we assume it was a mistake and should’ve been called Hole-In-One Street with reference to the local golf course."
Needless to say, I found her place without a problem, simply because I know how things work in a place where nothing seems to work—and if that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry because it’s not supposed to.