Nieu and old and new Bethesda

Being on holiday in South Africa is a chance to open your eyes, open your mind, and sometimes escape your worst fears. Of course, not everybody gets that.

It's hard to tell what century it is from here.

It’s in the middle of somewhere beautiful.

It’s hard to tell what year it is in Nieu Bethesda, at night. It’s starlight – bright bright stars like you haven’t seen for years. But in the day it’s differently populated, by latter-day hippies. The township and the town intersect much more than in most small towns because it’s all so close, and the houses are close to the same size. Easy to see why lefties love it there. There’s a gentleness to it. You can sleep with your doors open and mean it.

Or – you can if you leave your fears behind you.

I’d come freshly inspired by an amazing experience in Cape Town – read the column on News24.

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 11.16.05 AM

This is where my bag went missing. Each of those little white dots is a minibus taxi that arrived / left full of strangers.

My mom and I took long walks around the small town, looking at things, talking about the year gone by, sliding around in the mud from the afternoon rainstorms. And we saw two sides of the town.

Honesty shop - you go take what you want, and put your cash in a tin by the door.

Honesty shop – you go take what you want, and put your cash in a tin by the door.

The shop is guarded only by this terrifying dog.

The shop is guarded only by this terrifying dog.

And then there was this ugly-ass house. Even from a distance, you could tell the people who built it didn’t understand where they were.

1000_joburg1

Why did they make a double story – ruining the next door neighbors’ view – when there’s so much space to build?

We went in for a closer look.

1000_joburgsign

KKK overtones. Ugly. And as another resident says: “So unnecessary.” Not surprisingly, this brick box full of fear belongs to people from Joburg who, to the locals’ relief, only come to town for a few weeks a year.

 

For every sad story, there's a happy one like this.

For every sad story, there’s a happy one like this.

For every extremist with a gun, there's a tannie with ostrich feather dusters who appeals to your better nature.

For every extremist with a gun, there’s a tannie with ostrich feather dusters who appeals to your better nature. A photo from a coffee stop in the Karoo… Translation – “God says: You may not steal and that is that! So eat and drink, look and dig around and pay and drive safely on with a clean conscience. Amen! Amen!”

South Africa has been good to me. I know not everybody has it so lucky. But I wanted to put it out there, over the chorus of whining from homesick, paranoid expats all over the world. I’m in my happiest place on earth.

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7 Responses to “Nieu and old and new Bethesda”

  1. Jill Kaganson Says:

    Hey Jean, received your story ‘Only in CT…’ from Oz to CT, and am now a joyous follow of yours, forwarding yr writings all over the place. You set the record STRAIGHT. Pls google the following, and help Mr Sedibe:

    SA is not broken, Mr Trump
    Independent Online ‎- 2 days ago
    … from Advocate Leslie Sedibe, chief executive of Proudly South African. … ON DECEMBER 14, as South Africa observed 10 days of mourning ..

    Sedibe is trying to do what you are doing, but not having your success, nor sense of humour (love yr comment re the frightening guard dog!) US media is so skewed, it is really only with US media that SA has a problem. We need to get you to a wider audience.

    Sedibe is going to NY tonight to talk with Donald Trump – from whom he actually got a reply to his open letter, which he wasn’t expecting.

    Sincerely,
    Jill Kaganson
    PR consultant
    kaganson@yahoo.com

  2. Jill Kaganson Says:

    ” But I wanted to put it out there, over the chorus of whining from homesick, paranoid expats all over the world. I’m in my happiest place on earth.” YOU SAID IT!!!

  3. Andreas Says:

    Very happy non-whining non-paranoid expat here! I have lived in California now over 13 years and love the USA and love SA. Frankly Jean should start moving in different circles as she seems to only run into the the “whining expat.”

    Newsflash – just because I live in the USA, am a US citizen now, and have retained my SA citizenship, does not mean I hate the USA. In fact I love both countries and have been back about 10 times in the last 13 years – and intend going back as often as I can!

    Frankly I wish Jean and the rest of her “angry” 20 something hipster generation will stop with their stereotyping of ALL expats as somehow are a bunch of “when we’s” and realize that there are many expats that are very happy to live here in the USA, love South Africa and do not spend every waking moment discussing how bad SA was/is/will become! I understand that both countries have the good and the bad and that to keep on viewing the world through stereotype glasses make one a very angry, unhappy and lonely person.

  4. jeanbarker Says:

    Andreas, I didn’t say all. I just said a chorus. No need to overreact or react to something that wasn’t said. I am glad to hear that you feel the same way I do. I live in the USA too, and love it too. Chill OUT.

  5. jeanbarker Says:

    And Jill, thanks. Great to encounter another afro-positive person out there in the blogisphere.

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