So my second African Christmas holiday was quite different than Christmas 2011. It included a trip to a game reserve, good food, grilling out (braai) Christmas dinner, and a fun and beautiful early birthday celebration. Oh yeah, while chilling on the porch, we heard monkeys chattering and lions roaring in the distance. Yeah, I’m in Africa!
I decided back in November that I would spend Christmas with two South African friends I met at a permaculture workshop. Through our permaculture interests, we became fast friends, and I even attended their wedding back in October. Cajun and Sue, my friends, lived on a small piece of land outside Rustenburg, in the gorgeous foothills (near the platinum mines). I was excited to spend Christmas with my white SA “family” and truly experience Christmas in another culture. Of course, their family is a mix of different cultures and traditions, and it was pretty awesome.
The day I got there was pretty hectic. I met Sue about a block from the Rustenburg taxi rank, in a seriously sketchy part of town. Besides an unfortunate bus ride in Mexico and taking the wrong exit out of a shopping mall in Durban, this was the sketchiest place I’ve ever been to. Me, with my big bag and glaring white skin-I was a little (lot) out of place, but Sue soon pulled up and off we went to a mall. Yes, a mall in Africa 3 days before Christmas. It was insane, but we got what we needed and got out of there. By the time we arrived at their house, we were beat and spent the evening catching up, fonduing, and relaxing.
The next day we rose at a horrible hour-I was so tired I don’t even remember the time. We wanted to be at the Pilanesburg gate by around 6am, when it opened. Pilanesburg is about an hour away. You do the math. We ran a little bit late, but got to the gate before 7am, I think. We pulled into the park and BAM Kudu! The animal after which my village is named. We spent all day driving through the park and saw tons of zebra, kudu, waterbuck, wildebeest, giraffe, hippos, a croc, birds, rhinos, babies of all sorts, and elephants. It is seriously amazing to see a family of elephants walking alongside the road, or to get caught in a traffic jam caused by a herd of zebra. Though the day was dreadfully hot, we had a ton of fun, and I enjoyed my first experience in an African game reserve!
The following day, Christmas Eve, we had to go to the mall again to shop for Christmas food. It was even crazier, but despite a broken phone and keys locked in the car, all went well. We made it home in the afternoon and spent the evening making Christmas Ham and Christmas Cookies. American style cookies-that was my cultural contribution. That night we lit candles for our loved ones far away as the sun set, and stuffed ourselves full of good food and cookies.
Christmas included hilarious gifts that only a PCV would appreciate: 2 ply toilet paper (what luxury!!) and a braai grill (so I can always cook, even if the power is out). We at too much chocolate, after I was introduced to a typical chocolate candy mix whose name I’m blanking…something Sweets. Anyways, we braaied (as in, I watched) steaks and gypsy spits, which are an incredible bit of bacon-wrapped goodness, and which I shall bring back to the USA. We had potato salad, lettuce salad, and steaks for Christmas dinner….what a strange world I live in. We also roasted marshmallows, and I promised to make s’mores happen sometime in the future.
The next day was not my birthday, but we celebrated 3 days early, as I was leaving before my actual birthday. Sue cooked a beautiful Israeli dish whose name I also cannot remember, but involved eggs, tomatoes, and other sorts of deliciousness. I sat down to a place setting covered in beautiful flowers and herbs from the garden, each with a special meaning. We watched a lot of movies that day, as we were still tired from all the excitement from previous days. And we still ate lots of Christmas cookies, finally finishing them off at night. I made tacos for dinner, which involved handmade tortillas, which cajun helped me roll out, pico de gallo, guacamole, and seasoned beef mince…everything homemade! It was quite an effort, but so, so delicious.
I had to leave on the 27th to meet a friend in Pretoria, but on the way we stopped at the Hartesbeesport Dam. It was busy, but cool. It’s obviously a hot tourist destinations, and there are seriously fancy lakehouses (overlooking a smelly lake). We stopped at a bead/rock shop, which I spent too much time and money at. 🙂 Then off to PTA, where I had to say goodbye to my friends.