Sunday. Dinner with my father in the Eastern Highlands of Mpumalanga. The phone rings. Allow me to translate:
"Is dit erg?" (Is it serious?)
"Oh, God" (Oh, God in both English and Afrikaans)
I open the curtains to see the veld (field) around us ablaze. Flames ten foot high on three sides lick the sky. It’s winter and the entire countryside is a tontledoos (cinderbox). No problem. Like in any other first world country, I will simply call the Fire Dept. No chance of that. The phone is engaged. God Gert! (Holy Moses!), is all I can think. No time to think. No time for first world, third comparisons. Have to act. And make it quick. A boer maak a plan (a farmer makes a plan). We decide to divide and conquer. My dad directs the operation. Our moffie (sweet) neighbors chip in. My husband makes good use of the garden hose. I pack up the cars. My daughter transforms herself into a hysterical water bucket factory line. I yell out to my dad,
“What do you want me to save?”
“Nothing”, is his retort, “let the whole bloody lot burn. It’s all kak (rubbish) anyway!”
He’s never been good that way. Finally, after an hour, we manage to tame the fire. Close call. The phone is still engaged. Welcome to Africa.
Monday. We’re on our way to Kwazulu Natal. The weather is becoming more ominous with each mile. Snow? No way. It doesn’t snow in Africa. Famous last words. Before we know it we are driving through a blizzard. A confused goat on the side of the road blinks. Visibility is zero. This is completely and utterly unprecedented. There’s no salt on the roads. In fact, there is no salt anywhere. And snowplows? Well, they’re about as commonplace as the Dodo.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we get stuck in snow and are spectacularly t-boned by a speeding doos (box) who’s only ever seen snow on a Xmas card. Nice one lady! The police take an hour. (Maybe it was them on the phone with the people from the Fire Dept.) We wait two-and-a-half hours for a tow truck to arrive. Hemel aleen weet (heaven alone knows) how we dodged being moered (annihilated) by the other bliksemse (darn) sixty-seven cars that fokked (missile-ed) past. My daughter, who is still hysterical from the fire, is now permanently hysterical.
“I thought you liked snow, my darling?” But that doesn’t work.
She strips her moer! (untranslatable).
My stepfather has developed hypothermia from no windows. Poor man, he is having flashbacks from WWII where he contracted frostbite.
Finally, we are forced to endure the night in a motel without electricity or luggage. To call it godforsaken is a compliment.
Brandewyn (brandy) and soetwyn (plonk) is all that is available. Decide to put Alcoholics Anonymous on my speed-dial...
|The dreaded fire all around us|
|A very un-South African landscape|
|The car being lifted onto the tow truck|
|graffiti-chic (NOT) on the motel pub walls|
|Rather shell-shocked and in need of a drink|
|Hitched a ride with the tow truck the next morning to Harrismith. My daughter and I squashed sideways into the rear.|