Michael has been spending a lot of time at the pool, both putting the finishing touches on the wall and testing the water. We all know he’s a bit crazy, so no surprise that he took his first morning dip at 16 C degrees (61 F) and undeterred, continues daily at 20 C (68 degrees).
Monday we had lunch at our favorite Sanook and tried their veggie, thin crust Pizza. Fabulous – from one who doesn’t usually eat pizza. When we sat down, inside this time, someone said, “They don’t serve Americans here,” and laughed. Rod made us feel so welcome, asking when we’re coming back and commenting that it’s so surreal for us to be here for a time and then be gone. Very sweet.
Tuesday was the best day ever. Mary and Steve invited us back to Glengariff for lunch and a walk on the beach. And, of course, I collected more shells. We have found kindred spirits! Meeting people newly with whom we resonate is one of the real pleasures of travel. I handed him the camera because it was getting heavy and he always takes pictures of me.Steve calls this guy ‘the quiet man,’ because he never utters more than a brief, “good waves today.” He’s a good surfer though.Sheer joy on the beach, one of only two groups there that day. Of course, Michael found two girls more than willing to pose for him, under the watchful eye of their mother sitting on the rocks.Steve himself actually built this stone walkway across a rough spot on the walk to his surfing spot.Their house, right off the reef, has the best view ever. Over a great lunch of pizza (2nd day!) and salad, we were introduced to Castle Milk Stout, which Steve says only the blacks drink here. We loved it and will have it again. This was followed by a fabulous wine, not found in the markets, called Tamboershloof, a very rich red with a lot of depth and light tannins. Quite generously, they handed us a bottle as we left.
After lunch and sitting staring at the ocean for a while, they showed us a slide movie of their trip by camper van into Lesotho, or the Kingdom of Lesotho. Stunning. I had no idea it was at such a high altitude. It’s actually known as the Mountain Kingdom or Kingdom in the Sky: “Lesotho covers 30,355 km2 (11,720 sq mi). It is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 metres (3,281 ft) in elevation. Its lowest point of 1,400 metres (4,593 ft) is thus the highest in the world. Over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres (5,906 ft). Lesotho is also the southernmost landlocked country in the world and is entirely surrounded by South Africa.” Wikipedia. After seeing these images, I came away enchanted by the stories of people working cooperatively at subsistence agriculture and by images of the stark beauty of mountainous areas as geologically extreme as our Grand Canyon, definitely wanting to return to southern African to see it for myself. Wanting to add some facts and details, I checked out Wikipedia, and my romanticism hit reality. 40% of the 2 million+ people here live on less than $1.25 per day (but can we apply such a monetized scale to a society in which 65% live off the land?) It’s as if our values say that something is wrong with living off the land and not entering the “financial economy.” An 85% literacy rate is pretty high. Diamonds and water (shipped to South Africa) are it’s main natural resources, and with the income, the government devotes 12% of its GDP to education. Infant mortality if 8.3% (that’s high) and prevalence of HIV/AID is at 24%, one of the highest in the world, although the annual rate is falling due to a program of the Clinton Foundation. The garment industry employees 50,000, mostly women, and ships to US brands and retailers Foot Locker, Gap, Gloria Vanderbilt, JCPenny, Levi Strauss, Saks, Sears, Timberland and Wal-Mart. “In 2007, the average earnings of an employee in the textile sector were $103 per month, and the official minimum wage for a general textile worker was $93 per month.” And we get our clothes cheap. The world is a complicated place, and wrapping my head around all of this, I’m reminded of Moral Man and Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr’s 1932 study in ethics and politics. With a deeply tragic view of human nature and history, he talks about our inability to imagine the realities of collective power; the brutal behavior of human collectives of every sort; and, ultimately, how individual morality can mitigate the persistence of social immorality. That tension between individual morality and social immorality is a stark theme when traveling, whether in developing or developed countries. And I still want to travel and see it and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of nature.
This day was pretty hard to match, but on Thursday we headed out to the Lion Park, just outside of EL. It was pretty disappointing – more like a zoo – after visiting the vast, open game reserves. But there were a few treats. A local school was having a field trip and enjoying the park like playground. Weavers were abundant. And I finally got the Mousebird up close in the sunlight. These Bengal’s are not from South Africa, but because they are such an endangered species, they are being distributed around the world to preserve the species. The white one is a genetic variance, like the white lion. Magnificent cats!
I find momentarily my enthusiasm for photographing is at a low ebb. I’m saving myself for the Addo Elephant National Park next week. Can’t wait. And my thoughts are turning homeward, even with the interim trip to Germany. I miss Gavin, Aariel, Ryan, Daireus and Nicole. Soon.