Yesterday I came home to the bathroom screaming Taylor Swift’s new lyrics, my housemate frantically applying mascara, and then more mascara, and then a little more after that. “Does this shirt look good, or should I change it?” she asks me and I start telling her about my day, the funny stories the kiddies wrote for me with their actions, and my friend and I sitting on a roof sipping hot coffee.
If she is distracted she won’t stress so much about the blind date that I set up for her. For a moment she is listening to my rambles, but eventually I have to bust her tranquil forgetfulness with reality. It’s time to leave, and I would rather she isn’t too late for my friend who would so patiently wait for her should she be.
The delay tactics she plays are good, but another housemate helps me in ushering her to her car. Now it’s just fingers crossed that she will drive to the meeting place, walk into the meeting place and talk in friendly tones to the meeting face.
I got a message from her telling me that she had just parked, and then it was her turn to fly, “fly little bird!” Can I tell you the helplessness you feel being on the wrong side of the blind date. I mean, my boyfriend wouldn’t appreciate me being set up on one of those, so I guess it’s a good thing I was on the wrong side.
I sat on the couch, waiting to hear the gate bumping open. I was joined for a bit by my housemate who eventually lost interest and went to get ready for bed. My boyfriend also kept me company for a while, bringing me tea and playing ‘Friends’ in the background of my anxious wait.
Minutes turned to hours turned to days…
Kidding. She finally walked through the door, “be cool, Jordy. Be cool.” I held my tongue, but couldn’t hold my giant smile that scared her as she came in. “All I’m going to say is that you chose well,” she said as she ran upstairs to pajama herself.
You guys, I crushed it. Maybe they won’t go out again, maybe there will be one or two more coffee dates, maybe something more, but there was a date with lots of talking, laughing and stories because two people were brave enough to trust their friend.
I didn’t even go on the date but in the end I think I felt the happiest out of everyone involved.
Back in reality, so distant from hyena calls at night, glorious purple beach sunsets and slow- morning sleep- ins. Life is accelerating into needing a weekend after the weekend; “should I really eat another piece of cake?”; early nights for early mornings.
The lazy holiday feels have evaporated and I find myself arguing with my student, “I know your mom said you can eat when the food is ready, but I said you can eat when your work is complete.” Unfortunately my anger levels never reach above a 2 out of 10, and I can’t stop laughing at her death stare that she so kindly and perfectly shares with me.
We do have a lovely relationship with lots of giggles and disses and hard school work, and after our little tiff she walks me to my car and asks me to stay a little longer.
Even in the busy mundane of working days, there are moments of true hilarity where water snorts out your nose, true understanding where you watch the animated light bulb atop their head ‘ting’ on, true friendship where a secret is shared with you that you promise to keep safe.
I’m so corny, it’s face flushing. I always get sentimental when the holiday comes to an end.
If you happened to be situated near a river on Saturday, heard high pitched squeals, saw a boat continuously spinning in circles, and watched as a man had to keep coming to the rescue of the only two- girl boat… you might have seen us.
We take birthdays very seriously in our house. The morning must contain some type of delicious, calorie- laden breakfast and bottomless cups of tea. There must be noise and smiles and tearing wrapping paper, and shrieks of, “Oh no, I’m going to be late!”
We took the celebrations to a new level, by chucking streamers and balloons all over the beams in our lounge, and leaving multiple cards around the room, each one holding a reason as to why we love the birthday girl.
Each birthday person in the house gets the question, “Would you like a really nice birthday present, or would you like an experience?” We’re not rolling in money, so there has to be a choice. We all know what the decision will be, but we ask it anyway.
It took us about thirty days to come up with our genius plan, but we were pretty proud of it once we had it.
On Saturday morning we told our birthday girl to outfit herself in gym clothes and old takkies. “If you feel like wearing a cap or some sun cream, we won’t stop you.” Five people then piled into the car, with some great tunes pumping, and we drove a little roadtrip to our surprise destination.
“We’re white river rafting in winter?” was our victim’s first question when she saw the sign to her experience. Our hearts plummeted a little, as our skin was tickled by goose bumps. Maybe there was a flaw in our perfect plan after all.
Luckily the lady of the company was highly professional and highly convinced that we would soon forget about the winter winds and would prefer not having jerseys on. We got all geared up in life vests and Powerpuff Girl helmets, and bounced along in the back of a bakkie to the river.
Our instructor didn’t take much nonsense, except for the moment where he was teaching us how to help someone if they accidentally fall in…Maybe it was a joke, maybe he was daydreaming out loud, I won’t go into too much detail.
The obvious “Paddle Puff Girl” was taken by our resident male and then everybody paired up into teams of two for a harrowing ride. One of my housemates declared that she couldn’t possibly go with me because my reaction time is slow.
Yes. You can be offended with me.
Nevertheless, my other housemate said she’d happily go with me, and we started the paddle with a weir. Approach it head- on, make sure the canoe is straight and watch out for rocks at the bottom. We, and everyone else, crushed the first weir. The second weir was a little steeper, and we all plunged canoe nose- first into the water, only to bob up again a few seconds later, drenched.
The rest of the paddle had our one instructor continuously speeding up to our canoe to get us out from between the rocks, or out of the quicksand. Poor man!
Birthday girl was beyond happy, with laughs and highly awkward moments, and tons of photos (Thank you dry bags!), and she even forgot about the cold as the blinding sun and the exertion from paddling played a collab part in warming her, and everybody else up.
As we sat side- by- side in our ‘bundu- basher’ car on day three, all walls had finally been torn down. Secrets had been shared, poops had been described, mean words had been exchanged. Gross, I know, but this is just what happens when relatives are squished into cars together for four days.
After a bit of a dry spell on the animal hunt, my cousins found some old, crackly CD that used to entertain my baby brother in the car. We near- fishtailed along the road, blaring ‘Ronnie the rambunctious Rhino’ and scaring away any potential sightings.
Once the CD had run its course, and half the car won over the other half who wanted to play the album again, a British voice piped up and asked one of the passengers, “Didn’t you have a boyfriend who dumped you because he didn’t like your boobs?” Debate time went down where everyone else in the car begged her to tell them where she heard such a story, and the victim desperately defended herself to deaf ears.
We finally got the story, where a boyfriend left his girl for another girl who had bigger boobs… or that’s how the story went. The narrator is happily married, and the one teenage girl responded, “Well luckily your husband doesn’t really like boobs.”
Crickets. And take two:
“I didn’t mean it like that! I meant that you’re lucky he really likes your personality.”
Obviously this was met with more amused stares, and the second British voice came in rescue of her sister, “No guys, what she’s trying to say is that you have nice boobs, you just don’t have big boobs.”
The conversations you will have when you spend your holiday searching for animals with your extended family will horrify and delight you all at once.
To end off my most lovely, wild, too- much- food, hysterical Kruger holiday, we sat by a water hole watching ellies fight over the best spot to drink water, baby ellie calves chasing buffalo, jackals hunting birds, and sable in the veld close by. In the silence of the bush (you will never experience such silence anywhere else), three female lion stealthily walked towards our animal show. In unison, they all bowed to the ground and waited for a buffalo bull to make his way in their direction. The lion playfully pounced on him, and more lion ran out of shrubs and bushes to play around as well. What we thought was a well- planned hunt was instead some mom lions teaching their overgrown cubs how to hunt. No one was harmed in the process, although the buffalo bull was extremely peeved at having his Tuesday evening stroll interrupted.
We were lucky to have my two British cousins in our car. The big old Prado bounced around the Kruger roads while the inhabitants laughed and blasted music and fought within. The other car completely contrasted ours, somber and serious, searching for African creatures hiding in the bush veld.
Our first full Kruger day held eight hours with these two contrasting cars zooming about the roads at a whopping forty kilometers an hour, stopping every now and then when a passenger shouted “stop!” All other passengers would magnetize to the side of the car closest to the creature of interest, a picture or two was taken, and then we would continue on with our journey.
We were kept highly entertained by the little British voices next to me. One comment that came from the young teen was, “imagine if a guy lived on his farm and had to help his wife have their baby because they can’t get to the hospital in time. He would see a lot more of his wife than he’d ever bargained to.”
We saw a jackal, a hyena, hippo and some birds of prey. Other than that, we came across a momma ellie (might even be scarier than a momma bear) eating leaves hanging over the road with her two little babas next to her.
An infantile bakkie driver (bakkie is a pick up truck in South Africa) roared past in his haste to get to wherever he felt necessary to roar off to. Momma elephant flapped her ears, desperately wanting to protect her calves, while our cars desperately reversed backwards to get away from momma ellie.
My cousins and I, who aren’t much in the way of brave hearts when it comes to elephants in their best moods, lay as low in our seats as we could. What you can’t see, you can’t fear, according to us.
Squeaks and squeezed tight eyes happened behind my parents as they tried to assess the situation, deciding when the best time to pass the elephants would be.
Eventually momma and baba ellies crossed the road and headed further into the bushes, and we were able to get out alive and tell this near death story to others.
We, again, ended our first full Kruger day with GnTs with the sun setting over the quelea- munching crocs in the dam below us.
Post awkward reacquaintance with my overseas family, we were woken early by our parents, squashed into our respective cars filled to the brim with holiday food and luggage, and hit up a young convoy- type road trip.
We stopped in a small town with quaint restaurant, and my “I’m not really hungry” was squashed by the array of delicious breakfasts, I spent the time picking bacon off my little cousin’s plate.
The closer we got to Kruger, the more layers of clothes we shed, as it got hotter and hotter the higher into South Africa we drove.
By the time we got to Phalabowa gate, temperatures were reaching 35 degrees Celsius- disclaimer, it’s winter this side of the hemisphere. In the park, on route to our camp, we came across tons of ellies grabbing partial tree branches, steenbok hiding in the tall grass, and the usual impalas grazing all along the road.
When we arrived at the cabins, we didn’t even go inside, we all (adults included) ran to the main deck. Sipping GnTs, we stared at the massive dam in front of us, accessorized by crocs, water buck and the African sunset. My near- hypochondriac mother went around spraying everyone with mozzie spray, fearing malaria around every corner.
Out of nowhere, the Kruger silence was broken by millions of flapping wings overhead. Little birds known as quelea flew down to the water in synchronized movements. They danced as a unit along the surface of the water, every so often being disrupted by hungry crocodile (who felt like a tiny snack) leaping from the water to catch two or three.