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.
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.
“For my bachelorette party there must be cocktails. I don’t like that. Ooh that’s a cool idea!”
All it takes is one friend who is getting married, and suddenly you’re planning your own Kitchen Tea and bachelorette party, nevermind the fact that you’re not engaged, not in a relationship, not even on the path to finding a potential anything right now. It’s okay though guys, because I know how I want my bridesmaids to set up my bridal shower. All is good.
On Saturday, my friend was surprised with her Kitchen Tea. We were told to come dressed in gym clothes because exercise attire is the bride’s choice of wear, being a ballet dancer and drama teacher.
Her bridesmaids made us do a full eighties- inspired workout, complaining millennials and soon- to- be mothers huffing and puffing it out on the lawn, while delicious food was strategically placed in the corner of our eyes, making us want to give up the “pelvic thrusts” (don’t forget that this was a kitchen tea, marriage jokes are a must) to shove coffee cupcakes into our mouths.
We really did work for our food, and ladies in beautiful make up and pretty nails, with dainty spoons and colourful bowls went in for thirds and forths from the array of snacks and sweet treats.
For such a hard- working, should- be- battery powered lady, her bridesmaids decided that she needed a night of pampering instead of a night of partying. We started eating when we arrived, and pretty much plowed our way through bowls of savoury goodness followed by Chuckles (Woolworths, South Africa, give them a try. You’re welcome), brownies, cupcakes and popcorn the rest of the evening.
In between handfuls of food and mouthfuls of sugary snacls; we painted our nails and gave each other foot baths, we laughed our way through those nose strips that you always see in movies but have never tried yourself. We sipped wine while watching Gilmore Girls and snuggled under blankets.
In typical, brilliant, fantastic, awesome, fabulous girl fashion. Sleepover success: check. I just feel sorry for the boys who never get to experience these kind of evenings.
Once the twenty- first season has passed, the only other time you really get to dress up is for weddings. Luckily I have some friends who decided to keep the whole digs formal tradition alive. And even more luckily, I cracked an invite as one of the dates.
An afternoon getting ready with your galpals, “Should I wear this dress, this one, or this one?” “Try the second one on again.” “I think I’ll go with the first one I tried on.” “Hey, if you curl her hair, she can do my makeup.”
Finally we red carpet it down the stairs, my housemates flashing their phone torches at us, pretending to be our paparazzi.
The boys greet us at our car doors with a rose each, donning their chinos and button- ups, looking very dapper.
They were so proud of their clean house, their beautifully decorated table and their array of wine choices. We ate a five star, three course meal, each plate came with its own wine pairing, the laughter getting louder and the talk getting more silly and happy. The boys had to sit next to their chosen dates and make sure that their girl had enough “water, ice tea, wine, anything else?”
We were treated like ladies, served and entertained by gentlemen with banter.
If we could more nights playing dress- up, eating like kings and queens, noisy dinner parties with faces that can’t stop smiling, and world- class company, that wouldn’t be the worst thing.
You know when you need a weekend after a weekend? That’s where I am. I mean, luckily I work from home on Mondays so I can slightly adjust my alarm clock…
Getting back from a meeting on Saturday morning, I found a housemate working in the office, but I was home and I needed her attention. I had a really sore bite or something on my leg, and she had to come with me to the pharmacy – she could not possibly let me go alone!
She sat on a chair next to the counter, her bag on her lap, like a patient parent, waiting for their over dramatic child. I tried whispering to the pharmacist, hoping the queue of people behind me wouldn’t hear me describe the rather gross situation going on on my leg, but she did not take my ‘on- the- DL’ hints and proceeded to tell me in detail how to treat it, loud enough for the rest of the pharmacy to hear.
Fortunately, my housemate really enjoyed the show, laughing at my humiliation and was sure to tell my other housemate when we got home.
That afternoon, honorary house member came over for the most decadent tea we’ve had this year. Carrot cake, and cupcakes, and cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, with some tea drinking in between. To top off our classy, lady- like afternoon, we decided to take the dogs for a run in the dog park. One very excited, over- exuberant hound found a mud puddle (although I’m pretty sure there wasn’t just mud in there…) and proceeded to submerge her entire body in it for good measure.
All other dog owners walked past with their “good boys” trotting beside them, looking at us in pure sympathy at our now smelly, muddy, happy dog. She did share the joy though, running up to me and shaking half her collection all over me. People wondered if I had joined our dog in her mud bath.
After drive homes, and showers, and yummy dinners, and more cake and cups of tea while watching “Isn’t It Romantic” on a Christmas bed, we became very aware of a rather loud, and getting louder, buzzing sound. We looked up to see the spawn of evil flying straight towards us. Honorary housemate, sitting next to me, started a sentence of, “What the hell is…” before forgetting her question, and pushing me into his line of flight so that she could dive off the Christmas bed, screaming her way to the kitchen.
Props to my housemates who use me as their own personal form of entertainment and bug repellent.