My dear father-in-law suddenly passed away in July. Because we were still in the process of obtaining visas for a visit to South Africa, we were unable to say our final goodbyes or attend his funeral.

Before his death, we received an invitation to the December wedding of Tobie’s oldest sister’s daughter – one of the flower girls at our wedding many years ago. Initially, we didn’t think we would be able to attend, but because we couldn’t be here after my father in law’s death, we decided to accept the invitation. Come November, we excitedly board our plane to South Africa.

My little sister and her two daughters fetch us from the airport and to my amazement, Anmari has grown into a budding teenager while little sister Chriselda seems to have shaken off her baby fat and grown almost overnight. The first thing on our list: going to Die Bosvelder in Centurion for biltong steak and sosaties with cheese sauce. We drink gin and Springbokkies and do some catching up until late, while our waiter from the Cape entertains us with his hilarious comical Afrikaans expressions.

Next on my list are my parents in Hartenbos. I arrange with old childhood friends to pick me up at the airport to surprise my parents. The joy of seeing each other again is always indescribable, and I think even more so for them because they hadn’t been expecting it. We dine at the Spur while admiring the most beautiful view over the Indian Ocean – I always enjoy Spur’s cheese schnitzel or chicken livers. The Western Cape’s stretching white beaches is the perfect place to go for walks with my dad and swim in the bluest ocean. Despite the wind, we stay put because I’m visiting the beach in South Africa! Plentiful  cups of coffee, tea, real boere rusks, laughing, talking and episodes of Boer-soek-’n-Vrou make our time together memorable. We cover the area around Hartenbos by car and train through breathtaking mountains, cliffs and horizons over the wide-open sea. I stare at Mosselbaai’s well-preserved old sandstone buildings, ancient milkweed trees and scenic beauty. We eat bags full of biltong and can’t believe how “cheap” it is!

Before we know it, it’s time to say goodbye. I must meet Tobie in Polokwane, but flying via O. R. Tambo Airport I use the opportunity to meet my roommate from university for lunch. Once again, we decide on Spur for a cheese schnitzel and Crème Soda. For six hours we talk non-stop because we have a year’s talking to cram in. The waiter also must hear how we’ve been friends for 27 years. We laugh when we recall the first day we met at university. My boyfriend back then had accompanied me and my parents and while we were completing some paperwork, he made himself at home on the bed in my room. Just then, Elize and her parents returned to the room, only to find him all comfortable on the bed. He was a real joker and to her parents’ shock, he jumped up and announced himself as her new roommate! They welcomed me into their home like their own child since that day and I used to spend many a weekend with them. I love seeing how far she has come in life and the successful businesswoman she has become. All too soon it is time for us to say goodbye so I can catch my flight to Polokwane.

My sister-in-law and the bride-to-be meet me at the airport and with the first “Hello” I know we are going to have a great time. The rain that had fallen in South Africa before our arrival ensured the most beautiful bushveld scenes along the route to their smallholding. The evenings are spent braaiing – boerewors, “skilpadjies”, eland fillet, pap & sauce, my mom-in-law’s atjar and once again we eat biltong by the kilograms. My stomach churns during our treetop ziplining session in Magoebaskloof, we buy colourful clothes, eat at the Spur and Panarotti’s and drink Zwakala, Zamalek, Zoerdoef and Cane!

We spend a whole weekend with Tobie’s university friends. They’d never lost contact and it’s wonderful to see how they can still laugh and chat after all these years, as if they’d just seen each other yesterday.

At last it’s time for the wedding and we depart for Hoedspruit. During the unbelievable journey I “ooh” and “aah” all the way. Me, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law get to spend time together and admire the beautiful nature surrounding us. The wedding takes place at Moholoholo Ya Mati. What a privilege to be able to spend time with our loved ones at this beautiful destination. I can’t think of a better place to conclude our holiday with our family in the northern part of South Africa. We spend time with aunts, uncles and cousins who we’d seen ages ago and enjoy each other’s company. We eat, laugh and cry together. I feel so blessed to be allowed to be part of the bride and the bridal party’s preparations, and just to be there.

After the celebrations we return to Pretoria where my sister and I try to get as much as possible out of our last few remaining hours, because the time has almost come to go back. We are amazed about the pouring rain that just keeps falling. The Hennops and Apies rivers overflow their banks, the earth is drenched.

I recall the words of Laurika Rauch’s song Die mense wat ek liefhet”. 

The people I love grow on me like moss, they are my human blanket. They form a layer of love around me. I march through the world, armoured against the fire. 

Then I must leave the people who’ve grown on me. Now there is a wound. I tiptoe through the world. Vulnerable. Me with my wound that won’t heal …”

                                                                                                                                                                             

This post is also available in: Afrikaans

Charlé Klopper
Charlé Klopper
Charlé Klopper, lives in Mangonui, New Zealand. Charlé is a kindergarten manager and her husband, Tobie, is a nursing practitioner.

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