There are wonderful contrasts in this world of ours. A few years back my son and I had the privilege to visit St. Petersburg in Florida as well as the real snow-covered St. Petersburg in Russia just three months apart. Now we could do it again: The past three months first saw Christiaan and Nicole’s wedding in Namibia’s timeless dunes, and a few weeks later the mysterious abbeys in the mountains and valleys of Spain.
But let me first tell you how the romance started. It was early in December of 2017 and we had not yet received our tickets for the Christmas carols service at the Great Methodist Hall in Westminster. (I contribute monthly to a Christian radio station, and they always send me tickets for this special event.) The Saturday before the service I said to Mariaan that we probably would not go to London that Sunday evening. Mariaan then sent another request per email (I remember saying that no one would reply on a Saturday evening). To our great surprise four tickets arrived the Sunday morning. Our son Christiaan lived with us then, and he was available. We had to run around to find the fourth person. We immediately thought of Renier Theron, a young farmer who was working on the island, and also of Nicole, who was looking after the children of our friends the Van Zyls. Christiaan had not yet met Nicole, although Mariaan and I had known her for almost 18 months. Nicole was closer than Renier, and Mariaan asked Christiaan if it would be ok if she went along. He even grumbled: “Mom, I hope this isn’t one of your matchmaking schemes.”
The four of us then attended the impressive service in the heart of Westminster, right across from the British Houses of Parliament. Afterwards, everyone was treated to coffee, biscuits and conversation. We bumped into some friends and shared some of the latest news. While talking, I saw Christiaan and Nicole talking the hindlegs of a donkey as if the had known each other for years. At home we invited Nicole in for coffee. She stayed for a while and then excused herself as she had a very early shift the next morning. To my surprise I saw how the normally shy Christiaan bent over and embraced her in his long arms. I knew immediately that this was the start of something! That week, he visited Nicole five times and from there things sped up like a rolling snowball.
Christiaan went with us to Namibia that next December holiday; he proposed, and they got married in March in a church here in Tonbridge. However, only Nicole’ mom, dad and sisters could fly over for the event.; none of her grandparents, uncles and aunts in Namibia could attend. They therefore decided on a second ceremony in Namibia.
You always feel at home when arriving in Namibia: The people are open and friendly, and it is evident that Afrikaans remains a common language of conversation. Nicole’s German-speaking granddad and grandmother met us the airport, and we hit it off very quickly, especially since the old lady’s cheesecake is the best I have ever had.
The first outing was a so-called living desert tour in the dunes just outside Swakopmund. The tour guide digs out vipers, salamanders, scorpions and even chameleons to show how adaptable these small animals are despite the inexorable desert climate.
The wedding ceremony was held between the unspoilt dunes, which meant that the bride was brought in by Land Rover. It was a chilly afternoon and our little group of about eighty people felt so small in the vast expanse of the desert.
The evening’s celebrations were continued in Swakopmund’s castle or fort (known as Pathfinder Heim), and Nicole’s family provided an unforgettable evening. The strings of little lights above the chairs made it feel like a fairy world. The theme was vintage, with old 33-speed vinyl records as place mats and stacks of old books. Even the flower arrangements played along. Apart from all the German delicacies, we were treated to deliciously roasted gemsbok steaks.
The bride and groom had many obligations: Apart from the traditional speeches, they had to show with a double-handed saw that they can work together by sawing through a thick log – to loud acclaim and jeering. The dancing continued into the night.
Two photos that show the contrast between the two destinations: Left is our double-cabin bakkie in Namibia, and right the white flash of Spain – and we were at home in both! Viva la difference!
This post is also available in: Afrikaans