Monday, September 10, 2012

South Africa at three months

18 years ago on Thursday - my daughter was born on 13 September 1994
"Feeding Giya I hold the back of her head. A hard lump moves – it’s a golden Xmas beetle, so called because it comes into the house at this time of year to die. There’s a scorpion in a jam jar, outside weaver birds have built their nests in the trees like shells. It was 32 today, we’re in South Africa, arrived yesterday after a ridiculous journey. It was hot as hell on the plane, no vegetarian food. Mrisi throughout was brilliant – thank god for Aladdin." 
My daughter was just three months old when I first travelled to South Africa with her father and brother, himself just two and a half. We arrived on December 18 to introduce the two of them to the family in the year of the first elections with Mandela as president.
This summer, we returned - not quite 18 years to the day, but close enough for symbolism's sake. It was my 'coming of age' present to her and, like that gruelling first trip, it was hard at times to take in the country, its contrasts, arduous distances and often impenetrable habits.
For each of the four trips, three of them as a family and only the final one without my son, I kept a journal that I am hoping will provide the framework for a narrative about how this country's featured in our lives at a distance and the changes I've witnessed as an observer linked only because of an accidental meeting many years ago. My childrens' lives have developed in parallel with their father's country - so I've begun to look for where these contemporary histories meet and my journals are the jumping off point.