Friday, July 19, 2013

Vacation – Part 2: Durban

After hanging out in East London, I decide to continue on alone to Durban. This coastal city is situated in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, home of the Zulu nation.  

Durban - Look to the East Coast!

On the 8-hour bus ride, a few really cool things happened:

1) Staring out the window, I felt something familiar. I oftentimes miss Malawi, the landscape and the earthy, basic beauty of the place.

In big, cosmopolitan Cape Town, I often long for this feeling. Seeing the rural landscapes pass by, I feel like I am back in Malawi.

My Aunt Sandra once told me that as a child, she believed that it wasn’t the car that moved people places. Instead, she thought you would get in the car, close the doors, and then the world would somehow move around you.

I felt the same way on this bus trip (as ego-centric as that may sound!). I plunked myself down on a seat near a window and the world morphed around me, offering landscapes that I could never imagine. How could I, with such little effort, have such a nice experience sitting looking out the window? 

2) The bus stops for a while due to construction. I look down at my phone and use the Facebook ‘check-in’ function to figure out where I am. Turns out we were stopped no place other than Qunu, the place where Nelson Mandela grew up!

3) Somewhere past Butterworth (yes, towns here are named after the colonizer too, despite seeming very away from their namesakes!) a woman gets on the bus and sits next to me.

The first thing that strikes me about Jazz is that she looks like a character from the book I was reading, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. The beautiful character Olanna is described in this way:

Her oval face was smooth like an egg, the lush colour of rain- drenched earth, and her eyes were large and slanted and she looked like she was not supposed to be walking and talking like everyone else; she should be in a glass case like the one in Master’s study, where people could admire her curvy, fleshy body, where she would be preserved untainted.’
I feel shabby next to her in my makeshift head wrap, crumpled travelling clothes and pimple inflicted face.

She smiles and talks to me anyways. Turns out that Jazz is going home to Durban after visiting her family in the Eastern Cape. Her Dad is a town counselor and her Mom a teacher (sounds a little familiar right?!).

She asks where I’m staying and when I tell her the name of the cheap backpackers where I booked a dorm bed she looks very concerned. You’re going to be eating cockroaches all night there! How would you feel if I invited you to stay with me instead?

Technically, I know it isn’t the smartest thing to stay with an utter stranger in a city you’ve never been to. Especially when you are a solo female traveller in a very unequal country where ‘crime’ seems on the tip of everyone’s tongues.

At the risk of sounding trite, I disregarded that technicality and followed my intuition. And I’m glad I did.

Jazz is finishing her studies in Durban. She lives with her brother and sister who were gone for summer vacation. I had a room to myself, complete with a double bed. I woke up in the morning to a stunning view of Durban.

View from 'my' room - Durban

Jazz and I - at the Ocean 

The next few days, Jazz shows me around the city and I spend time hanging out with her and her boyfriend Lunga. They adore each other and I adore being around wonderful people who are positively in love. Having recently come out of a tough break-up, they remind me that love exists, and I feel hopeful and happy in their company.

Jazz and Lunga

The first morning she prepares breakfast for us and shows me how she makes eggs. The next day I make French toast for them, and the day after I teach them how to make it on request. Despite having to substitute corn syrup for maple syrup, they still liked it and wanted to learn! 

One of the things I love the most about travelling is this type of exchange. As trivial as it may sound, I love sharing breakfast making techniques and other little shards of lives.
I’m always floored by how willingly people share and open up to a foreign, scrungy traveller like myself.

I arrive back in Cape Town and am greeted at the airport by my dear friend Marina from the States. I am warmed, humbled and astounded by the love that I have been surrounded by here. This trip was exactly what I needed.

On the way back to Cape Town

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