Our flight from Istanbul to Cape Town stopped in Dubai for a few hours in the middle of the night which gave us a great opportunity to enjoy an awesome foot massage at the airport. To fight fatigue and so on, wink wink. I highly recommend this as it was very relaxing.
After a 9-hour flight we were met by my parents in Cape Town airport. I was super excited and also rather nervous about our trip because in the past I’d gone home for 3 weeks maximum, this time we were staying for two months with a 3-week road trip with my parents thrown in as well.
The drive home from the airport to Hermanus, my hometown, is about an hour and a half long. Once you leave the airport you see Table Mountain in all her beauty, and then the massive Township. Only then the ocean and a magnificent mountain range come within sights – you couldn’t ask for a more diverse South African hello. Breathtaking nature and poverty in one effortless sweep.
After a quick stop en route to have lunch at Peregrine we arrived in my hometown Hermanus. It truly is a beautiful town and well worth a visit, once there you totally get why many British and German people retire there and Capetonians treat it as their weekend getaway. Hermanus is situated between a mountain and the ocean and is a famous tourist town known for whale watching. It’s a decent size town with many little villages or sub towns near by; lots of restaurants, a variety of beaches, and an endless array of fauna and flora. A 30-minute drive further is the famous white shark cage diving area and another hour’s drive you will reach L’Agulhas which is the most southern tip of Africa and where the Atlantic and the Indian ocean meet.
Arriving at Hermanus I felt strange not knowing where we were going to stay. The house where I’d grown up, the house I used to call home had been sold and my parents had bought a new house I’d never been to before. The ‘old’ house had once belonged to my grandmother, now passed, and I used to visit during summer holidays since I was 8 years old before we permanently relocated there from Kimberley. So of course the old house had many memories and I have to say I was pretty gutted when they sold it and now I was about to see the new house.
We arrived at the walled and gated complex. Inside it were about twenty 2 and 3 bedroom houses with perfectly manicured front gardens. It was more like a community rather than a complex – I liked it already. My parents’ house was much smaller than the old house, which made it more manageable and I could see the love and effort they had put into the garden, especially as I got the tour.
Triin and I were both quite tired, rushing from one place to the next, flying numerous hours and not sleeping very well for the past two nights. I was looking forward to a relaxing a couple of days before we started our 3-week road trip. After a shower I thought to go for a walk around the neighbourhood but quickly realised that my dad was super excited about the road trip already as he was sitting at the kitchen table armed with a map of Namibia, waiting for me to appear. The plan was a to drive through Namibia, see Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and drive back through Botswana. I was excited as well but mostly exhausted and after I excused myself, I left Triin with my dad and the maps.
Later we went to greet my brother and see his new house as well. The house had an old Dutch look to it, with a large garden at the front and back, the house was also positioned at an angle on the plot, which made it very different and I liked it. It was good to catch up with Eleanor, my sister in law and to see how much my niece had grown since I last saw her a year ago when she was only a 1-year old baby.
For dinner we went to Lemon Butta and I realised I was fading fast struggling to keep my eyes open. Jet lag… My dad tried to discuss the route for the road trip again and I have to say I was rather confused because I felt we had done this over Skype, I had even Google mapped it by now. My dad got upset about my reluctance to discuss the road trip and I tried to reassure him that we would plan it in even more detail but not right now, on the first day. I realised the whole thing might not all be smooth sailing but hoped that the next day would be better as I was absolutely exhausted.
The next morning me, Triin and my mom walked around in town and had a nice breakfast at CanD’s. Though I used to live in Hermanus new restaurants and cafes are always opening or they changed location, so it feels like going to a new town when I go home. Before we lived in a city called Kimberley (where they used to dig for diamonds) and then moved to Hermanus when I was 12, after I finished school at 18 I moved to London, alone.
Going to South Africa can at times be rather peculiar for me, for example I needed to open a bank account because I didn’t want to walk around with a wad of cash all the time. So I went into a bank and spoke to the aunty (we call everyone older than us by at least 15-20 years aunty as a sign of respect) (sidenote: the shoe is on the other foot because I’m 32 and 10 year old’s now call me aunty, sigh). Usually my passport would be good enough for most things, but in SA people use an ID book for everything and to top it off i needed….. my mother’s signature. It’s an odd feeling needing your mom’s signature when you have been independent for 14 years, no one’s fault just my pride and not being used to this. I had to return to my parents house to search for this magical ID book where I was actually 16 years old on the photo.
Later I had coffee with my dad at another newly discovered coffee shop, where my brother also joined us
It is difficult for me to write or to put it all into words, about things that happened during my trip or how things sometimes made me feel. I will make an effort to be honest yet try to be respectful and also not going on about every single blib that happened. Maybe you’ll understand later what I mean. My brother, dad and I never had any trouble showing anger, it’s an emotion that we feel almost comfortable with, we know how to do anger: how to yell, how you just want to hit the wall (a habit I had when I was young, nearly even broke my hand a couple of times), the rush of high blood pressure, the vein pumping on the forehead – we have it covered. It was an emotion I was fine with but now it scares me – I don’t want to be that person anymore. Like imagine you are walking in the woods and all is good, but then you see a huge bear and you think oh shit, what do I do, do I leave or wait till the bear leaves?
So my dad and I were sitting in the coffee shop and was telling me that my brother thought we should take a trailer to pull behind the car on the road trip. He added that he really didn’t want to take a trailer at all because it’s a pain in the ass. I then said let’s not take a trailer just as my brother approached us and for the next couple of seconds, he continued shouting at me in the middle of the coffee shop. My heart was racing as I was totally taken aback by his behaviour, caught off guard and surprised at his sudden burst of anger over literally nothing. As I sat there watching him I suddenly realised that I could just stand up and leave – I didn’t have to accept this at all. But then, as sudden as that, all was calm again as his phone rang.
This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened and might not be the last, but after living away from my family for years I am now starting to wonder: what’s everyone so fucking angry about anyway? I don’t know all the answers but it did make me realise that I’m not going to be passive anymore and I will stand up for myself more. Learning new habits and letting go of old patterns is much more helpful in the long run.It has taken me literally months to write and rewrite this particular blog. It’s gone from angry to sad and now I realise that it’s actually about moving on. Without a doubt I could have handled many situations much better and for that I am truly sorry. I also hope to realise most things are a opportunity to practice new habits and things I have learned.
To be honest I don’t think we are a messed up family, I think we need to get better having an emotional dialogue with each other, to be able to say ‘what you said or did hurt my feelings’ or “i don’t like what you are doing” or “I’m not sure how but let’s work towards a better relationship” instead of shouting and pushing the other one away.
For the next couple of days Triin and I kept ourselves busy in town and constantly went to our new favourite place Betty Blue. It ended up becoming our home away from home, because it had everything we needed: soy latte, wifi, a great atmosphere, a variety of really yummy veggie food, smoothies and really awesome owners; you could easily understand why they won Best Bistro Award 2016 in the Western Cape .
That weekend was my dad’s 60th birthday and a few friends and family were invited for lunch at Mogg’s Restaurant. It was the main reason we came here in September and also the reason behind the family road trip. The restaurant was situated in the beautiful Hemel & Aarde Valley (full of vineyards! Triin loves it!), the food was good and we got to enjoy the amazing views of the valley.
It was so good to see some of my uncles and aunts after a couple of years – so much cooler to hang out with my family now that I was older. The conversations were so different and felt more authentic. I ended up sitting next to uncle William, my mom’s youngest brother. He had totally surprised me a year or so back showing up to the airport to say goodbye after I hadn’t seen him in years. At the birthday party I sat next to him and we were laughing at his love for desserts not really caring what he was having as long as it was the biggest. Later I’d come to appreciate having had that time with him because a few months after the birthday lunch he sadly passed away.
The night before the road trip to Namibia, Botswana and the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe we had a BBQ at my brother’s house. I was very excited about the trip and nervous about the unknown, the trip would be for 3 weeks – the four of us in one car. Even in the US it took Triin and I a while to find our own rhythm on the road, so it felt kind of strange to add two more people in the mix and them being my parents. I’m sure they felt the same way with us after a blibs in the week we had been home. I hadn’t thought about everything too much and now the day had come to start our trip.