The whole idea of a shipwreck came to mind as we packed up our Euro winter suitcase and re-packed our South African summer suitcase. Well, it came down to a medium sized suitcase for our clothing for the next three or four months and a carry-on case for laptops, gifts and, in my case, knitting, for the flight south. This left an assortmet of tog bags and large grocery carriers with our winter garb for storage in our most accommodating family’s garage. It was this little mound of belongings that made me think of the “flotsam and jetsam” akin to shipwrecks and desert islands, a-la-Robinson Cruso, and thus the title of my post.
Before you think that this will be a “homeless bleat” and hitting the escape key, think again and read on…
Boarding the trusty KLM blue bird, that is the pride of the Dutch nation, at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, all covid protocol was fairly strickly adhered to with (mostly) compliant social distancing and the mandatory face masks in place. The flight was full, with only the odd open seat meaning that we were literally all crammed together for 11 hours – so much for “hou afstand” en “de ander halve meter”, but there you have it. Given the lab testing that had to be done 72 hours prior to flying, it would be safe to assume that all sqwuashed together passengers were of the screened, processed and safely stamped NEGATIVE members of the global poulation.
The flight was full but strangely, pleasantly, quiet with very little activity associated with jostling, inconsiderate passengers, frazzled crew and boisterous children. Toilet trips were infrequent, snack meals and refreshments were deliverd swiftly and efficiently with little drama and the flight was uneventful.
A slight, almost unperceptable shift was felt, more than seen or heard, when the captain announced that we were shortly entering South African airspace. Perhaps it’s in our collective DNA that we felt that we were almost “home”?
This is when I took a closer look at my fellow passengers and decided on the second reference to the flotsam and jetsam of a shipwreck image.
Us Saffers are a motly bunch, scattered far and wide around the globe. The reason for this, I believe, is based largely on the fact that we live on the a-end of a very large continent, with oceans on two of our basically three sides and our neighbours on the land side are all similarly African, albeit different tribes of African.
Que “Scatterlings of Africa” by the legendary Johnny Clegg or “Africa” by Toto and that saw our touchdown at Oliver Thambo International Airport. From then on it was a different world entirely: gone was the recommended 1,5m social distancing, gone was the super-efficient immigration counter staff manning all 30-odd desks and terminals. Instead, the familiar pressing and pushing to change lines for the shortest, fastest one and welcome to the total lack of efficientcy with only three of the 30-odd desks manned, all this at 23:00, after a good 10 hours being cooped up in an airoplane AND a national curfew of 22:00 long past, how on earth were we to make our way to our “homes” without some sort of legal breech?
Thankfully, there too was a lack of efficeint policing and the usually frenetically fast hi-ways were eerily deserted and we arrived in our dear friend’s blissful bubble of home with narry a blue-light encounter.
Bottom line is that South Africans, no matter where in the world we come in from, we find ourselves washed up together like shipwrecked flotsam and jetsam, back on home soil where, despite the muck and mess of political angstmaking, crippling poverty, overwhelming unempoyment and choking litter, we breathe in the warmth of our southern hemisphere summer air (even through the mandatory covid face masks) and breathe out a sigh of familiarity: Home!
We are gathering ourselves for a few months of reconnecting with our roots before we embark on the next northern adventure when hopefully the shipwreck, that the virus has caused, will be a little less wrecked!