As the days ticked closer to Christmas, things got quiet at work. We had an end of year lunch at a restaurant by the beach which was really fun as I got to know everyone a little better and (finally) stick my toe into the Indian Ocean. I had seen the other side of this water body when I was staying in Perth, Australia and I remember thinking to myself at the time that Africa was ‘just on the other side’. And now here I was, looking back toward Australia. I was actually shooed away from the water after a few minutes by the staff though as I think they were concerned about my safety. I suppose this is a fair issue if you are serving alcohol beside the ocean, but I was still rather annoyed.
As one would expect with any office space, once everyone was out of the air-conditioned environs of the WGS office, I got to know my co-workers much better. Natasha, the office manager, surprised me with her preference for tequila, which I indulged (of course!) and all of us had a great time just chilling on the sand for a while. I have this theory that everyone you meet in life should be re-encountered near the ocean. If they don’t look out contemplatively to sea a couple times, then they are probably not very fun people. Everyone sitting on the sand that day look out to the horizon.
I also got to visit a predatory bird sanctuary with my good friend Michelle’s former co-worker and boss (Kira and Carl). They were having a grand re-opening so I got to see some rather rare predators in action. Vultures will ever be my enemy though- I have seen the animated Disney version of Robin Hood too much to trust those bastards.
Once the office was closed for Christmas, I had a couple days to wander around the province so I took a drive to a few waterfalls in the area (Howick and Kranskloof Falls) and just enjoyed doing a bit of wandering on my own. With all the warnings of carjackings and crime, there are actually some really nice roads in KwaZulu-Natal. Lots of green forest and rolling hills. It helps to be on the rainy side of the country. I imagine Cape Town is not so green just now with their horrible drought. Sorry for the lack of photos but the uploading capabilities of Word Press seem to be angry with my phone today. I might be able to work it out later with my laptop so stand by for updates if you are awaiting waterfall pics with bated breath. They were nice but not sell-your-kidneys nice.
One thing I love about the Southern Hemisphere is the fact that Christmas and New Year turn into sunny, warm holidays. Rather than being holed up next to a fire with ugly sweaters on, people get to sit outside or go to the beach. I was warned rather emphatically that Durban beachfront becomes a post-apocalyptic hellhole of traffic and humanity during Christmas so I spent the week with Michelle’s family in the Midlands. Their home is perched atop a steep driveway surrounded by lush trees with a beautiful view of the neighbouring valley.
We showed up with a hatchback full of gifts and food and I was adopted by her parents almost immediately. Peter is a well known botanist and Gyslane taught French at varsity, and is originally from Mauritius (a very small island in the Indian Ocean). Their friend Bernice from Benin was there as well, who was working on her PhD in biology. Opening of presents is done on Christmas Eve in their family, so everyone gathered around the Christmas tree in the afternoon of December 24th and sang carols- very old school and pretty sweet.
Along with her lovely sister, niece, and brother-in-law, I got to meet several member’s of Michelle’s extended family. It was so nice to be around a close group like that over the holidays, even if it wasn’t my own crazy relatives (you know who you are!). Much to my surprise, I had a small pile of gifts to open. I got a little choked up about this because while I am not religious in the slightest, generally there is nothing more isolating than a Christmas with strangers and the Dye family made me feel like I was one of them. This, above all else, was the best gift of all.