by Wenda Dottridge
You know that old saying, be careful what you wish for.... Well, I can relate.
Remember that first week back to school when your jeans and sneakers were still stiff and new and the kids, save a few shy, scared souls, were the same old, same old. And the teacher would always announce the first writing assignment of the year. Altogether now, "What did you do on your summer vacation?"
Other kids went to camp and slept in cabins with real live bats or shared their first kiss behind that same cabin. Other kids went to Hawaii. Or to the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) in Vancouver and regaled us with stories of monster roller-coasters. Or they drove in a motorhome to Prince Edward Island. And every year, year-in, year-out, I went to visit my grandparents in Saskatchewan.
Don't get me wrong. I treasure the memories I have of endless blue skies and shimmering air dancing atop fields of golden wheat. Of drawing fairy rings in the dirt road as my cousin and I scoured ditches for bottles to sell to the corner store. Of long days roaming the prairie, hunting gophers (mostly unsuccessfuly), dodging bulls, searching for litters of kittens in hay stacks, and inspecting the gravestones of Osterholds who'd come from Germany via Nebraska and found their final home in the fertile soil of "the breadbasket of the world."
But the thing is, to me Saskatchewan wasn't exciting. And above all I craved excitement. I had this burning desire, even as a child, to see the world.
And I did.
As soon as I was old enough for my first oversees school trip I saved for a year to go to Europe. The next year, I was an exchange student to Japan. I lived in Nebraska and then forced myself back to Saskatchewan to gain an education. I took a summer job in the Canadian arctic (as a lifeguard, no lie) and organized a work permit for England. Was recruited to South Africa by my now husband, and lived there for two years before, you guessed it, we moved to Saskatchewan.
And so this year, while other families went to Vancouver (for the PNE? I don't know if that still happens!!) or to Saskatchewan, our family trekked to Holland and South Africa for most of July.
See what I mean. All my life I craved travel, and now, because of family ties that matter, I get to travel overseas every two years or so. How great is that?
Except now that I'm a grown up the lustre of travel is less fun than I imagined. Forget about cost and just deal with moving five people to the opposite side of the world. It's no small undertaking, let me tell you.
And as wonderful and worthwhile it is to see family and friends, travel to South Africa is tiring. Exhausting, really. Don't get me started on horror stories of doing this trip with toddlers. I still burst into tears just thinking about it. And just when you've acclimatized, it is time to turn around and do the whole trip the other direction. Gulp.
One day I was driving my son and a friend home from a basketball game. The friend said to my son, "When I grow up I'm going to Australia. And then I'm going to live in England. And then I'm going to live in South Africa." My son asked, "Why?" Friend: "Because I've never been anywhere and I want to see the world." Son: "Yeah,. I've been those places and I'd rather stay home."
And here we'd spent a small fortune taking our children around the world and exposing them to other cultures and societies, and he wanted to stay home!!
So, when our long-planned 2010 trip to South Africa finally arrived, five pretty jaded travellers packed their bags and set off for the airport.
We looked forward to the reunion with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends. But travel, well, it mostly just...[insert word my teens are not allowed to say around me].
In all our preparations, we hadn't counted on the FIFA factor.
Instead of just visiting people, we arrived in a nation rejoicing in its accomplishment of hosting the world. We saw more of the pillars of Apartheid crumble as black and asian and white South Africans came together to celebrate...well, just celebrate their success against all odds as a nation.
In an earlier blog post I wrote about the miracle of the 1994 elections. When we arrived in South Africa just five weeks after that crucial triumph of democracy it felt like the country was taking its first full breath after holding it for a decade or longer. This time, it was like South Africa was laughing out loud.
To say we had a fantastic vacation is an understatement. We had a blast! Travel rocks! I'm so glad I got what I wished for.
|On morning game walk - iMflozi, KZN |
|African dawn - Hluhluwe, Kwa-Zulu Natal|
|Vulture hovering over elephant carcass - Hluhluwe, KZN|
|Grumpy bull mock charges our car. Hluhluwe, KZN|
|World cup fever, even in the grocery store!|