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Two Weeks in South Africa

September 1999

Where I work, vacations don't happen at specific times. They might not happen at all, or they can happen any time. In September of 1999, I began to suspect that if I didn't take a vacation soon, I might wind up in the not at all category. So I booked a flight to South Africa and left that weekend.

I didn't have much time to plan. In fact, the day of departure I was supposed to go diving in Musandam. I tried to get out of it, but I'd offered someone a lift up there, and he didn't seem to have any other way to get there. The diving sounded like it might be worthwhile, so I got up at 3 in the morning to pick my friend up at 4 so we could meet a dive boat departing 7:30 from Khor Fakkhan. The trip to Musandam was 2 hours each way. The diving was disappointing, but the way I look at it, you have to go often to score big sometimes, so this was a dues-paying trip. We got back to KF and got the boat out of the water at around 6 in the evening, and we were back in Abu Dhabi at 9:30 that night to drop off the tanks. So I was home at 10 at night with barely enough time to clean dive gear, eat, bathe, complete packing, and say bye to the family (especially to say by to Bobbi properly; happily, all missions accomplished).

My ride to Dubai, a taxi provided by the airlines, appeared at 11:15. I left in such haste that I realized I'd forgot my dive card so I called Bobbi on my mobile from the cab to scan a copy on our computer. Then at the airport I found a fax machine and had her fax it to me. At 3:45 a.m., 24 hours after I'd got up that morning and just 12 hours after my last dive of the day, I was on my way to Johannesburg. At least it was an 8 hour flight and I had a row to myself for stretching out, so I slept a lot of the way.

I got email from Clint in South Africa on what I wrote below. Clint said in part,"I did not get upset about your Kruger Park review because I can quiet clearly see that you don't know what the hell you are talking about and you certainly don't understand our people (both black and white) ." I responded that I didn't think anybody could really understand the changes taking place in South Africa who wasn't him or herself a part of that country, and it was to gain an inkling of such an understanding that I went there.

To readers of what follows, I would like to point out that there are observations and speculations here, and critical readers need to distinguish between the two. The observations at any rate will be of interest to other travelers. But Clint's comments, which I very much appreciate, set me thinking. The reason (I think = speculation) that it's so difficult to understand South Africans, black and white, is that even South Africans are trying to get to grips with this understanding. And one reason I myself am interested in the problem is that South Africa is in this respect a reflection of my own country, the USA, another major country in the world where anything approaching an apartheid regime has been in defacto force in the recent past. And if my experience growing up in the USA is any indication, understanding, if such a thing is possible, is a matter for each person coming to grips with his or her personal perspective on the situation there.

Let the adventure begin ...

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Last updated: January 16, 2000