During the Christmas break our two college-age kids came back to South Africa for the last time. I wanted to do a epic trip with the entire family and since I’m the one who plans the trips I chose an epic overland trip around Botswana,…
For the Thanksgiving break we went on a road trip to Lesotho. We went to the Malealea Lodge and went on an overnight pony trek. We ate KFC for Thanksgiving.
We decided to head down to Soweto to see where the 1976 Soweto uprisings began. These events are remember as a public holiday in South Africa, named Youth Day. Read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soweto_uprising
Jason and I both agree in that in the past couple of years we have gone soft. I’m not talking soft as in squishy bellies (though we have gone soft there), I mean soft as in not very tough.
Eight or so years ago, when we were checking out the Foreign Service and when Jason was first accepted to the State Department, we talked a lot about all of the sacrifices we would have to make in this major lifestyle change. Places like Western Europe were not even on our radar. When we imagined our upcoming life, we imagined going to places like hard-core Africa or other tough Third World countries.
We imagined we would have to give up most of our modern American conveniences. I pictured myself having to make our bread or our family having to go without power or running water for extended periods of time in countries with infrastructure issues. I imagined spotty Internet and cell phone coverage; boiling our water and cleaning our produce with bleach. And we were prepared for all that. We were prepared for major inconveniences. We had a “Bring It On” kind of attitude when it came to hardship.
Then our first assignment was Taiwan–very First World. Taiwan was easy. The hardest thing about living in Taiwan was that the grocery stores weren’t very good. But we had Costco, so no one complained.
Then we moved to Jordan–not as First World as Taiwan, but the diplomatic bubble that we lived in was pretty cushy. No, we didn’t have Five Guys in Jordan, but who needs Five Guys when you have AMAZING humus and flatbread. Jordan wasn’t much of a sacrifice. The hardest thing about living there was that we couldn’t drink the water.
Then we moved to Africa–surely we would have to sacrifice here. But South Africa isn’t typical Africa. The area where we live and work is as First World as our hometown in Utah. Every once in a blue moon our power will go out for a few hours and then we remember we live in Africa. But when that happens, our generator kicks in, making us the only house on the street with lights (we feel a little guilty when that happens). It’s no sacrifice to live in South Africa. Our street just got fiber and I just came from lunch at a pretty decent Mexican restaurant with my friends Amy and Mindy. Pretty much everyone has housekeepers and gardeners. Anyone who has lived here knows that South Africa is “Africa-lite.” Woolworths is nicer than any grocery store I’ve been to in the U.S. and we can take our family of six out for steaks for around $40.
So now we’ve been in South Africa for almost two years. We have just over a year left on this tour. Very soon we will start the bidding process for our next post. We don’t have our bid list yet, but we have a projected bid list. Though it will change a lot before we start the actual bidding process in a few months, we have a pretty good idea of what we have to work with. And this is where our softness shows. When we talk about what looks good on the list, it’s places like Geneva, Vienna, Munich and Stockholm that get us excited. We’re thinking that places like Kiev or Moscow would be too hard.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ADVENTUROUS COUPLE OF EIGHT YEARS AGO?!!
I am determined to toughen up!!! Bring on New Delhi or Hanoi! How about Havana, Panama City or Nairobi?! We could do it! We’re tough! We could handle it!
But then we notice Wellington on the list and the thought of living in cushy New Zealand throws all our toughness talk out the window. We really have gone soft.
On a recent trip to the South coast of South Africa, we went for a hike around Robberg Nature Reserve. The reserve is right outside of Plettenberg Bay.
It took us just over a week to drive through Botswana to Victoria Falls. Along the way, we stopped at Khama Rhino Sanctuary and Elephant Sands. We also visited Chobe National Park for a safari, but we saw more animals outside the park around Kasane…
On this trip we racked up over 2300 km to find lions. We traveled to Twee Rivieren in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Then on to Mabuasehube in Botswana.