January 13th 2000, 8:25pm
A fitting end
Christmas in Johannesburg is my last journal entry. It has come a little late considering I arrived home a few weeks ago, but this experience cannot be overlooked. Well, here goes. As I travelled across Europe in the autumn, I tried desperately to book a flight home before December 25th. Being unsuccessful, I finally accepted that my millennium Christmas would be shared with a new family in new surroundings.
I flew into OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg (South Africa) from London on December 3rd and was met by Graeme and Eileen, relatives of my sister’s good friend back home. I would become their honorary son for the next three or so weeks as they allowed me to use their beautiful home and spacious garden as the base for my African adventures (cf. Victoria Falls and Safari in Kruger National Park).
I must say – I was spoiled (or spoilt). Cooking me wonderful meals, cleaning my clothes, taking me sightseeing, and introducing to other people my age. All this and more from people I’d never even met before. I accepted their hospitality and kindness graciously, and in return offered to help out by washing dishes or cleaning the pool whenever necessary. Also, should our paths cross again in Australia someday, I hope to take them out for a special meal to say thank you.
Bus tour – good way to see Joburg
My Christmas in Johannesburg was similar to one I would have at home and no less enjoyable. I attended mass with Graeme and Eileen both on Christmas Eve and again the on next morning. The morning mass was followed by a hectic few hours preparing for the big lunch as Eileen’s family would join us about 1pm. At altitude in South Africa the hottest time of day can occur before midday, and it had really started to warm up by 11:30, so I left my cleaning duties for a quick dip in the pool.
On my return, Eileen continued barking instructions at Graeme and I, just like my mother would be doing if I were in Melbourne. She was worried about whether there would be sufficient food to go around, a reasonable variety of drinks, and if the presents she’d bought would be satisfactory. Of course, everything ran like a charm in the end. The guests unanimously approved of the presents, the beverage options, and there was enough food leftover to feed an army.
My travel adventures were the main subject of conversation during lunch, the relaxing afternoon and early dinner, although I only shared a milder version of my antics. They treated me like a prodigal son and even gave me presents. It was truly memorable. Also, I must mention Christmas dinner. What an amazing feast! Will never forget the triple roast meat dish. Pieces of juicy duck inside a tender chicken inside a huge turkey. Such a clever idea, and such an exquisite blend of flavors. Thank you Eileen and Merry Christmas.
Beautiful sky, day or night.
With my flight departing at 10pm, my delightful Christmas Day was cut short. I double checked my luggage, changed into more comfortable travelling clothes, and said my goodbyes. I then headed to the airport, kindly driven by Eileen’s younger brother. I am so appreciative for Eileen and Graeme’s hospitality. The opportunity to share in a unique Christmas in Johannesburg – a fitting end.
I sat at the airport gate reflecting on the countless experiences I’d had over the previous 10 months. I was probably smiling or even laughing to myself. Then on board the two flights to Perth and then Melbourne, it hit me. My milliennium year, my journey, was all over. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. However, what I did know was that our world is full of generous people. We are blessed with unbelievable places to visit and amazing activities to try. Was my journey worth the effort and the expense? Absolutely!
(C) Paul Johnson and Johnson English Service – 2021