Johanessburg, South Africa

Jan 3rd 2001, 2pm

Joburg – Reflecting on a unique Christmas

A little late, considering I’m backing in Melbourne, but I thought this experience was worth writing about. Having tried desperately but unsuccessfully to book a flight home before Christmas Day, I accepted that my millennium Christmas would have to be shared with a different family, in different surroundings.

I had been staying with and was looked after by friends of friends from Melbourne for about ten days. Having picked me up from Kevinannesburg Airport about December 6th, I became their honorary son for three weeks. I used their home as the base for my African adventures to Zambia and Zimbabwe. Cooking, cleaning, all the pampering you could imagine, from people I’d never met before. I accepted their hospitality with open-arms, sure to never forget them or the experience, and hoping that we might cross paths in Australia some day.

Christmas was similar to home and no less enjoyable. I attended mass with Graeme and Eileen both on Christmas Eve and morning. The morning service was followed by a hectic few hours, making preparations for the big lunch as Eileen’s family would join us. About 10am it really began to warm up. In Africa sometimes the hottest time of the day occurs before midday. Eileen busily barked instructions at Graeme and I, just like my mother would. She worried whether there would be enough food to go around and if the presents she’d bought would be satisfactory. Of course, everything ran like a charm. The presents were fine and there was enough food leftover to feed an army.

At dinner, my travel adventures were the subject of conversation, although I only shared the edited version with her family. I was treated like a long-lost cousin, and was even given presents. It was truly memorable. Unfortunately, my evening was cut short. I checked my luggage, changed into more comfortable travelling clothes and was driven to the airport by Eileen’s brother. Despite appreciating the hospitality and the unique Christmas experience with warm, generous people I was glad to be heading home after almost 10 months away.

Before I finish, I must mention Christmas dinner. What an amazing feast! Will never forget that triple roast meat dish. Duck inside chicken inside the turkey. Such a clever idea. Thank you Eileen and Merry Christmas.