South African hospitality

Monday, Sept. 10 — This past weekend I learned more about South Africans’ wonderful hospitality. On Friday night, Elsie, the sister-in-law of my host, Pedro, took me out to dinner for the second time in the week, because “guests should not eat alone.” Elsie, her friend Celia, and I had a good meal and great conversation at a Greek restaurant.

On Saturday, I spoke with one of the people working in my apartment complex who told me about rural South African weddings. He said in the countryside, the wedding usually lasts eight days. And although just about everyone in the village is invited, anyone who shows up is welcome. His culture truly understands and practices community engagement. He does not have that sense of community in Pretoria, and he misses it.

On Sunday, my colleague Willie Meyer invited me to a zoo, a boat ride and then a braai (barbeque, pronounced brei) at his home in Hartbeespoort with his wife, three daughters, two sons-in-law and several grandchildren.

I ate way too much meat and salad, which was just fine with me. But it seemed like every few minutes after we ate, I was being given another “typical South African drink.” Then Willie, his sons-in-law and I retired to his basement den, and in honor of Pavarotti, we listened to some of his recordings, then just played a variety of classical music while we continued to drink yet more typical (alcoholic) South African after-dinner drinks. (They were delightful.)

Eventually I realized that I had to drive 40 minutes on the “correct” side of the road on a route I’d only been on that morning, and decided it was time to go. Also, South Africa’s rules about drinking and driving are strict, with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 and above illegal. Otherwise the evening would have continued for hours.

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