Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

We are now in Port Owen on the west coast of South Africa. We arrived last night about 8:00 pm. We try to arrive a new places in daylight, but the events of the day did not allow for that. We started the day with a visit to the penguin sanctuary in Betty's Bay. Then we returned to our home for the week in Hermanus where we waited three more hours for our found luggage. We finally were able to leave for Port Owen at 4:00 and had to make a stop at a mall to return some items we no longer needed and pick up camera batteries left for charging. Thus our late arrival in Port Owen.

You noticed the good news there I am sure. Linda got a call on Wednesday with the news that some of our bags had been found at the Durban's King Shaka Airport. Since we had been told to expect nothing back, this was a nice surprise even if they arrived much later than promised. Just to get much of our stuff back was like an early Christmas present. And just like Christmas, the anticipation was palpable as we did not really know what to expect.

But this is really about how wonderful people in South Africa have treated us. That story begins in Zulu Nyala where the manage and his staff were always available to talk and help us understand the things we were seeing. Rohan, our personal guide, was more than helpful in identifying birds and being willing to talk about his life as a South African, much more than what a guide should be required to do.

I already talked about the great staff at the Beverly Hills Hotel and the magnificent treatment we received there after the robbery. That continued at our next stop, the Hermanus Beach Club in Hermanus. Charmayne, the manager at Hermanus, and her staff helped us at every turn, providing advice on places to go and helping us deal with the remaining efforts to fix things with credit cards and phone bills. She even allowed us to use her personal laptop when needed websites were unavailable. On the last day of our stay, they allowed us to stay in our room long past check out time and then wait in their very small office and served us with coffee and tea as we whiled away the long afternoon waiting for the promised bags. When Linda asked if there was someone we could write a letter to extolling her virtues, her response was that this is just the way things are done in South Africa. Certainly, our experience here supports that notion. We left her a bottle of wine anyway.

Another person who went way above and beyond is MarlÄ—, the manager at FotoFirst in the Somerset West Mall. When we explained our predicament and the need to recharge camera batteries she said she could do that for us since she did not have one that would work for my Pentax camera. Three times over the course of the week, we stopped by the mall on our way elsewhere to to drop off or pick up batteries. To top it off yesterday she gave me a Pentax charger she had found. I will have to find a cord to get it to work, but that should be not a problem at a good computer story. Her friendliness and helpfulness will be remembered for a long time. We left her with a nice bottle of wine as well.

Finally, last evening after dinner here in Port Owen, we had a nice long conversation with the chef after our wonderful dinner. When I asked him about the changes in South Africa, he was qyite forthcoming. He was classified as Coloured which place him above blacks, but below whites and Indians. His comment was that he is happy that the ANC (South Africa's ruling party) is finally realizing that people like him have needs, too. It is not just about black and white. I have had this conversation with several here in South Africa now. I'm always a bit hesitant to ask because the question strikes me as a bit personal, but the responses have been quite forthcoming and without hesitation.

So you can see why I said at the end of the last entry that this is still one of the friendliest places we have visited in our travels. We will surely be back and hope that some of the people we have invited to visit us if they come to America will take advantage of our offer to repay them in a small way for being such great hosts to these strangers from America.

Sorry about the lack of pictures. While the internet service here is excellent, I can't get any pictures from the camera to the computer. Pictures may have to wait until we get  home - or at least to a different computer.

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