Once Upon a Time I Lived in Africa
The arrival of winter in BC was confirmed during our morning walk in the forest above the house. A chill in the air and frost on the wooden walkway next to the sea. Fog among the trees and the distant peaks already showing off snowy scarves.
As we walked, I thought of the many places where we have left our footprints. In the soft warm sand of the Kalahari, the cool damp sand on the beach at Le Lavandou and the icy boardwalk along the frosty boardwalk along the Pacific amongst others.
Meandering around the world has brought its rewards, the excitement, the anticipation and sometimes the big surprises. But what about my origins? Where I came from, the environment that shaped me. The basis of my value system. The place that will always have a special corner of my heart.
What is worth contemplating and what should be discarded. How do I share the stuff that made up my world before I had to move away? This reminded me of a time when I, as settled immigrant in the new world, had to take stock of my current status, of where I fit into the scheme of things.
I was sitting in the business lounge at Los Angeles International Airport. I had spent the past week at the Jet Propulsion Lab campus at Caltech and was on my way to my current home in Vancouver, Canada.
The guy in the smart business suit sitting across from me was listening intently to the phone conversation, in Afrikaans, that I was having with my eldest son.
Bruce Springsteen was bellowing ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ in the background.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
I told him.
He looked incredulous, “No! You’re kidding right, you’re not even black!”
This has happened to me so often in the past, I just shrugged. We boarded and after takeoff I started thinking about growing up in a magic land, with tales and myths telling the agony of punishing droughts and the indelible markings of war.
Sharing the ecstasy of huge rolling thunderstorms over waving green grasslands, the sweet smell of the bright yellow flowers clinging to the bent arms of ancient thorn trees. The home of lions, elephants and where vast herds of wildebeest and zebras stirred up clouds of dust, tinting the sun as a bright orange disc on the far horizon.
Where you could see the lofty stare of a giraffe, hear the cry of the fish eagle, feel the warm embrace of the hot sun. Home of the springbok and the protea.
A place where stars can be far away suns, or the red and white glow of burning roots thrown into the sky by an angry bushman girl.
A place that I knew so well, a place with people like no other. People I once knew, people I still know. I wanted to share the stories I remembered, to discuss the myths I still wondered about.
It was then that the realisation came. I suddenly knew I had to share some of the stories with people who would understand and those who have never been put under her spell.
Share some of our secrets, take you there, show you what it was like to grow up in a magic land.
I knew I had to write a book about that magic land.
Kobus de Villiers is a retired aeronautical engineer. He grew up in the Free State. After serving in the Bush War, he lived, worked, and studied in several countries around the world. He still does some consulting and builds contraptions in his workshop. He lives with his French wife in Vancouver, Canada. He shares his stories and photos with Howzit on this blog, aptly called “Slypsteen”
Kobus’ books can be ordered on Amazon.
In South Africa, you can find his books through Malherbe Uitgewers.