We’re in East London and I’m so itchy I could scratch my arms off. Both kids are fast asleep in an enormous king-sized bed (although there are bunk beds too, April decided to sleep with me and is currently right in the middle of the bed).
I finally have a moment to myself, but while I type, I am looking around the room for mosquitoes, my arch nemeses. I already killed one – a splash of crimson in my palm – but I refuse to go to sleep until I can be certain that there are no more in here. If you can recall my writing from our time in Mexico when April was a baby, there is nothing I hate more in this world than mosquitoes.
Blood-sucking pests aside, our first few days in South Africa have been a whirlwind. It was my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary a few days ago, and consequently, they had a big party on Wednesday night with many old friends. April and Charlie were the stars of the show, although in a rather uncharacteristic, jet-lagged moment, April fell asleep in my arms within minutes of the guests arriving. Charlie lasted much longer, and charmed every grandchild-envious person in the room. I think my uncle spent two hours making funny faces at her.
But there’s no rest for this poor sick family. Because of the unfortunate folding of the only reasonably-priced airline that flies from Cape Town to East London, we had to set off first thing on Thursday morning for Plettenburg Bay, the midway point between Cape Town and East London (1000km from Cape Town), where my cousin is getting married. It’s been a hell of a trip. I think my voice stayed behind in Munich, and the girls have infections unlike any I’ve seen before. Charlie’s eyes are gooping, so every time she wakes up, her eyelashes are glued shut. And April refuses to blow her nose, so every few minutes it sounds as though someone is sucking up the last remnants of a milkshake through a straw. There has also been unusually hot weather the last couple of days, so at one stage today, the thermometer in the car registered 39’C. It felt as though we were driving in a sauna.
I should stop complaining. The truth is, it’s already been incredible. I feel so lucky to be spending this time with my family. I haven’t seen much of my extended family for about a decade. And I have a great family. It might be small (I only have seven first cousins), but we spent lots of time together as kids, and as a grown-up, I cannot but acknowledge how solid these people are. As my brother and his girlfriend finally pulled into the driveway of our guest house around 11pm tonight, I realised that it is the first time in well over a decade that we – my mum, dad, brother and I, have been in the same place as my closest cousins, aunt and uncle. It’s just relaxed and wonderful. Plus, this time there is a hyper little princess and a chilled and chubby monkey thrown into the mix.
There are a few other excellent things worth mentioning about being back in South Africa:
1) When you go on long drives, you don’t stop at boring rest stops with fast food outlets, but farm stalls where they sell dried fruit, home-made cakes and biltong (dried meats) for superior snacking
2) Grapetizer and Appletizer (sparkling apple and grape juice) are everywhere and possibly the best thing in the universe
3) You don’t have to wear shoes. Ever. Even in the rules for the pre-school we’re sending April to, it says they’re not necessary.
4) When driving long distances you not only see cows, horses and goats (many of which are just chilling on the side of the road) but buffalo, baboons and other bigger exciting animals.