Those Fashionable South Africans

We spent our first night in the country at a bed and breakfast called The Lily Pad. The owner’s name is Mandie, who incidentally shared the same name with Aya’s pre-K teacher. This pleased Aya to no end, and she spent a good part of the night asking Ms. Mandie as many questions as she could conjure.

The next morning we were ferried back to the airport by a guy (whose name neither Marshall nor I asked for) with a tribal tattoo in each earlobe and an impressive tan. Nadjah and Aya made it a point to let it be known how weird they thought his ‘ear coloring’ was. He looked every bit the reformed bad boy, and told us he had (reluctantly) moved up to Jo’burg from Cape Town for work with his wife and 2 kids. He gave us a brief history of South Africa from the perspective of a modern White South African, which was quite refreshing. He said that race relations in Cape Town were very different than they were in Johannesburg. The Blacks in Cape Town were different (I assume he meant less hostile) than the ones in Jo’burg. He chalked it up to tribal differences. He also mentioned that a lot of the Black guys that he works with are really unhappy with the ANC, but they are afraid to vote for any other party for fear that things would return to the way they were before. (I assume he meant apartheid.) It’s a legitimate fear, but an unrealistic one. The system of apartheid as it was enforced before would never thrive in this age. Any group wanting to become an oppressor would have to be far more creative than that.

As we said our good-byes to Tattoo Dude at the domestic flight terminal, I took a look around. Everyone had bundled up in boots, coats, scarves and hats. I looked down at the slacks and short sleeved shirt I was wearing. Was I missing something? I mean, it was cool – but the weather didn’t warrant the attire the masses had garbed themselves in…like some epic winter storm was going to hit the city ANY SECOND now! It was 60 degrees at the least.

However, if one is to dress for winter, they might as well do it right. 7 out of 10 women had the latest in winter footwear, from riding boots to classic black stacked heels. (The other 3 were airport workers and vendors, so they didn’t count.) For the most part, their outer wear was simplistic with natural make-up to match. As in any public place, there is always that one woman who manages to materialize in an outfit that makes you wonder if she has any friends, family or a loved one who had the kindness to advise her to go BACK to her room and take that –ish off. And like all those women, the superior look in her eye read that she was confident that she looked damn good – any advice to the contrary would be ignored. This woman was wearing red…from head to toe. And not the same hue either.

I didn’t feel bad about myself until I noticed other women doing the same thing to me as I was doing to them: people watching. Fortunately, I’d had a fresh change of clothes and neither Liya nor Stone had had a chance to smear me with their grubby little hands. I felt a little better.

Until…

We boarded our BA flight to Port Elizabeth. Being a domestic flight, it was a small plane, and held perhaps only 100 passengers.

“Where’s the TV?” Nadjah demanded.

“Yeah! Where’s the TV??” Aya echoed.

“There is no TV,”Marshall said calmly. “This is a short flight…only 2 hours long.”

The girls were appalled at the thought of having to spend any time in the air without in-flight entertainment, but they bravely soldiered on.

The crew came around and quickly dished out our snacks in a bag and coloring books for the kids. Suddenly, I heard Nadjah shriek above the noise of the engine.

“Mommy! Guess what? The girl that’s sitting behind me is called Malaika too!”

“Uh huh. That’s nice.” The child’s name is probably ‘Monica’. I thought. Who would name their child ‘Malaika’, unless they were a South Af…Oooooh!

“Oh Malaika, we have sooo much to chat about,” Nadjah gushed.

And that’s precisely what the pair of them did. I re-settled Stone in my lap and prepared myself for pleasant, enjoyable flight. As I closed my eyes, my nostrils were assailed by the foulest pong.

Oh sweet mercy.

Some of the people in our quadrant began to gag. The elderly Indian women in the seat opposite mine used a napkin to cover her nose, but I know it was to no avail. The stinging stink of Stone’s ill-timed diaper blow out permeated every pore of any fabric on that plane. These were the moments I hated as a single woman: watching and waiting for that harried mother to change her oily little rug urchin and giving the rest of us some reprieve.

Gasping for fresh air, I made my way towards the lavatories in the back of the plane. My progress was blocked by the meal cart in the middle of the narrow aisle. There was no hope for it. I would have to wait until the flight crew had served all the food, and they would have to wait to eat it until I had Stone’s stench locked away in the toilet.

“Oh…so you’re the culprit!’ cackled one of the male flight attendants mercilessly.

“Yes. This is how a man takes a poo. That’s man poo,” I said, feigning pride in my son’s ‘accomplishment’.

“Yes well, we’re all fortunate that this man is going home with you,” the attendant said.

Oh.

“Let me get the changing table for you,” he offered, pulling the table down. “Oo-ish. Look at how small it is in there! And you have to stand there alone with all that stink? Tsk, tsk, tsk…”

Heh. This guy was wicked oh!

“Yes…well…,” I started; but then I stopped. I needed to conserve my strength to fight off the fecal tempest awaiting me in my son’s shorts.

When I made my way back to my seat, Marshall was smiling. Better you than me, his face read.

Fortunately, the plane landed with no further surprises…that is until I looked back and saw that Nadjah was waiving ‘good-bye’ to her new friend Malaika – a little blonde haired, green-eyed South African girl.

What is the world coming to?