Alan & Kathy's Trip To Africa
September / October 1997
Part 5 of 6 - South Africa

Week 3 (continued)
Thursday 2 October 1997 (continued)

At Victoria Falls airport that afternoon Alan had the first signs of trouble to come, but it seemed to clear up. We flew to Johannesburg, where we changed some money and were met by Danny de Beer from Aspentech's office there. He took us to the Courtyard Hotel in Sandton, which seemed like paradise after staying the previous night in the best hotel in Zambia! Alan had a shower, then joined Danny at the AspenTech office for a couple of hours to plan a meeting the next day with a potential customer. About the time the meeting ended, Alan felt quite faint and thought he must be hungry. Danny drove him back to the hotel where he had a couple of cookies, then suddenly felt very ill and began to "empty out at both ends". Hoping this was just an isolated case of food poisoning, Alan had another shower and went to bed early.

Friday 3 October 1997

Around 1:00 AM the same unfortunate process repeated itself, so about 2:00 AM we found ourselves in a taxi on our way to Morningside Clinic, an excellent private facility. The doctor on casualty duty was from Zimbabwe, but had also practised in Canada. His initial diagnosis was also food poisoning, which should not last more than 24 hours. He provided medication for cramps, nausea, and pain, and said Alan should return if the problem persisted. We advised Danny de Beer that Alan wouldn't be able to meet the customer that day, then Alan rested. Danny asked us to keep him informed.

Saturday 4 October 1997

About 30 hours later, just when it seemed the problem was finally going away, it suddenly came back with almost the same force as before. And about that time, Kathy began to have some of the same symptoms. We tried to rest, but spent a very uncomfortable night.

Sunday 5 October 1997

At 6:00 AM we finally called Danny de Beer and asked for his help. By 7:00 AM Danny was at our door, and took us back to Morningside Clinic. The clinic was quite concerned, and sampled all our body fluids for testing. Kathy phoned our home church in Canada and asked for prayer. By Sunday afternoon we had the results of our blood tests, and knew it wasn't malaria or a bacterial infection, but that's all they could be sure of until the other tests were completed on Monday.

Monday 6 October 1997

The results of the remaining tests came through, and showed we had no parasites, so the only explanation left was a virus. We were advised to just wait while it took its course. By this time we had observed that the symptoms seemed to come in "waves", with the peaks about 30 hours apart and each peak weaker than the last, so we felt that we would be well enough to continue our journey on Tuesday with the help of some medication.

Week 4
Tuesday 7 October 1997

Danny de Beer had offered to take us to the airport, but was stuck in rush-hour traffic, so he phoned Amanda Strauss at the office, and she took us instead. When we reached the metal detector at airport security, Alan discovered he still had the hotel key! (He mailed it back later.) We boarded the aircraft and flew to Durban; a South African song from the 1960's says this trip takes "only eight hours in the Chevrolet", but SAA's Airbus did it in 50 minutes, barely reaching cruising altitude before starting their descent, and the efficient cabin crew managed to serve a sandwich and a drink in that time.

Unlike Johannesburg's big modern airport, Durban airport seemed just as small as when Alan passed through it into exile in January 1967. As we drove away in our rental car, Kathy noticed a strange noise coming from underneath. So we returned (not easy, as we had to back up all the way on a one-way street) and complained about the noise. They drove it around a bit and said, "Oh, that's not a very important noise…but if you insist…" We insisted, so they gave us another car, a blue Toyota Corolla which we found surprisingly comfortable for its small size, though hard to get in and out of.

971008c.jpg We got on the N2 and headed north through lush green countryside. After Zambia, we found the Natal weather refreshing at 14C and gently raining, like a pleasant autumn day at home. Alan knew that area well in 1967, but now there is a new network of "national routes" which he didn't recognise at all. We were north of Durban, past Umhlanga and on our way to Stanger when Alan realized he'd missed a turnoff. We stopped at a modern gas station near a country club to study our map while we ate a sandwich. Returning to the N2 we headed south, found the N3 turnoff , and after wandering around in Pinetown found the M13 which took us to Peter and Jill Frow's.

Alan was delighted to see the Frows for the first time in 30 years. In 1964 when Alan was a "fresher" at the University of Natal, his date for the Fresher's Ball stood him up at the last minute. Jill saved Alan's evening by going with him as a blind date at a few minutes' notice. Alan occasionally ran into Jill on the campus after that, and she often invited him to the Student Christian Association (SCA). The SCA shared an office with the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). Alan was a NUSAS officer, so he saw the SCA's notice board daily. One day in August 1965 the SCA posted a notice about a "camp" that weekend at Botha's Hill, and Alan asked Jill if he could attend. "Sure," she replied, so Alan went, not realizing it was counselor training for a planned week of evangelism of the campus.

That Saturday in 1965 Alan understood, for the first time, the good news that God loved him and had sent Jesus to pay for his sins, so that he could enjoy a personal relationship with God. This message was validated for Alan by the way the joyful, loving relationships between the SCA members. That evening Alan sought out Peter Frow and said "Peter, I am now certain that despite being christened and confirmed and sometimes attending church, I am not a Christian because I do not have what you people have. Is there any way to be sure I am a Christian?" Peter quoted from the New Testament, Revelation chapter 3 verse 20, where Jesus says "Look! I'm standing at your door, knocking! If anyone listens to me, and opens the door, I'll come in." Peter explained that each person must open that door to allow God into their own life, and Alan could do that by asking God to come in, and offering God the rest of his life. Alan did so that evening, and his life changed direction in a way he could not have imagined.

NUSAS strongly opposed apartheid, which was why Alan had joined. In 1966 NUSAS invited Robert Kennedy to speak against apartheid in South African universities. Alan resigned from NUSAS shortly after that, because its internal politics were incompatible with his new Christian faith. However, in 1967 the South African government retaliated against NUSAS; many of its officers were jailed without a trial, put under house arrest, or expelled from South Africa. Despite having resigned from NUSAS a year earlier, Alan was forced to leave South Africa at three weeks' notice, ending up in Canada and out of touch with his old friends for 30 years.

At Alan's 1997 reunion with Peter and Jill they showed us some scrapbooks from the 1960's, including a letter Alan wrote them a week before he became a Christian. He was surprised that they did not yet know they had been the main instruments God used in 1965 to bring him to the most important turning point of his life. That night Peter and Jill's friends visited for a community supper, then we went to bed.

Wednesday 8 October 1997

On Wednesday morning Peter took us to site of the old Methodist campsite at Botha's hill where Alan became a Christian. It is now part of a school, and staff houses have been built there, so the old buildings are gone; not much was recognizable, but we could still make out where the outdoor amphitheatre used to be where Richard Peace and Michael Cassidy addressed the SCA group and Alan 32 years earlier.

971008a.jpg Then we left with a hand-drawn map and found our way to Ridge Road in Durban, where according to the guide book elephants still roamed in the 1850s. Making our way along Ridge Road we came to the University of Natal, where some buildings looked exactly as they did 32 years earlier. The Electrical Engineering building has grown from two to five stories, and a library has been built outside it in what used to be the middle of a road. Where there used to be stairs going up from the road to the Student Union Building - the very spot where Alan asked Jill if he could go to the SCA camp - there is now a part of the library, and stairs go down from the library to the SUB.

971008b.jpg But much of the campus was still the same, and we were able to go inside a few buildings. We saw the Memorial Tower Building, Howard College, and the Electrical Engineering Building. There we were met by Professor Broadhurst who took us around the building to see the electrical machines and high voltage labs which Alan remembered, and the classrooms where he'd studied in his final year. On the wall, Alan noticed the graduation photo of the Class of 1968 - the class in which he would have graduated, had he not been evicted from South Africa.

Then we went across the street for a quick look at the SUB, where the sight of students writing exams brought back memories - in 1966 Alan walked out of his final exam to find his father waiting in the lobby of the SUB with the news that "Mum died last Thursday". He had flown from Zambia to tell Alan personally.

From there we drove to see the student residences, and the corner grocery store where Alan and his friends used to buy Cokes and ice creams. That evening back at the Frow's house we attended their regular weekly Bible study. As the group was praying that our tummy troubles would be completely cleared up, the family dog suddenly emitted a huge burp. Everybody laughed, and for one moment we thought of the incident in the Bible where Jesus cast out demons into a nearby herd of pigs.

The Frows put us in a room with two single beds. Alan's bed had one squeaky part that made a sound like a goose each time he moved - it would even squeak when he breathed in deeply, and again when he breathed out. Alan found this quite funny and began to laugh, and of course the bed squeaked in rhythm with his laughter; even though he suppressed his laughter, his chest heaved up and down and the bed laughed for him. Then Kathy laughed at that, and Alan laughed at her, and all the while the bed laughed with us. It was almost too much!

Thursday 9 October 1997

971009a.jpg On Thursday morning we said goodbye to the Frows and drove the thirty miles to Pietermaritzburg, where after some searching we found the African Enterprise Center. What a beautiful property they have, bordering on a national park. Originally the Centre was a farm, and the farmhouse is now the dining hall. They've added many other buildings in the same architectural style, with student residences at the bottom of the hill and offices at the top. In between is a chapel, in the middle of a lake, in the middle of a huge lawn.

There are also meeting rooms, and this is where the Africa Leadership Development Centre (ALDC) instructs Christian leaders from all over Africa. David Gleece, who works with ADLC leader Phineas Dube, gave us a brief tour. We also delivered some packages we had brought from friends in Vancouver to relatives in Pietermaritzburg.

From there we found the main road to Kokstad and soon passed through some lush green hilly farm country that was at least as beautiful as the English countryside, and on a larger scale. After that we passed through drier country, and finally entered the former Transkei. Some of the towns had become quite run down during the days when the former South African regime granted them so-called "homeland" status, a kind of local independence subject to overall rule by the central government. They reminded us of towns we had seen in Zambia.

It was dark when we reached Kokstad, where the guidebook said we would find two hotels and a motel. The motel, which was by far best place, was already full due to heavy commercial traffic. The better of the two hotels was pretty sleazy and in any case had already locked up for the night, and the other hotel had recently been demolished. We returned to the motel and asked if they had any other ideas. A young customer who had worked as a trucker in the area warned us not to go much further until morning, because vehicles had occasionally been shot at during the night. He recommended Ingeli Lodge about 30 km away, and the motel was kind enough to phone and book us in there.

Ingeli Lodge was pleasant and comfortable. Like many hotels, each room had a ring binder describing the hotel's services; the difference was that the last section of Ingeli's binder had a brief but clear presentation of how to become a Christian. We asked about this at the front desk the next morning, and they confirmed that the owners were Christians.

Friday 10 October 1997

On Friday morning after a full and leisurely breakfast at Ingeli Lodge, we crossed the rest of the Transkei on our way to Grahamstown. Some Transkei towns looked just like the rest of Africa, crowded and untidy and apparently developed without much planning. We stopped in Umtata for fuel and Alan went inside to find Kathy some Diet Coke. While he was away from the car, Kathy had the fright of her life. She saw a man running toward our car with a machine gun pointed at it, but then he ran past the car and was apparently pursuing someone else.

Perhaps he was a guard or a policeman associated with that fuel station. For security, businesses along the South African highways group themselves together - a fuel station, a restaurant, a grocery - around an enclosed "services area" linked to the highway by a single, easily defended driveway. They then hire security guards. This reminded Alan of the way the Voortrekker ancestors of those business owners used to circle their wagons at night to form a laager.

One services area had a large illuminated sign advertising "24-hour toilet". Kathy remarked that with our illness a week earlier, we'd had a "72-hour toilet" stop in Johannesburg!

Back on the road, we saw a few potholes, and we were overtaken numerous times while going up hills where it was completely impossible for the overtaking driver to see if anything was coming the other way. Quite often a vehicle would then appear on the brow of the hill, forcing the overtaker to cut in front of us, just missing our front bumper. We saw a large truck lying on its side beside the road, with another truck from the same firm pulled up alongside of it, and a huge crowd gathering from the nearby houses - about two hundred people already, and more coming from all directions.

In another town, the road was blocked where an accident had just occurred, and one of the drivers was directing traffic around the accident. In another place we stopped for a red light, and just as it turned green and we started to pull away we were passed by a driver who crossed the centre line and headed directly for the lead car pulling away from the light in the opposite direction. The overtaker was forced to cut in front of us and almost caused a three car accident - probably more, as there were two lanes in each direction and to avoid hitting him, we moved perilously close to the other driver going our way. It seems there are a lot of impatient drivers in South Africa!

As for speed limits, we drove 10 to 20 km/h over the posted limit wherever it seemed safe to do so, but despite that, the only vehicles we passed were old, heavily overloaded "bakkies" (pickup trucks) and minibus taxis. We do not recall passing a single passenger car all the way from Durban to Cape Town - the local drivers all passed us.

On Friday afternoon we arrived in Grahamstown, home of Rhodes University, where the guidebook listed only three places to stay. We parked outside a museum on the university grounds, and a very nice gentleman with a British accent showed us a guesthouse right across the street, then came back to mention that there was also a nice hotel at the top of the hill. With further directions from some students we found the hotel, a collection of little cottages around a lodge. There was a replica of a Voortrekker wagon in the yard; we thought how brave those pioneers must have been to travel into unknown and probably hostile country in such small, flimsy looking wagons. You have to respect their courage, whatever you think of their attitude toward the pre-existing population. Kathy, who grew up on a farm in Paraguay, had first-hand experience of such wagons in her youth, and seeing one again had an emotional impact on her.

That night we visited David and Katherine Forsyth. David works at the university, and it was through his web page that Alan connected with him and he traced Alan's friends the Winters. The Forsythes have three children, two dogs, four cats, and at least two horses, and all except the horses live in a nice home not far from the university. David's latest passion is kite flying, and he showed us a large kite he was building. We brought fast food from the Wimpy bar (the best burger chain in southern Africa, named after the hamburger-munching J. Wellington Wimpy in the Popeye cartoons) and enjoyed connecting "in real time" after exchanging so much e-mail before our trip.

Saturday 11 October 1997

971011a.jpg On Saturday morning, the Forsythes met us at our hotel and we made the short drive to the top of the hill. There we saw the pioneer settlers monument, which not everyone in Grahamstown admires. There was plenty of wind on the hilltop, and David showed us how to fly a real kite - not the toy kind, but the large ones kite enthusiasts prefer. At least we tried; Alan crashed it over a fence and into a tree, at least learning that flying a kite is harder than it looks. Kathy did better, but only with lots of help from David.

After a pleasant morning with the Forsythes we got back on the main road and made our way south to Wilderness. The trip was safe and peaceful and the scenery very beautiful. In Wilderness we visited Dennis and Ellie Winter, and it was like coming home after a long trip. They served us a great dinner and made us feel so welcome that we hated to admit that we would be leaving the next day.

The Winters are very creative people, and showed us all kinds of beautiful things they had made with their own hands. Ellie sews and makes jewelry, and Dennis repairs antiques and makes beautiful cabinets, including one that displays his collection of ancient artifacts which he uses to teach Sunday School classes.

971012a.jpg Kathy went to bed at 11:00 PM, but Alan stayed up talking to the Winters until 1:00 AM about the old days, and all the changes in South Africa, and what had happened to all of us and our families.

Sunday 12 October 1997

The next morning we had breakfast and chatted with the Winters some more, and then reluctantly said goodbye and got back on the road again. We motored south along the Garden Route and through the most beautiful green country, all the way from Wilderness down to the Cape Vinelands. We crossed Sir Lowrey's Pass, where the highway has been built on the side of a mountain so steep that one side of the road has been cut deeply into the rock while the other side stands on concrete stilts five storeys high. Finally that evening we reached Cape Town.

With some help from people on the street we found the home of Alan's friend Dave Smith, who wasn't home when we arrived. His son Chris invited us in, and later his wife Sheila arrived home from work. Not long after that Dave phoned home to ask whether we had arrived yet. Sheila said "perhaps later", as we were preparing a surprise for Dave. That night Chris directed us and we drove to Dave's place of work. As he left the building, Alan greeted him and Kathy was there to capture it on video! It was quite a reunion after more than 30 years. We stayed at Dave and Sheila's home from then until we returned to Canada.

Monday 13 October 1997

We took advantage of our first "non-driving" day in nearly a week to catch up on sleep and laundry. Dave also showed Alan around the local shopping centre, where Alan found a number of foods he hadn't seen in years such as Maltabella porridge, Weet-Bix, Black Cat peanut butter, and other foods from his youth. We were also introduced to Chris's parrot, Miss Muffet, who took a liking to Alan and sat on his shoulder pecking at his teeth while singing to him.

Week 5
Tuesday 14 October 1997

971014a.jpg Dave took us for a sightseeing tour. We drove to the top of Signal Hill, with its great view of Cape Town. The cable car to the top of Table Mountain had been out of service for months for renovations, and had just been re-opened, but the line of cars waiting to get to the cable car lower terminus stretched halfway down the mountain, so we decided not to do that.

971014b.jpg We were followed around Signal Hill by guinea fowl hoping for a free lunch, but always staying far enough away that they wouldn't become OUR lunch. Near the top of the hill Dave showed us a shrine where Muslim saints have been buried.

Later we drove around the Cape Peninsula. The view from up in the mountains was awesome. At one point we saw a whale surfacing in the sea below us. Down at the beaches the scenery was beautiful, and (perhaps because it was very windy) there were huge waves. We stopped in Fishhoek to visit an art gallery and have lunch. The restaurant offered omelettes with fillings individually priced, like the toppings in some pizza shops, and we ordered so many fillings that we almost created a kind of "egg pizza". At one of the beaches we ran into a film crew; at another we watched a man flying a kite which produced so much lift that he occasionally rose off the ground.

On the return trip we visited the Rhodes memorial, where we saw engraved in stone the poem that used to be printed on Rhodesian paper money: "The immense and brooding spirit / Still shall quicken and control. / Living, he was the land. / And dead, his soul shall be her soul." We stopped at a delicatessen on the way back and bought some fancy sliced meats (some of it made from wild game) and arranged them artistically on plates. When Sheila returned from work and saw it, she asked "whose birthday is it?"

Wednesday 15 October 1997

We set this day aside for buying souvenirs. Dave took us to a place near Cape Town's railway station where vendors have set up a street market. As we found our way through the maze of vendors we bought a carved wall plaque of Africa with Zambia highlighted, a bead necklace, a crocheted lady's hat and matching jacket, and a carved elephant and several buffaloes to remind us of Nzou and her herd at Imire in Zimbabwe.

When we returned to Dave and Sheila's house we phoned Michelle. Although we had calculated the time difference correctly, our mid-morning call was her wake-up call, as she was sleeping late after studying hard for an exam the previous day.

971014c.jpg We also had a visit from Kevin Boer, who had placed the newspaper ad that reconnected Alan and Dave after 30 years apart.

Thursday 16 October 1997

We began the day in Table View where we visited the Starkeys. David was at home, but to see Jenny we had to drive to their church where she was teaching in the new Christian school. The school was just getting established, so there was a lot of construction in progress. The school uses the ACE curriculum (Accelerated Christian Education) which allows children to learn at their own speed from programmed workbooks. We saw the beginnings of science and computer labs, and arranged to meet the Starkeys for dinner on Saturday.

In the afternoon we visited music shops looking for albums by the Soweto String Quartet, and found both of their albums, Zebra Crossing and Renaissance. Back in Goodwood we visited the shopping centre near the Smith's home where Kathy had veggie pizza and Alan had chicken, then watched a movie billed as a "romantic comedy". We didn't like the movie, but loved the theatre with its reclining seats, something not found even in the latest theatres in Canada.

Friday 17 October 1997

971017a.jpg We had arranged to visit Pat and Beryl Walden this day in Hermanus. Rather than take the direct route we took the coastal road, which hugs the side of mountains that go straight down into the sea with hardly any beach or shore. Like much of the Cape, the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. The Waldens live in a pretty home in walled retirement village. They had prepared a delicious lunch of quiche and salad with a home-made fresh garlic dressing.

Pat reminded Alan that when Alan lived at #12 Oleander Avenue in Luanshya, Pat and Beryl lived across the street at #13. We showed them our photos and video of Luanshya made just three weeks earlier, and reminisced about the old days, particularly RADOS, the Roan Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society. During Alan's teen years he and his mother attended every RADOS production and ran the coffee bar during intermissions, while Pat often played a leading role in the play.

Alan gave Pat and Beryl a 1965 photograph taken by Andrew Hayward, Luanshya's professional photographer, showing Alan's parents arriving at Luanshya's Little Theatre. In the background is a poster advertising the play Teahouse of the August Moon, produced by Dennis Sutton, with Pat Walden playing the Japanese interpreter. On seeing this photo, Pat retreated to his den for a moment and came back with the program for that play and a newspaper review confirming his mastery of the role. Looking at the advertisements in the old program revived in Alan many memories of Luanshya as it was in his youth.

Pat is still a great actor, as we saw when he told the story of his first visit to South Africa. His impression of a customs officer from the "old" South Africa enforcing the "old" rules had us laughing, though in the old days nobody would have dared to laugh.

On the way back we took Dave and Sheila's advice and stopped at Houhoek farms to buy some delicious farm produce.

Saturday 18 October 1997

971018a.jpg After a relaxing morning, we visited the Starkeys in Table View in the afternoon. After a very nice visit at their house, we went to dinner with them at a Mediterranean seafood restaurant near the Table View beach. We had a wonderful dinner and talked about the old days, our families, and all the changes in South Africa. Kathy had half a chicken, but it was only a small one!

Sunday 19 October 1997

971019a.jpg In the morning we went to church with Dave. His church sings "a cappella", and they know how to sing in harmony. Like the Starkey's church, Dave's church was just starting an ACE school. Meanwhile, Sheila stayed home to prepare the food for a "braaivleis" (barbecue).

971019b.jpg Dave operated the braai (as one American woman wrote about barbecues, "men will cook if danger is involved") and we enjoyed salads, chicken kebabs, pork chops, boerewors (farmer's sausage) and even "barbecued sandwiches" which were new to us. We finished with trifle, a traditional treat containing cake, jelly, and custard. What a great meal!

That evening we visited Andrew and Priscilla Kaye. Like Alan, they came from Zambia, studied in Durban, and belonged to the Student Christian Association. They told us that in the 1970's when Andrew was in business in Zambia, thieves broke into his office, stole what they could and left him tied to a chair. Realizing that they could just as easily have killed him, he decided to move to Cape Town where he started another business.

The Kayes attend St. James' church, which became world news a few years ago when terrorists entered the church and machine-gunned the worshippers, killing several people including some visiting Russian sailors. The Kayes did not go to church that night because of bad weather; if they had, they might not be here now.

971019c.jpg After the Kayes served us a wonderful dinner, we sat on their verandah where they have a beautiful view of the Cape mountains. They told us that Alan's high school math teacher, Mrs. Daisy Greer, named her daughter "Luanshya", and Luanshya Greer grew up to be a novelist whose books have been translated into several languages. She is probably the only girl ever given that name, since it means "Valley of Death"!

Monday 20 October 1997

We could not leave the Cape without visiting Dave's parents, Clifford and Trudy Smith. Because both of Alan's parents died long ago, it seemed very special that both of Dave's parents are still active and well. Alan spent much of his youth visiting their home and was very keen to see them again, so we made one last trip across the spectacular Sir Lowrey's Pass to the small, peaceful town of Napier where they have retired.

Trudy had prepared a delicious lunch for us and we reminisced about the old days in Luanshya. Alan recalled the day in 1964 when he waited outside Luanshya High School for the return of a school expedition that had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Alan was there because his best friends Dave and Martin were on the trip. As he waited by himself Trudy arrived, and rather than join the knot of other parents a short distance away, she sat next to Alan and chatted with him until the bus arrived. In that time and place the generations did not mix socially, and Alan has never forgotten how honoured he felt by Trudy's egalitarian act of friendship.

971020a.jpg After lunch we looked at our photos and videos of Luanshya taken three weeks earlier. Then we walked round the garden and enjoyed the many birds. We also showed the Smiths our family photo, and Trudy made Alan's day by remarking, "I can't imagine little Alan having four children!"

With some reluctance we eventually tore ourselves away and made our way back to Dave and Sheila's place in Goodwood.

Week 6
Tuesday 21 October 1997

On our last full day in Africa, we managed to squeeze in a little last minute shopping for canned guavas, Mazoe orange squash and other things unobtainable in North America. While we were trying to fit everything into our suitcases, Dave was rewiring his TV and stereo system. In the midst of all this activity there was a knock at the door, and there stood Dave's brother John who had come to see us before we left the hemisphere.

Alan was delighted to see John again after 32 years. As Dave's older brother, John had owned the stereo on which Alan and Dave played pop music in the early 1960's. As he also owned most of the record albums, it was important to stay on John's good side. John was also Alan's patrol leader in the Luanshya Sea Scouts, so their relationship was quite unequal then.

But over the years Alan, John and Dave each committed his life to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, and Alan truly enjoyed meeting John again. He told us about the Word of Life church he was attending, and that his wife Dorothy works with the Women's Aglow ministry.

We discussed with John the increase in crime in South Africa and the apparent inability of the government to contain the problem. John saw a silver lining to this in the formation of many private security firms, each patrolling a certain neighbourhood. Because these patrols are funded directly by the people they protect, they bring neighbourly co-operation and accountability into local policing. Alan saw some merit in that, particularly when compared to some of the actions of the state police under the previous regime.

After John left, we went out for dinner with Dave and Sheila at the nearby Spur Steak Ranch. This chain was celebrating its 30th year, which was ironic because that was exactly the length of time Alan had been away from Africa. As we found throughout South Africa, the waiters were young, polite and very friendly, and interested in learning about your country. They also had a habit we don't usually see in North America - when taking your order, they would squat down to bring their eyes down to your eye level. This was very relaxing for the customer, but must be hard on the knees and could help to explain why there were no old waiters.

The restaurant manager, on hearing that we were from Canada, asked us if we thought a restaurant like his would succeed in North America. We said that the excellent food and atmosphere would be a big hit, and children would love the souvenir menu and free comic books, but he might experience opposition to the restaurant's Western theme because it relies on cartoon stereotypes of native Americans. This came as a surprise to the manager; he understood the need to respect South Africa's ethnic diversity, but had not realized that the same issue exists all around the world.

Back at Dave and Sheila's home we sang a hymn, exchanged gifts, talked some more, shed a tear or two, and finished our packing. We finally got to bed at 2:00 AM...

Wednesday 22 October 1997

...and we woke up at 4:00 AM to drive to the airport. On the way there we got slightly lost and had to double back, but we still reached the airport in time for Kathy to get a window seat. After takeoff the pilot flew all the way down the east side of the Cape Peninsula and then back up the west side while slowly gaining altitude. This was a special treat, and he even gave permission for video cameras to be used soon after takeoff, so Kathy captured most of the beautiful peninsula and the west coast north of Cape Town on video. Thanks to clear skies all the way, she also captured the sand dunes of the Sahara some hours later, and also the moment when we crossed from Africa into Europe, with Gibraltar and the entrance to the Mediterranean clearly visible below.

At Heathrow we had the foresight to look at our baggage tags. We discovered that our bags had not been checked to Vancouver as we had be promised in Cape Town, but only as far as Heathrow. So we found them, claimed them and then re-checked them to Vancouver. This meant we had to exit the customs area and immediately re-enter it ("nothing to declare!").

Since we were now in the same time zone as Monica, who was then living in Galway, Eire, we used the time between flights to give her a long call.

Then we were off to Vancouver. Our plane was half empty so we had space to stretch out - and we needed it! We arrived in Vancouver at midnight, which for us was 10AM. We had been travelling for 30 hours after only two hours' sleep. It was great to see Peter and Paul at the airport, and they saved us from trying to drive home in our exhausted state.

Thursday 23 October 1997

We arrived home at 1:00 AM and crashed into bed! Alan had planned to go to work the next day, but had to call in sick. We had not realized how hard we had been going those last few exciting days in Africa. It was a week before we had fully recovered from that and our jet lag, but it was well worth it for the trip of a lifetime!

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