by Marijke Hillmann
A mining town in Namibia – early 80’s
I am hosting my first dinner party in this multicultural society where the right-winger rubs shoulders with the liberal; where in the mining community one is judged by the husband’s ‘GRADE’. The latter is to be gleaned from one’s company vehicle, the company house and its location. The habitat of the privileged few is situated at yonder side of the Jordan Creek (Mr J being a leader of the Trek-Boers way back in the 1880s).
Should they happen to live on the wrong side of the track/creek, so to speak, some ‘wannabe-grades’ relentlessly pursue their hobnobbing on the golf course, by hosting lavish dinner parties, or organising G&T-steeped canasta afternoons.
Coupled to this is the multilingual diversity of the country: Afrikaans, German and English as well as several indigenous languages such as Oshivambo, Herero and Nama, to name but a few. The political conflicts are building up in the region and permission has to be obtained from the military to leave the town or to travel in convoy to Windhoek, the country’s capital…………..
Enter moi, the ingénue, your hostess: newly arrived to these parts, my only concern being the limited stock of not-so-very-fresh vegetables and the dinner table setting.
The table is laden with Indonesian ‘rijsttafel’ dishes; soothing classical music is selected to fill any gaps in the conversation (!). Our dinner guests are a mixed bunch of people, invited because they seem friendly but mostly because our children have befriended theirs.
A few minutes into the main course the E-word enters the conversation:
“E L E C T I O N S”
I try change the topic, to no avail. The music stops – no one cares. My crisp white linen serviettes are used to wipe overactive facial sweat glands – no one notices. My lovingly prepared food is randomly heaped onto my best china and carelessly masticated in between vociferous utterings. Would they even notice if I sneaked the cat’s droppings into their bowls, I wonder rebelliously?
Still arguing the guests leave at midnight expressing their thanks with heartfelt embraces for a ‘most wonderful evening’.
Bawling, I polish the dessert, the chocolates and the wine and wake up with a hangover to the delivery of a flower arrangement, sent by one of the (male) guests with an apology for the inappropriateness of the dinner conversation.
Marijke Hillmann writes a monthly story about Africa for our site. You can find out more about her and the time in her life she is writing about here: African in Short. https://www.everywritersresource.com/shortstories/africa-in-short-by-marijke-hillmann/2013/