by Marijke Hillmann
You have been on my mind quite a bit lately…….
When I think of you a kaleidoscope of memories comes crashing down, tumbling over each other, flashing images, the smell of charcoal, the raucous cry of the Hadeda birds, your glorious night skies – how I wish I could bottle some of you.
1973 takes me back to the Tsavo Game Park in Kenya, to a total eclipse of the sun. A sudden chill in the air, the chirping of the crickets ceased, the leaves on the trees no longer rustled, birds stopped singing, an eerie silence. Then the light faded and nature died a little death.
One starry night in 1987 saw us sitting on a blanket in the middle of the Namib Desert with bated breath until finally the heavens opened up to us to reveal Hayley’s comet in all its glory.
I can still feel the awe at my very first sight of an elephant on a road in Zimbabwe and it was in that country that I walked around a gigantic Baobab tree, peering into its cavities to look for elves and gnomes.
But let me take you back to the day, newly married and 22 years of age, that I first met you when our boat docked in Cape Town Harbour. My first impression was one of utter fear as I observed several figures squatting around fires on the quay in the dusk, warming their hands over glowing embers. All I could see were balaclavas with slits, displaying eyes that looked enigmatically at us as we leant over the rails. “You never told me we were going to gangster land”, I sobbed and refused to budge from the ship until morning.
The next day our fellow travellers took bets to see whether we would be able to pile two suitcases, seventeen cardboard boxes and ourselves into our brand new blue beetle. Manage we did, although for the next five days my arms and legs had to be forcefully pulled from underneath the luggage every time I needed to get out.
Eventually we crossed into Zambia, the Promised Land. It is there during the next seven years that you got under my skin, albeit together with a number of Putse flies, when one day I omitted to iron my shirts properly. But that is a subject for yet another tale about you.
Marijke writes a monthly story for us. She write our segment Stories in Africa, and her stories will some day become a novel. For now please enjoy them, we are honored to have her work on our site. You can find more of her work here.