Me and Mike atop Lion's Head
The past few days have been full of both South African and American hospitality, and a combination of the two. On Sunday, we celebrated the 4th of July with a South African braai by the pool at the bed and breakfast. Bob arranged the event, complete with a grill, veggie burgers, sausage, chicken, vegetables, and traditional malva pudding to commemorate the day. Celebrating an American holiday in a foreign country is not new to me, but nonetheless it felt strange. I suppose that’s because, in the past, when I’d celebrate Independence Day overseas, it’d be in the presence of dozens of other Americans from Embassy families. But here, only our DukeEngage group met (with the presence of Mike, the other Black Sash intern, and Michelle, who’s on an independent project in Hout Bay). After the braai, some of us went to Long Street to continue the celebration. But, the street and clubs were mostly empty, and there were only a handful of others adorned in U.S.A. apparel. That was somewhat startling, though not entirely unexpected. (However, I will admit, the desertedness could have also be attributed to the fact that it was a Sunday night). It was interesting, though, that the American holiday went so unnoticed. I expected at least moderate recognition of the day, but there really was none at all. It was just odd to think that, while I was sitting at a quiet, empty bar in Cape Town’s “going out” hub, people back at home were watching fireworks and socializing. But, celebrating the 4th of July in South Africa gave me a new perspective. It made me realize how much pride I have for my national identity. And while I always celebrate the fourth at home, I didn’t realize how much I appreciated it for its patriotic quality. Yet, despite the lack of fireworks or large crowds, I still felt a bond to the other Americans I passed on the streets, and America itself from afar.
As I’ve mentioned previously, Will and I have been working on a living history project through Black Sash to document the stories of the original Sash members. So far, we’ve interviewed 13 women. There are many more whom we’d like to interview, but unfortunately we’re running short on time and likely won’t have the opportunity to complete all of the interviews that we’d like.
Tonight, Will and I were invited to have dinner with a Sasher, Candy Malherbe. Born in the U.S.A., she moved to South Africa in the 1950s when she married a South African man. Candy has demonstrated the kindest hospitality toward Will and me, from inviting us to tea at her house several weeks ago, to cooking dinner for us tonight, despite the fact that she is over 80 years old and has Polio. She is an incredibly intelligent and well-informed woman, and we were able to talk with her not only about her time in the Black Sash and South African politics, but American politics as well.
Her generosity was obviously not expected by Will and me—this is a woman we had never even met a couple of weeks ago, yet she invited us to her house for tea and then for dinner! This hospitality in South Africa, exemplified by Candy’s actions, made me so appreciative of all of the kind people we have encountered in South Africa, particularly through our Black Sash interviews. These Black Sash women invite Will and me, complete strangers, into their homes. They serve us tea and biscuits, share their stories, and demonstrate genuine interest in our lives. I’m not sure whether this hospitality stems from their love for the Sash, South African principles, or just a kind nature. But, regardless, none of it has gone unnoticed.