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The Kindness of Strangers.

Posted in Life & Love, and Style & Travel

B+W school kid I’m no stranger to travel – at one point of my life I was spending 8 months on the road each year, living in busses and hotels. And the moment I had a chance – I would go on holiday: spending more time somewhere that wasn’t home.

You develop strategies to deal with the strangeness: little rituals that become home comforts. I used to carry scented candles for the hotel room, magazines (always) and a small plunger to make coffee. Regardless how well they try – room service coffee never gets there hot. And hot coffee first thing in the morning would sometimes make it possible to get up and start the process all over again.  Especially on difficult trips – and there were many of those.

I spent the week in Johannesburg. A city I grew up in but that has no real draw anymore – apart from the fact that my parents live here. They’re in Cape Town looking after Jack and visiting the nans, and I have been staying in their new house in a retirement community.  A lovely, compact space that comes complete with all the comforts of home.  Including plunger and favourite brand of coffee.

Home from Home
Home from Home

My folks have a couple of great pals who live down the lane and who graciously stayed up late the other night to let me into the compound. Security issues in Johannesburg mean that people cluster in developments that are patrolled by security staff. Home invasions and the violence and rape often attached to them have made people nervous. So entry to a place like this is carefully monitored. Of course if you live outside of the protection of paramilitary guards and money – all bets are off. And I wondered if the hundreds of people I saw walking through the fast gathering evening to taxi ranks – making their way home from affluent working areas to shanty towns, ever really felt safe.

We’ve been raising money for The Lunchbox Fund. And we have encountered nothing but generosity. Of time, money, advice, connections and introductions. Mostly from investment houses and young financiers – who get the concept and make the donation then and there. They have referred us on to the their friends and relatives who work in corporations – and again – receptive interest. Interest that will translate into action – I have developed a gut sense for it now. These guys mean what they say.

Restaurants and chefs too – signing on to become part of the Feedie movement. Translating meals in their restaurants into meals in school children’s hands. Literally. It’s beautiful to see.

Of course there is always someone who has to try and tear your arm off, intending to beat you to death with it. Happened twice – both times we shrugged, smiled and waited until they had stopped speaking. One was trying to improve his financial situation. The other was just an asshole that needed a gentle reminder: “no-one is forcing you to be part of this. We’re just telling you about it. If this isn’t for you; all good. We’ll move on.” He signed.

A while ago I wrote about some mean spirited criticism that had been directed at me and at a friend – targeting the work we do.  This week has wiped away any last vestige of annoyance. This city that is often characterised as being all about the money and not about the cause … has done us proud. If these men and women and their approach to the new South Africa are anything to go by – we stand a fighting chance.

I am writing this in a coffee shop – a branch of my favourite CT Seattle hang out. There is lovely music playing. The coffee is a perfect temperature and all feels right with the world.

Travelling might not be my favourite thing anymore. I miss my house and my dog and the kids. And right now, I am tired as hell. But it has all been worth it. This trip has given me my faith back. “So thenks-hey, Jozi.”

(all images copyright campari&sofa)

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7 Comments

  1. Jozi is so underrated. It’s a crazy place full of paradox but the vibe and people are amazing. You may be interested in a project friends of mine undertook to experience life in a township and to form relationships across the colour and income divide that is still so entrenched in our society. See http://www.mamelodiforamonth.co.za.

    September 24, 2013
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    • Absolutely knocked out by what they did. Wonderful. Hope to write a post about it.

      September 24, 2013
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  2. Elma Jonckheer
    Elma Jonckheer

    Have the fondest memories of a happy 25 years spent in Johannesburg.

    Elma Jonckheer.

    September 21, 2013
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  3. Beautiful post. Wish you the best of luck and will pray for your continued safety.
    Bill

    September 21, 2013
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  4. Sometimes I feel the same way… that traveling isn’t for me anymore. But usually that’s just a phase, and it passes. Because if you remind yourself of WHY you travel, the spark lights up again. The project you’re working on sounds really interesting – tell us more?

    September 21, 2013
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    • The Lunchbox Fund feeds the most impoverished and at risk children in SA – 65% of our kids live under the poverty line. 12mill kids in total – 4 mill of whom don’t receive food through the Government scheme. Many of these kids are AIDS orphans, from child headed households and alone. We feed them at school – so they get the benefit of being nourished and encouraged to learn at the same time. And – they are then included, nurtured and kept in the loop – by the moms and grannies who prep the food, the school feeding co-ordinator, teacher etc. So they are less likely to slip thru the cracks. Simple intervention – one hot meal – often their only of the day. Served at a place where they learn. In a way that is inclusive and teaches them how to interact with others. And with love. Works perfectly. Check out our website http://www.thelunchboxfund.org, and our great Feedie app/fundraising intitiative: http://www.wethefeedies.com

      September 27, 2013
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