Say hello to Africa!

“Wha… what’s the time?”

I glanced through half-closed eyelids at my illuminated watch. 5 o’clock… great. Stirring and moving my numb muscles, I remembered I was in a plane. To my right, Amandine was sitting, her head to one side with her mouth gaping open. I was extremely uncomfortable, (try sleeping when you’re sitting and strapped to your chair!), I was hungry but overall, I was tired: this was my second night in a row with a 4 hour sleep. It was then that I found out two things, firstly that my belt had undone and that my glasses were missing, the glasses which are supposed to last a year. I found them later stuck between my chair and David’s. The plane had movies though, so that was cool.

7:00: arrival. Once we were out of the plane, each carrying a bag on his back and pulling a sizeable suitcase, we decided to improvise. Great. We children weren’t exactly awake yet, so walking and following my parents while dreaming of a bed was not very pleasant. We went to an information centre and after a long talk decided to go to an “auberge de jeunesse” (like a hotel, but way cheaper) called Brown Sugar. A car would pick us up in 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, there came a prominent black man with a smile on his face. He introduced himself as Zechiel and shook each of our hands with a surprising good-humour. Anyway, we got to the car, getting inside and crumbling under our baggage, and he drove us to Brown Sugar. On the way, I glanced out of the window and understood what Johannesbourg being on a mountain meant. Regardless, I greatly appreciated the view. Zechiel, with his smile and casual laugh, tried engaging a conversation with weird subjects such as French weather and petrol.

Welcome Brown sugar! A nice sand-coloured building, complete with lush vegetation greeted us. A black man, thin, with surprising clothes and so much hair that it was tied up behind him, with an even bigger smile than our driver, readily shook our hands and learnt our names; his was Shawn. We had two rooms, maybe not the best but quite nice anyhow. When at last we were freed to explore, our parents took a siesta. The thought of sleep had been swept out of our heads. For security, I was to stay with Amandine at all times and David with Eric. There were many rooms, including a computer room (their machines were ancestors of our computers), and a bar with a pool table. Searching a little more we found a swimming-pool behind, with water so cold it should be ice. Although it is winter here, it is only in the night-morning that the temperature drops to 5 degrees, the rest of the time the heat and the sun were almost enough for sun-glasses. While David and Eric climbed trees and Amandine searched for rocks, I perfected some skipping-rope tricks. 30 minutes of skipping is sadistic on an empty stomach, as I soon found out. Whatever the case, this “auberge” seemed wonderful and we were truly enjoying ourselves. However, there did happen a little incident: Shawn (who I think is the owner of this place) was playing with Amandine, or should I say getting drenched by Amandine who had fought to get his bottle and was spraying him with freezing swimming-pool water. Both were laughing. Obviously, I was keeping an eye on her, because one is never too cautious. It did happen that at one time, due to confusion with David, we three boys ended up reading, leaving a dangerously unsupervised Amandine, who was playing with Shawn. Nothing came of this, except us being scolded by our parents.

1:30 = hunger, great hunger. Our parents awake, we decided to take a bite to eat. You should probably know that Africans are like the English in that they eat lunch at roughly 12 o’clock. As we walked in search of a place to eat, I observed with interest that every house, EVERY house, was thoroughly fitted with rows of spikes on their walls and gates. Some houses even had electric wires. This was maybe because a few weeks ago, there were riots and killings in the town we were in. By the way, Brown Sugar was the only place not protected by spikes, and our bedrooms protected by a measly glass door and lock. We’re supposed to be in a safe area though, so… After a fair amount of searching we found an African restaurant with seemingly nice food and comfy prices. We were led in by a smiling women and assigned to a 6 placed table. We then ordered our meals and waited with mounting hunger for the food to come. Well, we were fated to wait a long time. While the tables around us were being served, we just looked. An hour and a half passed. By that time, hunger had really taken its toll and Amandine was sleeping on our mother’s lap. When at long last the food did come, they had prepared it all except for one person, me obviously. They reassured me by saying they’d have it ready in five minutes. So it took them five minutes to make it? Interesting… The food wasn’t very nice, though by then we were really hungry. When finished, we asked for the bill (they seemed to forget this and clean every table before they gave it to us, we were the last ones left in the restaurant). When we got the bill, we found the price to pay was 100 rands more than what we had bought. (1 rand = 10 cents) We rechecked everything, comparing it to the menu until we asked for someone. The director came. His answer was:

“I’m sorry, the prices have changed”


“Your menu is the old menu, the server should have given you another menu.”

Ha ha, funny. We obviously complained and, after half an hour, finally got our price. We left 10 rands for the server. All in all, we had passed 2 hours and a half in this wonderful restaurant [sarcasm], including half an hour eating.

After this wonderful experience, we came back just in time for dinner at Brown Sugar. Ha.

The end of the day was passed looking at people play pool. I took a short time off cleaning my clothes with water and a little soap. I’m going to be washing them each day, so I might as well get used to it. At long last we were welcomed by our beds, oh joy! Only to have to wake early next day for breakfast, and finish with only one burnt toast.


One Response

  1. Wow Xavier, I hope you’ll be posting regularly, it was really fun to read!

    I’m really looking forward to reading the rest to come…

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