If there is ever a town that is shallow and conservative in South Africa, Oudtshroon is not it. Yes the language there is Afrikaans, but there is another language unspoken but louder than words. One has to be blind not to read the genuine smiles and open heartedness of the people of this Little Karoo town. The friendliness I found just cut across all the reservations I was harbouring and sank right to the depth of my heart, so much so that I felt right at home.
On my first day, I found myself in George with two heavy boxes and a suitcase back. Alone and out of my comfort an instant feeling to be Masutane the girl from rural village kicked in. Truth is, that’s the only person I know who to be. The first person I greeted and asked for directions to my destination for a connecting transport to Oudtshroon, offered to carry my boxes while I pushed my light suitcase hand luggage. While following him I kept working it out in my head how much his helpfulness was going to cost me. I had learned that in towns you cannot so much as ask for directions from the guy in the street if you are not willing to part with a few silver coins. To get around in big cities it has become a norm to bride one’s way in and out of certain situations.
After walking a long distance the man saw me safely to the taxi and directed the driver where to drop me. Out of courtesy I offered to give him something for a “cool drink” as a way to show my gratitude. The gentlemen would have none of it and insisted that Thank you was more than enough. After much protesting Namhla finally agreed to take R10, just to make me feel better!
Oudtshroon ‘s people might as well been Balobedu from my home town from they way I found myself relating to them. The generosity was nothing like I have ever experienced before. It could be because small town people appeal to me, but on my second day a couple who hardly knew a word of English was fight to take a picture of me when I asked. The husband in his drunk state probably wanted to brag his English abilities to his equally feisty wife who wanted prove to her husband that she was more advanced with technology than him. At the end I had won hearts and got smiles as a reward.
No where in the world can you tell a street sweeper that you are lost and looking for a certain street that they leave what they are doing and take you to that street. This certain man also couldn’t communicate in English, but when he heard Bloem Street and being lost, he dropped everything and beckoned me to follow him. There was nothing in my village gut that said I couldn't trust him and I just knew he would lead me to where I needed to be.
My last day I was walking up the street looking for a shop where I can have my shirt printed. The man next door Rudi Lourens offered to teach me to play a guitar while I waited for the women at the printers to design and print my shirt. In between they would ask me if I wanted anything to eat or drink, so much that forgot I was in town where people supposed to be caught up in the day's business that they forget to care.
At night I might as well have been staying at home. The family that offered their house as a B&B remained me so much of my own family back at my home village. The children would come and go into my room as if I wasn’t not a visitor but a sister who always stayed with them. It brought back memories of sharing a room with my sisters growing up. When you brought up into a big family there is no such thing as privacy. This was my experience with this family.
The only thing that made me remember that I was in a different world was the kids in the morning. Little kids always get to the heart of the matter. Every morning I would wake up with a this two little kids in my room staring at a stranger in their home. On the second day the young girl looked at me for what seemed like ages and after me if I spoke Xhosa after a while. I laughed and told her that I spoke Sepedi.
Its her logic that impressed me the most, because she cannot have been a second older that three. I saw myself in her. One day when she is old she will go to my village and get to experience what I experienced in her town of Karoo.
At the end of my trip although my goal at the KKNK was not accomplished it was hard to see my trip as a waste. Once again is thanks to those believe in my potential and know that lessons I got there will ensure a bigger and better next time.