My first weekend in Durban I sign up for a Graphic Illustration workshop at the KZNSA, which is walking distance from my apartment. As the weeks are already getting away from me, I know I must jump at these opportunities, even if I still have unpacking to do. Adjacent to the in/outdoor cafe and gift shop is a two-story gallery space where exhibits are constantly changing and I notice that classes are held.
It doesn't matter much what class it is, I'm chuffed (I'm learning new words) to spend three steady hours drawing or whatever just to surround myself with with other artists. Graphic Illustration attracted a group ranging in age from 13 to me. We sit around a small table, all materials provided and begin to do small intuitive sketches as the framework for a mock poster. Background, middle and foreground elements were encouraged. We share our sketches and experiment with Photoshop layers on the computer. I am not the least bit surprised when my assigned doodling turns into a character from Disney’s “Hercules” movie. Sam and I have been watching lots of movies together.
The following Monday we leave for Grahamstown, newly renamed Makanda and the annual National Arts Festival. (I learn that streets and towns here often go by their old and new names.) We arrive after a nine hour drive with an overnight stop, midway at a B and B in Maclear.
With every visit to South Africa I gain a more intimate knowledge of the landscape because of the drives we take through the country. On this particular trip, North to South, we climb roughly 4000 feet into mountains and about halfway, return to sea level, ears popping. The vistas are a paintbox of natural tones, ranging from yellows and greens of the grasses, to the iron infused reds of the soil to violet mountain ranges as the day’s light changes. I am painting all this in my mind. Background, middle, foreground again.
I am coming off a miserable flu that feels worse because my muscles are sore from my first workout with my new trainer. I've never had a trainer, but I choose to join the gym around the corner because I can drop in anytime to walk the treadmill. Ally has been working with Marna since the beginning of the year and we decide to share the one-hour sessions as one of our
'girl times,' something we've sorely missed for years upon years. Pinch me, please.
Sitting in the car for 12 hours, my wellbeing returns. The forced rest and the magnificent views heal me body and soul. Matt chooses an inland route that avoids the bustle of highway traffic. The road carves a new awareness in me about the ever unfolding beauty of the country. I sense a deliberate plan to the South African landscape especially the farms. It seems superbly balanced in all its randomness.
We pass small stucco houses painted the colors of sherbet. In the countryside, towns are tiny dots between vast uninhabited spaces. Workers in their colorful shirts in the fields, pop against the earth tones. Orange orchards, chickens , banana stands.
Arriving in Grahamstown, we are received by my son-in-law’s parents at their home on the outskirts of the main village. It is my third visit there. Sam is always the guest of honor and grandparents scoop him from his car seat for hugs. Trudi is a rock star with Sam and I am happy to mellow to the essence of chopped liver rather than keep up with the surprises she has prepared for his stay. Her thoughtful hospitality unfolds for the rest of us as well.
Most of the year, Grahamstown is a sleepy town with cows and donkeys wandering the streets and students studying at prep schools and universities. The National Arts Festival brings an influx of festival goers and doers and every public building, and alley in between, is alive with art and creativity.
A gentle rain continues since we arrived, precious moisture during a period of drought. Last December everything was dry, all growth compromised. Habits of water conservation continue here. Buckets stand in the shower to catch overflow. Sam’s bath water is saved to flush toilets.
What is reiterated for me is the preciousness of our resources.
My flu returns with a dreadful sinus infection. I visit Doctor Fred, the family physician at his office. I learn what real bedside manner is about. He takes his time. He asks the right questions. I'm in good hands. I take antibiotics he prescribes and try to rest so I can participate in the Festival.
In spite of my ills, we attend ballets, concerts and plays, a bubble-blowing extravaganza, art galleries and a huge craft market. I even take a writing workshop with a professor from Rhodes. We celebrate Sammy’s 3rd birthday with a braai (a wood and coal fired BBQ), share lunches and coffees with friends and shop for pottery and art to bring back to the new place.
After two weeks away, I'm missing Durban and look forward to settling in to life there for the remaining and quickly passing months.