When I arrived in Cape Town in October 1994 the newspapers mentioned it was the coldest winter in ten years. There was snow right on Table Mountain. And I was told just before I took the plane that spring was on its way.
I have to admit, I came to South Africa with the barest of knowledge of the place and its people. All I knew about Africa came filtered by Hollywood’s misleading eye. Friends and family were warning me about lions and gorillas roaming the streets. Chanting tribal folks with spears. Yeah, ignorance is easy to catch and feed. It is still an effort to explain to those back home that this place is just like any other place in a lot of ways.
In terms of the weather, it took me a while to work out that this place has its seasons backwards. Even back home December was colder than most times of the year. Here it is summer. Winter begins to hit around June and July.
Now I sit here, 9:00 AM watching the summer breeze gently rustling the greenest leaves of trees. Our Christmas tree stands in the corner, lovely and bright with all the glittery decorations two seven-year-olds could hang. The biggest tree we’ve ever managed to get. It is dressed up to look like a tree in winter, of course. Winter in the middle of summer.
The mind is a strange thing. What it remembers and what it takes in remain a mystery. I have memories of midnight Christmas masses, the cold air before dawn, the warmth of people. It is very different here. It has taken me a long time to say that this, too, is now home. I am lucky to be with family.