A South African Christmas

My first Christmas out of the U.S., without family. Friends are the next best thing, and what do you know, but that a friend of mine was from Limpopo and was home for the holidays! Here are some of the best photos for our visit.

Nape Mothapo (Nop-ay Moe-top-oh). Nape and I started and finished our M.S. degrees at N.C. State in Soil Science the same time. It was one year ago at Mary's and my Christmas party in Raleigh that I had mentioned I was looking into this job in South Africa and we realized it was very close to where she was from. A year later, here we were.

With her last few days here, Brandon and I pleaded and pleaded to spend Christmas with Nape and her family. She said of course. We made our way for 6 hours in a public taxi (a 14 passenger van) from our farm to Ga-Mothapo. Yes, that's her surname. Her family founded this village way back, and it is still mostly Mothapos living there today.

We got to spend time with two of Nape's brothers, James and Ntuck, and her parents who graciously welcomed us into their lovely home. Mrs. Mothapo spared no expense in cooking us a feast of deliciously spiced chicken, fried fish, mealie pap, and many side dishes. We were also told if their grandfather were still alive, he would have literally slaughtered a cow for us. Mrs. Mothapo teaches up the hill at the primary school. Nape's father is known in town as being the guy who fixes and sells El Caminos (he loves that car). This is just his hobby though as he teaches in the secondary school down the hill.

It was surprising how similar our Christmases are. The focus is on family and food. They come from all over to spend this weekend togther. Since they don't have a Thanksgiving like we do, this is the holiday where they cook turkey, ham, and everything you hardly eat the rest of the year. They go to church the night before and morning of. The rest of the time you sit together, talk, and watch TV (most of which is syndicated American programing)! We even watched programs about southern African animals that were only hours away from where we were sitting! In South Africa, they only do trees and presents for young kids, presents are necessities like clothes, there's no Santa, no lights, only the mall is decorated for it, and it is summer. I can count the number of trees I've seen this Christmas! That's impossible in the U.S.!

After the first round of food, Nape and her brothers took us on a tour of the area and we saw the schools where their parents teach, where they had gone themselves. The scenery was breathtaking, and to them it was where they've had to collect water, wash clothes, and played as kids. Children shouted at us to take their annoying siblings with us; people stopped us to just be in a picture with us; one woman yelled out a dozen times to us "Where were you? Where were you???" Nape's brothers laughed and we kept walking. I was so confused and didn't respond. Later Nape said she was trying to ask "How are you?" That was hilarious.

This was more than just food and friends though. For Nape's family it was an honor. We were the first white guests to ever enter their home, and were two of the few who have ever been to their village. Indeed, when we had taken the taxi to the village and were waiting in front of the post office for Nape's dad to pick us up, everyone looked; most starred; some said hi; many were kind to make sure we knew where we were; and only one was rude to us thinking we were Afrikaaner or "white" (which means English decent). Some people thanked us just for being there, saying, "White people never come here." To think I was a living token of Nape's achievements in her education in the U.S., and that Brandon and I were breaking racial barriers that have only been allowed to be opened since the mid 90's. Our presence was a demonstration of love, hope, humanity, and equality. And I was just going to see a friend for the holidays.


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