The last week in Lusaka was mainly uneventful. Teaching went well and the gym was used. We were all barely standing at work on Monday, still exhausted from our rafting adventures. I did have one exciting time though: dinner with a friend’s cousins.

That’s right, one of my DC friends, Dana whom I met on my trip to Jakarta last summer, has some cousins who are living in Lusaka for the year. The mom got a Fulbright; the dad and daughter are volunteering locally. I really loved getting to meet them and hear what it was really like in Lusaka. Unlike most American ex-pats, they only use local transportation; they don’t have a car. They made me the most delicious dinner of homemade bread, pesto, and pasta with a salad from vegetables in their garden. Just a few hours with them reminded me of that slower life pace I enjoyed while living as a local in Ibillin. It was also just nice to get out of the work mentality for a bit. A lovely evening, that’s for sure.

Patrick left before us, but Kelly and I were on time for our flight out of Lusaka. We arrived at The Grace in the Rosebank neighborhood of Johannesburg about 10 PM (June 24th). We were shocked to learn that going south to Johannesburg from Lusaka made such a difference in temperature; we were freezing in the truly winter weather. The front desk at check-in told us the high the next day would be 47*F. Our luggage had been checked through to Dulles, and I was wearing sandals. But sitting in front of the lobby fire warmed me up a bit. The Grace is hands down nicer than the Meikles and possibly better than the Mandrin Oriental in Jakarta (but not by much). I was most pleased to finally have a fan to help me sleep well for the first time in a month, but I was impressed that my bathroom kit even had bath oil and a comfy robe. The electric kettle sat next to five kinds of coffee, eight types of tea, and hot cocoa mix.

The next morning at breakfast I had the most amazing creamy scrambled eggs with salmon and chives–incredible, and the tea was delicious instead of tasting like green beans. (I kid you not, I had tea at the mission that tasted and smelled like green beans one day.) The dining room was elegant with wooden chairs, a warm fire, and a homey but elegant country feel and color scheme. Kelly came down for breakfast, and afterwards we decided to venture out and explore the city as best we could in just a few short hours.

Having called a cab to pick us up, we got in and headed to Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. The square has a statue of Mandela surrounded by shops. After barely being able to stop shaking long enough to snap a shot of each other in front of the statue, we hunted for scarves after acquiring cups of hot beverages at Mugg and Bean, a truly awesome coffeeshop chain in South Africa. Eventually we found scarves we could afford, and I found a pair of warm tan socks that were quickly donned as well.

Warmer now, we managed to find a taxi to take to the Apartheid Museum. The driver who was black told us about how where we were now was once a white only area. That he had to always keep his pass book on him and how no blacks were allowed in the area after dark unless they had a stamped piece of paper. The paper contained the stamp and signature of a white person and was only good for one day. His stories were a great way to prepare us for the museum itself. On the drive there, we passed the gold mines that had turned Jo-burg into a prosperous town.

The Apartheid Museum was very well done, if sadly cold because of the warehouse like building with cement floors and uninsulated walls. Again, I had my scarf wrapped around my head, trying to think warm thoughts, which wasn’t hard considering how my blood boiled as I learned more about the Apartheid.  I was really amazed by everything I learned about the Apartheid era. It was amazing to realize that the Apartheid initially came about being of the mixed-race communities and marriages surrounding the lower classes in Johannesburg. I was also surprised at how much I didn’t get through the display plaques: words they never defined, terms or events they didn’t explain. I wonder if foreigners feel that way when they come to the Smithsonian. The temporary display was about Nelson Mandela’s life. It was surreal but cool to see images I remember a kid but didn’t know what they meant back then.

We found a cab that would take us to Soweto, one of the townships where the whites forced blacks during segregation. Within four blocks of each other, you can see Desmond Tutu’s house and Nelson Mandela’s. Kelly and I were the only whites in the area, and we were clearly the tourists. When one of the neighborhood kids asked us for money, we had to wonder what had happened during the World Cup. South Africa is more like Europe than its neighboring countries, and the kids in this neighborhood with clean clothes and real toys obviously didn’t need the money like kids in the bush did. We wondered if less savvy internationals had actually started handing out money while sightseeing and made the local kids think that’s what tourists did.

We walked to where Hector Pieterson age 12 was shot in 1976 by police during a student protest of Apartheid. Near the memorial were flowers that Michelle Obama had placed just the day before on her visit to the township. The student protests started when the national government ruled that schools would teach in Afrikaans, a West Germanic language, half of the time. It was not a language known to black South Africans, thereby ensuring that they would do poorly in school.

We returned to the hotel and Rosebank mall to grab some supper before our evening flight. As we were climbing into the hotel’s car to get to the airport, Kelly spied the person’s name on the last drop off. “We know her!” she cried. Seconds later we were rushing up to the 6th floor.

“You know, Amanda Wilkins is a common name,” I started. “What if it isn’t her?”

Amanda opened the door and sure enough it was our co-workers. Hugs were exchanged, advice on what to do (and eat) given, and then we flew back down to our waiting car.

The flight home was mainly uneventful. Sadly, we arrived in Dulles to find that my bag was MIA. I am happy to report that they got it back to me a week later.

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