As unpronounceable as it might be for us foreigners, Hartbeespoort is actually quite a well-known place amongst Jo’burgers. Just one hour away from the big city, the small resort town located on the slopes of the Magaliesberg range is the go-to place for who want to escape from the frenziness of the city, reconnect with the wild and enjoy the deep blue sight of its famous dam.
Nothing compares to the thrill of relocating to a new country. You start anew. It all looks much brighter and shiner. You feel like a 2-year old kid again. Your eyes become bigger than your head. Everything is new, everywhere. You’re hooked up. There’s no greater feeling than this.
It took me a while to understand it. And then it hit me. I was looking for a Christmas gift for my nephew, something not too heavy for my parents to bring back in their suitcase, but something meaningful, something that would last longer than the usual 2 weeks of post-Christmas euphoria; so I was looking for such a gem when my mind stumbled across one of my sweetest memories as a child: the reading of “Where the Wild Things Are”, by Maurice Sendak. And here it was, plain for me to see: not only had I found the perfect gift, but I had also solved the mystery of why I was so fascinated by South Africa.
On September 24th, people celebrate Heritage Day in South Africa. On this occasion, everyone in the country is invited to re-connect with his/her own roots and to show for the whole word to see that despite its differences, this patchwork of tribes, races and cultures has finally learned to live happily together.
Heritage Day has soon turned into Braai day, the braai – local barbecue – being the common denominator bringing people of different layers of the South African society together. On that day, right before noon, the acre smell of burnt charcoal rises from every house, every garden, every park, striking eyes and nostrils equally while opening a long awaited perspective to your tastebuds. You feel “yummy” inside before you can even see the shape of a braai in your horizon.
This year was the first I participated to Heritage Day, and as excited as I was, I must admit that the memory of it is still bitter-sweet to me.