I woke up early the next morning at what seemed to be Lebo’s grandmother’s house in Orlando, with pain shooting up and down my right knee. Why do I keep trying to hop these fences? Last night to get out of the driveway we had to scramble over the concrete walls and I’d forgotten that I’m twenty-seven and not twenty, or seven anymore. Ah, everyone reaches a point in their life when they realize their knees aren’t actually made of rubber – I managed to avoid learning this lesson till I turned twenty-seven.
Music was still pumping from down the streets – somebody was either partying all night or starting really early. I was feeling hot and icky from the night before and wanted to wash my face, but the only water tap I could find was the basin out in the yard. Soweto toilet facilities are the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make since coming here from posh Klein Windhoek or Emmarentia.
We loaded into the car in search for a hangover breakfast. Timo’s been trying to teach me German and Zulu at the same time, which I find to be confusing and difficult. He also gets mad because I use a French accent whenever I’m try German words.
“You must learn German,” he tells me. “It is a much better language than Afrikaans, the language of the oppressors.”
“I don’t want to learn German,” I reply. I also don’t want to point out that in Namibia, German is also the language of the oppressors. “Where will I ever need to speak German?”
“In Germany,” the kids point out. “And Austria. And Switzerland.”
“Every time I learn some German, I forget some Afrikaans,” I complain.
This conversation is interrupted by a spectacular Coca Cola explosion. Several crates of soda pop bottles plummet from the delivery truck ahead of us and suddenly the road is awash in Coca Cola showers as plastic bottles bounce down the pavement through the traffic, Coke fizz spraying in every direction like a magnificent fountain. Without missing a beat or slowing down, Marcus pushes open the driver’s side door, and while still hanging on to the steering wheel, swoops down and scoops up a litre bottle of orange Sparletta. As he continues driving, I see in the rearview mirror people scrambling through the traffic right in the paths of oncoming cars to grab as many pop bottles for themselves. As we pass by the truck driver pulled over frantically trying to secure the rest of his load, we salute him with our thanks.
“Danke,” I say.
Nothing tastes quite like soda pop found on the ground.
Calories don’t count on your birthday, so I had McDonalds for brunch – my first time in months, since Namibia doesn’t have any – and canned spaghetti-O’s and ramen noodles for dinner. The McDonalds wasn’t serving sausage McMuffins though, and the spaghetti-O’s were nothing like Chef Boyardees, and the ramen noodles weren’t Korean. Not to mention that back at home, my man and my family were having a turkey dinner together, thousands of miles away. I missed home.
Just when I was starting to feel the most homesick, the Germans surprised me with some special birthday cake, and then we headed out for gloria’s birthday partying part two. Bonga brought us to an empty parking lot that had been converted for the night to a dance party. I love the way South Africans can turn anything into a party. Booze was being sold out of a window of one of the building, there was a braai in the corner, someone pulled up their car and was blasting music out of their car stereo, and girls were dancing their butts off all around. It was fascinating to watch. We headed in for a relatively early night though (2AM instead of 4AM): the next day I was finally leaving Soweto and flying to Cape Town for the next part of my adventure.