Saturday, January 07, 2012

A Memorable Meeting

About 4 years ago, thanks to my friend Diane Katz, I became involved with an organization called Grannies a Gogo, which provides support to African grandmothers raising their Aids-orphaned grandchildren. I eventually became responsible for creating and maintaining their website. The group raises funds and makes a personal connection through letter writing.

As it turns out, the group we support is in Sabie, located within 150 km of Kruger Park. I made the decision quite some time ago that I would include a visit to Sabie to meet my letter writing partner Martina Makua.

Sabie is located in a beautiful valley where pine and eucalyptus plantations grow as far as the eye can see. It's obvious that forestry is an important part of the economy and it's what brought Susan Fenner, the founder of Grannies a Gogo, to Sabie in the first place. This view of Sabie is from the road high above as it winds down the valley.
Although Sabie is a typical small, rural, African town, with many fruit and curio stalls by the side of the road, it also has many beautiful waterfalls, canyons and vistas which bring many tourists to the region. This is one of the better known - Mac Mac Falls.
I had arranged with Joy, one of the local woman who helps with the organization, to bring Martina to meet us for lunch; I'd also suggested in a note to Martina that other family members were welcome. I was very pleased when she brought her younger sister Jane, Oupa, the grandson she'd raised and who had just passed the matric (graduation) and her daughter Carol, who was on a lunch break from her job at a Sabie furniture store. After lunch we followed Joy as she drove into Simile, the township where Martina lives. I had a chance to see the place where the gogos meet, although it was closed for the holidays. We wound our way up the hill past all the shacks, through the chickens and children on the road, almost to the top. We had no idea what her living conditions would be - I was kind of thinking that she might have no electricity or running water. But what a lovely, tidy house greeted us, with a well tended garden outside. It's obvious Martina has a green thumb as the front area was filled with a variety of plants. The interior was full of colourful flowers, plants and knickknacks. She's lived here since she was 'relocated' by the government in 1971. At that time certain areas were set aside for blacks and the area where she lived was designated a 'colored' area, not accessible to blacks. In this photo you can see her in her living room wearing her uniform for the 'golden games' that she has twice been selected for.

I think it was equally thrilling for all of us - I know that most of the Vernon Grannies won't ever have the opportunity to meet their letter writing partners and it's only through a variety of coincidences that I was able to. My son Scott, met and married Sam, from Johannesburg which is how this journey began. Below, l to r: Ross, Martina, Jane, Oupa (grandson), Sam, me, Joy in front of Martina's house.


Gogo Susan said...

I bet it was a thrill to meet Martina on the other side of the planet, and what an amazing memory you have created. The photos are perfect – the long shot of Sabie taken from the highway shows how the geography is similar to Vernon’s (and I see the summer smoke/heat haze is still suspended over the valley). Nice to see a photo of some of Martina’s family members, too. I’m guessing you have more photos and hope you’ll post them to the photo album of Grannies à Gogo website.
Have a safe journey home or, as they say, Go well!

Darlene said...

Wow Lynn, What a special memory for you and for them. I'm glad you're having such a memorable time in Africa!!! Looking forward to seeing all your pictures.

Granny Anne said...

Oh Lynn, you made the most of your visit! Thank you for sharing the wonderful details of your experiences with us - very generous. I am looking forward to more details once your feet land on the ground home in Vernon. Granny Anne

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