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The South African flag

The South African flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This evening I was fortunate enough to attend the South African Freedom day celebrations at UNESCO, in Paris. It was a wonderful evening with many inspirational people attending the celebration. It was equally brilliant to savour some of the South African wine.

I walked into the UNESCO event not knowing a single soul, so I was initially daunted by all the high powered diplomats, ambassadors, businesses and South Africans. However, one of the South African diplomats and his wife took me under their wing and made it their business to introduce me to as many people as possible.

My friend, the diplomat told he had to talk to everyone at the party that evening but to ensure that I was OK, he would come and find me after every 10 people he spoke to…I was relieved.

He left me talking to two ladies who worked for UNESCO and immediately I met the Taiwanese ambassador and her aid as she started to do the rounds. As my wine ran out, I decided to head to the bar for a little top up as I was really nervous. At the bar I met this tiny bald Malaysian man, who had a twinkle in his eye and fantastic sense of humour. He was with his friend, the  equally amusing Algerian ambassador. They monopolised my time but it did not matter too much as they were fascinating people and I felt privileged and honoured to have them devote their time to me. Somehow in conversation I think I may have come out as their editor for a book they were writing about the ‘New Humanitarian’. I project I hope I will be involved in.

As I was walking to search for another familiar face, my South African diplomat pulled me away and took me to meet people. He is a generous caring man but I was truly humbled and honoured when he introduced me in the following manner.

“I would like to introduce you to my sister, Joanne’

I had forgotten that in the South African African cultures we were all family, we would be mother, grandmothers and sisters and brothers. The introduction gives a sense of family, of community and support. Then word, ‘sister’, gave me an intimacy and made me his equal, he was my brother and I was still a part of the Rainbow nation.

Having spent so many years living away from South Africa, the memory of the wonderful people, the vibrant generosity that permeates the country was inspiring. And for the first time I felt South Africa in Europe. When you leave South Africa, you leave a part of you behind in the bushveld, where the drums thunders hope and dreamers can dreams. You leave the dry highveld scent, the row of jacaranda tress and the wildness of the reserves but the beauty of  South Africa does not only lie in the nature. The beauty of South Africa is in the spirit of the African, the people and a piece of your heart stays in South Africa forever.