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Ingrid Wolfaardt

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

A meeting of another kind

Just outside Brandvlei, Noord-Kaap John pulls popkar off the road to give the turbo engine and its very much misfiring owner (me) a break from the white-line and the heat that is just so much sharper in a world where green is a not a given and the shade of a lone peppercorn tree, is upgraded into an oasis, through the eyes of the locals that is.

We pull off at a single scraggly looking tree with a green painted cement table and stools, an overflowing rubbish bin and something one sees a lot up there, petrified loo-paper against the fence.

J takes beer from the boot, a Heineken for him and a Heineken for me. He sits outside, under the damming sun that cuts through the shade of the tree, while I decide to stay in the car, fed-up for the heat and the bumpy ride, (run-on-flats on small cars are not what one could call a smooth drive, fine for city driving but not for 2000 km of open road.) In fact I am having a smallish sulk to fit inside the cabin of the car when I hear the sound of a diesel bakkie pull up behind us, and I lose my cool, right there. For heavens sake, man, you’ve got the whole wide world and hundreds of kilometers of nothing that you can choose from but no, this stop of ours has to be the one that Mr Big Bakkie must also choose. I sink down into my chair, so that they cannot see me, while J gets up, “Boere-style” to shake hands with a man whose voice booms over the vlaktes.

“Môre môre, jy kies die beste plek van die hele pad om stil te hou.” Mr Bakkie shouts out as though he has an audience of many that stretches to the horizon.

I close my ears. After four days of speaking non-stop to clients I’m in no mood for this jolliness and let’s be brothers sort of thing…farmers and I assume he is one because we have been, so I recognize the sort of opening line….love to find out who was your mother’s mother and where did you go to school and do you know X,Y and Z from your hometown.

I then hear a woman’s voice, super jolly too and realize I’m not going to get out of this one, so I peep discreetly around the corner of the car to see a smiling lady storming down on me…eish.

I stretch out my hand, reluctantly and we greet each other, exchanging names while Booming man who is her husband, shares his life story with J, within the first 60 seconds of meeting.

Jolly lady takes a look at me, sits down on J’s stool, opposite the open car door and says, “I know all about you,” and runs through my CV of the past twenty years. I see another out of the corner of my eye coming towards us from the bakkie and it’s a boy-man with a smiling face and apple cheeks and brown burnt arms and an aura that can only be described as a mix of the angelic and the essential child. He gives me a gentle hand, then quietly sits down at his mother’s feet on the hard stones, his veldskoene, scuffed and worn that would make David Kramer proud. I see there are graying hairs on his head.

They’re on their way to Paarl (I cannot believe this…) jolly lady explains, she is to play the organ at a wedding of a friend’s child. She asks me pertinent questions about my life and there is a realness and an authenticity to her, that I pick up on, that I find myself relating intimate details and insights to a woman I now know for less than 5 minutes. Her responses are of someone who has lived, who has suffered, who has struggled and wrestled with life and overcome the pain, the suffering, the sadness by choosing joy, by living with a happy spirit, despite her circumstances.

I am amazed by her. I get out of the car and join her at the table. She fetches their sandwiches and explains to me, by drawing a picture in the sand, at her feet of where they live -right in the heart of the Boesmanland and that this road stop is the first one after leaving their farm which is at least a 180 kilometers away from any town, in any direction you choose.

Her son, laughs at everything I say and then invites me quite beatifically to come and visit them on their 20 000 hectare farm, which I accept most graciously.

“Ek het nog nooit so ‘n karretjie gesien nie, Tannie.” He tells me and so I invite him to investigate popkar,(Mini) and promise to take him for a spin in Paarl.

We talk about children, his mother and I and about this sunshine child who has taught her more than anyone and anything else and we compare notes, she also with a newly married daughter.

Her husband, travels to America once a year to harvest. In those few weeks of eighteen hours a day, he earns enough for them to survive on their farm here in Africa, that has not seen rain in years. This is told matter of factly and not with an ounce of self pity, or life is so difficult, that characterizes a lot of city slickers,(including myself.)

We get around to talking about why we are in this “geweste” and she asks me for my details and I whip out my business card.

“Ek moet dit maar net self sê maar ek ken baie mense,” she informs me, “soek julle vrugte?” She asks, which catches me a bit unawares.

“Well, yes sort of.” I reply, not used to this.

She gets up and walks over to her husband, holding my card above her head. “Mense, mense met wie doen julle besigheid?” She is talking to imaginary prospective clients of ours, and my mouth hangs open, I have met my match in the acting department. “Wel, julle maak een groot fout, daar is net,” she pauses dramatically, now flourishing my card in the face of some unseen victim, “een maatskappy om mee besigheid to doen en dit is….” Here she says the name of our company which such certainty and assuredness that I can imagine, no one but no one, not even the most hardened Noord-Kaap farmer would argue with her.

We greet, having a group hug with promises of fruit and visits and I don’t doubt for a moment it will all happen.

“Sal jy vir reën bid?” she asks as an afterthought, just before they drive off. “Ons het dit nogal nodig.” I promise to do this, with fervour.

I find myself getting back into our car, on a high, rearing to go.
How amazing that some people’s life spirit can let your own spirit soar, while others can pull you into the darkness.

I wonder about this and hope that I fall into jolly lady’s category – in fact I choose to.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    December 8th, 2009 @23:02 #

    I can smell the dust, see the people, remember a life that centered around rain or its absence.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Megan</a>
    December 9th, 2009 @14:47 #

    Beautiful and magical.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Ingrid</a>
    December 9th, 2009 @15:20 #

    Have just attended the funeral of a farmer friend in Ceres who was murdered on Friday night, his two children were present-they spoke in church this morning with such courage and love-eleven and fourteen years of age-love is all we have at the end of the day.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    December 9th, 2009 @17:03 #

    Eleven and fourteen? That is utterly heart-breaking, Ingrid.


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