Aug 19, 2019
DURBAN DIARIES #3 – Hospitality, South African style
Before I conclude these blogs and share our final recommendations – let me tell you the best thing about being in Durban: the people. Second place: food.
We have been spending the week working with committed, passionate, smart people. They are genuinely warm. By Thursday, formal « good mornings » have given way to hugs and Zulu handshakes. I have to tell you, now that I am used to Zulu handshakes, regular North American handshakes are going to seem weirdly incomplete. They have decided my colleague Lizette Zuniga is actually South African (She’s Canadian born in Nicaragua), when Abi Bond showed up in Zulu jewlery, they were all over it, and I think they want Councillor Carroll to shift her political carreer to Durban.
When I asked what the Zulu word is for « fox »… well, that turned into a bit of a diplomatic crisis. There are no foxes here and hence no word for fox. After confering for sometime, they gave me this super long word. « That’s fox? », I ask. Awkward looks among my hosts tell me something is up. They say : « Uh, John, actually, more like « dog from far away » ». So, I didn’t write it down. I’m dog from far away. Yes, I am.
And its not just the people we have been working with. From the markets to the Uber driver, it has been a warm, talkative reception. Readers will know that we have been working closely with Rooftops Canada and a South African representative has been with us the whole time. Before Monday, this guy Malcolm knew none of us. So the guy’s cousin lives in Durban. So the guy’s cousin, who knows us even less, invites Team Canada over for dinner. That’s when the Canadian Embassy rep shows up. Invite her, too. Who does that? And then, at the end of dinner, the cousin wants to know if we are coming back soon and, if so, there is a guest room and we would be most welcome. And she means it. She even shows us the guest room.
In South Africa, even with its history of Apartheid, we went from acquaitances to friends in seconds.
Discussions on the finer elements of Zulu Jewlery lead to a confrontation with a young South African.
The food here has been also been great. I am not a take-a-picture-of-my-dinner sort of person, so you will need to use your imagination : picture a big filet mignon (600 grams, which means about the size of a dessert plate), sides of creamed spinach, mushrooms and onions, a couple of glasses of a South African red and…. Your $32 bill. Wait, what? You read that right – thirty two dollars. And it was sooooo good. Curries, steaks, chicken. I had great dinners with great wine and it took me till Thursday to break a hundred bucks on dinner.
Bottom line: it is expensive to get here, but you’ll eat like a king.
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