We had dinner with a Zulu family the other night. They live in one of only two un-gated homes we have been in. Their chief source of security is God and their black lab mix that might very well lick you to death or maybe swat you with his wagging tail.
We sat around their living room (too crowded at their little table) with Mom and Dad and their three beautiful children. They are still very connected to their family in the north eastern part of South Africa and spend every holiday there. This family personified the shift in socialization in South Africa. Mom and dad came to Jo’burg to escape a poorer rural life with few chances for advancement. Mom finished her high school education and was able to get a job in banking and, being bright and ambitious, she has been able to advance some in her career without further schooling. Dad, who never finished his high school education, was able to get training as the equivalent of a nurses’ aide. His work consists almost exclusively of giving enemas. But he is happy and grateful for years of a steady income that together with his wife’s salary has enabled them to own a modest home, provide for their children and vacation back in their homeland on holidays. The oldest girl is in graduate school working toward an advanced degree in accounting. The younger girl in in her second year of university majoring in , and their son is a senior in high school.
The children are truly the bridge to a new generation. They can speak some Zulu, but their English is flawless, their dress as contemporary as any American teen and their world views are sophisticated. They never experienced the hardships of Apartied, although they know the sting of occasional prejudice. Still, they speak eloquently of the injustice of reverse discrimination now that blacks are in political power and whites are suffering rejection on the job market, poverty and homelessness. They speak of visits to their parents’ homeland with an amused patience with old traditions and inconveniences. They have high ambitions for their future and the proud support of their parents for their dreams.
As dinner progressed, a violent storm came up and the electricity went out. We finished our meal by candlelight and enjoyed that ambience and the timpani of the rain and thunder and the spectacular display of lightning.
They told us that even without a storm, they had scheduled outages to extend the power supply to an overloaded area. Their modest neighborhood had experienced growth too rapid to be supported by existing supplies of power and so, without warning, their electricity goes out for a few hours occasionally. They have worked around this problem by installing a propane water heater and a small gas stove top and keeping a supply of candles on hand.
As we ended our visit and prepared to leave, they gave each of us traditional Zulu shirts (picture Ron and Linda in matching sleeveless leopard skin tunics) exhibiting the amazing generosity and warmth of everyone we’ve had the privilege to share time with here.