I don’t think that I am alone in saying that this year, just like 30 years ago, I am filled with hope. Standing in the queues waiting to cast my vote, chatting to fellow compatriots in our lovely winter sun, confirmed what I have always known: I belong here. This continent and these people are part of me on a cellular level. For today, I want to look past all the problems, broken traffic lights, potholes, corruption, unemployment, out-of-control GBV and lack of service delivery.

I live in this country, not just because I have to or because I cannot leave. I am here, because I want to be here. I love Africa and her people and do not want to live anywhere else.

We just got back from a lovely weekend away in the bush. It was a last-minute arrangement and all of us were able to change plans and easily get there. We went with old friends we’ve known for decades. We sat around the fire, listening to jackals marking their territory at night. There is a special comfort with old friends. They know you and your stories. We love each other’s children and we mourn together when our parents die. We know the same things, the same shops, the same peripheral people and have the same roots. It is a special type of blessing when you do not have to explain yourself.

This weekend we did a few hikes. It was the shortest day of the year and yet, there we were hiking in shorts and some (certainly not me) braved the icy waters of a river. We had biltong and dried fruit and rusks. We had good coffee and wonderful, glorious wine we could afford. Most of us are entrepreneurs and are able to do what we do because  in Africa we are encouraged (maybe forced) to think outside the box.

On our hike we passed ruins left by the Voortrekkers around 1850. It was with awe that we looked at how these pioneers built farmsteads in these mountains and I admit that I felt proud knowing that some of that ingenuity and determination may also be in my blood today. On the farm there are rock paintings and other reminders of tribes and people who loved this land long before we did. I know that the tribes and the Voortrekkers had many a battle, and yet, here we are, generations later, hopefully now for the first time, forming a government of real national unity. This southern country has welcomed so many others to her shores. The 1.6 million Anglo Saxon people in South Africa are firmly rooted here and if you watch the rugby with any of them, you will soon know that their allegiance absolutely does not lie with a pale king across the pond. Our Indian population searching for new beginnings and braving the voyage to Africa, and then doing back-breaking work on the plantations and railways, has brought their colours and spices to form part of our tapestry. Everything we see and ate on the weekend reminded me of just how many of us choose to stay and leave our imprint on this country.

Our peaceful election in 1994 has remained a miracle, and our continued desire to be better, to forgive and to carry on speaks of all the different parts in all of us who want what is best for this land. The way we laugh easily on the back of a bakkie on our way to a construction site, the way there are ready smiles at the cashier’s till and the easy intimacy of people ready to talk and make eye contact is not something you find easily. We do not have the same battles. That I know. As Ramaphosa said in his speech, ‘We are from the same country, but we live in different worlds.” I acknowledge that I am and I was privileged, but I do have an understanding of the traumas of this country and her people. I am here, I believe, because I am called to be part of the solution. Our complicated nation cannot be described with just one problem, one failure, one challenge. We have hurts on a national, tribal, gender and individual level. Africa does not fit in a neat little box and neither does our future, but on grassroots level, we have the ability and fight in us to make it better and to keep on making it better. We can find solutions, we can work at being united, we can achieve what people think we can’t.  We really are the best people… this country has made sure of it.

You are probably wondering what this has to do with the Hospitality Lodges and here’s how I have circled back:  We are able to do what we do, to the extent we do it because, I believe this wholeheartedly, we are African. We subscribe to Africa’s values and her passion. We care authentically but somehow, we are able to bring in the humour and easily see the beauty in the brutality of life. We have not been scarred by the cynicism of the Europeans and we are not polarized like the Yanks. We are used to all being so different that we can offer different care for different people. We forgive easily. We are humble. This business grew out of an idea and then evolved into something else. People are willing to trust and love others without being suspicious. There is an uncanny ability to love instantly. I am not a fan of black tax, but does that not speak of what we as a people are, that we simply know and accept that we need to care for one another? Unlike the other continents, we understand here that life is not about the individual but about the community, about the ubuntu, and so is recovery, and so is respite and so is the end of life. I am, because you are, we are all connected. We are all part of this land and part of a family of God’s precious children.