I wasn't going to write about this but my brother-in-law suggested it. This is likely less about Africa and more about life. I have a fatal flaw, my wife says, and that is that I am the same person everywhere. South Africa or Malaysia or Europe, I'm the same dude. Different language or accent, but the same general idiocy reigns.
My wife, on the other hand, has good sense and, what's it called, social abilities? I assume everyone is my friend and shake hands and kiss babies all day. Ignorance is bliss, it seems.
On the trip there's an endless supply of not just cousins, but third cousins, and "are you my cousins" and even a few "who are you exactly?" I love a parade. However, I also smile and wave like it's a parade. I assume since they all came over to see us that they are genuinely interested in how we are. I also tend to assume that they are also happy, healthy and content people like us.
Turns out that all relatives are not created equal. Wish I'd gotten the memo. There is apparently theses things called envy and posturing I am not familiar with. Some couples come in two cars, for example. I, of course, notice this, but meh, right? They probably came from work. Oh no, we are meant to see that they have two cars.
Watches are dusted off and worn, diamond rings are polished, shirts are ironed. They've come to see mkhwenyana, the white American son-in-law and their long lost sister/cousin/auntie who is, it seams, a hybrid freakish part-African, part-American.
Again, I can't stress my level of cluelessness. There's apathy, and then there's profound ignorance. I have the ignorance level of a 2-dimensional being on a plane in 3-D space. I am not just missing dimensions, but I'm having trouble conceiving of them.
Why haven't you called? Why don't you write or email? What a bad son in law you are!
Um, because we've only just met?
What is America like?
Pretty much like this, except you're not basting and there's fewer electric razor fences.
No, really, I hear America is the land of opportunity.
I think the world is the land of opportunity, myself. You guys have the same stuff we do. Honest.
Listen to mkwenyanna! He says South Africa has the same stuff the states does. Nonsense. Let me see your digital camera. Is that an iPhone?
My wife is able to navigate this conversational minefield while not only staying classy, but also acting as a balm on decade-old sore egos. She also reminds people that it is possible to be from America and still be broke. And we are. We DID fly here, you know?
Turns out "our presence is your gift" doesn't translate well into my broken-Zulu. ;P
I'll remember that next time. Going on 10 years of marriage, and I'll figure all this out if it kills me.