Before leaving South Africa, we had a couple days in Johannesburg. I wanted to take Eric to see where I had grown up, and have a little more time with my family.
We had planned to stay in a bed & breakfast in Melville. This is a pretty hip area with a lot of restaurants and art galleries. We arrived late in the afternoon, and the security guard showed us to our room and gave us a key. There was no information in the room about the area, or the facility. Things just felt strange. Perhaps after all the attention we'd gotten at the other hotels we were used to people being more inviting. Since we couldn't really pin-point what was making us uncomfortable, we figured we'd stay and see how things went.
The next day we went to Walkerville.
This is where I grew up. My parents bought this house a couple months after I was born. Over the years they added the second floor, and redid the thatch on the roof.
They built a small cottage next door for my maternal grandparents, put in a pool and tennis court, and my mom landscaped the full five acres. It was a great place to grow up.
There were no walls, wires, or major fences when we lived here. We just had a barbed-wire fence.
This house is not very large. The upstairs has two bedroom - one for my parents and the other I shared with my brother. There is only one bathroom downstairs. It is made out of brick, and has no ceiling blocking your view of the underside of the thatch.
We moved out when I was 13 because there was (and still is) no high school in the area and my parents didn't want to send me to boarding school. So, we moved to Johannesburg.
We took a drive to my primary school - Aloe Ridge
We spent a lot of time at this school outside of regular school hours. Since my mom was a teacher at the school, my brother and I would be here before school started, after school ended, and on those days that only teachers were there to prepare for the start of the next term. My parents would play tennis here on the weekends with a group of other families.
Since the area I grew up in is mostly rural, the school was the gathering point for the kids, so this is where I have most of my memories of interaction with other children.
One weekend, we took our bikes to the school (we couldn't ride bikes at home, because all the roads were dirt... ie there was no-where to ride them). My brother was going to teach me how to ride. I remember him setting me up at the top of the driveway facing towards the school. In my memory this was a steep downhill that went on forever! At the bottom were the steps that went into the administration building. As I approached those steps I realized I didn't really know what to do. I didn't know where the brakes were, nor how to steer... so I hit them. Yip, over the handlebars.
Looking at that drive in 2009 was one of those feelings where I just couldn't believe how short and not steep it was!
The urban sprawl and development of Johannesburg seems to have not reached Walkerville yet.
The shopping center is still the same (well, there was another one across the street that wasn't there in the 1970's).
This part of the shopping center used to be the post office and switchboard. When I was a kid, we didn't have our own telephone lines out here in the country. Instead, you would have to ring up the switchboard on one of these and ask to be patched through to Johannesburg.
I'm glad we made this trip to Walkerville. It's good to go back to your roots and make sure you know where you come from. It was also really nice to show all of this to someone who knows me in America.