Wednesday, 28 November 2012

In happier times: Yankari Game Reserve


The Yankari Game Reserve is a game park in Bauchi State, North East Nigeria.  Located in the heartland of the West African savannah, it provides a unique way for tourists and holidaymakers to watch wildlife in its natural habitat. Yankari is the most popular destination for tourists in Nigeria and, as such, plays a crucial role in the development and promotion of tourism and ecotourism in Nigeria.

I remember visiting Yankari as a child. I must have been about six.  We drove all the way to Jos and then to Bauchi. It must have taken us about nine hours.  That holiday remains one of my most memorable till date. 

A lot has changed since then, and with the looming insecurity in Nigeria, visitors to the park have dwindled.  Nonetheless, Yankari still offers a refreshing way to unwind and relax.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

African Inspired Décor

African Inspired Décor

When people think of African inspired décor, what usually comes to mind are ugly and uncomfortable looking wooden or bamboo chairs bound with loops of twine.  Gone are those days! You can infuse some ethnic style into your home or your space without having it look like a herbalist's shrine. Small accents such as accessories are an easy way to do this.  Paintings, sculptures, rugs and throw pillows readily come to mind.

Patchwork is also a relatively cheap and cheerful way to spruce things up in your home. You can put together your old Corduroy, Aso oke, Damask, Adire and Ankara fabrics.  Aso Oke in particular makes good covers for throw pillows.

Monday, 26 November 2012


Chapter 1
I didn’t quite inherit Mom’s good looks.  Her slim features, soft eyes and warm almost captivating smile.  I’m sure it was those things that attracted dad when they had met some 25 years earlier.  However, what I lacked in good looks, dad’s money made up for.  Every spring, Mom and I combed the top fashion houses in Europe looking for the new season lines before they could be spotted on the High Streets.  As a result, even though I wasn’t the prettiest girl, I came across as well put together.  I had inherited dad’s height, as I stood a daunting 5ft 9inches, which was no easy feat for a girl.  I also inherited his large nose and deep, piercing eyes, which I sometimes hid behind my Emmanuel Khan sunshades.
On this particular day in June, Cape Town weather was at its best.  The sun was shining yet it wasn’t too hot.  I walked towards my BMW 3 series convertible, which I had nicknamed Lucy. She had been my 21st birthday present from my parents. I jumped in, and took the hood off.  As I was about to reverse, I reached up to adjust my rearview mirror, then I saw him: my nemesis.
Carl Goshen was a beautiful man.  Yes….I said beautiful.  He was coloured.  In South Africa, Coloured is the term used to refer to those of mixed race.  He was tall, fairly dark and yes beautiful!  His soft feminine facial features (he must have looked like his mother), contrasted with his broad chest and strong arms.  I quickly did a rough mental estimate.  He must have been about 6ft 2 or thereabout and looked 30/31.  He was walking towards a parked Harley Davidson bike. Wow! Very macho too, I thought.  He jumped on the bike and sped off oblivious to the fact that he was being watched.  I soon forgot about him as I made my way towards Camps Bay beach, where I was to meet Lerato and Karen for lunch.
Lerato was actually what I would call my best friend, though I didn’t exactly believe in the term.  We had met back in our first year in Uni.  Like me she was an only child and had also enjoyed an international upbringing, attending boarding school in Nice in France before going to finishing school at Gstaad in Switzerland and then finally ending up in Cape Town.  Her dad, like mine had worked with the United Nations.  Karen and I had been roommates in our third year and over time we became good friends.
I soon took the last of the bends leading to Camps Bay and burst out on to the main road that had all the swanky cafes and bars.  I spotted Karen’s car and looked for an empty spot close by.  My friends waved from a nearby café, and I crossed the road to join them. We had a heavy lunch over some light gossip about what had been going on in and around campus.
By 6 pm, I was ready to leave.  All three of us walked across the road to our cars soon and dispersed.   In a few minutes, I was back in the Cape Town metropolis and maneuvered my way through the growing rush hour traffic. I stopped at the traffic light on Long Street, just before the turning to my flat and a motor bike pulled up beside me.  Oh my goodness!  It was the guy I had seen earlier.  He was looking straight ahead.  Through his helmet I could make out those soft, almost feline features again. He suddenly turned and caught me gawking, he blinked and I could see his eyes soften into a smile.  I smiled and said hello and he nodded in response.
Chapter 2
Days went by and the whole campus was agog with the upcoming Student Body elections.  Campaign posters could be seen everywhere.  It was a generally fun time to be on campus.  Lerato, Karen and I had just come out of the amphitheatre where Mark Twain was campaigning for Social Secretary.  
Karen was the first to see him.  “Who’s that dude?” she quipped.  Lerato who liked to flirt also joined in. “Wow, this is a real man, look at that body!”  I turned round to see who was causing this stir, and our eyes met, again!
This time he smiled, and walked up to me, seemingly oblivious of Lerato and Karen as they followed him with their eyes.   “Hi, seems we’ve met”.
“Err” was all I could mutter. 
“I’m Carl”, he offered as he stretched out a strong arm with well-manicured fingernails. 
 I quickly regained my composure and answered with a forced smile. “Mya, nice to meet you.”
Lerato quickly butted in, never one to miss a good opportunity.  “You seem new around here”.
“Oh yeah, I’m actually writing my PhD thesis on the Cultural Effects of Interracial Unions. I’m from the University of Pretoria”.
“Interesting” Lerato continued.  “That explains why we haven’t bumped into you up until now”.
He smiled politely at Lerato and then narrowed his gaze at me. “Do you live close to Long Street?” He asked.
“Err yes…actually I live at Summer Place, the new student lodge just off Long Street, how about you?”  I was finally regaining my composure. I wouldn’t want him to think I was fazed by his looks and apparent charm.
“I live on St. Johns, about a minute from Summer Place. It’s also a new development.  Perhaps one of these days, you can show me some of the sights and sounds of Cape Town”.
“We’d love to” Lerato quickly interjected. I shot her a dirty look which was my signal for her to step back.  Lerato could be such a hunter! She offered a mischievous chuckle and then turned to talk to Karen who was chatting with some guy from our history class.  
The remaining weeks of the semester raced by.  Occasionally I would bump into Carl at the petrol station or at Shoprite.  We would chat for a minute or two and then he would disappear. He always seemed somewhat elusive, which piqued my curiosity.  I knew I was definitely attracted to him, at least to the physical.  He looked like good boyfriend material, if there was any such thing.  I hadn’t been in any serious relationship since my second year when Daniel returned to Switzerland.  Daniel was a Swiss exchange student and we had struck up an instant chord when he arrived, as he provided an opportunity for me to relive my days at Gstaad in Switzerland where I had gone to school.  The other South African guys never really interested me.  They were too bogged down in the aftermath of apartheid and how it had affected their orientation and outlook to life over the years.  
My mind went to the upcoming holidays.  Mum had asked me to join her in Port Elizabeth, where she planned to stay at Dad’s beach house.   Dad had been shuttling between Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg lately as he had joined the ANC and was planning to join the Regional Parliament in Port Elizabeth. I quickly rushed back home to book my ticket, as the semester ended in 3 days.
Chapter 3
I hoisted my carryon luggage onto the overhead baggage compartment of the South African Airways plane and took my seat by the window. Damn! I hated flying, but driving over 400 miles all the way to Port Elizabeth was out of the question.   I quickly settled down in my seat, pulled out my Harper’s Bazaar magazine and began to flip through the pages absent mindedly.  There were quite a number of students also on my flight and the plane was quite full.  The pilot’s voice soon came on the public address system as he welcomed us aboard and announced that in a few minutes the doors would be shut.  I put away my magazine, pulled out my sunglasses as I decided to take a short nap. I had barely shut my eyes when I heard his voice.
“Hello Mya, we meet again”.
My heart skipped a beat….actually 2 beats as my eyes popped open.  Thank GOD for sunglasses. I turned to look at him without taking my glasses off and smiled.
“Oh Carl! What a pleasant surprise! We meet again”.
Carl settled into the seat next to mine as one of the flight attendants came up and started to take us through the emergency procedure.
“So what’s happening in Port Elizabeth?” he asked.
“My mom asked that I join her for a week by the beach”.  I replied.
“A week by the beach…wow!!! Sounds inviting”.
I relaxed a bit and took my sun glasses off.
“Are you from Port Elizabeth?” I asked, trying to turn the conversation around.
“Actually I’m not.  I’m originally from Zimbabwe, though I grew up in Johannesburg. I’m visiting my brother in Port Elizabeth for a few days.
The plane started to taxi and we were soon up in the clouds with the lush mountains of Cape Town beneath.
“Oh, how I do not like to fly.” I muttered.
“You’ll be fine, I’ve flown this route a couple of times, and it’s usually a bit bumpy but nothing to worry about”.
Just then the plane took a dip and then another and I clutched onto my seat.
Carl gently slid his fingers in between mine and held my hand in a firm grip and smiled.
 “You’ll be fine”.
After a few minutes, the plane seemed to steady and the flight attendants began to serve lunch.
Over lunch, Carl told me how his father had been forced to escape from Zimbabwe to Zambia in the 60’s when Robert Mugabe’s government was clamping down on the opposition.  In Zambia he had met and married Carl’s mother a young, pretty half Greek nurse.  They had Carl and his brother Richard, who both moved to South Africa at the end of apartheid.  While Carl was working on his PhD in Sociology and Anthropology, Richard, an artist and owned a gallery in Port Elizabeth.
I found Carl good company.  We talked about virtually everything from the weather to music, entertainment and the new government by Nelson Mandela and the emerging new South Africa we were so proud to be witnessing.
We soon landed at the airport where I hailed an airport taxi to take me to the beach community where Mom was staying.  Carl opted to take the metro train as his brother’s flat was just 3 stops from the airport.
“I’ll definitely call you” he said, as we hugged.
I walked into the Dad’s beach house.  It was quite nice, your  typical beach house.  No air-conditioning, just natural, fresh air.
I could hear the TV booming from the living room.
“Hello darling.  Guess what? Princess Diana and her boyfriend died in an accident this morning”, she announced, as we hugged.
“Wow! How sad’’. I replied
“And to think I actually saw her at Malapensa Airport in Milan two weeks ago, with the paparazzi swarming all over her like bees.  Life is too fleeting”.
Mom could be a little ostentatious.  I had definitely not inherited that trait from her. She would regale you with tales of how she and dad had been on the same cruise ship with Sofia Loren or with Prince Albert of Monaco. The only passion we shared was our love for fashion. None of those other things interested me.  People often told me I was much grounded, for my level of exposure and pedigree.
I had a quick shower, put on a bikini, threw on a sarong and we soon hit the beach.
Chapter 4
Port Elizabeth was a beautiful city, with phenomenal beaches. The largest city in the Eastern Cape Province, and fondly called 'The Windy City' or the 'Friendly City'. The first Europeans had arrived in 1488 in Algoa Bay, looking for a route to India for the lucrative spice trade. During the Napoleonic Wars the British took an interest in Algoa Bay and to prevent it from falling into French hands a fort was build overlooking what is today Port Elizabeth harbor. In 1799 it was named Fort Frederick after the then Duke of York. In 1820 about 4000 British settlers landed at Algoa Bay, as part of a plan by the Acting Governor of the Cape Colony, Rufane Shaw Donkin, to strengthen the European presence in the Eastern Cape. It was then that Port Elizabeth was officially founded and named after Donkin's wife, Elizabeth.
On my third day I decided to “browse” the cafes just to see what they had to offer. Carl had said he would call but I hadn’t heard from him. Damn! I should have taken his number. I had spent the last two days catching up with Mom on the latest Johannesburg high society gossip.  On day three decided it was time to step out, so in the evening I found a short, plum YSL dress mom had bought me as a Christmas gift the year before, slapped on some red lipstick to match and swept my hair up in a bun. I then completed my look with a pair of strappy Valentino sandals and very minimal jewelry.  I would let the dress do the talking I wryly to myself.
I took a cab to Harpers Lane, home to the swankiest cafes and bars and chose Coco Cafe.  It had a Moroccan theme and I immediately liked the warm, friendly atmosphere and quickly found my way to the bar.  I would have a drink or two here I thought before going off to find another bar.
Just as the waiter was taking my order, I noticed a young man with familiar feline features walk in to the café. It was Carl! My heart skipped a beat….why did he have this effect on me? What was he doing here? I thought he said he was busy with his thesis! Son of a gun! I thought to myself. I waited for the waiter to bring my mojito and then I moved over to the edge of the bar where he sat with his back to me.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, shooting him a feigned angry look.  “Shouldn’t you be at your brother’s working on your thesis?”
He turned round and looked a bit surprised and then smiled. “Well I decided to take a few hours off”.
“So why didn’t you call me, or are you expecting someone?” I fired back, actually hoping he wasn’t.
“Not actually.  I was planning to meet my friend Greg here, but since you’re here, I’d prefer to spend my evening with a tall leggy beauty, so Greg can wait.” He said, taking every inch of me in with those eyes of his! I had often wondered why men were so capable of stripping a woman naked with their eyes. 
“Please sit”.  He said as he pulled out the bar stool next to his.
“So what are you drinking?” he inquired.
“Just a mojito”
“A mojito is not strong enough. You should try a long island or something. It’s a Friday, c’mon!”
“I know, but I plan to go bar hopping, so I’m just beginning”.  How’s your thesis coming up? I would have called but then it occurred to me I gave you my number but you never gave me yours.  How’s your brother…..what’s his name?”
“Excuse me I need to make a phone call”. Carl said abruptly excusing himself
He returned a few minutes later and once we finished our drinks he said.  “C’mon let’s go somewhere else, there’s a really cool club not too far off, you’ll like it”.  
As we were leaving, another guy walked up to our table, shook hands with Carl and they exchanged pleasantries and then he asked for my name.
“Mya, that’s a beautiful name”. And then he turned to Carl and said ‘you’re lucky to have Mya in your company’’.
I thought that was a bit odd, but didn’t think too much of it as we left.
We ended up going to 3 clubs that night. Port Elizabeth had a thriving night life and I was quite impressed. Carl seemed to know so many people. I wandered how a PhD student could manage to have such a thriving social life. It felt a bit strange but he never introduced me to any of his friends that night. I didn’t really care anyway.  I was out with a very handsome, charming guy who seemed to have eyes for only me.  That was all that mattered tonight.
The DJ was playing Jodeci’s “freaking you” and I could feel every inch of Carl.  Oh my! I thought to myself.  What have I gotten myself into?
“Let’s go to yours”.  He said abruptly.  
“Errr…dunno if that’s a good idea, we might wake my Mom up”.
“Your mom? “
“Yeah I told you I’m spending the week with my mom by the beach, didn’t I?”
“Oh yeah…we’ll be quiet and I’ll be gone before day break, I promise”.
“Can’t we go to yours?”
“My brother is around, you know…”
“Ok let’s go to mine then”.
Carl called a cab and as soon as it arrived, he could hardly get his hands off me.  I don’t quite remember how we made it into the house, but I remember his strong masculinity and how we kissed so passionately.  He was a real man...with the body of Zeus (if there was any such thing).
We made love so passionately. “You’re so beautiful” he kept telling me.
We made love again and again, and then at the first crack of sunlight, he was gone, as stealthily as he entered.
The next three days were majestic.  Carl and I would meet up at 6pm each day and would walk hand in hand down the beach and the quays, with the soft sea breeze blowing.  We would go out for a drink and thereafter end up at my place much later for more drinks and love making.  It was what you would call a whirlwind romance.
 The day before I was to leave, he rented a boat and we went along the Benedict Lagoon.  The views were stunning!  He was every girl’s dream.  That night we made love on the beach.  It was just as it looked in the movies.  Better experienced than described!  I felt like a woman! Part of me wanted to shout in ecstasy. It seemed we were made for each other.
“When are you returning to Cape Town?” I had asked
“Soon”.  He mumbled.
I had noticed, each time I brought up anything regarding school or what we’d do when we returned, I always thought I felt him stiffen a bit.  Was this just some holiday fling? I thought to myself. I’d hate for it to be, but if it was I think it was worth it, I had thought to myself sheepishly.
Chapter 5
Karen burst into my room and we hugged.  We had spoken over the phone a couple of times during the break.  “Girl, you have to give me the low down on those nights in Port Elizabeth”.  She said grinning from ear to ear.
“I know babes. There’s so much to catch up on, meanwhile I haven’t seen Carl since I returned last week. He didn’t say for sure when he was coming back, but as we are yet to be official I didn’t want to push things”. I answered.
“Why are you making excuses for him? “she asked, raising an eye brow. “Seriously, you two were intimate; the least he can do is not to be vague about his movements.  Anyway how was it?” She asked mischievously.
“Fantastic…” as we sat and I began to give her a minute by minute account of my holiday rendezvous.
When she left, I pondered over the fact that Carl had been a tidbit vague about his plans for the new semester.
The next few days rolled by and within a week, Cape Town was fully bustling with its student populace back.  I still had not heard from Carl, which I thought was strange.   I had planned to stop by Carl’s flat to find out if he was back, but then I had gotten the flu.  This damned Cape Town weather, I thought to myself.  Summer was always nice but after that, we were exposed to the worst of South African weather.  Fancy getting the flu at the start of a semester when we hadn’t even started serious work.
Three weeks rolled by and still no Carl! I definitely had to go by his. Little did I know my whole life was about to change.
“He was here two weeks ago to clear out his things. He said something about deferring his PhD thesis for a couple of months.  He also mentioned a need to be in Lusaka”.  That was all the information I could get from the porter.
Deferred his thesis? Travelled to Lusaka?  Something didn’t add up.  I felt my head spinning. Was I dreaming?
I don’t remember how I managed to drive back to my flat that evening.  I immediately called Karen and Lerato who appeared at my door in what seemed like a flash.  What are friends for? I thought.
“The guy is a bastard! How does he move out without telling you, imagine!” Karen went off in a rage.
“I just thought he seemed too smooth, too suave, and almost too good to be true” Lerato joined in.
This wasn’t exactly what I needed, and I had to clear my head.
“What I really don’t get is the fact that we were together in Port Elizabeth when he moved, it beats me how he managed to come all the way back to Cape Town, return and still not say anything.  We were even together the night before I returned.  He was a bit evasive whenever I asked about his plans for the new semester, but apart from that there was no indication he was leaving”.
I was so distraught.
“He’s just a bastard”. Karen quipped again
 “Babes, better to forget about him and get on with your life”. Lerato added.
“I guess so”. I answered sadly.
But I was hurt, very hurt.  I lay down that night unable to sleep as my mind went over my time with Carl.  It was magical.  Truly he was too good to be true. I had never really had my heart broken and the feeling was not good.  I soon resolved to throw myself headlong into my studies for the semester and forget about Carl or any man for that matter.
Chapter 6
“Next please”.  The lady at the counter called, as I snapped out of my momentary day dreaming and pushed my full trolley forward towards the till.  I had been buying my groceries at Shoprite for more than ten years.  As a child I remember accompanying my Mom every Sunday to the one close to where we lived.
“That would be 350 Rand please”. The cashier announced after scanning all the items.
I looked up at her for the first time and noticed she was pregnant.
Oh my! I thought to myself, I forgot to buy my tampons and then I remembered that I ought to have started my period. Rather weird. As the queue was quite long and it didn’t make any sense going back just to get one item, I made a mental note to return the following day; otherwise I could always ask Karen or Lerato anyway.
The week rushed by as I barely managed to keep up with course work and assignments from different professors.
“If you keep this up you just might graduate summa cum laude”. Professor Wilkins had told me, as I discussed my history assignment with him.
As I got up to leave my head began to spin and I had to grab on to the handles of the chair and sit back.
“Are you alright?”
“I suddenly don’t feel too well”. Was all I managed to mutter, as I became aware that I had become unexpectedly drained.
“Here, drink this”. He said, handing me a glass of water. I emptied the contents and felt slightly better.
I headed straight to my GP who ordered I take a barrage of tests.  I was advised to take a bed rest for a day or two at least. The stress of course work and unending deadlines was finally beginning to take its toll on me.  I felt I was deliberately preoccupying myself with too much work in order to blot out every memory of my escapade with Carl and his accompanying unannounced disappearance.
Lerato had come to drive me home from the GP.  When we got to my flat, she made me a nice, hot cup of Horlicks and tucked me under my duvet.
“How do you feel?” She queried.
“Slightly better”.  I managed to answer.
“Ok, get some rest, I’ll be back to see you later in the day. As she turned to leave, my phone rang and I beckoned at her to answer it.
“It’s the lady from your clinic”. She said as she handed the receiver to me.
“Is this Miss Mya Molapisi please?” A voice echoed from the other end.
“Mya speaking” I answered.
“Well apparently when you came in this afternoon you didn’t mention you were pregnant……”
I don’t remember hearing the rest of what she said, as the receiver fell from my hand and I stared at it in disbelief.
Lerato leaped forward.
“What’s going on? Are you ok?” She queried again, this time worry spelt all over her face.
“I’m pregnant!”  The words seemed to get stuck in my throat.
“You are what? How? When?”
“I don’t know”.
“What do you mean you don’t know? Who did you sleep with? Oh! My! Carl……did you not use protection?
How I wished she could just stop with the questions. I was as confused as she was!  Carl and I had always, always, always used protection though there was one time the condom broke, but neither of us thought much of the incident as we promptly replaced it and continued with our frolicking.
The next couple of days went by in a haze, I felt as though I was in the land of the living dead whatever that meant.  Apparently I was nine weeks gone.  Nine weeks!!!  How could I not have known?  All the frequent tiredness and flu, and of course the delayed period, which had never come.  I was too busy obliterating Carl from my mind that I hadn’t even noticed I had missed my period twice.
Having an abortion was out of the question. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but how would I face my parents? Dad was also running for parliament.   What would happen if the opposition found out that his only daughter was pregnant out of wedlock?! Where on earth was this idiot called Carl and how could he brazenly walk out of my life so uneventfully? There were a million and one unanswered questions running through my mind.
The following week I decided to fly up to Johannesburg. Mom was quite supportive.  She listened carefully but reprimanded me for being careless and said she would offer me all the support I needed. Dad on the other hand wasn’t so much angered by the fact that I had gotten pregnant but by the fact I didn’t know where my baby’s father was.
“It’s unacceptable, I didn’t raise you to behave like this” he had bellowed.
“Only an irresponsible girl would behave like you did.  You’ve brought shame to your mother and I and even our extended family and you have acted most selfishly.  The only relative of mine to have a bastard child was Lethu and we all know how much heartache that boy gave her”.  Nelson was my late aunt Lethu’s teenage son born out of wedlock.  He had been a terror and had eventually run off two years ago to join a gang in Soweto and no one had heard from him since.
“Couldn’t you at least wait till you graduate next year? If anyone from the Democratic Alliance or the Pan Africanist Congress should get wind of this, I will definitely not be voted into parliament”.  Who does this? Not even in these days of AIDS”.
He went on and on until I could no longer hear the words tumbling out of his mouth.  I hadn’t expected him to be excited, but I had at least thought he would scold me and then pet me afterwards. Not this time. Dad was mad!
I returned to campus a few days later determined to continue with my work for as long as possible.  Whilst in Johannesburg I had half hoped that I would bump into Carl somewhere, somehow. By now I was three months gone and thankfully there wasn’t a baby bump yet, but I knew that as soon as there was the slightest sign, tongues would start to wag. People would say all sorts. A whole Mya Molapisi, pregnant! Mya who only dated white guys or coloureds. How the mighty have fallen!
For the first time since I learnt of my pregnancy, I considered having an abortion….but it was too late.  At this stage, even my life would be in danger. If only I had done it earlier I had thought.  But then again I wasn’t sure I could deal with having to take another human life.
Lerato and Karen were quite supportive.  They even teased me about my baby sometimes.  Thank GOD for good friends.
As the pregnancy advanced I began to fill out and to look curvier. I got a lot of compliments especially from the guys. Hmm! If only they knew what lay beneath.
However my cover was soon to be blown off as one rainy day Karen stormed into my room fuming.
“Look at this”. She said as she flung a copy of the UCT Trumpet on my bed. UCT Trumpet was one of the student gossip magazines on Campus.
My heart skipped a beat.  I had feared this day would come.  “On the front cover was my picture, beneath the caption “Mya Molapisi involved in pregnancy scandal”.  The story went on to describe how I had met and become smitten by a certain PhD student (name withheld) and how he had gotten me pregnant and absconded. I was devastated. I sat there unable to open the paper to read its contents.
Of course the story spread like wild fire.  People even came up with different versions.  Some even said I had a one night stand and didn’t know my baby’s father!
 I had planned to complete my first semester and apply to defer my second semester and entire dissertation until after the baby was born, but with this scathing publicity, I had to get out of Cape Town almost immediately.
My friends were sad to see me leave but I had to do this for my sanity and respect, or at least what left of it.  Mom had rented me a studio flat in Sandton in Johannesburg as Dad had made it clear he didn’t want to see me or my baby. She had figured he would soften once the baby was born.
I was almost six months gone when I left school and I must say it was a very difficult phase of my life. I was totally alone.  There was really no one I could confide in who I knew had walked this same path.  It was one thing to be pregnant out of wedlock, but it was another thing not to have a clue where in the world your baby’s father was.
Mom tried all she could to support me.  She would stop by once a day on her way back from the gym and spend a couple of hours with me. Karen and Lerato also spent a separate weekend each with me.  They even organized a small baby shower for me which had in attendance my mom and her close friend, Aunt Jenny as well as my maternal Grand Mom.
I had refused to know the sex of my baby as I didn’t want to get into the frenzy of having to choose gender appropriate clothes or having to do up a baby nursery.
Delivery day came and out came the most beautiful living creature I had ever seen.  My baby boy was every inch a replica of his father.  The soft features, pointed nose, high cheek bones, and those deep eyes. I fell in love with him totally and I knew immediately that I had made a right choice by keeping him.
Common sense soon prevailed upon Dad and he came to see us at the hospital the day after the delivery and as Mom had predicted, he immediately fell in love my baby whom he named Tebogo meaning we are thankful.
Chapter 7
It was late 2002. I was standing in the queue at a chocolate shop in the duty free section at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris.  Tebogo and I were on our way back from Florida after a three week summer vacation and we had a brief stopover in Paris.  Thankfully with a well-paying job as a Cultural Attaché with UNICEF in Johannesburg I was able to give Tebogo the kind of life I had enjoyed as a kid.  Like most children his age, he was running up and down and in between the shop aisles while I kept trying to call him to order.  Children could be so stubborn at times. I briefly lost sight of him as I moved up to the till to pay and as I turned round our eyes met.
It was Carl! He still looked the same, a bit older though, but every inch as handsome as he was five years ago.
For what seemed like eternity I stayed rooted to the spot and the lady behind me on the queue had to  nudge me to move on. I stepped aside still not knowing what to say or do as our eyes stayed locked as if in a trance.
Finally he broke the ice. “Hello Mya, it’s been ages”.
Just then Tebogo ran towards me “Mummy look, there are some Mickey Mouse chocolates here”.  He announced, tugging at my hand.
I stood speechless, ignoring Tebogo.
Carl looked down at Tebogo and then back at me and then at Tebogo again.
“Your son?” he asked.
I thought to myself. What a stupid question, my son? Suddenly all the betrayal, distress, hurt and pain I had felt over the last five years came rushing back.  I wanted to spit in his face, to punch him in the stomach or kick him in the balls and stop him from procreating again forever.
I finally found my voice. “You mean our son”.
“Err.... I don’t understand”.
I pulled Tebogo and started walking out of the shop towards a lone bench in the departure lounge.
“Carl what exactly don’t you understand?  The fact that you disappeared unannounced after the best vacation I had ever had or the fact that you have a son whom you don’t know about for obvious reasons?” I shot back, trying desperately to keep my voice down as people were beginning to look our way.
“Mya, something isn’t right, please calm down. I don’t know what you mean. What are you talking about?”
My head was beginning to spin. “What do you mean you don’t know what I’m talking about?” I shot back.
“Is this a joke or something?” he continued.
“A joke? Do you see me laughing?”
“The boy can’t be mine. It’s not possible! I, I never touched you.  We never even kissed! Is this some case of Immaculate Conception or what? Something doesn’t add up”.
“What do you mean? We had the best sex I’ve ever had over a period of three days and you sit here and tell me he can’t be yours? Excuse me; I have a plane to catch”. I tried to get up but he pulled me down gently. Tebogo sat playing his video game oblivious of the unfolding drama.
‘’Mya listen to me please.  When we left the airport that day I was robbed on the way to my brother’s house and lost my phone where I had stored your phone number.  I had planned to look up your Mom’s number in the yellow pages once I settled down, but on the third day we got a call from home that Dad was in hospital.  He had been battling cancer for a while.  Richard and I decided I should go, so I had to rush back home to Zambia to be with him. Unfortunately he passed on less than two weeks later and Mom was terribly devastated.  I decided I had to spend some time with her, and I put my PhD on hold.  I came back to Cape Town briefly to pack my belongings from my flat and sell my bike. As school was yet to be in session I left a note at your porter’s lodge with my contact details. I seriously hoped you would call, but when I didn’t hear from you I guessed you probably weren’t interested in pursuing a friendship.  Somehow I guess you never got the note. I eventually returned to Cape Town to complete my thesis a year and half later but by then you had graduated. Somewhere in my mind I had always hoped I would run into you again, but then again……..oh my GOD!” He suddenly stopped talking and took one look at Tebogo.
“It was Richard! That criminal!” He gasped though clasped teeth.
“Who’s Richard?” I asked half confused as I really couldn’t comprehend what was going on.
“My brother….my twin brother”.
I almost collapsed in shock.
I don’t remember how I made it on to the plane, but it turned out Carl was also flying back to Johannesburg on the same flight. I had calmed down a bit although my head still seemed to spin from all the unfolding confusion. We sat next to each other and he proceeded to tell me that Richard was his twin brother.
“You didn’t tell me you had a twin brother”.
“I told you I had a brother. Richard and I were identical twins but not in behaviour.  He was always more free spirited.  He dropped out of university to pursue his love for art. We had totally different interests.  He ran an art gallery in Port Elizabeth”.
I went on to tell him about my rendezvous with Richard whom I had thought was him all along, and who from all indications had taken advantage of my ignoance.
He told me how Richard had always tried to compete with him over girls when they were growing up, and why he had taken my phone number that day on the plane, instead of giving me the number to Richard’s apartment, as he didn’t want us to meet.
“So where is the cock sucking idiot who took advantage of me?’ I asked angrily.  I was ready to take him to the cleaners and accuse him of intentionally concealing his identity in order to have sexual relations with me.  I was sure there would be a legal term for that.
Carl looked away sadly. “He passed away four years ago in a car crash in Durban during the National Art Festival.  He was drunk driving”.
“Oh my! I’m sorry”. Even though I felt hurt and betrayed, I still felt sorry for Carl.  He had lost his father and brother  within a space of two years.
“So where have you been all these years he asked”.
I proceeded to tell him all I had been through since discovering he had left Cape Town, how I discovered I was pregnant, had to hurriedly leave campus, how dad and I had become estranged, but had made up and how I had vowed to remain single.
Carl wasn’t doing too badly himself. After his obtaining his PhD, he had taken up a teaching job at the University of Pretoria for the next two years. From Pretoria he had taken up another job as a visiting lecturer at Columbia University in New York and was only just returning to South Africa. He was also single.
We talked for several hours, and all the events of the last five years up till this day seemed like a story fit for a soap opera.
As the plane touched the ground, Carl held my hand firmly, looking into my eyes.
“Mya, if you will let me, I want to walk with you. I want to be a part of your life…..for as long as you’ll let me.  I know Tebogo isn’t my son, but I’m the closest person to a father he’ll ever have.   I can’t undo what my brother did, but I can make the future more enjoyable for you and for him.
I squeezed his hand back gently and smiled, though a thousand thoughts were racing through my mind.

What would you do if you were in my shoes?