We were isolated from the harsh realities of the local economy.  The shopping centres, the builders’ merchant, the roads and the bottle stores were not there for us.  They were well stocked with essentials and some “luxury” goods.  No rows of TVs toys or specialist foods.  Just the essentials, priced at what seemed like very reasonable prices.  The car park was a bustling interchange of combis (the ubiquitous Toyota minibus taxis that set a route and share the fares with any that climb aboard or leave on the journey) bakkies and modern tinted air con cars;  occasionally a European 4x4.  But it’s the wage rates of those at work that give a shock taste of the real Kwazulu Natal economy.  A single fill of petrol for our hire car clocked up 4 weeks wages for a hard working young labourer, 2 weeks for an experienced builder who served his time with a creditable construction company.  A bottle of local brandy – a week’s wages.  We perhaps didn’t appreciate the differences in the early days.  We saw what we wanted to; the simple lifestyle, the vast skies and a work life balance we struggle to make in commuter land.  The reality is that ours was an exceptional time for our Zulu hosts.  They eat well, had guaranteed work for two weeks and towards the end they enjoyed our hospitality.  And they gave us so much back.  Singing, dancing, insight into their world and, finally, a friendship that felt true and full.  Certainly for all of us it was enough to reduce us to quivering wrecks for days after we left them alone at God’s Golden Acre.

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