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The Self-employed Housewife: A Seaman's Wife's Story Ch 17
The Big Move to Port Elizabeth
Their removal van had already left two hours before they drove away from Palm Springs with Jan driving.
On the map the shortest route was through the Transkei. Dirk, Pat’s husband had assured them that the roads were fine but suggested they keep to the speed limit. Not that the Beetle would ever go faster than 80 kph. Dirk also told them to watch out for stray animals and bad drivers and not to travel at night.
That truly felt as if they were now really getting into African territory. The kids hoped to see wild animals, but all they saw were monkeys and livestock belonging to the rural villagers crossing the road.
“Mommy will I go to a new school in Port Elizabeth and wear a uniform?” Sascia loved school but saying goodbye to her friends had been hard. She had no idea where they would end up living, or which school she would end up attending, but she did know that all the children in government schools did wear a uniform.
“Moppie we will see. It all depends on where we are going to live. For now let’s pretend we are on a long holiday.”
Jeroen had been sleeping most of the way. Her little boy looked as pale as ever. She was always more worried about his health than she was about Sascia’s ever since he had been so ill on the voyage from Australia back to Holland.
When they arrived at Port Shepstone they turned inland to Kokstad where they would book in for the night. The rain had kept pouring down the whole day. She was looking forward to getting out of the car. The kids were playing in the back, but this time they were on top of lots of bedding surrounded by toys. The poor Beetle was packed to the brim. During the first few hours of their trip she wondered if they would ever catch up with the removal van, but now she was sure they would get to Port Elizabeth the next day.
Arriving in East London
The next morning at seven they filled up with petrol and headed for Umtata in the Transkei. They were told by a helpful man at the hotel desk in Kokstad to make sure not to get stranded in any way in the Transkei because of the heavy rain. There were also not many petrol stations on the way there.
It took them just over three hours to get to Umtata, where they had breakfast and left to travel via Butterworth, past the Kei River towards East London. This time she and Jan shared the driving so they would only stop when really necessary.
“Look mommy these kids are not wearing shoes. Are they very poor, like Shawn?” Sascia asked. She was waving at a group of black children who return the gesture. They all seem to look happy enough, walking barefoot through muddy pools on the side of the road.
“They are probably farm children who are going to school.” She was more surprised that Shawn, the little neglected boy she had reported, was perceived as being poor.
“But they are not wearing a uniform?”
It was hard to explain that some black communities in the homelands did not even have schools. Some white farmers might have organised some form of education, but not many. It was still bothering her about how people of different colour were treated in South Africa.
“Only children that live in cities wear school uniforms. These are farm children.” For now that explanation had to do.
“Oh, and we are going to live in a city.”
“Yes, daddy’s job is near town, so we are going to look for a home to buy.” Jan kept quiet while driving and smoking his pipe. He was not a great talker at the best of times.
Many local people walked on the freeways carrying wood on their heads. Some were indeed not wearing any footwear, so they both got the impression that poverty was rife in the Transkei.
When they arrived in East London they noticed that it was quite a big town compared to all the smaller villagers they had passed. The rain had changed into a drizzle and from now on they had to stop for a rest room break every hour and to let the children run around for five minutes. She did not want to repeat the experience of fighting with them out of pure frustration because they were getting fed up being cooped up in the back.
Arriving in Port Elizabeth
“Yes Moppie, what is it? I can see that you have been wanting to ask something. What?”
“Are we rich?”
Jan was doing the driving while she handed them both a small packet of chips. It was not the best food, if one could call it that, but it kept them happy.
“I think we are. We are all healthy and daddy is starting a new job. Mommy hopes to do what she did in Durban and look for shops that will take handbags and belts.”
Jan looked happy, he even made some jokes and he was looking forward to finding a home they could afford to purchase. They had saved a small deposit, and now that they had a regular income it would not be too impossible to apply for a home loan.
From East London on they took the coastal route. When they drove through Port Alfred they knew they had just over two hours to go to their final destination.
They arrived in Port Elizabeth just after six in the evening. The rain had stopped by now, and all they wanted to do was stretched their legs, eat dinner somewhere and find the guesthouse that Jan had booked already.
It was windy, grey and chilly. She already missed the semi-tropical lush vegetation seen in Natal. They were now in the Eastern Cape, a province they knew nothing about.
Jan went off to work
The next morning Jan drove to his new workplace inside the Port Elizabeth harbor. He promised to be back after he reported that he had arrived with his family. Their two rooms were very nice, but the décor was very old fashioned. The place had a somewhat old age feeling to it.
She and the kids walked to the nearest café to buy some groceries after Jan left with her carrying Jeroen the whole time. They had no kitchen, but she could prepare coffee, tea and sandwiches back in their room. Eating out for breakfast and lunch would get far too expensive if they had to do that every day.
Jeroen did not want to eat anything, only drink juice. All he wanted to do was sleep, so she left him on his own in their bedroom while she and Sascia enjoyed doing a puzzle on the coffee table in the lounge which doubled as a bedroom for Jan and herself.
“Mommy is Jeroen sick? He does not want to play.”
“I hope not sweety. Maybe the trip made him tired.”
She was worried but did not let on. So far he had no temperature, so maybe it would pass. Later in the morning after they had completed the puzzle they both heard voices.
There was an old lady next door and to her surprise she overheard Jeroen chatting to her from their balcony. She was a permanent pensioner resident. It was the first time that she had heard Jeroen having a conversation with a stranger. He must be feeling better, was all she could think.
Jan arrived back at the guest house at lunch time.
Has anyone ever driven a BEETLE?
Exploring Port Elizabeth
“We cannot stay here for long.” Jan said. They had helped themselves to lunch from a buffet at the Wimpy bar. She made sure Jeroen ate something.
I talked to some people at work and they gave me the addresses of some estate agents. I need to start work tomorrow, but after you have dropped me off you can have the car and start looking around.”
“Really, don’t you want to rent first, before we buy?”
“And pay someone else rent while we can pay towards our own home, like we had in Australia? No way.”
“But we do not know anything about what suburbs are good to live in. We also need to think about schooling.”
“You seem to have managed very well in Durban, so what is your worry. I though you would like the idea, owning your own home again.”
She did, but what could they afford? She wanted to live in a nice neighborhood.
“Come let’s drive around and look out for this address. “
She dressed both kids warmly and off they went in the Beetle. Outside the wind was strong and she shivered. She was already missing Durban’s warmer weather.
She followed the street map while Jan drove the car. She remarked how different the whole town looked compared to Durban, far smaller. The address of the estate agent was in a suburb called Newton Park. Apparently two people Jan would be working with lived in that neighborhood.
The howling wind almost pushed the beetle off the road, when they drove on a freeway to Cape Road, the longest street in Port Elizabeth.
Real estate agents
The man who seemed to be the only estate agent in the office was clearly very keen to show them several homes, but he said that they could only view them the next day. He would need to make some phone calls first. He also wanted to know what Jan was earning and how much they thought they could spend. When Jan told him his face dropped.
“That is not much of a deposit if you only want to pay off the amount you said you can pay off. We need to look for property more on the outskirts.”
“How far away would that be to the harbor, in driving terms?” Jan asked
“Between thirty and forty minutes.”
That did not seem to be so bad. That was about the same as what they drove in Durban. The man took their details and the phone number of the guest house. He would pick her and the children up and drive them around.
“I will drive you around, so you do not need to bring your hubby to work. I will see you tomorrow.” They shook hands and the rest of the day they spent exploring suburbs and looking at the homes. She was already missing the tropical feel that Durban had.