With the Xhosa people
but please, don't ask me to pronounce 'Xhosa'. will you? It's a complicated clicking language and was huge fun to listen to but must need a lifetime to learn to speak.
We arrived in East London this morning and watched as we sailed into the harbour, at the mouth of the Buffalo River.
Funny how, when we stand on our verandah like this, people on the shore invariably wave - and yes, of course, we wave back. It seems an instinctive reaction worldwide. Today, as well as a few wavers on the pier, there were a bunch of lads there, shouting "hello".
Unusually, we were towed into place by a tug, having turned full circle in the mouth of the river in order to reverse into our place.
One of the port lecturers on board had described East London as a tired kind of place, a little faded "like Scarborough". Well, all I can say is that he did Scarborough a disservice!
We drove along the seafront, scene of some of the protests during the apartheid times. This beach had been a "white" beach, but on each New Year's Day the non-white population protested by going en masse to this particular beach and swimming there. Today, it was deserted apart from a few people hanging around on the promenade.
Into the country we drove, then, heading for the Khaya La Bantu Cultural Village. I know, we'd "done" tribal culture the other day, but this was a different tribe, see...the Xhosi people (of whom Nelson Mandela was possibly the most notable) have altogether different traditions from the Zulus and we thought it would be interesting to make the comparison.
Our arrival was heralded by a gang of children, running, singing and dancing.
Under the guidance of their ?mothers? ?grandmothers? they formed a more organised group and put on quite a show, singing and dancing with enormous energy.
The ladies themselves danced and added their voices to the mix, though with possibly more restraint than the youngsters.
Having received this warm welcome, we were invited into one of the thatched huts. In the same way as the Zulus had done the other day, we were separated into women on one side, men on the other. The singing and dancing continued until the grand finale of the South African National Anthem sung first in Xhosa, then in English with heartfelt gusto and wonderful harmonies.
From here, the men went off to learn about "men's things", to drink brandy and local beer and be taken off to learn about a variety of initiation rites. (ouch)
We ladies were taken into Mama's hut, where she explained all the secrets a woman might need to know - about babies and marriage and suchlike! She also explained about her dress - in similar tradition to the Zulus, the married Xhosa women cover their heads and also their ears - because a married woman is not supposed to be listening to gossip! They wear a long skirt, two aprons and the front panel, which is given to her by her husband instead of a ring - though Mama said that any sensible woman would want a ring too. Finally, her sisters would give her the wrap which sits on top of her skirts. Quite a few layers for such hot and sticky weather. I believe that, traditionally, they'd have been topless, but to cater for Western sensibilities T shirts were worn today!
Some women were preparing lunch, grinding corn on a stone in the traditional way.
And meanwhile, the youngsters sat and relaxed, chatting with us, posing for photos and so on. I had been intrigued by the clatter of their belts as they danced, only now getting to see exactly what was clattering: bottle tops!
We sat a while and waited for the men to return from their little bush walk, enjoying the views and the peaceful location of the village.
Driving away later, we looked back to see the huts perched on the hillside. It seems the village's future is in doubt right now, which seems a shame, for we learned so much from these kind and friendly people. We'd had a great morning and were soon back on board - no mishaps today!