In an unlikely chain of events, it took our visit to South Africa to meet a fellow American who happened to have a fiance’ who lives in the same estate as us. It gives new meaning to the term small world. Rick Wilder (name changed) an american who travels frequently to South Africa and based on his current home base, probably ran in the same government circles as my husband Mark, however, it took South Africa to bring a chance virtual meeting and conversation that turned into a quick friendship.

Just recently we posted a video of our experiences here in South Africa. We tagged the new area we live and it sparked an unlikely connection and messenger conversation that started like this.

Inbox message from Rick Wilder –

Hi Latasha! I look forward to meeting you guys! Such a coincidence – Blue Valley Golf Estates. Small world. My girlfriend owns a home there. I plan to move SA soon (would do it now but I’m to close to being eligible to retire from the US Federal Government) and US Federal Gov jobs in SA are hard to find. A US State Department (Embassy) gig would be wonderful.

I explained that Mark too was in his position and felt the very same way regarding leaving a government position so close to retirement. His enthusiasm continued.

“My girlfriend is South African. From the Tswana (Botswana tribe). I’ll share your details and ask her to do likewise. Well done and congratulations on the successful business, selling and relocating. Smart! I plan to have a business running in the USA (likely something online) to produce dollars. I will need to lean on you all for advise so the transition is smooth. Curious — When and How did you all discover SA? With me it was purely an accident. But the best accident ever. lol So much to do in SA. So much to do in Southern Africa (Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho. So many adventures there. So many interesting people who look like us and where we are the “normal” ones. So much to do in Africa overall. All of it fascinates me. I love it. I regret waiting so late in life and wish I first visited in my 20s.”

I express joy and let him know his sentiment for wanting to have visited earlier is part of what The Real South Africa is about. Trying to bridge the gap between america and Africa and showing you the possibilities that exist on the continent. And still he continues. He has asked if we have ever visited Zimbabwe, to which I responded no. We are still trying to settle in here before we continue our exploration of the country and continent as a whole.

He goes on to say, “Zimbabwe is a VERY interesting place. I have a sister-in-law from Gweru, Zimbabwe. I traveled through half the country in 2015. It was unforgettable. I felt more “at home” in Zim than SA. Zim reminded me of many places in my home state of SC. They have very, very nice and very smart citizens. One of the most intellectual strong continents on the continent. More than SA.”

I explain to him Mark’s first trip was for work and that mine was shortly after. I tell him that Mark was in complete awe and couldn’t wait to share it with me, so we returned, with our daughter and his mom. I can understand his reasons for saying that about Zimbabwe, given there history and close ties to operating by using the dollar as their form of currency. And still he continues…

“My first trip, like his, wowed me. It was in March 2012 when I emailed Patricia, a woman I met by happenstance while walking on the Great wall of channel 6 months prior). She told me to visit SA. We exchanged a few emails and I said “what the heck…the plane ticket is cheap. Nothing to lose.” She met me at the airport, found me a hotel (Protea Fire & Ice Melrose Arch) and my eyes started bulging. I was like what is this? I’ve never seen stuff like this on TV. She spent two days giving me a tour of Johannesburg. I expected her to leave me afterwards so I can make my trek to Kruger and then return to the USA. But we hit is off so good that we went to Kruger together and (long story short) a couple. Hopefully married next year. I have a lot of friends in Johannesburg, a good friend (judge in the SA government) in Cape Town and a good friend in Durban. Johannesburg is like a seance home and most of my best and most trusting friends live in Gauteng. So many memories over the years. You and your husband are the first Americans I know who moved there. I try to see my girlfriend at least once every 4 months. I love traveling so we meet in Joburg or some halfway point. Recently it was in Egypt. Next month she comes to the USA (which I dislike because I would rather us go somewhere else. Anywhere warm…but I will compromise and host her in cold Washington, DC. lol (She’s been many times).”

You can hear the reluctance to have her visit USA in the winter since its going into summer in South Africa. I can’t blame him. An opportunity to have second spring and summer and NO winter. Is what we can all hope for.

“You guys are truly in paradise. Summer in South Africa is amazing. And you are a short flight from the GORGEOUS islands of Africa (Mauritius, Seychelles, Zanzibar). I’ll be so jealous as the temperature on my side dips below 20 degrees. I wish many fellow Americans knew and appreciated the beauty of the motherland. Some are like I used to be. Brainwashed by mainstream media.”

I express to him again that the idea behind The Real South Africa and it gives us so much more confirmation that we are doing the right thing. We are supposed to share this story, his story and ours so that folks in the USA, know that South Africa is not a “shit hole” country. That the continent itself holds more beauty than they will ever show you in media presentations.

Rick continues on to say “I had traveled every continent before Africa. Traveled throughout Europe a few times before Africa. Barcelona and Ibiza were my second home. I had no reason to go to Africa because I didn’t know anyone and know anything beyond “I’m from West Africa” and there are Pyramid in Egypt. So brainwashed, I was. And so it came to be that my first trip to Africa would be South Africa and it would lead to me traveling there and other parts of Africa more than anywhere — including my hometown.”

This last statement of his was one that resonated so deep. It is so very true that most will not travel to a place because they don’t know anyone or anything about it. Which again leads us to The Real South Africa. Mark and I are clear in our ability to make experiences pure. We want you to travel with us and feel like you are going with friends and to make friends.

The last thing he says, sums it all up and it was a perfect way to end our conversation. It makes what we are doing here in Africa all the more real each day we are here.

There is so much to do…one can never be bored in Africa.