coming home

Back to flight SA055 – Luanda to Johannesburg – two men, with broad Afrikaans accents, are talking, in English.

‘I’ve told my family that we can’t blow all the money on cruises. We need to save it all up for something really long-lasting.’
‘What’s the work pattern like?’
‘Five weeks on, three weeks off.’
‘That’s not bad.’
‘But I’ve been telling my wife, you know, we can’t spend all the money. We’ve got to be careful.’
‘Right.’
‘There’s so much oil spillage up there, though. And the government doesn’t fine the companies. They could make a lot of money if they fined the oil companies, but the Angolans just don’t bother.’
‘Really?’
‘Yeah. We can see it from the platforms. You just look down at the sea and you can see huge spillages stretching from one platform to the other…’
‘That bad?’
‘Oh yeah. And the fishing – there’s so much fish, huge bloody things. You can see them from the platform too. Vast great fish.’
‘Oh?’
‘And noone’s fishing them. You’ve just got the local guys in those canoes who stick their nets out, but they’re hardly scratching the surface. And now, d’you know what they’re doing?’
‘Who?’
‘The Angolans!’
‘What?’
‘The government’s letting the Chinese in – I think it’s China anyway – to come and fish whatever they want. So they’ll clean up the waters in no time. But they should be preserving it!’

Then they switch to Afrikaans and I return to my book.

At the end of the flight, I turn to look at them. One is a huge great hulking Afrikaner, the other (the one who was doing most of the talking) a black South African. My reading of the conversation immediately alters. I’m not even sure how, but it alters. My prejudice is challenged, and I’m not sure what that means.

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