The morning of our first full day in Johannesburg broke in a blaze of sun. Sandra fiddled with the dial on her portable radio until she picked up what sounded like a local station that, except for the music and accent of the deejay, could have been mistaken for a station back home. Why is it that no matter where you go, almost all deejays sound the same?
Our room at Shepherds Court was large, and comfortable for the three of us and our suitcases. But it was the bathroom that had us ooohing and aaahing, with its heated tiles, shower, and whirlpool tub that beckoned invitingly each time we entered. Regrettably, we didn’t have time to enjoy it.
We spent most of the morning sorting the school supplies that we planned to donate. It was Sandra’s suggestion and Judith and I signed on without hesitation. Unfortunately, the week we arrived, all the schools were closed because of a strike. We were anxious for it to end as we had no plans to take the supplies back to New York.
Lorraine’s brother, Roger, arrived soon after our late breakfast to take us to Soweto and to meet their mom, Thandie Klaasen.
Known as one of Nelson Mandela’s favorite jazz singers, Thandie Klaasen has performed with Miriam Makeba, Patti Labelle and Roberta Flack, among others. This elegant woman, of proud bearing, lives in a suburb of Johannesburg surrounded by the awards and mementos of her 50-plus-year career. Several young musicians seek her out and the night we were there was no different.
Mercy Pakela, a singer who was appearing that evening with Japanese jazz saxophonist, Sadao Watanabe, was there when we arrived. We all crowded together in Mrs. Klaasen’s living room, talking with her about her life, her struggles and her luncheon with Madiba. And as if the evening couldn’t get any better, both she and Mercy sang for us.
From the outset, we knew the trip would be fabulous, we just didn’t know it would be this fabulous!