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The under-reported side of being South African

My boyfriend and I recently had the misfortune of falling victim to an over-booked SAA flight to Dar es Salaam. At the time, I was unaware he was planning to propose, so while I was devastated at the thought of having to miss our carefully planned holiday to Zanzibar, he was sweating ice-blocks!

After six gruelling hours stuck in OR Tambo airport (and a few too many games of I Spy) we managed to secure seats on a much later flight to 'Dar', but that meant missing our connecting flight to Zanzibar. Our travel agent explained that overnight accommodation would cost the GDP of a small country and there was no guarantee of a reliable taxi/donkey the next day. We decided the safest option would be to sleep in the Dar es Salaam airport to make sure we caught the connecting flight.

While queuing to board the plane at ORT, a casually dressed Durbanite struck up a conversation with us. Having shown us all the photos from his recent fishing trip, he asked what we were planning to do in Dar. After relaying our frustrating ordeal, he picked up his phone, dialled a number and moved away for a few minutes. When he returned he told us everything was arranged and we were not to worry. We shot confused looks at each other and it was then that he introduced himself as the manager of a prestigious five star hotel in Dar. We couldn't believe our luck!

Once we arrived, a shuttle was waiting to collect us. We asked about his hotel rates but he insisted it was all complimentary. He told us if one of his family members found themselves in our predicament, he'd want somebody to step up to the plate and help.

We spent the most amazing night in Dar es Salaam and arrived safely in Zanzibar the next day, thanks to the generosity of a fellow South African whose only request was that we visit again.

The night my boyfriend proposed in Zanzibar, one of the first calls we made was to our new friend - the manager, who was over the moon to hear the news.

My point is that although South Africa is often synonymous with violent crime and rampant corruption, there's still an inherent sense of kindness and kinship among those who live and have lived in the country.

The experience has taught me to expect wonderful things from South Africans and to repay the kindness in every way I can.

It also shows the worth in striking up a conversation in a queue, because you just don't know where it might lead.

Tara Meaney is a news anchor on Talk Radio 702.

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