Community Dinner – a night of hope

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I’ve kicked my shoes off under the table, the top button of my thrift shop shirt is undone and boy oh boy, am I exhausted. But I am exhausted in the most beautiful way. No, I am not being cheesy or flowery. I just haven’t felt this content, this giddy, in the longest time!

Tonight I hosted the very first Park Exchange dinner at Grounded Work in Villeria, Pretoria. I had 9 guests, all were people I knew but not all of them knew one another; all from different spaces and places and all such lovely humans. The night flowed so naturally!
As everyone arrived, they were handed cards to write down whatever topic they felt necessary to discuss. We placed all of them in a box, ready to be picked at a later stage. After opening the night and introducing everyone, the yummy starter was served. Our chef, Mynderd from Essen Eatery, treated us to a Vietnamese styled “Phony Pho” soup-broth, served with a spicy baked chicken samosa. This was the perfect way to warm up the evening. While we began eating, I picked our topic for the evening and lo and behold it was #menAreTrash. Everyone had something to share from personal experiences, things they’ve thought of in random moments, thoughts from previous conversations they’ve had etc. It was glorious!

Everything that I’ve ever wanted The Park Exchange to have was there tonight! The food was MARVELOUS, everyone was relaxed and open, and the conversation was honest and allowed enough space for introspection on an individual level and a community level and no offence was shared or taken.
Again, I must mention what a taste adventure the meal was. The main course consisted of family style sharing dishes. We had individual beef shin filo cigars topped with quince jelly; roasted beetroot, green apple, watercress and pumpkin seed salad topped with a granadilla citrus dressing and a warm black bean, lentil, couscous and corn salad. For dessert, Mynderd treated us to some double chocolate fudge brownies served with warm, Mexican hot chocolate shots and a peanut brittle. There was a point in the evening where I zoned out and just focused on all the delicious chocolate on my plate!

I am warm and fuzzy inside and content, not just because it was a great experience, but because it was a night of hope. It made me hopeful for the state of our city, Pretoria, it made me hopeful for the state of our nation, the wonderful and lost South Africa, it made me hopeful that hard work does pay off and that dreams do come true.

People, we can speak, we can have a good time, we can disagree, and we can work together and move forward without leaving anyone behind. Trust me; I saw it all happen tonight!
There was something magical about the dinner. I honestly hope every single South African gets to experience it one day!

Also, a huge THANK YOU to Standard Bank for believing in our vision and investing in us, for investing in our community!

To you reader, I can’t wait to chat to you over dinner.
Until then.

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