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Diamonds And Dust: 73 - Departure

...There were the usual speeches and good lucks and we all sat talking a bit too loud and too fast for a few hours and then it was all over. The next day I would leave the mine forever. I did not know it then but an era had come to an end...

After working for six-and-a-half years at a diamond mine in Affenrucken, Namibia, Malcolm Bertoni goes off to study at a university.

To read earlier chapters of Malcolm's vivid account of diamond mining in Namibia please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/diamonds_and_dust/

To obtain a copy of his book click on http://www.equilibriumbooks.com/diamonds.htm

All good things come to an end. I had plans. I had dreams. We all did. We were all there to make as much money as possible and then move on to where we really wanted to be. I wanted to go to university and do a degree and move on to better things. Perhaps I wanted to prove something to myself. I didnít want to spend the rest of my life out in the desert. I knew I was intelligent enough. Was I hungry enough? Did I have what it takes to study?

There was only one way to find out. I had only finished year 10 at school. Too busy surfing, playing sport and doing all the things that boys and teenagers do. So I asked to be put back on shift again so that I could study and complete my matric. For the whole of 1974 I studied via correspondence and wrestled with maths, chemical formulae and history dates. I wrote my exams at the local Tafe at the end of November and waited expectantly for the results.

In early December I got my results which were better than expected. I passed everything except just failing maths. I could always do a sup exam. While waiting for the results, I had applied to UCT for enrolment into a BA degree, majoring in economics and was accepted and in the end didnít even need the maths. I was over the moon and excited as hell.

It seemed very much like fate. I resigned and got ready for my life back in Cape Town. Another adventure was about to begin.

The time seemed to fly by and suddenly it was time to go. I remember the farewell get together in Caseys. It was the first time I had ever been in the pub. Very ironic: now that I was leaving I actually went into the famous pub near the roundabout in the centre of town. It was a long weekend and everyone that could, came into town that day. I was touched by the mob that gathered. They gave me a beautiful gold plated Parker pen and pencil set that I still treasure today.

There were the usual speeches and good lucks and we all sat talking a bit too loud and too fast for a few hours and then it was all over. The next day I would leave the mine forever. I did not know it then but an era had come to an end. I was one of the guys to have lived longest at the remote outpost of the company. Many only lasted a few months and couldnít handle the isolation and the desert. A few like me came and stayed. I ended up staying nearly 8 years, of which 6Ĺ was spent at Affenrucken. Iím not sure who had stayed out there longer, but there could not have been many. Of the ones that were there that day I left, almost all would leave within the next 6 months. Affenrucken would never be the same again.

But I had made great friends and great experiences that would last me a lifetime.

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