Friday, April 12, 2013 – Bright, warm and mild…. A lovely day.
Here I am in a Heaven with walls, bars, locks and armed response alarms on a gorgeous, happy day with a chorus of neighbourhood guard dogs. Surely, I will take it more seriously as I grow to understand the whole situation. But for now, as a person who has never lived in Africa, I am an incredulous observer.
One flick of the circumstance button and I could be blessing this tight “Home as a fortress” reality but I can also imagine the difficulty in escaping a fire or in getting rescued if I fall and break myself inside of my locked castle keep and needed a stranger to help me….fast!
However, I’m way ahead of myself. I must hasten to say that I absolutely love it here in Cape Town, South Africa. First, let me explain how I wound up in a lovely townhouse in a suburb of the southernmost big city on the continent of Africa. In my second year-long circumnavigation of Planet Earth, this time, throughout the southern hemisphere, I had always planned to travel through the African continent’s massive and mysterious chunk of the world but many of its countries are now under some sort of travel warnings due to unrest and civil demonstrations, here and there. So, when I spotted a housesitting/ dogsitting opportunity on one of the six housesitter recruitment sites I’d been scanning, I wrote to the homeowner in Cape Town. At first, the position had been filled but in a short time, I heard again that it was open and I changed my current plans in order to head here after Australia.
So, here I now am, and I must hasten to say that I absolutely love it! The townhouse is exquisite and finely-furnished, really comfortable, and located on the outskirts of the central business district in Parklands, a very nice residential district. This is not a big condominium building but one of many two-story duplexes, well-walled from each other and gated from the street; as well as shielded behind a stand-alone garage. This creates a lovely, brick interior patio with trees and potted flowering plants, where I now sit to write at a wrought-iron table, surrounded by four matching chairs, beside a built-in barbeque.
Saturday, April 13, 2013 – Lovely Day
Life is so sweet and slow that I “can’t find the time” to sit down and write. I love it here and I feel the potential for so many great adventures and learning experiences ahead for me. Again, I’m on the welcoming, shady patio, enjoying coffee in my favourite spot. Norma, my hostess, brought my darling little doggie charge whom I will nanny while she’s in America and Canada. Pip is a tiny Teacup Yorkie, five years old, but just a scrap of a thing with barrettes to keep his long hair out of his eyes. He has “small man syndrome” and wants to attack every big dog he encounters. Luckily, he’s light enough to be plucked up by the leash attached to his halter before he gets eaten but he never stops trying. He won me over right away and now has begun training me as to his likes and dislikes. Norma took us to one of many beaches along the ocean shoreline where she and Pip walk daily. I won’t be driving but this can be reached on the bus so we can continue the tradition.
It’s a beautiful beach with a stunning view of Table Mountain, the enormous flat-topped mountain for which Cape Town is so famous. Just offshore, is alsothe flat outline of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. The maximum security prison is closed now and can be toured as a World Heritage Site.
Now I must learn how to use the extensive bus system which covers the whole city. I’ve already tried it out to go to a very modern mall, interacting with various people along the way when I needed information. What a population they are! Here, people really go out of their way to help a stranger and I resonate with them in a deep and happy way. Often, our transaction includes a laugh, a touch on the shoulder, a small chat on the subject of inquiry: “How do I exit this huge mall?” or “May I see that red sweater on the top shelf?” or “Which is my bus?” Ohmigosh! They go out of their way to lead me or to do it for me.
“The Gentleman,” (as a black Australian pharmacist called South Africa’s former President, Nelson Mandela) is turning 95 soon but is still holding his own. I had worried that he might die before I arrived, as he was in the hospital with recurring lung infections. Now he’s at home and I haven’t heard any more news of him except that his children from two marriages may already be fighting over inheritance and trying to commercialize his legacy. Still, he is beloved throughout the entire world and whenever he does finally leave the earth, I know that we will see all of the Heads of State here for his funeral.
Apartheid is no longer and many Blacks hold positions of responsibility and seem to outnumber the whites in employment in stores and banks and many businesses. However, I’m told that the old education system for Blacks, called Bantu, hasn’t prepared them to rise to the highest levels of responsibility. Many are still disenfranchised and poor; many still live in shantytowns and there are also refugees from other African countries who come here seeking freedom. So, there’s still a very unequal situation between Blacks and Whites, with a whole lot of petty thievery taking place at every opportunity. This is soft crime with houses and cars broken into for anything that can be sold on the street….mostly electronics and jewelry. This explains the walls, bars, locks, alarms and barking dogs in every front yard. Things have now boiled down to the Haves against the Have Nots, instead of the racial discrimination of the past. The “Have Nots” are Black, so it could be said that the “apart” portion of apartheid hasn’t yet been cured.
But, Cape Town is a peaceful place and a very beautiful city and is still a beautiful work in progress. I am very happy to be here.
Adelaide, Australia – My last post was five weeks ago and maybe you thought I had fallen off the bottom of the world, down here in the Southern Hemisphere. Indeed, I have certainly been to the Ends Of The Earth & Back during March, 2013, but there’s still plenty of gravity Down Here….. Down Under.
My blogging silence has been strictly due to the frequency of travel and the uncertaintly of wi-fi connections. In those five weeks, I have stayed in 6 cities, in 2 countries, on 2 islands, with flights, ferries, buses and hostel dorm rooms in between. My time has been spent sleeping, talking, eating, touring, reading and recovering from it all. This is World Warp Speed at its best.
But, I still haven’t left my Comfort Zone! Still haven’t felt as if I have gotten out of my own backyard!
For anyone who has a fear of foreign countries; a concern about different languages; an unfamiliarity with the food, housing, stores or products, I advise this global route for you. I will have been away from home for one full year before I even land in a country in which English is not the dominant language. That would be Spain in mid-July. And, that’s leaping up to the Northern Hemisphere when I could actually fly back to America from South Africa, my next destination, and never leave the cozy confines of American-feeling countries.
If I weren’t running up to Europe, then this around-the-world trip would feel exactly like going around the United States. My first country was Australia, back in August, 2012. Then, I traveled in the South Pacific through Fiji; Samoa and American Samoa. Yes, the islanders do have languages of their own but English is the dominant language thanks to the long-standing tourism. Basic housing (except for the front yard fales and ancestor graves) and buildings, food, movies, all products in the stores, look just like ours. Next came three months in New Zealand. Ditto. Then, another month in Australia and soon it will be three months in Cape Town, South Africa, where British Rule back in the day guaranteed this same cookie cutter look. Very beautiful but familiar.
The only clue that we really are out of Kansas is the fact that they consistently choose to drive on the wrong side of the road. This keeps me from renting a car and tooling around. So folks, these countries are safe stepping stones, upon which you may tread….not cheaply, but easily…… and get credit for Going Around The World without having to be courageous at all. The people are great! Thanks to stereotyping, I actually expected them to sound more “G’day Mate! Good on ‘ya!” but they don’t. They just sound regular.
So, let me catch you up on the places I’ve been since the last time you heard from me in Dunedin, New Zealand.
INVERCARGILL, NEW ZEALAND – 3 DAYS- This is a really pleasant town which is less a tourist site than a jumping off place for the waters and mountains at the base of the South Island of the country. I was jumping off to cross the strait to Stewart Island, still in New Zealand, but a tiny nature preserve for bird lovers. My hostel was the Tuatara Hostel, named for a giant lizard of the land.
ODAN, STEWART ISLAND – 7 DAYS – Tiny town you can walk around in minutes with one hotel and a few cafes and shops. Lots of hiking trails and fern forests, good fishing, bird tours, boats, seafood, cold and windy. Probably a whole lot like any Maine fishing village. Small population of nice people. I stayed in Bunker’s Backpacker Hostel, which was like a private home with lots of people trying to find enough space for themselves and something to do when the weather was too nasty to walk about. When people in this modern day become too crowded, they retreat into their handheld devices and the room is as quiet as a pin. Yes, I did try to catch the elusive and darling Kiwi awake in the daytime (Ha!) and I tramped in beautiful fern forests to that end. Couldn’t even spot the one in the zoo because, it being nocturnal, all the lights were off where it lived.
INVERCARGILL AGAIN – 3 DAYS – Back at the Tuatara and grateful for its center of town status with a good choice of eating spots. Rested to recover from my week-long rest on Stewart.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – 3 DAYS – Big, busy city in which I would have stayed longer except the big Formula 1 sports car race had all beds full. I was just as glad I left when torrential rains hit during the expensive race weekend and cancelled the time trials. This was after months of drought and temperatures in the 100’s….or as they say down here: the 40 Cs. I was in the Discovery Hostel, which was simply okay.
HOBART, TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA – 6 DAYS – Tasmania is a big island state of Australia and it’s very nice. Hobart is an old and very dignified city with lots and lots of serious stone buildings of the Parliament variety. Many cities in both of these countries are like that. Very historical. It has great seafood and a very present river waterfront and nice parks. My hostel was The Pickled Frog and was funky and friendly. I did see the back end of one cute little Tasmanian Devil as it roared around and around a track in its pen at the Boronang Nature Preserve. However, I got to walk among lots and lots of drowsy kangaroos who allowed me to scratch their heads and chests, though they all looked incredibly bored. They are also more nocturnal and we tourists, with our handfuls of food pellets, were keeping them up. They really are darling beasts and look as if they’d make good pets…..though I’ve never heard of anyone keeping one as such. Must be a bundle of good reasons.
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – 11 DAYS – Big, fancy city where I’m simply waiting to catch my flight to Africa on April 10. I got caught in the doldrums of the Easter Holidays and had to look hard and long for places to eat as everyone stops working and gets together with family for the loooooong weekend. This country closes down for Good Friday and then celebrates Easter Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Things only returned to normal today, which is Wednesday. I surely lost a bit of weight and was sometimes reduced to eating from the snack machine at the hostel. Plus, I had a really bad cold for about two weeks and needed the private room I splurged upon at the fancyish YHA Hostel here. $70 per night as opposed to the $28 hostel dorm bed, but a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do. I’m sure the dorm mates were grateful not to have my sneezing and coughing, as well. Now I’m recovered and catching up on computer work and laundry and preparing for my next country: Africa.
That’s going to be very Comfort Zone, as well.
Note: I really wanted to go on up to Alice Springs and Ayer’s Rock/Uluru but distances are so great on this Australian continent, that it would have cost about $2000 extra and the holidays were not a good time to travel.