The Story of my First Days in Cape Town, South Africa
April 29, 2013 by admin
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.