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Leaving Cape Town

Left.  Left.  LEFT!Looking down at Stellenbosch from the passMy Mom has upgraded from chirps and grunts in the passenger seat to specific directional commands, which are much more helpful to me as the driver as we head through the Stellenbosch wine country and beautiful farmlands towards the coastal resort town of Hermanus east of Cape Town and near the beginning of the famous Garden Route along the Southern tip of Africa.We navigated our way out of Cape Town in a rental car.  On the Left side of the road.  In the rain.  In traffic.  We did not make it out unscathed.  As I drove the five blocks back to the hotel to pick up our luggage I couldn't find parking so attempted to turn around and ... scraaaaaape ... Oops.The green Mercedes parked too far out in the road was already missing paint off the bumper --- you could barely tell where I scraped it.  But I left a note anyway, being a good citizen.  And overcame my urge to ignore the incident and beat it out of town.  The rental car already had a scrape documented in that area when we rented it.  But there is nothing like having your mother in the passenger seat to keep you on the straight and narrow.  The rental car repair ... now that's probably going to cost me a touch.  But then that's why we bought insurance, and have back up travel insurance that covers what rental car insurance doesn't.So beyond frayed nerves, and the very embarrassing moment of walking back into the rental car office a mere 20 minutes after leaving with an unscraped car to file an accident report, we made it out of Cape Town alive and well and headed out on the rest of our journey.Driving got much easier

Perspectives – Conversations in South Africa

"It would have been impossible for me to own my own business ... or even just be a tour guide twenty years ago.  Before, only whites could be tour guides and interact with whites.  I can't tell you what a difference there is between now and before apartheid ended".  This from a woman of color - Cathy - who is not black - and who grew up in a coloured township with parents who had enough of an income to send her to school with lunch everyday and firm admonishments "not to take the free soup and bread and take it away from those who need it more."  Coloured was differentiated from Black under apartheid - they were the descendants primarily of slaves brought in from Asia and the near East - and they were treated better and held more privileges than black Africans under Apartheid - though were still marginalized."As a woman, I was forced out of my teaching job after five years with mandatory work limit rules before apartheid.  They hired a bachelor to replace me.  You see, apartheid went well beyond race.  It impacted everything - male, female, race, religion. Where you could sit.  Who you could marry.  Everything - much more than race."This from our white city tour guide, Andrea, who has lived in the country for over forty years, but still maintains her German citizenship and pays German taxes.  "Before the end of apartheid and during the unrest I kept my citizenship so I could leave if I had to.  Now it's just paper, but at least I can get a good pension in Germany if I needed to go back for it.  Here, there is no safety net." Both women acknowledge the problems still here.  Cathy sees promise, and acknowledges the problems still faced here

Freedom Day – 21 Years after Apartheid

South Africa celebrated its first Democratic Election today ... held a mere 21 years ago April 27, 1994.  That's nothing ... 21 years is no time at all.  It had never really occurred to me that this country is so young.  And so new to learning to live together after years under apartheid - the very antithesis of democracy - that systematically and brutally segregated this society by race.  We knew very little about Freedom Day when we boarded the ferry to Robben Island to tour the former prison that housed Mandela and most other political opponents of apartheid.  It was coincidence that I had chosen this day to buy tickets for the tour.  But as we piled on the ferry, and then trooped over to the prison and listened as a former political prisoner described life as a prisoner, I realized how far South Africa had come in such a short time.Our guide at the Robben Island prison was sentenced for "terrorism" in 1983 and spent seven years in prison until his release in 1990 - when the prison was closed and all political prisoners released.  His crime was recruiting members to the ANC - the black nationalist political party outlawed by the apartheid government.  He described how the prisoners work the limestone quarry where they were forced to move rocks from point A to point B ... and then back to point A.  For years.  Meaningless work meant to demoralize.   And how the educated prisoners - 70% of the political prisoners were educated and professionals - taught the uneducated to read and write by drawing letters in the sand.  They schooled their own followers and trained their ANC leadership on Robben Island.  The striation of apartheid reached into the prison, where prisoners were treated differently according to

Small Things – Kirstenboch National Botanical Gardens

Autumn yielded to summer once more today.   As we walked in the famous Kirstenboch National Botanical Gardens we could feel the sun and the humidity taking a toll, despite the floppy hats purchased from the garden bookstore.So we sat under a tree in the shade to cool off.  And as I looked up at the black underside of the fan of  branches framed by delicate green needles, filtering light through a light breeze, I realized that this simple view was perhaps the most beautiful thing I'd seen all day.It's always the simple things that help you really see.Visiting these gardens was the top priority for my Mom, a master gardner, Birmingham Botanical Garden volunteer, saver of countless dying plants in my Seattle home and the go-to decorator for events among her circle of friends. And the garden didn't disappoint.  It was  colorful and fragrant and educational and an important ecological conservatory in an environment that threatens many of the native species.  This garden is truly masterfully designed and cultivated.It didn't take long to realize that the garden was designed complement the spectacular backdrop of Table Mountain that framed the sky behind.  The rise and fall of the trees and plantings seemed to follow and complement the mountain ridge.  And the black stone sculptures of African women and men not only became part of the garden.  They were surrounded by the plants and textures and colors that successfully made the garden part of the sculpture.  Best was the noise.  This place is joyful ... full of the laughter of families with kids climbing the perfect climbing tree or toddling after the waddling guinea hens or having a picnic.   And full of the sounds of the birds swooping on the bright blooms and flitting through the trees - making the garden