Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Third Post from Cape Town

Hey everyone,
A week has passed since our last contact, and I'm happy to report
that that time has been robbery-free, though at one particular point I
did feel like a piece of live bait about to be tossed into a frenzied
school of barracudas. But we'll get to that.
University only began in earnest today, a watermark that symbolizes
the transition from a very exciting, fun, sensory pleasing lifestyle
to more of a placid, intellectually stimulating existence
(hopefully!). Both should be enjoyable and worthwhile, though to mark
the sadness of having our free time tied up in classes - courses here
tend to meet 3-5 times a week, as opposed to 1-3 in the U.S. - a
friend and I today booked two trips for March: one to Johannesburg and
one along the Garden Route, a particularly aesthetically pleasing
stretch of coastal highway (including a place to go ostrich riding!)
in the southwestern part of the country (we're renting a car).
I know, I know, it's a very difficult life I'm leading down here.
Last week I had the chore of grinding out the following schedule:
Monday: Dinner and a movie (Little Children w/ Kate Winslet - very good!)
Tuesday: Beach, where we were supposed to take a surfing lesson but
the current was too strong and the shark watcher had poor visibility
(that's right, they employ people here - and have an entire
color-coded flag system a la the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security's
colorful chart - to monitor the whereabouts of sharks off the coast)
Wednesday: Spectacular day trip of wine tastings through Stellenbosch,
South Africa's Napa Valley
Thursday: Take a breather (by watching Sweet Home Alabama, which was on TV here)
Friday: Professional soccer game
Saturday: Hike Table Mountain
Sunday: Afternoon concert at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Pity me, indeed.
A few notes, in reverse chronological order. The concert setting was
spectacular - in a huge botanical garden on the side of a mountain -
but the music was subpar. Not only was the bank playing punk rock, but
they were singing in Afrikaans! Loud noise just becomes a cacophony
when produced in a foreign language. As for hiking up a mountain: in
case you haven't noticed, my family has never been featured in Field
and Stream. We're an urbane bunch, more inclined to hike across (as in
city blocks) than up (as in mountains). Admittedly, I was slightly
petrified of hiking up a mountain. That may or may not have to do with
a distaste of heights and poor balance. Alas, my fears were allayed by
a trail that was steep, but not the type of
narrow-path-along-the-edge-of-a-cliff nightmare I'd envisioned.
And finally, the barracudas. While still in the States, I decided I'd
like to attend a match of each of the big national sports here:
cricket, rugby and soccer. The Cape Town Ajax (soccer) happened to be
playing Friday night, so we got together eight people and took a
minibus to the stadium. Little did we know that a) the stadium was in
the projects and b) no one arrives early to soccer games. Most folks
operate here under 'African time,' which is much like 'Lowe time,'
that is, a wee bit late :) So the minibus driver, a saint named Al,
stopped the car in front of a gate near the stadium. Outside the
minibus, about a dozen teenagers swarmed. One, who (I kid you not) had
one eye, came up to the driver's side window begging for money. The
eight of us simultaneously started begging to be driven home. It's
difficult to convey the tension that hung in the air. Perhaps my crime
antennae are now hyper-alert. Perhaps the teens just wanted a small
handout to get into the game or for a meal. But there seemed to be a
particular desperation about them, a sense that they, shall we say,
didn't always limit their actions to those which fall within the legal
boundaries. I feel more confident asserting such an opinion since the
driver took it upon himself to talk to the security people (he spoke
another language, but the word 'Americans' was definitely used),
thereby allowing us entry to the stadium through the players' gate.
The driver then proceeded to park the car, escort us to the ticket
booth and then to the gate, whereupon we were given the kind of
frisking by security personnel that would have the ACLU filing a
lawsuit within the hour. As Al predicted, we were safe inside the
stadium. The only other white person in the stadium was the Ajax
goalie, but no one bothered us (mostly because the stadium was 70%
empty and the fans in attendance were too busy alternately smoking
massive amounts of marijuana and incessantly blowing plastic horns.
How their lungs manage both, I do not know.). We even made a friend, a
fan named Charlie who we talked to about soccer and crime and a whole
range of things.
Now that I've taken up the rest of your Monday, I'll bring this
missive to a close. Do know, however, that I've put some pictures
online. More will be added in the days and weeks to come, but it's a
start. Instructions on how to find them are below.
Hope this e-mail finds you well, perhaps still basking in the
afterglow of Valentine's Day (which they do, believe it or not,
celebrate here in some quarters). As long as you're basking in some
light - I hear it's freezing there! Thanks for all the correspondence
in return. Feel free to send any questions or suggestions for
exploration. I'd be happy to take them up.
Take care,
Brendan

Instructions to find photos
- Go to www.flickr.com (no typo, there's really no 'e')
- Click the link in the top-left corner that says 'Already a member?
Sign in' (I know you may not be a member, but proceed anyway)
- You will most likely be prompted for a Yahoo! ID. Enter saphotos.
The name has been created specifically for you to view my photos. The
password is photossa.
- Sign in, and then click the down arrow next to the search link in
the right-hand corner. Choose Flickr members.
- Enter lowebrendan into the search field.
- My number of photos (80) will appear next to the word photos. Click photos.
- My photos will appear. If you want more organization, click the sets
on the right-hand side of the screen.
- From there you can see photos from Stellenbosch, the wine region 30
minutes outside of Cape Town, and Clifton Beach, one of the nicer
beaches within the city limits. (Note: the photos named 'Khayelitsha'
in the Stellenbosch section are of the townships the proliferate
around the city)
- Enjoy!

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