The old Post Office in Philadelphia
The last weekend of our near four week excursion to Cape Town was one of great makieties (parties) and why not, it was New Year’s weekend, and moments of reflection (sometimes in the midst of parties), and a last swing through the Swartland and the hustling of packing luggage and the reality that all good times always comes to an end.
Reflections of Goodbye
As always the time and the accompanied emotions of departure are such a blur of mental images and such a momentary feeling of finality. You know it was coming, but it still felt like it crept up on you too fast. That moment you stand at the gate to the security entrance and the last hug you give each person that came to the airport to say goodbye, you expressing your appreciation for the good times you were able to share with them and meant it and holding on to the hug for as long as you feel you can. That last turnaround after you have gone through security and gave a final wave and saw how they all stand in a small group waving back, and you experienced that fleeting moment of loneliness (them on the outside, you on the inside, the feeling of separation so irreversible by the narrow security tunnel.) And finally, while some had tears in their eyes and others had lumps in their throats, the thought that it could be years before you see some of these people again (or never – life is so unpredictable and oh so fragile). But then you turn away, hearing a final announcement for your flight, head for the departure gate, reach for your boarding pass and passport, and you know it is not a final goodbye, you are hopeful, it is just arrivederci, au revoir, auf wiedersehen, tot ons mekaar weer sien.
Nuwe Afrikaanse woord wat ek nog nooit voorheen gehoor het nie:
Riebeek-Kasteel Dutch Reformed Church. Built on a hill it towers over the town.
A Last Swing Through the Swartland
Observation: There seem to be “parking attendants” everywhere, hand reaching out for money to supposedly “have found you the parking spot” and “watch” over your car.
Signs from various towns we traveled.
Observation: Cape Town hasn’t changed much in the last 7 years. Yes, there are more suburbs and houses and shopping centers on its outskirts, especially beyond Blouberstrand and the Plattekloof area, but the old familiar places and roads of the southern suburbs still look the same. In general, the place actually looks cleaner, less rubbish along the roads, etc. since I was there last in 2003. Of all the bad press you sometimes read overseas about South Africa, I never felt I was endanger of being mugged or robbed at anytime, but then I purposefully didn’t travel to “frontier line” areas, where, in similar areas in many other large world cities you also stand the chance of being mugged or attacked.
A collage of Riebeek-Kasteel.
Afrikaners Bly Plesierig (Afrikaners like partying)
The day before, the Saturday, was a classic “the day after the night before.” Quiet and placid and I spent some part of the day watching northern hemisphere rugby en highlights of the 2nd cricket test between South Africa and India on the TV. However it was more a case of the day after the day before instead of the night before. Because on the Friday, the day before New Year’s Day and traditionally big party night in South Africa like everywhere across the world, the partying started late morning already. A very good and dear friend of ours, who is at the same time my brother-in-law’s neighbor, had a big makietie (party) for his 70th birthday. They combined/opened up, whatever, the two backyards with the bar in one yard and the lunch tables in the other and smack in the middle they barbequed a whole lamb on a rotisserie for lunch. ‘n Lekker spitbraai. Lunch was done by 2 pm, but few people left. While some used the swimming pool, others baked in the sun or found shade under the gazebos, talking, drinking and just enjoyed the company. The partying continued through the afternoon into the evening until we counted down the seconds to midnight and the start of a new year. Along the way, in mid-evening, a fire was restarted and more lamb chops and boerwors appeared and were barbequed and we ate again. No wonder the Saturday was spent quietly. Until the evening when we went to another braai and the eating and all that goes with it started all over again.
Now you know why I said in the very first sentence of the first blog post about this vacation I needed a rest, another vacation after a vacation. The hospitality of Afrikaners is immense and legendary. Hence the old song: Afrikaners is plesierig.
The Aitsa Cafe in Riebeek-Kasteel.
Observation: I spoke to several people about local politics and the state of South Africa and there seem to be some level of anger if your scratch the surface. Mostly though it was directed at the levels of corruption in the government and Black Economic Empowerment society in general. One person so aptly described it, and Afrikaans can be such a beautiful descriptive language, as the “skilpadstertsindroom”, the turtle tail syndrome, with every business deal there is the cupped hand in the back, just like a turtle's tail, to collect their personal, under the table, commission.
Observation: How can one live a normal life in an abnormal environment? Here every house has an alarm system. It’s voluntary confinement behind high walls, burglar proofing and safety doors with dogs as additional safety devices. Each man in its own castle with its safety moat. I suppose I forgot how I use to live. It was natural then. It just doesn’t feel natural anymore.