Thursday, January 27, 2011

Makieties, Reflections and Observations

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.

Herondekte, Afrikaanse woord wat ons jare laas gehoor het:
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

I don’t know why the Swartland, and for that matter the Karoo too, is so enchanting to me. After all it doesn’t have the natural beauty of the Boland with its mountains and green valleys. The Swartland is mostly gently slopping, rolling fields and meadows, wheat-brown with patches of grey and black. However, these days it is getting greener with more farmers planting vines and fruits. Maybe because it is there that my family genes come from or because I spent so much time in the Swartland and the Karoo as a child. (But that’s for another post.)

The last Sunday several family members and we drove to Riebeek-Kasteel for lunch at the Royal Hotel. The town is about an hour's drive from Cape Town, just past Malmesbury. Before lunch most of them sauntered through the few small shops down the road from the hotel that sold anything from preserves, biltong, antique furniture, vintage clothing, homemade springbok and curry meat pies, rusted wrought-iron garden furniture, and cacti plants, while I was snapping photos of the Dutch Reformed Church nearby (the architectural beauty of churches is fascinating to me) and watching colored kids hassling people for money as they came to park their cars.

Riebeek-Kasteel: The ladies returning from shopping in the few small shops that were open on Sunday.

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.
After lunch we drove through the few streets of the tiny town, marveled at how the town has grown and changed and drove by the house my father once lived in for many years about 20 years or so ago. That jogged my memory because I can still remember how we use to come here on Sundays and braai soutribbetjie under the massive oak tree in the back yard and after lunch fell asleep on blankets in its shade.

The restored old Post Office in Philadelphia is now transformed to the StoepSit Kafee 

Returning to Cape Town we stopped for a few moments in the quaint little town of Philadelphia. Only 20 minutes from Cape Town on the N7, it amazes me that this little town has not yet been snapped up and changed by development. Most of it is still like it was in the 1950s or before. Sure there is some new development in a small pocket of the town and cleverly kept away from the old town area, which is untouched except for the restored buildings. New uses were found for these restored buildings. The old post office was turned into a café and the old flour mill into a restaurant, only open on Sundays and serves traditional South African dishes. I hope the little town stay like it is, but I doubt that it will survive the onslaught of an ever increasing Cape Town.

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.

Ceiling art in the Canal Walk shopping mall.
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.

Finally…The flight back was more or less uneventful. Thank God! We did miss our connection flight from Washington, DC to Atlanta, Georgia due to a delay in Dakar, Senegal and a very long and detoured approach into Dulles airport in Washington, DC, which meant we also missed our planned connection from Atlanta to Lexington, KY. But Delta Airline was very helpful to arranged new flights. Luckily the wait was not that long and we only arrived home about 3 hours later than the original plan. Tired, dehydrated and with clogged sinuses from the airplanes air conditioning, seriously in need of a nice shower, a warm bed and a long sleep. Jetlag would only come the next day, but no one care about it then.

Although I tremendously enjoyed the vacation in Cape Town it was also good to be back home. No matter where home might be. Until the next trip…

Notes: Of the major tourist attractions of Cape Town, the so called “big six”, we visited only one, Groot Constantia. Although we have been there on a previous occasion we would have like to go to Kirstenbosch, but we ran out of time. Of the others, the Table Mountain Cableway, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, and Cape Point: been there before and had no plans to go there this time. Robben Island: never been there and have no desire to ever go there.

Regrets: None really. I would have like to visit more wine farms, because I like traveling the typical winelands countryside, the camaraderie of tasting wines and the ambiance of wine estates, but it is probably a good thing I didn’t get to more farms. I then would have had to have a liver transplant upon my return.

Churches in the Western Cape

Table Mountain from Signal Hill

Moon reflecting on the sea at St. Helena Bay 


Anonymous said...

Ek geniet hierdie reisvertellinge baie, seker ook omdat ek die plekke ken. Moet jou komplimenteer bop die kerkfoto's. Dis pragtig!

NS: In Suid-Afrika besef mense nie meer dat hulle eintlik abnormaal leef nie. Hulle rasionaliseer die situasie in hulle kopppe om maar hulle "sanity" te behou.


BluegrassBaobab said...

As ek kyk hoe sommige van die mense ry dan werk die sanity rasionalisasie nie baie goed nie. They still insane. LOL.