Cape Town Wrap-up

What lingers the most with me is the contrasts, perhaps even contradictions of Cape Town.  The city is beautiful with mountains and ocean views in every direction.  The weather was perfect (except for the wind).  The people were hopeful about their young democracy (less than 14 years old).  The economy seems dynamic and entrepreneurial.  Yet, unemployment is very high – we were told as high as 40% in some areas.  HIV infection rates are in the 30% range.  People are living in near 3rd-world conditions just blocks away from areas you could easily mistake for a beautiful ocean-side city in the US such as San Diego.  It’s a complex story, difficult to articulate or put into easily-digestible sound bites.  Maybe I’ll have more to say later upon further reflection.

I will also remember the people, particularly:

  • Peter, the retired New Testament scholar from Minnesota who owns the B&B.  His eyes sparkle as he talks about South Africa, his adopted home.
  • Raymond, the native Capetonian who taught us about Cape Town and South Africa with grace, charm, humility, and humor as he took us where we needed to go.
  • Dan, the elderly black man who was forcibly removed from his home in District 6 during apartheid and then was among the first to return there years later.  He has a picture in his living room of Nelson Mandela handing him the keys to the new place.  Today he glows when he talks about his life.
  • Charlotte, the vibrant resident of Masiphumelele who was our tour guide there.  She arranged for the marimba band that entertained us royally followed by afternoon tea at Zukie’s bed and breakfast.  It was among the most memorable experiences of the trip, yet very difficult to describe in words.
  • Tembo, the founder of SHADE who speaks with such passion about her life and work that you leave inspired to come along side and do anything it takes to help SHADE’s vision become reality.  She is a powerful woman.  Look out world.
  • Otto, the Lutheran pastor from Germany who serves the people of Philippi with grace, love, an entrepreneurial spirit, and impressive attention to detail.


1. Consequences of load shedding as reported in an e-mail yesterday morning from our B&B host, Peter Kjeseth:

Today, the day after your departure the headline story in the Cape Times:  BLACKOUT STRANDS CABEL CAR.  Load shedding hit while the Table Mountain cable car was half way up leaving 37 people dangling in the car in a heavy wind.  When the electricity went back on, the cable car malfunctioned so it could not land properly.  Rescue teams got the 37 off to safety.  The 500, yes 500, stranded on top of Table Mountain were not so lucky.  They spent a chilly night up there.  Their rescue began only in the early morning hours. 

Several people from our group took that cable car up to the top of Table Mountain on Saturday, our free day.

2. Diarrhea isn’t fun, especially on a day when you’re on four flight segments over a 33 hour period.  Imodium helped, but didn’t fix it.  We were assured that it’s safe for Americans to drink the tap water in Cape Town.  I’m not saying I have any evidence tap water was the cause of my distress, but …  (Was that too much information?)

3. You can’t bring biltong into the US, even if it is sealed in the original package.  See US Customs FAQ here.  That’s 30 rand we’ll never get back.

4. I’m still picking grains of sand out of my hair, blown there by the constant wind.

4. Did anything happen here in the US while we were away?

4 thoughts on “Cape Town Wrap-up

  1. Jim Walton January 23, 2008 / 4:45 pm

    Did you get hair in SA?? :)From one folically challenged person to another.

  2. Deviant Monk January 24, 2008 / 9:09 pm

    No, nothing happened in the US. Translation: nothing that great came out of the MacWorld Expo. Unless you want a 3 lb. laptop that you can send to somebody via inter-office mail along with a DVD that you can neither play nor burn with the aforementioned laptop.

  3. Deviant Monk January 24, 2008 / 9:13 pm

    Of course, who needs to be able to play a DVD now that you can rent a movie through iTunes for $4 with the caveat that you have 24 hours to watch it.

  4. David Szpunar January 25, 2008 / 1:17 am

    Mmmm…just reading about Biltong on Wikipedia makes me want to try it! My mouth is watering…must find at least some other snack before bed now 🙂 Any leads on where to get at least a copied version of Biltong around the Midwest US? The trip sounds like it was great by the way! 🙂

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