July 26, 2011


Jade picked us up this morning, and we drove to the cable car station for a trip up Table Mountain. The station was closed for maintenance, however, so we journeyed along the ridge to Lion's Head. The weather was prefect - cool and sunny and sparkling. 

We went into town to get breakfast at a place that looked like every other coffee shop in Portland. Felt like home. Over breakfast, Jade and I caught up on the ups and downs of our lives over the past couple of years, and Jade and Josh got to know one another. It was lovely. After breakfast, we strolled around the Cape Quarter, a quirky little shopping area full of cafes and cobblestones, and met up with Jade's friend Leslie for a "sneaky martini." Leslie is bright and ebullient, and was so nice to us, laughing over completely uncensored travel tips.

(I realize I've mentioned quite a bit of liquor in my recent posts. Since most alcohol makes me feel like I might spontaneously combust, however, it is safe to assume that while the others are merrily swilling martinis, I am content with things like, oh, juice. Because I am five years old.)

(On another side note, Jade recently left the film industry to pursue social work, and so she has many tales of moviemaking in Cape Town. Over drinks, Jade informed us that we were at Clint Eastwood's favorite Cape Town cafe. She also regaled us with a funny tales like the time she [accidentally] smacked Matt Damon in the face.)

When I was younger, the first word that would have come to mind after hearing "botanical gardens" would have been "boooring." What is the point of walking around and looking at plants? Why, walking around and looking at plants, of course! Jade, Josh, and I visited the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in the afternoon, and it was just stupid beautiful. Rolling green hills, majestic trees, verdant flora, and rocky peaks as the backdrop to it all. I hummed the Jurassic Park theme quite a bit. We talked about how small our lives are sometimes, how mundane daily annoyances become lifetime themes. It's so important for me to travel... Helps me to remember to look up and out. 

On the way to Costantia, a wine estate, I asked Jade what it was like to grow up under Apartheid (which officially ended when she was about thirteen). Going into social work, she says, has been a huge eye-opener for her. As a kid, she didn't really have any idea of what was going on in her country. Everything was censored by the government, and she lived in an affluent white community. She was largely sheltered, and lived a blissfully unaware childhood. She said that she was absolutely stunned, as an adult, to discover what was going on just fifteen minutes from her home. Her friend Ernie, for example grew up in Cape Flats and had an entirely different childhood. I get the general impression that living as a white under Apartheid was largely an existence of ignorance and apathy. Most people were just living their lives, going to school and to work, spending time with family, having leisure time on weekends. When I wondered aloud how people just sat by and watched as blacks burned their passbooks and were subsequently killed in Sharpeville, Josh brought up the recent legislation in Arizona, where immigrants have to carry documentation at all times... Eerily similar to the South African Pass Laws. And as a white person in Oregon, am I doing anything about it? Am I fighting or organizing political dissent? No. I know it's going on, but I'm just living my life. The difference here, however, is that Arizona is pretty far from where I live, whereas many whites lived the status quo while these events took place in their own towns. I'm definitely speaking from a place of relative ignorance, as my study of Apartheid is limited to a couple of units in high school and my research for this trip, so I hesitate from making sweeping judgements, but it has all got me thinking about how easy it is to disregard inequity. 

In Costantia, we walked down shaded lanes, bordered by sweeping vineyards and Cape Dutch architecture. Gorgeous white stucco buildings with curving rooflines and dark green doors. English gardens and cobblestone pathways. Looking out over the winter-dormant grapevines, we saw the peninsula rising from the ocean, the sky perfectly clear blue. It felt like a New England autumn, and was stunningly beautiful. Josh and Jade sipped wine like pros, aerating the pink Chardonnay and deep burgundy Pinotage by swirling their glasses. 

We bid farewell to the fabulous and funny and intelligent Jade at the end of the day, with a promise to see her in Hermanus tomorrow night (where her friend Leslie generously invited us to come drink tequila and stay in her family's beach home).

Josh and I went into the city to track down some ever-elusive wifi, drink white, and get dessert.

Stellenbosch tomorrow.