Arriving into Cape
July 2, 2006
This place is so much like home. Yet it is also so much not like home…
I immediately felt comfortable when I arrived here and got to the place I was staying. When I say ‘comfortable’ I don’t mean it
in a ‘safe’ way as I have felt safe everywhere that I have traveled. I mean it in an ‘I felt instantly situated’ way. Do I know
where things are? Of course not. But I felt like I could walk outside and be able to figure it out. In this way, I felt at home.
I was chit-chatting a bit with the man that picked me up from the airport. Since I arrived so early in the morning (5:00am)
nobody was currently at the reception area of the place I was staying so I couldn’t get inside the building. My driver called and
was told that someone would be here in about fifteen minutes. He insisted on waiting with me even though I told him it wasn’t
necessary. All of a sudden a noise came from within the city. A sound I knew all-too-well. I asked him “Is that the prayer call?”
Sure enough, it was. I asked him if there were many Muslims in Cape Town. He said that there were. Then he continued “First
blacks, then whites, then coloreds, then Muslims.” This was his way of telling me the different people that Cape Town is made
up of. Now was the point that it was apparent to me that I was not at home.
I don’t want to sound ignorant but I wasn’t quite sure what was meant by ‘colored’ people and I didn’t feel right asking. It
might be Indians? But I’m not sure. Back in the United States, we are taught to be so ‘PC’ that it seemed like I would be
extremely offensive if I asked to hear more. He also told me that in Cape Town everybody lives pretty well amongst each
other (which I knew). Then he proceeded to tell me about Johannesburg (called ‘Jo’burg’ around here) and how they have the
same four groups of people but that they are all segregated (which I didn’t know still existed). I had assumed that all of South
Africa had moved in the direction that Cape Town was going. Now I see that it was quite an ignorant assumption on my part. It
brought to mind certain parts of the United States. While things appear hunky-dory in the big cities, think about all of the
segregation that still exists in the South. It’s nice to think that it has ended but in reality, it hasn’t.
I know that while I am here I want to head out to one of the townships. I am sure that Lori will want to do that as well so I am
going to wait until she arrives.
I am now reminded of something that really irritated me in Prague. Don’t misunderstand me – it had nothing to do with
Prague itself. It was just something I read in the Herald Tribune while I was at a café in Prague. There was a small article
written by a travel journalist. He did an article with a topic that was something like ‘tourism to avoid’. These days a lot of
companies are promoting trips that provide more than just ‘sight-seeing’. They provide a person the opportunity to see the
‘real’ part of the country that they are visiting. One of the specific examples he used was a trip that would take a person to see
a township in South Africa. Keep in mind that this was just the day after a girl I met on a train in Prague had told me
specifically to go to a township when I went to South Africa (she went while she was on Semester at Sea). This guy was more or
less questioning why anybody would ever want to do these kinds of trips. Here is this American guy who has written an article
for an international publication and he sounds exactly what the world views as the American stereotype. He was doing a
mighty fine job proving just how right they were. It might seem like I have changed and I am acting too cool for school right
now. But I haven’t changed at all. I say that I’m American at every chance I get. It rolls right off of my tongue, never with
hesitation. My problem is that I have befriended so many people along the way. It’s only after a few hours that they express
what their opinions on ‘Americans’ are and that they are pleasantly surprised to see that they had it wrong. It’s only then that
I tell them that they really don’t have it so wrong. It’s just that not everybody is like that. One person from Europe even knew
enough about American geography to say that he knew that it was ‘mostly middle America’ that is like that. But I won’t get
into this because this is what brought about ‘Jennifer vs. Michelle – fight #2’ in Ljubljana. I know I’m far from all-knowing…I
am just trying to relay views from people I have met along the way. This is just journaling and getting my thoughts out onto
paper (or in this case, a computer screen). Plus I’m drinking wine right now which ends up putting more thoughts out there
(for the record, I have tried three different glasses of Cab at ‘The Nose’ and every single one has been stellar).
Anyhow, back to the Herald Tribune guy. My final thoughts are if you are only interesting in going to fancy schmancy resorts
or sightseeing in cities that have replicas of their main attractions in Epcot Center and Las Vegas, then I am going to lose a bit
of respect for the travel writer in you. With excellent movies such as Hotel Rwanda and The Constant Gardener and people
like Angelina Jolie, the world is moving in a different direction. The direction of understanding people of different cultures and
races. I love a good vacation as much as the next person--don’t get me wrong. But it was almost painful reading how somebody
is going out of his way to not see what is going on in other places and snubbing others for suggesting them as traveling options...
Some of the funky architecture on Long Street.
Proving that I'm on the other side of the world.