Category Archives: Africa

Ile De Deux Cocos: Sublime, With Lime, Island Time


I am loyal and consant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby-I just don’t care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it’s mine.
–Elizabeth Gilbert author

My second day on Mauritius we hit the beach at Ile de Deux Cocos (Two Coconut Island) via glass bottom boats. My life will never be the same. I think the students liked it too! There were probably 9 faculty and staff and 60 students on the island which sounds terrible but was really quite perfect.

We were greeted in true fantasy island style with cold face towels, mimosas, an open bar, free snorkel equipment and lounge chairs (pictured above) hammocks, cabanas, and a BBQ lunch of chicken, shrimp, fish, lamb, salads, breads, and on and on.

They had to pry our toasted, sand-crusted, worn-out bodies off the island. One of the owners (it is owned by a conglomerate) was on hand to wish us safe travels and make sure we didn’t make off with any of his crystalware, silverware, beach gear or the like.

In a journey of almost 6 weeks with a pace that makes my head spin daily, it was nice to chase sand crabs, ooh and ahh over fish, decide wether to snorkel or nap first (snorkel!), chicken or shrimp (both), hammock or lounge (neither!).

There were strolling guitar players who serenaded us as we napped and played in the sun and shade. Paradise, really. Because everyone was happy, content, relaxed. That night the “crew” that I hung out with in Cape Town insisted that I go out with them, but when I heard that the ride they arranged wasn’t due to come back to this side of the island until 4am….I laughed and laughed and told them “you couldn’t PAY me to hang out with yall like that again.” Plus, the next day I headed out for some deep sea fishing fun and had to be up at 5:15am. So I caught up with some students that I didn’t know well and had yummy chinese food until we couldn’t keep our eyes open or our heads out of our plates.

I thought it was hilarious that our boat was named Zazou 3 (Wasn’t that the dude in “The Life Aquatic?”). This was another one of my goals…to go deep sea fishing, something I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now but had neither the time or the money in ample supply at the same time. And after this trip out to catch some beast of the deep, I can honestly say I’d rather stand on the docks and just throw my money into the ocean, because deep sea fishing is a gamble. And despite our gear, guides, and good attitudes, all we caught was sight of a Chinese navy ship, and 3 birds. I guess after Fantasy Island, I was due to draw a short straw.

I spent my last day on Mauritius at a Botanical Garden (yall know how I love a botanical garden) this was the best worst Bo-Garden ever. Turtles, ???? (I have no idea what these are because NOTHING was labeled!), oh wait here are some FLOWERS! Imagine that-and lots and lots of trees. I shouldn’t complain since it was free. Of course I was out and about with Shayla and so the day had to decend into foolishness. We got mistaken for South African tourists, she was assumed to be a cook on the ship, our cab driver tried to shake us down for an extra $5US after taking us on a skeevy city tour, we ate some sketchy ice cream, shot amazing views of the city and she got groped on the water taxi. So we’ve dubbed Mauritius “The Island We Hate to Love.”

CHENNAI, INDIA: Here we come!

Port Louis, Mauritius: I’d Never Heard of It Either!

Mauritius was a totally crazy port in good (and not so good) ways. We pulled in about 5 hours late on a beautiful, tropical afternoon. The island is the stuff dreams are made of with the lush green landscapes, the indescribably aqua-green waters and well, the people (as I had been warned) are gorgeous! (Pic=Sega dancers at Cannelles).

Another cultural experience with the crazy students (here singing 80’s tunes on the way to Cannelles). About 40 of us went out to the cultural center for a night of fruity drinks, not so fruity drinks, authentic food and dance.

Us trying to dance Sega (lots of emphasis on “trying”). The Mauritians are a proud combination of French, African, Indian and Chinese decendents. Most of them refer to themselves as “Creole”, not identifying with a particular ethnicity.

The next morning I went on a trip with two of the Environmental Science professor’s classes to a local fish hatchery lab! We learned about baby shrimp in test tubes, breeding and feeding goldfish, and how Eco-Tourism is the driver of Mauritius’ economy. Oh, I also slipped down some slippery steps in the hatchery and my arse and back hurt wicked bad the next day. (note: wicked bad=hurt like hell, please send prescription strength narcotics).

Totally nerdtastic morning. Did you know that goldfish are not a naturally occurring species? They are a hybrid of carp! Same with Koi and similar ornamental fish. We learned about various types of coral reef and specifically about the 150 miles of reef that protect Mauritius from Cyclones and Tsunamis. We also got to talk about some ways to conserve water, protect reefs around the world and help nature to heal itself. This particular scientific research facility was even more impressive because fully half the scientist are women, as is the Director. Go Girls! Don’t worry, the boys were holding their own and several scatalogical jokes were bantied about. I think the phrase I’ll never forget is “Poop Loop” which is altogether different from a Fruit Loop, despite the similarity in their names.

Cape Town, So. Africa: One Last Thing


My last activity in Cape Town was a poignant one. One of my favorite students organized a Middle Passage ceremony to remember and pay homage to the enslaved Africans who lost their lives during the passage from Africa to the Americas.

Sunset, Daisies, Friends. We each said our own private prayers, then public words, and set our flowers adrift. Our feet on African soil for a final few minutes. I can’t think of a better way to have ended my time in South Africa.

Cape Town, So Africa: Bye Bye Love

“Live every week…like it’s Shark Week.”
– Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan on Tina Fey’s 30 Rock.

[1] My first post from Cape Town was a view of Table Mountain from the waterfront. I thought it would be fitting that my last post from Cape Town would be of the waterfront (and specifically you can see our ship the MV Explorer there with the blue hull), from Table Mt. My 55-300 lens is sweeet!

[2] My last day in Cape Town was filled with a lot of joy, no sorrow and a little magic. I think I’ll keep that to myself, to savor and revisit, to touch with the edges of my mind when I want a smile.

[3] Thanks for all your votes on my inital post
Choose Your Own Adventure. I hope you all get the chance to do any and everything you’d like to do in So. Africa one day. In the end I couldn’t fit in everything-but here’s what I did get to do in the week:

Robben Island
Table Mountain
Ostrich Farm
Cooking Class
Church w/ Archbishop Tutu
Meerkat Manor
Visit A Township (x3)
See/Hear Good Jazz
Dance until 4am (x2)
Eat Authentic Braai
Pet Baby Cheetahs
Hold a Boa Constrictor
Drink/Buy Good Wine
Laugh until I Cried (x7)
Bought Good Music
See the Winelands
Drink Beer w/ the Locals (x3)
Dinner at Archbishop Tutu’s House
Catch Upper Respiratory Ebola Virus (UREV)
Wished My Mom Happy Birthday
Learned a new sexy trick for opening Beer bottles

and my favorite: Getting to know people (both locals and my students and colleagues) a little better. To sit next to, across from (and some times on laps)-with people of all ages, races, genders and backgrounds and dream our common dreams.

Check me out over at Gadling.
Next up on Funchilde: Mauritius, the Island you’ve never heard of!

Oudtshoorn, So. Africa: Something Different


MEERkat Luv, originally uploaded by funchilde.

So you get the point that I am totally in lurve with Cape Town right? Well, I decided to get out of the city to get a little balance, and I knew a couple of months ago that I might have a chance to see Meerkat Manor in real life!

If you’ve ever seen the show, you know that there was no question I was going to do this if I had a chance. So, I packed some gear into my daypack for the two days we would spend out in Oudtshoorn. To give you some perspective, there were several trips heading out to safaris all over so. africa, there were opportunities as diverse as safari on 4×4 quad bikes, trips out to Kruger National Park, people were flying over waterfalls and driving to the highest bungee jump in the world, etc. There was lots to chose from and lots of people to satiate your adrenaline craving with.

Fortunately for me, only 7 other people were dying to get out to see the meerkats and the ostrich farm that would serve as our home base for the trip. At this point in the round the world journey, I needed the quiet, relative calm and the low people density of this side trip. I was overstimulated, overcaffeinated, overextended, etc. All in good ways, but definitely losing touch with reality with so much to see, do, hear, taste and smell.

The trip out to Oudtshoorn was about 4.5 hours and we had an 18 passenger van for 8 of us, which allowed us all to stretch out and occupy our own space. Within 20 minutes everyone had iPod earphones shoved in their ears or books out, tilted just so in the sunlight. I set my playlist and watched the amazingly green countryside fly by to the sounds of Corrine Bailey Rae, Jack Johnson, and Sade (the remixes). We passed the winelands, the mountains, streams and rivers and we drove and drove and drove some more. We made a pit stop for food, bladder breaks, and I picked up the local trashy paper and a samosa, both for less than $1 US (and EVERYBODY including our driver got caught reading my trashy paper at some point).

We made it out to the ostrich farm where we’d be staying and I was dazzled by how serene, beautifully laid out and artfully conceived the place was. This is what you see in glossy travel magazines made for people who travel Africa with MONEY! We ate all of our meals under a palapa roof – open on 3 sides, with good music, lots of wine and the firepit nearby, while gazing out over alfalfa fields (part of the diet of the ostrichs) and the pool.

The first day we headed out to Cango Wildlife Ranch and oohed and ahhed over all of the creatures being rehabilitated or protected from dangerous conditions in the wild. We spent hours wandering around. I enjoyed the birds, bats, this crazy looking thing, lots of baby crocs, big crocs, lemurs, meerkats, and the BIG BOYS! Lions, white lions and I got to pet baby cheetahs and got to have a huge boa constrictor around my neck until she got too antsy and wouldn’t stay still. A day of many firsts. (Hi Dad!)

We checked into our cabins on the ostrich farm and the woodcraftsmanship of these things is amazing. Each cabin has two rooms, a kitchen area, living room and back deck overlooking a small lake teeming with birdlife. After an amazing dinner of ostrich lasagna, red wine, white wine, salad, squash soup and erudite discussions about politics, class and international relations, I conked out. I woke up at 3am to the sounds of a mamma cow and her calf moo-ing their hearts out to the full moon-I got up and looked out the window because they sounded awful close, and damn if they weren’t right under the window!. If that wasn’t bad enough, every frog, cricket and racket making insect on the lake had some kind of general assembly going on. Fortunately 4 months traveling around Mexico has me immune to this nonsense and I promptly fell asleep again, only to wake at 4:45am to get out to the meerkat site before first light.

*oooh, I forgot to mention that I talked my way into the kitchen for a peek behind the scenes! 

Unfortunately, I woke up with the first signs of an upper respiratory ebola virus (my diagnosis and terminology-I don’t really have ebola), that I knew was not going to be pretty. Some tea soothed my throat but nothing was going to stop me from tossing my cameras, water, bandana, headlamp and snacks into my pack and trampling everyone else to get out to the site.

We drove and drove and drove some more, then crossed some scary mud holes, crossed into a locked ranch property and drove and drove some more. We finally were camped out in front of the meerkat’s burrow by 6am where we used binoculars to scan the landscape as first light dawned. We saw spring bok, water bok and lots of birds. By 7:30am the meerkats STILL hadn’t woken up and I was like, damn…they have more sense than we do. I pointed out that basically we had driven 300 miles to wake up and sit outside someone’s bedroom window and wait for them to get up so we could follow them around all day. Yes, I am very funny to myself. So witty, so clever. Wait, why am I single?

Our guide was none other than Grant, the Meerkat Manor dude! He has built a relationship with this group of meerkats as well as others over several years. They don’t view him as a meerkat, and they are not tame, he has them conditioned to view him as another large animal that is harmless, thus they have accepted him and they mark his shoes and tolerate his presence. This dude got us within mere inches of the meerkats. When the first little head popped up out of the burrow, 14 more followed within the next 5 minutes or so. It was the most adorable thing you can imagine.

We were coached not to make sudden noise, sudden movements and to be still if they looked directly at us until we passed their security test. Which we did eventually and then we spent the most nerdtastic morning following them all around their territory. We were literally in the middle of their group and they weaved in and out and between us as they searched for food, stood guard and the babies wrestled. Grant taught us all about this fascinating animal as we walked, I fell in love with their sense of community, their matriarchal structure and their cute little two legged sentry stance.

By and large we two legged beasties cried “uncle” and headed back to the farm for a breakfast of scrambled ostrich eggs and cheese, toast, bacon, yogurt, cereal and juice where we all talked non-stop about what we’d seen. Everyone envied the porcupine quill that I’d found (amazingly beautiful!) and I succumbed to the fatigue of my UREV (upper respiratory ebola virus) with visions of meerkats occupying my dreams.

My latest post is up at Gadling! Check us out for more travel news.

Cape Town, So. Africa: Still Cooking (in & out of the kitchen)


So, after one of the best days ever, I had to go and be silly by not being ready to let the vibe go, and so I went out. Again.

We hit Marvel on Long Street. Again. And it was pleasantly comfortable in crowd size. The joke about Long Street (District full of bars, cafes, boutiques, etc) is that you can’t go out and get home before 4am. And it was true. Again. And just like in Mexico, the people I seem to attract are all types of off limits, like the 23 year old cutie pie black dude from England. Why are you all up in my ear telling me you live two blocks away? Why are you telling me your Baby Mamma lives in Mauritius (our next port)? Why is your butter smooth voice and baby face reminding me that you are YOUNGER THAN MY BABY BROTHER! Get out of here, scram crumbsnatcher!

I got to sleep in the next morning until 9:30am! (something that is RARE on this trip). I pulled myself and my life together to make a good smelling entrance to my cooking class (yipee!). I was the trip leader over to the Bo-Kaap district (predominantly Muslim) where we had an amazing time at the museum and then had a hands-on tour of the oldest spice trader in the area (Atlas Trading), then off to Savaya’s house for an afternoon of food, foibles and fun.

Savaya, showed us how to make Samosas (think filo dough with seasoned meat inside then fried), Roti bread (yum! Stacey are you drooling?) and Chicken Curry (double drool). Their house was painted a beautiful meditaranean green on the outside and cool whites and pastels inside. It was warm and welcoming and Savaya has a warm spirit and a gift for entertaining.

After class I caught up with Sherri (another SAS staffer) who wanted to hit a particular restaurant in the Bo-Kaap. We found it then I dragged her back to the spice store where we both bought a ton of stuff. I picked up some Masala, Tandoori, Braai (bbq), and Peri-Peri spices. A whole bag full of stuff for less than $14 US including some tea, souvenirs, and some snacks for my next stretch on board the ship.

Next we headed downtown a little ways to Musica Africa where I burned up my credit card and bought up all kinds of music. I got some Kwaito (african hip hop), Cape Town Jazz, African Choir Music, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, African R&B, etc. I guess music is going to be one of the central themes of this trip for me since I’ve bought fantastic tunes in Puerto Rico, Salvador and now Cape Town. I picked up some souvenirs for my parents, siblings, nephew and Chris and Tracy who are watching my rental property for me. Mailed postcards, more souvenirs for friends and colleagues. I want to give everyone a little piece of So. Africa.

I met up with Shayla to take our Robben Island tour at 4:15pm. I had talked her into going on the last ferry over so we could do the tour at sunset which I thought would be cool. It was. The ferry ride out to the former prison, most well known for being the place Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years, took about 25 minutes in the warm sun and salty sea spray. Shayla and I laughed and played with our digital cameras and tried to figure out what nationality the people around us might be.

The first part of the tour was of the Island itself, we saw the elusive white rabbit, penguins, spring bok and the outer facilities (lighthouse, school, etc). Our bus guide lived on the island when he was younger, his mother was a teacher at the school for the families of the guards.

The acutual prison tour was hard for me. The description of the conditions of the prisoners, the way they were treated based on race, the countless lives and families that were torn apart because of political ideology all made me angry. We got to see Nelson Mandela’s cell, the tour of the prison facility is given by a former inmate which is a concept that I loved. Our guide showed us his former cell, spoke of his experiences and in his regal manner spoke of the ultimate ego-less act…forgiveness. He told us how most of the guards and former inmates are now cordial/friends, they gather annually and there is no animosity.

I wonder if I could live that divine act? Hell, I still hold playground grudges from 1983. We all got to crowd into the group cell and feel how small it was, wonder how we would have survived in such conditions, swore we would have escaped, the usual stuff you think in these situations because you have no idea what you would/could do.

Strolling around the prison as the sun set, the wind picked up and the animals quieted down, was powerful. I promised myself that I would buy a copy of Mandela’s book, A Long Walk to Freedom. That though I’m traveling with another historical Rabble Rouser for Peace (Tutu), that there are so many who sacrificed so much for so long, without complaint, and I need to know their stories.

The ferry ride back over to Cape Town was in almost complete darkness as the last rays of the sun hugged the horizon. The stars popped out one by one, shining jewels in an inky black sky, until we got closer to the glare of the city lights. I was lost in my thoughts on the ride back, the boat was moving fast through the spray and it was cold. I pulled up my hood and gazed at the sky, trying to identify stars, versus planes, versus satellites.

Shay and I immediately ran to the book store which was due to close at 9pm and we made it with about a 1/2 hour to spare. I picked up Mandela’s book, A book on Desmond Tutu, a cookbook on How to Braai (bbq) to supplement the recipes we got from Savaya at our cooking class, and some gifts and goodies. We ate close by the harbor, both exhausted, chilled after the boat ride, and with lots of activities left to enjoy. She is off to skydive and I am heading out to Meerkat Manor in the morning.

I was asleep by 10pm. The siren call of Long Street was broken at last.

Cape Town, So. Africa: A Day To Remember Pt. II


I love this photo, not that it is well shot, but the context. The poster in the back is rather inflammatory without seeing the whole thing. It’s a beer ad that says basically “I hate being white because people assume I’m a racist…” but goes on to point out that South Africans come in all shades and unity trumps ignorance. Add to the foreground this picture of us (5 Americans – 1 African American (me), 1 Bi raciacial (black & italian), 1 Mexican American, and 2 Caucasian American) and I guess this poster could really be almost anywhere in terms of the issues that most countries are dealing with around race. The beautiful thing is that across the table from us are 5 South Africans and I like the symbolism that the table represents, we’re all reaching out across a divide to understand each other better.

After church w/ the Archbishop and crew, I hightailed it back to the ship to change clothes and meet up with Samuel, Lydia, Ammy (ah-me) & Danny to take an independent Township tour. Samuel has friends of friends who hooked us up with Gerald, a local media personality and Gerald gave us a peek inside of his world. No tour buses, no staring at people from behind panes of glass, no group ogling of the locals, we were going to get into the township and look people in the eye, connect, communicate…or so I hoped.

I should have known the day would disintegrate into a comedy of errors when Gerald rolls up to pick up the 5 of us in a 2 door BMW convertible. We were all like “no way, we’re not going to ride through a township in a Beemer are we?” but we packed in like sardines and chipped in to gas up the car and off we went. The Townships are hard to describe. they are like large ghettos with shacks, few running water sources, high population density, lots of trash blowing about, anything that can be used in some way is put to work, people, materials, ideas. But that would only be 1/2 of the picture. Most of the people in the townships are educated, there are lots of entreprenuerial pursuits being undertaken and there are relative middle class folks as well, some sections are nicer than others in terms of building materials, relative amounts of land per house, etc. The townships are a direct result of the impacts and residue of Apartheid, the unequal distribution of land, the stolen resources…it all sounds too familiar.

Gerald first took us out to Khayelitsha township (Shameka, I liked your vote for Soweto, but we never made it out there!), the largest township in Cape Town with something like 1.4 million people living in a fairly small area. We were warned not to go to townships on our own and I’ll admit that I questioned the sanity of our decision to go even with a guide, but Gerald parked and ushered us into a shabeen (local bar) called Morgan’s Place, and my fears melted away. People were either super friendly to us or paid us no attention. For the rest of the day I would never sense animosity, malicious intent, or even an ounce of ill will toward us. On the contrary we were turning down beers from the locals, playing a game called “waterfall” that I won’t discuss right now (smile) and talking all over each other “what languages do you speak? were you born in cape town? where is your family? why do you want to come to America?” and answering their questions “yes America has similar race problems, but I can live, work and play anywhere I want, yes I like hip hop music, no I am not married and I don’t have kids”

We were having such a good time in the little tin bar, snapping pictures, writing down propper spellings of our names, getting e-mail addresses and learning how to say hi in 3 different African languages, that when Gerald said it was time to go, we protested noisily, but he assured us that more and better were waiting. He took us to his home which was very obviously upper middle class and we finally got to joke him about his modeling career (hair products, corn flakes, clothes) and got to see some of the ads he has been in. Even more heartwarming were the 2 teenagers that were at his house, under the watchful eye of a neighbor, doing their homework in a clean, quiet space. I loved it. We got to see his bachelor pad, pics of his family and hit the bathroom before we tucked ourselves into the BMW again. He dropped the top and the afternoon sun, coupled with the breeze, the music (kwaito), the vibe and the continual realization that “Hey Man, we’re in South Africa!” overwhelmed me with what I can only describe as joy. We were all feeling it as people waved to us, we waved back, the music blasting with table mountain and the blue sky as backdrops.

Next we headed to Nyanga township for the best braai (think bbq) I’ve ever had. I’m not kidding. Maphindi’s is a butchery/restaurant and all the meat is fresh and seasoned and grilled/cooked to perfection. I was a little skeptical when we first sat down at a stainless steel table with nothing but a stack of napkins and a loaf of white bread (what?!), but when the meat came out (and it was ALL meat, no veggies, no potatoes, nothing but meat), we were like a pack of wild hyenas who hadn’t eaten in weeks! The meat was cleaned from the bones by our teeth and hands, the loaf of bread was reduced to a demolished plastic bag and some random crumbs. Little did we know that Gerald had called the owner and he was making his way towards us. Khaya and his family own Maphindi’s and a couple of other local businesses. He was funny, handsome and gracious as he gave us a full tour of the facility, including the expansion they’ve almost completed, the banquet rooms and finally the rooftop where we could see the township, the airport tower and the power plant as well as kids playing soccer on the schoolyard. The whole neighborhood was buzzing with energy and activity, Maphindi’s doesn’t serve or allow alcohol on premises so that the restaurant can be family friendly and I found myself falling a little bit in lurve with the idea of marrying a South African entreprenuer with a family business…but alas, Khaya is happily married and I am happily unmarried, so we kissed on the cheeks, hugged a bit too long and said our goodbyes.

At this point it was about 3pm and I thought Gerald would probably be ready to get rid of us and take us back to the ship, but we drove around for a while looking at the townships, the cityscape, the types of businesses and services that were around. Finally we slowed a bit and turned a corner into what looked to be the biggest block party I’ve ever seen. Out of nowhere there were more than 4,000 people, cars, dogs, beer bottles, stereos and did I mention PEOPLE!

We parked the car, which was a miracle in itself, and grabbed stickers, pens and pencils to give to the kids, stuffed some rand (so. african money) into our pockets and locked everything in the trunk before joining in the revelry. We made our way to a cargo container which doubled as a “brew thru” — a place where you could purchase beverages, we picked up Savanna Cider and made our way into the thick of things where we danced for almost 4 hours non-stop. The music was AMAZING, Kwaito is so. african hip hop with jazz and house infused and reminds me of early hip hop (which i love) and international house music (which i like a lot). Gerald taught us a sexy trick where you open one beer bottle with another and we were all thinking about who we could impress with such useful knowledge!

We met up with Nanna (a doctor from Ghana) and his girlfriend Maria (from Namibia) and all 4000 pairs of eyes were on them almost all day as they were a stunning couple with a knack for dancing suggestively. Our group swelled to about 12, but we kept mixing and mingling with local 20 and 30 somethings, dancing with anyone who would subject themselves to our enthusiastic appreciation of the DJ.

We shared beer, wine and cider with other visitors from the UK, Germany and France, dodged the local boy’s (and girl’s) attempts at kisses, and went to the bathroom 3 at a time because, hey…that’s just what they do here. And I don’t mean 3 people you know at a time, I mean you go in and 2 other women would push in too. At 8pm the DJ shut down so he could take a nap before he had to spin at a club downtown that evening so the party was over whether we wanted it to be or not.

We got quiet and somber on the way back to the ship, coming off of a natural high, knowing that a day like this would happen only so many times even in the most blessed life, believing that there was some magic to the particular mix of people that shared the experience, and knowing that our time in Cape Town would dwindle fast. All of this served to make us teary-eyed. At the dock, we couldn’t let go of the day (or Gerald) and stood around for another 45 minutes re-hashing the day as if we hadn’t all been there together. Ammy and Lydia cried so much they got the hiccups. I just tried to soak it all up, breathe it all in, and thank God for the chance to see, touch, taste, smell and feel, to be overwhelmed with sensation, overtaken by joy and overcome with gratitude. It really was one of the top 5 best days of my life.


Cape Town, So. Africa: A Day To Remember Pt. I

I’m not falling in love with Cape Town anymore. I’m so far past that that its ridiculous, inarticulable. Today was one of the top five days of my life. Really. It totally reminded me of that one night in Guanajuato.

So saturday was my Duty Dean day and things were so busy that I didn’t make it off the ship until dinner. It was a chilly, rainy and overcast day anyway, so if it had to be any one day that I was pressed into duty, that was a good one. Fortunately things were quiet in the evening and I was invited to put on my finest (slacks, summerweight polo sweater, cute loafers) and join about 12 others for dinner at the Archbishop and Mrs. Tutu’s house. Yeah, I can’t believe it either. We rode out to the suburbs and got to see the changing landscape from city to neighborhoods while the sun was setting, a quiet moment for me inside my head. I missed my parents terribly and wished they were with me.

Dinner was amazing. The vibe, the mix of people, the food, the laughter. To watch someone so revered in their natural, domestic life was touching. I am generally not nervous in environments where I have to be mindful of etiquette, etc, and I wasn’t this night either. Fortunately, I made an early faux pas (I sat on what I THOUGHT was a stool, but it turned out to be a small side table!) and I think this helped everyone relax a bit and just unwind.

The house was warm and it was like stepping into your grandparents living room, the food was colorful (lots of veggies), well seasoned (chicken and fish!) and the dessert was the design of the devil (custards, pies, cheesecake). But my favorite parts were the conversations. the Arch had invited several of his friends and staff and I got to hear funny stories about the Archbishop told by people who clearly love him as a person, beyond the celebrity. His personal assistant, one of his fellow Anglican priests, several of their friends, our cast of characters and really good wine. I told you it was ridiculous! Blessed is the only way to describe how I felt. And it gets better.

Sunday morning at breakfast, I ran into one of the Deans who asked me if I was going to Church, I said “sure, when are you leaving?”, he said “In 10 minutes” Well, when you’re invited to Church with the Archbishop, you find a way to gobble down your french toast, wash it down with juice and sprint to your room to change into a dress suit in under 10 minutes.

We drove out to Langa Township, the oldest township in Cape Town, and met up with the Archbishop at Saint Cypryanos church (sp?). The Archbishop wasn’t leading the service, he was there in his suit and collar handing out programs, dancing (he is ALWAYS dancing, seriously) and smiling. Now, I haven’t been to church since I started traveling about 14 months ago so I’m not going to pretend like I was doing something I always do. I settled in to my pew and just soaked up everything. The church is modest but beautiful, the word that came to mind was “craftmanship”. The wooden floors, the pews and the massive ceiling beams were undoubtedly hand cut, hand finished and hand placed. Amazing. The choir and pastor in their purple and white were stunning, and the music had all of us in our little group (about 12) literally crying, it was so beautiful, soulful and divine.

They sang in xhosa, one of the 11 official languages which is in and of itself beautiful (the word for hello is “Molo” which is incredibly fun to say). I obviously didn’t take any pictures, but I did grab some audio which I’ll figure out how to upload later. The sermon was also delivered in Xhosa, but it was easy to pick up the topic as the priest would literally drop a sentence of english in every 3-4 minutes so we knew that the “topic” for the sermon was basically community and how humanity is designed for companionship, that to be my best me, I must help you be your best you. That’s a philosophy that I can get down with any day of the week.

Stay Tuned for Pt. 2, the day got even better.

Cape Town, South Africa: Falling in Love

Wow. 24 hours in Cape Town and I can tell you that I think I want to live here at some point. Like now.

Yesterday was one of the most random days I’ve ever had in terms of activities, conversations, events.

After the diplomatic briefing I was cleaning up some conversations and giggling about various things when the Archbishop stops in front of me with the Premier of Cape Town and proceeds to introduce me to him. Yeah, you read that right. Archbishop Tutu introduced me to the Premier of Cape Town. Which is like having Oprah introduce you to Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger. Wild.

It gets better (and since we’re name dropping anyway)…I got to meet Arch’s wifey! She’s adorale, and together they are the most smiley, 64 teeth showing powerhouse of compassion you can imagine. I’ve had breakfast and dinner with the Arch a few times and he’s always joking me about my relative (to him I guess) youth and I’m always asking him “are you causing trouble young man?” so yeah, I’ve got inside jokes with an amazing guy. More on that later, back to yesterday….

So afer trampling everyone down the gangway I figured out how to get some money (south african “rand” = 7.11/ US $1) then we hit “Docks” restaurant and scoped out tickets for Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years). Due to the high demand, tourist season and general interest, by the time we got to the ticket office there was nothing available until Monday so we laid down our rands (and don’t you always feel super rich when you have foreign currency?” The notes are like 1,000 rand and you feel all wealthy until you realize its only about $145 and you’ve spent half of it on wine, music, peri-peri wings, and the like…wait, maybe that’s just me.

We roamed around all afternoon before checking our bank accounts online (alot of people got ATM bombed in Salvador and have watched scary amounts being withdrawn from their accounts). We watched this guy (pictured above) perform a street show that was the best worst thing I’ve ever seen. His shenanigans were more like a train wreck than a feat of amazing accomplishment, but as I’ve said before…I lurve an entreprenuerial spirit, plus he probably makes more money than I do.

After freshening we ran out to meet up with our waiter from lunch out for cocktails at Manegbas, a jazz bar (Jazz Safari begins!). I cut out after an hour to head to U of Cape Town theatre for an evening of high culture and froo-froo artsy type stuff. It turned out to be pretty great. Red wine, good food and appearances by the director tend to have that affect on me I guess?

After getting our culture on, we changed clothes and hit Cantina Tequila (yes a Mexican bar in South Africa!) then cabbed it over to Long Street which was packed with bars, clubs, pubs, etc and we got our dance on until it got too hot at Marvel. The music was phenomenal, but I need a fire code to be enforced and for there to be an observed “maximum capacity” for these places! there were 4,234 people in a little corner spot that might have fit 200. I didn’t stay inside long because I had taken off my money belt (its pretty safe most places here) and had my coolpix in one front pocket and my cash and a credit card in another. It was too packed in the dance spots for me to be able to guard my pockets well so we just danced out front behind the velvet rope. As tends to happen, we wrapped up the night (3AM for me) with a stop for some Peri Peri wings! I LOVE Peri-Peri sauce (an african hot sauce) and want to bring bottles of it home with me.

Tomorrow should be low key since I’m the Duty Dean and have to stay within 10 miles of the ship in case of any emergencies. After getting to sleep at 4AM, I’m not going to complain. Pics later when I find cheaper internet.

Wait, yall thought I was falling in love with a person? Not this time around, but this feels just as wonderful.