Visiting the "Mother City" and more...

Visiting the "Mother City" and more...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

All good things must end.

A look back at our 3 week vacation.

Summing up our trip has been a bit difficult for me, due to the many different angles and ideas I want to describe. OK so here it goes!

Of course, the anticipation of a wonderful adventure gave us a warm, fuzzy euphoric feeling. We landed in Capetown after a 12 hour flight from London. Immediately, we enjoyed the views, that we had only seen in photographs online or on television. The mystical clouds that rested ever-so lightly on top of Table Mountain were stunning. These beautiful visions shut me and my lovely companion up for once. The physical attractiveness of this young country was totally outstanding. The long drives showed the backdrops of the glorious peaks and valleys all left over from millions of years ago resulting from when the earth shifted its tectonic plates.

We zig zagged through with anticipation, checking off the most typical tourist stops and must do events. The animal safaris and the picturesque beaches on both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans were spectacular! I have no idea how many countless new species of birds and flowers we witnessed, while observing nature in the national parks.

We took our time cruising on the opposite side of the car/road. The road surfaces were smooth and very easy to traverse. The lodgings in the 4 cities visited were impeccable. All were 5 star level even at a couple of the B & B 's.

The food... There were no signs in any of the grocery stores, that mentioned "Organic"... The meat had a taste that was familiar from our past. I was very surprised how juicy and delectable the game was presented. Every morning, for about a week straight, I would ask for the Kudo sausages; alongside of eggs prepared any style. While out drinking one night, I met a few farmers and I chatted with them about their farming practices. Go figure, they both laughed at me and said our animals all eat only grass and drink water... No corn products are supplemented at all... BTW, all of our chickens are free range too.

We traveled to South Africa expecting to see the wild, dark, untamed continent. Quite frankly, safety seemed to be a major focus; not only by the media, but also by our own government. The State Dept. sent us an updated safety warning just 2 days before leaving Chicago... Conversely, we were given a glimpse into the life of the wealthy in Africa. This privileged living standard is the result of the many hundreds of years of colonization. A price that many people all paid on different levels within the struggles>>> in order to have us reap benefits like: the meals [including alcohol] and luxury events [like spa treatments] were all just about one third of the price in America. There is a 40% unemployment rate with the majority of the those people living on less than $1.25(usd) a day [according to the HDI". UNDP.]

The smiles are real and the true Ubuntu aspect of life is reflected in them all... Pure KINDNESS!!! as well as the feeling that we were totally part of their own family...
I have never been this "welcomed" in all of my life and I only surround myself with all of you all; the best of the best.

The magical moments of our trip centered around interacting with the everyday normal people. Tanja and I found the most enjoyable time spent on the Cape was with it visibly different inhabitants. The whites, the coloureds, and the blacks; whom all seemed to be co-existing in this "rainbow nation."
***Side bar***
I must say that, as a Black American it was very mind boggling to witness this culture though. I still need answers please help if you know what I mean>>>

As an outsider, I want to make a few statements. I look forward and encourage anyone to weigh in on this subject please.

Knowing that just 16 years ago, things changed drastically for all of the people of S.A.
Surprisingly, I found it (being a medium color brown skinned man) very difficult to have anyone "black, coloured, or white" interact with me. (*until I revealed that I was an outsider) For example, I spent more than 45 mins, one night trying to flag down a cab in a busy, well lit club/party area {around 9pm}... Thank goodness, I ran into a group of German tourists (fellow drinkers) who in less than 1 min hailed a taxi for us all.
Tanja and I had observed this social attitude a bit earlier, when we rented our vehicle at the Capetown airport. Assuming that I was a gentleman; smartly dressed, with a neat folder holding the reservations in hand. The young black woman looked past me to address Tanja and ask if she "could help her " instead... Her perception was that I was the simply the "help". The clerk was not going to waste her time talking to me at all. Weird, but not alarming to me at that point.
I have to preface these thoughts with admitting that I was a little concerned/nervous about going to a country, that had just abolished segregation in the early 1990's. Especially being inter-racially married, I almost expected to get stares or at least something we are not used to in Chicago or in the northern states of America.

Please note, that the descriptions of my accounts were not ever negative in demeanor.
I am just explaining what our stay was like from my prospective as an (American) black man.
The next time, which would very soon, later turn into this pattern, that I am describing happened just 15 mins after checking into our 1 st hotel. We walked up to the counter and talked to the very charming manager [Afrikaan/white], who was in the middle of badgering and chastising one of her employees. The helper woman was dressed in a black dress with a white smock, you know, your typical maid outfit from the 1940-50. This [42 yrs old] cleaner woman was on her hands and knees washing the floor with a rag. She immediately jumped to her feet and began running down the hall to check and see if our room was ready. "What a bizarre reaction", we thought to ourselves without saying a word to each other. The barking of orders in front of us seemed different, but again we overlooked this to be summed up as a "stern management style".
Over the next 4 days, we would witness the definite class system and normalcy of talking to the help in any form or fashion by the "white/coloured" bosses. I believe that this is when I became aware that I was not lumped into this black lower class, just because of my "American status". Speaking out loud immediately proved that I was not a native and then brought on this totally different response by all invovled...

Feeling torn now, I had to delve into how the workers had come to working in this hotel establishment.
I could only get one to speak while doing her morning duties... Nobuim, a mother of one, was from the largest township in Capetown which, stretches for miles just outside the airport (known as Shanty towns). Just like on TV the tin shacks that you can see upclose on youtube if you put in shantytown or township tours.

The intense cleaning rituals that she displayed daily seemed ironic to where she lays her own head and child to rest every evening. I would try to engage her and other black staff members into conversations, but this was all way too much, as they never held eye contact and sheepishly wanted to not get away from speaking to the American. You see, once they heard me speak, they knew that I was foreign and not one of them after all. Now I was dumped into their other basket.
Very importantly this taught me early>>>

I had just learned my lesson (or crutch) that I would need to rely upon for the next 3 weeks in order to survive in S.A. Aside from all of the luxurious meals and hotel accommodations, personally I would not have feared as well in S.A. without having my white wife be presented first for any and all services needed. I mean like, everything from getting gas pumped to checking into flights, let alone from ordering drinks at the bar.

Speaking English with an American accent changed all of "it". This gave me a golden pass out of the majority, lowest class.
I really felt like a time traveler from their future or America's past... I think South African will arrive with equality a lot faster than America. Currently we are having race struggles in our country. It is all a part of the growth of society. I will be an ambassador for the country of S.A. and tell everyone to put it on your bucket list. You will be pampered on all levels of service and your spirit will get energized with a visit. I left there feeling blessed to have learned how to embrace fellow humans.

With all of that said, we had an Amazing time. I really feel like I connected with people on a level that will continue into our future. True friendships have already been cultivated and we look forward to hosting our world traveler friends soon. We must of turned down[no kidding] at least 10 different personal invites for dinner in strangers homes that we met... The South Africans rocked our world!


Mel said...

Funny, this "lower class" feeling reminds me of the experiences I had in Tokyo... As a western woman in a modern city like Tokyo, I felt totally invisible. It started in the airplane when they first served the asian men, then the white men, then me (we are talking first class here). Bowing for everybody but me - weird feeling!

Anyway, we can't wait to hear your stories in person! Thanks for keeping us updated here!!

Bill Price said...

OMG, You totally felt my point, as well... BTW Mel, Japan is on my bucket list too. Was the whole trip lost in translation? I am hoping to talk Tanja into going for a nice ski holiday.

Thank You "all" for listening to my/our experiences over the last month. I really appreciated being able to bounce my ideas off of our friends and family. I am still glowing from this journey. Cheers !!!