|Fri, 03 Jan 2003 10:39:20 -0600|
|Hello and Happy New Year 2003. I have expressed to some of you individually that I have great concerns for the state of our country and the world with the great possibility of war brewing on a couple of different fronts. I pray for peace in my naïve way here in Cape Town. I hope my concerns are unfounded. And I hope the start to your new year is fantastic.
I am still enjoying my time in South Africa as my senses and knowledge continue to have massive amounts of new stimuli daily.
I stopped in my grocery store today…Spar. It is nice and new and clean. Although it is about one tenth of the size of the grocery stores in the States, it covers all (well most) my needs. Not today. I wanted to pick up some salad fixings (lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, feta cheese). I also needed something to throw on the grill for a braii I am attending on Saturday. The shelves were practically empty. A few rotten tomatos and some feta. No veggies, no meats. Funny we always take it for granted that there will be TONS of anything we want…choices after choices after choices. It is just not that way in emerging countries. As cosmopolitan as Cape Town is, these goods are coming from the third world part of the country. When is the next shipment? They hope later today or tomorrow. Sure-maybe. Why am I telling you this? Appreciate what you have. It is a gift.
I live Queen Victoria Street. This is a pretty prestigious address in the City Center/Gardens area of Cape Town. The German consulate is in my building. The French and Italian Embassies are just around the corner and next door. The South African Museum and Planetarium is 30 meters from my doorstep. The Company Gardens built by the Dutch in the 1600’s are across the street. The scents of amazing trees and flowers burst towards me every morning. And yet, there are dozens of homeless people all around my neighborhood. As I walk one direction out my front door, the scent of last nights stale human urine combines with the scent of grease from the nasty Indian take-away around the corner. Why am I telling you this? Don’t take for granted the glorious lives that you have. The safety you feel walking out your front door is a gift, not a right.
Have you heard of Tanzanite? It is a purplish-bluish stone. It can only be found at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. It was formed in the earth over two million years ago and only discovered in 1967. The life span of a tanzinite mine is only 15 years old. The Africans say that the stone is 1000 times more rare than diamonds. Doesn’t sound like a bad investment. Why am I telling you this? Because I like jewelry and I bought a Tanzanite ring!
But I wear very little jewelry here. I do not want to be a target in any way. I have done my best to look local (flowing skirts, peasant tops, hippy look) and to go out with groups of people. I did a walking tour of the town yesterday with my friend Julie and another couple. Her ATM card was lifted right under her nose in a busy market at the machine in mid afternoon. We phoned her bank in London and within half an hour the robbers has already maxed out her card. We went to the police station to file a report. It was a complete mess there. A woman came in screaming that her husband had just been stabbed. That’s when we got the hell out of dodge.
You see, yesterday was the 2nd of January. A public holiday unique to Cape Town. The Cape Malays (mostly Muslim descents from Indian slaves) celebrate with a wild parade that winds through the city and lasts easily 6 or 7 hours! They call it the “Coon Parade”. They wear bright costumes and get pretty drunk. It is madness in the streets as major arteries are cut off for hours. There are people everywhere…and lots of petty crime, unfortunately.
Since my last correspondence I have been busy. Went to a tiny dinner play at a bakery in Kalk Bay (a tiny town south on the Cape Peninsula on the Indian Ocean side). It was quite unique. It holds about 40 people. You have a nice dinner in the bakery and then you see the play in the theatre attached to it. It was musical about Morroco during the war with a local acting troupe of 7 people. At intermission we had dessert and then went back in the theatre to hear tunes from their other plays….very diverse.
When we left the dinner tables were all gone and the bakery was in full swing baking bread and pastries for the region. I like the concept. The whole thing was about 150 Rand (15 bucks) and it was a delicious meal…and we brought our own wine.
I had a quiet New Years Eve. I had several invitations, but ended up going to the Cape Grace hotel at the V&A Waterfront for a couple of drinks. Very quiet, home early. Can you believe it? And my friend, Bonni, said you could take the girl out of the party, but not the party out of the girl.
Anyway, the Cape Grace was voted by Conde Naste readers as the number one hotel in the world. Can you believe it? It was quite reasonable. 25 Rand for a giant Mojito (like under three bucks!)
The Rand continues to strengthen. It is in the best shape in at least 10 years. A couple of years ago it was 12 Rand to the dollar. Now it is about 8.4. Yikes, I am losing money daily. For all the third world problems here, there economy is soaring. Tourism is up 30%. It is the new emerging jewel in Africa. Millions of Euros, Pounds and dollars are pouring into the country with great investments in real estate. And a million Rand will buy you a whole lot here! Why am I telling you this? I think it is a great place to invest in. My neighbor is trying to talk me into buying a guesthouse. Run it here and live a relaxed life with 8 weeks off a year.
Hmmmm. Tempting. 😉
I am waiting to hear back from my disorganized director at the Red Cross to do some work for the next couple of weeks. Then I am going with my gay friends to do the Garden Route. This is the route that runs along the southern part of the coastline along the Indian Ocean. I hear it is stunning! Then I will be packing up and leaving for Mauritius. I can’t believe it. I made a list of all the things I still want to do before I leave this country. The list is too long for the calendar.
I have an continuously fascinating love-hate relationship with South Africa. It is an amazing place. And the journey continues….
I love you all and miss you. Have a brilliant 2003.