Saturday, July 29, 2006

From South Africa 2005 Part 2 - Cape Town

Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2005 11:34:53 -0500
Subject: [No Subject]

Oy... it's Sunday evening/late afternoon here and we just returned from an afternoon at Dave's maternal grandmother's house. We met his uncle, who lives with her, and two of Dave's cousins, with their mom, Jane. They are all very nice and I asked Dave's cousin to take us out one night (hope it wasn't too forward)... he said he could take us to listen to some kwaito music, which we've probably played for you at some point... it's township music, a kind of mixture of african rhythms and hip hop.

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, although not as emotional as I felt last night. Yesterday, Dave's dad drove us out to places called Gordon's Bay, which is a very ritzy area with enormous houses that go up a mountain (the Hottentot Holland mountains - not Table Mountain) with beautiful views of False Bay. All the houses are quite different - even a rundown house will cost a few million rands here so it seems that people have more money than sense and they design their own homes... I like the eclecticism (?) though.

We drove up the mountain partway, to the water filtration plant that supplies Cape Town with its water (although there are tight restrictions on water use at the moment because of the drought), called Steenbras Dam. It has an incredible view of False Bay and Table Mountain on the other side (Dave's dad pointed out that from here it looks like Queen Victoria lying on her back).

Then he took us to the Strand, which is a typical beach with high rise holiday condos along it and big waves rolling in. Dave went for a swim but I hung out on the beach taking pictures. It's a very typical resort type scene that you could see anywhere, except for the mountains on the backdrop.

Finally we went to Dave's uncle's house in Somerset West. His uncle is a potter and he showed us around his studio. Dave's dad gave us a casserole dish, which we got to choose, and Dave's aunt and uncle gave us a lasagne dish and two mugs as a wedding gift. We'll have some difficulty transporting it home but I love them and feel honoured by their generosity.

Dave's aunt and uncle are very warm people, who love to entertain. Their daughter, who's 17, wants to be a chef, and they all seem to share a love of food and people. We went out to a nice restaurant and I had a fish called kingklip, which was quite good – though I later found out it's a bit like an eel... I figured if I'm by the sea I should eat some fish.

It was way more emotional meeting Dave's family and promptly saying goodbye than I ever expected. I knew in my head that Dave had family but I guess I didn't realize what it would FEEL like to be welcomed into his family. They talked about the family in general, and I must say there are definite similarities between the men in this family (for one, they have chatty wives who like wine)...

I've never become part of someone else's family before... it's kind of bittersweet...

I really liked his aunt and uncle – his uncle reminds me of my brother in that he's always cracking jokes but also has a keen insight that makes one stop and think quite frequently - if you can take it seriously. I was a bit of a wreck coming home - I cried most of the way... I suppose they were tears I might have cried at our wedding if any of Dave's family could have made it over...

The drive to and from Somerset West goes past several informal settlements... I'm still trying to make sense of their history but they're communities of tightly packed, very small, handmade shacks, for the most part. Apparently they've just gotten electricity and sewage systems in the last few years but so many people are coming to the city from rural areas and there just isn't enough formal housing. I'm not sure what to make of these areas. Certainly, they're evidence of intense poverty but I don't feel sorry for the residents, somehow... modern conveniences and big houses are not what life's about to me. We're planning to take a tour of Soweto when we get to Joburg. I guess I'll see what I think from a closer distance.

Anyhoo... I am definitely falling in love with this place and am trying to figure out how to come back again soon, for longer... I also very much enjoyed meeting Dave's granny, who has a big heart and is an impressive woman - she lives in her own house at the age of 88, goes to the gym, drives her own car, serves everyone tea and makes a mean macaroni and cheese. Dave's uncle who lives with his granny, who they call Bok (I think it means something like Little Buck - he's a bit like Peter Pan they say), is also fascinating to talk to and has been all around the country.

The road signs here are in four languages - English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and isiXhosa (there are 11 national languages - but those are the main ones)... the light switches push down for on, the toilet flushes are on the other side of the tank (the right side, not the backside) and people look at me blankly when I ask for the washroom. Dave's uncle also pointed out my confusion in measurements - kilometres for distances but feet and inches for space or height and pounds for weight. I tried to explain but we both came to the conclusion that Canadians are just confused.

So, I must go make some dinner...

Love Kate

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