We began our holiday with a three day train ride from Cape Town to Pretoria.
Since we confiscated electronics, we also began with some rage. Fortunately that turned into a lot of card playing. Each night we got dressed up to go to the dining car– a novelty that was super fun for a few nights. The train stopped for three hours every morning between two and five am. The theory was that this was just enough time for anyone perturbed by the clanging of wheels, to doze. We liked the sound. The constant and reassuring clackety clack clack clanking of wheels on steel was hypnotic. We would lie in bed right next to the open window and listen. The sky twinkled. It was easy to lose yourself. I was reminded of the Waterboys song, Fisherman’s Blues.
“I wish I was the brakeman/ On a hurtling fevered train/ Crashing head long into the heartland/ Like a canon in the rain/ With the beating of the sleepers/ And the burning of the coal/ Counting the towns flashing by me/ And a night that’s full of soul/ With light in my hair/ And you in my arms/ Woohooo.”
Coco says she loves Africa because it is so dangerous. It’s true – one push and splat. You are out the window and dead on the tracks. Fortunately we all loved one another for most of the first three days so we were ok.
Onto Johannesburg for not enough time. I love this city. It is electric – creativity runs rampant here. The second gallery that we walked into had a bronze sculpture of a dead song bird. It was called, “The Best Politician is a Dead Politician.” I loved the piece and the place. Sean captured the kids loving it too.
Then it was a flight and a short drive to Vilanculus– a small Mozambican village north of Maputo on the coast. From here we boat journeyed to luxo land aka Bazaruto Island. Thank you to the O’Sullivan and Greene Families for recommending this place. It was spectacular.
If you can believe it, there were times the sea was too hot to swim in. Seriously. It was too hot. I had to walk way way way WAY out just to reach water that was cool enough to swim in. I am not kidding you. I’m surprised the crabs that I was constantly trying to avoid weren’t poached. Luckily, there were other things to do in the blazing heat besides swim in the Indian Ocean.
We rode horses through the countryside and past several villages. The homes here were round with thatched roofs. There were usually three or four homes in a cluster and sometimes there would be a rectangular tin shelter that resembled a train car. They looked so hot in the burning sun – like cookers. I thought about the air conditioned train cars that we journeyed in.
We looked for crocodiles, played tag in a three level infiniti pool with water falls, caves and lots of hiding spots, hiked, water skied and went on a sunset cruise in a traditional Mozambican sail boat called a dhow.
And we sand boarded down giant dunes…
Brothers At Sunset
Sean Bum Boards
Wipe Out Again
We decided to do a day trip to another island for some snorkelling.
There was also a once famous hotel on the island where Bob Dylan wrote the song Mozambique. We thought we could entice the kids with the prospect of dilapidated danger. We thought we could have fun exploring the abandoned hotel. Not. The idea was met with resounding rejection. So, Sean and I explored while we abandoned the kids.
But the coolest thing we saw was on the way to snorkelling when we came across this …
and if you freeze frame at the right spot you see this …
Ok, I’m back. That last post – a pocket post I think – was a symbol for me. It’s time to get writing again.
Let me begin by saying I am in a foul mood. Everything I say now will be tainted by this. My kids were awful today from beginning to end. It began with incessant complaining about their weekly chores. Not one of them has to spend more than fifteen minutes a day doing them. Ah forget it. It only went down hill from there. I wanted to throttle them. They wanted to throttle me. It was mutual malevolence.
Tennis in Constantia.
I played my first tennis match. It began on a hard court which ravaged my dilapidated body. (More on that later). Then there was the raging wind. I watched a ball blow almost across the width of the entire court. It made me mad. But the real difference between Toronto and Cape Town tennis came at the end of the match when I tried to leave. There is no skipping out on the end part of tennis here. Why can’t I just play a game and leave? Strangers busted me trying to sneak out and herded me back. Outrageous. The home team is expected to buy drinks for the visiting team which I was happy to do. I left my money on the table. But then you are required to sit with the guests and drink it with them. The nerve. Honestly. The last thing I wanted to do was sit around sipping sparkling water. But here is where the real difference comes in.
First of all, its tequila and beer. There is absolutely no water to be had. I warmed up to the idea and then became everyone’s best friend when I ordered a beer and a cider and mixed the two. Go big or go home. I called it a Canadian Snake Bite (and enjoyed the geographic and ethological irony). Then I poured some out for everyone and repeated the name a few times so that it would sink in and other people would use it. Canadian Snake Bite. I had blown an opportunity for a really fun name that I could have totally made up. Then the group fragmented into mini groups. That’s when it got stressful. Janey (in her seventies) is out for the first time and is relieved just to be out because remember Georgie? You know, Georgie from the news? Georgie was her husband. He was murdered at the house a few months earlier. Then there is Frannie. Her’s is a tantalizing tale of affluence to poverty, drugs, alcohol, sociopathic father, incest, bodyguards, kidnapping threats, and the long crawl back to the tennis team. It was quite a bit for me to take in. I left speechless. Really. I couldn’t fully accept everything that was coming at me. Then I started thinking about how strong these women were. Then I started thinking about violence again. My favourite topic to dwell on especially when I am in a pissy mood.
ATM Robbery in Nairobi.
I found this a fascinating tale of a well travelled woman who had a problem at an ATM machine in Nairobi. Now if you travel to Nairobi, or to South Africa and you have done any amount of research you know to be careful at the ATM machines. She knew this which is why this robbery was more interesting. I could easily imagine it having happened to me. I am trying to put specifics to an otherwise amorphous general blob that “we” in Toronto understand “African” violence to be.
She was in a line to get to an ATM machine. It was the middle of the day and it was an ATM machine associated with a bank, and on the outside of an actual bank. (Three check marks for responsible money withdrawl). The young man in front of her, a hipster of sorts, began chatting and found out she was from elsewhere, and doing this and that, etc. (I’m chatty too – I can totally relate). The man goes to the machine and my friend continues chatting with her friend who is with her. It is her turn. She goes to the machine, puts her card in and all of a sudden the young man reappears. “Do you need any help?” My friend is immediately on high alert. “No thanks.” “You need to enter your pin. It’s different here.” The young man insists. My friend cancels the transaction, takes her card and the young man disappeared. It was a close call but the red flags were flying and she saw them and avoided getting robbed at the ATM today. So, back into the line up she went. She still needed money after all. This time, as she puts her card into the machine, another man appears. “Do you need any help? The machines are different here.” “No she says.” “Was that other man bothering you? I think he was trying to rob you.” Relieved that there was a sane person who witnessed the ordeal, she concurred. “You need to put your pin in.” “But it is the home page of the bank just asking me what language I want to do the transaction in.” “You need to put your pin in. The machines are different here.” My friend cups her hand over the key pad and punches in her code – EVEN THOUGH SHE FEELS SOMETHING IS WRONG. “No, no. You have to do it again. Put your pin code in!” My friend gathers her wits and pushes cancel to get her card back. Alas, the card is gone and so is the guy – presumably with the card and an idea of what her pin code is. And that is what a robbery at an ATM in the middle of the day at a well respected busy bank looks like. Luckily, she was able to immediately cancel the card and carry on. It’s not generic. It’s specific.
Team Joy in Cape Town.
Tiger’s Milk Restaurant
(The Director) and Bailey (The Choreographer/ Right Hand Woman) came and rescued me from the depths of Andrea bureaucracy. I thought I was “over it” when I went to get them at the airport. I had told Sean that I was [over it] just the night before. He said he wasn’t over it and neither was I. Ha. I love it when Sean tells me how I am feeling. I am a Daughter of Darwin. Life and Death. I understand it. Life keeps going. I’m over it.
I was elated on my way to pick them up. I smiled and joked with the coffee man. I was twirling around in the airport acting foolish, drunk with joy – maniacally happy. I found a perch where I would record their arrival from the perfect angle. Then I saw a Vodacom store and suddenly I began to weep. In public. Seriously. How dare Sean be right about how I was feeling. I wiped the tears away and scowled at onlookers. And then I saw them– two of my friends from Toronto–from conflict free, violence free, death free, happy Toronto. We hugged. Team Joy had arrived. We ate and walked and had wine and played games and chatted and I felt extremely grateful to have them with me for a few days. Hell, to have them in my life in general.
Now they are gone and I realize that my kids have really handled this tragedy amazingly well. It’s not ok to whine about chores but they have been through a lot in the last little while and are doing so so well. Coco won “student of the week” again. She continues to work ahead independently in grade five math and her drama teacher and her cheer teacher have asked me if she can join the “elite squads.” Leo got “player of the game” at his hockey game, and got an A+ on his English assignment about bullying where my brave boy identified times when he acted as a bully. Oscar scored a goal at his hockey game and was pleased (even though it was against his brother) and is cruising into mid term reports with a solid A average. All three of them are working really hard at school, are adjusting to life far away from their friends, and then to have to have their joyous, superfriend Andrea die. Jeesh. I need to lighten up and cut them some slack.
Tomorrow – I am posting some pictures of the absolutely super fun stuff we have been doing and of the rocking stuff coming up: the Cedarberg Mountain Range; Namibia; The Garden Route; the Iron Woman; and too many hikes and restaurants to detail so I will post just the highlights. I am feeling better just thinking about it.
P: The first time was at the public bathroom at Muizenberg Beach. The bathroom locks from the outside. Apparently you are supposed to tell the security guy that you are going to the bathroom first so that he can let you out when you are done. Really its code for slipping him a few RAND. Everyone has to make a living. But Dictator Patriarch, accidentally trying to save a buck, snuck in and got locked in. Captive in a public toilet in South Africa. Priceless.
The second time: Sara’s new friend told the two Dictators about a concert being put on to benefit a young fashion designer. It sounded very Holt Renfrew and they were totally into it until they realized the township where the concert would take place happened to be right next to Mitchel Plains – an off limit area that everyone warned them about. I (Predator) pushed Herself to go in spite of the proximity to supposed trouble. I was relentless. She was being such a baby that when they drove past the place on the first pass she even suggested they call it a night, drive home and go to bed but at that point Sean put his foot down. They had come this far after all. I told her to get over herself and to remember that poverty isn’t a crime.
Me again. I need some way to differentiate from Predator (besides my more refined approach to writing). Maybe I will use colour. The concert hall was an old farm house. At night, it looked menacing with only a bit of light leaking out of a creaky front door. It sat in the middle of a dark field or industrial zone – who could tell? It was pitch black by the time we got there but I knew too well that somewhere, lurking just around any corner, was the forbidden Mitchel Plains. I was never going to park at the end of the long line of cars only to have to walk across an unlit lot so I suggested we park right in front of the door. Reluctantly Sean agreed. Once inside, the vibe was immediately friendly and I instantly felt at ease. This was an intimate gathering of about 100 people. It was warm and jubilant and we soon saw why — or heard why. There were about a half a dozen performers ranging in age from late teens to mid twenties. They stepped sheepishly onto the modest the stage. One said, “I don’t talk too much, I just sing.” Another, “This is really cool, seeing so many people.” The next, “Thank you mom for making me come here.” And with enthusiastic and loving applause the first timers belted out song after song after song each of which left us speechless. Their proud parents and relatives, and their happy bouncing siblings, cheered them on. It was really sweet.
P: I laughed out loud at the Dictators as they tried to keep the beat. HA HA HA HAHAAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHHAHAHHAH. Wow. And they were in the front row. Too funny. Why would they choose to sit in the front row? Duh.
It was sweet and awesome at the same time. I realized, amidst this sea of people, that many of them probably came from that forbidden place around the corner. I realized that Mitchel Plains is a place with people, most of whom obviously don’t want anything to do with the horrendous criminal acts that take place there. Before the concert it had been to me, just a bad place to never EVER visit either deliberately or accidentally. I forgot that dangerous places aren’t anonymous. They aren’t faceless. They are inhabited. I am embarrassed — it’s not like this is a profound revelation and I feel ashamed even typing such a basic thing down, but there it is. Apart from the sweetness of the whole event, that’s what I thought.
P: I will say this, even some of her local friends and family were shocked to hear they had gone to an Afrikaner concert in a township. The Dictators appeared to be loosening the golden shackles that sort of held them captive…
Some of you may have had a brief visual introduction to her on Instagram.
Anyways, she has arrived in Constantia and has decided that my blog isn’t worth reading because it is so “blanched.” I thought she meant as in, “Blanche Dubois” but sadly that is not the case. And she is such a dominant cow that she won’t let me write any more for awhile. What follows is Predator Speak. (She thinks she can write but she can’t). (She has a foul mouth and she drinks irresponsibly). (She probably smokes too but I can’t say for sure). (And she litters).
P: Yo. I read a blog about someone’s extended holiday somewhere exotic where the slaves are all happy and the owners are all benevolent. I thought I would puke. Little context here — Constantia was designated a “whites only” district in the 50’s or 60’s or something. I don’t really care about details so don’t expect accuracy in that regard. And that was only after it was farmed by a couple hundred slaves in the 1600’s so when you drink the wine from there it is like drinking blood. And when you love the white town just remember its been white washed. Just saying. Yah, I realize there were lots of slaves everywhere and I’m not saying never drink the wine. Obviously.
Sara and Sean have already put there kids in tennis, water polo, horseback riding and squash and fuck, one of them has a personal trainer. Why not try to do something of consequence you upper middle class privileged pieces of white joy. Ok, let’s just say, maybe take off the sunglasses for a few minutes.
From the Hermanus Golf Club we caravanned across beautiful farmland to a park that I don’t think I would have ventured to by myself.
Annette, Simon, Luke, Kieran and their friend Daniel took us to De Hoop Nature Reserve. We stayed in self catering cottages – each with three bedrooms, kitchenettes and they had HEATED mattresses. Yah, not really camping and I liked it anyways!
De Hoop Nature Reserve is at the southern most tip of South Africa where mountains and dunes meet the sea. There is a staggering amount of wildlife. The boys thought the eland – the world’s largest antelope (think moose meets elk) were hysterical. Leo wondered aloud about the “giant hairy ball sack” on its neck. Nice. There were ostrich, zebra, dassies, and baboons. The baboons were problematic.
Coco squealed with fear / joy as she watched one break into Janet and Rob’s cottage. I think Janet was in the shower (paralyzed by nudity and fear). Simon, charged in running after it carrying a dishtowel (or maybe a doily) like a matador and screaming like a banshee and the baboon was scared sh*tless. Literally. Fortunately Rob documented the mess (see below) before he cleaned it up. Then to make matters worse, another baboon scoped Simon’s pad and whilst he was away, dashed in, grabbed a loaf of bread from Annette and exited the rear window. Skillfully, the Aylward/Marino clan managed to keep the non humans at bay — probably because of all of our bickering.
We had a braii – which is a South African version of a bbq – lots of meat and Annette made a spectacular vegetarian dish too. The kids stayed up and roasted marshmallows and everyone was content. The next day was a hike to the aquamarine beaches on this part of the Indian Ocean and tall white sand dunes for as long as you can look. I have seen beaches and dunes before but I think I am on the cusp of an epiphany and just realized it this weekend while whale watching from those dunes.
Every year over a hundred Southern Right whales can be seen just off the shore between May and October. We saw many. It was spectacular to see these animals — not from a tour operation, but from a respectful distance somewhat afar. It was very un-National Geographic. I liked how I felt with this distance between us. The majesty of the whale seemed more in focus to me than ever before.
I’m still trying to upload photos from the dunes but here is what I have so far …