Monday, June 4, 2012

Walking in Africa

I have done lots of writing and lots of walking here in South Africa. On the weekend I walked everywhere and on most streets I was the only white person. I visited the Mall, and walked past the markets and up to the University. Most white people were in cars-small, mostly white ones-and other people walked. I walked too.

Sunday was fascinating in terms of who was on the street and what times they were there and then everyone headed to Church. I went wine tasting via car, a tan Land Rover. The driver told me he was Khoisan. He told me all he knew of SA history. Some of it was very sad and some was amazing. Many things I never knew, how could I? You really have to work hard in the States to learn about Africa. I asked many questions and learned.  Louwtjie was an excellent tour guide and owns the company. I made him work for the money which you MUST do here. Collected me at 9 am, 4 vineyards, lunch (not included) and back at the hotel at 4 pm. R1200, cash, paid upfront the night before (so African)! I think the price was ok.        

The Winelands are magnificent. The mountains and valleys, the vineyards and farms, and the absolutely picturesque buildings. It was spectacular. Murphy's law, of course, only 4 of my 62 pictures of the vineyards came out...the wine was good too.

Today is Monday and I did some more walking and some loitering. I NEVER sit at coffee shops. I just never have. I see people do it in movies and I wonder why I never do. It looks....meaningful. Today, I loitered at a table on the street near a main intersection in Stellenbosch. I just kept ordering tea, read my Cape Times and loitered. I watched and people watched me too. Stellenbosch is a University town so there were students and school children in uniforms. There were ladies lunching and women doing the grocery run. Lots of workers and other shoppers. For my first ever, real loitering gig, I think I did fine. The waitress was happy to see me go. I am not sure it was meaningful but I did come to a conclusion. This place is so very diverse. It does not know how to handle this diversity. This place becomes more diverse all of the time.

So frequently I see similarities with Southern Africa and the US. We, in California, watch senseless drug violence in Mexico and then deal with the immigrant/refugees. We face the decline of the white majority and the growth of all kinds of race mixtures and ethnicities who speak other languages and attend school and live next door and walk the streets. This dealing with the differences never ends, I don't believe. Moreover, it is often not at all pretty.  

My loitering with intention ended and I left the coffee shop and began to walk again. I came across a bookshop that I had previously ignored. In that shop I bought a book call Shoe Shop. The book is part of a larger project developed by, among others, a German writer and curator, Marie-Hélène-Gutberlet. The book followed an exhibit and festival in Johannesburg in May celebrating the migratory nature of South Africans. The book is an anthology of movement, mobility, feet, physicality and shoes. As I purchased the book, the shop-owner and I discussed the effort to understand SA. She said that is even more challenging for those who live here.

Tomorrow, I head back to the bookstore. The shop-owner wants me to read an out-of-print book written by Sindiwe Magona. She is bringing it from home and says I can finish it in one day. I will do that and then leave South Africa for Malawi then Dar es Salaam.      

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