Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cape Town Day 2

On Thursday morning Em drove me up to the Rhodes Memorial where there is a trail head leading to the trail up and around Table Mountain. She had to go to her internship to read fellowship applications so I had the day to explore. I hiked along and saw some amazing views of Cape Town and the bay. The flora is significantly different than in the US and so I had a good time looking at all of the different flowers, bushes, trees and other plants along with the diverse fauna, especially birds. At about quarter to noon I came to what seemed to be the end of the trail but it really just took off in an obscure direction up the hill. I followed it for a bit and at noon found myself on an outcropping with a bench and a canon on it. This reminded me that the day before Em and I had made a brief visit to the place where a canon is fired every day at noon. Just as I turned around I heard the canon go off and could see the smoke coming off the side of the mountain across from me. I found it a bit ironic that I had found this canon just in time for the daily shot. I said the mid-day office while sitting on the bench and then journeyed on. After going in a generally upward direction for a while, I came across a group of colored people clearing the trail. In South Africa there are three primary racial characterizations. Whites can be divided between English and Afrikaners; colored are mixed-race; and blacks are native Africans. There are also a number of Indians and quite a bit of French influence. Unlike in the US, the term “colored” is not pejorative, and several colored South Africans have broken out in laughter when I told them that we call colored people “mixed race.” The colored folks I ran across on the trail were very friendly and quickly picked up on my American accent. One of them commented that she wanted to travel to the US at some point. When I asked why, she replied that she had heard that in the US it was much better for colored people than in South Africa and she wanted to experience what that is like. I said something fairly benign but thought to myself that her vision of race relations in the US is quite a bit more utopic than reality. As I hiked on, clouds began to creep up. Just as it started to rain, I found myself at the mouth of a large cave. I ducked inside for cover and ate lunch while I waited to see what would happen with the weather. It quickly became clear that this was not going to be a quick storm so I steeled myself for the fact that I was going to get wet. I set out and indeed I did. About an hour and a half later I arrived back at the Rhodes Memorial just as the storm became incredibly windy and violent. I sat under cover and text-messaged Em to see if she could come pick me up. She replied that she was still reading applications but just then the storm cleared entirely and the sun came out! Cape Town is a lot like Boston in this respect: if you don't like the weather, wait a minute, it will change! I got home, took a shower and got warmed up. When Emily got home we headed downtown to St. George's Cathedral which was Desmond Tutu's church when he was Archbishop of Cape Town. We went to the Eucharist for the Feast of Corpus Christi at which the choir sang Monteverdi's Mass for Four Voices as the communion setting. It was spectacular, although Em was a bit confused which is understandable given that it was a very high, solemn sung Mass requiring quite a bit of familiarity with the South African Book of Common Prayer which I was not even particularly familiar with. A few things to note were that Emily and I were the youngest people there (not too surprising) and that the priests were all colored, the verger black, and the congregation almost entirely white. See my comments on Sunday for comparison to the Methodists. That evening we went over to Emily's friend Emily's house for dinner and I also got to meet Niv. Emily A, like cousin Em, is a rotary scholar. Cousin Em is studying transformation and reconciliation while Emily A is doing diversity studies. Niv is in town volunteering at various non-profits and will be headed back to the US at the end of July to start at Johns Hopkins for grad school in the fall. We ordered delivery and then chatted during the hour it took for the food to arrive. After eating, we headed home for the evening.

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