I am so delayed in posting this, but since it’s my last exciting Cape Town post, I figured better late than never.
So I made it back Canada for Christmas, and, as a Christmas miracle, was able to bring about 2500ZAR worth of booze without paying duty. I declared it! I just finally met a nice Canadian border guard. Who knew they existed?
Julia and I arrived back into Cape Town from Tanzania the Friday evening prior to Mandela’s funeral. On Saturday, a memorial concert was held at the Grand Parade (where Mandela gave his first speech after being released from Robben Island), so we decided to go into the city to see it. There was also a general area at City Hall where people could lay flowers and messages for Mandela, and a guest book people could sign that will be left in the Nelson Mandela Centre for Memory.
I’ve never seen anything like it, especially for a political figure. The degree to which people came out to show their respect for Mandela, leave personal messages of thanks, create pieces of art for him, and everything else, really shows that Mandela was more than just a political figure, and more than just the father of a free nation – he was the father to the South African people, not just the idea of a country.
The above letter gave me the chills. It’s really easy as a North American to think of Apartheid as being something that ended long ago, or at least as far back as the American Civil Rights movement. It’s really hard to imagine having grown up in a world where people were separated so much, and treated as lesser human beings – you couldn’t be friends with someone who didn’t share your skin colour. It blows my mind to think that if I were born in South Africa, I would have lived under this regime for five years.
This letter also struck me. Most of the South Africans I’ve met are amazing people. But a couple months ago, I ended up getting into a ‘disagreement’ with a guy at a bar, who, upon finding out I was Canadian, asked, “Wasn’t it nice growing up in a country full of white people?” (No, moron, where was I even supposed to begin pointing out the million ways he was wrong – I think I went with “Is that a joke?”). When I tried explaining my position, he told me that blacks and coloureds should just be thankful they’re now born after apartheid (just like women should be happy that we’re born in a time where we have the right to vote – no need to go further than that, right?) I should also point out that we had two non-whites sitting with us at our table. I still get agitated thinking about this conversation.
Anyways, the above letter really struck me, especially the part where the woman said she felt shame, as a white person. After my disagreement in the bar, it was nice to be reminded that, for the most part, the sentiment is one of a nation that wants to come together.
The concert that night was really cool – in between sets, they asked individuals from the crowd to share stories and messages of thanks about Mandela. Freshlyground closed the concert, and they nailed it.
The following morning was Mandela’s funeral, and it was being streamed at the Grand Parade, so I went down to see it. It was really cool to see people coming out with lawn chairs and food so they could stay to watch the funeral. There were four different big screens people could watch.
I thought Ahmed Kathrada gave the most touching speech at the funeral. Kathrada was imprisoned with Mandela on Robben Island, and thought of him as a brother. His eulogy ended with Kathrada saying, “My life is in a void and I don’t know who to turn to.”
I visited Robben Island on the Tuesday following the funeral. It was interesting to see Mandela’s cell, and had beautiful views of Cape Town.
The rest of my time in Cape Town was spent on the beach and visiting with some friends. I already miss the city so much – I don’t think I’ve ever liked a city as much as I love Cape Town. I’m counting down the days until I can go back.
I had a long flight – twelve hours to Paris from Cape Town, getting me into Paris at 6am for an eight hour layover. I decided to go into the city (because sitting for twelve hours drives me insane). I forgot how late the sun rises in the Northern hemisphere – in Cape Town, it’s been coming up at around 6, and I got to Notre Dame around 7:30 and it was still nearly pitch black. Not that I’m complaining – it meant I got to see the Christmas Tree all lit up without any other tourists. And did you know it’s Notre Dame’s 850th anniversary? That is one old cathedral.
I spent the rest of the time until the sun rose walking along the Seine. Not the worst way to spend a layover, that’s for sure.
When I got hungry, I headed down into St Germain for a cafeé au lait and an entire baguette (and a pain au chocolat, and some macarons…) Man, I missed having good bread. It was hard to come by in Cape Town. I wandered a bit more, mostly staying around Notre Dame (my mom would have killed me if I missed my flight and stayed in Paris for Christmas!)
I made it back to the airport with plenty of time to kill, and managed to make my 2pm flight. Air France is the way to go. I flew KLM from Canada to Cape Town, and the entire time was on planes that not only were lacking in flight entertainment (WHAT PLANE IN THIS DAY AND AGE DOES NOT HAVE PERSONAL TV SCREENS) but they didn’t even have electrical outlets, and I finished the one book I had brought with me within a few hours. On Air France, I had TVs, and was given three bottle of wine, a bottle of cognac, and a bottle of pear liqueur for my eight hour flight from Paris to Toronto. Complimentary!
My dad picked me up from the airport, and we were back in London by 7:30 that evening. I don’t know if Varta or my mom was more excited to see me (and if you’ve seen my video on Facebook of how Varta reacts, you’ll know how high that excitement level is).
So I’m back in Kingston and back at school, and I didn’t realize how much I missed all the amazing people I met here. Graduating is going to suck, so let’s all fail 3L, k?
And as for Cape Town, it’s the best place I’ve ever been in my life. I’m so jealous of everyone who is still there – make the most of every second. I’m so lucky that I was able to spend six months there, living with some truly unreal people (who I am excited to visit with, show the joys of poutine, dance to 80s hits NONE OF YOU KNOW, bring to my brother’s wedding, and just continue being awesome with). I already miss you people like crazy, whether we hung out every weekend or just occasionally. You’re all such beauties, and I can’t wait to meet up with you again. I’ve got nothing but love for you all, for the Mother City, and for South Africa. I can’t wait to visit again, and I know I will, because I’ve never loved a city like I love Cape Town.