The New/Old SA
The four of us – three Americans, one white male and female, both Jewish, one African of Ugandan origin and me. We decided to splurge as the team we’re supporting in the Homeless World Cup (check out ‘katalystatlarge.com for details) had one an amazing victory over
CampBay is right on the Atlantic and has a wonderful strip of restaurants and bars that we were told would be hopping on a Sunday. We arrived at the ‘Tuscany Bay,’ mounting the stairs. It would be other stares that ruled the roost.
We hit the door and heads swiveled in our direction. Eyes became locked on us, not eyes of greeting, but eyes judgemental, interrogatory. Eyes fearful. These were the looks of complete insecurity, seeking to project their brittle psyche onto the transgressive Other, in spite of their smart clothes and expensive baubles. A masquerade ball of self-loathing disguised as contempt.
I had to go inside of myself to process what I was seeing. After I’d decoded (I hope accurately) the situation, I decided to pay careful attention to everything else that occured.
A table of four or five women, seated after us received their menus and drinks before us. Our waiter had to be summoned to bring menus. My second drink order, lemonade, never arrived, though the drink orders of my two white friends – both one and two – made it without fuss.
When I got up to use the bathroom, a man, probably late 50’s did a doubletake, then looked at me hard. I looked back harder, cocking my head to look deeply into his fat mug; his gaze wilted. I laughed. I peed, came out of the bathroom and decided to strut through the dining room, past his table, the bar. I wanted to show these devils that I was more than willing to take up my space.
Of all of the diners, there was only one black man and one ‘Imitation of Life’ colored woman seated with a table of meat inspectors; the kitchen staff, bien sur, had a healthy coat of melanin. Camp Bay is what I’d call an all white neighborhood with a little pepper in the mix. Integration is minimal, throughout the city; adjoining tables might contain different hues, but rarely a white and black African mix much in this incredibly diverse place…
It is what it is…
Still, Cape Town is amazing. Its like a combination of Rio only better San Francisco. The blight are the townships, the tin cans that house too many Africans. How can this be allowed? How can people who created these dwellings live with themselves? (By consuming more and more and blaming the victim?)
We left the restaurant, the waiter never thanking us for coming, ignoring my direct thanks for his “service.” It rolled off me like water.
We crossed the two-lane, curvaceous, hilly street, descended a short rocky embankment and walked to the
Atlantic via a white sandy beach. I jogged out toward the water then rushed backwards at its approach. It was past ten. The stars shown over the ocean. Behind the row of eateries, jutting up behind the neatly built homes were the rocky hills of Table Mountain.The most powerful images from this day were the Ugandan team, the most beautiful Auma, the black granite gorgeous, Sarah, whose last name means “to run,” her pregnant (with her) mother, chased from their village by a rebel army. There is handsome, charismatic, talkative Dennis Ochen, the philospher-journalist who fills journal after journal, as well as your ear, with his inner workings. There is the lovely American Jew, Anna, wise beyond her years, who has lived with the ladies of “Girls Kick It” for the last three months. Its a mutual lovefest for Anna and her girls.
I’ll remember the tears I suppressed as our players, most of whom had never flown on an airplane, beat down Team
Estonia. The pride, the joy. I’ll remember the African people, the ones who stop ME on the street, ‘are you Ugandan?’ ‘How are you?’ ‘Where are you from?’ The smiles of the children. The hips moving. The kindness of people you’d think wouldn’t be so kind; the nastiness, the reserve, the fear of a thievish people with EVERYTHING, except an inner peace.
I leave tomorrow, unless my boss answers my plea and let’s me stay until the end.
I want to go to