Cape Town

Cape Town Journal

I am in Cape Town for an international Moravian Mission Conference that will last from Wednesday until Monday. I will be giving one of papers for the conference on Wednesday. It will briefly look at Moravian missions in the 18th and 19th centuries. There will be about 200 Moravians here, and I know several of them who are coming from the US, Albania, and Tanzania. I have an entire suitcase filled with books and other material that I am giving to people.

I arrived in Cape Town about 11 p.m. on Sunday night, November 12 and was greeted by members of the Moravian Church who took me to the Garden Court Hotel on Nelson Mandela Boulevard. It was a long day of traveling that began with a drive to Newark, N.J. It was strange that I was starting on a trip across the world at the same time that the body of my Aunt Ima were being interred in North Carolina. Since I had a long wait for my flight I wrote down some of my memories of my aunt on my blog. The night before leaving Julie and I went to Bucknell to have dinner with Madeleine. I was glad to see her before leaving. And Sarah was home for the weekend, so I could say good-bye to her as well. She had just returned from Venice. I never imagined growing up that my family would be able to travel like this! I wish Julie could have come with me, but with Thanksgiving coming and work demands it was best for her to stay behind. So I kissed her good-bye and headed east. I left my truck at the home of a former student named Helen who lives near the Newark Airport. She dropped me off at terminal B.

The flight to Paris was uneventful and reasonably pleasant. Comfortable seat and good movies to watch. I took a short nap at the Charles DeGaulle airport before boarding the Air France flight to Cape Town. That seat was much less comfortable and was crowded. The food was good and they provided champagne and other pleasant beverages, but I was very tired and my joints were aching. I slept a little watching various movies, including Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. After eleven hours of cramped travel we mercifully landed in Cape Town. I feel so guilty complaining about traveling thousands of miles in 24 hours when I think of people like La Trobe who sailed for months from England to South Africa risking his life from storms and poor food. Here I was drinking champagne and eating potatoes au gratin complaining that my back hurt. But at least La Trobe got fresh air and could watch the porpoises frolicking alongside the ship while sailors sang shanties.

The hotel is very nice and I have a large room to myself on the top floor with a view of the harbor. I slept through breakfast the next morning, but I had brought an emergency granola bar that sustained me until lunch. Granola bars are my lembas (for you LOR fans). A nice taxi driver named Caesar took me down to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront where I was able to exchange currency and enjoyed the life of the tourist. Cape Town seems more like a European or American city than an African one. It is very modern with large highways. Everything is very clean and the people are very friendly. Caesar tried to convince me to move here. It is a little tempting, I must say.

The defining geological feature of Cape Town is Table Mountain. All day the top was shrouded in clouds. It is called Table Mountain because most of the top is flat, but the side of the mountain looks like a lion’s head. There is another sharp peak across from Table Mountain that is called Signal Hill. I enjoyed seeing how the clouds on the mountains changed during the day from white and friendly to blue and threatening. Hopefully I can go to the top later this week. There is a cable car that goes up 3000 feet to the top.

I treated myself to a huge lunch of salmon with a salad completed by panna cotta. I sat outside where I could watch the tourists, mainly German it sounded, walking past the historic clock tower. The walkway sometimes moved to make way for yachts proceeding to the inner harbor. There were buskers, including a brass quartet – trombones and a trumpet – playing a Miley Cyrus song. I wondered if the trombonists were Moravians. And another group playing African xylophones. I did some shopping for the family. There are lots of jewelry stores with beautiful Tanzanite stones and diamonds, of course, but that was all well beyond my price range.

I happened by a boat that was heading out for a half hour harbor tour so I jumped on with several Germans. It was nice to see Cape Town from the water even though the weather was cloudy. On the horizon was Robbins Island where Mandela had been a prisoner for over 20 years. At one point it had been a Moravian leper colony. If I had more time I would take the trip to visit there. The highlight of the harbor tour was finding a family of Cape seals on a large bouy. They were just waking up and the young ones were started to frolic.

I took a cab up to Bree and Loop Streets where there were much better African shops and spent a long time browsing until a sweet lady showed me some scarves in a lovely material. I ended up buying quite a bit from her, including a blue hippo. That’s more of an Egyptian thing than a South African thing, but I know a little girl who’ll love it. I treated myself to a massage, which eased the pain in my back and hips.

I walked back to the Waterfront. It was over a mile, but I need exercise. Unfortunately I got a little lost because I was following road signs designed for cars and I had to cross a multi-lane highway, but I made it eventually. I found a little plaza with statues to four Nobel Peace prize winners from S. Africa and a German lady took a picture of me next to Bishop Tutu. There is a very cool artisanal food market in an old power station right by the plaza. Unfortunately I wasn’t hungry even though they had everything from sushi to samosa to traditional Africa pap. I settled on a mango smoothie and wandered back to the main part of the waterfront to listen to the African xylophonists. I picked up some take out falafel for dinner in my room. I tried calling Caesar, but the calls did not go through so I grabbed a different taxi back to the hotel with less money but feeling good.

I opened the window and sat on the terrace to eat my dinner and called Julie. She was on her lunch break. It was good to talk to her, but my internet time abruptly ended in mid-call. I spent the evening doing college work and eventually fell into dreamless sleep.

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