Jan 10 2007

The Long Way To Cape Town

Published by MsQ at 11:56 pm under South Africa, Tales From The Road

Cape Town International Airport

It took me a while, but I finally returned to Cape Town.

I first went to Cape Town for work back in December of 1998. Apartheid had ended 4 years before and it took 20 hours and 2 flights to get me there, the last 13 of them in a middle seat. There seemed to be an endless series of movies that dulled the mind but not the constant roar of the jet engines. When one of the “Batman” movies started playing I knew I knew I had hit the wall. I felt like crawling out of my skin – or at least leaving my aching tailbone behind – and the throbbing music, explosions and visions of a man in a molded rubber suit weren’t helping. I didn’t drink back then. Drinking would have helped. After that flight, flying for 6 or 7 hours seems easy.

I landed in Cape Town and we had to wait for the stairs to be wheeled over – they didn’t have a jetway. It was sunny and breezy and Customs was casual and confusing. The airport was podunk. The rental car counters weren’t far removed from fruit stalls. But once I got on the road and shook off the flight, the beauty of the area welcomed me. The people welcomed me. I was there for 6 weeks and Laverne, the woman I worked with, invited me to spend time with her and friend Shirley on the weekends. Are these their real names? Of course not. But Laverne is tall with short, curly, sandy colored hair, and Shirley is petite with short dark straight hair. When I told them that I would be referring to them as Laverne and Shirley, they wondered at my choice. I had to explain to them about the old sitcom set in the 1950s. I used to love that show, even had that song they sung in the opening memorized.

Moving right along…

I have been meaning to return but never quite followed through with my plans. It wasn’t until the Spring of 2006 when I started to realize that I had to Do Something. My About page will give you an idea of what I went through. When Laverne emailed me to say that she was taking her holiday at the end of the year and I was welcome to stay with her, I thought, “I must do this. I must do this NOW.” Laverne and I pinned down the dates and in July I drained my United frequent flyer account of miles. I was set to fly out on December 27th, landing in Cape Town on the 29th.

When December finally rolls around, Laverne and Shirley are worried – they haven’t made any plans. I told them that all I had in mind to do was visit Robben Island, the place where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner. OK, I also wanted to visit some wineries. The area is riddled with wineries.

As you know, I am Ms. Q and Ms. Q drinks wine. Besides that, if all we did was hang out at their place eating chocolate and drinking the wine we had purchased, I was happy. I really just wanted to see them. Entertainment or being entertained wasn’t what I had in mind. Nor was shopping. It was their holiday as well and I was up for whatever they were up for. If shopping was what they wanted to do, I would drink wine and watch.

On December 27th, I headed out to Cape Town via a convoluted itinerary – the U.S. to Seoul to Singapore to Johannesburg to Cape Town.

It took me 8 years, but I finally returned to Cape Town.

I still had to wait for the stairs to be wheeled over to the plane, but the airport was modern, Customs less confusing and when I finally emerged out of the Arrivals area, I saw modern shop fronts hawking the usual airport items, an overpriced café and several rental car counters. It didn’t feel makeshift and podunk.

Part of me hadn’t expected things to change, but things do.

I had expected to see Laverne and Shirley. I didn’t.

Stay tuned…

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