LST-Part Ten: Welcome home

I did not get lost.

No, really!

Apparently, my car's GPS was designed for Cape Town driving, and it has all the roads, place names, and correct maps. After getting me lost multiple times across the country, telling me I was "off road" when I was actually on roads that pre-dated national highways, it seemed to perk into life at recognizing where we were.

I had hoped for a clear day as I drove into Cape Town, but clouds masked the mountain so I could see the lower shape of it, but it hid shyly as I scrambled for my camera.

not quite the first view of table mountain i had in mind

not quite the first view of table mountain i had in mind

somewhere... over a mountain...

somewhere... over a mountain...

muizenberg

muizenberg

K2, in attack mood

K2, in attack mood

cape town humour

cape town humour

someone didn't get the "rainbow nation" memo

someone didn't get the "rainbow nation" memo

you can't go anywhere without bumping into a mountain

you can't go anywhere without bumping into a mountain

the indescribable beauty of noordhoek beach

the indescribable beauty of noordhoek beach

horses, wine, mountain, beach.

horses, wine, mountain, beach.

closing out a long, strange trip

closing out a long, strange trip

I had left Matjiesfontein after breakfast, not in any hurry to anywhere, and enjoyed the drive from the Karoo towards Worcester. As the mountains grew nearer, I swept around a corner, and slammed on brakes, finding a gravel driveway that afforded a place to park. A little dog was trying to cross the road, and would have been squashed with the speed of the trucks and cars. I jumped out of the car and made my way towards it, bottle of water in hand. As it saw me, it scurried away, and the closer I tried to get, the more nervous it was. It disappeared towards a farm, and I found a take-away container on the path, poured some water into it, just in case, and headed back to the car. I was some distance away and I saw a person walking away from the car, crossing the road to the farmstall on the other side. It was at that point I realized that I had left the car open. Not just that, I had left the engine running. I hustled back, looked around, found nothing missing, and headed back onto the road, hoping the little dog was going to find its way to the next day.

Now well into the mountains of Paarl district, and the famous Huguenot Tunnel came up. Nearly 4km long, and a worthy toll road for the building cost and level of sophistication it offers. Equipped with 13 cameras, they feed into an "incident detection system" that alerts authorities to any stopped vehicles, accidents, fast or slow moving traffic, wrong-way driving. With one lane in each direction, it's a fast moving tunnel, and one feels nerves tingling. I swopped my sunglasses for clear ones, paid my fee, and set forth into the belly of the beast.

The bright sunshine that had accompanied my trip so far left at that point. It was odd. As I came out the other side, the weather had completely changed to a foggy, damp, high mountain climate, and I wondered briefly whether somewhere in the bowels of the mountain, I had perhaps been transported to another world. High mountains, extraordinary beauty, and a completely different weather system.

It cleared as I approached Stellenbosch, and decided to stop in and get petrol and fuel for myself. Wimpy was the only place on offer, and the staff were delightfully friendly, with my waitress having as wry a sense of humor as me. We exchanged some laughs and I chowed down on a chutney and mince toasted sandwich. Filled up the car, and headed for Cape Town.

The wonderful SA pop star legend, Heather Mac, had offered me a bed for the night at her home in Muizenberg. My car navigated me correctly to the street, where I parked outside a house with no number, but since it was next door to the next number up from Heather's, I figured I could stay there until she came home. I repacked valuables into the trunk of the car and set off to explore Muizenberg.

My first two sights, other than the fabulous False Bay were interesting: a couple getting out their car at the beachfront: him in casual dress and flip-flops, she in full, black burqa.

As I strolled along the beach, I passed 5 young women, friends having a wonderful time, eating ice-cream, sipping cold drinks. 2 were in shorts and t-shirts, two in pants or sundress and the 5th in black Niqab, with only her eyes showing. A perfectly normal scene across the city, as I know by now, but after so many years in America, where it would be, in most areas, a very unusual (and sometimes unaccepted) sight, I was reminded that I was, truly, home. In a country with as much diversity as any, and with a tolerance for that diversity that remains a point of pride. I felt a surge of love for this place that I had expected to feel on first sight of the mountain, but since the view hadn't allowed for that, feeling that love for the people was a darn sight better.

Heather and hubby arrived home - on the other end of the street. Apparently, the numbers don't really work the usual way there, so I turned the car around, trying to avoid the extremely narrow streets where a car my size was not designed to go, and parked outside the house. Heather and mark opened their arms to me, and insisted on dinner at Kalk Bay. They took me for a drive along Boyes, overlooking the city, and we landed in the harbor at a joint perfectly situated to grab the best fish off the boats. And what a meal it was! Snoek, calamari and chips in such quantity, I could barely get to halfway when I had to admit defeat. I packed up the rest, prepared to save it for the next day, when on our way back to the car, we passed a beggar. I immediately handed him the leftovers, knowing he could probably feed a couple of people on what I hadn't been able to eat.

The next morning, I wished them farewell as they went off to work, and I wandered around Muizenberg's shops, buying a card and flowers for Heather and Mark's hospitality, and finally packing the car to make it up to Dave Reynold's house, where I would be house- and pet-sitting for a long weekend. Again, astoundingly, my car knew where to go, and as I rounded a very tight corner, Dave nearly ran into me, moving his vehicle out the way. A big hug, a little vehicle maneuvering, and I was parked.

The family left on vacation, and I became fodder for the kitten, who couldn't decide whether to be cute and playful, or be a raging, vicious lion. The 3 days were a continual crapshoot of not knowing whether I would be attacked or not. He's adorable. My maternal instincts were in high gear as K2 would balance on the edge of the balcony, and all playtime was relegated to throwing things away from the balcony. The last thing I wanted was to explain how the kitten had not survived Life #1, let along all the rest that were to come.

Dave and family returned, and it was onto my next place of shelter. Charlie and I had dated in my early 20's, and was the reason I had first come to Cape Town. He had traveled, I had stayed, falling in love with this most beautiful city in the world. So, it was lovely to know that he and his wife would welcome me into their home, and look after me while I found a place of my own.

Apartment hunting went easily, and I took the first place I saw. It didn't really matter to me where I lived, but I had heard enough stories about crime, especially property crime, that I knew I didn't want to park my fancy car in any street. I also didn't want to live where I would need multiple locks on my doors, or where I couldn't go for long walks.

So, when I saw the ad for a studio apartment on a gated community, with private vineyard, I said ye before I even saw the place. The agent met me, introduced me to the owners who seemed very nice, as was their dog, Butch, and a quick look around the place, and I was ready to sign the papers.

Of course, doing a background check and credit check on someone who is new to the country poses its own challenges, but that's what estate agents are for, right? Ordered a bed for delivery on my move-in day, and I had a home. It took another week for my boxes to arrive in port, and days of unpacking, repacking stuff I knew I didn't need, and bought some basic planks of woods, trestles, and cement blocks for furniture.

For so many years, I had admired the simple, clean, basic living that is known to be "Japanese-style". I'd never been able to do it. I always accumulate too much stuff. Well, I still have a lot of stuff, but since I don't have room for much furniture, and certainly don't need it, keeping it minimal is finally living the dream.

So, I'm home. Life is pretty good, and now all I need to do is find a way to spread the word about my various talents and skills, so someone can pay me.

So far, jobs aren't coming my way, although some have commented on my resume. Words like "overqualified", "intimidating", "daunting" have been used. Of course, none of it means a damn thing when all I'd really like to do is pay the rent. Wish me luck.

always leave a good impression.

always leave a good impression.