Friday, May 27, 2011

Sunny Day on the Cape

Dazed and delighted to be in the Cape Town bus terminal, I stumbled out of the bottom of the Intercape double-decker bus after a long night, into the sunshine of a self-aware beautiful city.

Cape Town's charm isn't lessened by its awareness of its beauty. I love Cape Town as much as anyone else who's ever visited.

I picked a friendly old guy in a hat to taxi me to Cape Town Backpackers, and a young Australian couple joined me as they were going to a hostel nearby.

Over the next few days, I realized I was done with backpackers hostels after mornings of waking up to every cup, mug, and glass in the hostel being half-full of wine and in the sink. I'd have to do the dishes before having coffee.

But it was still great to be able to prepare my own morning coffee, to open up a few envelopes of Oats-So-Easy and have instant oatmeal alongside granola & yogurt, rather than greasy eggs at a restaurant. And I met some of the backpackers. Some of them were interesting, had driven down from Europe, and had great stories to tell. Others appeared to be solely interested in assisting the South African economy through the purchase of as much of its alcohol as possible. And I was almost always the oldest one in the room.

Shawn and I had stumbled over Cape Town Backpackers in 2005. I've forgotten how I saw its ad or if I'd just seen it en route to the laundromat nearby. I didn't even blog that bit. All I'd said was that we'd driven around and found it.

When I checked into Cape Town Backpackers in October, 2005, they'd had a brand-new guesthouse opening. They offered me the first room at a steep discount. The curtains were going in as I put my bag in the room. The bathroom wasn't ready the first few nights, so I showered downstairs. Once it was ready, the shower still leaked and the contractor had to come back in. He was nice and he asked me out to the Green Point flea market and for coffee after a few weeks of us going back and forth about the finishing touches on the room. I was in no way ready for men to start asking me out after the dramatic abandonment-in-time-of-crisis of a month earlier.

That was why I'd left Cape Town that time, fleeing north to Lesotho and then on the bus all the way back to Uganda, where I'd had it out with Herr Marlboro over his disappearance a few month's earlier. This seemed satisfying and was working towards some kind of civil conclusion until he disappeared again, permanently, going so far as to obscure his online identities with aliases in his efforts to hide what really happened—he felt bad for having been a worthless man in a crisis, decided to reinvent himself as a non-ass with an Israeli woman he met, ended up in Israel, then finally in Kenya where she opened an island lodge with a business partner, and finally back home to a small Bavarian town, back where he started. Geography changes nothing. He taught me that, though he didn't know it himself. You can't hide, run, or reinvent yourself that easily. The real work, obviously, happens internally.

I suppose I could click a few buttons and see what he's doing now, but the curiosity and temptation is no longer in me.

That's a good thing, right?

I didn't have the nerve to text or call the contractor, and Shawn is in the Seychelles, so I didn't know anyone in Cape Town. But I put my days to good use...first climbing the hill up to the laundromat, then pacing Kloof Street looking for the Too Much Coffee Man mural, which seems to be gone now. I finally went to the Green Point Flea Market, but it's nothing now, having been displaced by the new World Cup stadium.

The wifi in Cape Town Backpackers was expensive and frustrating, though in 2005 it hadn't existed at all. I found myself trekking down the hill to the fast, efficient, and excellent internet cafe, MainOnline, in Lifestyles on Kloof. The Mugg & Bean free ten-minutes with breakfast was no more, as the Mugg & Bean had closed. A pity--using creating switching on-and-off, I'd always managed to make that ten-minutes last a half-hour.

My first day in Cape Town, I was in a bit of a daze from having slept on the bus. The best I could manage was a trip to the laundromat, some internet activity, and purchasing a spinach-and-feta risotto takeaway meal from Woolworth's.

Dinner was delicious, and I ate it in the kitchen where I was staying. I felt a little guilty for eating something decent in front of two college-age guys scarfing down ramen noodles.

But not really. Spinach and feta risotto after months of fried foods? Nope, not feeling bad about this.

Not at all.

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