It’s been a few weeks now since I left Cape Town (I blame a combination of wi-fi deprivation and a crazy tour schedule), but before I start flooding the blog with Namibia / Botswana photos, I wanted to post about my last few days in Cape Town. The highlight of those last few days was visiting the botanical gardens in Kirstenbosch, which is about an hour and a half bus ride from the city. I usually find botanical gardens to be a little disappointing, but so many people told me to go to this one that I figured I shouldn’t miss it, and I was glad that I didn’t because it was spectacular. The gardens are huge, so they don’t feel busy at all; the flowers are beautiful; the grass is the really thick and lush kind that you want to walk barefoot in; there are butterflies everywhere; and it’s all set against a backdrop of mountains on one side and panoramic city views on the other. I apologize in advance for all of the pictures of flowers — I tried to cut them down more, but I was too attached!
Since this is my last Cape Town post, here are some of my random thoughts about my time there, in no particular order:
1. Afrikaans-speaking people have the strangest accents.
2. Most of the African people living in Cape Town speak a Zulu language called Xhosa. The “Xh” sound is sort of a clicking sound similar to a tsk-tsk. Who thought of writing it as Xh and why?
3. I think that Cape Town has the cutest coffee shops I’ve ever seen. If I ever had to study for the bar again, I would want to do it in Cape Town.
4. Not surprisingly, the way that South Africans talk about race is very, very different from the way that Americans do. I won’t embarrass myself by talking about this much more because I definitely didn’t even scrape the tip of the iceberg in my two weeks as a visitor, but one difference that I’ll mention is that South Africans refer to a variety of different ethnic groups and some people of mixed race as “coloured.” It is considered completely appropriate and not at all offensive (at least among the people I spoke to, although they may not have been the best sample because most of them were black or white). The word has a totally different meaning here than it does in the US, but it’s still strange to hear people throwing it around.
Sample awkward conversation:
Patrick: You don’t say “coloured” in the US?
Me: No. Not unless you are openly racist.
Patrick: But your president is coloured.
Me: Our president is black.
Patrick: But his mother is white.
Me: But we still consider him black, or maybe we would say multi-racial, or that his father is African and his mother is white. But you can’t call anyone of any color “colored.”
Patrick: He’s coloured.
Me: Let’s change the subject.
5. If you ever wake up in Cape Town on a Sunday morning and decide you want to rent a car for the afternoon, you probably can’t. What you can do instead is treat yourself and the person you’ve volunteered to drive you around to a walking tour of every car rental agency in Cape Town, each of which will either be out of cars or closed on Sundays. Sometimes I forget that outside of New York, you cannot always get whatever you want at the last minute. Especially on a Sunday. Lesson learned.
6. Cape Town is an amazing place to experience Extreme Reading. I spent many, many hours reading books on the beach with the penguins, overlooking the city from Table Mountain, at the waterfront while the sun rose and set, and under the trees in the botanical gardens. I think this was one of the best parts about having a few weeks to spend in there — when I found a place that was really beautiful (and there were plenty to choose from), I didn’t have to try to take it in in an hour; I could sit down and camp out there with a book and camp out there for the rest of the day.
7. Cape Town is great. You should go there 🙂
I left my hotel in Cape Town right around sunrise, which was a nice way to say goodbye since it was one of my favorite times of day there.
Right now I’m in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and I’ll be here for the rest of the week, so I should finally have time to catch up on my blogging about the past few weeks. Preview: expect a lot of sand (Namibia) and a lot of elephants (Botswana).