ZA 4: Cape Winds

My courses in Cape Town have been inside an old hospital – adequate to the task, I suppose, but dreary and institutional and labyrinthine compared to my usual American and European venues.  It does require an extra effort of both voice – the acoustics are lousy – and energy simply to overcome that lack of color, the deplorable bathrooms, and the depression that hospitals in poor countries always give me.  Easy place to get sick, hospitals, and this feels especially ripe. (I feel ‘dainty’ saying this – it provides a necessary service for those who need it, like the one legged Zulu who crutched his way through our classroom yesterday on his way to rehab – but I can’t help it: every time I put my hand on a surface or use my wet hands to open a loo door, I wonder.)

Additionally, the ‘movement’ days in both Jo’burg and CT have been the most challenging, as physios have a particular idea about what is meant by movement, and I am not well-enough versed in their ideas to make a good translation to my own ideas about fascia in movement.

Long story short, by last night I was totally knackered.  I don’t like to keep Craig, my hard-working organizer, occupied after hours, as he has two small children, so I took a long restorative walk from my B&B down by the water.  In contrast to the other morning of silent Maine fog, or the other night of Californian onshore breezes creating clouds pouring gently off the lid of Table Mountain, this evening is ‘the southeasterly’.  Drawn by an offshore high, there’s a wicked, almost unbelievable offshore wind sweeping down off the mountain, moaning between the 12 Apostles (crags on the edge of Table Mountain into Camps Bay where I stay), churning the water white as it pulls spume off the incoming waves.

This wind has sprung up on an otherwise normal sunny day.  I am about to reconsider my rejection of Dave’s statement that ‘if you can sail here, you can sail anywhere’.  I have been out in winds like this only a couple of times: once at night in a thunderstorm in Maine with Misty and Annie, where we dragged our anchor but thankfully didn’t ground out; once in the Atlantic crossing, where we were in a line squall for a half an hour or so of pewter sea and howling banshees; and a third time on a lake in Montana when our new mainsail was tattered to threads in a couple of minutes by a similar wind screaming down off the mountains.  Such winds are capable of laying a sailboat sideways under bare poles, and you are helpless to do anything but set the small stout triangle of a storm trisail and run before it.  Thankfully here that would be out to sea and not onto the rocks, but for several hours this wind continues unabated.  It would be dangerous and hair-whitening if it came upon you unprepared.

I walk onto the beach but I am soon exfoliated beyond endurance by the stinging sand singing along my exposed ankles and face and into my eyes. The palms are well-accustomed and just bend into it.  The waves fight to get ashore and break, but the wind stands them up and rips off their hair.  The beach is soft to the eye with the waves of sand playing in the air above it, and the water shimmers with its layer of spume, but the sky is hard and sharp.

The poorer blacks who haunt the beach or beg on the well-fed whites of this beach scene are huddled in whatever lee they can find. The beach front restaurants, awnings snapping above like flags, are doing a roaring business and I join them, nursing a beer for a while to people-watch as errant plastic bags do their ‘American Beauty’ dance and the sun gives way to the crescent moon.

Though there are blacks and ‘coloreds’ (meaning Indians) eating and drinking inside along with the whites, the contrast between the full, tight self-satisfied Dutch faces of the Afrikaaner trendies leaping out of their Mercedes and BMW cabriolets and the soft deprecating smile of the black attendant they pay to watch their car for a few rand seems emblematic.

As I arrive, two white policemen have a skinny black in new tennis shoes face-down and spreadeagled on the grass above the beach, and that image also seems to reach back to the former era of apartheid.  There is crime here, no doubt, and beating someone up or knifing them for a few rand is understandable because of the extreme poverty, but intolerable in terms of society.  Though every white I talk to decries the impossibility of the social situation, no one wants to be that one who is rolled or stabbed for whatever they have in their pocket.

To get back into my B&B, I need a clicker for the rolling security gate with the menacing points on top, a key for the wrought iron outer wall, another lock on the stout wooden doors to the courtyard, another for the B&B building itself, and another for my room.  An enthusiastic Afrikaaner student (actually the one who initially complained about my American accent, but she’s since come around) predicted that I would move to South Africa, because America was going down the tubes and South Africa was on the rise.

And it may be that in years to come I will actually have to find the keys to my house I haven’t used in 6 years of living there, or lock my car when I go shopping in town.  America is in for hard times, and we have the same problems of a wide disparity between the rich and the poor, which may in time rear its ugly head in forms we cannot yet imagine.  And it may be that South Africa will develop a strong black middle class, get past this transitional time, and thrive as Europe has (think of Europe 100 years ago, beset by internal wars and economic rivalry).

I certainly cannot claim to know much about South Africa on the basis of a few days teaching, but despite the extraordinary beauty and diversity of this country, I cannot imagine living here, having known grown up into it, as I would have to: a rich white employing blacks for a pittance to clean my house, care for my children, and guard me from other blacks.

So let’s go visit an old friend who has done exactly that, after one last day of teaching.  Today will be ‘fascial technique’ day, and I can do that one handed in my sleep.

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One Response to “ZA 4: Cape Winds”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Ah, ah, ah. The book is going very, very well.

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