Friday, December 27, 2013

A Place to Run Towards

Today the hubs and I decided to go for a nice lunch out in the Cape Winelands. If you even sort of follow this blog you know that wine is a little bit of a thing for us… so this is a pretty routine trip.

It’s about a half hour into Stellenbosch, a very nice wine area that is close by but also has loads of interesting stuff. We bundled ourselves into the car, slathered ourselves with sunblock (African sun is outta hand – you even burn while driving), put on some tunes and hit the road. While on the very crowded roads, we noticed something – every other car had a license place from Gauteng, the province of Johannesburg.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Normally this would not be a big deal – Cape Town has cars from all over the place driving around. Cars from neighboring Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia. Cars from the UK. Even cars with a left-hand drive (remember they navigate from and drive on the wrong…ahem opposite… side of the road here).  The vast number of Joburgers - and their awful driving habits - made me realize that there are two types of places in the world: the ones people come to for Christmas vacation and the ones they drive away from to Christmas vacation.

My first thought today was something akin to that moment in South Florida when the shofar and the wind blows in points north and the place becomes invaded.  But this is more severe. This is more like Christmas, which is more like a blitzkrieg – brief and intense. Cars stuffed with screaming children and the things meant to keep them from screaming, stressed out parents who don’t know where they’re going  while trying to juggle screaming kids and the various and sundry aunts, uncles and parents. It’s enough to drive them… into my lane.

This is the complete opposite of somewhere like Washington, DC which is devoid of all human beings during the holidays. One of my favorite things about being in DC for a chunk of the holidays was the traffic-free streets, the half-empty bars and restaurants, and the peace and quiet. It’s probably how things are in Johannesburg this week since all of those people are here.

So we’re mostly hunkered down at home. Haven’t been on a proper grocery shop in days, but tomorrow we’re gonna run out of milk. Wonder if the grocery store will have something in common with DC during a snowstorm? I suspect yes, so I am thankful we’re all stocked up on toilet paper.

Nonetheless, the wine and the views at lunch certainly made up for the Joburg blitzkrieg, which is why they’re here in the first place, right?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Politics of Those Boos

OK world, I get it. South Africa was certainly not on its best behavior yesterday in front of the world.  Even the South African Broadcasting Company tried to spare the world, to no avail. I’ve read how many South Africans were mortified about the boos, that people were being rude and lamenting that Madiba would be upset about how people behaved
Photo via

But would he?

He spent his whole life fighting so that people could boo, so they could voice their support and their dissent… regardless of who they were. So maybe he would have wished that people had more class, but he probably would have been proud that people were able to make their dissent known– without violence but with their voices.

Of course the reasons for it are complicated and largely internal to South Africa. Perhaps people are disappointed that President, Zuma, the ANC and its leadership are something Mandela would be less than pleased with.  It might be directed exclusively at Zuma for his transgressions, recent and historic. It might be that people feel that things haven’t changed enough since Mandela fought so hard to get them there. It could be that the spectacle yesterday was the world’s and not the people of South Africa’s… who may mourn differently through song, noise and dancing.

Whatever the reason, they do have the right to bitch. Just maybe not in front of the world.

A highlight from yesterday was certainly President Obama. The handshake with President Raul Casto showed the world that the day was beyond politics, unlike those mentioned above. The speech showed the personal connection for Obama, as well as the unique connection between South Africa and the US as multi-racial democracies. The irony of President Obama’s words in front of many who profess to admire Madiba but also continue policies against his ideas should not be lost on anyone. But I think that was point – everyone could find something to admire in Nelson Mandela – dictator, Democrat or Republican alike.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hamba Kahle, Tata

I haven’t written here in a long while. Nevermind as to why… today I am moved by the passing of Tata Madiba.

Madiba was George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. all in one. He was part of a group of people that chose the path and defined what South Africa wants to be, is trying to be and hopefully will become. He is the backbone of roadmap to get there… both it and him not perfect, but aiming to be more perfect. He himself said he was “not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

The world loved Madiba and rightly so. He stands a fleeting symbol of struggle, of sacrifice, of belief, of hope. We see fewer and fewer icons of this magnitude today- perhaps it is the relentless news cycle that casts a pallor on every possible successor’s imperfections. Can the world ever have another Madiba?

We can only hope.
The first treason trial in 1958. (Jurgen Schadenberg, AP)

People ask how will this impact South Africa? The reality is that Madiba has been and will continue to live in people’s hearts, minds and souls… just as he
has been since he mostly left public life 10+ years ago. In terms of politics, the political party that Nelson Madela belonged to most of his life is vastly different than the one that rules South Africa today. If only the party could remember what Nelson Mandela, OR Tambo, John Dube, Chris Hani and Sol Plaatje were all about.

We woke up this morning crying. My husband cried inconsolably when Madiba was in critical condition earlier this year but today he was more subdued – as if he had already said goodbye. We held each other and saw the start of a beautiful day in the most beautiful place on earth, Cape Town.  I could only think that instead of being sad today about the loss of a great human being, I am thankful that we could ever know of him and be touched by his intentions for the world. I remain hopeful for South Africa and the world that the spirit of Madiba will remain alive in all of us.

Hamba Kahle, Tata.