It’s Monday in Cape Town. People are chilled. Or ‘super chilled’ as many of them like to say. My long time Cape Tonian friend says the ratio of hipsters per capita here are higher than anywhere else in the world. Which means there’s good coffee, so this holiday maker is happy.
What’s inspiring about Cape Town is 1. The natural beauty and 2. The fact that you don’t have to work toooo hard to live a good life here. People work to live, not the other way round. They really spend time in nature: running on the promenade, hiking on the mountain, open water swimming in the freezing Atlantic Ocean.
The Capetonian message to us is: Relax wherever you are and take advantage of your environment.
One of my favourite things to do in Cape Town is to take the train from Cape Town Station (nicely refurbed for the 2010 World Cup) all the way through the Southern Suburbs and along the little seaside towns of Muizenburg, St James, Kalk Bay, Fishoek, Glencairn and finally Simon’s Town, a short local taxi ride from the home of the African (formerly known as Jackass) Penguin at Boulder’s Beach.
Many South Africans have sadly never ventured on to public transport but I would encourage any visitor to Cape Town, foreign or local to embrace this adventure. The train runs right next to the sea and is so much more scenic than a car journey and a round trip is only R30 (about $3)
The Penguins are a delight to watch as they preen their fellow mate for life and if you are brave enough to swim in the icy temperatures you can frolic with them between the beautiful pre-historic looking boulders.
When I left my homeland seven years ago, I wasn’t running from anything. I hadn’t been stock-piling food for fear that South Africa was ‘going the way Zimbabwe’ had gone. I believed, and still do, that the country has a bright shiny future. I was following my own little dream – to see the world, to meet weird and wonderful creatures and learn clever things. At least I think that was my dream, but it’s all so long ago now, who can really remember? The days and the years speed by, the lessons change and the faces rearrange. All I can be sure that lingers on is the desire to see the world, to discover new places and people out there on the untrodden road.
There is a price to pay for all this newness and adventure. For every fascinating foreign encounter, a heartfelt homely one is forfeited. For every new relationship forged, an existing one is neglected. All the energy we expend in adjusting, adapting and acclimatizing to new environments is used up and cannot be invested in other things. Emotionally, I live in two countries and service two sets of relationships. It’s important to recognize which of these are transient and which have really got your back, and invest in them accordingly. A big bad city like New York really helps to put things in perspective, you learn quickly that for all the wow factor, people here are self-involved and unlikely to invest in you. When a hurricane hits, that person you thought you had a really solid relationship with, is unlikely to invite you to stay in their guest bedroom on the Upper West Side.
But that ‘s just the flip side of why people come here in the first place, in search of self-sufficiency and self-expression. The anonymity afforded by a place that is not your own can be a convenient guise and fuel for freedom and re-invention. Or it can just be fucking lonely. It all depends on what you’re hoping to discover on your path at that point in time. And herein lies my massive conflict: I want to be invisible but I want to belong, I love my family and my country but I also love living here. In such unclear-cut cases, one has to make a choice – to abandon one world or to inhabit two simultaneously and dedicate a little more energy to a double life. For me, this is a privilege rather than a sacrifice. It affords me the luxury, of one day, when the going gets too tough, to be able to click my heels and wake up in a place where the sun is shining, the language is colorful and the love is abundant.New York, I adore you, but there’s no place like home.