Sunday, February 25, 2007

Two Weeks in Cape Town

Two weeks in Cape Town: a holiday and a litmus test for whether we’d consider accepting jobs there. Eran was a bit more seduced by the space and the beauty and the food and the ocean than I was. Our first week in Cape Town itself was fun; it’s a nice city. We enjoyed Long Street especially, and Zula's was the best food we’ve eaten in years. I certainly didn’t eat anything close to that in London, and that includes Jamie Oliver’s place!

But it was our second week in Kommetjie, 50 minutes from Cape Town, that made my mind up. It was so incredibly beautiful – both location and the house itself – breathtaking – I can’t describe it…

But before the morning, the night must pass, and it was during the night’s creaking hours that I understood how it would be:- in the darkness the seductive beauty of South Africa is concealed, and only in that darkness can you finally see clearly. The house, with its light and space and wood and quirky décor, was unprotected:- no high walls, no security registration, just glass. After our robbery in Angola every South African we’ve had contact with here have said that if the same thing had happened in South Africa we would all be dead for sure. Apparently in South Africa robbers don’t leave survivors.

So our nights in Kommetjie were frightening at worst and tense at best. We had the phone with 10111 dialled up all ready to press ‘call’, and a knife under the bed. It took us a long time to go to sleep: afraid of an event that hadn’t happened.

Our final night we stayed with an Israeli friend’s mum in Johannesburg, before our return flight to Luanda. She lives in small luxury – a beautiful box within a cage, within a cage, within a cage, on a street with a security guard poised to drop an ever-ready road-block. We drove at night where we were warned to be careful about stopping at red lights. All over South Africa we drove with the locks down. In Johannesburg we went to Nelson Mandela Square; boxed and caged by opulence and decadence:- the wealthy may come inside the box to honour the giant monument erected there for the man who gave over his life for the breaking out of boxes and the tearing down of high walls.

It was a privilege to spend a fortnight in this incredible place, but I could not live like this. I’ve known too many cages to choose another, much bigger, much more powerful and insidious cage, than I have ever known. In South Africa there are only two ways to live: inside the cage, or outside looking in (or breaking in).

If you press your ear to the alcoholic soil, and dip beneath the hypnotic scent of wine and the heady scent of abundant blossoms, and ignore the expansive blues of sea and sky spilling out from the crevices of rugged crags and dramatic mountains, you can hear the violence, bitterness and hatred drumming away beneath the earth, shifting the land so slightly it’s almost imperceptible, waiting for a crack through which to erupt. One day the land might just do to its settlers, on all sides, what the ocean around Cape Point succeeded in doing for decades:- swallowing, churning, and spitting out its invaders. Land can sense origin, but not colour. This will not be a black and white selection process.


thury said...

Oh Jenny! What a delight it always is to read your texts. Happy to hear how the visit down south recharged your soul. Looking forward to more looks stunning.
Love Thury x

jennifletzet said...

You say such lovely things Thury!... Makes it all worthwhile!