Tag Archives: South Africa

Nostalgia, Already (Table Mountain)

The first time I peeled, I thought I was dying.

I had just returned from Cuba. At first I chalked it up to dry skin, but the skin – my skin! – kept rubbing off with frightening ease. I showed my mother.

“Oh, you’re just peeling. From the sun,” she had said.


“You must have gotten burnt in Cuba.”

“Oh. I didn’t know that happened to us.”

I was reminded of that special moment earlier, after sloughing off a layer from my forehead. Memories of South Africa, but more specifically, standing in line for the cable car up Table Mountain. I was out there for about 2 hours and half of that time was spent in the sun. If I had known about that wait in advance, I might not have gone (or I would have at least worn sunscreen). But the views from Table Mountain were magnificent and worth every second in the sun. I had lucked out, because the day before and the two days after were so windy that the cable cars weren’t running.

I hope my burnt layer hangs around for a bit longer to remind me of my good fortune and fun times.

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Coloured (Cape Malay)

Cape Town feels like an island. You can definitely feel the proximity of the water, even when you can’t see it.

I went searching for South African food shortly after arriving at my hotel in the CBD (Central Business District), but all I could find were chicken livers on fancy “international” menus. So I settled in at a place called Tiger’s Milk on Long Street.

The waiter was very attentive and clearly curious about me, so I took the opportunity to ask him about South African food.

“Well, because South Africa is made up of different cultures, it depends. Indians have their curries; the white guys have their braai. For example, in my culture, we have chutneys.”

“What’s your culture?” I had my own ideas, based on what he looked like to me, but I wanted to hear how he identified according to South African norms.

“Let’s say, the polite way to say it is Cape Malay.”

“The polite way?”

“Basically Coloured. But I know that for American people it’s not good to say that.”

“How do you feel about it?”

“It doesn’t bother me. Actually I’m proud to say it.”

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Maboneng (Ossington)

For a second my mind wandered, and I thought I was on Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway, down by the old industrial buildings close to the lake. But the lake was missing.

Maboneng: place of light. Hipsters’ paradise. Even us social justice folks have to admit when a place looks cool. Feels cool. Oozes cool. We don’t want to acknowledge that we’re complicit in the gentrification. That we patronize the very establishments that push (poor) people out. But we do. And we enjoy it.

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Polite Conversation (Pretoria)

“I’ve been thinking of going to Pretoria, just to see it since it’s so close. What’s it like?” I asked.

“It’s very White,” she replied. “A lot of oppressive energy.”


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