Monday, October 12, 2015

A Fun House Full of Demons - Erich

In Cape Town, advertising by putting up big poster boards on the light poles along the main roads seems to be quite the rage. I've seen ads for theater, dance, boat shows, and today, newspaper headlines. Sometime overnight last night, someone put up a variety of these posters for the Cape Times. And this one in particular caught my eye.

While I have no idea what the actual article is about, as the poster did not sufficiently induce me to buy a Cape Times newspaper, the headline, “A Fun House Full of Demons” seemed like a most apropos metaphor for Cape Town in general.

Yes, Cape Town is fun. There are several beaches to visit, on the Atlantic Ocean, on Hout Bay off of the Atlantic Ocean, and on False Bay off the Indian Ocean. There are amazing hikes on Table Mountain sporting so many species of fynbos (plants unlike any we know in North America) and unfamiliar fauna as well. There are many museums, flower sellers, a waterfront with a Ferris wheel, sightseeing buses, tours of Robben Island (the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for decades), and more. We haven't done all of these yet, but we are working on it. We've done a few of them. And yes, it is fun!

On Table Mountain with Hout Bay in the background

But it is also a city with demons. Apartheid has ended, but there are still some divisions. First, I should explain that South Africans consider three races: White, Black, and Coloured (I'm spelling it the way they would.) Coloured means there was some mixing of white and black in your ancestry. And these three societies intermingle, but also have some very separate aspects to each other.

When we moved into our apartment in Kenilworth, the agent told us about stores in Claremont to the north. When we asked about Wynberg to the south, she said it wasn't as safe an area. But we have since been down to Wynberg and there is nothing unsafe about it. But it does tend to have a darker skinned populace.

The first grocery store we went to was called Shop Rite. It was jammed with people. There was a 30 minute wait or more just to get through the checkout line. And we were probably the only white people in the store.

The second grocery store we went to was called Pick n Pay. It was not jammed with people. And aside from the employees in the store, pretty much everyone was white. It's interesting, because we didn't find the prices different between the two. So why do lots and lots of black people cram into Shop Rite where they have to wait (and they seem totally used to that) instead of going to the grocery store where there are fewer crowds and less wait? It could merely be geography, the two stores are a couple of kilometers from each other. I can't say for sure it is a sort of self-segregation. But it could be that blacks are used to the stores that they always went to and whites are used to the stores that they always went to and the two groups have no desire to patronize the opposite grocery store.

I'm still learning about the culture here, so maybe my perspective is wrong, or at least skewed by my middle class American life so far. Even in two months, I doubt I can immerse myself enough in the culture to truly see things with the perspective of the South Africans. But I am trying to understand as well as I can.

Maybe I should read the Cape Times.

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