The Final Days

Four days, and I will be gone from the country I have called home over the past two summers, not knowing when or if I will ever have the opportunity to return. Thinking about leaving South Africa is sad and exciting at the same time. Part of me is happy. I can’t wait to be at home again, enjoy the comforts of life in the U.S. (more than 4 TV channels, fast and unlimited internet!), and savour what’s left of summer vacation.

But at the same time, part of me is holding onto the life that I have grown accustomed to over the past two months or so. Each day I board the train, hop of at the downtown station, and navigate the crowds and street vendors milling about their daily lives, I feel like I fit in a bit more. I can look at the train timetables and understand where exactly each train will be going. I can glance at the posters placed on street poles promoting the day’s newspaper headlines and comprehend the latest political events and local gossip. I can rattle off street names and directions off the top of my head.

In spite of (and, in many ways, because of) its chaos, complexities, and contestations, Cape Town has grown on me, and no amount of endless rainfall can take that away.

My last weekend was very enjoyable, although a bit sad. Friday night, one of my housemate Joel’s co-workers, Intebeko, hosted a going away party for all of our house, since many of the people were leaving on Sunday. Intebeko lives in the Gugulethu township (an all black area), so we knew that we were in for quite an experience. After a quite harrowing car ride there (our van broke down several times in the middle of a busy road), we were greeted with a raucous party with plenty of food and booze. At the end of the evening, we joined Intebeko’s friends in turning the garage into a makeshift dance floor—South Africans really know how the enjoy themselves.

Saturday night, I was invited by Bonita, the director of the District Six Museum, over to her house for dinner. Aside from her and her family, several of my other co-workers (Tina and Chris from the Exhibitions Department, Mandy from Education, and Thulani from the Sound Archive) joined us, each bringing a dish to share. Let me say that the meal was fantastic. I got to sample a wide variety of traditional Cape Town recipes—all of which were delicious. I especially enjoyed boboetie (pronounced ba-beau-tea), a sweet mince meat curry.

After being on such a high from Friday and Saturday night, Sunday was a bit of a downer. Five of my housemates who have been here for the past 8 weeks were leaving to head back to the States. After spending so much time with each other, we were all very close, and it was sad to see them go. Thankfully, pretty much everyone goes to either UNC or Duke, so it will be fairly easy for us to keep in touch and see each other, due the proximity of our schools.

Sunday did have its silver lining, however. As you may recall, I mentioned in a post from my first week here how badly the choir at the Catholic Church near me sings. Well, in the past 9 weeks, they haven’t gotten any better, and my housemate and Church buddy Ainsley left mass every Sunday laughing at their interesting melodies. Last week as we walked out of Church, we joked about joining the choir for our final Sunday. What was just a mindless joke turned into a dare, and of course we had to follow through. So 30 minutes before the 11am mass, Ainsley and I headed to the Holy Name Catholic Church to join choir practice. It was hilarious, and I enjoyed figuring out exactly which choir members were responsible for the extremely off-key singing. I even was allowed to play the tambourine for the music during mass! The choir (average age 65) loved us, and as we left, they told us at least 5 times that they would pray for us.

After Sunday, I think that I will be hanging up my choir robes for good.

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