Cape Town – in which country are we, again?

Cape Town is like a parallel Universe. It looks like Anytown; Auckland, Amsterdam, Zurich, and Boston. The city is clean, organized and modern – it doesn’t even have a unique smell . But beyond the brilliant surface it really is South Africa, the Rainbow Nation.

Our trip started two days ago with a 20-hour flight from New York to Cape Town via Johannesburg. Arriving in Cape Town, Eduardo’s first comment was “It doesn’t look interesting.” And it doesn’t. The personality is more British/Dutch than African, with its terraced Victorian houses, boxy gray office buildings and glass-walled high-rises. They even have a Waterfront shopping center that looks like a larger New York South Street Seaport.We could just as well be in New England, and all the Africans on the streets could be immigrants.
On the way from the airport, we passed by a shantytown with thousands of plywood huts with corrugated tin roofs, which sadly is more what we expected South Africa to look like. But downtown Cape Town, cowering beneath the impressive flat-topped Table mountain, looks more like a brand new doll house.

I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up reading white South African writer Andre Brink’s books about (and against) the apartheid era, but it’s hard not to notice the divide between the rich, mostly white people who own businesses and the poor, mostly blacks and coloreds (an accepted name for the rest). It just seems unfair. With only 20 years since the dissolution of apartheid, large steps have been made, and there’s a definite respect between the different groups. But I guess I just wish the power would lie with the original countrymen.

Thank heavens for the World Cup! Because with the World Cup all South Africans seem to come together in their support for Bafana Bafana! Go South Africa!

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World Cup Fever!

Since first landing in Johannesburg, one thing is clear – this country is ablaze with World Cup fever! Everywhere you go businesses are promoting the World Cup. All advertising has a flavor of football, shop windows display South African flags with digital countdowns of days and hours until kickoff. People on the street are wearing their yellow Bafana Bafana t-shirts in support of the South African national team. All pubs, restaurants and shops show football matches on their flat screen TVs.

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In Cape Town, street signs are pointing towards the stadium and the locations for the free public screenings of the matches. In the ticket sales hub, long lines of folks were camping out for two days in wait for releases of new tickets for the Cape Town matches where most of the South Africa matches will take place. The food stores even have free tastings of foods from all the 32 participating countries, one country per day – today Swiss cheese fondue, tomorrow Slovakian potato cakes.

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Even the newspapers are full of World Cup stories, for example that the sangomas, healers, were brought to the Johannesburg stadium, Soccer City, to bless the venue and the World Cup, and make sure that everything goes well and stays secure.

Two days ago, we spent a whole day in line with a bunch of South Africans, waiting to buy more tickets. Although the wait was long, this was one of the highlights of the trip so far. The South Africans are good people. They are friendly, calm, patient, and generous. As they say, they don’t expect any terrorist acts during the World Cup because they don’t have any bones to pick with any other countries. They just get along with everyone.

We’re getting increasingly caught up in the excitement. Thirteen more days until the games start. And we just picked up our tickets two days ago. Sheer joy y muchos goles!!

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