AFRICA- THE ARRIVAL-Notes on a Plane-Pt 5 Rich R

November 28, 2008 at 3:30 pm 7 comments

far-from-home Far From Home

The landing is quite smooth. Water everywhere with land off in the distance was awesome! I can’t believe I was flying south of Africa’s furthest point. I wonder how many miles it really was below the continent before we were in line to touch land.

The shuttle to customs was a bit harried! Everyone hurrying to get on the bus; suitcases flinging, bumping other…what for? To stand in line again? The ride was quite long.. must have been on the complete other side of the airport. Bus stops! People hurry to get off and get in line again. Nobody telling the crowd where to go, what line to get into! Just the blue striped aisles up to 3 customs agents. Wait! This isn’t customs! It’s passport checkpoint.

Shuffling of feet …some laughter..people tired….agents behind the desks ..some smiling, others doing their daily job! Some talking, some just staring…others asking “How long you going to be here?” People shuffling again…following the signs to customs. There’s a Currency Exchange booth…nobody there……the airport basically empty. People standing around awaiting their luggage.

One guy up ahead, stopping everyone. Must be customs officer. Who knows. When I approach him, he only asks “How many cartons of cigarettes do you have?” I reply, “One”. Go on, he says. THAT was customs?

Following the blue striped lines like the other ‘cattle’…we enter into the large room where there are a lot of people standing in lines again….blank faces! It was a weird feeling to see all these people and hear nothing.

There’s my driver …standing there with a sign TELETECH looked like he was not very happy! I greet him, he says his name is Edgar! First thing he says, “Welcome to Cape Town. Your plane was quite late!”… very apologetic yet I could tell he was put-out by the whole thing.

Late? The captain said we were arriving early! Oh well, nothing I could do about that!
Edgar puts all of my luggage and carry-on atop one of the luggage carts! Thank God!
I did not want to have to lug those things one more step.

We immediately exit the airport! I follow him. Quite stiff from all the sitting and cramped quarters of my last 26 hours either sitting on an airplane or standing in line.
We walk out to the parking area….”Not very warm for Africa” is what I thought to myself! Hmmm. Must be due to it being 6:30 p.m. almost night time. My adrenaline kept me going! Excited, nervous..not knowing what was next!

Edgar talks to me but I had a very difficult time understanding him. Very softspoken. Not only were my ears still plugged but his accent! Very ‘British/Scottish” and definitive of what I’ve heard on television for South African people.
We get into the van. It felt good to stretch out. Immediately we get out of the parking lot and head onto the freeway! Nothing around but what you could see off in the distance.
Then, all of a sudden…rough metal shacks…attached to each other. Some with metal roofs, others with huge chunks of construction plastic covering boards to keep the rains out!

“What is that area known as?”, I ask.

Edgar says “Those are the squatters or townships. A lot of people living there have nowhere else to live so the government lets them set up homes like that.”

I am amazed at the living conditions. I did see they had electricity but ….the garbage every where, behind barbed wire fences the people walking, children playing. Just amazing.

Edgar goes on to say “a lot of them have escaped over the mountains to where it is safe for them. On the other side of that mountains a lot of people are put into slavery, women are beaten, children abused. They escape to beautiful Cape Town to get away. Those that are lucky not to be eaten by the animals or die from exposure to the mountains usually live here.”

I just don’t understand how people can live like that… mind goes back to my childhood. I remember being the only house of about 20 that had an indoor bathroom. I remember one of my childhood friends living in a house…not like this, but the inside…cardboard walls separating the outside from them. Pot belly stove in the middle of the room for winter months. Not that far off but then again, this IS 2008, not 1957. How my life and lifestyle have changed since I was a child. How my family has changed. One sister gone, both parents gone. Just me and my sister in Virginia left, with our own children. Life goes too fast!

People change! The world changes!

Edgar points out the hospital where Christian Bernard performed the first human heart transplant in the ‘60’s.

The original fort that protected Cape Town built, if I remember right, over 400 years ago. It is still used as a museum.
Continuing on …bright colored buildings….stop at a light, people crossing, running. In a hurry to get home! Me? I can’t wait to get to the hotel! Around the lower level of Devil’s Point ….I can see the harbor….turn right….narrow streets, cars parked on both sides, barely room for 1 to get down there yet it’s still a two-way street.

“This is where your hotel is, Mr. Rich.” Looking down a tree-lined street toward the ocean. Nice! Later on, I find out that some of them were olive trees! hotel
Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four

To be continued….

Entry filed under: Africa, personal opinion, travel.

TWAS- “TIS” THE NIGHT – LIGHT UP LORAIN! The LIST – updated Nov. 29th –

7 Comments Add your own

  • […] out Rich R’s piece at Loraine’s […]

  • 2. Brian  |  November 28, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Thank you for sharing this experience. How often we forget that indead that there are many that are MUCH lLESS fortunate than us.

    Puts life into perspective somewhat.

  • 3. thatwoman  |  November 29, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Brian when I was uploading Rich’s article what amazed me was the sheer “matter of factness” with which the driver spoke about the plight of these people….a bit like oh there are potholes on 6th street because of the under lay.…. but to speak so casually of slavery , abuse being killed by the animals just to try and escape to a “better life in a barbed wire cess pit” ..can you imagine ………what would happen if we found out there were peopple being abused and sold into slavery in Ohio .being killed in the woods… God the outcry but it seems that in other parts of the the world and I don’t believe S. Africa is alone these things can be routine…… yes we are very fortunate…… Loraine

  • 4. Jet  |  December 8, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I realy enjoy reading your stories…I feel like I am right there with you. Hard to believe that people are living in such poor conditions! We seldom see that. Thank God for a nice hotel!

  • 5. Richard Robbin  |  December 9, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    The beginning of my experiences with the PEOPLE ..the FABULOUS PEOPLE of South Africa begins with this next post. Thank you all for reading and comments.

  • 6. Elle  |  July 10, 2010 at 5:12 am

    I am from Cape Town. Please tell me you are all kidding about believing that “people are put into slavery, women are beaten, children abused…lucky not to be eaten by the animals or die from exposure to the mountains”!! That is typical Cape humour on the part of Edgar. We are an amazing product of 1st world & 3rd world elements, we have people in dire poverty living in shacks, middle class suburban dwellers and the very rich living in mansions. Our incredible wildlife is kept in nature reserves…they don’t roam around and eat people! It’s ridiculous. We have women and children that are abused as in any society – just look at Mel Gibson!! I hope that after the World Cup the world has finally got a real and true understanding of our magnificent country! Visit us and see for yourself! 🙂

  • 7. thatwoman  |  July 10, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Hi Elle , this series was from a guest blogger , who was working in Cape Town, it was from his perspective and his experiences if as you say that is typical Cape Town humour , you might want to inform the tourist bureau that it is being believed so sharing the joke might have to be done with more circumspect.. I wil pass on your comment to Rich though and we have been enjoying the sights and ( not so much the sound 😉 of the World Cup. Loraine

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November 2008

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