South Africa: Mission

Tuesday, June 7 in Cape Town. Today, I’m meeting up with Hillary again. She’s been kind enough to offer to drive down to Cape Point with me, the world where two oceans meet. But first, she’s arranged for us to meet with an acquaintance of hers, Joyce Scott.

We set out down the coast together around 9:30, heading straight to Joyce’s house. Joyce is an 80 something year old woman who’s face reminds me of my grandmother on my mom’s side of the family. She welcomes us into our house, and offers us tea. She also offers us the South African equivalent of biscotti. We sit down in her living room where a grey cat from the neighborhood wanders in and out freely while we chat.

Joyce spent years as a missionary in Africa, working in a long list of countries. She was a musician and music teacher, but along the way she realized that she needed to local music. “In Africa, anything important that needs to be said is sung,” she says. Without intending to, she has become quite the scholar of African music and ethnomusicology. The conversation continued, her showing us instruments, playing recordings, singing a few songs. We ended our time playing the amadinda together, a Ugandan xylophone of sorts.

Meeting Joyce was amazing. She has notes on songs she has learned in one of the townships, Xhosa songs. I’m trying to get back to her to copy her notes to transcribe. She also has an extensive library which she’s catalogued, and she was kind enough to let me photograph the list for me to look through later. At 80, Joyce has accumulated a wealth of knowledge that she wants to pass on, particularly to another missionary who will continue her work. I know I’m not the man for that, but I think working on those transcriptions would be a great way to help her.

After our morning meeting, Hillary and I continued down the coast to Kalk Bay. Despite being just a thirty-five minute drive from the heart of Cape Town, Kalk Bay feels like a separate world, the smell of salt from the water and a cool breeze blowing off the ocean. The main drive is dotted with little shops, and we pop into a few galleries where I saw some fantastic pieces. Eventually, we end up at a restaurant called Live Bait. It’s right on the water where the boats are bringing in the fish and hhe fish sellers are hawking them to people walking by. Locals fish off the pier. We have a nice leisurely lunch looking over the water, and time gets away from us.

Original plan was to get down to Cape Point. We managed to set foot there for a few minutes, and I snap some quick pictures before hopping the car to get back to the city. I’m scheduled to teach swing dance lessons tonight. It feels like the least I can do for this wonderful community that has taken me in this week. I teach classes on improvising in the dance, getting away from moves and steps, thinking about communicating rhythms. I want to broaden their view of the possible to return to them the gift that this trip is giving me.

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