South Africa: Threads

Friday, June 10. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to spend much time at Cape Point on my trip with Hilary on Tuesday. I don’t have anything planned for today, so it seems like a good time to set out on another adventure. But first, another small detour to visit with Joyce Scott. I have an email from her in which she’s told me about some notes she managed to locate since my visit on Tuesday.

After calling her to confirm my visit, I hop an uber down to her apartment. Once again, neighborhood cats stroll in and out of her apartment. I’m missing my own fuzzy britches, Malcolm, and am glad to offer them some pets. She shows me her notes, rough transcriptions of Xhosa songs she has learned. I snap photos with my phone so I can transcribe them for her (and for myself) when I get home. She also very generously gives me a few journals, CDs, and a cassette tape. She says she doesn’t know what use for them she has any more. She seems like a woman looking to pass on her legacy. I know that she’d really love to see it go to someone who will pick up her mission work. I’m conscious of the fact that that isn’t me, so I try to be selective about what I accept from her. I have a feeling that someone else will come along that’s a better fit, and I want to leave the collection for them. In the mean time, I want to foster the relationship with her and honor the work she has done.

Another Uber later, and I am down at Cape Point. Cape Town is an incredibly beautiful city, but the views from here are the most heart-touching I’ve seen. It feels like walking to the end of the earth. A poem starts rattling around in my head while I scuttle about taking photos. After walking up to the lighthouse, I had noticed a beach near the Cape of Good Hope, and a trail leading out that way. One and a half hours round trip reads the sign. I bound off onto the trail at a slight jog. I’ve got my legs back after hiking the mountains. No one else is on the beach…my footprints are the only marks in the sand. I want to sit and think for a while, but I’m feeling an imperative to get back. My feet have been washed in the waters here, shark infested though they might be. I dust the sand off, and head back up the trail.

On the way back, I chat up my uber driver. Like many of my drivers here, he is from the Republic of Congo. It seems like such a desperate situation there with horrible violence and corruption. He seems at a loss for hope for his home, but still with a deep love for it. I can’t blame him. Sometimes, I feel just as powerless about Baltimore, and it’s not nearly as problem plagued as the Congo. I also feel the call of home. I am loving Cape Town. I am certain that I am coming back here, that there is a part of me that has plugged into this city. But it isn’t home.

Once back at the hostel, I take a moment to blog a bit over a glass of port. The staff thinks I’m the first person to order any in over a year, and there’s always a little hoopla when I order it from a new bartender as they search for the bottle, and figure out how to serve it. As I’m sipping and writing, a young woman from France joins me at the bar, Julie (Jeulie). She’s the chatty sort, and I’m happy to sit and listen asking the occasional question or making a comment to prompt her on. I find myself listening to people more, open and engaging, connecting more deeply. Sometimes it’s a taxi driver, a bartender, a guest at the hostel…I’m open to whoever comes into my life, wanting to know what it is they bring to this world. I most want to carry this home with me…it feels like a returning to myself, and exactly the thing I was hoping to find on this trip as I continue to rebuild my life after my divorce.

Eventually, I head out the door once more. There’s a venue that hosts jazz that I’ve heard about called “Kaleidoscope.” It’s run by a church, and I’m curious to see what they are doing. When I get there, the place looks like a jazz club. It has a warm and inviting atmosphere, even if it lacks a bit of polish. The woman at the door asks if I have reservations (No), or who I’m coming with (just me). My American accent gives me away as a visitor here, and she asks what brough me (musician, love jazz). She’s excited to hear I’m a musician, and asks for my info so I give her a card. Then she asks if I mind sitting with some other people. I make friends easily now, right? Let’s do it. She sits me at a table with a few women, and I start talking with them.

They are surprised to hear about my experience of Cape Town, getting out into the townships, how inspired I am by the people I’ve met there, the talents I’ve seen. I also ask about them, what they do and what they are passionate about. Two work at Woolworths. Here it’s a high end store similar to Nordstroms. The other is going through a period of transition, and contemplating a move into life coaching with a God focus. It pops in my head to connect her with Hilary, so I give her my card and ask her to email me so I can introduce them to each other. The conversation continues on to talk of dancing, and of the music for tonight. One of the women is celebrating her birthday, so they’ve come for the show.

The singer tonight is also the pastor for the church, and he’s very good. He was a singer in nightclubs before heading into ministry. His wife is also a musician and an artist, and his daughter is an artist as well. He’s built this church around the arts, and Friday night jazz is part of the church’s fellowship and outreach. After his set, he introduces himself. He’s got my card, and my friend at the door has apparently told him about me. He asks if I’d like to sing, but I’m on holiday, and more intereste in soaking it in. He gives me a tour of the “church.” Upstairs from the club there are offices and some gallery space with great pieces. It’s a street level entrance that looks more like a storefront than a church. He gives me his card and a card for something called the African Musician’s Trust. I’ll check that out more when I get home.

Later on in the evening, he gets on stage and announces the visiting musician from the States. I’d be mildly embarrassed except it’s no worse than something my mother would do. At this point, I agree to sing…”Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” It’s well-received, and they ask for another. I decided to sing “You Are Welcome Here.” It seems appropriate for this place that goes out of its way to create a space for people to come together.

After singing, some of the staff introduce themselves and show me around. Turns out, they have a recording studio set up to record all their concerts. I ask if they do any training in the studio, thinking about my new friends from Manenberg. Maybe I don’t have to set up my own recording studio here. Maybe my job is to be the ignorant and curious American that crosses the lines that divide these people to start building bridges and connections. All week long, I’ve been grasping at threads, trying to know and understand this place. Tonight, they start weaving together.

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