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Cape Town’s Dark Past, a Vibrant Garden, and Jerky Squirrels

Third time is the Charm?

For two days, Darren and I hoped to climb Table Mountain, waking at 5 AM to get started.  And twice our efforts have been thwarted;  once by fog and once by wind.  Tomorrow however, I believe we will succeed.  I can feel it in my bones.  And by feel it in my bones, I mean they already hurt thinking about it.

District Six Museum

District Six Museum

District Six Museum

Today we set out for the District Six Museum which provides historical information about the forced removal of 60,000 non-white residents from Cape Town under the apartheid government.  This occurred throughout the 1900’s but especially after 1966, when the area was declared “whites-only”.  Residents, many of whom were freed slaves or their children, were pushed outside of the city to Cape Flats.  The government had all kinds of false excuses to explain why thousands of homes had to be razed.  But the truth was unjustifiable: ethnic cleansing.  Now, efforts at restitution are being made but this is a slow and complex process.  And really there will never be complete restitution for those whose lives were destroyed.

The Company’s Gardens

Next we went to the Company’s Gardens, a peaceful oasis in the middle of the downtown area.  The Company referred to in the name is the Dutch East India Company which began the garden in 1652 to grow vegetables and fruits to stock their ships sailing between Europe and the Far East.

Today, it’s a dynamic public garden and a popular midday napping spot.  It’s notable for having tame squirrels which can be fed by hand.  Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to hand-feed a rodent?  Like a sucker, I purchased a bag of peanuts expressly for this purpose.  While on the squirrel hunt, we passed the Houses of Parliament, The National Library, and the National Gallery.  I had no time for such high culture – squirrels were my mission.

Roses and Table Mountain

No squirrels here!  Roses and Table Mountain- Company’s Garden, Cape Town

After searching and searching the whole of the garden, only one of those ungrateful furry chumps came forwardBut a little girl was hogging him up with her peanuts.  He had no need for mine.  The audacity of children!

I waited a bit to see if I might get my chance to feed him.  What a waste of effort.  Have you ever watched a squirrel eat a peanut?!  It takes forever.  He twirls the nut in his bony hands like it’s a crystal ball and he’s visioning the future.  Really, all he needs is a wizard hat.  He takes endless microscopic bites, chewing each into atom-sized pieces, all the while staring blankly into space like we all have nothing to do but wait.  Ten minutes later, he’s still working on it.  Take your time squirrel!  Take all the time in the world!  I’ll just watch my life pass by while waiting to cater to your peanut needs.

In a nutshell, squirrels are jerks.  And I’m being diplomatic.

So in a disappointed huff I tossed the peanuts to the pigeons and recreated the nightmarish birds-in-hair-and-face scene from Hitchcock’s famous movie The Birds.  I learn a lot about myself while traveling and today I learned that I do not like birds flapping their wings near my face.  Take note, birds.  And tell your friends.

Long Street

We ended the afternoon on Long Street which is a vibrant street day and night.  Many of the buildings are similar to those in New Orleans; two stories with wraparound balconies and lacy ironwork ornamentation.  Many French Huguenots arrived in Cape Town in the 1600’s and 1700’s to flee religious persecution back home.  Consequently, French influences are woven into the blanket of South African culture.  What a mixed pot South Africa is!

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