I often think about Cape Town. Every day I find myself daydreaming about my next visit, looking at flights, and adding new restaurants to google maps. Whenever I think about the things I miss about Cape Town I am reminded that I have many of what makes Cape Town geographically beautiful here in California. The beaches in one direction and the mountains in the other. Both Cape Town and San Francisco are beautiful cities. I am blessed to live in one and blessed to have been able to visit the other.
When I think deeper about what I miss about Cape Town that I can’t find in San Francisco the first thing that comes to mind is the lack of Black people in San Francisco(a conversation for another day). The second thing I think about is the feeling that Cape Town gave me. I realized the feelings I have in each city can’t be compared. I have amazing memories from San Francisco that I admittedly take for granted daily. Still, there were so many things about my time in Cape Town that have me chasing that feeling again and again.
Putting Myself Out There
My first time was an unintentional solo trip. I was meant to be going with a friend but I found myself in Cape Town two days before new years alone. Being alone didn’t bother me but I knew I wanted to meet people and I didn’t know where to start. I arrived at my hotel and immediately went downstairs to check out the very conveniently located market.
Mojo Market is full of restaurants, bars, and shops. My first stop was obviously food and my second stop was the bar where I met Sam(not his real name). It was slow so I attempted to start a conversation while deciding on a drink. I must admit Sam was very handsome and I was def trying to flirt. It didn’t seem to be working until I came back for a second round. He taught me a couple of words in Xhosa as he poured my drink. I said “enkosi” and headed back to my table.
By the time I’d finished my drink, I’d worked up the courage to go back to the bar a third time to give him my phone number. As I approached the bar the man on the other side turned around and it wasn’t Sam. After a quick swerve to the right, to avoid an awkward encounter, I continued walking trying to contain my embarrassment. I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Sea Point. I took the long way back to my hotel room which required walking through Mojo Market and past Sam’s bar. With pen and paper in hand, I prepared myself to awkwardly give him my number or to accept the disappointment of him not being there again. Luckily he was and he accepted my number with a wink.
The Adventure Begins
The next day we made plans to hang out and explore the V & A Waterfront. The next day was New Year’s Eve and I had zero friends and zero plans. Sam kindly invited me to spend the day with his family in the Langa Township(watch this video to learn more about the history of Townships in Cape Town). While planning my trip to Cape Town I had no intention of visiting a Township. I didn’t know anyone in the townships and the organized tours rubbed me the wrong way. When I was invited by a local I still had mixed feelings. I worried about my safety because of all of the terrible things I’d heard about townships in the media. Although I was nervous, I didn’t want to miss the chance to experience another part of Cape Town with a local, this is always my goal when visiting any city.
The Big Decision(Sorry Mom and Dad)
The rest of my evening was spent trying to decide if I should go or not, I had to think about the risk. I was a woman traveling alone in a place where I had no connections and this stranger knew this information. I didn’t want to tell my parents or friends that I was going to avoid being scared out of going. The next morning I decided to go, I don’t know that I would suggest anyone do the same. In my case, it turned out to the best decision I’d make all year. We spent the evening eat the meal his brother and mother prepared, setting off fireworks, and visiting neighbors to wish them a happy new year.
The next day his family invited me to spend the day with them at Camps Bay Beach. I had no idea this was the place to be on New Year’s Day but it seemed like the entire city was there. We had a picnic and briefly dipped our toes in the chilly water before taking a walk along Victoria Road. Sam’s family made me feel like I was a part of the family. My trip could have ended there and I would have been happy, luckily I had a few more days.
I spent those last few days exploring Cape Town with Sam and his family. On my last night, he and his brother took me to Mzoli’s, an outdoor restaurant/club in the Guguletu township. We ate all of the grilled meats they served and drank Coronas and Gin and Tonics all night. The smile on my face as I type this and remember how much fun we had is brightening my day and a reminder of why I am always working on getting back to Cape Town.
I guess part of what I miss most about Cape Town is how free I felt while I was there. The freedom to connect to new people that comes with being on vacation and the opportunity to explore a new culture.. This doesn’t often feel necessary at home in San Francisco because I have a community that I have built over the years. I don’t find myself alone in new environments very often, which is what I find myself longing for. As I reflect on this experience in Cape Town I have to think about how strange it is in some cultures to be so forward but had I not been feeling myself enough to give him my number then I would have missed out on all the fun we had that week.
I want to reiterate that I do not suggest you go to a stranger’s house after knowing them for a day especially in a foreign country but sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone leads you to unforgettable memories. Go with your gut, meet new people, and explore new places safely.