Oliver teaching in the Darling township.
Oliver teaching in the Darling township.

Why We Travel – more from SA, where it’s not all that different…

Well, so much for trying to do what we don’t do at home – we’ve actually had a pretty normal month.

View from the Robben Island boat. Usually back before sunset, but the captain decided to chase whales on the way. Fine with everyone but us ... we had reservations at Mama Afrika to hear my favorite Abavuki. 
View from the Robben Island boat. Usually back before sunset, but the captain decided to chase whales on the way. Fine with everyone but us … we had reservations at Mama Afrika to hear my favorite Abavuki.

Spent a morning buying tickets to the 11th Darling Music Experience – classical music with a twist… 2 weeks in late January/February… kind of like the Voorkamerfest we attended in early September. Interesting music in interesting venues… the local toffee (yes toffee) shop, a 200 year-old local winery, the local San Cultural center, the new brewery, a tent on the beachfront above the Atlantic Ocean… even doing a new version of a Mozart opera at Evita Se Perron, home of Pieter-Dirk Uys.

We were invited to a pop-up lunch last Sunday a few blocks away at the home of our local news publisher, the Darling Dorpskoerant. Among those attending: a senior official of the Municipality of which Darling is a part and his wife, Indians, here in SA for many generations, originally from Gujarat State in India. Their families were targets of apartheid… removed from District Six in central Cape Town as young children by the authorities that wanted the area for white people. Much of the talk at lunch was about how to get people on both sides of the tracks to come together over music of the Darling Music Experience. It’s still very much a ‘we vs they’… Is it really that they can’t afford to pay for the events, or is it something else?

Oliver teaching in the Darling township.
Oliver teaching in the Darling township.

And a highlight of the past month – we attended a concert by students of Music for All, sponsored by the Darling Music Experience. At the performance, the astoundingly good percussion group was missing its youngest drummer – a six-year-old who was in the hospital recovering from a serious dog bite.

Our son Oliver, also a drummer, went to the boy’s house in the township (the local word for an area of a town whose residents are not white – an apartheid remnant term) twice and gave him a lesson – and a new snare drum. What smiles on so many faces! The group will be performing at the opening of the Darling Music Experience – the 6 year old as well.

Thanksgiving in Cape Town

Thanksgiving was about as close to American as we could get, given the limited time we had to get Oliver a turkey. Instead of traveling 40 miles each way to Cape Town to buy a turkey (and then worrying that the gas that fuels our oven would run out just as the bird was in the oven the next day), I gave up on cooking and had fun with Oliver, who was visiting from Brooklyn.

A highlight (besides Thanksgiving) was Oliver’s day in the rain on Fancourt’s Gary Player-designed Links course… with a caddy who taught him to speak English with a proper Afrikaans accent. The course is said to be the best course in the country.

After golf, we raced to Cape Town for the 18th annual expat Thanksgiving dinner… at a great restaurant, Savoy Cabbage… Turkey was much easier there than schlepping to Cape Town from Darling to buy the bird, and then taking a whole day to roast it – and the pumpkin flan was more than yummy…

We went on a wine tour- and all we saw was this silly goat! Only kidding... This winery also makes cheese ... and a wine named Goats Do Roam. Very popular in the U.S., where we always laugh at the obvious takeoff on Cotes du Rhone. 
We went on a wine tour- and all we saw was this silly goat! Only kidding… This winery also makes cheese … and a wine named Goats Do Roam. Very popular in the U.S., where we always laugh at the obvious takeoff on Cotes du Rhone.

Also with Oliver, we checked out the new Darling Brew tasting room and bottling equipment. The “Best in South Africa” local craft beer just opened an awesome new brewery here in Darling.

Bought the not-quite-live Met Opera video tix to Lulu for a Saturday at 5… Drove an hour to Cape Town – only to discover that the huge stadium near the theater (built for the World Cup 2010 and hardly ever used since) was hosting all-day international rugby – with 55,000 fans all making their way to the stadium. We couldn’t drive anywhere near the theater. So much for fabulous Lulu that we were so looking forward to – hadn’t seen it since Santa Fe in the late 70’s – and this production directed by a South African, William Kentridge, whose Nose we saw at the Met in NY last year – it will be repeated, certainly.

South African art is growing on us – first Kentridge, and now Stephen Hobbs, a young artist from Joburg – who likes to create art that helps revive rust belts… like Joburg… like Detroit, where he lectured recently. We bought at his gallery, David Krut, last year during the NYC South African arts festival his “100 Ladies,” based on a derelict billboard in a street near his studio. Hung it in a stairwell for our renters to see every day to remind them where we are.

And we promised ourselves we would only do South African music and theater while we’re here – but hard to resist – attended a concert of Sinatra-ish songs recently in a Tanglewood-like setting at a winery in Stellenbosch – really lovely.

And next month, we’ve bought tickets to the Broadway musical (originally film) Singing in the Rain… close enough to the stage to get wet, we are warned. An SA production which has toured to Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia, and Joburg, and has finally arrived in Cape Town.

In February, we’re hearing a good old-fashioned big band play in the aforementioned winery theater, with Howard’s favorite meatballs and spaghetti at a place named Gino’s, that we learned about while visiting small Annandale winery, owned by a former Springbok Rugby star who sells his wines only there.

Yay! I’ve just booked a weekly private Pilates class in Cape Town. (Do I hear echoes of NY? Only difference is that I can’t afford it in NY!)

So, as our good friend observed when he arrived… where’s the jungle? We’re living about like we lived at home – except the seasons are reversed. Tomorrow, our across-the-street neighbors will join us for G&T… and maybe some wine. Best known composer in South Africa… head of composition at UCT – and writing just the kind of music we love to hear at the NY Phil or BSO at home.

So, you might ask, why do we travel? To learn that much of the world is just like home.

Helps us understand that we’re not all that different.

Hey, even the Chinese are moving in here, just like Scarsdale! The other day, the cable car driver taking a group up Table Mountain welcomed everyone in Chinese… Should we expect the same on the commuter railroad from Scarsdale to NYC soon too? Or the NYC subway?

A Thanksgiving toast at Savoy Cabbage. People are so nice here! A family sent us drinks because we agreed to change our reservation time to make room for them. 
A Thanksgiving toast at Savoy Cabbage. People are so nice here! A family sent us drinks because we agreed to change our reservation time to make room for them.

Well, happy New Year to everyone… Enjoy all your year-end holidays. We’ll be in Mozambique while the owners of our rented house are here. Will attend Friday night services at the synagogue in Maputo – more in our quest to prove that the world isn’t such a different place after all.