Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Its good to be in a City

I grew up in a small town. I graduated from high school with a class that was at the time the biggest class in the short history of the school district: 67. I grew up going to events or games in town knowing and expecting that while there, I would run into several people I knew. On many accounts, this was good and healthy: there were no secrets, and for a teenager, that was good because it kept me out of trouble. They say, “its not against the rules unless you get caught.” I grew up knowing that in a town like mine, I would definitely get caught.

One of the things I was looking for as I moved away from home was a shift in culture, life experiences, and adventure. Eventually, that is what led me to brave moving to a big city by myself. Chicago and the community I entered into amidst the 6 million people in the area quickly befriended me, and after 3 short years, I believe part of me will always call Chicago my city and my home.

Living in a city made the shift to Cape Town both a natural one, and a difficult one. I miss the public transit systems and opportunities to get on the train without a destination in mind. On days like that I knew that in an hours time I could move from the young, student-dominated neighborhood I lived in and into the downtown area where there was always something going on, if only I knew the right places to look. I miss the live music, the masses of people sharing in excitement at big events, the opportunities to be involved on social justice issues across the board. I miss the sports and living just a 25-minute train ride from Wrigley Field, home of my favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs. I loved that if I wanted something to do on any given night in Chicago, it could be found.

Living in Cape Town in an area far from the downtown area has presented challenges. We are far removed from any action of the city. We live in a really quiet (read: also very safe) neighborhood, and since Vixa and Clifford live across the road, we’ve been strongly discouraged from venturing out on public buses or in those infamous white taxis. At this point, we still haven’t learned how to navigate them, and the biggest hesitation pending doing so is that we are leaving in a few weeks time, so by the time we learn it, we’ll have to learn in a new city all over again.

This isn’t to say there aren’t things going on in Cape Town. Quite the contrary: and fortunately, proper confidence has finally been placed in us to “allow” for exploring to take place. Mama Tembo still gets pretty nervous about any adventures we embark on, but at least now she realizes these adventures are of our own accord and she needn’t worry so much about taking responsibility with the “what-ifs.” If you know me at all, you know I only get frustrated with the “what-if” questions, and if you propose such a question, I am most likely to respond with something along the lines of, “but what-if we don’t… and we never live life…”

One such simple, not life-altering what-if (and the actual intended purpose of this post) came up over this past weekend. Every year, Cape Town holds a big lights festival downtown on Adderly Street, where each block is decorated with lights according to a theme. This big event draws a huge crowd with tens of thousands of people gathering for the live music and the official first turning on of lights in the city. Following the lights turning on there are fireworks, a parade, and lots of celebrating. With a crowd like this, there are lots of “what-if” questions - its easy to be pick-pocketed, for example.

Aware of risks involved, Rachel and I decided to go (Hannah was already out with friends elsewhere), and what we discovered was that of course it was no different from any of the many events I had attended back home. Lots of people providing lots of entertainment to watch if nothing else, and I may go as far as to say it was safer than most other small events, as there were police EVERYWHERE!

(please note my favorite display. Cycling was the only sport aside from soccer (a given with the upcoming World Cup!) created in lights. AWESOME. And yes- they were in motion!)

All of this is to say, We had a really great time and enjoyed an opportunity to get back into a crowd and just be amidst people again. We’re even talking now about returning to downtown next week for the World Cup Final Draw, where there will likely be ten times as many people in about the same amount of space. This isn’t just any event, though: its the official start of South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup! Exciting times, indeed, and I cant seem to come up with a good reason to miss it. I’m sure Mama Tembo will have some waiting for us, though, so we’ll see. :)

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