Cape Town, day 5: The Farewell

The wake from the ship is so stunningly blue. The sea is quite rocky today, but I don’t mind. It’s a bit chilly outside, though.
Yesterday was our last day in Cape Town. It was a bittersweet day for sure. In the morning we had a field lab for our Human Sexuality class, but waking up that morning I figured out my ankle did not miraculously heal.

So I quickly grabbed some breakfast and hurried (“hurried”, to be precise) to the clinic. Thankfully, doctor Dave confirmed that there’s nothing super serious, gave me an icebag and showed how to tie the bondage properly. I joined my class, pretty happy that the bus would be carrying us around. Although walking, especially up and down the gangway, which unfortunately was on deck 5, was challenging. And slow. Gosh, I hate slow walking. I was all misery.
We went to S.W.E.A.T., a local non-profit that provides various support for sex workers. Sex work in South Africa is illegal, and that’s why the local representatives of the first oldest profession face a lot of difficulties. The police would arrest people carrying condoms in their bags, keep them in jail for 48 hours and then release, because there’s no evidence to charge them; complaints on violence and sexual assault from the sex workers are left without attention; there’s a problem with HIV/AIDS in the country. So S.W.E.A.T provides legal and psychological assistance, holds seminars on safety and protection, gives away free condoms and brochures. They also have a creative space at the center, where the people can express themselves. They have special sections for male and transgender sex workers; and a huge map with many of the city’s “hot spots”. 65% of the employees at the organization are sex workers themselves, past or active. It was quite an impressive presentation that we had. Many sex workers have families and children to feed; mostly, families do not know. The guys from the creative space showed us a little performance – scenes from how the world treats sex workers. It was very amateur and very touching. These people don’t want to be out of the law; they don’t call themselves prostitutes, for this word assumes negative connotation. Surely they didn’t go there out of good life; but they view it as business, where you have a customer and a product. I never really thought about that, any of that; it made me start thinking; and I feel like – what moral right do we have to judge those people?
Some of them were wearing S.W.E.A.T t-shirts, saying “That’s what a sex worker looks like”. After the performance ended, everyone was craving for these t-shirts. But they ran out. One of the girls, Carson, who was sitting next to a local guy during the play and chatting with him, sighed that it was a pity. And the guy just took his t-shirt off and handed it to her. The picture of them that I took afterwards is amazing.
But we had to hurry. I would’ve loved to stay and talk to all these people – they were incredible; but we had half an hour to get back to the ship to hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the mastermind of the Truth&Reconciliation post-Apartheid program, speak. So we rushed back, and got to the port, and then everyone hopped off the bus and ran to the gangway. And guess what – I was one of the last with my goddamned ankle, and boy was I pissed, for they told us the Union would be overpacked by 14:45. It was 14:35, and the line was long – another field lab and a bunch of field programs – HOLY CRAP THAT WAS THE BIGGEST SEAGULL I’VE EVER SEEN – sorry for the offtop!
Because of the long stairwell to the gangway the line was moving slow. And then, when it was my turn to go up, of course I was the last because I could’t keep up with the racers up the stairs. Eventually, I made it to the Union, and I was lucky enough to get the last spot in the circle on the floor just in front of the front seats. I landed on the floor the minute Archbishop was picking up his microphone.
His speech wasn’t long, nor was the Q&A; but it felt like in this small speech he tried to put everything that we should know for now. He talked about young people and why they are special; why every good deed matters; why everyone is unique and irreplaceable and has his own task in this world. He talked about how young people, students, started the revolutions for good; he illustrated his speech with examples from the Bible, but how! “Knock knock” – “Who’s there?” – shouts the audience. “Gabriel”. “Gabriel who?” “Gabriel the Archangel…” “Come in. Hello” “Hello Mary, hello…”
I mean, you got an idea. It was hilarious, and at the same time – we got the message. He talked about the Holocaust and the Apartheid, and he talked about Togetherness, Ubuntu. I am, because we are. It takes a village to raise a child. There’s no human without other humans, without others you can never become anything. He was wearing this little bracelet of white beads, and it said “u-b-u-n-t-u”. Togetherness.
We have a checklist of to-do things on the wall on deck three, you know, “see the sunrise”, “go stargazing”, “kiss a fish”. But there should’ve been another one: “Hear Desmond Tutu laugh”. Check.
The sunset that evening was marvelous – the Signal Hill and Lion’s Head wrapped in noble gold, breaking through the clouds. And the rainbow – a huge rainbow across the evening sky!
At seven fifty pm we felt the rumbling of the engine. At eight pm the ship started to move, carrying us away from the magical, unreal city of Cape Town. I stood on deck 7 aft, watching the city lights moving away; the chilly evening wind was getting into my bones, swaying my long skirt. It’s been raining, and the deck was all wet. I stood there, frozen but unable to move, seeing the mountains disappear in the dusk, and the tug boats slowing down and turning back to the shore, and the seagulls floating around; and the flashing green light from the little beacon nearby. And I promised the city I will be back. I promised I would return and embrace it, and stay for longer, much longer than these five days. Nothing is impossible.
On the way to Buenos Aires.

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