I’ve taken five different trips to Cape Town. The first time we stayed five weeks. The next two trips my wife stayed a month while I came for two weeks, and last year’s adventure was just a week for me, in and out for my brother-in-law’s wedding, as much time spent in the air than on the ground. But this year, as I returned to the freelance ranks, I’m again here for the long haul — five weeks. Staying with Louise’s family for this long allows us to actually settle in. We get over the jet lag and it starts to feel like home, even though the end of the trip still always comes too soon. The end will come in about two weeks this time.
A few of the highlights:
* A big election is a few weeks away. Various reports state the election will be the most closely contested since the first elections in 1994. Current President Jacob Zuma finds himself embroiled in controversy (can you be anything but controversial if the word embroiled is involved?). The day we arrived in South Africa, the results of a two-year investigation about spending at Zuma’s residence were released. The report found 246 million rand of taxpayers money had been improperly spent on turning “his private home into a display of opulence on a grand scale.” Right now the rand to dollar is about 10 to 1. So about 24.6 million dollars were improperly spent. The end result? Calls for impeachment. Outrage. And it will probably not make any difference in the upcoming election.
* We have pretty good Internet access here, but we went offline for several days when we took a trip to a little resort area along a river with Louise’s mom, stepdad, her brothers and their spouses and kids. When we got back to Cape Town and I was again able to get online, I discovered just how much I had missed Twitter: Not at all. Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t love Twitter. I do. But when I went back on after being off I realized I missed nothing and it was all still the same when I returned: The same in-jokes, the same complaints, the same quips, the same ridiculous fights, the same eye-rolling outrages. Someone wanted to cancel Colbert? Oh. Someone said something dumb? Oh. The Twins are terrible and we can make jokes about it? Sure. Like I said, I still love Twitter, but when you live without it for awhile you begin to realize you can…live without it. And Facebook? I don’t know, I’ve never been on it but I’m guessing it’s the same.
* Our previous visits here always came in the summer — winter in the U.S. Very warm. Little humidity in Cape Town. This time it’s autumn, so it’s a bit cooler — it’s been in the 70s for the most part although will rocket up into the 90s this weekend. We’ve also seen more rain than usual and Louise’s mom has been overheard several times saying, “Winter is coming,” while she shivers under a blanket. It should be noted that she has never seen Game of Thrones or heard of George R.R. Martin. It’s not a pop culture reference but something she feels in her bones. I will admit, while I at first mocked her — any native Minnesotan would, per international law that states you must brag about your toughness in dealing with your region’s weather, even though you hate it and whine just as much when actually in it — I have been chilly a few nights. It gets cooler and there’s no central heating so we can definitely feel a difference.
* Ah, the Oscar Pistorius trial. Definitely reminds me of the OJ trial. Any gathering of people will eventually include talk about the trial. Can you believe his story? What’s with his vomiting? And that voice. One day I went old-school and listened to live coverage on the radio with Louise’s grandma. Most people here think he’s going to escape conviction, although a single judge and not a jury of 12 will decide his fate. It seems like his celebrity really wouldn’t be a factor in that situation. Another big trial will start soon, that of the so-called honeymoon killer Shrien Dewani, who’s accused of orchestrating the murder of his wife during a trip to Cape Town in 2010. It took nearly four years to get him back into the country as he was just this week extradicted from England — on a private plane. The men Dewani allegedly hired, who carried out the murder, have already been convicted.
* I’ve been spending a lot of time researching my upcoming book about the history of the jump shot, primarily going through various online newspaper and periodical archives. It’s a blast, the only danger being the distractions that pop up when looking at old papers. Bizarre ads stand out. Great headlines about Soviet teams that rip on “Commies.” And four-picture pieces from 1953 that showed a basketball player in the stages of dress and how he strips down from warmups to tipoff. The pants come off, the jacket, and finally he’s stripped and ready for action. That was the story. We’ll see if it makes the book.
That’s about it from the other side of the world.