Wednesday, April 11, 2007


That was a lot of not blogging. Unbelievably, it's only a couple of weeks before we hit the United Statesland again. Which is a long journey still for Sumara and the girls, but is hometown for me.

We've seen a lot of amazing things in the last month or so, since whenever it was that last I blogged. From what my playwriting teacher in high school once called "the eponymously named Bangkok" to India, which I've been dying to go to all my life. I was a little bit fogged up for some of East Asia, as Julie and I broke it off right before we hit Shanghai. It's been strange—a breakup on a boat like this is like a breakup at summer camp or the like, in that we are one another's community, and cannot be otherwise, cannot even make fake overtures at being otherwise. She's right there, I'm right there, and she's friendly enough with the rest of our crew and good enough with the girls that we haven't been able to just cut off contact with one another (though she has promised, kindly, not to read the blog), even if it were possible not to see each other every day. So that's been complicated; it's had a few weeks to improve, which is nice, but for that week I didn't feel like blogging at all. (After that time was when I got spacey.)

I'll try to update sometime soon on Southern and Eastern Asia and even the rest of our little oceanside adventures, or the rest of the crew can fill in the blanks, but what I want to write about right now, since we left only recently and it's been the most intense for me, is Cape Town. I spent a few months living there on an abroad program when I was in college, and I was eager to show my friends this city, which among this particular crew of Americans felt like it was uniquely mine. I spent a couple of years in college up to my ears in South African history and culture surrounding that trip, information I was perhaps a little too forceful in sharing with my friends (sorry, guys), and the days we spent in this gorgeous city were enough to convince me that I really, really, really want to go back to it, in a more fixed and permanent way. To describe: we arrived on Sunday and I immediately dragged the willing members of the crew in a hike up Table Mountain, the long, flat mountain that, along with its two companions Devil's Peak and Lion's Head, surrounds the city center, allowing it to be known as the "city bowl." The willing crew was pretty small: Clara, Garrett, Malcolm, Julie, Susan and I hiked the trail, while everyone else took the cable car from the foot of the mountain a couple of hours later in order to meet us for lunch. It was the same trail I'd taken when I first climbed the mountain four years ago, arduous, gorgeous, scrubby. Clouds, known as "tablecloths" for the way they look from a distance over the flat mountaintop, were blowing over by the time we arrived; Tali and David and Susan's son Christian were running through them ecstatically. We ate at the café, with me translating the more obscure kinds of South African food for our tourist purposes (Connor was particularly into biltong), and the tired hikers reluctantly agreed to join everybody else in the cable car down rather than hike again.

I took my friends to different spots I remembered—the Africa Café, my old guest house, the beach at Camps Bay—but in South Africa in particular, knowing in detail its fraught and confusing economic past and present, I was uncomfortable being a tourist. I'm grateful for this cruise for the surface look I've had at dozens of nations, but it's also leading me to realize I can't travel like this again. I need to be really engaged with where I am. Two-day tourism doesn't qualify.

That's all for now; Amber and Jess have kindly been waiting for me, but they really want to go to dinner. And I could stand to do so as well, now I think of it. I'll be sure to write at least once more before we dock again.


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