Friday, October 9, 2009

This too is Cape Town...

Over the past few weeks I’ve been using public transport to get around. In some ways it’s strange because for most of my life I’ve constantly had some kind of access to private transport. That said though I’d gotten used to using whatever transport was available during my time away from Cape Town

Although waiting for our not-so-rapid public transport is one of my least favourite activities (about on par with listening to Kurt Darren’s music) I actually enjoy watching the world go buy while sitting on a train or a bus. I also find that I’m reminded of things that I have long forgotten about this town or things that I have not thought about in a while.

I was on a train from Lansdowne to Cape Town station just yesterday and noticed a diverse array of people passing through that carriage. A young couple got onto the train and one of them was carrying a glossy red box. It was the kind from a specialty baker with some mouth-watering cakes or donuts or something. They looked as though they wanted to wait until they got to their destination before the tucked in but it looked too good. She decided to try some of the fresh cream and invited him to try it. Soon she was picking pieces off the edge of one of the pastries. By the time we’d passed Maitland station any self-control that may have been present had fallen out the train onto one of the platforms we’d just left. She had one of the cream-filled (although not as full as it had been) chocolate éclairs in her hands and she was inviting him to dig in.

In the far corner of the carriage a guy sat looking at his cell-phone and occasionally looking around him. He seemed pretty relaxed and his body language while sitting there, as well as when he eventually got off the train suggested that he didn’t have anywhere urgent to get to. But it was the presumably high school learners who caught my attention.

I say ‘presumably’ because they appeared to be the right age for high school, had backpacks and under the multi-coloured layers of clothes there appeared to be the white collar of what could have been a school shirt. The rest of their (lack of) uniform gave no suggestion as to what school they may have attended. There were the pyjama-looking red-checked pants, combined with moccasins and a hoodie. Otherwise you could go with the white hoodie, navy blue tracksuit pants and (probably knock-off) Timberland boots. Alternatively, how about grey school pants, red t-shirt, no shirt and broken white flip-flops. I wasn’t really able to process any thoughts as I sat on that train but I was scared to wonder what ‘home’ could be like for them or what their outlook on life could be when something as easily taken for granted as a school uniform (or something that resembled one) was out of reach.

We have Table Mountain, great wines and Robben Island. But when thinking about what I saw on that train we need to remember that this too is Cape Town.

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