Yesterday, we beat the snow out of the northeast, flying across the Atlantic into the night. Its untrue, of course, but I immediately began to visit a notion that flying against the rotation of the earth might undo the tangles of aging. I don’t think that my biology would agree with these physics. Time passes. The ocean seemed somewhat innocuous from 10,000 meters, but, after a crossing that consumes 8 hours, it appears that its vigor could be substantiated by size alone. Heights can be deceiving. Between the number of stars I counted the number of clouds I mistook for land, I gradually realized that the Atlantic ocean that they showed my on the globe in grade school was a lie, or underestimation, or at least a miscommunication--its much bigger in real life. I am not at all disappointed at this revelation.
I entered the African continent via Dakar, Senegal--a flat city that sleepily offered fuel at 5 am before sending us on our way. My eyes ached for a sleep that wasn’t going to come easily, so I forced myself to stay awake for the sunrise. Africa yawned as we cruised just off shore.We landed in Johannesburg some 9 hours later, attesting to a continent that is as long as the ocean is wide. This city, unlike sleepy Dakar, was like a circuit board under the approaching night sky--its buildings and determined skyscrapers like switches and diodes of a microchip providing a spark for African development.
From Johannesburg, a 2 hour flight put us in the city of Cape Town--a cultural haven, a cultural collision, an intersection of a political and social history that I am not a part of. Cape Town lies like pieces of a jigsaw fit under and around the towering Table Mount, shaped as well by Lions Head mount and an expanse of rolling hills. It reminds me of the Bay area, but with more sunshine and less Asians. This city is Africa; a patchwork of modernity and heritage and people from across the world thrust into an uneven plane under a profound landscape. Immediately, I feel some inklings of Africa creeping up my spine, some maternal presence in the land and the people. Still, this occurs with a sense dis-familiarity. It reminds me how those who have lived the South African story are like witnesses to the resurrection, and those who have not will never quite understand. I wonder how at home some people must feel among these streets a half of a world away from those streets that I call home.