FROM THE FRYING PAN INTO THE FIRE 

What a difference six months makes. Half a year ago we left the tranquility of Belvidere and small village life of Knysna, returning to our half year in Cleveland. Now we are in Cape Town, ensconced in a luxurious penthouse in Bantry Bay facing the ocean and the tumult of a bustling international city. 

We are, moreover, between a rock and a hard place. We left an America with a dysfunctional government but an economy strong for the moment despite the anti-trade efforts of its President.  We return to a South Africa with a dysfunctional  government and a broken economy despite the efforts of its President to speak things up with platitudinous and meaningless speeches. Where are both countries going? Heaven knows. 

Quite interesting is the phenomenon of “being where you are.” In the States I was becoming obsessed with the extraordinary self interest and hypocrisy  of the politicians of both parties and their willingness to sacrifice the democracy and the country to serve themselves and their hunger to stay in office. Now I am in South Africa and American politics are no longer my obsession. It is the ignorant, power-grabbing and money hungry local politicians that give me nightmares. So it is my future intention to report an occasional State of the South African Nation and leave my concerns for the USA to those of you back at home. Maybe I will restrain myself and just ignore politics altogether except for the occasional important issues in South Africa, and focus instead on the wonderful attributes of this beautiful but troubled country. 

I will start with Cape Town because that is where we have spent our first month. This really is the tale of two cities. Where we live in Bantry Bay higher up on the slopes of the mountain the stunning views from our decks and floor to ceiling windows are of a small park, oceanfront buildings, Table Bay with Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated, and a parade of international shipping, a world in motion.

VIEW FROM OUR FRONT DECK AT BANTRY BAY

SUNSET FROM OUR DECK

From our rear windows are extraordinary views of Lions Head and mansions that the California coast or French Riviera would envy.

LIONS HEAD MOUNTAIN FROM OUR REAR WINDOWS. NOTE ONE OF THE FEW REMAINING CAPE DUTCH HOMES ON THE BOTTOM RIGHT

REMARKABLE VILLAS STRETCH FOR MILES AROUND FRESNAYE, BANTRY BAY, CLIFTON AND CAMPS BAY

Yet barely ten miles away, hundreds of thousands of people live in abject squalor, miles from their places of work. The few percent that actually have jobs, live with a broken transport system to get to their destinations, and central and local government paralyzed by incompetence, inefficiency and corruption. This is a formula for disaster and sooner or later the “Arab Spring” of previous decades will become a South African one.

In just a couple of weeks, the South African Airways has been placed under business administration (sort of Chapter 11 but a kind few businesses ever survive), and the South African Railways (PRASA) has just been given similar treatment. The company supplying the country’s electric power (ESCOM), through corruption that reads like a novel, is almost totally broken. We are currently in what is euphemistically called “level 6 load shedding.” This means power across the nation is switched off in blocks of 2-4 hours up to 3-4 times per day. In our home we have solar power, batteries, and an inverter and are protected. But imagine running a business, a factory, a restaurant, or just trying to live a normal life. It is predicted that the failure of ESCOM will drive South Africa into recession this quarter and into 2020.

But the tourists are pouring in  and Cape Town is one of the most alive and vibrant cities in the world. Restaurants are full, beaches packed, sight-seeing places like the magnificent Kirstenbosch Gardens bustling with people from all over the world, and it is hard to believe all the bad stuff going on.

The first Friday evening of December was a very special Shabbat for our family. After more than 43 years since leaving Cape Town for Cleveland, Moira and I once again have a home in Cape Town. On our first Friday at home we had our entire family over for a warm, humorous, nostalgic, entertaining and exciting Shabbes dinner.

So that has been our first month – settling in, changing a lifestyle, enjoying family, getting up to speed on the state of the nation, and re-bonding with friends, many dating back to our pre-USA days.

Next month I promise more of a travelogue. Let me leave you with a few tantalizing glimpses of my favorite place in all the world, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

ONE OF THE INNUMERABLE WALKWAYS WITH SUPERB VIEWS

IN THE BACKGROUND IS CASTLE ROCK WITH THE SKELETON GORGE TO THE RIGHT AND NURSERY RAVINE TO THE LEFT, THE CIRCULAR PATH BEING MY FAVORITE HIKE AND NAMED THE SMUTS TRAIL AFTER THE SECOND WORLD WAR PRIME MINISTER OF SOUTH AFRICA

A WONDERFUL PHOTO OF CAPE FYNBOS. ON THE LEFT IS AN ERICA SPECIES (HEATHER), IN THE MIDDLE PROTEA, AND THE SPIKES ARE THE REEDS.

Happy and healthy New Year to you all

Wulf

Cape Town, December 19, 2019.

7 Comments

  1. John Olejko says:

    Linda and I spent the weekend in nyc and took in “To kill a mockingbird one night and the spectacular Rockettes the next. We had a fabulous time walking the streets, shopping, riding the subway, and just taking it all in. On Sunday, as the temperature dropped, Linda bought what is probably going to become her favorite hat for $10 from a street vendor. There were plenty of people packed into Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza but it is always something to see how well so many and very different people can get along and even make room for one another. It is the best example of what America is all about and what it needs to be despite forces that try to separate us.
    Ironically, I mentioned that it was time we heard from the Utians and suggested we send a note your way. Incidentally, the United flight magazine featured Capetown as the cover story and there were many pictures, some of which reminded me of places you took us to during our visit.
    We are getting a little snow today but the winter has been uneventful so far as we get set for a gauntlet of get togethers during the holiday season. We will be thinking of you in your new digs as we wait for spring and your return.
    Much Love,
    John

  2. Ivan andToni Samson says:

    “Welcome Home” and thanks for the update. Your home sounds amazing, and the views stunning. Pity about all the shananigans going on in both countries. In Canada today we’re blanketed in white calm…3″ of snow, but everything running smoothly, despite our newly, re-elected minority Liberal government. Hope you have a chance to meet Len and Myrna (and Emma, one of their grand-kids from England). Chag Sa Me’Ach Hanukkah, and a happy new 2020. Lots of love, Ivan and Toni

  3. Judy Kaplan says:

    Utian, you have our votes to be S.A.’s Minister of Tourism……no one presents our city and country more enticingly than you do!
    Thank you so much.

  4. Andrew says:

    Wulff,

    Insightful and interesting observations as always. Thank you. Looking forward to seeing you and Moira in. Knysna

    Andrew

  5. Avrum Froimson says:

    Wulf

    Happy to hear you are happy in new digs back where you started out.

    Love your words and pictures.

    Happy New Year

    Ave

  6. Ginsberg Jan says:

    How wonderful your return to Cape Town family evening must have been. Your new home’s vistas are spectacular. Enjoy the natural beauty and the treasure of family and old friends—that exists despite the uncertain SA political climate. We’re doing much the same thing in the states—sickened by the corrupt, hate mongering president and his enablers, we’re trying to focus on the joys of family, friends, nature, art and music. We’re hopeful as we fight for change but it’s scary to contemplate what another 4 years of Republican government will mean.
    On a brighter note, we look forward to receiving your commentary and your travelogues. We sending love and warmest wishes for a joyous holiday season and healthy, happy New Year.
    Jan and bob

  7. Len Samson says:

    My name is Len Samson and 55 years ago lived at 100 raglan street, Sydenham Johannesburg-right over the road from the Utian family. Our family moved then to Parktown where I attended high school and lost touch with Wulf, Martin and Glicka. My wife Myrna and I met up with Wulf and Moira yesterday for tea in Wulf and Moira’s beautiful flat with amazing views of the sea and mountains. It was a pleasure to meet Moira for the first time.
    We reminisced about many things like playing Kennickie in the unmaid up road, playing marbles after school trying to hit the’goonies’, and of course catching up with the members of our Sydenham ‘gang’. A wonderful afternoon spent in a great city Cape Town.

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