Global Lay-Correspondent Report on South Africa



Jeff Spahr-Summers, US


12: Johannesburg to Cape Town


When I was 16 we moved to Cape Town. By this time, all my sisters were back in the United States. I was the only one left at home with Mom and Dad. My girlfriend (who was from Liverpool), a couple of ex-girlfriends (from Scotland and South Africa) and some other friends threw me a fantastic going away party. The party was incredibly surreal (they always are when you’re the one leaving), but I think it was particularly poignant at that time due to my age. Once again, I did not want to leave. We spent our last night in the Transvaal at the Carlton Hotel in downtown Johannesburg. The hotel was part of an underground complex of shops, restaurants and an ice rink. I had learned to ice skate as a child outdoors in Evergreen, outside of Denver in The Rocky Mountains, but had eventually become a huge fan of it in (of all places) Pretoria. There was one particular rink where I loved blasting along with “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones (the rhythm of the song was perfect for skating). But I never skated in this rink at The Carlton in Johannesburg, although I had been to many of the restaurants in the complex for lunch on days my friends and I hit town for billiards.

 The next morning we boarded The Blue Train en route to Cape Town. World famous for its appointments and service, The Blue Train was luxurious by any standards. It was reserved (by Apartheid law at the time) strictly for white people, in fact (to my distress); our maid Anna (who was Zulu and moving with us) was required to travel on a completely different train, along with our car. It was a blatantly shameful example of ridiculous racial prejudice. The only black people allowed on the train, were the servants that worked on it. I for one was ashamed. I had my own cabin on the train, complete with gold plated bathroom fixtures, intended I’m sure to impress me (as the occupant of the cabin), they didn’t. Had they allowed Anna to ride with us, I would have been suitably impressed. It is an interesting experience sleeping on a bunk on a moving train, the movement (from side to side) is almost disconcerting at first, but it quickly lulled me into a deep sleep.

 I woke up early in the morning. I rolled over on my bunk and opened the curtains by my head to look out the window, there was a thick fog but I could see that we were flying through endless vineyards. The Cape Province, I knew instantly (I had learned to do my research). I stared out the window transfixed by the beauty of the lush countryside, not at all like the Transvaal, the Orange Free State or even Natal, I noted. We had been on a trip to Durban once, and Zululand, but The Cape was another thing altogether. I was getting excited (the traveler in me was wide eyed and awake again). We ate breakfast on the train in the dining car as we watched more vineyards roll past the windows. I was looking for Table Mountain (arguably the most famous sailor’s landmark on the entire planet), but we weren’t on a ship and a full view of the front of the mountain would have to wait. Later, once I saw Table Mountain for the first time with my own eyes, I fell in love.  





Read the Poetry of Jeff Spahr-Summers


Free Verse: Walls, The Punk and the Scottish Teaser, I Am a Savage and Do Not Understand, Beyond Words, sheba, sheba and bathsheba, bathsheba, robert, bonfire, Matisse’s dog, never grow old, As Sure as Onions,










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