Monday, February 06, 2006

Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa

I left St. Louis at 6am Friday and arrived in Cape Town at 3:30pm on Saturday after 30 hours of travel (and an 8 hour time difference). Let's be clear from the start - 30 hours of travel is killer, but it could have been worse. I had a 17 hour leg from Atlanta to Johannesburg, with a refueling stop at the Isle de Sal, and luckily it was not a full flight and I was able to spread out across 2 seats. Woo hoo! And in case you're ever on Jeopardy, Isle de Sal is literally "Salt Island" and if you dig into the ground you'll find it's a mixture of dirt and salt and very little grows there. Or at least that's what they told us on the plane. Now you know.

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It's summer in Cape Town and the weather is BEAUTIFUL - 70's and sunny with a warm breeze. Our conference officially starts this morning (Monday), and many of the delegates are folks I met here last year, so much of yesterday was spent meeting and greeting. My evening was spent down on the waterfront for dinner with a group of people and back to the hotel for a night cap of Amarula, which is a fruit & cream brandy that's similar to Bailey's. Just don't tell the South Africans that because apparently it's an insult to their national creme liquor. Again, now you know.

Signs you are a heavy sleeper: when a hotel room on the floor below you catches fire and you don't hear the alarm or people knocking on your door at 5am. What woke me up was the sound of the fire engines (they have a distinctive bleet that is quite different from ours) and then hearing them stop outside my window. I look out and see a fireman climbing a ladder and a bunch of people in various stages of undress outside the hotel. Hmmm...guess it's time to evacuate. So, I calmly threw on some clothes, grabbed my bag and headed outside. Turns out that a guest fell asleep smoking and burned out the contents of the room. No one was hurt and the damage was contained to the one room, and we were back in the hotel within the hour.

One final thing - Cape Tonians, especially those under 30, are fascinated by American culture, which is funny given that there are absolutely no Americans in Cape Town outside of this hotel! The big story in the popular press is Brad and Angelina and their adopted African baby. Nobody cares about Jennifer, and I seriously think it's because she didn't adopt an African baby. When I've travelled in Europe and people find out I'm American (which is whenever I, you know, talk) they've taken me to task about our president and the war and other political issues. Not here. Everyone wants to know about Brad and Angelina, American cars (the PT Cruiser is a huge seller), and Paris Hilton. Thankfully I've spent a lifetime studying American pop culture and am happy to oblige.

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