Friday night I got into Cape Town at around 9:00 and wanted to go out for a beer. I had been to all the places near my hostel on my last visit, so I walked further down the street. I'd go into a place, see a huge crowd, hear head-splitting music, and walk out. I finally found a quieter place with folks playing pool and watching rugby. I had my beer and left.
Saturday I went to work out and then went back to that bar at around 6:00. I started talking to a young black guy sitting at the bar. We were watching rugby and I was asking him questions about the game. He said he sold hand-carved figurines made of stone from his own store. His family carved the figurines from his home in Zimbabwe and then shipped them down here.
Eventually, the topic turned to women. He explained the finer points of marriage:
In Cape Town, it is common for a woman to have a baby before she is married to show that she is fertile and not fallow. If you marry her, you help support the existing baby.
In Zimbabwe, men want to marry a virgin. Arranged marriages are not uncommon.
My companion wasn't married and was a little confounded by the whole marriage situation -- being from Zimbabwe and living in Cape Town.
Oh, and by the way, he added, "this is a known gay hangout."
I looked around and the crowd had a good mix of men and women. But on closer inspection, there were a few sharply dressed older guys sitting alone at the bar. There were also some young guys who kept coming in and bumming cigarettes off the owner.
My friend finished his beer and got up to leave. "Be Careful," he said. Hmmm. Same advice I had gotten from a prostitute 2 weeks earlier.
Ever notice on the back of your credit card there is a phone number that you can use to call them collect if you need to? Don't count on it. In Greece, the hotel owner I was staying with couldn't tell me how to make a collect call. In South Africa, it took 4 tries to get through to an international operator. When I got hold of Visa, they told me to call back during business hours.
Similarly frustrating. I purchased an international SIM card for my cell phone that has not worked. (The store that sold me the card will not refund any of the fee, so I'm going have my credit card company dispute it.)
(Most people I've spoken to have purchased SIM cards locally for South Africa. My problem was that I was going to a lot of different countries and didn't want to keep purchasing SIM cards. Live and learn.)
As I write this, I am preparing for my red eye flight to Bangkok tomorrow and I have not yet turned gay.