Saturday, January 20, 2007

More From Cape Town: A Tour Guide Expounds...

The photo above is from a key-changing/gate-opening ceremony at the old town palace in Cape Town. The men in the photos are descendants of folks who probably never imagined themselves in feathered hats setting off cannons the size of children's toys for sweaty American tourists. All in all, a very "Indochine/Wah-Wah" post-colonial moment.

Afterwards, the rest of the tour was set loose to explore the porcelain collection. I relaxed on the patio with our white tour guide - the type you'd see in the local Indiana Jones expatriate bar kicking back moonshine at 10 a.m. - and a fellow U.S. tourist, a very poised African-American woman on vacation from work with a Manhattan finance firm.

Tour Guide: How has your service been at your hotels?

NYC and me (in unison, sipping diet Coke): Good!

TG: No sullenness?

NYC/me (now a bit confused): No...everyone has been very gracious.

TG: A lot of people don't want to work in this country. That's why we have immigrants. They come from the worst conditions in Africa and appreciate the opportunity they have here. Not like the people who live here - they always demand more and more and do as little as they have to. They're ruining the tourism industry. You have problems with immigration in your country, I've heard.

(I let NYC field that one.)

TG: I've heard that the Blacks in the United States who are successful are seen as Uncle Toms.

NYC (chokes delicately on her diet Coke): Uncle...Toms?

TG: They're seen as selling out to the white man.

NYC: Well, maybe twenty years ago. But today it's different. There are successful African Americans in all walks of life.

TG: (quiet, either contemplatory or half drunk)

ME: (quiet, wondering what the @#$%^ will come up next)

ME (belatedly): There's Oprah. Oprah's the richest woman in the United States. (I smile, proud of my contribution until I start to question myself and wonder if Martha Stewart's richer. Should I add Chris Rock and Puff Daddy? I wonder.)

TG: Mmmm, there's Oprah.

NYC (making the natural segue to Nelson Mandela): "I've been meaning to read Nelson Mandela's biography. Have you read it yet?"

TG: Honestly, I found it a little boring. Talk about the LONG walk to freedom. After page 200, I thought, "Aren't you ever going to get there?" I have a better suggestion.

His recommendation: a book about a dog trained for combat. Unfortunately, before he could give us the title, the rest of the tour group returned from the porcelain collection.

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At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's some funny stuff....Truth is better than fiction as they say. I always love the way you put things. The only thing that would be better is to hear it done in your raspy voice that I found endearing.


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