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Cape Town During Apartheid

My visit to Cape Town during the 1970's

Dale likes to play various genres of music, especially in the evenings. It varies from classical to rock and everything in-between. This evening was no different as we were preparing dinner.

Tonight’s music was Simon & Garfunkel. Most of this music happened before we knew each other, but we hadn’t really ever talked about the impact of the music on our lives, especially mine.

We’d listened to several pieces and as we prepared dinner and then when we put the soup on the table, he put on “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. As we listened to the song I was taken back in time, as I always am with this song.

The year was 1970, I was on a ship that went around the world for college for a semester. We were in South Africa and apartheid was in full swing, Vietnam was going on, Kent State was boiling over at home. We were a gazillion miles from home, no internet, only snail mail when we got into port.

There were about 500 of us onboard the ship, it was a tugboat next to the mother ship. But small enough so that most of knew each other. We went to class while at sea and played while in port. But while at sea was when we cultivated the close friendships, as we were all one family.
While at sea we would lay on the deck and look at stars, we’d do jumps on the bobbing deck during storms, we’d cry for each other, everything that family does.

I had received letters from home telling me that 2 of my friends had died in Vietnam, we’d passed close enough to Vietnam to be more than a little jittery. The news of my friends’ deaths became more real.

In South Africa apartheid was everywhere, white and everyone else’s drinking fountains, bathrooms and on and on. As I am brown, it was very apparent that I was out of place. Fortunately, my friends did not see the color of my skin.

One of my good friends was a black guy. He, his girlfriend, other friends, and I would hang out, sometimes just the 2 of us, sometimes more. There was a car accident, he was taken to a black hospital where he later died. I’ve always thought that it was because of the apartheid, and I still believe that.

Another student, a white kid who I met the 1st day of our adventure, also died hiking up to Table Mountain. I’m sure he would have received great treatment if he would have survived long enough. But enough of those thoughts.

When we 1st arrived in Cape Town, we toured a college for “Colored People” my brown color actually, not black. Another friend and I left the nonsensical presentation/propaganda and went to find real students. We found a lab where students were working and we walked in introducing ourselves. We were immediately invited to dinner at one woman’s home. These students took us on a tour of the real Cape Town and the Black Area. It was emotionally shaking.

Then near the end of our days in Cape Town a friend and I had been somewhere and were hitchhiking back to the ship. A couple of guys picked us up and invited us to their place that evening for a party. The guys picked us up and they’d invited more friends to meet these Americans. The guys had found a copy of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” banned in Cape Town. We hadn’t heard the song until this time, but the song was so meaningful.

How do I explain what the flood of experiences mean? Friends’ dead, new friends who faced horrible discrimination, banned songs and my own experiences of discrimination.

Posted by Miss Chris 13:54 Archived in South Africa Tagged travel cape_town apartheid bridge_over_troubled_water

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