View of Cape Town
Things have been quiet on this blog this month not because I have nothing to write, or because of my packed schedule (though that definitely hasn't helped), but rather due to an emotion I cannot control. Fear. Blogging is an extension of my voice and my voice is filled with fear.
Lately, fear has been our national pasttime. For ten years, this nation has been stifled by it --- frightened about the next Al Qaeda attack and to travel anywhere outside our countries' borders. Two weeks ago, when the Navy SEALS killed Bin Laden, much of this country felt liberated. Yet, on May 1, 2011, the United States State Department recommended, and continues to recommend that we pull down the proverbial curtains and lock ourselves in our homes, issuing a "Worldwide Travel Alert." As Pam Mandel so eloquently put it, "The witch is dead, but there is no celebration, instead, we are all still locked in the castle. Flying monkeys are everywhere."
For those of us who never stopped traveling, or felt the need to smack a Canada sticker on our backpacks, or ignored (with justification) the hand-wringing worries of the State Department, the raucous celebrations over Bin Laden's death inspired new fears. Wandering Earl, who has been permanently traveling for eleven years, "fear[ed] that this behavior [of drinking and partying] just might lead to some severe consequences." He explained, that his "first thought was of all those I’ve met during my adventures, those who live in cities, towns and villages . . . even in Abbottabad, which I happened to pass through myself at the end of 2005 . . . . I tried to imagine how these people were reacting to the cheering and to the drinking of beer, to the contrast between this behavior and my efforts as a traveler to demonstrate that Americans were peace-loving individuals as well."
I empathize with the State Department's mission to protect us from crazies and the role of the traveler as an ambassador, but do not really comprehend either. Travel has never frightened me. Last year, the most oft-asked question about our then-upcoming trip to South Africa was, "Is it safe?" Crime in that country is so bad that a newly-married husband allegedly hired hitmen to carjack and kill his wife on their honeymoon in Cape Town, under the guise that it was one of the common carjackings that occur in that country.
We went anyway and loved South Africa. Yes, crime exists there but the only time we experienced it was when we stupidly left my headphones in our laundry bag before handing it to the launderer and didn't realize that we didn't have it with us later. Yes, there were times when we felt uncomfortable, especially in Durban, but we simply got away from that particular area to another busier area. At the same time, on an evening in a small restaurant in Komatipoort, I forgot my purse and the waiter ran all the way out into the parking lot to ensure that I didn't leave without it. That sort of goodness is everywhere, despite a country's shoddy reputation. We would, without hesitation, recommend South Africa to any traveler, not least because of the warm-hearted people who welcomed us into their country.