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Monday, July 5, 2010

Knysna and Judas Square

After separating from the guys, I found myself at Highfield's Backpackers. A dorm bed here would cost me SAR100 per night which is ideally what I would like to pay so I was happy. The first day I walked around the town and checked out one of the museum's in town. It was a small museum that reminded me a lot like the Plantation Museum in Waipahu (; a collection of old houses that had been transported there showcasing life in the old day of Knysna (pronounced nai-s-na). There wasn't a lot of reading but it was nice to just have a walk through and a look back in time.

Before heading back to my backpackers, it was still light enough (about 4:30PM) so I decided to walk around town a bit. I found a coffee shop that had free wi-fi but they were closing for the day already. I met one of the workers outside and was able to get her to give me the security key so that I could connect! So, I stood alongside the main road for about half an hour briefly catching up on email and facebook. After reconnecting with the world after a long period (4 day absence), I decided to check out the taxi rank. During my time here and after a positive experience traveling to Lesotho, I have found it is a relatively safe and cheap way to travel; it's also a great way to interact with the locals. As I was trying to find the taxi rank, I decided to ask for directions which is actually something that the police and locals frown upon (I'm assuming that it's because this never ends on a good note). For some reason, I like to think that I have good karma and always fortunate enough to meet great people. So this time was no different and I had stopped Tosca and she was kind enough to show me the way. After showing me where the taxi rank was, she inquired the price and the location of where exactly the minibus that I needed would depart from. She also had time so she asked if I wanted to walk around the town while there was still daylight. She took me out to the waterfront and we chatted a little about our lives; there's some comfort and peace of mind in being able to share things with complete strangers.

Afterwards Tosca needed to get some groceries so we stopped at a shop that was run by Chinese! There are a lot of Chinese here in this country; all running businesses! Here in Knysna, many locals have commented that the Chinese have helped to allow them to survive with their competitive prices. Anyway, with my fluent intro Chinese (I can only say a few standard sentences - are you Chinese? Where in China are you from? Do you speak Mandarin? I am from Hawaii. How long have you lived here - with a pretty decent accent; after that I'm in trouble because I don't know what they are saying to me though I nod and pretend that I do!), I chatted with the cashier. Here in South Africa to limit pollution, they actually charge you for plastic bags (which I think is a brilliant idea). I was able to have him give me and Tosca a bag for free! Again, I walked out knowing that I was accepted by the Chinese. Ha ha. I had mentioned to Tosca that I had wanted to check out the Rasta community that Clayton had spoken about. Apparently, Knysna is home to the largest Rasta community in all of South Africa - Judas Square. Not being exposed to Rastas, I wasn't aware of their lifestyle and their beliefs until Clayton. I have come to find that they are extremely religious people and their constant references to Jah, is to God. They are peaceful people and have strong values. And yes, as it is commonly believed, many enjoy smoking marijuana as this is also considered part of the lifestyle and feel that it should be legalized because it is a natural plant.

Outside of the Chinese store, we were walking and across the way, Tosca noticed some Rastas at a little produce stand. So she told me to hang on because she wanted to check something. She ended up going up to the couple and introduced me to them even though she didn't know them herself. The conversation went something like this:Tosca: Hi, this is my friend Regina…you are?
Rastas: I'm Sharon, this is my husband Clifton
Tosca: Yeah, the Rastas live in Judas Square, is it? (the phrase 'is it' is used quite often and I find myself saying it a lot now too! Usually means 'seriously?', 'really?' or 'right?'). Yes, so my friend would like to go there. Do you think you can help her get there?
Sharon: Yes, I will take her there

And that's how I secured my way to Judas Square. I told them that I would make it back on Friday since I had plans the following day. Then before it got to dark, I bid Tosca farewell, thanked her and headed back to my backpackers.

There were no soccer games playing that night so didn't know what to do with myself! So of course, I just tried to write my blog even though there was no internet connection. I arrived in South Africa a week before the World Cup and since the games have started there have been three, sometimes four games every day! It's such a weird thing to not have any games going on! I don't know what I will do with myself once the games finally end and only one winner emerges.

Speaking of which, I was actually supposed to leave South Africa for London next week, July 7th (was actually hoping to make it to see Stephanie in England and celebrate her birthday - a day late - with her but just found out she is going to be in the USA!); but have realized that there is still so much of southern Africa I need to see! So I had to call the airlines and change my dates; changing the date is done at no cost with a round-the-world ticket, and so will be here for another month or so! I actually had a nightmare about this a few weeks back where I dreamt that I had forgotten when I was supposed to leave and didn't realize that I missed my flight until days later. I dreamt that since I missed my 2nd leg that I had then forfeited the other 14 legs of my trip and was then stuck in South Africa! Ha! Luckily, I sorted it all out and now have another month to play with! But now since I have changed my next trip, I will have to adjust all subsequent trips. Right now, my schedule is to leave South Africa for London on August 9th and fly from London to Moscow on August 10th! I will need to be sure that I fix my dates soon!So back to Knysna…the second day that I was in town, I contacted Liezel, the sister of Nico whom I met when I went out to the private game reserve just days after arriving in South Africa. He was so nice to give me several contacts, one being his sister who lived with her family in Knysna. She was very sweet to make time for me and show me the town from the 'heads' - the coastal tips of the town as well as the forest area. When we went out to the coast, we also saw a river that went out to the sea. I was a bit startled to see Liezel cup her hand and put it in the water and drink it! I asked her if the water was okay to drink. Of course she said, 'yes' but I was a bit wary. We spent most of the day together with her son, Johan, and his friend Caleb who I learned had recently moved to Cape Town and was in town with his older brother who is also friends with Liezel's older son. I was grateful for Liezel's time and for taking me to these places that I probably wouldn't have been able to go otherwise. That night there was also no game so it was again a quiet night for me.

Friday came and I put on my colorful blouse given to me by Clayton which is something that many Rastas and South Africans wear. I headed out back to where Clifton and Sharon's shop was, where I was a few days ago. Sharon wasn't around but Clifton walked me right around the corner to the taxi rank and put me in a minibus. There already seated in the minibus was a neighbor that Clifton recognized and asked that she take me there.It was about 6 miles away and as we were driving into the area, I started to wonder if it was smart for me to come out to the 'local' area alone. There was a tour that was offered but I didn't want to pay R330 ($42.50) to be shown around when I could probably do it for much cheaper. But I was already here so hopefully everything would be okay. In no time we had arrived and we were off at the second stop. The lady who was asked to be my chaperone had me get off the bus with her. She had done some shopping in town so she had a lot of luggage to unload from the minibus. With no one around to help her, I offered to help carry her things. I also thought this would help to have her help me with showing me the way; it dawned on me at that point that perhaps I got here but would not really be able to see anything because I had no idea where to go!

It seemed though that many tourists venture out to this area because the lady was having her daughter trying to find me a guide. At first she asked Dawie, one of the official guides in the area, but Dawie had passed me on to another lady across the street but she was busy so Dawie was in charge of me. There was a bit of commotion for a while then before I knew it, the tour had started. He gave me a background of the Rasta history, and explained how they honored the former King and Empress of Ethiopia (yes, not Jamaica as Bob Marley sings about in his songs), their beliefs, etc. He also explained their prayer practices and pointed out their church. He brought me into the office and had me sign the guest book. He also showed me their preschool and I got to see some cute Rasta kiddies; so cute with their little dreads! I also met Sister Carrie who is from Australia and has lived in Judas Square for 13 years! I also got to meet Mama B who was the Rasta representative in the religious council and who originally came from Jamaica. Mama B also had a little shop where she sold some items that she knitted herself. I bought a bracelet for myself and a hat for Clayton. After about an hour or so, Dawie needed to take a (smoke) break and I asked if there was somewhere I could sit to enjoy my homemade lunch. He brought me over to Winston's house where I got to enjoy my lunch in his kitchen. Winston was also very nice and quite the celebrity having been featured in a couple of magazines which he was very proud to show me. After my lunch, I enjoyed an orange ice that my chaperone from the bus' daughter had brought over for me. How sweet, no pun intended. Later, Winston pulled out some chairs and we sat outside in his yard overlooking the township.
Soon after, Winston ran away because they needed to start loading the truck with their equipment. Turns out that Winston is also a guitarist for the Reggae band, Reggae Ambassadors! After sitting around alone for a while, I thought I should make myself useful and started to help load the van from the storage area down to the truck at the bottom of the steps. The weather was beautiful that day and I actually started sweating with the manual labor out in the sun!

Quickly Dawie reappeared and said that we should start making our way back to town. We took a few more photos and then we were quickly back on a minibus headed back for town. I ended up spending about 3 hours there and had a great time learning more about the Rastas and their close knit community here in Knysna. When we got back to town, I met a few more Rastas, one guy who seemed to greet me with so much excitement that I think he may have confused me for someone else. It didn't take him long to realize that I wasn't who he may have thought I was.

I think Dawie needed another break because he told me that he would meet up with me later. I made my way back to the coffee shop with the internet connection but unfortunately it wasn't connecting me! The system had been down from the day before so I drank my coffee and ate a chocolate cake without any internet! I felt like I was putting on extra calories without any consolation! While at the coffee shop, I contacted Luke and Sonya who I had first met at Storm's River and who I had ran into while at Judas Square (they were driving through on the Township Tour). I told them that I was planning to go out to the fan park to watch the game and wanted to see if they would come join me. They were having lunch so after they were done they came to meet up with me at my coffee shop.

It was the Annual Weeklong Knysna Oyster Festival that started that day so we made our way to the tents thinking that it was where we would be able to watch the game, the first game in days! After getting drinks and getting comfortable, we realized that they weren't going to air the game but instead tennis! Who wants bloody tennis? It's the World Cup in South Africa for God's sake! So we had to move…we ended up just missing the first few minutes of the game and watching it at a restaurant at Waterfront. During half time we moved again and went out to watch the rest of the game at Thyssen Island. It was very crowded with probably more Orange than Brazil supporters. It was hard to find seats but we managed and got into the spirit in no time. Again, hard to know who to support now! I went from supporting Brazil to the Dutch, back to the Brazilians. It was a huge surprise and I'm still shocked to see that the 5 time World Cup Champions, Brazil, is no longer in the World Cup! The game ended, 2 - 1, Netherlands. We stayed around to see Winston and his guys perform for the spectators who stayed around to enjoy the music. We skanked for a few songs and then they asked the band to take a break while they waited for more people to come in and enjoy the music. Much of the fans that were there to watch the earlier game had seemed to have left and there were only a small number of those people that stayed back. We decided to head off for the famous oysters (cultivated and wild), Knysna's pride, at a restaurant that Sonya and Luke had been to the night before. To be honest, I am not much of a seafood person; my seafood likes are limited to sushi, shrimp and the fish dishes we serve at the restaurant (butterfish, i.e.: black cod, akule - stick mackerel and maybe a few fish that are commonly eaten in Japan). So, I wasn't that excited to eat the oysters as the other two. I had to try it though so allowed them to teach me the best way to eat it. I don't think I've ever really eaten oysters before so have nothing to compare it to but could taste the freshness instantly. I had two and that was enough for me. Later we ordered calamari, a Greek salad and egg rolls. We watched the first half of the 2nd quarter final game that night, Uruguay vs. Ghana, and then again during half time, moved to another bar in the direction of my backpackers to watch the second half. I think that game may have been the most exciting game in this entire World Cup with Ghana almost winning and the game going into extra time with a red card given to Suarez, one of the star players for Uruguay, who ended up using his hand to block out an almost guaranteed shot by Ghana. Suarez walked off the field crying but he's probably now regarded as a hero for having allowed Uruguay to advance to the semi-finals. The game then went into penalty kicks and eventually ended 1 - 1 with a win for Uruguay who made 4 out of the 5 penalty kicks, Ghana making only 3.

The entire country was devastated to see Ghana go; the dream of an African country winning the World Cup had ended. I had thought that everyone cheered for Ghana because they were African but I later found out that many people just wanted Ghana to beat Uruguay because the latter had beaten South Africa 3 - 0 and they were seeking revenge! Sonya and Luke were kind enough to walk me back to my backpackers. Thank goodness because I don't know how else I would have gone home! I didn't know anyone who had a car and it's not like there is a place to get a taxi, or at least I didn't see one.    
Tomorrow, I am planning to head out to Oudtshoorn because I have heard many great things about it. It is also a town with a large ostrich population, quite possibly the largest in the country. Oudtshoorn is also home to a very famous cave. I am not sure how long I will be staying there but I need to get on to Cape Town! My friend Peter is waiting for me and has been since June 16th!

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