On the Promenade

Friday. I woke up at 6. It’s bright outside and the city is waking up. I went back to sleep. Next time I woke up it was the construction workers down below our open window who were mixing concrete to patch the driveway — and it was almost 9 o’clock. I got out of bed and made a couple of nice ‘real’ coffees for Sue and me with my Aeropress.

Sometime after we’d eaten our fresh mangos and toast with peanut butter there was a knock on the door. It’s Warren, the maintenance guy from down in the garage. Do I have jumper cables? Hmmm… I don’t know. I’ll get my shirt on and meet you in the garage.

There’s a German tenant whose battery needs a boost. So now I need to get into Peter’s covered up car. Okay. I take of the cover and roll it up. Underneath is a reasonably clean white Volvo 2-door sporty car. I take the key apart as per Peter’s instructions, and unlock the door. Now what? The battery has been disconnected, but Peter has told me that there is a wrench in the car with which I can re-connect it. I find the wrench. Now I need to open the boot. Or the trunk. Or the hood. Or the bonnet. Whatever — but I don’t see any knob or handle to pull. Now I’ve got Warren, the maintenance man, and security guy, and the German dead battery guy, all offering suggestions. The German looks up the car on his Samsung phone. Shows me a diagram that indicates we may find a lever or cable in the trunk. I’ve pulled out the back armrest but I need the German’s phone-flashlight to see into the trunk. Nothing there. We all take turns getting into the car and pressing various buttons. Nothing. Finally they all wander back to the German’s car. I am perplexed. I bend way down under the dashboard and spot a red handle. Pull it. The hood pops. Ho-ho! I open the hood and spot the two red battery leads dangling. But where’s the battery? And how will I get into the trunk to get at the booster cables I’m not sure are in there?

It takes me a couple of minutes to realize that the battery is right there! Just the cables are disconnected. So I reattach them and tighten them up with the wrench. The car makes a chattering noise, just like Peter had told me it would, but I press on unperturbed. By now my friends have gathered around me again. Things are looking up. I press the little ‘open trunk’ icon on the key fob. Boink. Up pops the trunk lid. We all scramble to the back and look into the open trunk. Mr German unzips the spare tire cover, sure that there’s something else packed into there. But alas — no booster cables for him.

While he wanders off and calls for a service vehicle to help him, I get back into the car and put the key into the ignition. Will it start? Warren tells me the car hasn’t been running for 1.5 years (I don’t really believe that — Peter said he was here last summer). But the car starts right away, no problem. As if it was last driven yesterday. I pull it forward and park it again. Good. That will work just fine. All I have to do is remember to stay on the WRONG side of the road for the first couple of days (and the LEFT side of the road after that).

Back upstairs Sue is looking all clean and gorgeous and ready to hit the town. Shoot! I hurry and shave and shower and get my new snazzy pink shirt on. And then we’re off.

We cross the Main Road in front of our apartment and take the new wide sidewalk past the big oval soccer stadium that was built for the 2010 World Cup. There’s a couple of outdoor soccer pitches, a cricket stadium, and some horse-riding stables along the way. And then Sue spots a couple of golfers. We’re at the Metropolitan Golf Course, not quite 1km from our apartment. We can carry our clubs this far easily! A few club members are sitting at the outdoor under-the-shade tables enjoying big cold glasses of beer and plates of delicious food. Hey, we should have lunch here! But first, let’s go in and enquire about the golf.

Which we do. Looks good. Not a very complicated or ‘interesting’ golf course, but hey, it’s just across the street from our place and the fairways and greens are in tip-top shape. Plus we can buy discount 10-game packs. Plus on Mondays it’s nearly half-price! We make a Monday early-morning tee time. The plan is to play it once and see if we like it enough to buy a book of vouchers. Rudy is elated.

We continue our walk after we finished our big Windhoek beer and a cheeseburger (for Rudy) and a cucumber salad (Sue).

We soon find ourselves at the ocean, with a very nice wide paving stone promenade winding its way along the rocky coastline. It’s 2 in the afternoon, the sun is 27 degrees warm, the breeze brings that down a few degrees, and there’s only enough other walkers on the sidewalk to make us feel at ease and comfortable and safe. So we walk. And we walk. And we get to the famous Green Point Lighthouse, the oldest operational lighthouse in South Africa. It’s been warning sailors from this location since 1824. We stop for photos.

We continue on. When we see a putt-putt golf course I suggest to Sue that we stop for a break and have a game here. I’m not much into mini-golf but it seems to me the idea is about as close as I’ll get to being sweet and romantic like Hugh Grant in a schmaltzyJulia Roberts romantic comedy. Sue guffaws at the idea. “We’re going for a walk!” So much for romance.

We pass the turn-off to the highway named after our Mennonite friend, Bill Peters. Actually, lots of places here are named after famous Mennonites; well, they’re not really Mennonites, but their names come from the same Dutch origins as many of the names of our Steinbach avenues. Halfway around the world and we’re all ‘frintschaft‘.

We’ve walked for an hour, for almost four miles, in the heat of the day. How about we find a bus station that sells metro cards and we’ll bus it back to our place? That’s what we do. We’re at the Queen’s Beach station. The wait for the girl to actually sell us our metro cards (30 Rand each, about $3.00) takes about as long as it took us to walk all this way! But hey, we’re in Africa, and who’s in a hurry? We get on the bus and sweat in the hot sun all the way back to our place — and past our place — and past the next stop — until Rudy figures out that you have to press the big red STOP button hard and the bus will stop at the next stop for you.

Now we walk BACK towards our place. Stop at Woolworths (yes, that’s a ‘higher end’ grocery store chain here in South Africa) and Sue loads up on more fresh fruit — mangos, papaya, little sweet and ripe pineapples, all of which she recalls so fondly from her time in Franschhoek, South Africa back in 2001.

Another stop at the local liquor store for gin, tonic water, and limes, and we’re finally ready to go home.

Oh, I’d forgotten that we didn’t have power in our house. It’s warm when we get in. The ice cubes Sue takes out of the freezer to make our gin and tonics are not ‘icy cold’. Hmmm… What to do? Sue goes downstairs and asks Warren, the maintenance man, if this is happening to other apartments, and if this is ‘normal’. No. He comes up to check on me diddling around with our breaker panel in one of the kitchen cupboards. Try this. Nope. Try that. Same. So the ‘cold’ (by that I mean ‘not hot’ — the cold water here is lukewarm) shower I had this morning was due to the hot water tank breaker being off. Now everything’s off. I try various combinations of offs and ons, but the electricity just stays ‘off’.

Oh boy. Now what? Warren is nearly ready to leave for the weekend, but first gives me the phone number of an electrical service company that I can call. Which I do. Which isn’t answering the phones anymore at 5:30 Friday afternoon.

I email Peter — good thing I bought that cellphone card because without it I would NOT be emailing right now — and explain what’s going on here. Not that I really think he can help us from where he is in Toronto.

Fifteen minutes later I’m back at the breaker panel trying different combinations — and finally voilà! the microwave lights up. And the living room fan starts turning again. And we’re back in business. Well, all except the hot water tank, but I decide there’s no point in chancing that! We’ll have cold showers to go with our cold beers and hot Netflix offerings anytime rather than risk it all going ‘off’ again. I’ll wait until Monday when Warren is back to hit that breaker switch again.

I email Peter back to say that (almost) all is well. And then Sue and I have our long-awaited ‘happy hour’.

That takes us until suppertime. Out we go, back on the street. First to the ATM to freshen up our wallets, then to Mario’s, the italian restaurant at our corner, for a big plate of fresh mussels followed by a wood-fired pizza. Yummy. Interrupted by a phone call from Peter: what’s up? do we have hydro? bla bla bla I explain. Then I tell him about the car. And we’re all good here. And we’re happy. Have a great weekend. Back to my pizza.

We’re back home by a little after 10 o’clock. Just enough time for me to write a book about what we did today. And NOT QUITE enough time for Sue to figure out how to change the bedside clock radio from flashing 12:00 to showing the correct time. And both events took about the same amount of time, so you know Sue worked pretty hard at trying to figure out how to set a clock. But that’s probably a man’s job. “Besides,” she says, “We can just leave it.”

Today’s news item: Hey, the Oscar nominations are out! Now we have even more reason to spend a few afternoons in the refreshing coolness of a movie theatre here in Cape Town.