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News from Nico: Episode 8, “The Burgers and the Beggar”

Jan 27, 16 • Guest Bloggers15 CommentsRead More »

nico_8.1Dear ones,

January 22nd

Just arrived in my B&B in Cape Town; contrast couldn’t be bigger…

From the quiet of the Drakensberg to the busy-ness of a world city, with a room in an appartment, a busy road in front of the building, no airconditioning (am sweating like hell), the wind of open windows shaking doors, my appartment mates talking and laughing in the living room next to my room with TV on, and no WiFi connection this coming one or two weeks. Don’t know if I will be able to sleep in those conditions at all, because at home I’m used to no light and no noise at all.

Oh yeah, this was called learning to live outside of my comfort zone, right? Pfffff, yeah, right…

But how far do I want to push my limits? I said to the guys that took me from the airport (african time, had to wait for half an hour or so…) that I would unpack directly, to feel myself at home, but I just don’t feel at home, the blinds leave open spaces between them and I have the feeling that I’m totally in the open here, not private at all. So I leave my suitcase closed for the time being, and I will see what tomorrow brings.

You know what is the worst part for me? That I’m not reachable online and that I can’t tell my loved ones that everything is OK, that I am fine, well… besides the fact that I don’t know if I want to stay here another night, with the aggressive television sounds and the clapping doors as a background…

Don’t feel good, especially because the contradiction is just so big compared to this morning, where I could still enjoy the excellent service of The Cavern, and had breakfast with Bas and Anja; I packed, checked in online for my flight with SAfair, and at the moment I wanted to send in my seventh post for my blog, my chauffeur Stephanie was already there, so we put my luggage in the car, had a little drink and bye-bye Cavern! Thank you for everything!

We had very nice chats on our way; landscape to Johannesburg is much more if not totally rural, with no houses for miles and cattle often freely roaming about in the fields next to the highway. Incredible for my Dutch eyes to see those endless acres of land with nothing but green fields of grass or sometimes a tree here and there, but for the rest… nothing. Totally different from what I am used to.

We came through some rough neighbourhoods (like slums) in the outskirts of the big city, which we didn’t look at too much, besides for what was necessary for driving…

I’ve been put off at Tambo airport in Johannesburg very well and in time, said fare-well to Stephanie and checked in my luggage; I hoped to be able to still app my loved ones from the airport, but also there WiFi connection didn’t work… Getting frustrated here… Haha…

Getting into the air in Johannesberg and at the time of landing in Cape Town, the same scenes of slums in the shadow of the airport; quite shocking actually for me as a westerner who isn’t used to anything, when I imagine that there are indeed actually living a lot of people in there…

Getting back to the present: it’s warm, noises from the television, feeling lonely. I guess that’s it for the moment. Think I will try to get some sleep; didn’t sleep that long last night either…

January 23rd

Didn’t sleep well this night either, because of the warmth and because of the new bed.

In daytime things appear to be far less dramatic as they seemed during night time, so I unpacked, found out where the electricity is so I can put the fan on, installed myself and, believe it or not, am slowly starting to feel at home. I suppose it’s still getting somewhere, although I have to take much more care of myself here, am less pampered than I have been until now, but hey come on, that’s life. Luxury treats don’t last forever, do they?

I found some touristic information in my room, especially about this hop on hop off bus tour through Cape Town, which is always very attracive to me, and Itu (the boyfriend of Jolanda) is getting me a SIM-card with 1 GB of internet-use, so I will even be out of my online-problems soon. So everything is working out just fine. Today I plan to have a quiet day, find out about shops in the neighbourhood and maybe some café or something around here with WiFi connection, so that I can use iCloud and make back-ups of my iPhone and iPad.

Now ready for breakfast (late).


Well, this has been a nice day! I spent breakfast talking with Jolanda about my worldtrip and about how it came about that she arrived in Cape Town. Made myself a coffee and looked to the sea and to what I think is Robben island in the distance (where Nelson Mandela has been imprisoned for 18 years). I got some directions about where I could find café’s where they could have WiFi and where there would be shops to buy my food on Main Road, and off I went. Quite warm it was, and I came with a detour to where I wanted to go first: McDonalds! Haha. Nice burger with fries and a coke (how standard can it be?), and then on to a café where I found WiFi, so I could check Facebook, e-mail, whatsapp…

But I didn’t manage to take reserve copies to iCloud, because the connection was way too slow (just tonight Itu told me that on Waterfront there is an iStore where they surely will be able to help me; good one!). Then on for some shopping in one of the supermarkets along Main Road, and then feeling exhausted in my left hip, so sat down at an italian icecream parlour, where they also sold “belgian” waffles. Mnjummie. Then nico_8.4walked calmly home, and I suddenly realized how un-touristic Durban had been, and how touristic Cape Town, and that that’s probably the reason why I feel so at ease here. Feels more like holiday too. But this town is definitely much older than Durban, and better preserved, so touristically it’s much more interesting than Durban.

Looking back to where I came from, I suddenly saw the Table Mountain covered with a cloud, and that triggered a poem into life:

Table Mountain
this morning so clearly seen
in all its majesty and awe
one of nature’s creations
that I’ve always been longing to behold,
but lo! At sunset
a cloud had covered its roof,
giving it a glow of mystery,
as if sangoma had taken over
to sweep away the dust of a hot day
with a softened broom
and to fly her healing wings
above a tired summertown,
to wake it up to
the truth of greater things
in a touch of trust and mingling
between the heavens
and the earth of Table Mountain.

This particular cloud is called the “tablecloth”, because it is a flat cloud, and the sides of it really hang over the edge of the mountain, as a table cloth.

At home I found that an italian student had joined our company with pizzas that were shared. I am actually amazed how easy it apparently is for me to also mingle with younger people (they are all in their twenties); not so long ago I wouldn’t have felt at ease at all between them, but I think my years of working at the Ghent university library have played a role in getting used to having younger people around. Nice chitchat, and after the meal I retired to my room; thinking back at yesterday night, I realize what a drama I made of nothing, haha. Because it really is a nice place, and the guys and Jolanda are very nice and helpful and open in their way of communicating. And things are different than the first two weeks… So what?

January 24th

What a weird day today…

It has been cloudy, but with better (cooler) temperatures than yesterday. This morning I had a quiet time with late breakfast and looking to the highlights of soccer games on TV, together with Itu and Sumani (my other mate here).

This afternoon I walked to the Waterfront, a commercial center around the former harbour, that is now used as a yacht harbour and little fish-harbour. Shopping malls and restaurants; tried to fix my iCloud problem everywhere but didn’t manage. In fact, what did I do today? Just walking around the Waterfront, trying to get this internet-thing done, a lot of drinks, lunch at Gibson’s and dinner at “Den Anker, belgian restaurant”, where I drank a belgian beer and ate a belgian meal, haha.

The most annoying news of the day is that I discovered that I’m actually gaining weight by this travelling, until now; my shirt just felt so little and tense suddenly… Oooooops… Better reduce my meals to two a day or eat more vegetables or so… And less sugar and carbohydrates… Ahum…

Walked back home in the beginning of night; broke a rule of mine with that one: never walk alone at night, wherever I am; but you know, Cape Town and especially the neighbourhood I live in does feel safe, because of tourism and the western atmosphere it has. That gives a somewhat strange feeling like: Huh? Am I in Africa or what? There are so many white people walking around here, whereas in Durban I felt like I was almost the only one.

So walked back home, with an aching left hip, that I needed to stretch and relax now and then to be able to continue. But I got home, talked to Jolanda about two trips that I definitely would like to do here but wherefore a car is needed, and we kind of agreed that we would do that together one of these days, with or without the “boys”.

This is indeed a nice place to stay; it must really have been a reaction of panic on Friday night because of the enormous difference compared to the Cavern (sorry for that, Jolanda…), because in fact it is very relaxed here, my housemates are very open and friendly and really want to help and give advice if I need it. For example tonight I took the risk of changing my belgian SIM-card with the south-african one that Jolanda provided for me (because of the WiFi that temporarily doesn’t work here), and I managed with her help to activate everything as it should. Yes, finally quick internet again! Me happy!
Quiet night again; hope that I can relax now about that internet-business. Tomorrow another day!

Oh yes, I suddenly remember I went in the Cape wheel, 40 meters above ground! That was nice! Nice view of the whole town.

nico_8.2And at the moment it’s raining cats and dogs (seasons are really out of order, because the rain that normally falls in September and October didn’t fall, and now it’s raining…). A boat is sending out a signal (mysterious sound that echoes between the mountains) and a helicopter was just flying above town (maybe that boat is in emergency?).

Well, I guess now it’s night-time again. Schlafen Sie wohl!

January 25th

Wow, what a day…

This morning I woke up later than usual those days, had a very good night’s sleep. I’m happy, because I needed it. The rest of the morning I stayed quiet taking breakfast and in my room.

Then I walked to the Waterfront and had a nice cappuccino and a bottle of water there, before I continued walking to the center of town. And the farther I went, the less white people I saw and the more I got the feeling to be in Africa again. But here too… It is kind of a western city, so it’s not real Africa; I don’t make illusions about that. High office buildings, mostly new, and only later on, in the older part of town did I encounter some history.

I walked through the Cape Town main railway station and took a “meal” at McDonalds (again…), and I talked with a nice older man who is an attorney but is now studying for his master’s degree at the university. Then on with my walk over a pedestrian bridge (there, on top of the railway station was an open marketplace where locals sold their products; very colourful and noisy). Along the Castle of Goodhope (wanted to enter but it was just closing), further on through streets I didn’t know where they were exactly heading to; I was happy to have my little citymap with me…

The weather totally cleared in the course of the afternoon, so I had some magnificent views on the Table Mountain, and got a real summer feeling. I knew I wanted to go to the Company Gardens, one of the most famous city parks in town, where a lot of locals and foreigners go for a stroll.

You know what? I really get to love this country, because in a certain way I feel more and more “akunamatata”, it doesn’t matter, I just let it all hang out. My communicating with people (especially black people) is getting so relaxed and open, it is so great. It is a learning for me to be open to anyone, to not be afraid of showing who I am, and that is very nice. But now that I’m writing this down, I also feel a kind of loss of inner centering, I feel like the need to be quiet more and go in more, if I want to continue to getting the most out of this experience.

When I finally reached the Company gardens, I walked along the South African National Gallery into the gardens, where I enjoyed Table Mountain and the greeneries around, sat down on a bench and enjoyed the quiet and the people coming by. People watching, I call it; I love it. Walking again, coming across beautiful trees and flowers, and then another bench. Sit there.

Then the most amazing thing happened to me: this limping and stuttering beggar with a third leg (like I have) came to me and asked for some money, which I gave to him. And then we got talking, and he appeared to be such a beauty of a man; I invited him to sit down besides me, and we have been talking for two hours or so. He (Ronald) told me that he had a stroke two years ago and that he is living with his mom half an hour away from Cape Town by train. He started talking about what moved him and how he handled his stroke and what had changed for him, and I listened to this wonderfully special man. And he suddenly started saying things like “Maybe God slows me down for a reason”, “Whatever happens, I’m always there” (meaning with all his attention), and “At this moment I feel extremely blessed, because of meeting someone like you and talking about this and that”.

And I told him how special he was to me, and how beautiful and soft and tender he felt and how extraordinary that was; we talked about his life as a beggar, about his life before his stroke and other things, for example that he is gay. At a certain moment he even started to cry, and then he laughed again, and then cried, laughed, cried, laughed. I was so touched by him, I loved him to pieces.

At the end I became a bit hungry and I invited him for a little snack and drink at a café somewhere; at the exit of the park at the opposite side of the street was what looked like just a nice terrace; little did I know that it was part of a deluxe hotel besides the restaurant… And here we were, a foreigner from Belgium/Netherlands and a pearl of a local beggar… we ordered something to drink and eat, and he was laughing because normally he would be begging there with the people that would sit there, and now he was sitting there himself!

And sometimes his eyes filled with tears again… Oh, he moved me so…nico_8.3

A few people that he knew came by and were amazed seeing him sitting there with me, but we just told jokingly what happened, and so his being there was explained… But he wanted to go home with his latest train to tell his mommy what happened to him, so I ordered an Uber cab; I had to leave some of my food at the table, since those cabs are really quick, and the moment we were in the car, I saw another beggar already eating my left-overs… That’s the way it goes… Put Ronald off at the railway station, hugged him good-bye and continued myself back home.

Wow, what a day… I feel so blessed with this meeting with Ronald; such an amazing man he is, so soft and tender (and he is not playing it, otherwise I would have felt it; as far as I’m concerned, his feelings and words were genuine and true).

So, my dear ones, this is it for today, and for another blogpost.

Sending you all the love in my heart,

Nico – Traveller of The Earth


And for Nico’s continued adventures in Cape Town, go here!

15 Responses to News from Nico: Episode 8, “The Burgers and the Beggar”

  1. Geert says:

    Beautiful story about you and the beggar sharing so much! That shadowpicture: is it you?
    We are home again!

    Groetjes Geert en Piet

  2. Llynn-Louise says:

    leuke verhalen! geniet er nog van!

  3. Sathya says:

    Hey dear Nico

    Enjoy the trip
    And never forget : There are no problems, only solutions
    Biggest love

  4. Marion Knoop says:

    Lieve Nico wat mooi en ontroerend om te lezen hoe je nog worstelt het ene moment met minder luxe en het andere moment je opent voor dat wat er gewoon is.
    Het stukje wat je beschrijft over Ronald raakt me diep en mooi hoe je jou warmte , betrokkenheid toont voor deze man en hem een prachtige en onvergetelijke dag hebt bezorgd. Je hebt een groot hart !
    Heerlijk hoe onbevangen jij daar rond loopt en met anderen om gaat. Zie het voor me.
    Echt genieten om dit te lezen.

    Nog veel plezier en mooie ervaringen gewenst veel Liefs van Marionneke.X

    • Nico says:

      Dank je lieverd!
      Ja, het is inderdaad genieten en omgaan met de dingen die ik tegenkom.
      Nog 5 volle dagen hier, dan is het tijd voor het volgende hoofdstuk.
      Xxx Nico

  5. Katherine Meys says:

    coucou Nico,

    Allez,allez,allez…Nico your are the Champion!!!!continue ! l’Afrique est un si beau pays mais les autres pays aussi! tu n’a pas encore tous vu!!!
    Profites -en bien et observe bien la nature même s’il fait trop chaud!
    Ramènes nous de belles photos.
    gros bisous

  6. Edith-Ann Smith says:

    Wow Nico, you had me in tears. Just love reading your journey!

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