Lurid and spiritual lessons from Cape Town

An almost endless variety of typologies we all have, to classify people into groups. With today’s article, it’s my hope to propose at least two more to your list.

Firstly, through this account of my time in South Africa, I’d like to underline the fundamental difference separating people who’ve been there from those who haven’t.

I first discovered the existence of this irreconciliable chasm between the two during my high school senior year. At that time, I was down in Cape Town, South Africa, taking a language course, in an attempt to gain English proficiency to guarantee my acceptance in a British university. As it would turn out, my studies in the U.K. would be a bitter disappointment, but seeing how many invaluable lessons my time in Cape Town taught me, I’m still fucking glad that I had flown down.

Secondly, I’d like to elicit the difference between those men who’ve had the privilege of sleeping with Far Eastern girls, and those poor wretches who haven’t.

What’s the fucking connection, you ask? Well, read on! Besides, I’d ask you if there can ever be good writing without at least a spoonful of filth.

Zombies and men

Soon after my arrival, I found the maginificence of Cape Town charge its places with a great life pulse, not unlike the famous power spots of Japan. And even though this subtle vitality may appear elusive, it could be felt by a discerning traveler.

My first glimpse of its magic occurred when I was driven from the airport to the city center. The highway we took was lined by a giant, seemingly endless township, stretching as far toward the horizon as the eye could see.

Knowing how rampant the misery and savage the violence was in this place, I should’ve felt sad. Fucking devastated, even. I mean, how in hell could I’ve felt anything other than pity for the wretched men and women living just down the uneven concrete lane we were so casually driving on? Here were people forced to live in sordid, endless rows of tiny shacks made of scrap, with access to little electricity and no running water.

As if this picture wasn’t grim enough, the airplane paper made the township look dismal. It reminded me of the medieval barbarity of the local gangs to wrest power from the people. As incredulous as it may seem, these warmongers literally stuffed their disbelievers inside huge discarded truck wheels before setting them alight with gasoline. Way to fucking go, guys! Even the Italian mafia could take a crowd management course from these bad boys.

Despite this mountain of ugliness, I felt neither horror nor disgust as our old minivan raced us past the township. When the driver explained that we had to rush like our asses were on fire to avoid highway hijacking, I was least surprised. But still, I had no fear, none at all.

All I could really sense, instead, was the strange life energy wafting to my window in the form of cold wind. It might’ve reflected from the township people themselves, who knows? Despite the furious wind blowing in all directions, the few people I managed to clearly see were dressed in rags, when not completely shirtless. And yet, what huge, bright smiles I’d invariably catch on every face! These were literally the biggest fucking smiles I had ever seen.

Now, compare this to the people of the depressed city of Geneva I was coming from. There, you could wait a million years without ever seeing one such happy face, let alone a bunch of them together. And that’s a fact. If you don’t believe me, just ride on any fucking local city bus there and see what you would see.

I can already tell you though. You’ll see people who literally have everything, yet with faces looking like they just heard of their terminal cancer diagnosis. Such is the joint power of widespread Protestantism and Western greed: it makes its ‘chosen people’ wear this typical, and perennial diarrhea smirk on their faces.

In this miserable township where people still went to the witch-doctor for health issues, however, things were completely fucking different. I saw children play football and laugh with the purest joy, mothers casually carry heavy water buckets around and men joke with one another while smoking their cigarettes with a sort of absolute, old-fashioned charm. In other words, what I witnessed was simply guilt-free lives pushing their way forward with glee despite near unbearable circumstances.

Observing this everyday normality so beautifully blossom in such a hard environment gave me an epiphany on how much self-pity was an indulgence for idle, rich people – people who were in fact not really alive anymore, rather, who were more dead than alive. It wouldn’t be unfair, therefore, to call such people zombies. And self-pity, or even pity for that matter, suits such creatures like a glove fits the hand. It’s truly the perfect feeling for their degenerate minds.

Of course, being Swiss myself, I was a zombie too, and a specimen at that. But driving through that township shook me up. It made me understand with perfect clarity, that what really mattered in life was to have a joyous attitude no matter your fucking circumstances, for without it, the possibility of a happy future simply gets lost.

This was Africa’s first great lesson for me: even when you don’t want to, laugh and play when tears roll down your cheeks. The same has been spoken by a great Tamil poet, Thiruvalluvar, in one of his maxims, “If troubles come, laugh; there is nothing like it to press upon and drive away sorrow”. Maybe your laughter will taste salty and bitter all at once, but at least, it will still be laughter. And you’ll be alive. Zombies aren’t.

Cold, cold winds

My second lesson turned out to be far more earthy. Cape Town lost no time introducing me to its vicious South African winter. Even though I knew very well before leaving Switzerland in the summer that the seasons down in the Southern hemisphere would be reversed, I somehow didn’t bother packing even a pullover in, let alone jackets. After all, I’d stupidly thought, how fucking cold could an African winter be? Well, technically, I was right in my smugness: not that icy at all. In fact, the temperatures won’t really ever drop much below 50°F.

But that’s forgetting one small detail: the damn fucking winds! I say winds because really the skies in Cape town are forever full of them, in different flavours of cold. It would seem that all of the winds of the world have been gathered above this great city by some strange god for a gigantic experiment of sorts. And their incessant, furious movements made the cold unbearable, literally, even for a Swiss, an idiot without long sleeves that I was then.

To make matters worse, my driver had decided to take a break in an outdoor cafe perched somewhere up high as we finally approached the outskirts of the city. I can still remember how, sitting on its terrace, I had to wrap my hands around my cup of hot black coffee in an attempt to escape the bites of the winds all over my body. Despite all my suffering, I couldn’t help but find the fickle and brutal blowing of dusty air all around, absolutely breathtaking.

I am a definite masochist that way. Because I love both the wind and the rain, even though the first always gives me horrible headaches and the second often gives me the cold. But aren’t we all a little masochistic in the end? Isn’t it natural to only ever crave what is bad for us while shunning what is good?

Anyway, masochistic or not, I learnt one more thing: winter winds always bite, even in fucking Africa.

The virtue of suffering

By the time I reached the dimly lit hallway of my school, the city’s third lesson was already waiting for me. As I explored the lobby after my school enrollment, I soon discovered a huge fireplace opposite a bunch of very comfortable looking couches at the end of the corridor.

At the time, I was so frozen to the bone that such a setup seemed heavenly. All I wished for was to sink inside those dark pillows before me and forever bask in the soft, warm light radiating from the orange flames burning in the hearth. This was surprising, given how much I hated fireplaces. We had one in my Swiss house, but all it ever did was make my skin dry and bother my reading with the endless creaking of the burning logs. That fucking fire would never ever shut the fuck up.

Now, however, in this new land so far down South, I’d have given anything just to sit next to this calm fire burning a few feet away. Without further ado, I let myself fall on the nearest couch. And right there, as my body finally began to relax, I suddenly grasped why the Swiss fire had bothered me so much over the years: because I didn’t fucking need it! I’d simply never truly felt cold enough in my entire life to truly require a fire, not even fucking once!

So, what was Cape Town trying to tell me besides the obvious fact that I was born with a huge silver spoon in my mouth? If I had to guess, I would probably say that the city wanted me to understand how without suffering, there can be no true appreciation. Instead, there is only endless complaints about everything.

Both Geneva’s pathetic citizenry and the township people would agree on this one, I think.

Wise men make for good friends

An incredible tune was playing in the lounge. I’d never heard it before, but its jazzy notes somehow seemed familiar. And they pleased my synapses beyond anything I’d ever listened to before. This enchanting melody somehow made me feel like I was meeting a long-lost friend.

Then, suddenly I heard a deep, guttural exhalation somewhere in the darkness to my right. ”Welcome friend!“, said a soft voice with a distinct middle-eastern accent.

As I moved toward the sound, I saw a Turkish man, maybe in his forties, laying on the couch in the corner of the lounge.

He was smoking from a small water pipe set on the ground next to him, with an enigmatic grin pinned to his face. ”I am Yagiz, nice to meet you, ” he continued. Intrigued by the water pipe, I returned his salutation with a faint gesture. It was the first time I’d ever seen one such device that up-close.

”Care for a puff?“, Yagiz then asked me in a tired and considerably overstretched voice. My curiosity for the device made his offer impossible to refuse. Because ever since I’d laid eyes on this shiny, burning thing, I’d just wanted to smoke it. Just like the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland had. This odd thought from my childhood readings suddenly triggered another one to surface. As Yagiz heard my automatic talk, I heard Janis Joplin’s Caterpillar playing in my mind like a mad carousel.

And, as I tried to calm my crazed psyche down, he offered me the dragon shaped ivory mouth piece. Without hesitation, I took a deep, long first puff. Bad fucking idea: it almost made me cough up my lungs! But the cool tobacco from the oriental pipe finally drove Janis’ screams from my head. And, its apple flavor tasted divine and soon emptied my brain of any other thought.

After a few more puffs, I started to feel deliciously light-headed and I understood why Yagiz had a drawl to his speech: water pipes do have a way to drain people’s strength, rather to make them loose. It’s like the more you smoke a water pipe, the more it smokes you. And, it makes you ready for great conversations.

Unfortunately, I can’t recall much of my conversation with Yagiz anymore. So much so that nothing but a single piece of it has survived in my memory. This particular verbal jewel has stayed neatly carved into my brain all these years with pristine clarity.

”Are you a Christian?“, he’d asked me at some point. I’d filled my lungs with the soft, perfumed smoke before answering. ”I am baptized, yes. If this is what you mean. But I don’t believe in God anymore.“ I’d told him, very proud of my smug answer. ”A fine first step toward not becoming a good Muslim,“ he’d replied with an even wider smirk on his bearded face.

His pun had hit the center of the bull’s eye.

”A very fine fucking first step indeed,“ I’d whispered softly, smiling to myself.

Xin

At this point, the most petite and fair skinned girl I’d ever seen entered the lobby from the pool side. To my great joy, she came straight toward us and sat herself down between Yagiz and me with the grace of a sparrow. Her huge, black eyes reflected the flames slowly burning before us, making them glimmer ever so slightly, like two fancy, ancient jewels.

Her Chinese beauty was as intoxicating as the cotton candy perfume emanating from her hair. What a fucking marvel to behold she was! And to smell too: I still remember the sweetness of her sweat in the winter air.

”So, you are leaving tomorrow, then?“, she asked Yagiz in a minute, almost kitten-like voice.

”Yes, my flight back to Istanbul leaves first thing the morning, dear “, he replied without a trace of sadness in his voice. ”This is Sebastian, by the way, he’s new here “, he added, kindly signaling my presence to the heavenly creature that turned toward me.

If the curvature of her back was already a feast for the eyes, that of her neck simply proved a banquet. In a glimpse, I’d already fallen in love with her body. And, when she finally turned her attention to me, the pale softness of the skin covering her collarbone and the redness of her plump lips sent shivers through me… she truly was a goddess.

”Nice to meet you, Sebastian, I’m Xin from Singapore.“

Little did I know then that her name meant elegant in Chinese. It certainly matched her devilishly attractive physique. After introducing myself as best as I could, which really wasn’t much at the time, I finally managed to blurt out some awful platitude about how great I thought the lounge music was.

”Yeah, Miles Davis is pretty great “, she approved with a shy smile. Her voice was so low it sounded like a moan.

What a fucking ignoramus I was! To think that I was completely unaware of the genius creator of All Blues makes me sick. Even now, I often wonder whether such lack of culture could ever truly be forgiven, especially for someone like me, who fancies himself aesthetically-fucking-inclined. This is why my first meeting with beautiful Xin will forever remain tainted by indelible shame.

After a slight giggle, she leaned back in her couch and asked us both, ”But do you know who is even greater?“ We both understood her question to be purely rhetorical and I didn’t really want to embarrass myself further by attempting an answer anyway.

So, Yagiz and I just stared at her flawless skin without uttering a sound. I think Xin enjoyed being the center of attention this way. After all, she must have known how powerfully toxic her looks were to men.

A couple of unbearably long minutes later, she slowly stood up giving us ample time to admire her divine proportions. Then, she slid a small cassette out of her back pocket, went to the old music player sitting by the fireplace, and exchanged her cassette with the one that was playing.

The sounds that would soon slip out of the worn out speakers coupled with what I was about to witness would change my life forever. In retrospect, I now understand the importance of this particular moment in the future choices of my life. This was the exact point when I fell in love with the Far East for good. Of course, it would take many more moments like this for me to finally leave the West and settle in Japan, but this one began my journey. I know that for sure now.

A farewell dance

A few seconds later, it all began. As soon as the first notes of Feeling Good filled the room with their magic, the three of us slipped into the magical, jazzy world of Nina Simone. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t know her any more than I knew Miles Davis back then. To be honest, when you know neither Miles, nor Nina, you really don’t fucking know much at all.

At this point, I should warn you: Nina Simone is a real witch with the rarest of gifts. She can ease any audience into the spell of her music. And it hits you like a shot of heroin. Once you’re hooked, dear Nina stays in your soul forever.

I realized this as I watched Xin dance to the profound lyrics of Feeling Good. Her movements exactly matched the melody of the song. They were simple, ever so simple, yet, both Yagiz and I just couldn’t stop following them with our eyes. Together, Xin and Nina had turned us into obedient puppies. Maybe it was the water pipe, the fire, the allure of Xin, or maybe just Nina’s magic, but I’ll never truly know the origin of our trance. All I remember is how wonderfully intense it was… like falling through a black hole while being torn apart.

By the end of the song, when our souls finally pieced themselves back together, I knew that we’d enjoyed the most ephemeral psychic threesome there ever could be. It’d lasted precisely 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

Then, as Xin walked back to the poolside without another word, I took another deep puff. A slight note of cotton candy was still suspended in the air, like a tiny piece of paradise.

”Wouldn’t you like to be buried in that, Yagiz?“, I whispered to him, staring at Xin’s ass.

”Balls deep, my friend, balls deep“, he said with a slight note of melancholy in his coarse voice.

That was when I knew that he didn’t believe in God any more than I did either.

An unexpected invitation

Even though Yagiz left the very next morning, I never stopped thinking about this moment of grace we’d both shared with Xin. The more I thought about it, the less tenable it became for me to maintain that I truly believed in no faith.

Of course, that didn’t mean that I’d suddenly started to believe in God. It did mean, however, that I’d kind of become spiritually lost. Fortunately, Cape Town dissolved this latest pickle of mine as well by generously providing me with yet another of her great lessons.

Although people from all over the world studied at my school, I’d come to form a particular attachment with a group of Korean students. I guess I have Xin to thank for that as well, since she’d so brilliantly put me on the path to Asia. But that’s a story for another time.

One rainy Tuesday evening, a girl from Pusan, I had a huge crush on, walked up to me after class. Her pale beauty was excruciatingly joyful to watch. Of course, I’d never dared talking to such a creature directly, even though we’d shared countless nights drinking Soju with other Korean friends.

O! How I’d loved observing her skin whiten even further as she downed more and more of those small, devilishly green, Soju bottles while joking around until sunrise. Even if I hadn’t really understood all of her Korean kimchi or Star-craft-related jokes, I’d still completely fallen under her spell. Again, with these fucking spells, I must be something of a Harry Potter.

Sometimes, when she would be drowsy from all the Soju cruising her veins, she would stare directly into my eyes with her own, slanted, pitch-black ones. We would brim with the formidable cocktail of lust and life. But, even on these rare occasions of connection, I’d never been able to reciprocate her stare without the dirtiest thoughts invading my fucking mind.

Yet, because of my near pathological shyness, nothing had happened. Had I been less of a fucking introvert, she’d probably have gladly invited me up to her room in these early days. But the girl was smarter than that. Smart enough, at least, to know not to coax me out of my shell too abruptly.

”Do you want to go to the Waterfront tomorrow?“, she asked in her heavy Korean accent.

It took me several seconds to decipher what she’d actually said. If I recall correctly, it sounded something like, “DOU-YU-WANTO-GO-TO-DA-WATERPURONTO-TOMORO?” Even as she almost screamed it at me, it still sounded incredibly cute coming from her plump, perfectly made-up lips.

Only later did I understand the reason for her sudden invitation. As it turned out, the Waterfront cinema was half-price on Wednesdays. And so, this is how my first South African date ended up being the palest Korean girl in all the fucking land.

The next day, I met Mrs. Soju (let’s call her that) outside our dorm around lunch time. She was wearing the shortest, most scandalous skirt you could imagine, completed by a yellow Pokemon pullover, and a lovely, red, beret. As a matter of course, a high-tech camera dangled around her fragile neck.

As we took a “taxi” to the Waterfront, she kept staring at me like a duckling would at his mother. Cape Town taxis were funny in those days, funny and deadly to be perfectly honest. In fact, they were no taxis in the Western sense at all. Instead, picture illegally operated minivans driving people around at fucking insane speeds. Of course, these vehicles were also badly overcrowded, oftentimes with people literally sitting on the open windows. Yes, you’ve read that right, with half their bodies hanging outside these rolling deathtraps.

But the mood in these minivans was just too fucking awesome. They always had great music playing and, like in the township surrounding the city, their passengers were absolutely full of laughter. So much so that I’d have gladly died in those vans to hell. What a happy, churning sarcophagus it’d have made!

I guess that none of the people sharing our ride that day ever saw a stranger couple than we were. I mean, the “animatic” girl from Far Eastern shores with her taciturn white guy: what a freaking oddity! I doubt that the rest of them in that road-roller-coaster even knew who Pikachu was.

Already, I couldn’t stop staring at Mrs. Soju’s perfect legs. My eyes simply kept darting back and forth from her firm thighs to her full, pinkish lips. And I could discern a discreet and erotically charged smile carved on them.

Like Xin, it seemed, Mrs. Soju loved to be watched. But on that day, I had a hunch that watching wouldn’t be enough for her.

After the speedy ride, we were finally dropped somewhere near the Waterfront shopping complex and headed straight for the cinema.

The Waterfront cinema

The place was fucking ancient. In the West, I’d never seen a theater so old. Yet, it’s decrepit walls had an inexplicable charm. The same odd power I’d felt in the township was radiating from these walls as well. It was as though the theater was literally imbued with Africa’s spirit.

I could instantly tell that Mrs. Soju felt exactly the same way I did. Because instead of being her usual composed self, she seemed strangely excited. Her hand, locked into mine, even started to tremble. It was so small, almost as delicate as a sparrow jerking desperately in the last moments of its life.

She then showed me a huge, black and white poster featuring a half-naked Jessica Alba. The only touch of color indicated the title of the movie Mrs. Soju wanted us to see: “Sin City”.

A few years prior, I’d read Frank Miller’s masterpiece, and loved every last bit of it. To me, neo-noir had always been as exciting as porn, if not more. When you think about it, it’s really porn with a shiny Christmas wrapping around it.

When I thanked Mrs. Soju for her brilliant choice, she blushed up to her ears. Suddenly, the contrast of the yellow Pikachu and the pink skin made my blood rush. At the same time, Yagiz’s words echoed in my head:

“balls deep, my friend, balls deep.”

Mrs. Soju then took me to the popcorn counter, where I bought her a huge bucket. To my surprise, however, South African cinemas offer not two or three flavors, like in Switzerland, but more like twenty. And they are freely available for customers to season their popcorn with too.

She soon started to create her own blend as I stupidly watched that petite body of hers move between sweet, spicy and salty powders of all kinds. A shaft of sunbeam poured down her long, dark hair from a window. I could also see the spice dusts dance around Mrs. Soju. God, she was another witch, and I wanted to fuck!

As my thoughts really were getting dirty, she turned to me with a huge smile on her face. Her face appeared another moon reflecting the sunlight. Mrs. Soju then took one popcorn and gently pushed it toward my lips. But just as I was about to bite on it, she flinched and devoured it with a giggle.

At that exact moment, a theater employee dressed in red and gold rang a bell to call us to our seats. I told you, the place was fucking old-fashioned.

Sin City

Luckily, we’d bought a couch-seat. About half an hour into the movie, Mrs. Soju was comfortably cuddled into my arms. The popcorn mixture she had blended for us made the movie even more enjoyable. It tasted spicy and sweet at the same time, with little notes of cumin and rosemary here and there.

As we watched the wonderful orgy of dark violence unfold on screen, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for detective Hartigan and his bomb ticker. At that very moment, Mrs. Soju shed a tear. I could feel it rolling down her cheek because I was teasing the corner of her lips with my fingers.

“So much darkness, so much sex”, she said in her irresistibly childlike accent.

“Is that why you cry?”, I asked with a smile.

I did not get an answer. Instead, Mrs. Soju gave me the fieriest kiss I’ve ever experienced in my life. And as our spice-coated tongues started their boisterous dance with one another, Cape Town finally revealed her last lesson to me: instead of believing in God, to believe in women… balls deep.

On the screen, the American bloodshed continued.

The fucking takeaway?

That’s easy.

1. If you haven’t been to Africa, you don’t know life.

2. If you haven’t tasted a girl from the Far East, you don’t know sex.

One last detail before I go. In all of the wide Far East, Korean girls kiss the strongest, Chinese girls kiss the softest, but only Japanese girls will kiss you with the sloppiness of true mad lovers.

Get on a plane. Now!