Ed’s note: This is a guest post by Di Russel over at http://dirussell.wordpress.com.
With constantly swirling negativity about South African crime and instability, people become quite confused and even upset when I tell them that I would rather live in Cape Town than Vancouver, Canada. They look at me as if I’m crazy and often ask me if I read the local newspapers. Am I not aware of the problems here??
After explaining myself to no avail, I often give up. But now I am ready to share my reasons with South Africa and the blogging world, whether they are ready to comprehend or not.
1. Let’s start with the obvious. The scenery in Cape Town is simply unparalleled. Yes, Vancouver is beautiful with the ocean and mountains and greenscapes. However, it has none of the drama of Cape Town’s features.
Cape Town’s mountains are more rugged and awe-inspiring (think Table Mountain); its waters are more tumultuous and alive (Vancouver Island prevents the open sea from crashing wildly into Vancouver’s harbours and beaches); its flora is more varied and its fauna more intriguing (where else can you see penguins and baboons in the same day?) Cape Town is visually dramatic beyond belief. I feel alive and energized here.
2. The beaches in Cape Town are second to none. I could have included beaches in the above category, but they are simply too marvelous for words and deserve their own. Rated as some of the best beaches in the world, the long expanses of blindingly white, icing-sugar-like sand are heavenly. Vancouver’s beaches, on the other hand, are rocky, small, and dull, with no crashing waves upon which to surf.
3. Vancouverites are not renowned for being friendly in an overtly outgoing way. Yes, they are NICE (just like baby ducks, old woolly sweaters and cups of hot chocolate are nice) and will help when asked, but there is a palpable reserve, an almost overly polite stiffness, that is not felt when interacting with Capetonians.
People here readily talk to each other: in elevators, on buses, in line ups, on street corners. They offer help, opinions, jokes and smiles without waiting to be smiled at first. Whether it’s your server in a restaurant, a parking attendant, the produce guy or your next door neighbour, you will find yourself having more conversations and more laughs with strangers that you could ever imagine in Vancouver.
4. Wine is produced on hundreds of local wine farms, and it also sells for 1/5 of the price that it does in Vancouver. No, that’s not a typo. 1/5 the price. Enough said.
5. Vancouver’s weather is so wet and gloomy that thousands of its citizens use light therapy and anti-depressants too fight off Seasonal Affective Disorder every winter. Yes, Capetonians, a condition called S.A.D. does exist – it is caused by the lack of light in the winter months when it is grey and gets dark at 4pm every day. Cape Town has sunny weather year round, even in winter, which is very short and could easily be mistaken for a very sunny Vancouver autumn or spring.
6. If you want to know the truth about something, ask a Capetonian. If you want a watered-down, polite, passive-aggressive, politically correct, repressed version of the truth, ask a Vancouverite. Canada’s role as an international peace keeper is reflected in the personalities of its inhabitants.
No one in Vancouver likes to offend, shock, raise eyebrows, engage in heated debate, be rude, be an ‘ist’ (a sexist, racist, ageist, etc.), be controversial, politically incorrect or direct. Yes, Vancouverites are lovely people, but if you want the straight story, and the story requires them to tell you something uncomfortable, don’t bank on getting all the goods in one direct sentence.
7. Cape Town has biltong, Stoney Ginger Beer, Rock Shandies, and Monkeygland sauce. Vancouver does not.
8. The next point is connected to point number 3 and especially connected to point number 6; South Africa produces some fantastic men. Having finally sworn off Canadian men forever (like I said, points 3 & 6 pretty much say it all), I have found South African men to be a pleasing mixture of rugged, refined, risk-taking, and irreverent. They also have sexy accents that turn passionate debates into foreplay, but that’s for another article.
9. I simply LOVE the expats and immigrants I have met here in Cape Town as it seems this country attracts certain types of people: fearless, bold, adventure-seeking, and independent. Cape Town can be a tough place for a person who tends to live a fear-based life. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the crime reports and constant debates over the future of this country.
The expats I am meeting are progressive, forward-thinking, conscious, and committed to living with courage and positivity – truth be told, I think it is the expat community that can lead South Africans into a more positive framework for nation building. Immigrants to Vancouver, on the other hand, are rather the opposite – they have left or fled their countries in hopes of finding peace, stability, and less drama. They are not seeking a more challenging life in which more risk equals more reward.
10. South Africa’s history is long, dramatic and controversial. It is a history of pride, shame, destruction and reconstruction. It is a history that continues to effect the present to a shocking degree. It is a developing country still struggling to find its identity and jump into the first world. For me, a person who loves politics, human rights, conflict resolution and change facilitation, the dynamic nature of this place keeps my mind engaged and my heart open. Vancouver is very set in its identity as a clean, peaceful, outdoorsy city; it has struggles and issues, but none as deep or soul-searching as exist here. The spirit and tenacity of the people in this country astounds and inspires me.
Still don’t get it? Then follow my blog and read it till you do: http://dirussell.wordpress.com
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