The Mother City

On Lion's Head, overlooking Sea Point



In my family, Christmas is, in some ways, just another day. We don’t entertain dreams of being more misanthropic than any other family out there. But, sometimes, the actual day of Christmas is as innocuous as the weekdays that preceded it, and that’s because of people’s work schedules. My uncle, a paramedic, often has work on Christmas Day. My brother’s job permits him to be scheduled on Christmas Day. So, for us, Christmas Eve, or the day after Christmas, is the real family celebration.

This made the night of Christmas Day the opportune time to tell my parents I’m going to South Africa next summer. I found an internship program in Cape Town, and I was already set up to be an editorial intern at The Big Issue magazine. I had the paperwork all printed out, and I handed my mom and my dad a stapled packet of what the program is, where it was, what I would be doing, when I would be leaving, and how much it would cost.

And then my mom rolled her eyes and handed me back the papers.

That was three years ago. I ended up going to Cape Town the summer of 2009. The day after Christmas, everyone in my family knew (and were, somewhat surprisingly, rather supportive, if a bit perplexed).

Christmas lasts for twelve days (sort of), and not just because some song says so. Plenty of time to tell mom what you’d like to do next summer.

My Kingdom for a Kitchen Chicken Sandwich

Today is no ordinary Thursday. The date, June 23, marks two years since six companions and I returned from a road trip along South Africa’s southern coast, stretching from Mossel Bay to Storms River Village—a span of roads and towns along South Africa’s N2 known as the “Garden Route.” To where we returned was South Africa’s Mother City, Cape Town, which is now hosting First Lady Michelle Obama, an event of no particular significance to, well, probably anyone reading this.

For me however—thanks to a timely tweet from @BigIssueSA—this means a great deal, as Michelle Obama apparently stopped at The Kitchen for lunch. The Kitchen, the home of the finest chicken sandwich in Woodstock, a suburb of Cape Town. And, of course, the greatest lunch stop in Woodstock, since it is just up the block from the offices of The Big Issue: South Africa magazine, where I worked from May to August 2009.

I would remiss to not point out that, whatever your opinion of President Obama and his policies—and therefore, whatever opinion you hold of his wife—the image of the United States’ first black First Lady walking around a nation just 17 years removed from apartheid and its first democratic elections is one simultaneously striking and poignant. (Now, if we could just convince Julius Malema that arbitrarily seizing and redistributing farmers’ lands is one of many factors that led to Zimbabwe’s ruin…)

As from here on out, I’ll dedicate this post to Alex, Kuba, Whitney, Riley, Robert, and Dave.