So, by the title of my blog page you’ve probably guessed that I live in Bo Kaap, or as some ‘posh’ people like to call it, the ‘Upper Cape’. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a predominantly Muslim area nestled on the belly of the lion in Cape Town on the City Bowl side.
Most people know it for its vibrantly colourful houses and beautiful pebbled streets. Its little lanes and quirky coffee shops have this magical ability to sneakily trick your mind into thinking you’re wandering around a quaint European village. My street’s not like that. No, my street makes you want to lock your car doors and turn your rings around.
I guess it’s the combination of the few houses that appear to have taken a pounding by a lifetime of angry South Easters (and in some cases a wrecking ball) and the gangster cats that look like they’ve seen more shit go down than Al Capone. Amongst other things.
Why do I live in a place that would send most people packing to greener Green Point pastures? Well, because I’m a bad ass blonde that don’t take no shit from no one. Ok, not really. But I did survive Brixton in London YO. Bo Kaap, huh, I laugh in the face of Bo Kaap. Again, not really. Seriously though, I live here because I wanted to buy a place in the city and it was the only area I could afford that had houses big enough to swing both my cats in.
Our friends and family looked at us like they would lambs being sent to slaughter when we told them we were considering buying a house here. But we did it anyway. And you know what, a very strange thing happened the day we moved in. Our next-door neighbour knocked on our door, introduced himself and invited us around for a drink. Not quite the gangsta’ welcome I was expecting. So we accepted, gratefully, considered taking the Taser with, briefly, and headed over.
That was a year ago, and I have since become acquainted if not, dare I say it, friendly with a lot of the people that live on our street. Turns out they’re not the criminal kingpins we had been warned about. Well, not all of them anyway. So I can happily and childishly say “I told you so” to all those doomsayers on two accounts. One: my car (or Marc’s car rather) has only been broken into once, and two: we are both still alive.
In fact, I’m going to go a step further and say that this happens to be the most community-orientated place I’ve ever lived. I have neighbours who care, and I’m not just talking about your average curtain twitcher who creepily spies your daily activities with an unhealthy obsession. I mean real-life people who show genuine concern when your alarm goes off or if your cat goes missing. A concept that I thought had died with the birth of prison-high walls and electric fences.
Let me tell you a little story to show you what I mean. We’d been living here for about 3 months when we decided to go away for the weekend. Whilst unpacking on our return we were approached by one of our neighbours. “Katie,” he said sternly “I am very cross with you.”
“I’m so sorry. Um, why? What did I do?” came my rather confused reply.
“You went away and never asked me to watch your house!”
Yes, this shit actually happens here. But this is starting to go on a bit, so let me get to the point.
We all live in our own little bubbles; too scared or just too unwilling to say a simple ‘hi’ or even make eye contact with the ‘stranger’ we pass in the street everyday. This world has made us very hard people. People who think everyone’s out to get us or screw us over. We battle to trust and have been conditioned to be suspicious of even the kindest gesture. We have an inflated sense of paranoia, and the saddest part about it is, it’s all warranted.
But moving here has shown me that we don’t have to live like that. Sure, be vigilant and aware of what’s going on in your street, but maybe next time you see your neighbour, say hi. Or hell, be daring and go around there. Take your pepper spray with you if it will make you feel better, but just go and introduce yourself. And you might find they’re not the axe-wielding serial killer you thought them to be. That bone-chilling drilling sound was just, in fact, him putting up pictures for his lovely wife who’s dedicated her life to finding a cure for cancer.
Ok, I’m getting carried away. But all I’m saying is your neighbours could be pretty normal people. The kind of people who wouldn’t mind lending you a cup of sugar every now and again. Who knows, and I’m just putting it out there, they may even be the type of people you could actually be friends with.