Take a wrong turn out here…

There’s that saying ‘a picture tells a thousand words‘. I’ve been known to use well over a thousand words at a time in describing the goings-on in my life since I arrived here in the Eastern Cape a year and a couple of months ago. I thought I’d switch it up a little, and let a few images tell this latest story.

After I wrote that exam at the end of June my girlfriend Meryl came down to Port Elizabeth for a little bit. Having her around, and being able to see her everyday was a welcome reprieve from having to think about medical physiology all the time…

Dinner at one of the very many nice restaurants in Summerstrand. Good view of the beach that evening...

Dinner at one of the very many nice restaurants in Summerstrand. Good view of the beach that evening…

A bench in a little clearing at the bottom of Fordyce road in Walmer is a good place to sit and look out over Settlers Park Nature Reserve which is in a deep valley in between Walmer and Port Elizabeth Central. It was a llittle chilly though, Meryl wouldn't get out of the car so I just took a couple of snaps.

A bench in a little clearing at the bottom of Fordyce road in Walmer is a good place to sit and look out over Settlers Park Nature Reserve which is in a deep valley in between Walmer and Port Elizabeth Central. It was a little chilly though, Meryl wouldn’t get out of the car so I just took a couple of snaps.

Will Shakespeare has a play, I have a theatre. The curtain is yours…‘ It being that time of year we drove out to Grahamstown for the first weekend of the Arts Festival.

We're always roadtripping off to somewhere...

We’re always roadtripping off to somewhere…

Meryl being silly (ie being Meryl :-P ) in front of this cool sculpture we came across in Grahamstown

Meryl being silly (ie being Meryl 😛 ) in front of this cool sculpture we came across in Grahamstown

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I've mentioned the Jittery Citizens before I think. They are an improv comedy act that Meryl and I saw on our first date. So almost exactly 2 years later it was good to catch them at the National Arts Festival.

I’ve mentioned the Jittery Citizens before I think. They are an improv comedy act that Meryl and I saw on our first date. So almost exactly 2 years later it was good to catch them at the National Arts Festival.

The best piece of theatre we saw over that weekend was Body Language II: The Mating Game, a 50 minute solo high energy physical comedy in which Gaetan Schmid animatedly gave us his take on everything from the Big Bang Theory right through to the underlying evolutionary reasons for the roles of the sexes at a traditional South African braai (barbeque) to the subconscious and not-so-subconscious deliberate reasons why a girl actually allows you to notice she’s checking you out. It was fascinating stuff, and a good laugh all the same time.

It's just over 2 years now.  Meryl has added a special spice to my life...

It’s been just over 2 years now. Meryl has certainly added a special spice to my life…

This statistic may or may not be anecdotal but apparently there are more churches in Grahamstown than can be found within the limits of any other town/city in South Africa, a curious fact considering it is effectively a student town, built around Rhodes University.  This particular church is the Anglican cathedral, named after both Saints George,  and Michael.  Also curious,  I thought 😌

This statistic may or may not be anecdotal but apparently there are more churches in Grahamstown than can be found within the limits of any other town/city in South Africa, a curious fact considering it is effectively a student town, built around Rhodes University. This particular church is the Anglican cathedral, named after both Saints George, and Michael. Also curious, I thought 😌

An eerie bell tower on the grounds of St Andrews College, an 'uppity' institution according to a friend of mine :-P

An eerie bell tower on the grounds of St Andrews College, an ‘uppity’ institution according to a friend of mine 😛

On the weekend of 10 July we were in Knysna. I ran the Knysna marathon, an interesting experience. One has to be in Knysna the Friday night before the race to register and get a race number. The next morning from about 4.30am runners are taken up by minibus to a point up a mountain where we gathered wrapped in cozy red blankets (that were subsequently given away to charities) around little fires, waiting for the 7am and 8am marathon and half-marathon starts. When the starters gun was finally fired we set off on a route that seemed to ascend incessantly through the Knysna Forest.

I couldn't resist getting a couple of shots of the mountainous scenery along the route

I couldn’t resist getting a couple of shots of the mountainous scenery along the route

What else is there to do early on a Saturday morning? I mean surely shuffling along a dirt road on the side of a mountain is at the top of that list, no? :)

What else is there to do early on a Saturday morning? I mean surely shuffling along a dirt road on the side of a mountain is at the top of that list, no? 🙂

4hours 12 minutes wasn't too bad a return for what was a very tough hilly course, I feel...

4hours 12 minutes wasn’t too bad a return for what was a very tough hilly course, I feel…

Lunch at the waterfront afterwards

Lunch at the waterfront afterwards

We drove across to Jeffrey’s Bay after the race.

Jeffrey's Bay

Jeffrey’s Bay

Leaving Jeffrey’s Bay to go back to Port Elizabeth we didn’t take the N2 highway as we would normally have. Instead we drove along the R102, one of the old national roads. It turned out to be an inspired choice…

An old single carriageway bridge that goes over the Gamtoos river

An old single carriageway bridge that goes over the Gamtoos river

I've been asked why I'm still in the Eastern Cape. What is there to love about this place? I mean look, you take a wrong yurn around here and look where you end up

I’ve been asked why I’m still in the Eastern Cape. What is there to love about this place? I mean look, you take a wrong turn around here and look where you end up

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Love, the arts, and horse poo…

 

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Earlier this week, on Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon, I found myself at Maitland’s Beach sitting, watching the sea with my toes in the sand. Actually, to be perfectly honest, (it was pointed out to me by a certain she-person!) my feet and toes were in my slops, and my slops were in the sand… Anyway Meryl was standing knee deep in sea water about 40 metres away from me also looking towards the ocean. This would be a good time to pray, I thought to myself. It was a glorious afternoon for this time of year, the sun was out in full force and there was very little wind. There was only the lazy sound of the sea water to and fro on the beach and I was having a real ‘moment’… Which was interrupted when Meryl very suddenly turned around and ran the short distance toward me. She grabbed my hand and insisted I get up to go and join her. She wanted me to feel the tug of the water as it moved back off the beach after a wave came in. I usually roll my eyes at Meryl’s ideas but I very seldom regret obliging her…

Maitland's Beach

Maitland’s Beach

 

The previous week on Thursday it had been exactly one year since our first date. At the time last year we had gone to see the Jittery Citizens perform an improvised comedy show at the Monte Casino Theatre and Studio. The impromptu antics of the actors on-stage had us in hysterics. This year coming back full circle, we went to see a very animated Tim Plewman at the Athenaeum theatre here in PE. He did a one man comedic act called Designer Genes XXL. His witty take on relationships between us (cave) men and our ever-mysterious, ever incomprehensible partners was from the perspective of one who has been married for many years, but there were definitely  some bits we could relate to. Meryl laughed alot. Men in the relationships were the butt of most of the jokes… 😛

 

Meryl and I at Maitland's Beach...

Meryl and I at Maitland’s Beach…

 

The water and my girl and the beach. The beach, my girl and the water...

The water and my girl and the beach. The beach, my girl and the water…

 

We saw a different theatre show every night of that week actually, it was the second and last week of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Meryl flew in to PE on the Tuesday afternoon and almost immediately we drove out to Grahamstown. We parked my car on the street and were walking around when we were practically accosted by a guy handing out pamphlets for a show called Bench. We hadn’t decided on a play for the evening so we went to see it. It turned out to be a drama pretending to be a comedy (or is that a comedy-drama?) about a couple of thieves sitting on a park bench. While we did laugh some, I felt it was more ‘dramatic’ than funny. Whichever it was, it was still theatre. There is something about the theatre, something pleasingly haunting, expectant. For as long as I can remember I have always felt that way when in a theatre house, while at the same time feeling a sense of familiarity. That probably doesn’t make much sense. I struggle to find words to describe it. There is something about the creativity and energy of a stage performance. Actors climb onto a stage and become other people to tell a story, to entertain… During my BSc days at Wits (before I went to medical school) I spent a lot of time at the Wits Theatre Complex. I would pop in often (read here: lurk 🙂 ) to see if there were any interesting shows coming up. On more than one occasion I was mistaken for being an art student! Maybe I was some sort of performer/artist in a previous life and it is some accident of fate that I have now returned as this nerd-jock hybrid with altruistic leanings. Now I’m rambling, I’ll stop :-P… Suffice to say that an almost 2 week long arts festival happening just an hour and half’s drive away from PE was something I simply could not miss! I hadn’t booked any leave but we squeezed in as much kultcha as we could after work everyday of that week.

I love me a little drama... :)  Unbelievably, this was only my second visit to the Grahamstown Arts Festival

I love me a little drama… 🙂
Unbelievably, this was only my second visit to the Grahamstown Arts Festival

We watched Taryn Papadopoulos Louch (yes that is her name!) do Meze, Mira and Makeup. It is a hilarious enactment of life as a Greek girl growing up in South Africa. She had me really missing Jozi as, in just over one hour her show took us from Krugersdorp to Melville, to Rosebank, and to parts of the Eastrand that I dare not mention (The Greeks do get around!).

 

On Friday at work I was on my own in the ward (again!) which meant that I finished later than I would have liked. I then drove to Seaview somewhat faster than is legal to pick up Meryl. We got onto the N2 and (sped some more!) out to a farm called Papiesfontein just outside Jeffrey’s Bay. Originally booked for 3pm, we arrived at 4.10pm, for what was to be a 2 hour horse riding session. It was Meryl’s idea (as all our best ideas are 🙂 ) The horse riding instructor dude didn’t appear to be too bothered by our tardiness (being chilled I have found, is characteristic of the Eastern Cape, which is why I secretly think I belong here 😛 ).

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Meryl and Pebbles

Meryl and Pebbles

I had been on a horse on only 2 other occasions in my life, both a very long time ago, and Meryl had never been on one so they had 2 ‘beginner’ horses ready for us. This means that they are a relatively old and quite passive. They turned out not to be (passive that is) and were actually quite temperamental, initially not wanting to be led away from the farm-house (apparently this had something to do with it being close to feeding time). We had a good time though, once we managed to coax the horses away from the farm house. We took a gentle ride through some bushes, slowly becoming used to these animals. Meryl’s horse was called Pebbles, and apparently they developed a bond (cue roll eyes 🙂 ) hence her remembering the name. The fact that I don’t remember my horse’s name is supposedly an indication of how well we got along (or didn’t!). At one point my horse (Kitty? no, well maybe) decided she’d had enough for the day and turned around full circle and started trotting off in the direction opposite to the one we were going in. Naturally I stayed cool (in turn, feel free to roll your eyes here 🙂 ) and calmly steered back to face the original direction.

The best part of the ride was about an hour of trotting along on the beach. We had a great time! Somehow I managed to get some horse poo on one leg of my pants. It doesn’t smell as bad as cow-dung the instructor reassured me. He was right, I can thankfully confirm! 😛

Jeffrey's Bay beach ride... :-)

Jeffrey’s Bay beach ride… 🙂

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We drove all the way to Grahamstown after our equestrian experience, getting lost along the way. Somewhere on the route the N2 had become N10 without me noticing 😮 No I had not been using the GPS, at least not initially. This is the thing: (Me, explaining myself) If you always do things properly and you’re always organised, nothing interesting ever happens. Being a little bit of a hapless klutz is part of my charm.. 🙂

We got to Grahamstown quite late on Friday night.

The next day we met up with Alain, a buddy of mine from medical school. He had been in Grahamstown for the previous 2 days mostly enjoying the various performers at the jazz festival. We watched a dance show called Bruising. I can’t say much about it, all I remember seeing (during the bits when I hadn’t dosed off!) were writhing bodies and cardboard boxes. My feelings on dance shows (‘physical theatre’ as the connoisseurs put it) are quite the opposite of my sentiments on theatre. Meryl enjoyed it though, which means I’ll have endure some more of that again some time…

As if we hadn’t done enough that week already, we again left Grahamstown and drove to Jeffrey’s Bay, stopping in Seaview to pick up Serena and 2 of her friends. The Jeffrey’s Bay Winterfest was on and Serena had gotten the bunch of us tickets to see PHFAT and Jack Parow live.

Clockwise from left myself,  Meryl, Serena, and Jazmine at J-Bay Winterfest!

Clockwise from left myself, Meryl, Serena, and Jazmine at J-Bay Winterfest!

PHFAT were on first that evening, they are a rap group from Cape Town. Rap isn’t my absolute favourite genre but I listen to pretty much anything that is good (except jazz!) I had heard some of their stuff on the radio and I was curious, and quite looking forward to seeing them. I was not disappointed. If I may be so blunt it is quite something that they are a South African rap act, and a white SA rap group at that. Their beats are rythmic, and there is a lot of that distortion-synth type effect that you get in electronic music these days. Add to that some solid lyrics, a lot of which are crude but then again what rap music isn’t? I’m still in the processing stage but I like them, I think.

Jack Parow is also from Cape Town (#Belville 😛 ). He came on much later that night, I’ll admit that by that time I was somewhat distracted, the week’s up-down catching up to me perhaps, I was pretty keen to get home. He came out in a pair of boardshorts, a vest and wore that characteristic long-peak cap and did his thing with vigor!

Side view of PHFAT in action on stage at the Jolly Dolphin, Jeffrey's Bay

Side view of PHFAT in action on stage at the Jolly Dolphin, Jeffrey’s Bay

 

Vintage Parow...

Vintage Parow…

We got back to Seaview and fell asleep at about 4am. The next morning I overslept and didn’t make Dario’s son’s baptism at St Bernadette’s. This was yet another commitment that was scheduled for that crazy week! 😐 We passed by their house in the early afternoon and spent a bit of time with them and their extended family and friends.

That is the week that was (before last week). So when I found myself on my backside at Maitland’s beach last Tuesday it was, quite literally the first calm moment I had since the previous Tuesday…

Meryl flew home to Jozi, and I got back to work, squeezing in the studying, running and takin’ it eazy in the EC… 😉

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