My long hiatus is now broken! Let the people rejoice! [or not…]

Dear Reader,

After a long hiatus – composed of my last “vacation” days in South Africa, transit back to the US through Frankfurt, and then a two-week home visit – I have been rather busy and haven’t posted anything; that is, until now!

Let me begin by saying that I absolutely love Iyaz. I loved “Replay” and I love his new song “Pretty Girls.” I don’t know why and I don’t care. Saying that, however,  makes me feel dirty or question whether I have some sort of organic brain defect/tumor, given the implications of the following picture:

 

Regardless of my existential dilemmas as they currently exist, I thought I should update you on my status post-Africa.

First things first, my last few days in Africa were awesome! I’d go back at the drop of a hat, quite honestly.

I spent two/three days in Cape Town, on a whim of my superiors (who found someone to host me, etc.). The first day, I merely arrived and visited with my very gracious host. His office had just moved and was still recovering/placing furniture, which meant that I had very little to do other than observe said activities until it was time to go home. We did, however, stop at a bar and have a little South African beer before all was said and done.

Cape Town was beautiful! My second day there began by looking desparately for a wine tour so that I could stay out of my hosts’ hair during his very hectic days running an aid organization for migrants to South Africa. We went to breakfast across from Church Square, at a top-secret location located directly center-right in the following picture:

While there, I had chocolate cake and mocha, frantically paging through something I picked up at the “Cape Town Visitor’s Center” in the airport, trying to find a tour group’s phone number so that I could be set up on a tour. We went to a backpackers’ at Long Street:

And I sat on that very balcony while waiting – finally – for the very last wine tour of the day to arrive at about 8:30am to pick me up and take me to Paarl and Stellenbosch. My host graciously left me in their expert hands – and how wonderful a day it was!

I visited about 5 or 6 wine estates, depending how and what you count. I tasted not merely wine, but also some olives, cheese, and brandy. Lunch was catered in the middle of a vineyard – and was delicious. It was followed by expresso and cake, which warmed my by-now already quite warmed heart.

Eventually, however, I was dropped off in front of St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town – the Episcopal cathedral. I had wanted to see it, but it was – sadly – far too late and the cathedral was closed. With no way to contact my host and having agreed to meet him in two hours in front of the Catholic cathedral, I proceeded to walk toward said cathedral (which was about two blocks away, on the other side of the Parliament building). Whilst proceeding thence, I was accosted on the street by a person seeking money. My repeated ignoring of him and telling him I had no money did not work. Eventually, as I neared the front gate of Parliament, this fellow got rather impatient and began to threaten a bit. I proceeded further toward the nice police station in front of the capitol building at a hurried pace. At last, a policeman walked past and the fellow who was following me took off in a hurry. The Catholic cathedral and rectory were closed tight, only being open for about 2 hours (!) a day. As a consequence, I was stuck there and so sat in front of the police station, reading my breviary, until my host came to pick me up (he was rendered incapable of coming sooner due to being interviewed on the local television station). It was quite dark out by the time I was there and, with crime so prevalent in South Africa, I really had very little choice in the matter.

At least I got a good look! I was, however, on the opposite side of Parliament that this picture shows.

The finished off day two!

Day three began with a visit to the V & A Waterfront. The ferry to Robben Island was not available, sadly, due to bad weather on prior days, which entailed those passengers being rescheduled to the morning I would have been able to go! So, I had oatmeal and expresso on the waterfront, until the Two Oceans Aquarium opened for business. After spending a delightful morning therein, I ventured to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens and climbed up to Skeleton Gorge. After that, I had a delicious “chocochino” (layered drinks of expresso, latte, and thick French hot chocolate on the bottom) while overlooking the town, and ate a very nice vegan burger that was quite possibly the best I’ve ever had.

That finished my days in Cape Town!

Coming back for my final day in Johannesburg, the brothers decided it would be fun to take me to a game park! We went to the Rhino and Lion Preserve where, as one would imagine, I saw both lions and rhinos in abundance.

To give you some example:

This bird hated us.

Baby tiger loved me.

Some white tigers and me. Ballin'

You thought I was done? Lion, fool. Your argument hath been rendered inconsequential.

This lion just wants to get along. But not with haters.

 

Then, finally, I got on my long plane trek home to the US of A.

The first leg of the flight landed in Frankfurt, Germany at 6am, subsequently to board at 7:20am and depart at 8am for the US. I thought, “Hey! I should go see downtown in the hour and twenty minutes I have!” So, I bought a train ticket and RAN through Frankfurt, hoping in vain that the Katharinenkirche was just off the Frankfurt am Main central station. While disappointed at my lack of viewing a beautiful Lutheran church, I did walk along the Main river and walked through the immediate downtown for a good 30 minutes or so. Then I got back on the train with less than no time to spare – 7:20! I got back and RAN as fast as I could to the terminal where my plane was leaving. Luckily, things were not as bad as I thought, as I managed (obviously) to get on the plane with time to spare.

I remember the customs guard did a double take at my passport – “But you just left 45 minutes ago? Is this some sort of mistake?” “No sir – I just know how to TRAVEL like a BOSS.” After which I grabbed my passport from his freshly inked customs stamp and paraded triumphantly into the airport (I then remembered how much of a hurry I was in and so took off like a bat out of hell toward my terminal, mustering as much impromptu dignity as I could).

Almost how it actually went.

And, so you believe my outlandish story of seeing Frankfurt in an hour:

Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof from the window of the train

In the train, in the Hauptbahnhof, leaving back to the airport.

Frankfurt receding in the distance.

 

And that’s how it went! Now I’m back, with a whole ‘nother academic year to handle and my first year of vows completed.

Paraphrasing the revelation at the Ponte Milvio, I think my own motto for the new year should be:

In illud signo vincero!

By that sign [the sign of the Cross], I will conquer!

 

He hasn’t let me down so far!

 

Yours in Christ,

Br. James Dominic, OP

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