A slice of cake

I love to travel. It reminds me of having a really decadent slice of chocolate cake. It is not something that I would like to do every day, but when I have the opportunity, I love to embrace the experience, the charm, with each of my senses.

I was recently blessed with an invitation to visit a dear friend in Cape Town. My journey started already in planning; the organization and packaging of it. The night before my flight, I could barely sleep with excitement and anticipation, just as I do every year on the day before my birthday. It is the magic of life, being excited.

I wake up very early in the morning of my flight and set off in that hazy burst of drowsiness and distraction to get to some important place within time constraints. To such an extent that I miss the correct detour and am forced to take the scenic route. Chuckling, I let go of the accumulated tension and settle into the warmth and abandonment of going with the flow. And so I do, with all my luggage, shopping, and electronic paraphernalia, with plenty of time to spare. Blessed is the surrender to what should be as you want and the temporary suspension of prejudice and subscription to our programmed social belief systems.

The search proceeds without any drama to me and I walk over to an empty table in a gleaming cafeteria. Only after unpacking all the electronic paraphernalia mentioned above do I realize that I have to place my order at the counter. My bag was once “confiscated” by a stranger in such a situation at a deli in New York, so I’m about to start packing everything up, when a friendly fellow traveler offers to keep an eye on my gear as I go and have my coffee. I check my intuition and decide that I should put this fear aside as well, temporarily leaving my cell phone, laptop, and purse on the bright coffee table in the bright cafeteria as I make my way to the busy counter.

A very attractive young man with dreadlocks is enthusiastically preparing the unusually expensive combination of coffee and hot chocolate that I ordered just a minute before. She skillfully froths the milk and pours it over the thick, rich, decayed hot chocolate at the bottom of the mug, topping it off extravagantly with a mini mountain of foam and chocolate chips. As he works, I ask him what time the morning starts. He looks at me and tells me, without bitterness or resentment in his voice or eyes, that he starts at 05:00 every morning and that is why he gets up at 02:30 to get to work on time every day. He is free on Sunday afternoons. He laughs at my disbelief and shrugs. He says he’s still lucky to have a job and that things will get better with time.

Back with my shiny gear on the gleaming coffee table in the shiny little cafeteria, I savor every sip of the hot drink made with such skill and commitment … and at that price. And with so much hope.

About half an hour before boarding time, I decide to top up my nicotine levels and head to the fishbowl smoking section of a nearby pub. The same moment I put all my carry-on luggage on a wooden table, the old lady starts to do the same and we just laugh, turn on, and sit at the same table. With a mischievous gleam in her eyes she tells me that she has been hiding her smoking habit from her husband for almost 40 years and that she is here under the pretext of having gone shopping. She tells me about her impressive trip to Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Beijing. We talk about husbands, children, work and vacations. We squeeze the experience of a lifetime into a half-hour break and two cigarettes and then we say goodbye and go in opposite directions. I realize I never asked her name.

Boarding pass in hand, I queue with my fellow travelers. I turn to an older man next to me and ask him about the purpose of his visit to the Mother City. He smiles broadly when he informs me that it will be his first grandson’s first birthday this weekend, as well as his 40th wedding anniversary. I share their joy and excitement for a moment and then they escort us to our waiting plane and I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of boarding and sitting down.

I wonder for a moment about the charm of life and the people who cross our paths and the pieces of life that we can share, even momentarily. And then I start to get excited about my own weekend visit again.

These are the days worth treasuring.

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