August 13 & 14, 2005
Cape Town - Days 1 & 2
The remaining days of the Botha - Romich activity were to be in the Cape Town area, in the southwestern edge of South Africa. I left the Protea Hotel by taxi with Jen and Marsha around 11:15 AM, plenty of time for my 2:00 PM British Airways flight to Cape Town. The flight was nearly two hours, a good match for the battery charge in my laptop.
Prior to the trip, I had been contacted by Graham Clarke, a Cape Town resident who uses a PRC Liberator. Graham wanted to meet me at the airport and guide me to the home of Maureen Casey. Maureen lives in Durban and generously offered her Cape Town home for my use during my days there. I had organized a car rental, but was thrilled with the offer to guide me to my first destination. South Africans drive on the left and sit on the right. Adding that to a manual transmission and totally unfamiliar roads did generate a little startup anxiety. Graham's good friend Margot Luyt did the driving of Graham's red 1994 VW Microbus.
Graham is a bit of a local celebrity and before we could leave the arrivals area a couple members of his fan club arrived. This is the daughter of one of his early teachers and her husband.
Graham's story is moving. In 1984 he was a health inspector, but had come to have an interest in people with disabilities. In order to give himself an opportunity to sort out where he wanted his life to go, he signed on to do a term as medic on Marion Island with a weather research group, under dozen people total. Marion Island is South African, but located about half way to Antarctica, about five days travel by ship. While there he had a stroke. For the next bit, the news media covered his situation extensively. At the time Margot was working for a South African public radio station. While she was keenly aware of Graham's situation, they didn't actually meet for another fifteen years.
Four years after the stroke, which left Graham unable to speak, he got a PRC Light Talker and then graduated to a Liberator in 1995. He accesses it using the headpointing accessory and is an eloquent talker. He says of himself before having his communication system: "I was nothing." Graham also uses the Liberator to access his computer.
In 1996 Graham came to the US for the Pittsburgh Employment Conference and then visited Prentke Romich Company. He stayed at the PRC guest house, addressed a PRC employee meeting, and visited the Holmes County Training Center where he met Amish friends from ACOLUG (Augmentative Communication OnLine User Group). He gets around. In 2002 he attended the ISAAC Conference in Denmark.
Graham and Margot took me to the home of Maureen Casey, who had generously offered to allow me to stay there since she was in Durban. They also gave me Graham's mobile phone which proved to be a wonderful resource.
Sunday morning, I was picked up by the Allen family: Lance, Brenda, Jamie (13) and Domenique (10) who uses AAC. They took me to breakfast in a local shopping mall. I also was able to take this opportunity to connect to wireless Internet for email transfers.
Jamie is part of the ZipZap Circus School and we took her to practice.
Then the Allens took me to Margot's home where Graham had spent the Saturday night, a routine thing. Margot and Graham had a day of touring planned for me. We started off to the east past the airport and drove past some extensive areas of informal settlement: squatters. This is apparently the same difficult problem here that we had seen in Soweto last Friday.
Then we dropped down to the coast and followed it around to the east side of False Bay. We drove through Gordon's Bay where Margot spent the first several years of her life. She pointed out the house which was at the base of a mountain. She told of swinging on the swingset and her mother would call them in when the baboons came around. Then they'd sit in the house and sulk watching the baboons play on their swingset. One time they couldn't leave their home when a leopard was sitting on the front porch.
Our destination was Betty's Bay, but we made a brief detour through Pringle Bay, where Margot and her daughter Jacky shared wonderful memories of weekends in the pink house. This is a magical place of great beauty, even when cloudy and wet.
We had lunch in the tea room of a botanical garden in Betty's Bay. However, the weather precluded exploring the grounds. On the right is Jacky's boyfriend Stephanus Landman who was a great help with getting Graham in and out of the van.
Margot shared some of the difficulties of Jacky being a small girl in apartheid when Margo was labeled white and Jacky was labeled non-white. For example, they could go to the opera house together, but not to the cinema. I very much enjoyed my time with all four of these delightful people. At the end of the day, we returned Graham to his place and then I was dropped off at Maureen's home. This had been a most wonderful introduction to Cape Town.