Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Real Cape Town experience: On [accidently] ordering a Giant Gaspy and being Surrounded by Street People

My Icelandic friend that I met in Turkish class in Istanbul arrived today to be my travel buddy for the next two weeks (yes, Icelandic friend….we met in Istanbul…I have an eclectic set of people in my life…haha) and though she got no sleep on her overnight flight from Dubai, we decided the best plan of action was to just go go GO and do a tour of Waterfront and Downtown to see a bit of the city since she will only have 3 days in Cape Town. We had a nice meander down to the fancy and beautiful Waterfront neighborhood stopping along the way at a classy coffee joint I’ve been meaning to try called Origin Coffee where they ask you to pick your own coffee bean (we had Rwandan because I’ve never had coffee from Rwanda before) and they serve you their version of a cappuccino called a Flat White. 

We spent a little bit of time taking in the beauty of Waterfront before taking a minibus back to downtown and wandering over to check out the parliament buildings. 

Before setting out on our walk up Long St. (the main street in town…) we decided to get a snack from a shady little food stand near the train station. The snack we chose was something that neither I, nor my classmate that was spending the afternoon with us had tried: the Gatsby. Various South Africans that live here in Cape Town had told me that I simply MUST try a Gatsby before leaving Cape Town, so I had high hopes for this sandwich. So my Icelandic friend and I ordered a Gatsby made of Boerwores (the South African beef sausage) in a “large” size since we’d all 3 be sharing 1 sandwich. The guy then asked us “how many pieces do you want it cut into?” and we should have realized our mistake there. That would be mistake #1.

A long 15 minute wait later, we receive a GIANT white paper covered roll from the laughing men behind the counter. This was our sandwich. We started laughing uncontrollably. There was no way we could eat this thing! It was only the then that we saw on the menu that there was an option to get a ¼ version. Mistake #2.

So after realizing we can’t eat this ginormous thing walking around, we proceeded to wander around the area for 10 minutes trying to find a place to seat ourselves that wasn’t next to a bunch of homeless beggers, we finally settled on a bench next to the food stand. We began to rip open the white paper and the mess of a sandwich (soaked bread, soggy French fries, pieces of sausage) came pouring out every which way. And as we were trying to figure out how to separate this gastronomic mess into pieces for each of us to attack, we began to attract the attention of a handful of local crazy homeless beggers, a common resident of many a Cape Town street. Before we knew it, as we’re taking messy bites of a less-than-delicious Cape Town street food classic (the Gatsby sandwich I mean), there’s a crazy woman standing next to us staring us down as we look at her. We tell her kindly that we’ll give her leftovers after we’re done and then awkwardly go back to our messy business as she silently continues to stand over our shoulders watching our every move. I really thought she’d stand there staring at us until we finished and gave her the rest of our mess. Finally she gets the idea that we aren’t ready to give her food yet and she wanders away to sit 5 feet from us waving her feet around and rocking back and forth, still staring at us as we eat. Another man sits on a bench nearby and shouts at us “can I have your leftovers??”
We respond yes, after we finish if there is any left, he can have it. He gets all happy and proceeds to laugh and smile and tell us to enjoy every bite. After 15 minutes of trying to somehow get this mess of a lackluster sandwich into our mouths, we all give up and as another woman approaches us asking for a piece, without consulting each other, start giving pieces to various homeless people that have congregated around us as we 3 white girls were trying to eat this very messy food item. After we give away the rest of our 3 pieces, the man at the bench next to us comes over and, since we’re too lazy to try and portion out the remaining half of the sandwich, we just give it to him and tell him “just make sure you share!” to which he says “Yes of course!” takes the sandwich and starts to walk away. [that was Mistake #3…] Another women comes over and starts yelling “NO BUT YOU MUST SHARE YOU MUST SHAREEEEE!!!” at which point we all look at each other and quietly start to walk away very very quickly because we fear we might have started a very nasty fight (think pigeons at a park going after that same little piece of bread you threw out on the pavement for them…)

We walked away laughing and commenting what a ridiculous experience we just lived through and wishing we could have taken pictures with the colorful group of beggers that we’d just given sandwiches to, but since they erupted into conflict over the leftover sandwich, we feared they wouldn’t have obliged us.

And that was my experience with the Gatsby. 

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