Reunion # 13, now forevermore known as Reunion-19, is over and all we’re left with is the afterglow. The cloud of COVID19 hung over us throughout the reunion, but the sun shone through, literally and figuratively, every day we were there. Just as the sun was about to set during our evening cruise in Cape Town Harbor, it peeked out between the clouds and the horizon giving us a stunning sunset. As we danced to the old tunes on the boat, I was reminded of a line in a Grateful Dead song that reversed the old adage of every cloud having a silver lining. It went like this:
‘Every silver lining has a touch of gray’.
Yes, we too are graying, and balding, and losing our shapes and our long-term memories of the old school, but especially for this reunion, we chose to concentrate on the silver lining instead, and forgot about the cloud.
Everything we did – and we did almost everything we set out to do – had special meaning during this reunion. Our host Sharon took care of all the changes in real time with a smile as radiant as the sun shining on the vineyards where we tasted exquisite wine just like we did 18 months ago at the Valais vineyards during our last reunion. We didn’t get to take the cable car up to Table Mountain as planned, but instead strolled around the perfectly manicured Kirstenbosch Gardens at its base, getting to and from it in our private double-decker tourist bus.
When the ban on the sale of alcohol after 6 PM was announced, we had impromptu gatherings at Pradeep’s and Alfie’s AirBnB’s on two separate occasions, and toasted the ban with pink champagne. We re-told old stories as we ate lunch at a dockside restaurant on our way to the Cape of Good Hope, where some of us took the funiculaire up the mountain, reminiscent of the old days at Bluche. We made the reunion official by having our two main events, the soiree and the ‘promenade obligatoire’ at the Cape of Good Hope, but had to forego the early morning run/walk using the excuse of COVID19 when we knew that in reality, we’re getting too old for that exercise ?. We made video calls to alumni who had to cancel their plans last-minute, trying not to make them jealous as we shared pictures of the safari or of the stunning scenery around Cape Town.
It seemed that everywhere we looked, whether in the game park or within a 50-mile radius of Cape Town, there was something amazing to see. And we were not spared the sights of the sad, harsh underbelly of South African life, as when we witnessed the tent city along the sidewalks of District Six in Cape Town in our double decker bus or when approached by destitute people begging for handouts. Carl, who could not attend the reunion, suggested that Sharon give some of the money left over from our deposits to a local charity, a splendid idea. Hopefully our reunion made a small positive impact on the unfortunate people left behind in Cape Town society, as well as to the local economy.
For those of us who added the safari to our reunion, we were not to be disappointed. We saw the Big Five at the Kapama Wildlife Reserve, along with at least another 45 types of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. The highlights we witnessed were a leopard hunt of an impala, rutting elephants (an embarrassing affair for those not used to such unabashed exposure), a mother rhino protecting her cub, amazing sunsets, lions stalking at night, wild dogs, hyenas, zebras, giraffes, Cape buffaloes, wildebeests, warthogs, and enough impalas to bore you. Each evening, we got off our safari Land Rovers to toast the sunset by a lake as the cast of animal characters changed from diurnal to nocturnal. Then we rode home as the spotlight shone on mysterious eyes starting their own routines.
For someone who has attended all 13 reunions, I have to say that this one was extra special for me because of COVID-19. We were a stalwart bunch. Maybe there is something to be said for maturity, for we did not panic. We went about making Plans B, C and D to get home, with Sharon’s expert guidance. Sharon was more than our host. She was our solid rock, keeping it all together seamlessly to make sure that each of us had a plan in place while continuing to celebrate our deep bonds.
We’re already planning our next reunion in 18 months, to take place in Vancouver, Canada knowing that if we can survive a deadly virus and keep those memories alive, we deserve a victory lap in Vancouver.
The closing line of that Grateful Dead song is:
“Well you know a touch of gray, kind of suits you anyway, and that is all I have to say, it’s alright. We will get by, we will get by, we will get by, we will survive”. Thank you, Sharon (and husband Peter for his patience), the reunion committee of Tom, Alfie, Katy, Thierry, and special thanks to Mikael for keeping the books in order so efficiently. Thanks to all of you who attended knowing that the road back home would be difficult at best.
Here’s hoping for fewer surprises in Vancouver. Meanwhile, stay safe, and stay in touch.
Pradeep Kapadia March 26, 2020
Your 2020 Reunion team
Sharon Taylor Baumann, Mikael Bengtson, Tom Ventser, Katy Jackson Cantor, Pradeep Kapadia, Thierry Coche and Alfie Eu, Your Reunion Team
Feel free to contact the Reunion Team if you have any questions!