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altered states, vortices, and kitties

“There’s just something about that mountain,” Corette said, as we drove away from the airport past the iconic table-shaped landscape of Cape Town. “You can just feel it. If I close my eyes and spin around, I’ll still be able to tell you where that mountain is—just by feeling it.”

It’s true. There is something about the mountain—and seeing it again after three years makes me feel an unlikely combination of both gratitude and longing.

School has been on break in between the first and second term and I seized the opportunity to go back to Cape Town and stay with the crazy fire faerie circus family I bonded in the Karoo Desert way back when. Now three years later, things look very different—people have married, people have divorced. Babies have been born. Many have moved out of Cape Town, to places like Indonesia and Chile and India and Austria—and many new people have joined. But at the same time, being with everybody again feels like no time has passed.

The very first thing I do after arriving in Cape Town is perform at a bar called Trenchtown—which is coincidentally the very place I met a lot of these faerie folks when I was studying abroad at UCT. I had heard there was fire spinning, and lo and behold—I mustered up the courage to talk to them—“Hi! You don’t know me, but I’m a crazy American who also likes to hurl flames around my body!”—and have been grateful I did ever since.

Immediately after, I taught a workshop at an event, called Rock Your Hoop, hosted by the fantastic folks of Hoop Flow Love—dear friends of mine Sandy & Basil (who just got married. Congratulations!) I took a chance and taught the same class I created for Burning Man—which most people really enjoyed, even in the middle of the duststorm—but I wasn’t sure if it go as well for the South African flow crowd.

Box tech basics—which is something I got into first with double staff, and have since applied it to fans, minihoops, tripling—any two-handed static prop. I’ve figured out some really clever things (at least, I think they’re clever) and have had a lot of fun playing with these moves and creating new ones. So that day, not only did I learn double hoop tricks from Mbali and a whole new array of tosses from Basil—I taught my first box tech class in South Africa. And…

People loved it so much, there was enough demand to organize another class in the last couple of days I was in Cape Town. I even snuck in some box tech into the fan choreography workshop I taught with Connect & Flow, Wayne & Corette (who are also the loving generous folks who I was staying with. Mwah!)

I can’t express how happy it made me to see people master the box tech and immediately apply it to their flow. Because here is the thing about it—no one is doing it! I see the same moves with double staff and fans over and over again. Most people don't even really know what box tech is. (And if you or anyone else is interested in learning, I would be more than happy to send you a video tutorial :] pm me)

Now that more people are playing with it and taking it seriously—just think of the worlds of new moves they will create. Endless patterns. Movement synced with mindgames. Squee!

In addition to teaching adults, I seized the opportunity to teach schoolchildren circus arts for a holiday programme called Circles of Life. Not only did I form relationships with talented kids through fun contact staff games—I bonded concretely with the other teachers (shots of tequila at Banana Jam may or may not have been involved)—and even picked up a little drumming and acrobatics.

Circles of Life took place at a spacious homestead in one of the valleys of Hout Bay, which perfectly encapsulates what the “South African dream” is—at least for everyone I’ve spoken to. The dream of buying some land, growing one’s own food, living off the grid, and living independently with a chosen community of friends and families. Most of my friends have already started their own gardens, and keep the dream alive by talking about it and preparing for it as much as they can. I never realized how much I shared this vision until I was completely surrounded by people who projected it.

I spun fire and stomped madly to incredible music at not one but two psytrance parties—Altered States and Easter Vortex. My glowing experiences would not have been possible without three especially luminous human beings—the first of which being Steven Mullins, who not only drove me to Altered States and back, but who in the past three years has completely dominated the flow arts landscape with his contact staff, dragon staff, and multi-staff expertise. His talents expand to brilliant photography work, which he calls "Manipulating Light." He has also gotten me hooked completely on tripling.

Secondly, Chani—who is actually a friend of Gordon McCracken, who was one of the first people I was introduced to in the U.S. East Coast burn scene. Gogo has been telling me stories about Chani ever since I went to South Africa the first time, and when we found out we were both heading to Easter Vortex, it was like the universe was willing us together. We spent the car ride together talking about how “tails never fail,” and our mutual love for spiders, and I watched in awe of her radiant spirit and relentless love for life.

And finally, Martin Jacques—who I met my first night of Afrikaburn while I was stubbornly trying (and failing) to pitch my tent in the unremitting winds.

“Do you need help?” he had asked.

“No, I’m fine!” I said. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I looked at my tarps flapping wildly around me, and then returned my gaze to him.

“No, I’m not fine. Actually, some help would be great.” I admitted. And that was the start of a beautiful friendship—since then, Martin has taught me some of my first contact staff moves, he has made about half the jewelry I wear, and he saved my life at Easter Vortex when my entire tent flooded with rain and I spent the entire night dancing wildly to the music like a madwoman because I literally had nowhere else to go—approaching him in the morning looking like a “drowned rat.” He let me sleep in his bakkie during the day, which was nothing but soft dry warm fluff.

Martin also gave me a ride back from the party, telling me about strange television shows and comic books called The Gummi Bears and Astrix and Obelix. He also showed me the Shpongle song How the Jellyfish Jumped Over the Mountain, which is coincidentally, a song I have been actively searching for now for over a year.

And I spent the rest of my break relaxing with friends, reconnecting with old ones, swapping stories—and falling in love with some new people. Spreading the gospel about bagels with a people who think that they are just another type of donut. I enjoyed every second with Wayne & Corette’s family in their beautiful home, especially with their two girls, who are now…teenage girls. Before, all they wanted to do was draw pictures and play games and roll around on the floor—now, three years later…they still want to do all of those things, only now they are also very interested in talking about boys and school and their social matrices. We spent an entire day playing Monopoly—which in South Africa, includes only the names of South African cities, cards in Afrikaans, and a currency completely in Rand.

In addition to keeping a beautiful home, Wayne & Corette are also very involved with a shop that my friends Shaz & Duncan created two years ago called EarthDNA...I visited them after much anticipation, having heard about it from the start of its creation. I may or may not have spent a ton of money there.

Crystals and faerie clothes and flow toys galore. The only store in Cape Town of its kind. My favorite tattoo artist and good friend Juli Hamilton (my wings were done by her in Montreal) also works out of the shop.

I also fell in love with their cat, Iziza, who would sit on my chest and cuddle me while I slept, creeping into strange dreams of mine which I would wake up from and find her staring at me, one inch from my face. She also had a strange gravitation to eating my peanut butter sandwiches right out of my hand.

To perfectly encapsulate my Cape Town experience, I introduce Nooshkim—a squishy little stuffed kitten that one of my students, Angela, surprised me with one day. In a way I already knew Angela before I met her, because she also made the turtle Maurice who accompany my friends Shaheen and Shouniez wherever they go (currently, India.) Maurice and I became quite close at a psytrance party called Psycho Stompers, especially when the police searched him at a routine checkpoint and he came to me feeling very violated after...

Now I am honored to have one of Maurice’s family members in the form of this kitty—“I actually don’t know why I made him into a cat,” Angela said.

“No—you don’t even understand how strangely appropriate that is,” I replied.

“He’s perfect.”

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