Sunny days and intense rays

As yet another week whisks by here in Cape Town I can’t help but reflect on my feelings when I first arrived and my feelings now. I remember feeling frightened by high crime rates, constantly feeling as though I had to watch my back. But as time has passed and Cape Town has become more and more my home, I’ve realized that saying goodbye to this place will be heart breaking to say the least. Four months is just too short of a time frame to indulge in everything this city has to offer. But one thing that has changed for the better since I first arrived is the weather! Which brings me to my weekly update.

Last Thursday the sun came out to play and I enjoyed a beautiful two hours chatting on the Jammie steps with my back facing the sun and listening to the live music event taking place. But as I sat there basking/baking in the sun I came home to realize my entire back was covered in a heat rash. And as much as I enjoyed soaking in that heat, I had given myself a little dose of sun poisoning. If there is anything in the world that makes you miss home aka mom, it’s being sick away from home. But after some advil, a nap, and laying frozen tortillas on my back to ice it, I was able to make it to volleyball practice that evening. 

The following day was a rather productive and much needed cleaning day! Considering its spring time, my roommate and I spent ample time cleaning the room, doing loads upon loads of laundry and just getting our lives back in order. Also, dryers aren’t really a thing here. So everything has to be hung up to dry which means you have to account for the weather. Shoutout to the sun: you may have scorched my back but at least you’ll dry my clothes. 

Saturday, our exchange program headed out quite early for our West coast excursion. We drove to a Khoi San village or museum of some sort that took us around and explained the ways in which they lived off the land. After that we headed to a winery for lunch. Unfortunately the hanger set in (hunger/anger) due to the food taking an hour and half to come out. BUT, it was a beautiful area and also happens to be the place where Rocking the Daisies will take place (a music festival in October). 

Hut

Sunday I woke early to head out to Camps Bay for a glorious day spent playing beach volleyball. I made sure to apply plenty of sunscreen so I didn’t have a repeat of earlier this week. We played a TON of games and I even took a dip into the cold Atlantic. It was incredibly refreshing, but not for more than about 5 minutes max! 

Camps Bay

This Monday I had another wonderful day spent in Nyanga township working with children in an after school program called SHAWCO. Today my group took the grade 4’s to the library which is quite popular. They were a bunch of crazies on the bus ride over, running about and yelling out the windows. But when we got to the library, the settled down a bit and picked out their books. As volunteers we go around and have them read to us to check in on their reading comprehension. At the end of the day I’m always quite exhausted but I’ve started developing really wonderful relationships with the kids. It’s truly a wonderful feeling to return every week and see your students anxiously awaiting your arrival. Every week I try and bring a camera, phone or go pro to try and document my experiences with them, and my gadgets are quite the hit. All of them love posing for photos and videos. My goal is to splice together footage and show it to them on the last day. 

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Next week marks our spring break and I will be headed to Swaziland, Mozambique, and Kruger! It is a 10 day trip and I will most likely be off the grid for the majority of it. So look our for my next post in two weeks time!

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A Weekend on the Water

This past week was definitely one for the books. We had a weekend of perfect weather, and when there is perfect weather in Cape Town you take advantage of it! So the first thing I did after being nominated for the ALS ice bucket challenge was pour a bucket of ice water on my head in the middle of the most populated place on campus… Jammie Plaza. Actually, I didn’t pour it on my head, I asked a nice stranger.. Good way to make friends right? 

We all headed to Stones on Wednesday and then to Claremont Thursday, so come Friday morning we were all hanging pretty hard. But after a relaxing morning listening to music and recovering we headed up to one the coolest and closest spots directly adjacent to UCT campus called the Reservoir. On the way there we stopped in an old lion’s den which used to be a zoo waaaaay back in the day. You could walk into their cages and walk out into the exhibit area. The walls were decorated with graffiti, murals, and messages. The place teemed with abandonment and although it was slightly eerie I found the place to be quite mystifying and beautiful. 

The Lion's DenLion's Den

After that we took a delightful walk to the reservoir. It was spectacular day and I couldn’t picture being anywhere else in that moment. We had to climb through little hole in the fence and cross a little bit of water, but sitting on that grassy slope with a reservoir in front, trees lining the water, and the mountain in the background was absolute bliss. I’m looking forward to days when the sun gets a bit hotter and we can take a dip! 

The Reservoir

The following day our group was off to the District 6 Museum and Robben Island. These would be my second visits at these places because I had already gone earlier when traveling with my mom. This time, we were lucky enough to have a former resident of District 6 tell us a bit about what it was like living there and they pain him and his family went through when they were forcibly removed from their homes. These homes, this community was destroyed in an effort by the Apartheid regime to create a white community in its place. New homes were never built. Now all that remains is open land and the museum itself. Currently, the government is rebuilding homes and trying to give these properties back to their original owners, but in most cases the building process is taking much longer than promised, and more often than not these former residents will not be alive to see their homes once again. 

After that we had lunch in the waterfront, shopped a bit, then boarded our boat to head to Robben Island. It was yet another gorgeous day and being out on the water was incredible. I stood at the bow, closed my eyes, and felt like I was flying. There are few better feelings than the sway of water below you, the wind playing with your hair, and the sun kissing your face. We arrived at the island and started with a walking tour through the prison that Nelson Mandella was incarcerated in for 18 years of his life before being moved to another prison. We were given a tour by a former inmate and shown the different sections in which they kept the political prisoners. We were shown the garden where Nelson Mandella hid his manuscript “A Long Walk to Freedom” before he had a fellow inmate smuggle it out of Robben Island. We were given a chance to see his cell as well. The last part consisted of a bus tour around the rest of the island. Currently the island is inhabited strictly by those who used to work or were imprisoned on Robben Island, their families, and those who work for the touring company today. The fact that former prisoners and former prison guards are able to live in harmony and peace speaks highly of their capacity to forgive and their fight and dedication for a better future. 

The following day we were headed for yet another excursion via boat, but this time it was for something a bit more “lively.” In honor of Shark week we decided that Sunday was a perfect day to go Shark Cage Diving! First we had to take a 2 hour drive out to the location which was just past Hermanus. Luckily it was quite a beautiful drive and we stopped off in Hermanus to look for whales. Once we arrived we were briefed on the trip and got on the boat. Once again, it was a beautiful day, and even though we had to wait quite some time before seeing our first shark it wasn’t so bad spending a day out on the boat. When I finally got my turn in the cage it was quite a site to see a Great White Shark swimming towards you. Despite the cage being there, I couldn’t help thinking how crazy it was that I was in the same water as the shark. But what I noticed was that these sharks commonly misconceived to be aggressive and lethal didn’t seem to be so. It was a good experience but not one I would do again. It was like holding a treat out in front of a dog and pulling it away before he could catch it. 

Shark

After an exhausting weekend, it was a bit painful to push myself out the door on Monday, especially to go to SHAWCO. But thank goodness I did. It was by far the best SHAWCO session I’ve had thus far. I even earned my t-shirt! For those of you who haven’t read my previous posts, SHAWCO is an organization that heads into the townships and puts on educational programs for the children. My particular group goes to the township called Nyanga. I am currently teaching the grade 4’s. They are starting to remember me which is making class a little easier to control. It can be painful getting through the math portion as they fight over the limited pencils and longing to run around outside, but I promised them if they finished their work we would go play soccer (football) outside. The kids were fascinated by my GoPro as well which has made for some very fun photos and videos! Looking forward to returning next week. 

Curiosity

This coming weekend I will be heading on a West Coast Excursion and possibly sand boarding the following day. Thanks for reading! 

Barriers Between Us

Over the course of just one week a lot has happened here in Cape Town that has altered my experience for the better and increased my understanding of life as a South African. One of the events put on by my exchange program is an overnight stay in the township Gugulethu, which occurred this past weekend. Additionally, I had my second week volunteering for SHAWCO, more volleyball practices, and of course several nights out on the town. This piece is titled barriers between us mainly because this past week I’ve felt a huge language barrier not only during the overnight in Gugulethu and volunteering through SHAWCO in Nyanga, but also within the South African accent itself during classes and volleyball practices. For those of you who have not been blessed to hear a South African speak: 1. you are missing out. 2. it’s this fascinating blend of a British and Australian accent. 3. There are 11 official languages spoken in this country, so add in a slight slang/twang/click etc for each one (Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsongo, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu). Both township communities of Gugulethu and Nyanga are primarily Xhosa speaking but also speak English as well. I’ll begin with my experience during our overnight stay in “Gugs”.

We left Saturday morning around 11 am with a very little knowledge of the experience awaiting us other than the negative overgeneralizing comments often associated with townships. These were thought to be and known as undesirable places to live due to high crime and high poverty. It can be traced back to the apartheid era and its continual lasting effects on South Africa’s geographical divisions and huge wealth disparities. Upon entering the township the poverty level was evident as we peered out the windows on our bus to see a city comprised of shacks and shanteys. The dirt roads were lined with trash, wandering dogs, and unsupervised children. We reached our meeting place and had an absolutely AMAZING home cooked south african meal. Afterwards we headed to an orphanage in the township to learn about what they do and play with the kids. After heart wrenching goodbyes, we took a walk to a marketplace where I tried my first ever “smiley”. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term, its basically a sheep’s face. 

Smiley

After that exciting snack, we returned to our meeting place to meet up with our house moms! We had been informed the night before that my group would be attending a wedding and sure enough, there was our house mom Loretta with her friends all dressed up and ready to go! We threw on some nicer clothes and off we went. To my surprise we began to drive out of the township for the wedding reception. Me and my exchange program peers were the only white people in attendance and we received a few questioning looks. It was also challenging because most of the speeches and blessings were done in their native tongue, Xhosa. But after our host mom (who doubled as the MC) announced that we were visitors from the U.S. we were warmly welcomed by guests and even the bride and groom! They told us they were honored we were at their wedding reception and we went on stage to take a photo with them. I found a perfect dancing partner as well, roughly 6 years old and absolutely adorable. By the end of the night we were exhausted and returned home with our house mom. She lived in a quaint but nice two-bedroom house. We chatted in the living room next to the space heater to get to know each other better. But we retired quickly to bed because we had to attend church the following morning. 

The next morning we woke up to a delicious home cooked breakfast and were taken to church. Here we experienced the same barriers with language, but it was wonderful to experience the inclusion of music into their services. If there was ever a break in speech or too long of a transition, someone would initiate and song and one second later the entire congregation was standing, clapping, and singing. After church was over it was time to head to the most famed Sunday activity in the township….. Mzoli’s!

Mzoli’s is famous for its Braii, or in other terms BBQ. To get access to Mzoli’s you have to show proof of your meat purchase. Inside the venue, there is a DJ, bar, tables, and dancing. To me this proved to be one of the most authentic experiences in Cape Town thus far. The braii was out of this world, drinks were cheap, and atmosphere was fun and lively. It’s safe to say we will definitely be returning!

After an eventful weekend, it was time for yet another Monday, but with the start of another week of school is another Monday of SHAWCO. Back to the township I went but this time to Nyanga and this week I decided to help out with grades 4-6. I noticed they lacked volunteers, yet there were a ton of kids to be attended to. This week was a bit more challenging than last. We were given the lesson plan for the day which was a math exercise followed by arts. So we walked in and attempted to take control of the classroom. It didn’t help that it was pouring rain that day so one of the students was in the back corner taking off his pants. This inflicted a sea of laughter and out roars among his peers. The two other volunteers I was with were new this week as well so we were all at a loss of what to do. We somehow managed to get through the lesson and were rewarded by the arts portion in the end when the kids wanted to show us the work they had accomplished. (The math section felt a little more like pulling teeth). Although I left SHAWCO drained of energy, I realized that this was the grade that needed the most help and attention so I’ve decided to stay with the grades 4-6. Below is a photo of some our students with their art work. Here we experienced a lot of difficulty with the language barrier. As soon as we controlled the classroom, there would be an outburst by one child in Xhosa, which none of us volunteers could understand. I’m going to start practicing some basic phrases so I’ll be more prepared for the little monsters! I mean, angels 😉

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After returning home from SHAWCO I had a little time to rest until it was time to head to volleyball practice! One of the other girls in my house is on the team as well which is a really nice motivating factor. Our other coach finally came today and introduced himself as what sounded like “Roy”. We kept asking him “what?” and he repeated his name once more. We still didn’t quite catch it. He then put on his American accent…. GRANT! My teammate/housemate and I exploded with laughter. That accent will never get old. Our first game is this coming Saturday so look out for updates on that next week!

One last thing I’d like to share is my experience hiking Lion’s Head. I went last Friday morning after a late night out and it was just the thing I needed. It was rejuvenating, exciting, challenging, and totally rewarding at the top. There were portions of the hike that you had to use ladders, hand holds, and chains. One popular thing to do here in Cape Town is hike Lion’s Head during full moon! That will be the next adventure!

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Discovering the unfamiliar

These past two weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of adventure, new experiences, and falling deeper in love with Cape Town. This week marks my second week of classes and its safe to say the reading is piling up quicker than ever. This semester I’m really trying to take courses that culturally enhance and educate my experience here. So, I am taking Social Race, Class, and Gender; Individual and Society; African Dance; and Introducing Africa: History, Politics, and Culture. Although the sociology courses are somewhat similar to courses I have taken back in the States, the context of South Africa completely transforms the material and offers an extremely interesting insight into the root of societal issues here. Thus I am discovering a country very unfamiliar to my own.  So far I’ve attended bigger lectures than I’ve ever experienced back home at Chapman, but along with those lectures are mandatory weekly tutorial groups. Here we are in a much smaller space with much less people and we are able to actually discuss and ask questions about the material covered in classes and readings. One of the themes that continues to pop up in lectures is the intersectionality of race, class, and gender and the lasting affect the Apartheid era still has on many South African citizens. The history and culture of this country is truly fascinating and I am looking forward to learning more and living more of it during the rest of the semester. 

Aside from a schedule filled with lectures and tutorials I can assure you that I fill every other moment of free time with activities and most importantly fun! These include attending UCT sport games, both football (soccer) and rugby, trying out and making the UCT varsity volleyball team, volunteering for an organization called SHAWCO, going clubbing and bar hopping, and attending a music fest called Cold Turkey. If there is one thing you should know about Cape Town, there is ALWAYS something going on. First I’ll start with the sports.

So far, I’ve attended 2 football games and the school spirit far surpasses that of my home university which is a VERY nice change of pace. At the first game, we made some real South African friends which as silly as it sounds is quite exciting. (Their accents never get old). At half time they pull people out to the field to kick soccer balls for a 2000 rand prize as well as have a little dance competition. So far no one from the Arcadia group has gone up, but I can assure you by the end of the season someone will be brave enough to go try, and we all know the bar tab will be on them for that weekend 😛 As fun as the the soccer games are, I wanted to discover a new sport very unfamiliar to me. So I attended my first ever rugby game. It was a rather rainy weekend, so the field was pretty muddy and upon arrival, we noticed the boys were too haha! I can’t say rugby has won me over from American football quite yet, but it was definitely a very entertaining sport to watch. Especially because UCT Rugby team has just won the Varsity Cup, which I guess makes them the best team in South Africa! My last sport experience involves trying out for the UCT women’s volleyball team. Not only is this a way to stay active while playing a sport I love, but it also gives me a great opportunity to create strong friendships within the team. We’ve had one tryout/practice so far and to say I’m sore is an understatement. The balls they use here are slightly different than the ones at home, so my forearms are not very happy with me. But, I’m extremely excited to start competing again and be part of a team here at UCT!

Next I’d like to share my experience with this organization called SHAWCO. SHAWCO is a volunteer organization that helps tutor, teach, and play with kids in the townships throughout South Africa. There are all different age groups and locations that you can choose to do. I’ve chosen to work with a project titled Little Moon, which works with kids grades 1-3 in a township called Nyanga. This past Monday was our very first day and I am already so thrilled and humbled with the experience I’ve had. The kids in this village speak the language Xhosa, and for those of you don’t know, this language involves several different clicking noises and is EXTREMELY hard to pick up on. As I tried to help them with english, math, and reading, they tried to help me understand them and their language. Finally we settled on dancing and games, something we both could understand. As you can see in the photo above, they were absolutely fascinated by my GoPro and we had a lot of fun filming and dancing around. The boy that tutored was named Balinezo. (He is pictured on the far left). I’m looking forward to seeing him every Monday for the rest of the semester! 

Lastly, but not least is the music scene and night life in South Africa. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, there is never a dull moment in Cape Town, and the night life here backs up that statement 100%. There are three main areas that people go out: Claremont, Observatory, and Longstreet. As I’m sure you can assume, we have been to all three. Several times. People here don’t go to sleep I swear. But it’s been a great experience bonding with my house mates and a fun opportunity to meet some locals. One particular event I attended was called Cold Turkey. It was a rather “underground” music fest located at the train lodge, which is basically two abandoned trains that have been transformed into a hostel. In the middle of the two trains was space for lounging, dancing, a bar, and most importantly the DJ booth. After spending an entire day walking around the city, my house mate Zach and I finally found this event. We told ourselves we would spend a max of 4 hours there considering it was a Sunday. If this is any indication of how much we had, we ended up staying for 8 hours! 

Cape Town continues to thrill, humble, and educate me through all of these experiences. Looking forward to sharing more next week! This weekend we will be doing an overnight in a township! As always thank you for reading.