Tag Archives: Cape Town

Transitions

Friday was our last day in Cape Town. We awoke to fog, which was rather disappointing since today was the only opportunity for the family to take the cableway up Table Mountain. We crossed our fingers and said a few prayers that the sky would clear.

Reed finished his peace psychology seminar with the students while the family went to the waterfront. We rode the Cape Wheel and browsed the artisan shops. After lunch, we took the hop-on/hop-off bus for a few stops, and then we met up with everyone at the District Six Museum. It is too much to put into words as I blog at this late hour…I encourage you to read about District Six. It is an important story to know.

We said our good-byes to the students, which was quite bittersweet. I am so thankful for a “successful” program and meaningful experience, but it is a special moment in time that we will never share again. I value each person and their journey here, and I am grateful that they invested so much in this.

The family hopped back on the bus and ascended Table Mountain to the lower station. Thankfully, the skies had cleared by now, and it was a unique day to go to the upper station. There was a low bank of clouds over the Atlantic on the “back side” of the mountain. It was stunning. We enjoyed our time and got a lot of nice photos of the spectacular views.

We intended to hop back on the bus, but it didn’t have a scheduled stop for awhile. Instead, we Ubered to Camps Bay for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. We enjoyed some American fare and 80s/90s music videos to mark our last night in Cape Town.

It is time for The Kruger tomorrow…I can hardly wait. Journey mercies to the students as they transition back home.

Reunited… & Robben Island

Wednesday Reed was reunited with the students, and it was a joyous occasion to behold. 🙂 He also got to meet Carmen, Oliver, and Loyiso at VACorps. I walked back “home” while Reed and the students had their first Peace Psychology seminar. Then we all met up at 11:00 and went to the waterfront. We had some time to visit Nobel Square and grab some bites for lunch. The sun was shining down as we strolled through the beautiful seaboard.

All 16 of us assembled at the Robben Island Museum for the 1:00 ferry. It was delayed about a half hour, but then it was a quick 20-minute ferry ride to the island. When you arrive, you board large busses, but the staff miscounted and there was not room for the family (the students were split between two busses). We waited a few minutes, and then a small minibus arrived just for the 9 of of us! Our guide was so knowledgeable about all of the sites around the island, as well as the important history that happened there.

We were impacted by the stories we heard. We also appreciated the beautiful view back toward Table Mountain. We learned that Nelson Mandela used that same view as an inspiration, as I’m sure many others did. It was stunning. We also were able visit the house where Robert Sobukwe resided. And of course we visited the cell of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. It’s too much to summarize the stories of these and many other courageous souls who endured much in the name of equality and peace.

We took the last ferry back and some looked through the museum while others played nearby. Then we enjoyed browsing through the African Trading Post, as well as a delicious meal at Ocean Basket. Ubers swiftly returned us home where we talked, laughed, and prepared for the next day.

After Robben Island, Jackson said that Cape Town is his favorite city. He has a connection going back 6 years when he was first here, and it warmed my heart to know how he felt about being back. There is so much here to learn, see, and feel, and my heart is full to share the time with these dear ones. All 15 of them! 🙂

They are Here!

I am happy to report that the family is here, and we are already enjoying our time together! They arrived around 2:30, and William swiftly got us to our “sustainable giving home.” It was a beautiful, warm day so they got a good view of Table Mountain on the way. William thought we should go directly to the cableway, but the timing was not right after two days of flying!

There was a little time to settle in and shower before heading to Gold Restaurant, where we learned to play the djembe, tried 14 different foods from around the African continent, and enjoyed lots of singing and entertainment (including face painting for all!).

It is late now and all are trying to sleep. Tomorrow if the weather holds we will visit Robben Island!

Learning Lots & Savoring Moments

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent by students working at their placement sites: the Ihata Shelter and Heideveld Clinic. It is hard to believe there is only one more day at these places. Some students have commented on how they’d like to have more time serving there. We wrote cards of thanks today and will deliver small tokens of our gratitude tomorrow. This really is a special bunch of young adults!

We met after the placements each day at what has come to be known as “Café Oliver.” In addition to talking about experiences at the placements, home stays, and life in Cape Town, Wednesday included playing Catan.

I am pleased to report that the new homestay is working out well for the students who went through that ordeal. They get to learn a bit about life here through the eyes of the 8-year-old boy and his dog who reside there. I will return to Good Hope Studies to deliver a letter they wrote to their former hosts explaining their experience. It seems like very important feedback, and I appreciate the students caring about future guests in their home by doing this. Like I said, a special bunch!

I also was able to book a return visit to Langa Township to accompany our student who was ill when we visited on Monday. (That’s where the cool elephant art is.) Thankfully, after going to the doctor yesterday and getting meds to treat a sinus infection, she is on the mend. We are in such good hands here in Cape Town, for which I am very grateful! It is a lot for families to send off their dear ones to such a far-away place. I hope any worries of safety have dissipated by now. We all are doing well, learning lots, and savoring each moment as our time is moving along.

 

Two Days — Two Tours

Sunday we had a historically interesting and stunningly beautiful tour of Stellenbosch. Monday we had a historically interesting and stunningly beautiful tour of Langa. Across these two days we experienced two very different tours.

Sunday in Stellenbosch: It was a perfect day weather-wise…sunny, clear, and around 21 degrees. Our friends William and Ibrahim were our guides, and we set out around noon. We drove east out of the city to the Cape Winelands. The Mediterranean-like climate is perfect for growing grapes, and the hillsides are abundant with vineyards. Being that it is the end of autumn/early winter here, the leaves were golden, particularly with the sun shining brilliantly down.

William slowly strolled us through the old center of town where we admired the gleaming white buildings and Dutch architecture. We saw the posh boutiques, vibrant galleries, sidewalk cafes, many churches, an old trading post, and another slave lodge. The streets were lined with oak trees, first planted by the town’s founder in the late 1600s. We rejoined Ibrahim and drove through the lovely University of Stellenbosch campus where around 30,000 students attend. Quite idyllic indeed.

Next we set out toward Paarl, still awaiting our alleged wine tasting. The region is famous for its wines, particularly pinotage. We drove for quite some time, listening to stories of the area, the mountains, and the rich history. Finally we arrived at The Spice Route, where we could choose to sample wine, but also craft beer, chocolate, pizza, and biltong (similar to jerky). We now understood why William brought us all this way – some 27km past Stellenbosch – there was something for everyone!

We sat and watched the sun go down, remarking on how it must be one of the most beautiful views in the world. With Table Mountain about 65km in the distance, we marveled at the beauty around us. We drove back to Cape Town quite content, thanking William and Ibrahim for a truly lovely afternoon.

Monday in Langa: It was a less-than-perfect day weather-wise…windy, rainy, and about 15 degrees. Our new friend and guide, Zuzeka, lead us through the streets of Langa Township, her home. She shared how she was born and raised in Langa, and she still lives there today. She is working toward become a third-grade teacher, and once she finishes her education, she will teach at a primary school in Langa.

Langa was originally created as a settlement for working men. Then during apartheid, it became a Black township (primarily Xhosa) with harsh living conditions. She said it is a “small” township (by township standards) with around 70,000 residents today. Local guides like Zuzeka proudly take tourists through Langa, and you can read more about our specific tour company, Siviwe.

As in 2012 when I did a similar tour with students, we began our experience at the Visitor Center and saw the lovely pottery and other handcrafts made at Langa. A large new theater was built in 2013, and Zuzeka said many performers share their talents with local audiences in it. She added that architecture students built it out of reclaimed materials. Now the rain began, so we put up our hoods and set out through the streets of Langa.

We visited the various types of living structures in Langa, as Zuzeka called them the “low class” hostels and shacks, the “middle class” government apartments and small homes, and the “high class” private homes. (She said she lives in a middle class home, and, although she called the high class homes “Beverly Hills,” they were still modest by our standards.) She explained how payment works, meaning if you pay rent, or only for utilities, et cetera. We went inside a hostel and shack to see how people were living. They were dark and cold, though a lot of human ingenuity was on display. People creatively and resourcefully live in Langa.

There are shops (groceries, barbers, clothing, driving schools) in Langa, mostly housed in shipping containers. There are services (doctors, libraries, schools, police) in Langa. We stepped into a dark shack where traditional African beer is made from sorghum, maize meal, and water. We sat around the fire and heard stories about celebratory rituals (manhood, marriage) when the beer is made by the women. We got to taste the milky beer, somewhat reminiscent of kombucha.

We stepped into a brighter “5-star shack,” the home of Shooter, called that for his “shorter” height (his actual name is Shadrack, and he has been told he resembles Morgan Freeman). He described how he moved up from a cramped hostel-type setting into his shack made ingeniously out of recycled materials. He described how fires can swiftly tear through the shack communities, how wires are strung from shack to shack to share electricity, and Zuzeka told us he moved his daughter out of the community to protect her. He was a man we all quickly admired.

We walked on and saw the sheep heads on tables where they had been prepared. This site was not one I wanted to see again, but it is an important part of the Xhosa culture that I respect.

We found a cheerful preschool full of rambunctious children, stepped in out of the rain, and played with them for awhile. The teachers must be weary after tending to them from 0700 to 1800 Monday through Friday.

We went inside a lovely home where a woman has a catering business. It was warm and smelled of wonderful things. We were fortunate to be able to purchase small bread rounds for 3 rands (or filled with egg and mayo or chicken and mayo for 4,50 rands). We happily ate these warm delights.

We returned to Cape Town with new images in our minds. We heard rich stories from Zuzeka of hardships and struggles, deep connections and traditions, and the triumph of the human spirit. She told us to never give up, despite our circumstances, and that sure means a lot coming from her: a truly lovely young Xhosa woman, working hard to better her life, yet staying tightly and proudly connected to her community.

Two days, two tours.

Wow Wow Wow!

Today we were true Cape Town tourists and rode the hop-on / hop-off bus ’round & ’round and up & down majestic Table Mountain. We were so fortunate to have a sunny, calm day, and it felt as if we were on the top (of the bottom) of the world!

We began with a return to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden where we got soaked on Monday. We enjoyed the panoramic views and tree top canopy. Next we ventured on to the World of Birds where we walked through enclosure after enclosure of every kind of bird on the planet it seemed! We also saw guinea pigs, lemurs, and various monkeys. Wow!

At this point we were in need of lunch, so we set our sites on Camps Bay and the Hard Rock Cafe for the “free” burger included with our bus ticket. By now it was nearly 15:00, so we opted for Ubers to get us quickly up to the aerial cableway on Table Mountain. We already had our tickets, so we went straight to the cable car queue. Before we knew it, we were ascending what felt to be straight up in our cable car, complete with rotating floor! Wow!

We marveled at the views and meandered along the paths for over an hour. We were so fortunate to have calm winds and relatively clear skies, along with a nicely timed ride down at sunset. Wow! The bus took us back to the waterfront, and we Ubered to our respective homes.

It was a day full of beauty and contrasts. This truly is a unique and spectacular part of the world. We all highly recommend that it gets on your “places I need to go” list! Here are just a few of the incredible scenes from today. I’m sure each of the student’s social media pages has many more incredible shots. 🙂

Friday Happenings

Today was a bit of a mixed bag. We got the home stay issue resolved, and the two students were moved to dorm-style rooms in the Obs (near me) for the weekend. Monday afternoon they will settle in with a new family. The folks at Good Hope Studies were very responsive when we met with them this morning. (It was cool for me to be back at their compound in Newlands as that was our home base for our 2012 program.) And, we had fortunate timing when we moved out the guys in that the couple was not home. I appreciate how supportive GHS has been – as well as how gracious the students have been – throughout this ordeal!

We met up with the VACorps staff and dozens of other students for our afternoon outing to the cheetah encounter. One of our students wasn’t feeling well, so Oliver from VAC took her to the doctor. We were sad to have her miss the cats, but the good news is she has some medicine to get all better! Her host family insisted she rest – as I’ve said before, we are in very good hands here!

We drove – by a caravan of minibuses – to Somerset West, and the students patiently waited to pet the cheetahs. They got some good pictures of each other, which I’ve shared here. Then VAC took us all to Triggerfish, a cool brewery, for some libations. We drove home to a beautiful sunset and enjoyed our driver’s fun style.

Tomorrow is a free day, and we hope to ride the hop-on/hop-off bus (complete with a stop at Table Mountain!) all together. Thanks for thinking of us and following along! 🙂