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where in the world is steph.... Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? -- Mary Oliver

First Impressions

SOUTH AFRICA | Thursday, 25 January 2001 | Views [645]

Hello everyone! This is my long overdue e-mail as this is the third week that I have been here in Cape Town, South Africa. I hope that everyone is well. Just a warning this e-mail is long, so you may want to save it until you have the time to read it, I promise to keep the e-mails from now on shorter. I have been incredibly busy getting out and seeing the sights, spending time at the beach (sometimes with penguins), sampling the local cuisine, getting aquatinted with the people I live with, playing in our pool, oh yeah and school. I have discovered something I had long ago forgot about, and that is the sun, goodbye Seattle/Juneau winters, hello summer. We have had rain several times; I discovered that our beautiful house has some draw backs, and one would be the leak in my ceiling. Not too big of deal, and has a common response we hear, hay your in Africa. Nevertheless, mostly the weather has been beautiful, and sunny, making our many adventures picture perfect. I wish I had been able to purchase a small scanner to e-mail pictures. Alas, that was not the foremost thing on my mind when I left, and maybe I will be able to steal one or two off someone’s digital camera.

            As for our adventures, there have been many.  The first week we were here, we took a tram ride up Table Mt. to watch the sunset over the Atlantic while sipping champagne. The view from up there is phenomenal.  Speaking of amazing views, this past Saturday we went to the Cape of Good Hope, “where two oceans meet”.  We hiked up to the lighthouse, which had a spectacular view.  It had been a rainy morning and began to clear up, just as we were about to leave. That was about the time that our mini-bus taxis (more on these unique vehicles later) that we had hired for the day, died. So there we were pushing the van in hopes that it would start.  On another day, we took the train out to Simon’s Town. Boulders Beach is just right outside of Simon’s Town and has a resident population of penguins. So we swam with penguins, but let me tell you, their feces stinks! One night we went to a play, that was mostly in Afrikaans. We were the butt of more than one joke, but it was all in good fun. We got out of the play just in time to see the lunar eclipse. Cape Town is an incredibly beautiful city.

            However, not everything we have done here as been fun. Apartheid has caused much pain and suffering here, and to ignore it would be detrimental to those who fought so hard against it. The scars are still very evident, and all around us. We went to the District 6 museum, dedicated to the people who were forcibly moved from their homes into townships, after the area was designated whites only. The land was bulldozed, leaving only churches, and a mosque. The rest of the land still sits empty. There are currently plans by the government to build house there and open it up to the former residents of District 6. We also took a tour of Robben Island, visiting one of the prisons Nelson Mandela was held in. Our tour guide had been held as a political prisoner there as well and briefly shared some of the methods used to demoralize the prisoners. The prison was built by prisoners, both common criminals and political prisoners. However, eventually the prison was home to only political prisoners. It definitely made one think about things that we so easily take for granted, like speaking against our government. The most emotional experience thus far was yesterday, though- we were taken through different townships in Cape Town. This was not a normal tour of the townships. Where as most tours are run by white people and take the tourist into the townships to listen to music, many critics feel giving the message see these people are poor, but they are happy. The tour we went is done by non-profit organization that promotes the space for dialogue between people and peace. The men that took us around had fought for the ANC, and all live in various townships.  We went to several different areas that had previously been designated colored, black, and white. The areas had been divided between classes in the areas as well, creating areas that were not only racial divided, but economically divided as well.  We were encouraged to speak with the people that we met along the way, and ask questions. Within the townships, we visited different sites that are significant in South Africa’s resistance history. The people we met were extremely friendly, and very welcoming. We were invited to have a drink in one of the back townships, which was an amazing experience. We also went to see a traditional healer. It was stressed that it was not to show the exotic side of Africa, but rather to see how traditional beliefs are still being held on to, and speak with member of the community.  I met quite a few people who have been to the states, and traveled all over the world, people that you would least expect. The level of poverty in some of the townships was unfathomable. It has raised many questions, and relatively few answers.  Seeing the street children downtown, beg for money has been hard. Particularly because you know that they are not going to buy food, but rather glue to get high of off, that and many are under the age of ten. I don’t think anyone can really be prepared for that. This trip has definitely been a learning experience- and I am very excited as I look forward to the next few months.

Hope all is well for everyone. I would like to apologize again for the length of this e-mail. I have been using an internet café, and to make my time go farther, typing e-mails at home and bringing my disc with me. For those of you that have been asking my address is as follows, keep in mind that South African mail can be slow.

Cheers, Steph

Tags: Adventures

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