Are We in Africa?

Going from Ghana to South Africa proved to be a whole new world. Some of my experiences were similar, but most of them were completely different. I found myself forgetting we were still in Africa. Let me explain…

The first day, I had a field lab (like a field trip) for my International Public Health class. We went to a NGO who deal with HIV/AIDs and TB testing and treatment. It was really interesting to see and learn about. For lunch, we went to a restaurant where the employees are students at the cooking school, working to get out of poverty. This is EXACTLY the kind of place I want to have someday, but in the United States and focused on teaching teenagers how to cook and how to cook healthy. After lunch, we went to the oldest township in Cape Town, Langa Township. We had a great guide who taught us a lot about his township. The biggest idea I remember is there were people from all the socioeconomic statuses living in the same township. One side of the street were shacks made from cargo boxes, scraps of tin, and sometimes only cardboard; the other side had respectable houses of artists, musicians, and businessmen and women made of brick and fences lining the property. Why is this? After Apartheid ended, they decided to embrace where they were pushed to and better the township as a whole. A lot of problems with poverty areas are those who fight to overcome poverty end up leaving, never being able to bring the area out of struggle. This township has banded together and help each other work to overcome their struggles. Instead of looking at the past and being bitter, they have cumulatively decided to look forward and walk to success together. This was inspiring.

Children in Langa township next to their home with make-shift electricity. The families illegally wired electricity from a nearby business and place clothing on the wires to make them look like clotheslines.

Children in Langa township next to their home with make-shift electricity. The families illegally wired electricity from a nearby business and place clothing on the wires to make them look like clotheslines.

The next day, I almost missed my safari! I overslept and had 10 minutes to get to the meeting point or they were leaving me. I got there in 9… whew! It was a MAGICAL place (they use that word all the time). They served us delicious foods ranging from yogurt, granola, and fruit to apple crisp, steamed pumpkin, and much much more! Our guide, Timothy, was brilliant (they use that word a lot as well) and took us to see all of the Big 5 (elephant, lion, rhinoceros, water buffalo, and leopard) sans the water buffalo. I got some amazing pictures, held some rhino poop, and had a ball with my friends.

This picture is for Ann!! She loves elephants!

This picture is for Ann!! She loves elephants!

"You're gonna hear me ROAR!" She's a stunning cat. MEEEOWWW!

"You're gonna hear me ROAR!" She's a stunning cat. MEEEOWWW!

Katie Parker: here's to you! The other pictures are mostly of the butt...

Katie Parker: here's to you! The other pictures are mostly of the butt...

After the safari, we drove back through the mountains and saw some STUNNING wine lands. It was like something out of a movie. A half hour before we arrived to the ship, we were able to go to a winery where we tasted 6 different wines in combination with 6 different cheeses! My favorite was gouda!! (I hope some people get that reference)

Upon returning, I got ready for another safari: a Jazz safari. This entailed traveling to local musicians in Cape Town and enjoying a night of them playing their music for us. They also taught us a bit about their struggle with Apartheid, since they were colored, or black (it is socially acceptable and common practice in South Africa to call non-white people colored) and still lived in the townships they were sentenced to.

The next morning, I met up with a lovely woman, Alison Moore, who is a sister to my mentor/Bible study leader, Mrs. Douglas, at Alma. Alison lives in Cape Town with her husband, Dan, and the two of them together were my tour guides for the last three days! We went to Boulder Beach and saw Africa penguins, Cape Point where the Indian and Altantic Oceans supposedly mix (I guess it’s just a myth though,) and drove all around the coast. It was a stunning drive! I found myself itching to hike to Cape Point, but I had to behave and go with the flow of my lovely tour guide. I got to ask her questions–and learned a lot–during the drive about their country, the history, and her views on everything.

We returned to their immaculate home and Dave had a braai in the making for dinner. Braais are a South African BBQ that is a special meal for special occasions. He was cooking ostrich and chicken kabobs–yummy!! After dinner, we sat around and drank wine, while I listened to their lovely accents in their funny reminiscing conversations.

 Juergen was scared, so I had to hold his hand. :] The mixing of the oceans: Indian Ocean on the left: a warm ocean, and Atlantic Ocean on the right: a cold ocean.

- The mixing of the oceans: Indian Ocean on the left: a warm ocean, and Atlantic Ocean on the right: a cold ocean. Juergen was scared, so I had to hold his hand.  :]
Some of the scenery from the ride. Definitely the most beautiful country, land-wise, we have been to.

Some of the scenery from the ride. Definitely the most beautiful country, land-wise, we have been to.

Tasting my first sip of Rooibos tea--South African's staple tea. I was hooked from then on!

Tasting my first sip of Rooibos tea--South African's staple tea. I was hooked from then on!

The next day, I tried to get to Robbin Island, but the tickets were sold out (it was peak of the touring season.) So I stayed around the waterfront and went to markets all day. I had some great conversation with store vendors and people who I randomly ran into! So many compliments on my hair from strangers. I was actually surprised!

This one lady came up to me while I was standing, watching the boats at the marina, and asked me for a cigarette. When I told her that I don’t smoke, she then proceeded to tell me about how she came to Cape Town for work and found nothing and how her husband had died and she had 2 kids at home and how was she going to feed them? I knew it was a scam, but my heart wouldn’t let me be rude and tell her to go away. So I listened; and listened; and finally stopped her and told her I wasn’t going to give her money, but I’d buy her lunch. I could tell she didn’t like the idea much at all, but that is the only way I was going to help her. I don’t care if she was trying to annoy me; two could play that game! So I took her to a local vendor and ordered her a dinner to go that she could take home to her children. We sat and waited for it to be cooked, and I tried asking her questions. She rudely answered them and was uninterested in making small talk with me; instead, she was constantly trying to change the conversation into how she had to take a taxi back to her town, and she didn’t have any money. I had enough of her. So I told her I had to go, but she could get the food when it was done. I don’t even think she said thank you. But my, was it an experience!

Hungry myself, and craving pizza, we went to a restaurant on the coast and I had a seafood and avocado pizza! We met up with some of Dave’s movie making buddies, so I had another chance to listen to South Africans banter. Dave then took me to a place where he called a woman “the poodle” and she made the BEST biltong in the WORLD! I had no idea what biltong was, so I said okay… ends up it is DELICIOUS jerky made of Kudu, which is a wild game animial. Yum… I snuck some back on the ship for this long trek across the ocean!

A Kudu

A Male Kudu

When we returned to their home, I watched his film they just made, funding it all independently. I was impressed! The film was shot in South Africa, and had some of the most beautiful shots I have ever seen! We ate curry chicken and yummy rice for dinner, drank some more wine, and listened to Phil Collins and Paul Simon on their lovely record player. Having my own record player someday is on my wish list. :]

The final day, they planned for me to see the top of Table Mountain. I was determined as well, so after a breakfast with some more of Dave’s movie friends, he drove me to the cable cars. Yet again, I found myself wanting desperately to hike, but had to suppress the urge. It was foggy and barely visible, but I had to do it! So I bought my ticket (with the lady warning me there was zero visibility at the top and it was only 7 degrees celcius,) purchased an overpriced sweatshirt, and braced myself for the cold. Mind you, I was wearing a dress… Once reaching the summit, I only saw ten feet in front of me. All the rest was white from the clouds. On top of that, it was raining. I thought I saw the structure of the cable car crystalizing, but that could have been just my imagination. Needless to say, I was back down the mountain within a half hour. Worst waste of money I’ve had in a while.

He then took me to the waterfront–the third day in a row I had been there. We went to a food market, which was cool, but very touristy. I was ready to be done; although everything being sold had African prints, I wasn’t convinced we were in Africa. We said our goodbyes, and I headed for the ship. Getting back, I think I was the only one who was ready to leave. Everyone seemed to have fallen in love with Cape Town. Yes, it was lovely, but to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite port. I think hearing what the locals thought of their country and seeing it almost from a non-tourist eye, I saw past the beautiful scenery. I saw the hurt of the people, and the continuous struggle with racial segregation. I saw the South African disgust of their government. But most of all, I saw the HUGE inequity in this country. The tourism almost seemed to want to cover up their problems and put on a face for the world to see. It irked me like none other. South Africa was by far the most naturally beautiful country, but not when you looked deeper. It reminds me of a woman who is stunning on the outside, yet so unhappy on the inside. It makes me angry, frustrated, and sad all at once… it seems I was the only one on the ship to feel this way. Am I wrong? Maybe. But Cape Town has driven my desire to help my nation even more. I don’t want to live somewhere that puts on a show for the rest of the world. I want our country to be proud of our struggles and work together to overcome them. I want us to learn from the pure happiness of Ghana; I want us to learn from the hard work and humbleness of Germany; I want us to learn from the inequity of South Africa. We CAN be a better, more genuine country!

Phenomenal sunset with Table Mountain!

Phenomenal sunset with Table Mountain!

Until next time,

Kait[lyn]

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About Kait Squanda

Semester at Sea is a study abroad program sponsored by University of Virginia. It is a cruise liner made specifically for college students, professors, hall directors, and lifelong learners to experience a hands-on learning atmosphere around the world. My voyage will be traveling to 15 countries: Russia, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba. WIth some stops before-hand, it is bound to be a trip of a lifetime!

One thought on “Are We in Africa?

  1. I had many of the same feelings and reactions when my voyage stopped in South Africa. It certainly is a beautiful country… full of contradictions

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