Africa - January 7, 2013
12/18/2012 10:16 AM
Coordinators are on a tight schedule here, and so it is now 10:30 pm (South Africa time).
Capetown is a city of contradictions as one of our required reading articles suggests. As our plane made its descent, the reality set in that we had left the “Americas” and was not approaching a small, rural African settlement on another continent, but a dynamic historically significant city located at the western tip of the continent of Africa. We walked through the airport and spotted our driver, Denzel, who proceeded to act as tour guide once we entered the main highway. One of the contradictions of Capetown is the visibility, just outside of a comfortable, modern airport terminal, filled with people speaking languages from around the world, of the shanty shacks with tin corrugated roofs---little townships, communities of abject poverty, filled with the voices of South Africans who have still not recovered from Apartheid (which means we were told, "separateness"). The people of South Africa do NOT seem to be stuck in the past, but do acknowledge it....and then go on to talk about hope, the legacy of Nelson Mandela, and "the miracle of the new South Africa."
Checked into the hotel---too tired to make good decisions like "go to bed"--hunger dictate that the three of us go in search of food. Down the street we roam and find a "hamburger place" that is open twenty-four hours. We search for the local word for "soda." Pop? Blank stare. Coke? Smile. We proceeded with our order and were surprised at the cost of our meal---CHEAP. We then struggle (just briefly) with our new currency. It is hard to take seriously money that resembles "Wildlife Monopoly" cash--- an image of a Kruger Buffalo on the front of it and zebras on the back.
This morning---breakfast in the hotel lobby--a little warm, soft sea breeze "caresses us" (words chosen by our tour guide for today) and we head out on a large tour bus to explore the CAPE, while our tour guide (who was born and spent most of his life in Capetown---left for Jerusalem for six years when Apartheid was at its peak) narrates his own version of Capetown's Identity. He says repeatedly that it is the most beautiful city in the world---AGREED. We drive by pristine and isolated beaches--the entire Cape he tells us has been declared a natural reserve. The beauty of the multi-colored water with its thick kelp beds and its boast of plentiful fish (Tuna, particularly) is noted. Traditional spear fisherman enjoys the bounty.
We head across the Cape to Simon's Town and enjoy a speedboat trip around the cape (along with an expert narrative of marine life and ecosystems). We go FAST by anyone's version of FAST, but slow down to see a close-up of a colony of seals relaxing and posing for mates on the warm rocks! We also get a great view of the westernmost tip of Africa--and experience it on land (there is a sign to prove it) as well!
LUNCH in an Ocean City church/community center---prepared by a family who maintain and run many programs for the youth of this township. They cook for us some of the traditional dishes that were introduced into South African cuisine in the 17th century by their ancestors. A group of young African girls perform several dances---some resembling "hip-hop" and some modern dance routines! Then we enjoyed several AMAZING performances by a group of young men (one did a stunning Michael Jackson routine) who did some impossible moves---our table joked about which one of us was going to offer to be their American talent agent.
Back in the bus to see-----a small group of Zebras, six ostriches cross the highway, and a few Baboons crouching by the side of the road! We will upload some pictures! We are of course hoping to see more wildlife, but for now, we can listen to the rhythm of some very dramatic crashing ocean waves just down the street from our hotel---for me--through my window of my room as I try to go to sleep.
Winona Wynn, Ph.D.
Chair, English and Humanities
Coordinator, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Office Location: Harry Kent Work Phone: (509) 865-8500