Before leaving the States, I distinctly remember one of my prime worries about living in Cape Town for eight weeks: would there be hot water? The only other experience I’ve had in a developing country is my family’s biennial reunion at my grandmother’s house in South India. Maybe it’s the rural environment, maybe its the 26 other people who are also living in the house, but for those weeks, hot water is definitely not guaranteed.
But asking if Cape Town has hot water is like asking if London has hot water. In many ways, this place resembles a more adventure-y version of a European city—wine tours, fancy restaurants, shark cage diving! I’ve often heard people commenting “Oh, Cape Town’s not the real Africa.”
Cape Town’s Victoria and Albert (V&A) Waterfront
What does that mean? As my friend Molly, one of this year’s Princeton in Africa Fellows, mentions on her blog mollywithoutborders, “I dislike when people claim that Cape Town is not the “real Africa.” It’s as if they’re saying that the “real Africa” must be poor and black.”
Intrigued, I started a conversation with my co-worker Constancia. Consta grew up in Zimbabwe and will be a senior this fall at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Tomorrow, I’ll post my interview with her, where she talks about growing up in boarding school, culture shocks of America, and why she can’t imagine living anywhere but Zim.
When we were discussing the ‘African-ness’ of Cape Town, one thing that Consta said struck me. She asked, “Do you mean our culture and the way we talk and receive you? Or do you mean our development?” And that’s the thing. Maybe Cape Town is more developed than most other African countries. But in its culture—the warmth and friendliness of its people, the slower pace of life, and yes, its dysfunctional nature—it is so completely African.