Posts tagged Around Cape Town
Posts tagged Around Cape Town
When family friends spend a night at my house and are leaving the next morning, my family has this ritual where we stand on the driveway and wave to them until their car turns down the street and around the corner. When I was younger, I remember running down the sidewalk after my uncle’s car until I couldn’t see it anymore, saying bye until the laaast minute.
Last night as my friend Andreas drove me to the airport, we passed the front door of Capetown Backpackers. And sure enough, standing outside and waving were my friends Dean and Clark, who have been there since the beginning. And I turned in my seat and waved to them until our car turned the corner and they passed out of sight.
The wonderful thing about staying at a backpackers is that you get to meet people that you never would have met otherwise. Cape Town has become such an intern hubbub in the last few years, almost like an overseas New York or DC. It would be easy to exclusively hang out with other young twenty-year-olds who hail from Western colleges and who—while very diverse—have all had pretty similar experiences.
But where else could I have met someone like Dean, the bartender at CTB, who drinks more than anyone I’ve ever known but who is also making his way through the entire works of J.D. Salinger? Or Dudu, who works the night shift and used to be a child soldier in the DRC? Tess, who got dangerously angry when hungry; Andreas, who would great me each day by screeching ‘JAMIE’ in a strained falsetto; Ronny my German friend—together, Jill and I taught him a dictionary of essential English words like ‘biddies’ and ‘bromance.’ Or Clark, the twelve-going-on-twenty-something-year-old Taiwanese-South African whose profession alternates between digital publishing and butt modeling and spent six years in a boys’-school-induced coma. And of course, my favorite red-wine-drinking, pasta-sauce-hating, Express-only-wardrobe roommate Jill. Road trips, restaurant outings—Clark would always forget who our water was and Ronny would always order enough for six—making fun of Dean’s music choices—these are some of the things about this city that I will miss the most.
Traveling is always tough because you fall in love with a place and its people only to leave it too soon. Andy, the owner of the Backpackers, says that’s okay—he says you make the best of people when you have them and don’t stress over holding onto them after you leave—if you do, you’ll do a disservice to all of the people you still have to meet in the future. It’s a live-in-the-moment kind of philosophy.
I know I’ll be back in Cape Town one day—and I can only hope that sometime, somewhere, I will run into my friends again. Even if I don’t, in small ways—riding a BMX bike, eating macadamia nuts, flashing my blinkers after passing someone on a two-lane highway—they will always be with me. Plus if all else fails, there’s always Facebook.
Photos: Top: clockwise from left, Clark, Ronny, Andreas, Me, Jill, Tess; Middle: Dean, left, and Andreas; Lower left: from left, Clark, Me, Dudu, Anita; Bottom: from left, Me, Ronny, Jill, Tess, and Clark.
Constancia Movadza and I have been interning together at UBA for six weeks now—our arrival and departure days are almost identical. She grew up in Zimbabwe and will be a junior at Amherst College in Massachusetts this fall. She’s also one of the best and most interesting people I have met in this city. In our interview, Consta talks about going to school during her country’s economic downturn, the culture shocks of an American university, and why she knows she’ll return to Zim.
“Culture shock—the individualism in the United States was unbelievable. I come from a place where…we’re very together. I call my friends mom, mom. I come from a place where friends are family, neighbors are family. And in the States…Amherst is a very small school, I may not know you but I know your face. I sit across from you in the dining and I say hi. But people are very standoffish. It’s almost taboo to say hi to someone who you’re not friends with. I think that was the biggest culture shock—learning to not greet people when they cross you on the path even though they sit right next to you in math. I think I’m still not used to it—I don’t know if I will ever be.”
Click below to read the full interview!
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.
The Fourth of July marks the peak of American BBQ season. The sun is hot, the meat is smoking, and family and friends take an afternoon to eat, drink, and make merry together. There’s nothing better on a warm summer night then a burger, a beer, and good company.
Add a huge tent, about 500 people, a couple hookahs, and the bumpin beats of a DJ, and you have M’Zollis, a giant braai (pronounced: BRY) that happens every Sunday in Guguletu, a township outside of Cape Town.
What is a braai you ask? It’s basically the South African version of an American BBQ. But unlike your typical barbecue, braais are much more about community. I feel like in the US, nothing is ever too leisurely—everyone has work, or practice, or rehearsal. And a BBQ guest list is exclusive—you barbecue with your family, or your neighbors, or your friends.
In South Africa, braais take forever, partly because they use wood/coal grills instead of gas, but also because at a successful braai, everyone will stand around the fire, cooking, drinking, talking and getting to know each other for hours. It’s all part of the togetherness of this country—if you meet someone during the day and you hit it off, invite them to your house for a braai. At Capetown Backpakers, we braai every Saturday night—it’s a great for travelers to meet each other.
At M’Zollis, the place is packed by 11:30 AM. If you get there at 12:30, like we did, your meat will take about two and a half hours to cook—and by 3PM, the line to get into the grill area winds around the block. This is the place to be on a Sunday.
Everyone is at M’Zollis, from UCT students to local Guguletu people, to tons of tourists. Street vendors mill around selling glasses, hats, wire trinkets; if you run out of beer, walk across the street to one of the houses where the locals are selling six-packs from their fridges. At around 1PM, the DJ gets started. Suddenly everyone is up, dancing around their tables, clapping to the music, breaking it down. The drinks and dancing continue long into the night, and when M’Zollis itself closes at 7, the party pours out into streets.
It’s such a carefree, leisurely way to spend a Sunday—eating, drinking, and dancing. Also, M’Zollis is one of those Cape Town experiences that takes you out of the city and into the township—giving tourists and students a brief glimpse of ‘how the other half lives,’ if you will. In my short eight weeks in the city, I’ve been to M’Zollis three times. After two years of Sundays at Princeton (homework, rehearsal, more homework), I am relishing every moment.
Photos: Top middle, a shot of the crowd at M’Zollis; Top right, our bucket of meat and salsa; Bottom left: Ubuntu Africa intern reunion! Me, PK, Saznin, and Constancia.
Shots from Capetown Backpackers, my home for the last six weeks and probably the best hostel in the world.
(based loosely off of the Kardashian’s reality show, ‘Kourtney and Kim Take Miami’)
I’ve mentioned Saznin and PK before—they’re two of my awesome intern friends. They are both going to be seniors at Johns Hopkins University and came to Cape Town through a JHU Public Health program. Between classes and homework, interning at UBA, volunteer work in the community, and weekend trips and homestays, they have also managed to visit nearly every notable eating and drinking establishment in this city. If you’ve got a free night, look no further: from Long Street to the Waterfront, Saz and PK will tell you where to go and what to get, no matter the occasion. Click below to read the full interview!
Who needs the Magic School Bus when you have mini-bus taxis—they’re a convenient, cheap way to get around Cape Town! My description from a June 3rd post:
“Mini-bus taxi: noun; Imagine the van from Little Miss Sunshine. Now imagine it packed with primarily black South Africans. A man leans his head out the window and screams the route that the taxi is driving (“Weinberg,” which takes you to the Observatory neighborhood, or “Capetown” which takes you into center city Cape Town). If you need that route, hail the van and hop in—the fare is usually between 5R and 10R (FYI: 7 Rand = 1 USD)—and this is infinitely cheaper and easier than hailing a taxi. Only take these taxis during the day and try and check to make sure there are women inside before you enter! Otherwise, they’re super safe and really convenient.”
Happy International Nelson Mandela Day!
(Right: Nelson Mandela, or Madiba as he is affectionately known in SA)
It is impossible to describe how much Mandela means to this country—he is at once a father, a teacher, a political leader, and a preacher. He represents the painful struggle that South Africa endured during apartheid and the hope and promise of its future.
After living in Cape Town, even for a short while, one thing has become clear to me—the country continues to grapple with issues of race and class. In just under an hour you can drive from Camp’s Bay, a wealthy, mostly-white, touristy area where women wear high heels and fake eyelashes, to Khayelitsha, an overwhelmingly black township where tin shacks extend as far as the eye can see. The division in wealth is unnerving. And even that is an oversimplification—tensions in South Africa extend much deeper than skin color.
(Above: From Camp’s Bay to Khayelitsha)
But let’s be realistic: apartheid only officially ended in 1994. According to Wikipedia, the Civil Rights Movement in the US ended in 1968, almost 30 years earlier, and look at how much we still struggle with race. I don’t think anyone, even Mandela, expects such deep-seeded divisions to be resolved in a few years, or even a few decades.
But Mandela does call on all of us to be more compassionate citizens—to look beyond our differences and care for each other. It is the African philosophy of ‘ubuntu’—as Madiba once said, “the profound African sense that we are only human through the humanity of other human beings.”
This sentiment clearly exists in many parts of South African culture—from braais to Backpackers, this place has a distinct sense of community, built upon years of tradition and history. The difficult part is creating communities that extend beyond people that share the same skin color or speak the same language as you do.
As part of Mandela Day, the UN is encouraging people to spend 67 minutes of their day helping others—one minute for each of the 67 years Mandela spent “serving his community, his country, and the world at large.”
Throughout the day, UBA will be tweeting about ways you can use Nelson Mandela Day as an opportunity to help our cause and our children!
The gorgeous UCT (University of Cape Town) in the morning