Granted, it takes a rather tiring thirteen hours of flying to get to South Africa from my home country, the Netherlands. On the plane, a crippled elderly woman was watching gory action packed movies for hours on end. The macho bloke sitting next to her was taking a nap, wearing a rather fashionable eye blinding patch. So really, I’m more than happy to undertake this journey and get to experience a more down to earth African way of living!
My guest home is situated at Parkwood, a rather small coloured community in the southern suburbs of Cape Town – the apartheid era has left its marks even today. Overall, one could call it an economically deprived area, where alcohol and drug abuse are rampant. It’s not considered a township. The comfort of a caring guest family, combined with the presence and experience of several fellow volunteers, gives me a head start on integrating with this new environment. The added bonus of staying in the only two-storey house with a balcony is watching everyday life unfold before your very eyes, mostly undetected. The sheer beauty of the mountains on the background, alongside a littered grassy field and the occasional bickering couple in front, is but an example of the diversity of Capetonian promise.
Local relatives come by daily, so it didn’t take me long to hear some (sometimes disturbing) stories. One guy elaborates on the time he was mugged at night time, just a short distance from his own home. In the process, he got stabbed in the back, because he refused to give up his money. It took five hours to be bandaged up at hospital. Not soon thereafter, the perpetrator was treated with similar kindness by a few of the victim’s friends. At a later time, an apology from the original transgressor was refused without thinking twice.
Back to present. My voluntary work consists of teaching at the local Hyde Park Primary school. Originally, I was led to believe that I would be assisting in teaching English. After a whopping three minute introduction with the principal that plan was already overboard: their only gymnastics teacher was about to leave the school. So, away with my dictionaries and grammar books, P.T. it’ll be!
The task at hand looks quite daunting at first. To channel the energy of thirty or more kids every half hour is far from easy, especially when they sit in a rather confined classroom for the remainder of the week, and this is basically their outlet. I have no experience whatsoever in dealing with kids in this manner. So I was grateful to get some initial help from a teacher and the assistance of a second volunteer in the following weeks. Now, after about three weeks, I’m only starting to get the hang of leading the kids more effectively. It’s good to see that mutual respect is forming; I must still beware not to get too ‘familiar’ with them, because they will take advantage of you when they smell the opportunity. That being said, from tall to small, it is a sincere goal to make them jump with joy!
These children come from neighbouring areas like Parkwood and Fairways. During the day you will find them all wearing the same school clothing. This is supposed to create some kind of equivalence, regardless of the (economic) situation at home. It is only after school is out, that the kids return to their respective homes. Some reside in a nice area with both parents; some of them live in a relatively poor area like Parkwood. But that doesn’t mean that these children are leading depressing lives. Just see the smiling faces when you walk through the area (even in the evening), and you know it can't be all that bad.
The beauty of this endeavour is that you get to combine voluntary work with exploring the surroundings of Cape Town. Last weekend, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hiking up mountains, including Table Mountain. Some views are just breath-taking.
And what is more rewarding than abseiling from the most famous mountain of Cape Town when you gave it your all to climb it? I never even considered doing these things before, but it is just the vibe you are in and the other volunteers’ stimulation. Tomorrow, I will be jumping off a plane with my host dad. Let us just hope that it will last for more than thirteen seconds, and we get down to earth with a big smile and an open parachute!
Waking up early in the morning never was one of my best feat, but 6.30 on Saturday I wouldn't even classify that as "morning", that's deep in the night to me!
Anyway, that was the time we agreed with Garreth - our guide - to pick us up and start our tour of Cape Peninsula's highlights.
Seven people - sorry six... one overslept! - still confused from the early wake up and not-so-ready to go. First stop: Mistery Hiking through one of Table Mountain's slope. "Mistery" because we had no idea where our guide was taking us. But at that time in the morning I don't make many questions.
It's a good thing we left on Saturday, so I could still use the Vodka-RedBull I drank on Friday to reach the top and enjoy the amazing landscape with my fellow hikers.
Too bad there wasn't any pub on our way where I could refuel. The way down was a bit more challenging...
After we got back to our vehicle Garreth drove us to the Penguin Colony.
I like penguins, they are cute. They always look like clumsy little kids dressed with a tuxedo when they move...
After we bothered these fine animals with our cameras - they seem to be harmless, but try to figure out an army of killer-pinguins, with deadly beaks and bullet-proof smokings! - we went to Table Mountain National Park.
The welcome committee was headed by an ostrich. Cool.
A quick lunch and finally the most awaited moment, a wonderful beach, the freezing water... and a well earned nap on the sand!
Last stop was on the scenic drive. Not much to say, I think the picture is enough, don't ya?
With the internet temporarily down in the Newlands office last week, I took the time to do a quick photo shoot of Projects Abroad staff member Meschak Bugaye (volunteer co-ordinator). Any volunteer or colleague who knows Meschak will be able to testify to the fact that he is an absolute gentleman, loyal friend and lots of fun. These photographs help capture his professional and fun side, and of course his winning smile :) We love having you as part of our team Meschak!
Saturday I arrive in Cape Town. I'm so excited to get started.
I'll miss home for sure, but it's only for 4 months, so I'll be okay.
I hope to have the time of my life and to get to know a lot of new people.
This adventure is truly one of my dreams coming true.
See you all soon, Teresa xx
I know a lot of people may have already posted about that, but I wanted to share a few pics. Some of them costed me a HUUUGE effort, so you have to like them. No excuse!
I went there last Sunday for the Sunset Concert - Zebra & Giraffe - and I used the chance to visit the Garden and try my way on a couple of trails. I wasn't prepared for that!
I headed towards the Skeleton Gorge and it took about one hour just to get at the beginning of it. The more I walked, so more the way was steep. In the end I had to climb upon rocks and wodden ladders.
(sorry about that, I don't know how to rotate the picture!)
I had no water with me, no mobile, no trekking shoes. Just my camera, my laptop (sic! I was there for a report), and my cigarettes. The latters weren't of much use, but a great comfort. It took me around three hours to get to the peak and down again, and my legs still hurt. But the view was amazing and if look through them now, I feel my pictures don't express enough the beauty of the place. I will have to go back again!
Yesterday I had a trip with Ornella, from the Journalism Office as me, to Khayalitsha. Ornella interviewed Jane Levinson who runs an animal clinic called Mdzananda (Mmm-za-nan-da) and I had the chance to take a few interesting pictures.
For the ones who don't know yet, Khayalitsha is a huge township out of Cape Town, one of the biggest of South Africa. A township is something similar to the indian slums, or the brazilian favelas, but much bigger. The poorest people live there, in huts or simple houses builded from waste materials. Life seems often to be cheap in these places, violence and criminality may be hidden in any corner. But beware of most of the people may tell you about townships, it's not like the inhabitants were just waiting for a white tourist to jump on him. It's just a poor place with poor people. Lovely people most of the times.
So, the point is: why should people who can't afford the cost of animal care not be allowed to have a pet? And here comes this amazing woman whith his clinic to provide treatement and cures for a very low price or free at all.
They heal, cure, sterilize, vaccinate and sometimes even adopt the neighbouring pets only counting on what they rise from donations and a little help from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
The guys also work door-to-door with their mobile-clinic, to assist the pet owner and also to educate them about the basic rules for the safety and wellness of their fury friends.
The township's people greatly appreciate them, and now and then they host volunteers from abroad to work as vets and supporters who estimate their job and gift them with donations. If you wanna learn something more about the clinic, visit their website www.mdzananda.co.za. But if you prefer to see some real hot chicks, then go to... well, that's another kind of story. Enjoy!
Part of your introduction to Cape Town HAS to be Mzoli's. Every Sunday you can find foreigners and locals alike mingling at this ‘braai’. I went to Mzoli's as part of a Projects Abroad social just three days after arriving in Cape Town.
We could smell Mzoli’s meat before we could hear it, and we could hear Mzoli’s before we could see it. The smell of bonfire and barbecue are almost as intense as the bass and the beats that come from various DJ’s that mix throughout the day. The color of life in this oversized, tin-roofed, make-shift bbq shack was intimidating.
Having no idea what I was getting myself into and not expecting a full out party to already be in swing at 1 p.m. on a Sunday, I was paralyzed with shock upon walking in. The intense smells, noise and sight overcome you to such an extent that you lose yourself. Then comes the meat.
Bowls of meat are brought to the tables and we dig in... with our hands and without full knowledge of what kind of meat we are eating. I later learn it consisted of chicken, beef, lamb and sausage. The bass beats in your chest and the savageness of eating meat with just your teeth and hands brings out the true carnivore in us humans. It’s liberating.
Many of the native women, though very large, can move and shake their hips for hours in ways I couldn’t imagine possible. Men and women are all dressed up in fancy attire and with unique t-shirts. Many wear faded Run Dmc tees. One kid has a shirt with a picture of Africa on it and surrounding the country it said, “If poverty is a struggle hustling is a cure.” Another said, “One too many is never enough.” I can’t help but cringe at the implication of crime, greed and in a way, the negative affects of consumerism that we often don’t see in America. I also notice amongst all the styles present here, the fedora craze has just hit. I can't help but smile.
Mzoli's is a great way to get thrown into the nonstop fun and party culture that is ever so present in Cape Town! Cheap beers, cheap tasty meat and free fun! ;)
(Above, front right: Projects Abroad Cape Town staff member - Meschak Bugaye (Volunteer Co-ordinator)
“I presented this Japanese traditional picture to the South African Office with respect and many thanks for my experience and wonderful memory” - Yohei Kimura (Japanese, 5 months)
(Above: Yohei's message in Japanese, translated to say: “Dear Projects Abroad South African Office. Thank you very much for the wonderful memory and experience! Yohei Kimura, Osaka, Japan”)
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