Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cape Town, South Africa Days 2-3

Cape Town Day 2

       We awake around 10, get dressed and are quickly on our way. Our plan is to see Long Street during the day and if possible head to Table Mountain to enjoy the view. It is cloudy, so we brace ourselves for the likelihood that TM won’t happen. As we pass through the gate, exiting our gated jetty, we are encircled by taxi cab drivers’pleadings and offers. After our bad taxi cab experiences in Morocco we are uneasy about getting a taxi right outside the jetty, because they can be less reliable then those found outside of the wharf, but we find a nice women who quotes us 50 Rand for the trip (5$). As metered taxis can actually be more expensive than flat rate ones we decide to commission the trip. She drops us off in front of a large bead store and I search for some unique African beads for my mom (to no avail, they were mostly the usual beads). Brittany and I venture on through the small boutique stores, holding on to the zippers of our bags (pick-pocketing is common on this touristy street). We remark about the differences of the street from night to day (a lot less beggers, etc…) as well as marvel at the commercial nature of it and the fact that it felt like any other major city in the world, we had lost that “Africa feeling”from Namibia.

       Brittany haggles with a young man for a hand painted picture (he uses his thumbs with acrylic on jean, way cool) while I explore a very small giraffe print (I got it for 40 Rand). Pleased with our purchases we head back to the street to look for a quick bite to eat. The sky looks like it will clear up, so we decide on a restaurant hurriedly, “Mr. Pickwicks”. A couple outside gives us the universal thumbs up (once again ) and we proceed to order. The meal was not exactly great, but we shoveled it in and hailed a taxi to Table Mountain. Our driver was moody, which reminded me of a certain Las Vegas taxi driver (lol, dad), but he turned out to be trustworthy.

       Arriving at the summit of such a huge mountain was totally breathtaking; we conversed with a young Italian couple as we exchanged cameras to take pictures of each other. From there we headed to the ticket office to buy space on the next gondola. Some SASers hiked the mountain, but we were discouraged by the long speeches in pre-port about the many crimes and thefts that take place on the remote trails. Traveling up the side of the mountain was awesome, but not for those afraid of heights. As the city got smaller and smaller our proximity to the rocks along the sides of the mountain seemed to tighten. As the altitude hit my head we explored the peak, taking tons of pictures and stopping to call our parents. The views from the mountain were stunning as you could see most of the Cape Flats, the city center and even some of the townships. We were happy we pushed ourselves to do it as it was a little far from Long Street (although not particularly expensive). It turned out to be great weather and we could see everything!

       After a little over an hour we descended the mountain once more, looking for a taxi. Again, we are encircled by drivers so we just decide to follow one, who proceeds to lead us to a mid size van with lots of rows of seats. I was apprehensive at first as these mini-buses are allowed to stop and pick up more passengers along the way, but it was only us and David from Denmark in the van and they said they were going straight to the wharf, so we hopped in. We spent the drive talking to David who had kids about our age and worked on rig. It passed the time nicely.

       By the time we arrived back to the boat it was 6ish and we were exhausted. We decided on a short nap before dinner. Bad idea. I woke up with a terrible headache and more tired then before. But, hey, you’re only 20 and in South Africa once, right? So I downed some Ibuprofen and join Brittany for sushi at the wharf, again (it was our favorite place). I bring my ipod touch out with me, just in case of wi-fi, and am delighted to get some good law school news! After dinner, we return home to get a good night of sleep before our “Operation Hunger”service visit in the morning.

Cape Town Day 3
       We wake up early to make it to our “Operation Hunger”service visit. Traveling out towards the buses we don’t know exactly what to expect. We know we will be working with an NGO (Operation Hunger, lol) which excites me because I spent much of my sophomore year working on research about the work that NGOs do/did in Sierra Leone. The idea of getting to actually volunteer with one of the poorest townships in the cape made waking up so early not so bad.

       We take an alarmingly short bus (scary, because it shows how dichotomy in terms of economy Cape Town really is) ride to Green Park, a section of one of the worst townships, with an 80% unemployment rate. As I take out my camera to shoot some cute pictures of the little kids (we visited a nursery) I realize that I left my memory card in my other camera. Brittany hadn’t brought hers either because we were told that it could be seen as making the kids into animals at zoo by taking so many pictures. To add insult to injury the little kids loved posing for the camera and would often ask us to take pictures of them. Luckily some other friends of ours snapped quite a few pictures of it and we were able to borrow theirs. Plus my camera is able to innately take 7 pictures, so I have enough to scrapbook!

       Ok, enough about the camera, more about the kids! The children were so joyful as we played games. They didn’t speak English, but it is truly amazing how communicative two people can be even if they don’t speak the same language. I gave out hundreds of stickers that ilana had given me prior to the trip (great tip Lauren!). I also helped weigh kids. That was the “Operation Hunger”side of the trip. They use us as volunteers to measure the kid’s arm circumference, weight, height and age. They then put the data on a graph to determine if the children are malnourished, and if so how much so. I was in charge of the weighing, which was a little overwhelming as keeping the littlier kids still enough to weigh them was hard. But I was thrilled to be helping. During this time Brittany was helping plant a veggie garden with which older members of the township could plant sustainable food, in order to aid some of the malnourishment.

       I continued to weigh the kids and play with them. Whoever says Semester at Sea is a worthless Booze Cruise (and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that idea in people’s eyes when I mention what study abroad I picked) has never gotten into a tickle fight with a five year old African child. From Green Park we venture on to a rest stop for a quick lunch where we are asked to purchase some loaves of bread for our next stop. I gather up a loaf before our trip depletes their supply and we are on our way.

       I believe the next stop was in a segment of Khaylistia, but I never got its name. Any who, this second stop took us to a food kitchen. It was literally someone’s home on the outskirts of the squatter town who provides food three times a week for the impoverished. She gets little funding so she uses her own money to feed them. She had asked the mothers to bring all of their children so we could weigh and feed them. When we first got there they sang us an adorable song and we responded with the Hokey Pokey. It was a little awkward but everyone enjoyed it.

       From there chaos ensued. While Brittany made PB&J for everyone, I went back to the scales to weigh the kids. There were hundreds of people and it was quite complicated to keep track of the numbers, at times we even had to write on the kids arms so that the data collectors could keep everything straight. I gave out more stickers and after an hour or so, everyone retreated to the front yard to play. And I mean play, these kids spoke some English and were VERY playful. They wanted to do our hair (which consisted of them running their fingers through it and then twisting random spots), play hand games and of course get stickers. I was surrounded a few times (especially when I gave out ladybug stickers) with children (and some adults) shouting “For Me”which throwing themselves at me(not in a violent way). It was a very positive expierence, but also very sad. At the end of the play time the man in charge came out with the completed chart which showed the boys off the chart (or severly malnourished), while the girls were moderately malnourished. The mothers explained the discrepancy by saying that the girls stay closer to home and to the kitchen while the boys tend to venture off for the day and skip meals. It was very sad to imagine these happy playful kids don’t get enough nutrition and are at risk for so many diseases. It puts all our spending as Americans into perspective. How can we rationalize a pair of 200$ jeans, when these kids are ready to knock someone over for sticker? Its kind of pathetic. But no more of my philosophizing, I’ll go on to explain the rest of my day 

       Tired, mentally and physically, the bus drops us off at the ship and we head to our room. We decided against a nap, as it hadn’t worked out the night before and proceed to track down Becca to go to dinner. We were quite hungry but I really wanted some authentic South African food by the wharf (the idea of a taxi was too tiring). We walk around and around and finally settle on a restaurant. I order Ostrich, which had a good flavor believe it or not, but was quite chewy. We relax for a little and discuss our days before heading back to the ship for some sleep.

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