Thursday, February 26, 2009

Days 4-5, Cape Town, South Africa

“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”– Scott Cameron
Day 4-Cape Town, South Africa
Finally able to sleep in just a little bit, we wake up around 9:15 to head downstairs to the buses for our “Cape Malay Cooking Safari”, as planned by SAS. I was apprehensive about signing up from the beginning because truthfully I’m not really a cooker and my family isn’t into exotic dishes. But, the idea of being able to be taught how to cook by an authentic South African tipped the balance in favor and I had applied. Later, we found out that the Malay people are actually descendents of Indonesian slaves who were brought to Cape Town hundreds of years ago to reclaim the land that Cape Town is housed upon. They are also Muslim.
With very little in terms of expectations, Brittany and I head onto a small bus with another friend of ours, Emily. While Emily chats it up with the guide (a white South African), Brittany reads and I stare out the window for another startlingly short ride. We find ourselves getting out of the car on a very colorful street. The houses remind me somewhat of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico and I go straight to shooting pictures of the funky street. Listening to the tour guide I am informed that the hierarchy in South Africa today and during apartheid is basically: white and rich, brown and poor, black and desolate. The frankness with which she and others talked about race was especially striking. Although many say that there are always truths behind stereotypes, I can’t help but to think that these types of generalizations stick people in rigid groups. However, to her credit, when I asked if there are residual feelings towards her as a white South African she responds that yes she does feel it and it takes her a while to gain trust from Black South Africans. She also recounts her own personal parlay into the anti-apartheid movement, even discussing being thrown into jail for her radical views.
But, back to our cooking safari, lol. She walks us through the colorful houses where we smell the divine scents of fresh baked bread and food. We then walk to a halal (muslim version of kosher) butcher where we are told to look at the purity and bloodlessness of the meat. Coming from a Jewish home, it looked exactly like a kosher butchery or even deli. From there we go to a spice shop where she explains all the different types of, you guessed it, spices.
The shop is small and the smells overwhelming. Our guide walks us through the baskets of colorful spices from Turmic to curry powder. She gently picks some up with a scooper and asks us all to smell or even taste the different offerings. I try the coriander which tastes just like licorice. While the group shops for spices, I find a small seat upon a rice bag next to the owner of the shop. Since I didn’t know what I wanted to remake yet, since we hadn’t even begun cooking, I figuring I could buy most of the spices at home and proceed to chat it up with the owner. He explains that he lets groups come and play with the spices free of charge. He describes his love of South Africa and when I ask him if he’s ever been to the states he explains that “there is nothing there for him there”. Although that isn’t exactly what I want to hear, he goes on to explain that he likes Obama, and has no ill will towards the United States. He tells me stories about India before Brittany shows up with spices and a cook book. We walk across the street to our chef for the day’s home, Hamida. Hamida turns out to be a wonderful Muslim women, who proper to her marriage did not know how to cook. She tells stories about first learning to cook with her mother-in-law and also recounts that now she teachers her mother-in-law more conventional recipes, such as lasagna. Interestingly, the interior of her kitchen is very modern, she has a dicer, a gorgeous fridge, granite tables and a microwave, which is a stark contrast to the antiquity of the outside of her house. She greets us with a strawberry milk drink, infused with Rose oil and small seeds, which was very yummy.
Our hunger takes over as we learn how to cook samoosas. It turns out that all my years of papercrafts are great training for samoosa making as some had trouble making the paper football like containers. We learn how to make the filling and then stuff our paper-footballs. (No worries, I have the recipes, hillary-we will be making these ). From the Samoosas we move onto making Roti which is sort of like a thin sweet wrap, which we later use to eat the food with our hands. Next, we begin making the chicken curry. I help put in all the spices, while Hamida instructs me in terms of the measurement of heaps (1 heap, ½ a heap…). We add salt to the recipe for more taste and then put it on the stove. Then, we make Tomato and onion Samfal, which is sort of like an Israeli salad, but with more tomato. We finish up by watching her make chili bites and then retire to the long table before us. The food goes quickly as our bellies swell in satisfaction of our creations. The time also seems to slip away and we are back onto the bus, heading for the ship.
I found the Cooking Safari to be very interesting. We got to interact with a whole other set of Cape Town inhabitants and even got to learn from them. I also got to see how much better they live then those in the townships. Under apartheid rule they were favored over the Black population, which has led to unevenness even today. Even on Robben Island, the muslims were given more food then the blacks in an effort to tear them apart and create jealously. I really enjoyed meeting Hamida, a seemingly modern women wearing her headcovering, but still working to earn a living.
From the bus we meet up with Becca and the four of us found our lady-driver from the day before. Interestingly, it seems that every time she picks up clients she tries to convince them to go somewhere else, farther. Brittany and I roll our eyes at each other as Becca and Emily seem to contemplate it.
We arrive on Long Street and head straight to the Women’s Trading Post where Brittany had bought her painting the day before. Becca and Emily each fall in love with paintings as I explore the other offerings, finding nothing. Unfortunately the man who we had met the day before wasn’t there and the woman couldn’t seem to locate him via cell phone. (They seem to bargain through cell phones by calling their bosses). Disappointed the four of us go to leave the huge indoor market when we happen to bump into the owner and his brother, the painter himself. Ecstatic, we run back to the stall and the bargaining hits over drive. The three of them end up with large paintings as my mind wanders back to a necklace that I had held off of the day before, a three strand freshwater pearl necklace that I had put off incase I found something better (it was only 10 USD). We quickly head down the street towards Green Market Square, me with the idea of the necklace, Becca hoping for some more earrings and Brittany and Emily with paintings on their minds. When we arrive, we notice many stalls gone and many more packing up. We split up (its safe there-there are a TON of police), Becca coming with me (since she was wearing a different version of the necklace and could point to it to help me locate the stall) and Emily and Brittany heading off to find their loot.
To my disappointment the stall that had held them the day before was completely down. However, there was a man standing next to it, asking what we were looking for. When Becca showed him her necklace he quickly exclaimed “I have those!”. Skeptical, since a lot of time stall owners with just show you a random necklace, we followed him to his stall. To my surprise, the other shopkeeper (she hand makes them while you watch) had a whole box of her necklaces. I picked out a pretty blue one and Becca and I went to find the others (we couldn’t find the earrings she wanted). The market was really closing at this point because it was Saturday, and we had a little trouble finding our friends amidst the chaos.
From the GSM, we hailed a taxi to the wharf. Brittany and I bought some snacks for the voyage and then went back to the ship for some R&R before heading out to dinner (our fave sushi place again) with Becca, Perri and Shayna.
Dinner is another delight as I eat an amazing Crunchy Tuna Roll which totally rivals Bento’s Crunch Roll. Britt and I split a Milk Tart for dessert (a South African specialty!). Their (everyone but me) plan was to go out after dinner, back to Long Street. I knew I was too tired because we had to wake up at 7:30 for our second Township visit and by the time we completed our long dinner, Brittany knew she was too. We hurry back to the ship to go to sleep, as the rain gently pours outside (a sign we made the right decision!)
Day 5-Cape Town, South Africa
As a political science major, especially one with an African Studies minor, the idea of visiting and volunteering at Townships was especially appealing. After Operation Hunger, I didn’t feel like I had seen enough as it focused mainly on children. Waking up so early was not particularly appealing, but again, I want to see it all!
We head down to the buses and embark on the drive to Khaylistia Township. The section we visit looked a little better then Green Park, but not by much. The shacks are made of shipping tin, the shops are made up of literal shipping crates but the people are full of smiles.
We head first to Vicky’s Bed and Breakfast. She tells us the story of her upstart which started as a small section of her house and is currently a multi-room, two story place to greet visitors from all over the world. Vicky discusses some of the hard ships of being a women running a business, but has obviously made a success of it. She also recounts the holiday parties that she plans for the community where each child gets a pencil or pen as a gift. We donate some rand and head downstairs to play with some neighborhood kids. We are stormed once more by children aching for stickers and once again we distribute them with smiles. Some kids were content with just one, while others seemed to keep running through the line. We try to be as fair as we can as older members of the community try to keep the kids in a line. Everyone gathers back on the bus where we discuss the idea of this form of tourism. Our guide “Jimmy”explains that although Townships were “No-Go”areas during apartheid, the community really wants foreigners to see their hardships so that there can be more public outcries. Seeing such poverty really did do a number on me, so it seems to be working.
From Vicky’s we head to a small craft market, which is home to a playground and directly adjacent from a church. We start at the craft market and I buy a couple hand made magnets, which consist of soda cans cut and crimped into flowers. VERY cool! We had back to the playground and Brittany hangs upside down from the jungle gym while I takes some pictures and hand out stickers. Heading to the church, we can hear the chorus singing beautiful hymns. Sitting in the black row we enjoy the music and the sermon switches from English to Courso. The church seems very western and an African Jesus is prominently displayed above the podium. It also seems to be populated by many more women than men. When I ask the tour guide why this is, he says women are more spiritual and men sometimes don’t feel it is their duty to pray. Exiting the church we take the bus to another B&B where we get to have a quick snack (some spicy donuts and custard, yum!).
Our guide then takes us on a walking tour. This was my absolute highlight. It turned out that Interm President Zuma of the ANC was coming to speak that afternoon. The streets teemed with people dancing and screaming. They proudly held out ANC flags and wore shorts adorned with Zuma’s face. As we walked through the chaos we remarked at the amazing experience we were having. Encircled by poverty we were welcomed by these people who posed for pictures (and even asked for them to be taken!), shook our hands and just seemed so genuine. There is no possible way for me to accurately describe the experience but it was just SO real and SO neat. These people are very political and even amongst poverty, AIDs and illiteracy, they manage to get so excited and involved. Unfortunately we had heard (and there is no way for me to verify this, so its not fact necessarily), that Zuma is actually quite corrupt and that a lot of Black Africans vote for the ANC because it was Mandela’s party, but is not currently very good for the Black community.
Heading back to the ship we were aglow at our very unique experience. South Africa is my favorite stop so far and I know I want to return to Africa as soon as I can. I think the continent really gets a bad rap, but it is so vibrant and beautiful. My experiences from Namibia and now South Africa will stay with me always as I continue to travel the world.

1 comment:

  1. Hi
    i enjoy reading your blog as much as any good book. What a great experience for you to be able to travel and see so much of the world. Can't wait for your next stop. Have a wonderful time and be safe.
    Carolyn in Louisiana