Tuesday, July 8, 2008

HELP!!!! Ark Needed!

Today I looked out the bus window and saw the top of Table Mountain...oh...now it's gone. It has been one long dreary stretch of rain, wind, and cold. Note to self...July isn't the best time to visit Cape Town. However, everyone is really being troopers - it's stopping no one. We even have a few who are going diving with sharks...yikes.

Onto the good stuff. Yesterday we took a half day tour of CT. Our guide was wonderful; she knew a lot and had a good sense of humor. We went to the Iziko Slave Lodge which was the original site where the Dutch brought slaves - mostly from Malaysia. This is the origin of the official coloured designation, although coloured is now much more of name for bi- or multi-racial people. A category of "nots": not white, not African black. We learned that the national flower is the King Protea, and that Cecil Rhodes (e.g., the Rhodes scholarship scholar and founder of DeBeers diamonds) bought up all of the diamond mines and there apparently still exists a true monopoly on diamonds. I guess diamonds are quite abundant, but the mines limit the amount that reach market at any given time.

We also traveled through a part of CT called District 6 with a history that is reflective of Apartheid era policies. It was a mixed race area that was decreed a white neighborhood. All of the non-whites were forcibly moved to the townships outside of the city. Apparently, it was controversial enough of a plan that even the white citizens refused to move to the area and much of it still remains undeveloped. However, there is a plan in place now to provide reparations for those removed that has either involved cash payments or having a new house built back in the neighborhood. Needless to say - it's going slowly.

We also went through the Bo Kaap area of town, also known as Cape Malay. These folks are the descendants of the original slaves. This neighborhood offered a cooking safari to make some traditional cape food that we were hoping to go on, but apparently since this is a low season, there are no tours available.

Today we made our first agency visit. It was in a township called Kyaletshia (that's not spelled right but it's close). The agency is called Hope Worldwide. The folks that we talked with are doing work with men to reduce violence against women and HIV. We visited a site where they were doing some exercises with children aged 9-18. We observed them doing an exercise on gender stereotypes with young boys and girls. It was very interesting. Our hosts were great. They were initially funded by USAid to do some AIDS work - USAid, of course, is abstinence focused although they do allow using the ABC strategy (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condoms). Wessel (our host) talked briefly about the difficulties of implementing these types of things on the ground and said "it is fundamentally a violation of human rights not to provide people with all the information they need to protect themselves from this disease." Go Wessel!

However, let me also add that the townships are terribly poor. There are significant numbers of people who live in very small shacks right next to each other made out of corrugated metal. And those are not made well. Our day today started with a call from our transportation company saying that they were going to cancel our trip because their had been riots on the highway near the township the previous night. I called Wessel who assured us that all was fine and that we would be completely safe (we were). Wessel told us that with all of the rain that there had been floods and the terrible conditions that the people lived in meant that they had no dry place to live and sleep. They were protesting their living conditions.

But the highlight of the day was the man who got involved in this work through music. He is in a group of a capella singers and noticed that when they practiced, they had a group of children gathering around. He realized this as an opportunity to engage his community in a positive way and has been working with the kids ever since. He's still singing too. The brief video I've attached is them singing, and he is the one on the far right.

And for the foodies among you - we had some fabulous Indian food for dinner last night. The restaurant specialized in food from southern India. We had some Thali which was two types of bread (pappadum and puri) along with 5 different curries. We also had Dosa, which is a rice and lentil pancake that I swear was about 14" in diameter. It got rolled up into a large tube and was served with several curries and chutneys, too. And we ordered a coriander chutney - ohmygoodness was that tasty. Shari/Jim - get to work...cilantro, lentils, ginger, and a bit of oil. It was quite green and had a texture similar to toothpaste (or some such thing). Yum!!!

Tomorrow we're off to Robben Island. The weather is supposed to clear sometime on Thursday so keep your fingers crossed for us.

Thanks to all for the updates from home - we're thinking about you all!


Bettianne said...

Thanks for providing such a great narrative of your experience. I love the videos, too. It's rainy in Florida, so you aren't missing anything. Hope you get some sunny soon.

Terry A said...

Beautiful singing, really hits the heart. I'm having fun reading this! Thanks again for being the Riso transport, he's doing great!