Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cape Town, South Africa

We arrived on Friday morning, and as soon as we were cleared I left for my FDP to Zandvlei Estuary, Cape Peninsula, and Cape Point. Zandvlei is the only functioning estuary in False Bay and it just looked like some ponds with some different types of grasses and other plants. There were several birds we saw, but as I'm not a birder, it wasn't very interesting to me. The estuary was interesting but really wasn't anything special. After that we ate at a restaurant and then went to Boulders Beach. That was where we saw African Penguins up close. They were walking around everywhere and we were able to get pretty close to some of them. They used to be called Jackass Penguins because they sound like donkeys. After spending some time taking pictures with the penguins, we went to Cape Point, which isn't the southernmost tip of South Africa is, but it overlooks False Bay and the supposed Flying Dutchman shipwreck. We hiked for about 15 minutes up to the top of a very steep cliff to the lighthouse. We also saw where the Flying Dutchman crashed. But after that we just went back to the ship and I relaxed for the rest of the night.

The next day I went with a couple friends to the Two Oceans Aquarium and it was amazing! There were a ton of underwater animals and even a touch tank. Then we went to lunch in the mall and went to the Botanical Gardens. We had to take a taxi there, but it wasn't too far away. It was very beautiful, but really only interesting to those who have a passion or hobby for plant species. There were a couple birds but no other animals there. The plants and flowers and view in general was great, but walking around a viewing plants got a little boring after a while.

On the third day, I originally had an FDP that I sold so I could go to Robben Island. We woke up early and went shopping around the market and I got some paintings and little things. Then we went to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. This island was where they took political leaders who opposed the apartheid. But, it was also used by the Dutch and British earlier for prisoners as well as people with Leprosy. They didn't understand the disease and they didn't have a cure for it so they put everyone on a island who had it and they were forbidden to have children. But during the 70s through the 90s, it was used for political leaders like Nelson Mandela and Sobukwe. We got to see Mandela's cell, as well as other people's cells and group cells. We also got a bus tour of the island and saw some of the sites. Then we went back to the ship and relaxed for a while, before coming back out to Skype.

On the fourth day in Cape Town, I went on a trip to the Amy Biehl Foundation. Amy Biehl was a Fulbright scholar who came to South Africa to study and help with the apartheid. She was stoned and then stabbed to death by four angry black men who thought she was a white person trying to take their freedom away. Her parents started the foundation to end the cycle of violence by educating children and better preparing them for future job opportunities, and also giving them after school programs. We visited the office, where apparently two of Amy’s killers worked. I did not meet them but other people in my group did. I think all four of her killers are now associated with the foundation in one way or another. Then we visited a school and met some of the children and the principal. We also went to a couple after school programs that were focused on teaching the kids music and dance. They performed several dances for us and I even got some on video! We ate at a restaurant that served only meat, so it was very frustrating and difficult for me to find anything to eat. But, overall the trip was one of my favorites and I would seriously consider going back and volunteering at the Amy Biehl Foundation.

The next day I decided to go out and get some stamps and some more money. So I walked to the Waterfront and didn’t have any problems. It was really nice walking around by myself for the morning without anyone else to worry about. Somehow, I felt safer in Cape Town than any other place we’ve visited. Safer than most places I’ve been to in the U.S. But later I found out that there were larger amounts of theft reported, including at least one person robbed at gunpoint in a taxi. Other incidences included people walking to the Waterfront, like I did, and just being held at knifepoint. I was extremely surprised to hear that and felt lucky, to say the least. I’m not sure if I didn’t look like I had anything of value, considering I never dress up for the countries, or if I was just not in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if I walked to fast for them. Because every time I was around a South African male (white or black) I would pick up my walking, but I really wasn’t ever alone in the sense that there were always a few people around. Whatever it was, I definitely will not be walking around there by myself again. Apparently, there were so many incidences that they are considering not returning next year. Anyway, after my dangerous morning, I had my trip to the Cape Community TV station, or C-TV. It was very interesting because its purpose was strictly social movement media, meaning they didn’t play mainsteam or entertainment media. Only issues that were pertinent to their community. They even had meetings where members of the community could get together and discuss what topics they wanted to be broadcast. It was also interesting because rather than being a journalism station that aims for neutrality (which is what every news station will tell you, but hardly ever are) they explicitly said that they were left-wing and if you wanted something to be on the air, it had to agree with their views otherwise they wouldn’t air it. I’m not sure if I liked this idea because the type of journalism I’m partial to is neutral and objective. But on the other hand, can you create a media that is intended to change social norms and ideas without having an agenda? Whichever, it was great to see a different point of view on how journalism should be.

The final day in Cape Town, I woke up to a rocky start. I had a trip planned for 7:30 in the morning and I tried to get to bed early so I would feel rested. My roommate, however, had a different idea when she came into the room with a boy, intoxicated of course, and they blew some horn over and over again. I finally told them to leave and that was the end of that, but it was not the best start to my last day there. My trip was to the West Coast National Part and Langebaan Lagoon. Although we didn’t see many animals since it wasn’t a game park, it was still really neat. We saw eland, ostriches, flamingoes off in the distance, and a variety of birds, along with the landscape of the lagoon and grassland. After that we came back and left for the rocky seas. We will be in Mauritius on Tuesday, just for the day.

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