I can’t believe that I’m back in Port Elizabeth and nearing the end of my South African adventure. A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Cape Town, one of SA’s most iconic and historic cities. Since I now have a chance to write about it, here are a few highlights from the trip!
A coastal introduction. Cape Town has been a harbor and refuge for traders, travelers, and refugees alike for hundreds of years. While still fully functional as a home for travel and freight vessels, the Victoria and Albert Waterfront (named after the English queen and her son) is a playground for children and adults alike. Modern restaurants boasting flavors from all around the world are nestled among markets filled with traditional African wares and art. It’s not hard to stumble across a band playing in the street a truly rainbow blend of influences from around the world. Hopping on a sailboat our first evening gave us a warm welcome to this vibrant city.
A taste of the city. I have never felt more at home in Africa than when I was surrounded by the sights and smells of the V&A Food Market. Dozens of vendors with artisanal and gourmet foods from around the world set up shop here every day, and deciding which to put on your plate can be quite difficult. I sampled a smattering of foods from around the world, most notably the Kubu Kebab (ostrich, crocodile, warthog, and zebra) and ended up with a jar of local fynbos honey to take home with me! We Nashvillians love our food, and it seems that CapeTonians feel the same. A new point of view. Table Mountain and neighboring Lion’s Head are the backbone of Cape Town and have remained its silent guardians for thousands of years. Table Mountain, named so for its huge flat ridge is home to a variety of wildlife and a state-of-the art cable car service. It was a quick trip up, but unfortunately the entire mountain was blanketed in a stubborn cloud. Not to be discouraged, we made the quick-yet-challenging 45 minute hike up Lion’s Head for a truly breathtaking view. Sea, city, and mountain stretching out for as far as the eye could see. A picnic lunch at the top made it a perfect afternoon.
A lesson in liberty. No trip to Cape Town would be complete without a visit to Robben Island, home to many prisoners and exiles, most notably Nelson Mandela for eighteen out of his twenty-seven years of imprisonment during apartheid. Although I was prepared to face some uncomfortable facts about apartheid, I was still amazed at how much I didn’t know—for example, because I’m half Caribbean, I would have been classified as “colored” and denied rights such as the freedom of movement, labor rights, and expression. I also had no idea that our tour of the island would be led by a former prisoner of Robben Island—a man who was jailed for five years at just the age of eighteen. Hearing his story and more importantly the grace in which he addressed his struggles and his former captors was nothing short of inspiring. It was the hearts of men and women like these that were able to soften and break the chains of apartheid, and it’s those kinds of hearts we need to ensure that equality is the goal we continue to work to, personally and politically.
A little something different. Cape Town is filled with variety, so much of which I was able to experience in a short time. Walking through the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens let us experience a kingdom of flora unique to this part of the world (while still giving a home to some familiar plants like lavender and jasmine). At the World of Birds Sanctuary, we saw everything from eagles to emus with a few guest animals like tortoises and monkeys. In the Bo Kapp neighborhood, our walking tour led us past rows and rows of colorful houses that distinguish this traditionally Muslim area with an artistic flair. And brushing past colorful beaded jewelry and fabrics at Greenmarket Square could have kept my eyes busy for hours. I feel like I could have spent weeks in this city and not seen everything there was to it. There are always surprises around every corner, which is always welcome by me!
I am missing Cape Town already but am so happy to be back at Emzomncane teaching my favorite children and coaching with a fabulous new group of UTS volunteers. Stay posted for more updates over these last few weeks!