Wednesday, September 16, 2015

South Africa 2015 - September, 15 - Cape Town Cultural Tour

South Africa 2015 - September, 15 - Cape Town Cultural Tour

This day began with curiosity and a willingness to learn how culture in South Africa, specifically Cape Town, compares to America as well as learn about the apartheid history.  The biggest issue was that it was raining, but we weren't going to let that stop us.  Our guide, Suleiman, picked us up at 9:30 AM SAST.  It was supposed to be a pickup time of 9 AM, but he was stuck in traffic.  Turns out, South Africans slow down just like us in America when it rains…  No biggie though.

We headed down the road in search for District 6 area.  First we went to the Bo-Kaap museum and learned the differences between whites, coloreds, and blacks as it pertained to how the people were segregated during the apartheid era. Whites were just that, Caucasian Africans who led the country of South Africa.  They went in and told the colored and black folk to go away as they took over their homes and property.  The blacks, who were as what we all consider African American in the US, were also among the ones who needed to flee. The colored people were the people that were decedents from places like India and countries in upper Africa, which Suleiman explained that's what he was considered due to his Muslim beliefs and color of his skin.  Either way, the whites ran everyone out of town and took over, even though they were fewer.  The whites would intimidate the colored and blacks with throwing them in jail and ‘losing the key’ so to speak.  Death tolls were very high for those in jail due to suicide.  This was because they knew they would not get out alive anyway.  The number Suleiman quoted was 80% of those in jail would kill themselves.  Astonishing.

We drove around district 6 for a while and then headed to the District 6 museum.  There is where we could understand a little better about how big the district was as well as the impact of the people and understood where they had to go.  When we exited there, we were still in the district 6 area and we were then showed how much of the land was still bare some 20 years after the Apartheid was disbanded.  There were new homes and building being built, but it was a slow process since the government was funding a lot of the development.

After leaving District 6, we went to what is called a township.  This was the place where our eyes opened up even wider.  They called it a township, but the words that I could describe it as would be slum, projects, and unbelievable. We went in to the Langa township, where several thousand blacks lived.  There was an odd sense of being in this area, simply due to the environment on the specific day we went.  You see, during the fall of the Apartheid, the government promised to make it up to the blacks and colored to get them in to better housing.  The day were were there, there were new apartments being opened for the blacks that lived in these containers and self made huts or shacks.  There was a big police presence during the day from stationed officers all over the place to mobile ones that followed the moving trucks from one section of the township to the other..  There was also a protest outside of the building where they were moving people in to.  This was due to the thought that they had of entitled to being next to be able to move out and into a better home.  Understandable angst from my perspective, but we didn't stick around long at the protest.

As we toured the township on foot, Anthony was introduced to us to be our guide - since he was from the area and he knew most of the people in the township.  Our first stop was to a container that was sectioned off into two make shift apartments for a family.  The containers were just that, a rail container.  They were lined up in a nice row, just away from some of the shacks, but still very present.  This was an upgraded way to live compared to the shacks, but not nearly big enough for a family of 3 or 4 in my opinion.  I asked Anthony if it was ok to take photos and he responded, yes.  They liked having their photos taken because of the marketing that can be done showing the despair to others outside the government, which may help get the word spread for a faster resolution to their living conditions.  After we left the container area, we walked straight through an area where shacks were built side by side.  I think if one wall would fall down, the rest would fall like dominoes.  Anyway, as we walked through, we were greeted with hi’s and also with blank stares.   As I pointed my camera to get some of the environment, some were very happy to have their photos taken as some were not.  All of the township appeared to be very happy despite of their living conditions.

We left the shack area and went to the apartments, which were constructed by the government away from District 6 and other parts of the Cape Town area to keep segregation somewhat.  These apartments did not have hardly anything in them, but they were a stable building that didn't look like would fall over easily.  Some of the apartments were upgraded as well, which the government is aiding with.  The contrast of the first apartment we went into versus the second one was astounding.  The first apartment could not have been 500 sq ft in size, with a living area, a bathroom, a kitchen, and one bedroom.  There were three families living in this apartment, sharing everything.  The one bedroom only had three beds, which appeared to be twin sized.  All of their belongings were stacked on the bed where the parents would sleep. Stacks of clothes and other things lined up the wall on the beds.  I asked if the kids would sleep in the beds with them and Anthony said no, they would sleep on the floor at night.  We then went to an upgraded apartment, where a single family would live.  There, we met the mother washing dishes in the kitchen/living room.  The dad was making the bed and the daughter was in her own bedroom.  Much better living conditions, but still pretty much sadness.

After waking down the block a ways, we then went to the area where the final transition would take place.  This is where 2-3 bedroom houses were constructed.  It looked like a normal housing area, but they were still close together and barely any yards.  We didn't go in to any of the houses, but we could tell they were much nicer than the area we just walked through.  However, they were so close.  Our tour ended with riding through the area where the colored still lived.  Many of them with multiple family members living in their homes.

Once back to where we were staying, we ate some lunch and prepared to meet Marc, our new friend from Brian's.  We had planned to go on a tour to taste craft beer, wine, and cheese.  We met Marc down the street at Brian's and headed out of town to where their were several nice wineries.  Our first stop was Spice Route, where we would taste South African German inspired beer made by Cape Brewing Company.  Each one we tasted had a distinct taste.  We started with a lager, moved to a pilsner, then tried a few weiss beers.  All were good to Marc and I. Kathy, not so much.  After that, we headed downs some stairs to taste some wine.  Again, all were very good.  In one comparison tasting, the sommelier explained the difference of the grapes in tasting a wine from their area vs grapes from their sister companies area, which both were processed the same exact way.  The taste of each was noticeably different.  Very interesting since we are the furthest thing from being a wine connoisseur. 

Marc noticed that we were running a little late, so we hurried the last wine taste and headed off to the next winery, Fairview, which had cheese samples as well.  As we approached the building, we couldn't help but notice the goats that were near the parking lot feeding on hay.  Marc informed us that the cheese we would be trying was from  goat.  Goat cheese = yum!  We hurried inside, since it was nearly 5 PM, which was closing time for tastings.  We were able to speak to one of the sommelier and was offered a tasting of two wines.  Both were very good on my part.  Kathy liked hers as well, but they differed from mine since she likes the sweet cold stuff and I like the darker reds which are served at room temperature.  We went in to the next room where the cheese was out on display.  There were 5 or so cheeses in total to try, each with a different taste and texture.  Some of the cheeses were accompanied with dipping sauces, which was a little odd to us, but as they say, when in Rome, do what the Romans do.  Same goes for South Africa too.

The three of us then went back to Cape Town near Sea Point and stopped at Brains for a couple of beers.  We were greeted there by some more new friends and ones that we have now known for a week.  We told stories, drank beer, and learned just a little more about each other. 

This day was a world of contrast.  From destitution to serenity, we reflected about how nice we have it, which is due to a lot of help from our family, friends, and society inside the USA.  I realize there is a lot of poverty in America.  I have seen it.  But what we saw today shifted my mentality just a little due to the fact that these people were not given any choices. They lived with what they had been given, which included no opportunity to better their conditions, which I believe America has.  I understood that we may be introduced to some failing culture in South Africa, but the expectations were not created until I actually saw it with my own two eyes.

Peace to all of you.

Update: Photos posted below

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