Tuesday, February 2, 2010

clifton, lira, and township tour

On Saturday we tried a different beach, Clifton Beach, where we went briefly on one of our first nights in Cape Town. Clifton Beach was MUCH nicer and more “beachy” than Fish Hoek. It was warm, sunny, and only slightly windy… but the water was frigid. To get to the beach, we took the train into Cape Town and then hopped into a minibus to get to the actual beach. It took about an hour of total travel time. After spending a few hours on the beach lounging, hopping in the freezing water, and exploring the giant boulders scattered across the four beaches, we headed back home.

The next day, we went to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens to see Lira and Friends put on an outdoor concert at the most beautiful venue I have ever seen. It was the probably the most uplifting, positive concert I’ve attended… Lira’s lyrics and comments were all along the lines of “I’m doing really great,” “You’re beautiful,” and “I love you all.” She’s a very well known artist in South Africa and drew quite a crowd. People around us brought blankets, wine, and elaborate picnics, and everyone was dancing, laughing, and having a grand time. Before the concert started, I walked around the trails of the botanical gardens for a while, and it (like everything here) was stunning. I plan to go back when I have a longer opportunity to appreciate the surroundings. We saw these funny birds that somewhat resembled small wild turkeys, but had spots and little blue heads. I have yet to figure out what they are.

Yesterday (Monday), we wandered up to UCT’s campus club and organization fair. CIEE pays for each of us to join three clubs or organizations. The gym counts as one of them (students have to pay to join the school gym here!), so I plan to do that. I also want to try out the Ultimate Frisbee Club. The girl at the Ultimate Frisbee booth was excited I was an American, because apparently ultimate isn’t as big here as it is in the US! My other club is still up in the air, but there were plenty of appealing options.

Today we went on a township tour, which started at the District 6 Museum in Cape Town. The museum houses various remnants, stories, and information from the removal of black and coloured Capetonians from their homes and into separate townships. We didn’t get enough time to look around, however, and I really want to go back. From there we went to the township of Langa, where our tour guide Tabo (not sure on the spelling there) grew up and lives. He took us to the Langa Community Center, which was a bustling artistic hub where member of the community make pottery, put on theatrical performances, paint, dance, and so on. I took the opportunity to get my mom a souvenir from there (You’ll see it in a few months, Mom!). Before we left, Tabo ran into a man he used to act with, and the man requested our audience while he put on a short solo play. It was quite entertaining. South African theater, in my experience so far, has a distinct flavor that I can’t quite describe.

District 6 Museum

Langa Community Center

Then, we walked around Langa and saw the Love Life Center, which was a big, incredibly nice youth center for the community. Tabo said something about how P. Diddy was there at one point…? They have eight playstations, really bright, nice furnishings, and one of the workers told us they have about 47 youths come in per day (It seemed like a rather arbitrary number to me). The center was really wonderful, but I couldn’t help but think maybe they could have spread the money a little more widely into the community. But, it’s hard to criticize a good cause.

Tabo then took us through the town a little further, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the kids who were walking home from school. They were clearly seeking our attention, giggling, and following by us. They didn’t speak English (It’s a Xhosa community), so we couldn’t talk to the kids, but watching them was enough entertainment for me. We ventured to a small, unmarked, shack looking house that Tabo told us was a pub. I was positive the entire group would NEVER fit into the building, but somehow we managed to comfortably fit in, where we sampled some authentic home-brewed Langa beer. It is called umqombothi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umqombothi). We passed around a rather unsanitary looking metal bucket filled with a very frothy batch of homemade beer, and drank it communion style straight from the bucket. Based on facial expressions, it wasn’t a big hit with the group, but I kind of liked it personally. Kind of had an earthy, smoky taste to it. Apparently the women will make the beer to earn some extra money, and the men sit around in this pub and drink while they discuss politics, current events, and the movement of the country. Men and women are not permitted to drink together.

Inside the pub... Tabo is on the left, teaching us about the process and significance of umqombothi

Next stop was at Mzoli’s, a widely famous meat restaurant. I did try some meat (chicken and sausage), and it was excellent. From there we headed back to Langa to see the resident healer/medicine man/witch doctor (not sure of his exact title). It was dark and smelled like urine inside his building, and there were animal skins, animal feet, random papers, and various other objects hanging from the ceiling and scattered throughout the room (we even saw lottery tickets and condom wrappers hanging from a clothes line – just to give a further detailed picture of how ridiculous this place was!). We then listened to the man talk about his profession. From what I gathered (he was difficult to understand), he mostly just heals stomachaches and various ailments in one’s love life, such as a cheating spouse, impotency, or unrequited love. I’m 90% sure he was on some kind of drug. It was interesting, but I was also kind of disappointed that he fulfilled the stereotypes of a crazy witch doctor. He did say, however, that he fully agrees that science, modern medicine, and hospitals are necessary. He explicitly stated that he does NOT believe he has the power to help those who are HIV positive, and he said that if someone is very ill he sends them to the hospital.


  1. I guess all cultures have their truth, their beauty,their bullshit, and their beer.

  2. You could probably go pro in Ultimate over there lol

  3. We've been to the District 6 Museum. It's worth a return visit!!
    Sounds like every day is packed full of new experiences!! I am enjoying them vicariously.