A first day in South Africa

After landing in Cape Town at 10AM (that’s 4AM your time), I had an amazing full day. I took an Uber to my hostel to drop off my bag since check in wasn’t until after 2PM, and began exploring the city. I walked through some beautiful gardens, into the heart of the city, had a wonderful lunch, and then headed back to the hostel. I was grateful to have a companion for the day, a young man named Alex who had a long layover before heading out tomorrow for an internship studying great white sharks. Most people we encountered were incredibly kind and generous here. The geography makes the city beautiful on the outside while the people make it beautiful from within.

There is also a lot of begging and poverty. When I returned to my hostel, I took time to check in and clean myself up. Then, I immediately booked a tour of the townships and Robbens Island where Mandela was imprisoned. I expect tomorrow to be a tough day emotionally.

After a bit more downtime, I headed out in the city for dinner: a venue with live jazz called Asoka. Great food, even better drinks, and the Jazz…they started slow, but once they found their groove, it was amazing. The place was packed, apparently the hot spot for Cape Town on Tuesday nights. I would have loved to stay longer, but I pulled myself away to go dancing. I had a great time there, and was asked if I’d be willing to come back and teach next week. (Sure!) Afterwords, I met a few of the dancers, went out with them, and had a chance to chat.

I got a sense of some of the problems the city, and South Africa as a whole, are facing. In some ways, the insistitutional poverty and associated problems is similar to Baltimore. It’s just amplified to such a great extent, and complicated by more diversity in cultures here: there are British settlers, separate from white Afrikaaners, separate from the Indian/Muslim population, separate from the Coloreds (a term with very different connotations here than in the US), and then there are the Blacks. I can’t believe the complexity of the situation, but a I was encouraged by the young woman who trained as an occupational therapist working in community development in the townships. It seems they are having similar conversations here about race and privilege that we are having in Baltimore.

And I talked to a woman active with her church about several programs. U-Turn, which provides second had clothes and food to the poor, and then hands out vouchers for people to give the beggars in the streets. They also help with job training for the beggars, starting with sorting clothes. There are other groups working more actively to integrate the townships, and bring resources and support to these people.

My time here is filling in quickly. I’m exhausted and in need of a good night’s sleep. More tomorrow, I’m sure.

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