My first adventures in Cape Town
⋆ ⋆ ⋆ It has been a month ago since I arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. And since I got here, it feels like I don’t have enough time. Cape Town is, as I’ve been told, amazing. Would you like to know why? Keep reading! ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Yes, this is definitely a place I would love to stay for a little while longer, maybe even up to a year. The city is surrounded by the beautiful Table Mountain range and the endless Atlantic Ocean; people are very friendly, there is a lot to explore like penguins and secret beaches and the sun smiles to us most of the time ➳ me is happy. And this is only Cape Town, I haven’t started about anything further. Wherever you go, beautiful nature is there.
Life in Cape Town
These days, Cape Town is a very multicultural city. It is hard for me to say how far there is still discrimination, as being white and a foreigner. Unfortunately, discrimination still happens anywhere in the world, in big and small cities, on big and small scales. But, to me, I experience discrimination here less than anywhere I’ve been before. Everyone could be a South African: if you’re black or white, brown or yellow. There is such a great mix of people that I feel easily at ease here, a local— something which I find very important. The other day someone started speaking Afrikaans to me: how cool is that! Down below, I’ll continue about the spoken languages.
Back to the life here in Cape Town. You can easily find good meals between €3 and €6; there are enough fancy farmers markets for quality food, drinks at the bar are pretty cheap, like 3 drinks for €5. I pay €270 for rent, for a big single room where I share the rest of the house, about 10 minutes from the centre. Fuel is around €1 a litre and renting a car is about €10 a day. So all together, you can pretty easily get around with €1000 a month, when you live on a budget but still want to do nice things.
And, of course, all the best stuff is free anyway: friendly people, the beauty of nature and the sunsets!
But life isn’t as easy for everyone. Due to the harsh history of this country, there is a big gap between poor and rich. In Cape Town, there is the biggest population of people living on the streets in South Africa. At many traffic lights (robots, as they call them here) and on the streets in and around the city centre, you’ll see beggars or people selling things like pens or fruit. You see self-made shelters, made with blankets and carton, where people live in. One of the outcomes of poverty is crime, which is big in Cape Town. You’ll get advised to keep your belongings close to you while walking on the streets, not leave anything (at all - they could also think there is something of value in that plastic bag) behind in your car and to not walk outside after sunset. But by having your own car or using Ubers, you’ll feel pretty safe and life doesn’t have to stop at 7 pm.
Another thing that I definitely have to mention, is the locking-doors policy. I have to use my keys 6 times before I’m out of the gate and ready to go. This takes around 5 minutes each time, so if I leave twice a day that is about 20 minutes each day. I think that is quite a lot. Guess that is part of “Africa Time”: take it easy!
A brief history of South Afrika’s history where big parts take part in Cape Town. The history of South Africa is huge and intense and it goes a long way back. I won’t go back to the prehistory, but to the time that the first Europeans started with taking over this beautiful country. Even though the Portuguese were the first Europeans here; the first settlement was established by the Dutch— this was in 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck put first foot on South African land. It was a good halfway stop between Europe and the East where they went for spices. They must have liked it here, expanded, got slaves from countries like Malaysia and India into South Africa and caused conflict with the indigenous people, like the Xhosa.
In the early 1800s, Great Britain seized the Cape Colony from the Dutch and continued the wars against the Xhosa. Many of the Dutch colonists wouldn’t accept British rule and moved to the north to where Johannesburg is today. The discovery of gold and diamonds in the mid-to-late 1800s near what would become Johannesburg led to further expansion by the British. This resulted in two wars with the Dutch colonists who moved to the north.
In 1948, the government began implementing a series of segregationist laws that later became known as apartheid ("separateness"). The “Blacks” were sent to dry and bad land far from the big cities and they were not allowed to own land (Quick Facts & A Brief History). There were separate beaches, seats in the bus and benches for the Blacks and the Whites. They started to ‘relocate’ Africans from ‘white’ areas. In 1950 they started to implement the pass law, which limited the movements of the Africans. Due to these laws, over 17,745,000 Africans have been arrested or prosecuted” between 1916 and 1984 (Pass Laws) One of them was Nelson Mandela. In 1963 he got imprisoned for life long and stayed for most of the time on Robben Island, an island which you can see from Cape Town. In 1990 he became a free man, a year after FW de Klerk became the president who is known for ending Apartheid. In 1994, Nelson Mandela became president and this was the start of equal rights for black and white (Nelson Mandela Biography). A bit further in the blog you will read how this is working out in today's life.
Four seasons in one day
Even though I don't like having the right to complain about anything in life anymore, I think that the weather here is something to spend a little chapter on. Most of the days here the weather is perfect. It is around 25 degrees and hardly any clouds in the air. It is the end of summer now, but I am told that even in summer the weather is very unreliable. The mountains make the weather very unpredictable, and sun can turn into rain and a breeze can turn into a massive storm. Around my third day here, I even Googled to know whether there was a tornado coming up, as the wind was so wild! There was not and It turned out that the wind wasn’t that rare. Weather change could also mean huge rainfalls, which I haven’t experienced yet—Fortunately, as I am not really a rain kinda girl. It also means that you should always carry around a sweater when it’s sunny and a t-shirt when it’s cold, because you never know what the weather is going to do that day. Ah, and of course: don’t ever forget to take your bathing suit with you, just in case!
And the take it easy part you may take really serious: South Africa has got a BIG problem with a lack of
electricity, and ‘load shedding’ is a big thing here. Which means they cut off your power for a few hours a
day, which means you’re kind of forced to chill. Which is cool when you wanted to anyway, but pretty
annoying when you’re at home and you can’t cook or put some lights on and problematic if you own a
restaurant and for 4 days in a row, you don’t have electricity between 10:00 and 12:30 and 18:00 and 20:30.
Ah, don’t forget also the ‘robots’ work on electricity ;)
Besides the lack of power, there is also a big dearth of water. This has already been going on since a few years and we are advised to have short showers, to not flush toilets if not ‘highly necessary’ and showers on beaches are cut off.
Languages in South Africa
I told you before that Cape Town is a very multicultural city. Well, actually the whole country is very multicultural!
There are 11 official national languages. Zulu (22,7%) is mostly spoken, then Xhosa (16%), the language with the clicks
which I find awesome. Then Afrikaans (13,5%), followed by English (9,6%). A cool fact is that 2% of South African
citizens speak a first language that is not an official language (Languages of South Africa)
In Cape Town, Afrikaans is the most widely spoken home language with more than 40% of Capetonians speaking the language. A quick introduction about the Afrikaans language: I was very confused in the beginning, as I thought Afrikaans would be a real African language, but it is actually “kitchen Dutch”, which means a very simplified version of Dutch. I recognize almost all the words, but a lot of really funny ways of saying it. They also have two denies within 1 sentence, for example: “Geen alkohol word toegelaat nie” will become “No alcohol allowed not”.
My work at U-Turn
But I’m not here to observe all these South Africa’s oddities, even though I enjoy doing that a lot. I came to South Africa with a purpose: to get work experience as a Social Worker. As I don’t have work experience in this field and I couldn’t get a South African work visa on forehand (this is even hard to get with a lot of work experience), I decided to work on a voluntary basis. I Googled “homeless” as it is the sorts of people I want to work with and “Cape Town” as I heard so many great stories about the city, and U-Turn was one of the firsts that popped up. I emailed the director that, funny enough, had the same last name and we (at least I) felt an immediate bond. He explained about U-turn, how they have a program to help homeless people and people that still live on the streets to people that join their program and will become clean of drugs and alcohol and learn skills to get further in life in a healthy and positive way. They have 5 charity shops where the “Champions” of the “Life Change Program” learn the skills and even earn a little bit of money already. The clothes from the charity shops are donated. All the clothes that aren’t good enough for the shops will go for sale in the Power House (remember this name, I’ll come back to it) or in Mommy Bags, which people buy for a low price to resale in the townships. Really old or faded clothes and linen will be used to make products. It is such a good integrated program and my mouth keeps falling open at how amazing they worked out this program!
I work here from Monday to Thursday, for 3 days in a Social Worker role. In the mornings, I give two kind of training; retail training I run by myself and conflict management I run with a colleague with a lot of work experience, what is great because I can learn a lot from her. In the afternoons I head to the Power House, the place where people from the streets can do light work (ragging or cutting) to make things like dog pillows and bandanas which U-Turn sell after. They will earn 3 vouchers with this work. They can use these for dinner at the Power House or for clothes in the Power House shop. In the mornings, they can get free breakfast or lunch when they join other classes, like bible study, guitar lessons or other handy life tools.
One day a week, I’m filming or editing videos for promotion purposes. I like doing it a lot and it's great for me I can combine my creativity with doing something good. That will be the most important thing I've realized in my journey in U-Turn so far. Hereby my first video!
I feel so blessed to work at an NGO like this. I learn many skills, which I can use as a Social Worker, but at the same time, I also learn what kind of Social Worker I want to be. After just 2 weeks I found out that sitting in the office is not going to be something for me, that I love to implement roleplays in the training and that I need some creative parts in my work to help others.
More experience and knowledge will come and I am so excited about it! I hope that I will be able to stay here much longer, but let see what life has got in mind for me ♥ ♥ ♥