Three months in South Africa
After three months in Cape Town, I guess I'm no total newbie anymore. I got a hang of it: found myself a car and even a trustworthy garage, I know where to get the best deals for daily shopping and even found myself a great hairdresser. Traveling is exciting but these little daily life things can also make it tiring. In this episode, there’s an impression of Capetonians’ real life, including the ups and the downs.
Last Friday morning. I woke up and went for a run. I'm not going to pretend this is my everyday morning ritual, even though I wish it was. While jogging my first meters, I was shocked, not so much by being out of breath before I reached the beginning of the street (it's uphill, alright?) but of seeing, within the first minute, three homeless people digging through containers.
Poverty is a real thing here in South Africa and after spending a weekend in Johannesburg, I realize that it is bigger here in Cape Town. At pretty much every traffic light, there is either someone begging for money, selling bags of fruit or black pens or someone gathering trash to swap for a few coins. Everywhere you go, there are people that help you park your car (even at spots where I know, and they know, I am perfectly capable of doing that myself). You want to give everyone some money but if I would, my time here would have been drastically shorter.
At U-Turn, which I write more about in an earlier blog about my first weeks here in Cape Town, I connect with homeless people every day. Usually for those people struggling with drug addiction, life is difficult. There is a lack of social support and getting a job is already difficult for those that have studied and got a house. Even after having secured a job, loans are very low. This might be about 10.000 Rand a month, which is around €650.
Getting into crime is then an easy thing to do for many people, from small robberies to breaking into cars, or stabbing someone for just a bag… South Africa has the highest crime rate in the world. Since the onset of Apartheid in 1948, a lot has been broken which has not been healed yet. Going into prison is one thing, but being in prison is another. You will hardly survive without joining a gang. There are 3 main prison or prison-affiliated gangs: the 26s, the 27s and the 28s. The general understanding of the first-mentioned gang, the 26s, is all about money; the general understanding of the second-mentioned gang, the 27s, is about murdering and the general understanding of the last gang, the 28s, about raping. People often join gangs for safety reasons, to survive in their time in prison. There are ceremonies in order to join of any of these gangs, like stabbing (yes, I’m still talking about life in prison) and once you get out of jail, you’ll be part of this gang for the rest of your life, so the bad behavior will continue. This cycle will continue for many more years if the government does not take big steps against it. In my opinion, it will start with changing the time in jail, as it supposed to be a place for rehabilitation, but this obviously does not happen at this stage. Having 64 people in a 24 people cell, as some prisons have, also does not help.
My time at U-turn
Okay, that must have been quite a cold shower. Back to the good part: I’m not part of any gang and the worst that happened to me is that two phones got stolen. Not nice, at all, but it can be worse.
My actual morning rhythm goes like this: I try to wake up around 6 am, when it’s still dark. I have a shower, do meditation and yoga (in the ideal world I would take 20 minutes for them of each; in the real one about 15 minutes for them together), have a delicious healthy breakfast –a fresh smoothie with local fruit or warm oats with fruit, seeds and nuts— and head out to U-Turn at around 7:30 am (in the ideal life; 8 am in mine). We start with a beautiful opening, checking in how everyone is doing that day. I love that, such a good way to start to connect with everyone. I used to be mainly at Head Office where I started my day guiding two trainings to the people from our program, continued by video editing of life change stories from U-Turn graduates (click here to check them out) and then I head off to the Power House to help the program we have for the homeless. Now, I spend whole days at the Power House, which is the first step for the homeless to get in touch with us and to start, if they would like to, taking steps to a better life.
I’m managing the Upcycling Projects. From all the donations that U-Turn gets in, the best will go to our Charity Shops. What won’t be sold there but is still good enough to wear will go to the shop in the Power House where the homeless can buy them with their earned vouchers. Stuff that can’t be used for either of them, we’ll use for other things and we pretty re-use every piece: either to make dog pillows, to cut them into small pieces (one of the things the homeless can earn the vouchers with), or make dog chews or blankets. I make these products with the people from our program and make sure they are up to a quality that can be sold in shops. I absolutely love doing this work, as it is a combination of helping people and being creative at the same time. It is going very well: we are producing a lot and it all looks beautiful. Once we will really start making money with this, we might even be able to grow it into a whole department: how cool!
In between moving from Head Office to the Power House, I had a great two-week break. My good Dutch friend Marijke came over for two weeks and our plan was to head out to the Garden Route and then to Africa Burn. The first unfortunately failed, as I just got a car that needed some work on it. But the second plan couldn’t have worked out better. Together with our new friend, Arie, from the States and his bulky van, we headed out to the desert. Seven days of total freedom: how could I have expected this was going to be the best week of my life? All the people were so beautiful: friendly, respectful, and always in for a chat and a hug. The art was amazing: from a two-meter bunny to a twenty- meter lamp, from a Mini with a huge palm tree on the roof, cruising through the desert, to unforgettable burns where I got amazed by streams of starts that came of the burning artwork. I was in a constant high vibe of happiness and the only struggle was to choose between taking time to make some proper food (instead of eating dates, apples and banana’s) or go dancing to groovy music, taking photos in the golden hour or teaching yoga. Guess what I chose ;)
Here a quick impression of the happy me, but click here for the full Africa Burn Photography Series (highly recommended!)
A week like this made me realize a lot of things. As my amazing and inspiring Youtube yoga & meditation guidance Boho Beautiful always says, you are exactly in the place you have to be. And I felt it. I find myself in South Africa now. For the last two years, my focus has been on heading to Australia, a country where I found myself, as I realized how much I need friendly and open-minded people, how much I need space and love long stretches of land or ocean. And that I need sun!
Already from the second I landed in South Africa, I felt that this country could give me all of this. But what I realized at the Burn is that there is a similar place like my beloved Fremantle, a town near Perth where I was mostly happy because of the relaxed and hippie lifestyle, not far from Cape Town. I fell in love with Muizenberg, a town 20 kilometers away from Cape Town, since the first time I was there. Right on the beach with amazing waves, people that give you a big smile for no reason and people without shoes: yay!
I decided to stop ignoring the signs that this is where I should go, so I decided to move there. The Universe did the rest. It found myself my dream house: a house not far from the beach, a garden with fruit trees, six chickens (happy eggs!) and a chilled housemate. I will have a little place for myself next to the main house with my own shower and kitchen. I will be moving there end of May and I am super excited!
I’ve been seeing more than ‘just Cape Town’s’ neighborhoods. Three weekends in a row, I went out for the weekend, every time a few hundred kilometers further. First, to Kleinmond, a town that is more buzzing in the summer but the way up there is unbelievably stunning: a road right next to the ocean and I spotted hundreds of dolphins! I also drove past hectares that have been burned, very sad to see, but uplifting as I found the green and flowers re-growing.
The second weekend I visited Hermanus and the third, Struisbaai, with Marijke: another beautiful drive and it was a cute town: almost extinct except for some lost tourists –us- and manta rays in the jetty: so cool! Photos of these discovery trips you’ll find here. But there is sooooo much more to discover in this country, so I’m not planning on leaving!
Short docu project
I'm also VERY excited about my new personal project. As I get to meet many people here, I get to hear many special, moving and impressive stories. Like one of a lady living in a tent under a bridge but having the most beautiful garden with flowers, plants and vegetables. Or the gangsters from the 26 and 27 gangs that have a lot of power, ones I met at Love Thy Neighbours that hand out food every Monday night to 250 people. I hope I’ll be able to motivate them to share their story and make a short documentary series with this. It will be fun and interesting and it will help me put myself out as a social videographer. To be sure to be the first to know when the first one is made, subscribe to the Flying Fox Newsletter!
How do you do it?
I often get this question: But Anouk, how do you manage to live your dreams and finance all of this? The first secret: believe that you can. And yes, it’s really that easy. Don’t think of problems or reasons it won’t work. Hope for peace, not for the end of war. See yourself having the job you are dreaming of, not what you hate about your current job. And believe in it. From there your life will work around it and eventually, you’ll realize that you have what you wished for.
I never put out intentions of being rich and so I am still not. I have been wishing to be happy in life, and I am. I find my ways to make it work and ways to support myself. Sometimes, there is big money, when I’m lucky enough to get a good modeling or acting job (curious? Head to my website www.anoukvos.nl).
Besides this, I’ve been working in the kitchen as a cook or I head to markets to sell my jewellery or make henna tattoos (check them out here!). My gain is making money with what I love to do, and that is what I do now: helping people and being creative. I am sure that the Universe will be good for me because I follow my heart and I’ll find ways to continue this. And by the way: the best things in life are free anyway: love, nature and the sun. Yay!
Nevertheless, as I want to continue my work at U-Turn and making the real harsh life in South Africa visible to others, support is very welcome. If you would like to sponsor me, please make your donation to
Bank: Abn Amro
Bic Code: ABNANL2A
I thank you again for reading through my personal story here in South Africa. I’m always
happy to read how you liked it, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me a