08
Sep
09

An Afternoon Stroll

Apparently in Cape Town 60 degrees and sunny is the same as 20 degrees and snowing in Michigan.

Apparently in Cape Town 60 degrees and sunny is the same as 20 degrees and snowing in Michigan.

I think my body is finally starting to get adjusted to Cape Town time. I went to bed around 1 last night and woke up at 10 to a sort of cloudy day, which was a vast improvement on the previous two days of pouring rain followed by hard rain followed by a little bit of rain.

I start work tomorrow, one of the workers here at Connect is walking me to Hoops4Hope, which apparently is only a few blocks away. I meet her at 9:15 a.m. tomorrow morning, so thats a vast improvement on my 7 a.m. wake up call this summer. It should be really fun – I have no idea what tomorrow will be like, but I’m very excited.  Sitting around while everyone else works and has things to do in a city I don’t know very well is getting to be kind of boring.

Since it’s been raining the last few days, I haven’t been able to go explore the city like I usually prefer to do when I visit somewhere new.

So after eating some lunch this afternoon I grabbed my camera, put on jeans and a tshirt, and packed a light windbreaker in my jacket. The sun was peeking out of the clearing clouds, and it looked like a beautiful day. I stepped outside and felt fine in a tshirt, and began exploring. The first few people I saw all were dressed substantially warmer than me, even though I was more than comfortable in just a tshirt. Eventually I realized that I was definitely out of place without three coats and a winter hat on, which was strange given that it was probably over 60 degrees in the sun, and it wasn’t that cloudy. Its one of the more interesting things I notice about the residents of the city.

Barbed wire by the massive central train station - almost everyone here was black or colored. Whites don't ride the train apparently.

Barbed wire by the massive central train station - almost everyone here was black or colored. Whites don't ride the train apparently.

Another thing I noticed about the city was the surprising amount of barbed wire. Barbed wire by train tracks, in backyards, by shipping yards, surrounding churches and museums, on rooftops limiting access, at ground level on certain porches. It seems to be pretty rampant – maybe the barbed wire industry has good lobbyists in South Africa? It struck me as pretty interesting, and it was a bit offsetting. Why else would so much barbed wire be necessary if the danger that gets hyped up about this city isn’t real?

But as it was broad daylight, I felt pretty comfortable walking around the downtown district of the city. It was like any other big city – skyscrapers, homeless people, businessmen and women both white and black stomping from building to building, students carrying backpacks holding hands on fieldtrips. I decided to make my way over towards the neighborhoods by the shortest part of  Table Mountain, where all the trees that remind me of The Lion King are.

On my way I kept noticing billboards advertising the World Cup and how ready South Africa is to host it. One in particular made me laugh – check out the bottom right. Yea, that’s the aftermaths of a demolished building that homeless man is salvaging scrap metal out of. People throw the word ‘irony’ around alot – but this is definitely ironic.

Helping the city prepare, one piece of scrap metal at a time.

Helping the city prepare, one piece of scrap metal at a time.

After I passed through that area, I started to ascend a really steep hill. The streets were all cobblestone – and I don’t mean nice, even cobblestone that you see in DC around Georgetown, or in Kerrytown in Ann Arbor. I’m talking if you ride your bike down these cobblestones your wheels will fall off, you had better have a helmet on, and wearing a cup might be a good idea. Of course immediately as I’m thinking this, a guy on a moped rounds the corner and begins his ascent down a 50 degree sloped cobblestone road. Miraculously I think he made it. Probably related to Evil Kenevil.

Anyway, as I kept climbing I noticed the houses were turning into really colorful Middle Eastern type homes, and there were tons of crecents, head dresses, and Middle Eastern rugs hanging to dry. A couple of older women stopped me and asked if I was from London, and eventually they said this was the Muslim neighborhood of the city. Apparently most of the Cape Town Muslims live in that one area, and the differences in their housing is amazing. I passed a house with a wooden door that looked condemned, but saw a man walk into right before I passed. The very next house was an exquisite brand new house with a beautiful arched entryway to the garden, with brand new doors and a well-kept lawn. The houses are also extremely colorful – neon greens, blues, pinks, reds, oranges – you name a color, one of the houses here is painted it.

It's like a Crayola box - any color crayon you could possibly want.

It's like a Crayola box - any color crayon you could possibly want.

I also noticed an abundance of older Muslim men and women sitting and standing around, talking or just observing the day. Most all of them smiled and said hi if I looked at them, and I had a few nice conversations with some of them. Apparently it’s rare for an American to walk through the neighborhood alone – its not that its dangerous, its just that the tour companies rarely take buses up the steep hills, and Americans don’t venture to that side of town very often. They were all very nice, and were constantly insisting that I go eat at this restaurant or get a cup of coffee or tea at this diner. There were also black cats everywhere, running around with abandon.

If you look above the cat, theres a 'no people' sign under the District 6 sign.

If you look above the cat, theres a 'no people' sign under the District 6 sign.

I made my way over to a city park near my apartment building next. It was a pretty boring little park, but tons of tourists were walking through taking pictures of the trees, which I guess looked sort of African, but its nothing you haven’t seen before. I wasn’t into it. I saw a couple little native African kids sitting on a park bench, however, and walked over to say hi. They were three brothers waiting for their mom to get out of a job interview at a nearby hotel, and the oldest was carrying five pens and a journal and had just come from school. The youngest didn’t speak anything more than gibberish, but he was really playful. The middle brother spoke some Afrikaans, but I don’t think he was comfortable with English. He kept telling the little one to say “No!” and then “Yes!” and the little one was giggling his head off the entire time. The middle one also kept rolling his eyelids back, which was pretty gross, but he laughed really hard everytime he saw my expression. The little one and I got in a stick fight, and I showed him the best way to stomp in a nearby gathering of pigeons to scare them off, and he did it probably 10 times, laughing hysterically the entire time.

And boom go the pigeons.

And boom go the pigeons.

Then I went home and wrote this. No plans for tonight, just getting ready for work in the morning. Today was a nice acclimation to the city. I prefer doing it on my own – it gives me a good feel for where everything is, and I think I’m a little more daring than an average tour in where I go and who I talk to. It was a very interesting experience, and made me excited for working in the bad neighborhoods and hopefully helping some of the kids, like the ones I met, become better people. Or maybe it’ll be them helping me become better… hopefully some of both. I put a few pictures I took that I really liked at the bottom. More later.

Notice the Michael Jackson tribute under this barbed wire lined wall in the Muslim district.

Notice the Michael Jackson tribute under this barbed wire lined wall in the Muslim district.

One of the older Muslim men standing around in the Muslim district.

One of the older Muslim men standing around in the Muslim district.

The oldest brother, the youngest brother, and the middle brother hanging off the edge of the bench.

The oldest brother, the youngest brother, and the middle brother hanging off the edge of the bench.

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2 Responses to “An Afternoon Stroll”


  1. 1 Mary Snow
    September 14, 2009 at 3:47 am

    Am I the only one reading the blog? Very nice, Jack, Good photos and writing.
    I’m looking forward to hearing about ur first few work days.
    When do you plan to hike the mountain? Will you go by yourself? (nervous nellie making a brief appearance….)

  2. 2 Mary Snow
    September 14, 2009 at 3:48 am

    Oh, and that is how people dress in Houston when it’s chilly.
    It’s pretty amusing. They freak out.


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