Monday, October 3, 2011

Someone help me!

I promised pictures of Cape Town and it's ethereal beauty, but somewhere between Blogger and Picasa and whatever other internet powers occupy the router in my house, I can't upload any! :( I am quite distraught over this, I have you know, and I am working to fix this.

In the mean time, here is a fantastic article for all you aspiring travel writers out there! I sure took a few tips from this!

A bientot!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Your travel guide to Cape Town

I’ve realized that I have to take full advantage of those moments when I feel inspired to write, because as I’m sure you have seen, I don’t always feel like it. But now is one of those moments. J

I’m not sure why it is – it could be the 4k “run” I just went on, it could be that today was a warm day; a very warm day that makes me pull out a skirt and flip flops and want to paint my toes nails in a bright neon orange – whatever the reason, I want to take this moment to tell you about Cape Town.

Cape Town is not in South Africa; it’s not even Africa. I know if you look on a map you’ll see it there, but it isn’t. It’s in a completely different world of breath-taking beauty. It has everything: beach side and cliff side views for which there are no words; mountains that if you make it to the top allow you to see the whole city and far passed the ocean’s horizon; lush vineyards with charming farm houses that make A-mazing cheese! Really, whatever your scenic preference is, Cape Town has it.

My college roommate came to visit me here in Joburg for two weeks, so we took the two hour flight down to CT to explore the city for four days. The best way to tell you about our trip and give you a potential itinerary for YOUR visit, is to give you our four day schedule. And we did a lot.

Day 1: We arrived to Cape Town International Airport early afternoon. We quickly hired (rented) our charming Kia Picanto for the adventure and headed down to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Perfect way to start our CT experience. The Waterfront is filled with shops and eateries (and for every price range), some with views of the wharf. We did not pick a particularly classy place to eat our first meal in the city, so I will fail to mention it here, but it was sustenance. We spent the next two hours walking in out of shops, buying too many trinkets, and taking pictures as the sun settled on the water. You probably can’t spend more than a few hours or an afternoon at the waterfront, so this was a great way to ease into our travels.

Note: Our accommodations were with a fabulous household of singles girls in Belville; therefore, I unfortunately cannot help you in this arena. But I’m sure you can find some fabulous deals! ;)

Day 2: Ok, this was BY FAR my favorite day! (That is not to say the following days were not wonderful or not worth reading about.;) ) This was our “Kia-commercial” day; we might as well have been in an ad for a Kia, demonstrating the car’s excellent mileage, safety features, compactibility (is that a word?), and its fabulous color! We started our day by grabbing muffins, fruit, and a few other snacks to munch on throughout the day, and coffee and croissants from a local shop for breakfast. Either of the major highways (the N1 or N2) empty into downtown CT (the waterfront) and turn into the M6. Following the M6, we drove around the whole peninsula. Yep, the whole thing. From the waterfront, we drove passed Sea Point and through Clifton, stopping at the beach at Camps Bay. The beach was a gorgeous expanse of white sands, enveloped by the famous Table Mountain and other rocky cliffs. We didn’t spend any time laying at the beach or swimming (we did put our toes in the water and it was freezing!!), but plenty of people were at the beach walking dogs, throwing Frisbees, and lounging, so I am sure that would fabulous day event in-and-of-itself.
Continuing on the M6, we drove to Chapman’s Peak. You cannot miss this! And by “cannot” I mean, it is a must see and there is a toll plaza to get onto Chapman’s Peak drive – so you literally cannot miss it. But it so worth the toll! Chapman’s Peak is literally breathtaking. I really am struggling for words to describe it. The drive begins through a slice in the edge of the mountain; so, mountain on your left and to your right, the most brilliant blue and aqua-green waters toss back and forth. The drive not only gives you an incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean, but of the towns that are along the base of the mountain. One particular lookout point towards the end of Chapman’s Peak gives you an absolutely stunning view; the perfect way to end the drive along Chapman’s Peak.
Once again, continuing on the M6, we traveled all the way down the peninsula to Cape Point, the tip of the peninsula and the location of the Cape of Good Hope. At this point, the M6 veers off into either the M65 or the M4; both will get you to Cape Point. We chose to take the M65, which takes you through the middle of the peninsula, because we planned to come back up along the M4. The drive down to Cape Point will make you think that, again, you are in a different world. Terrain changes, rolling fields filled with baboons abound. This too is beautiful. We arrive at Cape Point (after paying to get into the Table Mountain National Park-just noting) and walk the 15 minute climb to the lighthouse. This walk is not quite for the beginner, but we did it in flip flops and survived just find. If you really don’t want to walk however, or have a gaggle of children who will not walk, there is a lift that takes you to the top. J So at this point, I have to note that my perception of where we were was quite skewed. Don’t get me wrong, Cape Point is truly another breath-taking sight. It’s quite chilly, so pack a sweater, but you can see…I have no idea actually how far, but really far. What skewed my perception and experience at Cape Point was the delusion that we were not at the farthest southern point of the continent of Africa. Here I am thinking I’m as far south as a person can get; that if I just look really hard, I most certainly could see the icebergs of Antarctica on the horizon.  Despite not seeing any icebergs off the absolutely stunning tip of the Western Cape, I maintained this delusion and excitement until later that evening when a local shattered this idea by informing that the Cape of Good Hope is actually the farthest south-east point of the Western Cape, and not the most southern tip of the continent of Africa. Alas, the magic and adventure of this stop in our adventure was ended. But visually, the Cape of Good Hope is completely worth the drive down. And it is still cool to say you’ve been to the farthest south-east  point of the continent of Africa. J  (Oh and there’s a restaurant at Cape Point where you can eat lunch, but we didn’t. It seemed a little pricey, and we were waiting to find a charming mom-and-pop place in Simon’s Town!)
After milking the tip of the Cape for all it’s worth, we headed back up the M4 towards Simon’s Town. One word can describe this town: PENGUINS! This is the place where wild penguins roam the beaches! Ever see pictures of penguins on the beach and wonder, “where in the world is that”? Well, this is where! There is fee to actually walk on the beach, but you can avoid the fee and still see loads of penguins by walking along the penguin boardwalk. This wooden, fenced boardwalk is lined with countless penguins lounging and waddling around. I’ve always acknowledged that penguins are cute little creatures, but after this, I was sold. They are ADORABLE! And being able to take my own picture of a penguin with a beach in the background is just cool. Once we had taken more pictures of the penguins than I would ever need, we walked the one main street of Simon’s Town looking for a place to eat. We stopped at a girly-meets-modern cafĂ© where I ate some mouth watering bruschetta. We ended our time in Simon’s Town by purchasing a few silk scarves at an antique shop.
Day two was quite tiring, to be honest, but so unbelievably beautiful. I truly feel privileged to say I’ve seen this part of the world.

Day 3: This will be quick. Day three was Robben Island and Signal Hill. After visiting Robben Island, we grabbed some sandwiches and had lunch on top of Signal Hill (it’s really more a mountain to me). The drive up and down is windy and has no guard rails (so make sure you have a trust worthy driver!), but is well worth it. The top of the hill provides you with one of the most extensive views of Cape Town, with both the ocean and forests in view. Sunset is a spectacular time to go (in a group). The top is also filled with lovely wild flowers, fields and trees. Perfect for a picnic. So, here are my few words on Robben Island: First, for those of you who don’t know what Robben Island is, it’s an island that held a maximum security prison which over the years housed various types of prisoners (including victims of leprosy), but most notably, the Nobel prize winner, Nelson Mandela, and other activists of the apartheid era. It is quite a remarkable place to be; looking around and seeing how people who were only trying to fight for equality and freedom were quarantined and isolated. It would be more impacting, in my opinion, if you didn’t have to stay in your group, on a bus. The tour (and that is the only way you will see anything on the island) loads a group of 25 onto a bus and drives you around the island, only allowing you to get off and particular points. There is a tour guide on the bus, narrating what you see. That probably makes a big difference: the tour guide. Ours was not particularly audible or entertaining. The final stop on the tour is the prison itself and the guide there is a former inmate. This part was the most informative and moving part of the tour; and it last 15 minutes. So, all in all, Robben Island is worth visiting; but don’t come all the way to Cape Town just for that.

Day 4: Cape Town is known for having extremely unpredictable and uncooperative weather. This was the only day we experienced that. We woke to a gray and ominous sky, with a windy drizzle that continued all day. Our little Kia was due back before 1pm, so we turned ours in early, and hopped in a friend’s car. (This is the only way we were able to do what we did for the day.) Our kind tour guides drove us out to Stellenbosch, or wine country. I appreciated the weather this day, because I think vineyards look particularly lovely and cozy in the rain. We drove through vast expanses of vineyards and farmlands and stopped at the Fairview wine and cheese tasting venue. I’m not much of a wine person, but this really did help me to expand my taste buds, as well as, get a short introduction into wine and cheese pairing. It was a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Cape Town was such a fabulous trip! The city is not overrated at all. You do still need to watch your surroundings and maintain your safety, but it is such a lovely getaway – a perfect four day venture.

Also, I’ve decided, I would love to be a travel blog/magazine writer. Anyone hiring? J

Pictures to follow – hopefully this just got you excited!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let's try this again

I’m so embarrassed. The last however many posts are all filled with empty promises to keep writing! Shame! The only way to get going again, though, is just to start writing; so, that is exactly what I am going to try and do.

I can’t really begin to describe all that has gone on in the past few months (fam visited, Durban, Cape Town, my roommate from college came to visit, classes started, a week long holiday, classes started again, etc.), so I think the best thing I can do at this point is just go from here.

At the exact moment, I’m feeling slightly under the weather and am hoping to get in bed early, read (The Hunger Games – anyone else reading it?!) and fall asleep quickly! So here are a few bullet points about my life here in South Africa, which will hopefully be followed up with by detailed posts soon:

1.       Classes end in SIX weeks! That means I’m almost done with my internship here-CRA-ZY!
2.       It’s spring! And summer is coming! (So exciting, but weird.)
3.    I saw wild penguins in Cape Town.
4.       Lots going on with my fam stateside – things that make it hard to be away from them right now.
5.       My South African boyfriend (I haven't actually mentioned that one here yet ;) his post debut!) is coming to the states for Christmas!!
6.    I went to the bottom of the world - well, almost. 
7.    If classes are ending and my internship is coming to an end, that means I’m back on the job hunt. Sigh.

And here just a few favorites from the past month or two. :)

Penguins in Simon's Town!!

Paige Chisholm, everyone.

Here is! My boyfriend. :)

At the edge of the world (almost).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Technical difficulties

We have a problem. This doesn't excuse the writing, but for some reason, I cannot upload ANY pictures here! It's quite frustrating. I will continue trying to work this problem out, in the mean time, I promise more writing is coming!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Yesterday was Women's Day! Yes-another national holiday! So in honor of Women's Day, and because this is so long over due, I want to show you pictures of THREE teen girls who recently got baptized! I was able to study the bible with both of them, and they have become dear friends to me here. Unfortunately, the internet is having trouble uploading pictures right now, but I just had to let people know that these three amazing girls decided to make Jesus lord of their lives! God is definitely doing something so exciting here with the high school ministry. Stayed tuned - amazing news coming soon! ;)

To Bianca and Hannah and Sindi:

21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

New International Version (NIV)

Pictures will come soon! :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Michelle Obama!

The lovely and graceful First Lady, Michelle Obama. :)

I just love Michelle Obama! She just seems like she could be anyone's next door neighbor, and I truly believe we could be the dearest of friends.

On 22 June, I got see her speak in Soweto at Regina Mundi Church! It was such a great experience! She is quite the woman; so impressive. She's beautiful, strong, inspiring, has integrity, takes her girls everywhere, and has a fabulous sense of style (especially for a First Lady)! I also just love hearing really great speeches; ones that are inspiring, make you think, and make you want to go save the world. That's how I felt after listening to Michelle. Here are some of my favorite quotes from her speech that day. :)

Background to the first quote: And you all know the story –- how 35 years ago this month, a group of students planned a peaceful protest to express their outrage over a new law requiring them to take courses in Afrikaans.  Thousands of them took to the streets, intending to march to Orlando Stadium.
But when security forces opened fire, some fled here to this church.  The police followed, first with tear gas, and then with bullets. 
And while no one was killed within this sanctuary, hundreds lost their lives that day, including a boy named Hector Pieterson, who was just 12 years old, and Hastings Ndlovu, who was just 15.
Many of the students hadn’t even known about the protest when they arrived at school that morning.  But they agreed to take part, knowing full well the dangers involved, because they were determined to get an education worthy of their potential.
And as the Archbishop noted, that June day wasn’t the first, or the last, time that this church stood in the crosscurrents of history.  It was referred to as “the parliament of Soweto.”  When the congregation sang their hymns, activists would make plans, singing the locations and times of secret meetings.  Church services, and even funerals, often became anti-Apartheid rallies.  And as President Mandela once put it, “Regina Mundi became a world-wide symbol of the determination of our people to free themselves.”
It is a story that has unfolded across this country and across this continent, and also in my country -- the story of young people 20 years ago, 50 years ago, who marched until their feet were raw, who endured beatings and bullets and decades behind bars, who risked, and sacrificed, everything they had for the freedom they deserved.
So the question today is, what will you make of that inheritance?  What legacy will you leave for your children and your grandchildren?  What generation will you be?

And I am here because I know that true leadership -– leadership that lifts families, leadership that sustains communities and transforms nations –- that kind of leadership rarely starts in palaces or parliaments.
That kind of leadership is not limited only to those of a certain age or status.  And that kind of leadership is not just about dramatic events that change the course of history in an instant.
Instead, true leadership often happens with the smallest acts, in the most unexpected places, by the most unlikely individuals.

So make no mistake about it: There are still so many causes worth sacrificing for.  There is still so much history yet to be made. 

And in the end, that sense of interconnectedness, that depth of compassion, that determination to act in the face of impossible odds, those are the qualities of mind and heart that I hope will define your generation.
I hope that all of you will reject the false comfort that others’ suffering is not your concern, or if you can’t solve all the world’s problems, then you shouldn’t even try.
Instead, as one of our great American presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, liked to say, I hope that you will commit yourselves to doing “what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are,” because in the end, that is what makes you a lion.  Not fortune, not fame, not your pictures in history books, but the refusal to remain a bystander when others are suffering, and that commitment to serve however you can, where you are.

So you may not always have a comfortable life.  And you will not always be able to solve all the world’s problems all at once.  But don’t ever underestimate the impact you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.

Nicole Harvey and I waiting to see Michelle. I thought this picture was an appropriate one to end with because, (yes I know it sounds corny) we are those people she's talking about! :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Soweto Bike Tour Part 2: the people

So here is the final posting on the Soweto bike tour, and it's all about the people/culture. Once again, I'll just post pics and comment on them. Enjoy! :)

An, my co-intern.

So everywhere we went, kids just want to have their picture taken. They would say, "photo! photo!" or "shoot me!". All they wanted was to see their picture on the camera screen. They all are so sweet and so happy; what simplicity. Once again, I could help but feel amazed and heart broken, at the same time, for how joyful they are and for how little they have. 

One of the tradition things that was "included" in our tour was tasting local delicacies. Here,  people are tasting homemade beer. When you drink it, you are supposed to kneel down as a sign of humility/respect. Many of the men sitting in the background are leaders in community. 

An tasting the beer.

Me tasting the beer! To be honest, I was a slightly grossed out at sipping out of that sphere that everyone was drinking out of, but I just sucked it up and went for it. :) The beer was actually extremely mild, slightly watery. Don't worry, no one was falling off their bikes afterwards. ;)

One of the other delicacies we tried was ox jaw. Yes, OX JAW. I don't really know what else to say about it - it was not a highlight for me of the trip. 

Yep, I tried it. It wasn't as bad as I wanted it to be - just extremely chewy. That is my kind of scared face, not excited face. 

More sweet, sweet kids who just wanted their picture taken. 

You really would think we all knew each other. 

Two other girls on the tour. 

At first, I couldn't understand what this boy was saying when he came up to me, but I quickly realized it was the same request as every other kid: a photo. :) He is wearing his school uniform for an event for Youth Day. 

Our tour included a typical Soweto-ian lunch: "bunny chow'. Don't ask why it's called that, I don't know and I don't think anyone knows. It's 1/4 break, french fries, egg, meat, and maybe a little bit of veggies. (They made mine vegetarian because I'm trying to be one. I'm sure that mind sound confusing to you when you just saw a picture of me eating ox jaw; that's why I said trying. :) ) To be honest, the bunny chow was not my favorite.

I'm sorry this picture is so blurry but I had to include it. This man was at the monument with the Ten Commandments. Here, he is playing a recorder with his nose. 

We had to stop for a few minutes to fix one of the bikes; these boys found us quite entertaining. 

More kids just playing in the street. Most of these kids live in shacks. The girl on the right in the stripes caught on to the fact that I was taking pictures. (See next photo.)

She'll be famous one day, no doubt. :)

These boys live in the community of shacks that I pictured at the end of the part one post. 

Hamming it up for the camera. 

This kid would not smile for anything, and just sat there on the ground. 

And then I got him to smile. :) I love the contrast between the two pictures. A highlight in my day.

This is same photo that was at the end of part one, but I wanted to feature the kids again. They were so happy, singing and playing in the dirt. It reminded me of "king of the hill". Their joy and simplicity still cuts my heart and inspires me to just simply be, grateful.

So, that is Soweto in a nut-shell. If you ever come to South Africa (which I hope you do), you must visit Soweto. Comment if you have thoughts or questions to share. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Soweto Bike Tour Part 1: the place

[part of] Soweto

I've been thinking about this post, and I think the best way to tell you about it is to show lots of pictures and just put captions. And then maybe some concluding thoughts at the end. :) So, here we go...

Actually, maybe some quick background info would be helpful. Soweto is a township of Johannesburg with a population of over a million people! (Think of a suburb near where you live; now imagine one million people living there.) Soweto started in the very early 1900s as a township designed to house mine workers. It continued to grow from the mining business, but also from laws during the apartheid era that forced blacks to move into specific townships. In the 1960s and 70s, Soweto became the hub for the anti-apartheid movement. Home to Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, the 1976 student uprisings, and many more historical moments and characters, Soweto is a richly cultured and welcoming place, that no trip to South Africa would be complete without.

The neighborhood just around where the tour started.

Ready to go!

This post is all about Soweto the place: what it looks like, the feel of it, etc...

A not so great view of Soweto. We started our tour off in East Orlando (I'm pretty sure it was east - it's either east or west!), which is where Nelson Mandela first lived when he moved to Soweto.

This is a snapshot of the first neighborhood we biked through. As you'll see in pictures to come, this is actually a nicer neighborhood than many others. Here, the houses are made of cement and have solid roofs. 

Side street.

This bike tour happened to occur on Youth Day (see previous post). In 1976, students in Soweto (some as young as 12) began protesting against certain apartheid measures directed towards education. The protests turned deadly; the youngest victim being 13. This is the memorial for that day (now remember as Youth Day), just outside a museum.

The home of Nelson Mandela. 

Address on Nelson Mandela's home.


Vilakazi Street. The only the street in the world with two Nobel Peace Prize winners living on it: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

An extremely common scene: trash everywhere. And yes, that is a pig. I have no idea where it would have come from. 

Yep, two more pigs. Really though, this image is quite sad as it's everywhere, and that is just how so many people live.

View of a development of shacks. In the background are two towers from an old power plant (no longer active) that have become a staple in the Soweto skyline.

This is the only picture I'm including of this, but this monument is in honor of South Africa's "Ten Commanments". These are provisions in the law for things that every South African citizen is entitled to, such as all groups of people are equal and everyone shares the country's wealth.

Another wider view of a shantytown. This was just before we biked through one of the worst areas of Soweto. As you'll see when I post the "people" pictures, these kids started hamming it up when they realized I had a camera. :)

Closer up.

It's still amazing to me how everyone is just in the streets, all the time.

We were given a tour of one of these shantytowns; in this one, there are over 600 shacks. Usually one or two families live in a shack and about four or more shacks share a porta potty. There is only one tap from which to draw water for the entire community. This was walking in between some of the shacks. Most are made of sheets of metal, but these had cement.

Some of the homes in the community.

Walking through the shacks. It turned out that our tour guide on the bike tour came from here and still lives near by to help out in the community.

This picture fits in both posts (people and places). I wanted to include it hear because this is where the kids played: on the pile of dirt. They were so happy though! They were singing and waving at us. It occurred to me, that they probably don't realize the way they live - that they are amongst the poorest in the world and that most of us look at their homes and clothes and life, and feel pity for them. They are just happy to play together. Even though I see scenes like this, and people like that often, it is still hard to process and breaks my heart every time. 

I'll share more in the next post about Soweto, but the thing that really amazed me about the place is this: despite the living conditions of many in Soweto, everyone has such a deep sense of community and responsibility for each other. There is great pride in their township and the role it has played in history over the years. It is not a place to be pitied, but rather, respected.