A milestone checked
Over 7000 miles later you now join me in South Africa and more importantly you join me at an important milestone. Here’s a little background: Since I was a kid it seems I was destined for travel and after my backpacking trip to South America I made a vow. I vowed that not only would I return to South America, but I would also visit Africa thus crossing off all six inhabited land continents. I also decided to add a little bit of a twist by stating that I intend to go to all six on the most recent Singapore passport I have. I am thrilled to say the moment we cleared immigration at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, I have finally crossed all six inhabited continents on not only my current passport but in my life. The feeling was surreal and renewed me with excitement and energy despite coming off a long and uncomfortable flight (looking at you BA).
Upon landing in what is (fun fact) the busiest airport in Africa, we met our two superb coordinators, Nic and Makale. Right off the bat the 29 of us had a feeling that we were in rather excellent hands. We soon boarded a bus to the Curiosity Hostel in the hipster neighborhood of Maboneng. This hostel, well the site has a history with South African politics as the very building we were standing in was used as a printing press for the ANC to print their material during the Apartheid regime in South Africa. This was the first of a series of profound history lessons we would be getting about this country. The day started with a little bit of light exploring of the art around the neighborhood followed by an extensive safety briefing as South Africa, told through our coordinators, is not exactly safest place in the world. Nevertheless, this did not faze my excitement over the fact that we were in South Africa.
The next day it was a little bit more on the emotional side (for me at least). We were visiting constitution hill, the constitution court, the old women’s prison and the Apartheid Museum. In addition to these museum visits, we also had a lecture about the dark history of South Africa (the insane part was that we didn’t even have time to cover what happened during Apartheid). The next day was less on the serious side as we would be having our first of two neighborhood days in South Africa. I was in a group that went to a green neighborhood called Emerentia and the area around the main the university in Johannesburg, University of the Witwatersrand. Our guide for this area was local musician Sam Turpin who you all have to check out on Spotify for he has some solid bops. The neighborhood day was the final chapter of our time in Johannesburg and the next day we flew to Cape Town, our last stop on this crazy abroad program.
When we landed in Cape Town, we got another safety briefing, and soon we got to meet our host families. Ten of us and the traveling faculty were staying in the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town. This neighborhood is the Cape Malay area of the city. It is a predominantly Muslim neighborhood that is currently fighting gentrification. The community is making great strides in trying to ensure this neighborhood gains national heritage status. The community still has a few ways to go to with regards to gaining the status, but I hope they do get it. It is a vibrant community with a lot of heart that has experienced so much since the time of Apartheid. My friend Carlos and I were going to be staying with the Adams family. They are unbelievably wholesome and have been hosting IHP students since 2006. With that kind of credentials, we were sure to be in good hands. The rest of the week in Cape Town was relatively relaxing with an introduction into the city. Well, it was mostly relaxing.
The not so relaxing part of the trip started with a “hike” up one of the new seven natural wonders of the world, Table Mountain. Over twenty of us from the program had decided to take the plunge and hike up the mountain. A group of us, I included agreed to take the more scenic route which involved actual rock climbing. It is safe to say the more challenging way is the only way to experience Table Mountain as the views from the top were far more rewarding than by taking the cable car up. Words fail to describe the scenery I witnessed up there for they were out of this world. The views from Sunday’s excursion were equally amazing as we ended up going to the beach.
Our first crazy week in South Africa ended with a brunch hosted by our professors followed by a walk to the seaside. We ended up heading to Clifton Beach which has crystal clear views of the Atlantic ocean which meant we had an unobstructed view of the sunrise. I was struck by how beautiful it was. There was this evocative feeling that cannot be described.
Perhaps it is a telling of how things are to come over our final few weeks on this program. Already it has already started to get me thinking about a great many things. Tune in next time for what will hopefully more crazy adventures.