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Capetown, South Africa – Stark Realities

Capetown, South Africa is a stark contrast in realities depending on whether you are Colored, Black African or White. These terms in the U.S. today would probably cause a stir in almost any neighborhood, but in Capetown it is the accepted way to refer to someone. Coloreds, the majority population in Capetown– 50%–are descendants of those from Malaysia, India, Indonesia and other Asian countries who were enslaved to work the docks loading and unloading the Dutch Trading Company’s ships. They are considered Coloreds instead of Asians because through the years they intermarried with Whites and/or Blacks. Black Africans are 30% of Capetown’s population and are the original people of the area, while Whites are primarily of Dutch, Portuguese or British ancestry and 20% of the population. I could tell that some of my colleagues on the trip were initially uneasy saying the terms Colored and Black African. It is interesting that here there is a very open dialogue about apartheid, racism and the injustices that the systems have created, while in America, we tiptoe around the obvious.

While I am not a stranger to information about South African’s shanty towns and bantustans…it is quite another thing to see it with your own eyes. It is also an emotional experience to learn why they exist–at least in Capetown–through the forced removal of Black Africans and Coloreds in the 1960s from what is now a booming Central City and tourist area to outlying areas of rocky land. Entire and numerous communities of Black and Coloreds were uprooted and made to move from an area called District 6, without any infrastructure, support or basic services…water or sanitation. Many homes in these areas still do not have running water or bathrooms. I just saw on the news Saturday night, the announcement of a new public bathroom system for a settlement area. The psychological and emotional stress of that move is evident in how Capetoians talk about the loss of cultural stability as families from various religious, cultural and racial backgrounds were forced to the same areas.

In my pictures, you will see the various settlements as well as new housing that the ANC government started building after the fall of apartheid. The need is so great that currently, there is a 10-12 year waiting list for new housing. Like in the U.S., major highways are used to divide neighborhoods by class and race.

An NGO in Capetown that is heavily involved with housing construction in several of the settlements is Development Action Group. They have successfully positively impacted the lives of over 19,000 people since 2011 through new housing, teaching construction trades, helping youth learn business skills and facilitating the accreditation of several new construction businesses started by people from the settlements.

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Update from Cape Town

Cheers from South Africa!

Wow so time is really flying by and my stay in South Africa is really coming to an end soon. I am halfway done with my final exams; two down and two left to go. As you can imagine, I’ve been quite busy studying but have still found time to soak up the Capetonion sun while I can. Summer is pretty much in full swing here with temperatures getting very warm already. The beautiful weather that we have had here lately is only going to make it harder to get back on a plane to come home to winter. While I’m excited to see my friends and family back in Kansas City again, I can’t help but already feeling sad that my time abroad is closing in on the final weeks.

So without further a due, here are some photos from my recent (or not so recent) weeks here!

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This is a photo of my French and German housemates and I. It has been really cool to interact with not only South Africans but many Europeans as well. During my stay here, people have moved in and out of the house so I’ve lived with several German, French, and Dutch people and I’ve gotten to know some of their languages and customs as well.

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Halloween is not as big of a celebration in South Africa as it is in the US; however Cape Town still held a zombie walk that gathered nearly 3,000 zombies to walk around the city center for Halloween!

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This is my friend Yvonne and I at a cave we hiked to in Silvermine called Elephant’s Eye. They call it this because the mountain sort of looks like an elephant’s head and the cave is right where the eye would be!

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This is an older picture, but still one of my favorites from our spring break trip. This photo was taken at Jeffery’s Bay, one of the most famous surfing beaches in the world. While becoming a professional surfer is just not in the cards for me, we had a lot of fun trying to learn.

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This photo was taken during afternoon tea at one of the most posh hotels in Cape Town, the Belmond Mount Nelson. We indulged in plenty of fine teas and sweets this afternoon. We also had an unexpected surprise run in with the actor, Sean Penn! (He is currently working on filming a movie here in Cape Town)

Like I said, I’ve been busy preparing for exams but that does not stop me from going out and exploring Cape Town still. In just one more week my semester will officially be complete and I will have a few weeks off to myself to enjoy my remaining time in South Africa.

Cheers for now!