Day 4: February 17
Kumi had coffee downstairs waiting for us. It was instant coffee but I needed it, so I wasn’t complaining.
The amazing thing about South Africa is its undeniable beauty. I mean, everything from the greenery to the mountains to the beaches are just phenomenal. It’s almost as if I’m in a painting. Photos don’t do any of this justice but I’d be re-missed if I didn’t show you any so…you’re welcome.
We’re at Chapman’s Peak now. I can’t stop taking photos.
Our tour guide told us that the houses here run between 2 and 5 million rand. The
conversion is 200,000 to half a million dollars. That’s affordable. We drove around some windy roads to get through this area. Now we’re at the Cape Peninsula. We rode bikes through the Peninsula. My bike stopped working on me midway through the ride. It wouldn’t pedal forward. But with bikes, similar to life, when the pedals stop moving forward, just stop, recalibrate, change gears, and keep moving forward. I was breathing in hot air through the entire bike ride which made it a bit tougher, but the view of the mountains helped me push through. We were out in an area with plants and grass surrounding the roads. Our tour guide told us that there could be some animals out there. Thankfully we didn’t encounter any aside from the random baboon. We went to one of the mountains, and I conquered my slight fear of heights. I meticulously climbed each rock and step to get to the top of a mountain hundreds of feet in the air. It was definitely worth it. The view was incredible. The Atlantic Ocean was below me in different shades of blue. Each step was difficult for me. Thinking of my clumsy nature wasn’t helping. Just knowing that I was one misstep or trip from falling off the side of a mountain was terrifying, but I pushed through my fear. My friends walked up the mountain with ease for the most part. When we got to the top, we took looked out and took in the view. The water looked like it went on forever. I’ve never seen water this blue. It’s absolutely breathtaking. It took me a while to get back down to the bottom but my friends were patient with me.
When I got down to the bottom of the mountain, maybe 30 minutes later(I literally scooted my way down), we headed over to one of the other areas where you had the option of climbing some more. I chose to climb a few steps to get to a table and some beer.lol. Some of the others on the tour were also in the mood for that so we sat down at a table and had some interesting conversation over a refreshing drink. We chatted with some women from Denmark where we learned that education, for the most part, is free in their country. Many students even get paid to go to college. But like always, the government has to make up for the money somehow so….taxes. They pay almost 50% in taxes!! That’s nuts to me. But I guess if that’s your way of life, it doesn’t seem odd to you. I’m not sure which is worse though between coming out of school with tens of thousands of dollars in loans or having to pay insane amounts of taxes. One of the other guys with us, Jasper was from Sweden. He has been studying and traveling recently. He was a really friendly guy and the most athletic person on our trip. That was pretty evident during our bicycle ride as he sped past all of us with ease up and down those hills. But the group of us had interesting discussions about the differences in our countries ranging from education to taxes and occupations.
Then we headed back on the bus and went to the place we’re staying. By the way, I stayed at a hostel on this trip for the first time. It was actually really fun and not at all what I expected from my very limited knowledge of hostels. It was clean and comfy, the staff was very friendly and welcoming and we were in a great location.
Anyway, we took a nap for a bit and then headed out to Long Street; you know, that main nightclub strip I mentioned earlier…well a friend and I ended up at this bar called Space Bar and after a few drinks, I accused a French guy of racially stereotyping black women. But let me explain…while we were at the bar indulging in a few beers, we ran into a group of French guys who were out dancing and chatting amongst themselves. Then these African women came into the bar and started rubbing up against them trying to dance with them. The guys instantly started laughing and calling these women “hoes”. I was immediately offended even though they weren’t talking about me. In my state of intoxication, I got on my soapbox and went on a rant about racial stereotypes and why it was wildly inappropriate for them to call these black women hookers when they didn’t even know them…for the record, the women were hookers. I was just being hypersensitive. Blame it on the liquor. So we ended up befriending the guys and hung out with them for the rest of the night. A couple of them were finishing up medical school and one of them is a mechanical engineer. He was the only one who lives in Cape Town. The rest of them live in France and came to visit him for a few days. They turned out to be some really cool guys. I’m sure I’ll never forget them; especially after the night we had….but what happens in Cape Town…..
Day 5: February 18:
I woke up this morning a little disoriented but still aware of what was happening. We went down to the V&A waterfront to hangout for a bit. We decided we wanted lunch initially but coffee, as always, was the first priority. I haven’t mentioned this yet but I suppose I could do it now: race relations in Capetown are really fucked up. Since I’ve been here I’ve noticed this in every restaurant we’ve been to. The black Africans are the servers and the whites are either the managers or the customers. We’ve literally been the only blacks dining at these nice restaurants. Then the service that we’ve experienced has been awful. My friend and I decided to venture to a coffee place at the waterfront and were seated for maybe 20 minutes before anyone even approached us to take our order, and that was because we flagged them down. And yet, as soon as a white customer sat down they were served. Initially, I thought that maybe my hypersensitivity was kicking in again, but I had to remind myself that this country isn’t very far removed from apartheid. Segregation in the United States ended in the 1960s in the United States unlike in South Africa where many of the racial tensions just ended in recent years.It’s always interesting hearing other countries discuss racism in the United States and how divided we are as a nation and yet I must argue that at least we are having the racial dialogue in our country these days. Granted, sometimes the conversation is a bit forced but it is being had. It seems as if some of the other countries I’ve been to just ignore the race problem and sweep racial tensions under the rug. It’s extremely sad to witness. We obviously have a long way to go in the US, but when will these socioeconomic and educational racial disparities end? It’s disheartening.
Each time the servers approached us in the restaurant, which happened maybe every 20 minutes, they weren’t always friendly and acted as if they didn’t want to serve us. Everywhere I turned, I’ve noticed that whites were the owners and the blacks were the employees or the servers. In this restaurant, we waited for long periods of time for everything. Mind you, the only thing we were ordering here was coffee. Once we were finished with our coffee, the manager came over and asked how our experience was. Feeling a bit frustrated and ashamed but also feeling bad at the same time that we had been treated the way that we were by people of the same race, we didn’t complain about the bad service. The funny thing was that the manager asked us specifically about the service. It seemed as if he was looking for a reason to discipline one of them. My friend and I said nothing. What we should’ve done was told him how disappointed we were with the service, and as his employees are a reflection of him as a manager, it was necessary for him to discuss the importance of providing good service regardless of the race. This has been on my mind since I stepped foot in South Africa. It seems to me that the white population in South Africa lives in the middle class and upper middle class areas while the black population lives in the townships which is the lower income areas apparently. These things have got to change. All the poverty I have seen since I’ve been here is within the black South African community. These are fundamental racial issues that have to be addressed not just in South Africa but all over the world. I’m just going to leave Day 5 right there for now…
Day 5: February 18; Part 2
Okay, so there’s a little bit more to tell about my day 5 experience so I’m going to continue and finish here. So after we had coffee at lunch at the waterfront, we headed back to our place and took a nap. There’s a group of black professionals that we met on our journey who share our interests in travel. They’re all from America but some of them live here in Africa. They’re members of an organization that was founded in the US and some of them decided to meet up in South Africa for a couple weeks. They seemed cool at first, so we met up with them at a bar called Neighborhood to celebrate a birthday tonight. We shared a few bottles of wine and discussed an array of topics including our experiences in other countries in comparison to American living, our career goals, and for some of us, our mutual historically black college and university connection. One of them attended Howard Law School so we forged an instant connection.
We stayed there for a while and had a few drinks then continued to move down Long Street. We ended up at a spot called Havana Club and danced there for a couple hours. While we were there, these guys broke out into the worm. That was pretty comical. But they were so nice and different so we danced with them for a bit, post-spontaneous and weird worm dancing. This club had a diverse crowd which I appreciated. And everyone danced with everyone regardless of race, which I could also appreciate. We partied out there til’ maybe 3am, then headed home. Evidently, Wednesday nights don’t come with as much excitement as others but hey, fun is what you make it.
Day 6: February 19
We were really anticipating our shark diving adventure that we were about to embark on. What we didn’t anticipate or predict was being bent over on the side of the boat throwing up for the entire 4-hour ride, but that’s exactly what happened, me especially. I think I might’ve still been feeling the alcohol from the night before. Plus, the fact that I only got two hours of sleep didn’t help. They got the arrival time of the tour van mixed up and told us they’d pick us up at 4am. The van didn’t get here until 7am.
So we set out two hours away to the adventure. When we arrived, we got all the safety instructions and hopped on the boat….where I got motion sickness for maybe the first time in my life. I think my body had just been holding out all my 26 years for this one because I’m pretty sure I almost vomited out a lung…or both. The fact that our small boat was idling in the water for about an hour didn’t help. The area in the water where we needed to be to see the sharks was three miles away from the dock and our instructor forgot the chutney bucket and the videographer was running behind so we had to wait for them. Longest hour of my life. Rocking back and forth in a boat slicing through waves was not fun. Then I got worried because for a while, my friend and I were the only ones hurling on the side of the boat. My first thought was “we can’t be the only people getting sick on this boat, especially since we were the only black people.” They’d make a joke of how uncomfortable black Americans are in and near water. I didn’t need that stereotype over my head especially since I’ve been swimming since I was 4-years old. I love the water. Shortly after, my worries subsided, as a few other people on the boat got sick.
We finally made it out to the shark area, and it became evident to me how much everything I had endured was worth it. I jumped in the cage after about an hour and a half of watching everyone else doing it, when I wasn’t leaned over the side,and waited for the sharks to come. When they got close to the bait, the men told us dive deeper into the cage. “Down!!” they’d yell. I submerged myself in the water and saw these Great White Sharks swim within inches of me. At one point, the shark collided into the cage and its mouth was between the metal bars. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the cage during that time, but seeing Great White Sharks swimming so close to us was an incredible experience…..an hour and two lost stomachs later, we made it back to land where I fell on the ground and lied there for about 30 minutes. I didn’t even eat the lunch they were serving because I wasn’t sure that I could stomach it. I just laid out on the ground in the sun until it was time for us to load the van to head back. I was too sick during the ride to take a lot of photos, but if you want to see some, head over to Ben’s website, Benmoorephotography.com
where you can see the photos he took on our adventure. He’s a professional photographer(clearly) so I’m sure you’ll love his stuff.
At any rate, we headed back and took a long nap. When we woke up, Kumi told us to come downstairs in 30 minutes because he wanted to cook us a light dinner. When we arrived downstairs, he took us to a table near the bar with candles. We sat down and he had chicken sandwiches for us. They were delicious. It was a kind gesture, and we appreciated him for being so kind. When we talked to him about his life, we learned that this kindness exceeded our experience with him. Kumi is a genuine and caring person it seems. He lives life uninhibited, but he also gives to the people who matter most to him when he can. He talked to us about his mother and how he found out that she used to be a tennis champion when she was young. He said he hopes to one day send her to Wimbledon to see the tennis matches. Kumi also likes to gamble a little bit. He likes to play the slot machines and gamble on horses. He finds pleasure in these things. He makes these colorful bracelets for good luck. He told us stories of when he won betting on the horses a couple of times. He trusted his instincts and bet on a horse that only one other person really had confidence in, and he won. Lesson from Happy Hour.
He told us that he gave some of his winnings to his family and some to charity. While he finds pleasure in playing and gambling in these areas, he really wants to win the big one: the lottery. He told us if he ever won, he’d take his mother to Wimbledon and give more money to his family. Of course, he’d indulge in the pleasures of his new found wealth. I hope he wins someday. He also told us a little bit about his lady friend. She lives in Johannesburg, but she’s coming to visit him for his birthday. It may be a very special time for them, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
After talking to Kumi for about an hour and thanking him for the meal, we went to Hussar Grill for dinner, where we met our server, Luke. Luke is an actor on the rise and a pretty cool person. He’d had a busy night though and it was pretty obvious as he shifted back and forth from the kitchen to different tables throughout the evening. We tried to make him laugh at some moments but I worried that we might’ve just been bothering him and he was ready for us to leave. It started to get late when we were on desert. Luke was patient with us though and before we ordered everything, he gave us good advice on desserts and dinner. I ordered the ostrich, which was spectacular. My stomach was still suffering from the motion sickness and the night prior, so it wasn’t agreeing with me. We had a diverse variety of food in front of us; everything from lamb to shrimp. Then we tried to go to a spot called Jade Lounge which happened to be less than a block away from the place we’re staying, but they wouldn’t let us in before 12:30 unless we had a table. I called it a night.
Stay Tuned for more details from week 2 and the conclusion of my trip to South Africa!