First days and impressions of Cape Town

Saturday the 8th of May 2010 – 11.52h

The first couple of days in Cape Town are not exactly how I imagined I would spend them, or at least the very first night. Cape Town as a city is pretty much what I expected, quite developed (no elephants visible on the streets) but some things show it is still a third world country.

On my arrival to the airport, I had to go through the security customs procedure. After a pretty grilling interrogation which involved being asked what the purpose of my visit was, when I would be leaving the country, what I do for a living, how much money I had on me and other similar questions I was finally let through into the country.

I picked up my luggage (minus one wheel) and was met by three people at the airport holding a piece of paper with the words “Welcome Daniel Stone” and with a big smile on their face. These three people were Kennedy, the owner of the voluntary house where I will be staying (and also the driver), a friend of Kennedy’s and Erika, another volunteer from Sweden who to my amazement is pregnant (a very brave girl to move to South Africa to volunteer whilst pregnant).

As we arrived to the voluntary house I was introduced to all the other volunteers who live in the house. The house consists of nine volunteers (all in their late teens, early twenties and from very diverse places), Kennedy and his wife (whose name I cannot remember) and their six year old daughter, Loveness (a really pretty and energetic little girl). There is also another woman that lives in the house called Gee who is a local from South Africa.

I spent the afternoon talking to all the volunteers getting to know them a little better and observing my new home and the house rules. I would be sharing my room with two other guys, Ronaldo from Brazil and Gabriel from Sweden. The bed I would sleep on looked small and not very comfortable, the bathroom had a sign saying, “Showers max 8 minutes” and the food seems to be rationed. All of this is what I had expected before arriving in Africa and wouldn’t have liked it had it been any different.This is part of the experience of living in Africa and I would have been disappointed had I been living in a luxurious swanky pad. The house is kept clean and tidy which is something important for me (being an OCD sufferer).🙂

The afternoon passed and then came the evening. Some of the volunteers wanted to go out for a few drinks and asked if I wanted to join them. So I did, a great way to get to know them a little better and experience Cape Town at night. We ended up going to a pretty posh club (i.e China Whites in London or Luz de Gas in Barcelona) surrounded by really pretty blonde girls. In all the clubs I have been to in the past I don’t think I have ever seen so many pretty girls in one place, no exaggeration.

I couldn’t but feel a little out of place. Had I been in Spain or England I would have thought of being in heaven, but with the frame of mind I was in, having come to Africa to help out in any way I could, I couldn’t help being taken aback by what I was seeing and being part of.

From what I had read before I came to South Africa, 75% of the population is either black or coloured as they say here (from what I have understood coloured isn’t somebody black but from India or similar places). I stood in this night club and looked around to only see beautiful girls (mainly blonde) and handsome looking white guys that mostly looked like rugby players. The only black people I saw were the glass collectors and maybe there were two black people who were there on a night out. I couldn’t stop thinking that this is not how I thought I would spend my first night in Africa.

After having got to bed at about 4am, Kennedy woke me up at 9am informing me that it was my induction day and I had to be at the programme organisers office at 9.30. It was the first I knew about this induction day and I would have thought twice about going out the night before if I knew I had to be up at 9am, considering I got no sleep (or very little sleep) the night before on the plane.

Friday the 7th of May 2010 is a day I thoroughly enjoyed. It was like going from one world to another in the space of hours. The morning of Induction day involved a briefing about Cape Town, the programme, things to be aware of and must do things in Cape Town as well as the house rules once again from the programme orgainser, Tandy. The afternoon involved a visit around Cape Town with Tandy and Andrea (a girl from Switzerland), who is another volunteer who arrived on the same day as me.

We got a tour around the area where I am living, which is called Observatory and then got the bus into the centre of Cape Town, which is about a 20 minute journey. Once in the centre of Cape Town, Tandy took us to some of the hotspots in Cape Town explaining where we might want to spend more time in our stay here. There are loads of things to see out here and the little I have seen of Cape Town so far has been astonishing.

When on the streets wondering around in Cape Town I couldn’t but feel a little on edge. Due to all the violence that I have been warned about I am probably more wary than I should. In the centre of Cape Town there are a lot of black people walking the streets and just by the image they give off you could feel intimidated. There are a lot of men who have their front teeth missing and do not look in great condition. I asked Tandy about this and her response was that as well as them probably not being able to afford a dentist, it is something they do on purpose to give off a “gangster” image.

After our day out of wondering around the centre of Cape Town our induction day would end with a train journey back home. The train journey back home is something that I would have imagined before coming to Africa but still a shock when you see it with your own eyes. The train was very old and noisy. The majority of people on the train were black and coloured. There were loads of people going around the train station and on the train selling “Nik-Nak” crisps and soft drinks, as well as glue and needles, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

Comparing the scene I had on Thursday night with what I was witnessing on the train were two completely different worlds in the same city. Two different races who lead completely different lives and share the same city as a home. I was already expecting this but when you witness it for yourself it feels totally different. Considering the situation the country was in before 1994 (the year which signalled the end of Apartheid) there have been incredible strides, however the gap in social class is still very evident on the streets.

After contemplating the experience of wondering the roads, shopping centre and train station of Cape Town, I couldn’t but help getting the feeling that this is what I could imagine what England was like about 20 or 30 years ago (not regarding social class but the condition in which I found the public transport, road works and those kind of things).

I arrived back home after this experience ready for an early night and to catch up on lost sleep.

15 Comments

Filed under Africa

15 responses to “First days and impressions of Cape Town

  1. Just like the blonde guy in Invictus.

  2. Arsenal 4 – Fulham 0! WOW!

  3. Ronnie

    Dan, what a clear description of Cape Town.It felt like I was there with you.Keep it up .I am looking forward to reading the next one with great interest.Take care sabih

  4. great description of the place my friend, i feel like ronnie, like i was there. it’s sad to read what you write, seems like things haven’t changed too much…

    you’re there to make a difference, well, you’re already making a difference on me here, it’s such a privilege to be able to read you.

    take care my friend

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  6. Edu

    great post Palomito!! I’ve felt like pere or roonie, like I was there with you in Cape Town. Great description mate!

    Will you post some photos with your new camera whenever you can?

    Take care Dani, we are all waiting for you here in BCN!

    PS: I’m already subscribed to your blog😉

  7. David

    Hey Dan really enjoying ur blog…. sounds like ur brain is working overtime with some great descriptions, I felt like i was in ur head the way you describe what u were thinkin. U are beeing dearly missed here…especially on the pitch another two games lost since u left. Anyways enjoy ur time remember time goes quick so make the most of it…. oh and try and bring some class players we need them for flahertys if there too good (which is not too dificult) than we can find them a football club.

    I will keep reading the blog with great interest and also let you know about our dreadful end to the season.

    P.S—I will be donating some cash as soon as I get my new debit card..

  8. Mark Brown

    Wow Danny boy!! your resume of cape town is quite captivating I too felt I was right there Im proud of you nephew it takes a real man to do what you are doing but what an adventure reading your blog is like reading a good book keep it up im enjoying it by the way any chance of doing some kacca there hehehe take care

  9. marichu

    Hello my lovely shiny star,
    Glad and releived you got there ok. Im following your adventure with intense interest and it seems as if am almost there with you, living and experiencing your impressions. You make it sound very real for us all……All I can tell you is that we are there with you in spirit , that we wish you all the best, that whenever you feel lonely you remember you are truly loved and that your adventure is becoming also our adventure!!!!
    Very few people have the guts to follow their hearts and as Martin Luther king wrote:
    PITY MAY REPRESENT LITTLE MORE THAN THE IMPERSONAL CONCERN WHICH PROMPTS THE MAILING OF A CHEQUE, BUT TRUE SYMPATHY IS THE PERSONAL CONCERN WHICH DEMANDS THE GIVING OF ONE´S SOUL. thats exactly what YOU are doing. my son. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  10. ANAIS

    hi big bro,
    not sure exactly what to say as everyone has basically said it already but
    very glad u got there safe. dont actually think ive told u this before but how proud am i to have a brother like you to do what you are doing… ur a great influence and reading ur blog just makes me want to cry (dont know why) but ur a great inspiration to people and i wish you the very best of luck. keep ur blogs going.. they are great and everyone enjoys them! take care big bro want u bk in one piece.love u

  11. I have something to tell you: I FINISHED THE MAGAZINE (and survived). Waiting for your next post🙂

  12. Nicole

    Hey Dani Boy,

    Glad to hear you arrived safely and having an eye opening experience already. Have you ever considered being an author? The way you write is very engaging. Sounds like it’s going to be a fascinating few months for you lovey. Like you said, you may not be able to change the world, but if you can change the lives of a few people in it then it is worth everything. You are an inspiration and I am so pleased that you are getting to fulfil one of your dreams, you deserve it.
    Look after yourself and keep up with the wonderful blog, am really loving it.
    Thinking of you on your adventure.
    Lot’s of love,
    Nic. xxx

  13. WOW!!

    I am truly amazed by the amunt of comments you have all made and the amount of people following the blog. I had 91 visits to the blog yesterday!

    I have really been touched by all of your comments. Thank you so much!!

    I will be trying to write as much as possible and share my experience with all of you as what I am doing is really rewarding as you will see from the next post I will be writing about my first day with the kids.

    Keep up the interest guys and if any thing important back home happens let me know…I feel a little lost here not following the news or anything. Is it right that the prime minister still hasn’t been decided yet in the UK???

  14. – Hi Pere, I am glad you are enjoying the blog. As you say, it is sad that the current situation still exists but the more I think about it and observe the people the more I sense that the “less fortunate” people seem to lead happier lives. The more you have the more you want. Being able to be happy with what you have, even if have very little, is truly remarkable. Will keep you updated my friend. Hope all is well in the office and Oriol has settled well.

    – Hi Edu, I haven’t managed to take my camera out of the voluntary house yet as I am scared it will get robbed! I will soon take it out and take some pictures, and as soon as I do I will post some pictures so that you can visualise some of my descriptions🙂 I am glad you are also enjoying the blog. I am missing all you guys and girls from the office.

    – Hi Dave, you are being dearly missed too my brother. As you can see I am having a great time out here so far and really living the experience. Make sure you get some more points on the board for Flaherty’s before the end of the season. How was your trip to Sevilla by the way? Hope it all went well.

    -Hi Ana, Thanks for your comment, very much appreciated. How is your work going? You don’t have much long left in Barcelona so make the most of it. Don’t worry, I will be back in one piece and will be giving you hassle when I am back🙂 Love you.

    – Hi Nic, Thanks for your comment and compliment. Not quite sure about me becoming an author! Ha ha It’s just me writing with emotion which probably makes it more engaging. You have a lot to do with this experience as you introduced me to this programme so make sure you take credit for my experience! Hope the end of the teaching course is going well. Thinking of you!

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