Tag Archives: Social Justice Coalition

Friendship, Lessons, and Community in Cape Town, South Africa

December 13, 2012

Camps Bay BeachToday was our final day in Cape Town and the only day we hadn’t booked a full day of activities.  We attempted to sleep in, but still woke up around 6:00am, so we went to breakfast and got an early jump on the day.

After breakfast we set out to explore Cape Town on foot one more time.  The first day we walked around Cape Town we were a bit delirious from the preceding 36 hours of travel.  Having been here a few days now, we were able to absorb much more during this second go-round.

We’d hoped to do some final gift shopping so we made our way down to Long Street.  By this time, we’d showered and had a very leisurely breakfast, so we were surprised the shops weren’t open yet. I glanced down at my watch – it was only 8:00am – that explained it.

We continued to wander as we waited for the shops to open and came across a collaborative bucket list project, “Before I Die”.  A wall outside of a business was covered with chalkboard paint and the words “Before I die I want to…” were written  next to numerous blank lines.  They have chalk inside the shop so that everyone can finish the sentence in their own words.

Before I Die

We were, of course, too early – the shop with chalk hadn’t opened yet – so we read the wishes of others. Some were quite funny and others were truly touching. I was filled with gratitude, reading the community bucket list.  One of the things I wanted to do before I die is travel to Africa. Simultaneously reading and fulfilling a bucket list, I smiled and gave thanks.

By the time the shops opened, our attention spans for shopping had diminished. We popped in and out of some stores quickly, eventually deciding to go down to the beach instead. As we were walking back to the hotel we came across a protest in front of the courthouse.

Social Justice Coalition Protest

I spoke with some of the protesters to find out what was going on. They explained that an independent commission of inquiry had been established to investigate crimes and potential law enforcement corruption in some of the most densely populated townships.

“I don’t feel safe at home,” one young woman told me. “The commission of inquiry gave me hope that I’d be protected and things would get better, but the Minister of Police is trying to stop the commission’s work.  There’s a court hearing right now,” she added. We watched as the crowd grew and their chanting got louder. As we turned to head back to the hotel, busloads of people were arriving, hoping their voices would make a difference.

Tomorrow we leave for safari at Kruger National Park which means there was much organizing and re-packing to do today. I went back to the room and packed, thankful that I had purchased another duffle bag the day we arrived in Cape Town.

Cold water Camps BayNext I headed to Camps Bay beach for a couple hours.  It’s summer so the beaches are quite busy, but the water is cold.  It was somewhat deceptive as I equate crystal clear waters such as those of Camps Bay with warmth.  I walked into the waves for a minute so that my body and mind would believe what everyone had told me about how cold the water is here.

After the beach, I met up with some friends who live in Cape Town.  I initially met Maureen and Adrian during a really special trip to Alaska in 2010.  We’d each been selected in a lottery to visit McNeil River, a protected park that has the highest concentration of brown bears in the world.

During our four days at McNeil, Maureen, Adrian and I would talk about travel, life, coffee, and wine. It’s no wonder we became friends. “If you’re ever in Cape Town, give us a call! We’d love to show you around,” they said when our time at McNeil came to a close.

It was so nice to be reunited with Maureen and Adrian on yet another special trip. They brought me up to their home and we caught up over wine, while overlooking the windswept beach. I hadn’t mentioned this to them, but two things I was sorry I didn’t do while in Cape Town were go to Signal Hill and eat sushi.

“Shall we go get a bite to eat?” Adrian asked.  And then, as if reading my mind, “Do you like sushi?”

When we got in the car Adrian asked if I’d been up to Signal Hill. “No… that’s one thing we didn’t have time to do,”  I replied.  Within 7 minutes, we were atop Signal Hill and Adrian was pointing out some of the city’s landmarks.  The views at Signal Hill are spectacular.  As we looked down at the stadium, built initially to host the World Cup, Adrian and Maureen shared additional history about the development of Cape Town and possible plans for the stadium moving forward.

Spending time with Maureen and Adrian made South Africa feel like home.

View from Signal Hill

When they dropped me back at More Quarters following dinner, it didn’t feel sad – it felt exciting. We talked about where in the world we may see each other next. Perhaps we’d all meet in Alaska again.  Of course I’ll reach out the next time I’m in South Africa.  We might reunite in London. . . or on a trip to see the polar bears in Churchill. Maybe they’ll come visit me. . . or perhaps we’ll meet somewhere none of us has been yet.

Traveling around the world is what I enjoy most. My time in Cape Town offered further reinforcement as to the importance of doing so. Traveling broadens perspectives, opens minds, allows us to form friendships with people we otherwise may not meet. Travel allows us to witness, first-hand, how others respond to global and local challenges – environmental, political, and social. New solutions can emerge from listening to, learning from, and collaborating with other cultures. Understanding and compassion increase as experience reminds us that we are not alone, that people on the other side of the world want the same basic things we do, and that everybody has something they’d like to do before they die.

Time for sleep.  Tomorrow is a big day as we head into the second portion of our journey – safari.

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