Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cape Town

After four nights of not really sleeping, I got on the plane to Cape Town on Thursday. I was tired and my excitement to see my friends turned to worries that I was going to inconvenience them. Then, as I was walking to the baggage claim, I caught a glimpse of Kate, Santie and Vaughn through the doorway, and when they saw me they started waving and jumping up and down. I waited for 10 excruciating minutes for my bag, and then got to go hug them!!! Finally!

I've been staying with Kate, and she's house-sitting at this nice house in Rondebosch, which is a suburb of Cape Town. So far, I have been to 2 churches, 2 camps, an AIDS hospice, and a Christmas Party for AIDS orphans. I've decided that I am a church tourist. I also got to see Cape Town a bit, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, several wine farms (including the first Fair Trade wine farm in SA!, a flea market, informal settlements (squatter camps), some cool parks, lots of beaches, mountains, penguins, a Huuuuuge seal, and some other wildlife. No lions yet.

One of the coolest things was playing with the orphans at the Christmas party. I started talking to them and they couldn't understand my accent, so I had to pretend to have a South African accent. That was fun. They called me "lady" and asked me to take pictures of them. Then they crowded around to see the picture on the screen. I got roped into helping with a skit for them, and we handed out food, and then gave out presents to each kid. They were so excited, and it was awesome to see the 3 and 4 year olds riding around on little plastic motorbikes that they were given. Many of these kids were from a squatter camp called Imizamo Yethu, which we drove through on the way. Seeing the conditions that these kids lived in was just so crazy... I'll post pictures when I can get a wireless connection.

Its so interesting to see how South Africa is dealing with its past. The government is dealing with squatter camps by building some housing (small generic looking houses, many smaller than an American garage), but then again they are putting millions on dollars into a new stadium for the 2010 Soccar World Cup. Its hard to judge, because even though the millions could rather feed a lot of people, the tourism and economic growth would really help the country to start competing with other countries. I think for people outside the country, the responsibility boils down to what we are willing to put our money into. Most of the people coming here in 2010 won't be concerned with whether or not the souveniers and tshirts they are buying were made in sweatshops. They won't think about whether their hotel workers are paid a fair wage. They won't see the squatter camps, because the government is putting up walls so that you can't see them from the highway.

We can judge this, because overall, we are content to do the same thing. We don't know who grew our food or made our shoes. We tune out homeless people when we walk by. It amazes me that South Africa has seen so much reconciliation in the few years since Apartheid fell. There are so many community based groups addressing poverty and AIDS, and they really do appreciate the support of the rest of the rest of the world. There is a small but growing Fair Trade tourism movement, and craft vendors that cater to tourists, but offer fairly made goods.

Thandi, a wine farm I visited was amazing. I read about this in the Lonely Planet guide to South Africa, so we stopped, and it was really encouraging. A few years ago the land was used for logging, but when the logging companies pulled out, people were left without jobs. So these people started a wine farm to create jobs. They ended up being the first Fair Trade Wine Company in South Africa, and their wines are winning awards. They are only this year starting to turn a profit. Their name is a Xhosa word for "nurturing love" and their motto is "With love we grow together." This shows that when people are willing to take an economic risk and others are willing to spend money with a conscience, it can change things.


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