Hello from Kaapstad!

I know it’s been ages since I wrote here. A whole Capetonian winter has passed since my last post.  The winter turned out to be way colder than I expected when I was packing my belongings in Lancaster, UK to move here. Some of those cosy sweaters I gave to charity shops were missed dearly. Looking outside sometimes I felt like I was back in rainy England.

Once the novelty of being in a beautiful new place wore off, I realised I needed to work towards making this place my home. The last few months have been spent trying to get to know my new hometown more, trying to feel more like a local, trying to fit in more with the community, and also trying to find work.

It has been tough on the job front, as a high percentage of jobs expect you to be a citizen of SA, and so far I have only managed to get work as a Matric maths tutor (UK equivalent of A-level), which I have enjoyed. So many concepts which I forgot from my A-level days were revised and prepared to be explained to my students. Their exam results are revealed in January next year, fingers crossed for a good outcome!

I have also been volunteering at a centre here in Cape Town, which I will not name for legal reasons. I have been teaching English to a class of 20 or so students, who are all from disadvantaged backgrounds and most do not have a formal education experience. It has certainly been an eye opening few weeks. The aim of the classes is to get the students in a better position for employment and generally improve their chances in life. I’ve had to re-learn a lot of grammar and been frustrated with all the exceptions to the grammar rules that arise! The reason I wanted to do this was to help these people but also to gain more confidence in public speaking. Overall I have benefited immensely from the experience and hope the students feel the same. I will certainly miss many of my students once the classes are over. I have got to know their personalities over the course and most are lovely, interesting people. They have insisted I take a group selfie with them on their last day.

Through the volunteering I have also managed to start Afrikaans classes with another teacher at the centre, who is giving me the lessons for free, for which I am very grateful. She is an excellent teacher, and I am learning reasonably fast as they are one-on-one lessons. There is a high chance of us moving to Stellenbosch next year, and the Afrikaans lessons will be much appreciated then. Last time I was there almost nobody around me was speaking in English!

I am also part of a book club in the Central Library of Cape Town, which is organised by a lady who works at the library. I love reading and through it I get to meet like-minded people and have interesting discussions. How it works is, each month we choose a theme, and then we can individually choose a book of our choice on the theme. This has been great for me as I have books on nearly every topic in my book shelf which I wanted to finish reading for a long time, and this has given me the perfect opportunity to. This month’s theme is Biography/Autobiography of a political figure, and I’ve chosen The autobiography of Malcolm X.

Other than that, there hasn’t been much rain here this year, which has led to a water crisis situation in the city. Most of the rain here falls in the winter season, but we are back to summer time now. The drought situation means locals are being urged to save and reuse water where they can.

I realise that this post doesn’t have any photographs so far. Here are a few from a hike we did up the Lion’s Head mountain slope earlier in the year. As you can see the views are spectacular. I am still in awe at what a beautiful city I live in.

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Addo Elephant National Park

My husband and I recently spent almost a week in Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape. If you’re into nature and wildlife, and enjoy ‘the bush’ (game reserves, safari’s etc are referred to as the bush here) as much as we do, then its a must visit.

Some interesting facts about Addo Park:

  1. When the park started out in 1931, it was with the aim to save the mere 11 elephants left in the Eastern Cape. This effort was successful, with now over 600 elephants in the park. The emphasis has now shifted to conservation of biodiversity

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2.The park also gave protection to the last Cape buffalo in the Eastern Cape

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3.The flightless dung beetle, endemic to the area was also saved from extinction by the establishment of the park

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4.Most of the other ‘game’ (wild mammals) currently in the park such as zebra and warthog were introduced into it in later years

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View from a lookout point in the main rest camp, where we frequently saw animals drinking from the waterhole:

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We stayed a few nights in a Safari tent in the main rest camp. Here’s the view from the stoop, where we sat and had our breakfast and dinner, often seeing elephants, warthog and kudu amongst other game. One night we even saw a family of porcupine!

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If you’re into birding, there’s plenty going on for that too!

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Overall, thoroughly recommended if it’s your kind of thing

Day trip to Robben Island

If you are interested in the remarkable political history of South Africa, a trip to this symbol of the struggles of those imprisoned here at Robben Island will probably give you the most explicit insight into this. It was truly an eye-opener.

Although Robben Island is most famous as a prison for anti-South African government (anti-apartheid) political rebels, beginning in 1961, it has a history of use by the Dutch and British too. It has served variously as a dumping ground for criminals, political prisoners, holy men, prostitutes, lunatics, lepers and the chronically ill. There still exist some monuments on the island from pre-afrikaaner use times.

Getting on to the island is via Murray’s Bay Harbour, named after Scottish whaler John Murray who opened a whaling station on the island:

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Some of the pre-apartheid monuments on the island include a leper graveyard and a light house. Lepers were exiled to the island from 1845 onwards and those who died were buried in the graveyard. The lighthouse was completed in 1865 on Minto Hill to inform ships approaching the island:

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During World War 2, the island was fortified with 9.2 inch and 6 inch guns as part of defending Cape Town:

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From 1961, the island was taken over by the Prisons Department of South Africa. Prisoners arriving at the island were greeted by a slogan on the gate (still there today) that read: “Welcome to Robben Island: We serve with Pride.” By 1963 it had become a Maximum Security Prison (MSP):

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In 1969 the Kramat, a muslim shrine to the west of the MSP, was built in honour of Sheikh Syed Moturu or the Prince of Madura who died on the Island in 1754. Moturu, who was one of Cape Town’s first imams, was exiled to the island in the mid-1740s. Muslim political prisoners would pay homage at the shrine before leaving the island:

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We were given a detailed tour of the interiors of the MSF, with its various sections, by an ex-political prisoner of the island, Ntando Mbatha (The guy holding the placard below). (You can hear his personal story on this page:  http://www.robben-island.org.za/stories.) The beds and room shown are from Section F, a communal cell which was apparently horrifically crowded and housed 60-70 prisoners in cramped freezing conditions:

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Even the prisoners diets were segregated according to their race, with black prisoners having the worst diet:

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Shown is an example of censoring prisoners post in the Censors office. Prisoners were only allowed to send and receive one letter every six months. Post to and from prisoners was checked carefully and any political information that was deemed damaging was blanked out:

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Section B of the MSF was one of the isolation blocks. This section housed many influential political figures, including Mandela. The fourth window from the left is Mandela’s cell, and also shown is the interior of his cell, measuring only about 2 meters by 2 meters, where he was kept in solitary confinement for 16 hours a day. The bucket was used as a toilet:

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Some more pictures from Section B:

Another of the prisoners in Section B alongside Mandela was Billy Nair, who talks of the freezing cold conditions that were part of their daily living. All prisoners had to carry around a prison identity card with their prisoner number on. Our guide emphasised that wardens would use your prisoner number only when referring to you, to reduce you from a person to just a number

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The last political prisoners were released from Robben Island in 1991. This Cairn of stones shown below, called Isisivane at the entrance to the Limestone quarry was created by ex-political prisoners, led by Mandela during their reunion on the Island in 1995. Mandela and the prisoners worked long hours in this quarry, quarrying lime, ruining their eyes from the relentless glare. They were not afforded protective body items or clothing. Mandela and his fellow prisoners used their time in the quarry to educate themselves in everything from literature, philosophy, history and current events. The monument of the pile of stones represents the people of different colour, gender and ethnic backgrounds who united against the oppressive regime of apartheid

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In  1997 control of the island was passed to the Department of Arts and Culture, which established it as a museum and a World Heritage site. To date three of the former inmates of Robben Island have gone on to become President of South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe and (regrettably, as most will agree) the current President Jacob Zuma.

Finally, this post doesn’t do justice to so much more depth and significance that this place has. You have to visit it yourself to get a glimpse into it’s not so distant history of oppression overcome by the human spirit

(P.S I know the photographs aren’t all very clear, the tour was quite jam packed and I was rushing to follow it and also try to capture it all with my iphone camera!)

As usual I look forward to any comments etc

Exploring the city and beyond

Dear reader,

I continue to further explore this wonderful city, and as it happens the opportunity arose to see some of the lovely little surrounding areas as well.

The weather is still beautiful in Cape Town, although the locals are praying for some heavy heavy rain as there is a drought here currently. Coming from rainy UK I have to admit I don’t share the same sentiment yet…

I didn’t think I would but I am struggling to understand the South African accent! My husband is South African and I understood him clearly since our first meeting in the UK a few years ago, but his accent isn’t nearly as strong as the locals.

Without further rambling here are some exploration details and photos to make you jealous…

We stayed a few nights in Simon’s Town, and explored the nearby areas of Boulders Beach, Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay.

Simon’s Town is a town near Cape Town, which apparently is home to the South African Navy.

The spectacular view from my room in Simon’s Town:

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Boulders Beach is located a few kilometres to the south of Simon’s Town, and it has a colony of African penguins!!! Such an awesome treat for me. We saw penguins even down at the beach local to Simon’s Town. Very strange to see penguins in a hot climate!

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The penguins aren’t too shy of the curious people around them. Apparently they settled here in 1982 and from just two breeding pairs then, the penguin colony has grown to about 3,000 birds in recent years. Here’s a close up of one of them:

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Fish Hoek (which means Fish Corner) is a coastal suburb of Cape Town, and its local Fish Hoek beach is flat with pleasant water temperatures at this time of the year for taking a dip in:

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Kalk Bay is a fishing village and along the harbour we bought a massive Yellowtail fish, which lasted us for 3 meals, and each time about 3-5 people were eating. Cheap compared to the supermarket fish price too!

As a result of the fish mongers along the harbour you find fat seals just sunbathing at this spot, waiting for the next free meal of fish extras. They are very bold, not afraid of the people around them, some even waiting right outside the gates of the fish shops. Check out the lazy sunbathing one

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As you can see, I’ve had the most extraordinary time on these short excursions, and they’re all within about an hours drive from the centre of Cape Town so you can bet I will be doing this all again at some point!

Lastly, we took another trip to Fish Hoek beach and this time the route we took was via Chapman’s Peak drive, the road which skirts Chapman’s Peak mountain. The views along the drive were breathtaking:

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I look forward to your comments and/or questions. Until next time, cheers!

 

Let’s begin

Dear reader,

This blog will be, as the title says, my writings on beginning life in the beautiful city of Cape Town. There are 3 main reasons I am starting this blog. It is for the benefit of my interested friends, relatives and acquaintances back in the UK and around the world. It is also for my own record and to help me collect my thoughts. Finally my ramblings may serve to help someone else in the same position as me, making this exact or a similar transition.

I will keep my posts concise with hopefully lots of photos (a picture is worth a thousand words and all that jazz…).

It is summer time here and as expected, the weather has been absolutely fantastic: warm and sunny, clear skies and a mostly gentle breeze (apparently it CAN get violently and scarily windy!). I’ve already gone a shade darker.

Here is my current view (I am currently staying in Sea Point):

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And here are a few other breathtaking views

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Beautiful isn’t it?! It still seems unreal to me that locals live and work here normally, it will take some time for me to realise that I am here to live and not on a holiday!

So far this is what I have:

Capetonians greet you with a ‘Hi Howzit!’ and bid you farewell with a ‘Cheers!’, this will take some getting used to!

Along the promenade there are people running and exercising at almost at any time of day, with bodies of gods and goddesses and they will shame you into starting a fitness regime (I’ve got mine planned out already).

I need to re-learn how to swim so I can take full advantage of the wonderful beaches, all those years in the UK and embarrassingly if I try to swim now I just look like I am drowning and need saving.

I haven’t bought much stuff since getting here but I’m struggling to convert my money thinking from Pound sterling to Rand. The cost of eating and drinking out here though is a lot less than in the UK, and it tastes much nicer. The commonly available rooibos cappuccino is divine.

Logistically getting around in the central areas is pretty easy, walking is a good option for your local area, and apparently the Uber service is great and cheap for further afield. Eventually I am hoping to pass my driving here too.

Cheers for now! Any comments and questions are most welcome