Monday, 8 July 2013

What Continues to Amaze Me

We have already been in Cape Town for a month, but there is still so much that continues to catch my eye. Here is some of what makes me do a double take:

1. Mountains, Mountains, Mountains: But actually, there are so many. I remember staring out my window on the flight from Soweto to Cape Town, and noticing the drastic change in the landscape as we got closer to our final stop. The land was so flat, and then mountains seemed to suddenly emerge. It was so beautiful—I think I was a little too over-excited with my camera because I have so many airplane window pictures. The sight got even better once we landed. We started our first day by traveling to Rhodes Memorial, which is right by University of Cape Town (UCT). There, we got an amazing vantage point of the town, our campus, the sea, and the backdrop of UCT: Table Mountain. Every morning, you can’t travel throughout campus without catching a glimpse of Table Mountain. We’re staying on Middle Campus at UCT, and class is held on Upper Campus. So, whenever we have class, we take a mini-hike (wakes me up for the day) uphill to class and see gorgeous mountains. No matter what time of day, even if I am breaking a sweat at 8:45 am, it is so pretty and continues to amaze me. Seeing Table Mountain at different times during the day is also beautiful, since the sun’s reflection sometimes sets a warm glow to the mountain, and when the clouds are misty just above it, it is unbelievable. We also hiked Table Mountain over a long weekend, but my words cannot do justice to what I saw, so here is a picture instead!
View from Table Mountain

 2. Unique Food: I absolutely love food—it is a rare occasion that I turn down a food offer when it comes to trying something new. One of our first exposures to unique food was during our bike tour in Soweto. During our tour, we stopped off in a low-income community where we tried a local delicacy: cow cheeks. Not sure if I would have it again, but it was definitely something different and interesting to try! 
Cow cheeks from the bike tour
 In Soweto, we were also served a lot of homemade food at the place we were staying, Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers. The foods included tasting the local staple, pap, and a popular breakfast item, fat cakes. Pap takes a lot like mashed potatoes, but has a thicker, stickier consistency and fat cakes are tiny pieces of fried dough. Pap and fat cakes are both really good, and I have had them multiple times already—I definitely recommend trying each! After Soweto, we stayed for a little bit of time in Simon’s Town, Cape Town. For one evening, we went to a restaurant where some of us ordered ostrich curry, which was really yummy! At another dinner, I had ostrich again when some of us went to Mama Africa located on Long Street. I ordered “Mama’s Game Grill,” which was a meat platter of springbok, kudu, ostrich, and crocodile—meat overload! Out of all the meats I tried, I definitely like crocodile the best; it is really soft and delicious! 
The far right is the crocodile kabob!
 3.   Townships: Before arriving in Cape Town, I knew there would be townships where I would see extreme poverty, but I was not expecting there to be so many. No matter how many times we drive past a township, the vastness of them always shocks me. For my community placement site with Jess at St. Joseph’s Home (SJH), one of our projects was to develop a questionnaire used for home visits in order to check on the health and living conditions of children who were discharged six months ago. We are in the process of visiting these homes, and when we drive to the different townships, the extensiveness of the makeshift, decaying houses are impossible to not notice because they stretch on for so long.
Township view from the car
      With the home visits, we get a closer look at the township communities. We go to the townships from around 10am to 3pm, and during this time, I see so many adults and children hanging around on the streets, since many do not have jobs or do not go to school, depending on the age. It is interesting to see trends among the townships, and how each community also differs from the other. One home we visit differs from the next, and each time, it is surprising to see how varied the living conditions are for each household. For me, one of the most shocking homes so far was a one room, tin shack that housed an eight-member family in Delft. It was so cramped inside; there were cabinets in a corner for the kitchen and a string that ran from one side of the wall to the other, so a curtain could be used to separate the bedroom area from the kitchen. It was also really surprising to see that even though there was no bathroom in the home, the family still managed to have a working television. Health is not just about what illness you have, but is also about how the social and environmental influences shape your well-being. By having personal interactions with various families and seeing each one’s unique living situation, I have gained a much clearer insight into the different facets of each child’s health.
The mountains, unique food, and townships are only a few aspects of Cape Town that never cease to shock me, and with a month left to go, I can not wait to see what else will continue to amaze me!

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