Monday, 17 July 2017

Highlights in Cape Town

The past six weeks in Cape Town have been absolutely amazing. From the breathtaking views to the welcoming people, I’ve enjoyed every moment of the trip. When I think back on the trip, there were so many amazing memories and experiences that I had. However, three specifically stand out to me: our visit to the Through Positive Eyes exhibit, High Tea at Mount Nelson, and paragliding through the city on a Saturday morning.
As part of the program, every weekend there was a planned trip around Cape Town. Some of these visits include a tour of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner, Bo-Kaap, a district with colorful houses perfect for an impromptu photoshoot, and many other famous sites. One weekend we visited the Slave Lodge, were slaves were held in the most inhumane conditions and forced to work in Cape Town in a variety of areas. The tour of the Slave Lodge was informative and following the tour we walked through an exhibit called Through Positive Eyes, which told the narrative of individuals who were HIV positive and their experience living with the stigma and learning to embrace and accept their status. The entire experience was very emotional and gave great insight to the stigma which still exists in not only South Africa, but also the world, as the exhibit featured pictures from HIV positive individuals from a variety of countries. I thought the art pieces and stories conveyed the idea that people with AIDS are individuals with identities other than as a victim or as someone who is weak and feeble. The exhibit promoted the treatment of people with AIDS as humans and understanding that each person has his or her own story and name and face. This idea tied into the topics and themes discussed on the first tour at the Slave Lodge and the movement to discuss the people affected and their stories, instead of regard them as nameless figures in a crowd or perceived image of the “victim of AIDS”. We were able to personally hear the stories from HIV positive individuals, how they contracted the disease, the stigma which they faced and how they have grown to embrace their status. This was a really great experience, not only because it gave great insight to stigma, but it also tied in with the topics discussed in our class on HIV and the healthcare system.
One of the pieces submitted to the exhibit.
                  Another great experience I had was High Tea at the Mount Nelson hotel. South Africa was both Dutch and British colonized and as a result, the accent and languages derive from these two nations and certain aspects of the culture are influenced by the colonization as well. High Tea closely resembles the tradition which is extremely popular in Britain. As a lover of tea and food, I was so excited to have this experience in Cape Town. A group of us decided to reserve a table for evening tea after a visit up to the top of Table Mountain. After an exhausting day, we arrived at the hotel which was beautifully decorated. We were served a variety of sandwiches and small bites to eat while the tea expert informed us about the different types of tea. Did you know that there is only one plant where all tea is derived from? I had no idea! Apparently, the types of tea, (green, white, black, etc.) are dependent on the maturity of the leaf and the treatment of the plant. For instance, tea leaves are often steamed to produce green tea. We heard about the history of tea and how different teas were made while munching on some delicious snacks and desserts. I left so stuffed and had tried about 10 different teas! I would definitely recommend this experience, even if you don’t like tea, as you’ll definitely learn something new and get to try some new and delicious treats.
My favorite part of High Tea!
                  Finally, paragliding over Cape Town was a surreal and memorable experience. A group of 6 of us decided to schedule paragliding for one Saturday morning. We left bright and early to paraglide off of Signal Hill, which has beautiful views of the sea and city bowl. I was really nervous to go, since I have never been paragliding or done anything even remotely close. I decided to try it out since I was in Cape Town after all and I knew it would be a once in a lifetime experience. After we signed the waivers (basically signing our lives away!) we patiently waited on top of the hill until the wind was in the right direction. Fair warning, this will take a lot of time. We probably waited about an hour on top of the hill just to make sure the conditions were right for takeoff. The views on top were beautiful so I was not complaining. When it was finally my turn, I was freaking out. I could not even believe I had agreed to this! I kept thinking about all that could go wrong but as we ran and took off into the sky I immediately forgot all my worries. It was absolutely amazing to soar above the city and look down and see all of Cape Town. It was a brief experience, probably lasting 10 minutes, but I felt absolute bliss. It was such an amazing experience, especially when we were right over the ocean. When we all landed, we went to brunch in the town of Seapoint and walked along the sea. It was an absolutely amazing day and one I know I will never forget.
Jasmine and I, with fear in our eyes, before paragliding.

-Karina Rahaman

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