• 29Aug

    Township Visits

    Unused space in Nyanga Township

    Unused space in Nyanga Township

    While we are here in Cape Town “acclimatising” (read: drinking wine, buying junk at the mall and blogging about our purple car) we thought it would be a good idea to visit some of the programs that ASAP supports in the townships of Cape Town. With that in mind, on Tuesday we set off to Nyanga with a woman who works with the Etafeni project there. Etafeni means “open space” and the project is named after the literally open space in the township where the group first started meeting. We had a few pieces of bedding and blankets that had been donated out of the blue to ASAP and our task yesterday was to visit some people in Nyanga and give them some of these materials. First we spoke at length with our guide for the day, the irrepressible Baba, a great-grandmother who first became involved with Etafeni when they visited here in 1983 to talk about child development. Since then she’s been through training in counselling (which implicitly means HIV/AIDS counseling) and now works as one of the leaders of Etafeni and recruits young mothers herself.

    Our first stop was one of the most needy families, with an HIV-positive mother and two children. The family lived in a lean-to tin shack in a shanty town part of the township (most of Nyanga is a shanty town, but some townships have better quality housing). Seeing how this family lived was eye-opening, even after having travelled in poor parts of India, especially since the mother has been too ill to care for the children in the past and seemed to have little in the way of family support. We learned afterwards that one of the children was actually a niece and was being cared for by this lady, which is a typical story in HIV/AIDS afflicted communities.

    When we stopped at this first family, Baba just hopped out of the car and left the door unlocked, then called us over to meet the family. I thought this was probably the sketchiest place I could possibly park a car in Cape Town, but I didn’t want to make a fuss of going around locking all the doors either – there were definitely a few people watching us arrive. After we’d been inside a couple of minutes, a small boy popped his head around the door to say that another, “naughty” boy had opened the door of the car. We went outside but the naughty boy had run away. The other kids were all pointing to where he was hiding. He hadn’t taken anything, even though Baba had left a bag of groceries in the front of the car, which was what he was after I think. After that incident I decided it wouldn’t be rude to make sure all the doors were locked if we were out of sight of the car!

    The day progressed with a few more visits to different families. Many of the people we met were grandmothers who are caring for their grandchildren since the parents have died of AIDS. One was an 85 year old who we found cooking the evening meal for the children who weren’t home from school yet. It looked like she’d lived a hard 85 years, and we learned later that her 5 daughters had all died of AIDS, so she was caring for two or three young children on her own. It is exactly this kind of situation which ASAP aims to relieve by supporting and growing community organisations that can help elderly or child-headed families survive and provide extras beyond survival such as real nutrition, child development and counselling.

    We didn’t take our camera with us, nor was have been much opportunity to take pictures since we were visiting families in their homes, but I did get a quick snap with my phone of the proposed location for an Etafeni playgroup. The playgroup will meet in a converted shipping container (a popular structure in the townships, as far as I can see) which will be placed in this shanty town.

    The day after these visits, we had a very positive experience at a different township-based community organization, which Alex has promised to write about in a separate post.

    Filed under: Uncategorized
  • 28Aug

    Fun weekend

    Bad news first: my computer died! I am gutted. It wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t in the midst of finishing revisions on my 2nd novel!!! Ugh, Doctor O’Neill tried to fix it—thank god I travel with my very own computer tech consultant—but it was unfixable. Grrr! I hate computers!

    But onto the fun stuff: Friday night we went to dinner at our good friend Amanda’s sister’s house. She and her husband have a fleet of luxury cars that they rent out to visiting high rollers and film crews etc, and they have a fabulous house! They designed it themselves, with one especially unique (some might say bizarre) attribute: every bedroom is fitted with a bathtub and toilet — IN the room! No wall, no curtains, just potty, tub, flat screen TV, and luxe bed! It seems kind of cool, but Amanda pointed out that it’s a bit odd when you need the toilet and someone could walk in at any moment! Haha. But we had a great time at dinner. It always makes you feel at home when you can have a home-cooked meal with good friends.

    Saturday night we went to a lovely hole-in-the-wall Mozambiquan restaurant in Muizenberg called Carla’s.

    Most of the businesses and shops have locked gates, so we rattled the gate, hoping to get in. The proprietor (Carla) saw us, but made no effort to buzz us in for about 3 minutes. We felt like total idiots just standing outside the restaurant, hoping Carla would let us in!:). She finally seated us, left for another 15 minutes or so, then came back to the table and said, “I’m basically a port place. Do you like port?” Since it was a restaurant, I couldn’t believe they only had port — what, no food? So we said, “Sorry? What’s that?”, thinking maybe it was a Mozambiquan delicacy. She looked at us like we were crazy. Turns out, in her Afrikaans(scratch that, I just read that she’s Portuguese) accent, what we thought was “port” was actually “prawns.” Go figure. I’m allergic to prawns, but Andy said they were good. The highlight by far was the fact that Carla’s two daughters (about 8 years old) were the servers. So adorable! We gave them a big tip.

    Filed under: Uncategorized
    Tags: ,
  • 23Aug

    Wildlife of Cape Town

    While Alex is writing a long welcome-to-our-blog and here-we-are-in-South-Africa post, I thought I could jump in with some photos of the beasties we’ve encountered. (By the way, if you are a friend of ours, you may get to see a few more pictures in our Flickr stream if you add us as a contact than you would as the general public.)

    On to the bugs. First up is a huge cockroach we found in the office. We thought about killing it, but we know how messy that can be and besides, it looked like it was big enough to fight back. There’s an awful lot of detail on the hairy legs. I hope he didn’t come back and scare the office manager!

    Next, we have a centipede of some sort (or perhaps a decipede would be more accurate since it has about 32 legs). Alex spotted it under the dining table, and trapped it under a glass, but it was upside down and apparently they can’t breath if they are upside down. We put it outside where it was moving but not very much, and when we came back later it was gone. A tasty dish for something bigger, perhaps.

    And finally a mammal. We went down the cape to Kalk Bay, a fishing village about ten minutes away from Muizenberg with a beautiful working harbour. This seal was sat next to a fish-gutting stand, looking decidedly lazy. There was another seal in the water outside the harbour diving very successfully for fish.

    That’s all for now – hoping to catch some monkeys, baboons and penguins before we split for the Eastern Cape.

  • 23Aug

    Hey Everybody!

    We’re in Cape Town!

    So much has happened already I hardly know where to start. It’s a bit sureal. Cape Town is not at all what you think of when you think of “Africa” — at least not what we were thinking of when we made the decision to move here for a year! We’ll be staying at the ASAP flat in Muizenberg for at least three weeks, just getting settled and waiting for Priscilla (the head of ASAP) to return to CT and caravan with us up the Eastern Cape to our new home town, Mount Frere.

    Alright, what can I tell you so far… We’ve been swimming in the Indian Ocean (and by swimming I mean jumping in and out in less than 1 minute). Winter is warm in Cape Town, but it ain’t THAT warm! Overall the temp has been somewhere between 15-25 aka 55-70 degrees. It’s been pretty windy and today it rained, forcing us to cancel our proposed hike up Table Mountain.

    Probably the coooolest bit of news is that we bougth a car already! Yeehaw! We test drove about 3 cars (okay, Andy did. I was scared I’d crack under pressure w/ the whole left-side-of-the-road thing). Most of the cars on Gumtree are sputtering peices of junk, but we ended up with a 1998 Ford Fiesta, and the best part is … drum roll please … it’s pink! We can always spot it in the parking lot at the Tokai Mall, which is nice. (And yes, we have already been to the mall. Like, 3 times.)

    We call her the Mauve-a-tron.

    • Pro’s about the Mauve-a-tron: she’s pink and she seems to run pretty well.
    • Cons about the Mauve-a-tron: the emergency break doesn’t work. That might be less of a big-deal if we didn’t have to park on a hill. Good times. We’re going to have a mechanic look at it next week.

    But until then, we make a very happy family.


    Filed under: Uncategorized