A Travellerspoint blog

South Africa

sunny 90 °F

South Africa is the largest country in Africa. They speak Afrikaans which is a sort of form of Dutch, they speak English and a few African languages. They are a pretty developed country, their population is growing into big cities, and their biggest city is Cape Town.

On October 3rd we pulled into port in Cape Town, South Africa. On our first day, we hung around until two o’clock when we went into an extremely posh hotel to Skype Eli’s family. The hotel was the only place that we could find to get good enough internet. So we talked to them for about half an hour (with some lady in this extremely fancy hotel playing a harp in the background) and when we were done, we realized that we had worn out our welcome in the hotel, and so we left. The hotel stopped letting any more Semester at Sea people go in that hotel after that (not just because of us). The rest of the day, we just walked around in the markets and just looked around the city until it was time to go back on the ship. South Africa is the world leader in murders, muggings, robberies, rapes…. everything having to do with violence. So we decided that we didn’t really want to stay out in the city after sunset, for some reason. Anyway, we had a pretty good day to sort of relax.

On the second day, we woke up and got ready to climb Table Mountain. We got on a bus, and drove to this gigantic mountain that loomed over the water. When we got there, we had to sign a sheet that stated that we were aware of every single danger possible to happen on this mountain. Bears, snakes, avalanches, alien abductions, gnome abductions and murders………etc. It also stated that we were not being forced to do this. Our parents signed that one for us. Hmmmmmmm……. So the climb started easy enough, but then, it turned into scrambling up rocks, and then pulling ourselves up with our hands to climbing up ladders and one step to the left being a 3,563 foot drop without a railing. Every time we thought that we had gotten to the top, we would act all triumphant until we would realize that there was another huge mountain on top of the one you just climbed. Finally, after climbing like seven mountains on top of each other, we got to the top and realized that since the clouds were covering the peak, we could see nothing off the top. After four and a half hours of climbing we could see nothing at the top. Oh well. At least we were able to climb it. So then, we took a cable car down. No we were not going to climb another almost five hours down. So let’s just say that the cable car was not the best for nauseous people it spun while diving downward and there was one section of the wall that was lacking of wall. There was just a bar. One bar it was a little scary how every few seconds, you would be looking at a nonexistent wall at an at least a thousand foot drop. So finally, we got down, threw up about a minute and then left. Then, we went out into the city. We decided to go to the aquarium which turned out to be a great choice. I saw so many kinds of animals that I had never seen before. I saw this kind of fish that was flat and would swim around in circles around its tank over and over and over again until Eli and I decided to pick a fish and bet on it. Eli kept winning. There was also a tank of clownfish that we could go inside because there was an opening in the middle of the tank with no water in it. All in all it was a great aquarium.

The next day, we got up and jumped on a ferry that would take us to Robben Island, the place where the political prisoners of apartheid were kept, most notably Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first president, and Desmond Tutu, their archbishop. They were kept in horrible conditions in the maximum security prison. They were tortured and kept isolated from each other. Until the seventies, they were never allowed to talk to each other even in the hard labor that they were doing together. Our guide of the place was a former prisoner, and I was so surprised when he said that he was forty-nine. He looked like he was at least sixty. That was because of the awful conditions he had to endure. So he showed us around the place. First, he showed us the isolation section, where they kept the prisoners that they wanted to punish most. (The most radical anti-apartheid people.) These people were kept in tiny cells by themselves. They were given one bucket of water, one meal a day, and one blanket to roll out the blanket on the ground for them to sleep on. They endured horrible conditions. Then, he showed us the section where he was kept. In this section, there were about seventy five people being kept in this tiny room. Until the eighties, they slept on blankets on the floor. Then, he told us what he had done to get in to jail. This man had gotten angry about the education, so he protested it and fought to improve the education for blacks in South Africa. But what he actually did to get in jail was that he planted a bomb next to a police station. I guess there comes a time when you have to avert to violence and that is what he did. So he was sentenced in 1987 to eighteen years in jail. He only ended up having to spend four of those, because all of the political prisoners of apartheid were released from jail in 1991. He said that he couldn’t even describe the feeling he had when he got out. That he couldn’t even believe it. He didn’t believe it until he was on the ship going back to Cape Town. Maybe not even then. He couldn’t believe it until he was finally back at home. So after we took the ferry back to the city, we decided to go to the South African museum and then Jewish museum. (We’re Jewish). The South African museum had lots of cool dino skeletons and cave paintings from the ancient African people and lots of stuff about the Bushmen. The Jewish museum had really old South African torahs and shofars and all of that kind of Jewish stuff. So we went back to the ship and got ready for the next day.

On the second to last day in South Africa, we went to visit the Amy Biehl foundation which is named after an American woman that visited South Africa and was stabbed to death by anti-apartheid protesters. The four men that killed her went to jail, but two of them got out because Amy’s mother and father felt that they had paid their debt to humanity, and that they were truly sorry for it. They also felt that the reason that these people had done this was because the government had not given them a real education, and they just had no choice but to revert to violence. They felt the other two were not sorry and that they had committed other crimes and so they were actually criminal. So the parents started a foundation so that the other South African kids would not have to revert to crime like that when they were older. So, we went to three different schools with this group of Semester at Sea people, and the schools each performed for us. The first one performed African dance for us with their teacher drumming. The second one, they did the same thing, but I swear I saw the best kid dancer I’ve ever seen. In the last school, the kids played marimbas and brass, and danced, and I’ve never seen such good marimba players in my life. So we went home, and went to sleep for our last day in South Africa.

On our last day, we got a taxi that took us out of Cape Town and around the coast. First he took us to a bird sanctuary. I swear I’ve never seen such weird birds. There was a bird that’s call sounded like a stomach grumbling, a bird that talked, and even turkeys that had noses that hung over their gobble, and every time they gobbled, their nose flapped at us. They also had the smartest kind of monkey on earth, and bird that every time it made a noise, it jumped up and down, and it once said hello. It was crazy. Then, we went and visited a penguin colony in Simon’s Town. It was on a beach, and there were penguins everywhere. We had lunch there, and then we went to the top of Cape Point and climbed to the lighthouse. It wasn’t a hard hike at all, especially because all the baboons that lived on that mountain had been shooed off and thrown cookies so that they wouldn’t terrorize the climbers. There actually is a huge problem in South Africa with baboons breaking into cars and stealing things. So after we got to the top, looked off the view and came down, we went back to the ship, and the ship left South Africa.

Overall, I think the South African culture was great. It was friendly and I thought that the only thing that was bad about it was the violence. The violence rate is awful, well I guess you already knew that since I already said it’s the worst in the world. So also the one native language, called Kulu, is cool because they use all these clicking noises with the mouth while they talk. So. About apartheid. Before South Africa, we read a book in class called Out of Bounds. It’s about apartheid in South Africa, told by the point of view of the victims of apartheid, or sometimes the participants. The difference between South African apartheid and American segregation were that there were more races involved in South African apartheid. In South African apartheid, there were four different races. There were so-called “White” Indian” Colored” and “Black.” And they were by law ranked in that order. The whites felt superior to all other races, the Indians felt superior to the coloreds and blacks, the coloreds felt superior to the blacks, and the blacks were left at the bottom. By the book, I can tell that it has gotten a lot better, but I still saw that a lot of white people felt superior to blacks or anyone not white. Like when a white person saw a “black” person, or an “Indian” person or a “colored” person they didn’t get out of the way. They would just walk right at them and expect the person to get out of the way. O.K I’ll write again in Mauritius.

Posted by GabrielRR 10:12 Archived in South Africa

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