Day 1 in Cape Town
Too tired to actually write so will update this tomorrow, but here’s some photos of Langa and Khayelitsha townships in Cape Town.
Update: The township tour was really great, but it was also very weird. When I was on safari in Kenya and Tanzania, we visited a Masai village, and one of the girls said she felt like we were in a human zoo. And that’s kinda how I felt that day. I expected that that might be an issue when I booked it, but at the same time, I didn’t want to go to Cape Town and just see the touristy parts of the city, and not the residual effects of Apartheid.
I asked our tour guide, who was from Langa township, how the residents felt about these tours. And he said that, in the past, there were issues with these tours because people from outside the townships gave them. But now, local residents, like him, gave the tours, so the money goes back into the community and gives local residents jobs. And I get that, and that’s great, but at the same time, I feel like, if I was in their position, I would feel like some of my dignity was taken from me. Maybe that’s not a politically incorrect thing to say, but when Toronto started tour buses and they went through U of T campus, I felt a bit like, “Observe the students in their natural habitats” and that was just when people were on buses, not actually wandering through my community. So yeah, it felt weird, but I felt extremely lucky to see another side of Cape Town.
The tour took us to two townships – Langa, the oldest township in Cape Town, with 100,000 residents, and Khayelitsha, the biggest township with over 1 million inhabitants. We visited local residents in different types of accommodation (hostel living, shacks, and government housing), and visited a local pub where we tried some beer. It was very sweet – but still good, and was apparently based on Irish poutine (essentially moonshine), which was interesting because I’m Irish. I’ve never had poutine, but I think I had some form of moonshine in Rwanda. Anyway….
We also visited a local kindergarten, as you can see from the photos. The kids were SO cute and they danced and sang for us. I brought some pencils, erasers and postcards of Canadian animals for the kids, so I gave them to the teachers to share amongst the kids, which they seemed to like. I was happy with that, because I’m never really sure about giving things like that, from a justice perspective. And then I made the mistake of picking up and hugging a little girl who came up to me with her arms outstretched. 🙂 That then resulted in a mob of kids surrounding me, all wanting to be hugged and picked up, and my tour group had already left the kindergarten, so they had to wait for me. I felt bad not being able to give every single kid a bug hug, because I had to leave, but I managed to at least group hug most of them. And they were so cute – I hope I brought a tiny bit of excitement to their day.
I also got talking to one of the women on the tour who was from South Africa. I told her that I worked for the UCC, on poverty, ecology, and advocacy, and that I’d done a lot of work on human rights issues, particularly in Africa. She told me that she could tell – that she saw that I looked at the township through a different lens, and was less shocked by the things I saw, compared to other people. At first I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing – because I work in this field, I sometimes worry about getting desensitized to the issues I work on. For example, I rarely cry when I watch documentaries or movies based on real-life atrocities (I do sometimes, or at least I tear up), but the end scene of Homeward Bound always does me in. I know, pathetic. But I think she meant that comment a bit differently – that I don’t look at poverty issues with horror, but with a justice lens, and see the individual people and their lives rather than “people living in poverty.” At least I hope that’s what she meant.
And lastly, a BIG shout out to my good friend Sarah and her husband Jon, who had a baby boy, Jacob Michael, on November 21. Can’t wait to see him when I get back!! Love to the three of you! xxx