Travel Journal

Finally an update!

(Tuesday 14 April 2009) by Dopps Family
Stop 2: Cape Town:
After a delayed flight and another 11 hours in the sky we landed in Cape Town yesterday. Our pilot apparently was in a car accident prior to departure and Virgin had to round up a “stand-by pilot” while we sat on the plane. At any moment I was hoping the airline would have some fun and announce over the PA a request: “Is there anybody aboard that can pilot a 747?” But after 90 minutes we pulled away from the gate and were off once the new pilot was strapped in. Apart from Anisa throwing her bag of Cheerios everywhere and spilling her milk all over the flight was good and the kids slept well. Important observation: overnight flights are the only way to fly with children.
When you fly into Cape Town the most prominent landmark is Tabletop Mountain rising above the scattered hypocrisy of large gated houses in beautifully developed communities overlooking the slums of garbage strewn townships in the lowlands. After landing we picked up our rental car, a red but gutless Toyota Corolla, and drove south to Noordhoek where we plan to spend a few nights at the sister of a friend. They have a beautiful 2-story tiled Hacienda type house that has magnificent views of the mountains and the ocean. They also have 3 children, 2 cats, 4 dogs, several chickens and 3 staff that keep it all cleaned and maintained. But as I sit here in the kitchen and look at other similar houses through the web of a 6 foot high electric chain-link fence that borders the entire property I start to wonder. On one hand I think how nice it would be to have my own gardener to trim the hedges and pull the weeds, a cleaner to mop the floors and do the dishes and a housekeeper that does everything else, but on the other hand I think not. I’d prefer my children to appreciate and enjoy the normalcy of everyday chores and the satisfaction that is inherent in cooking a delicious meal with food you planted and picked from your own vegetable garden. I’d prefer my children to never live behind a gate and electric fence in fear of others. However, we are quite gracious and accept the hospitality of our Cape Town hosts as we plan out our next couple week’s activities around the area.
Although it’s approaching winter here in just a couple months the weather is quite nice and warm. It’s expected to get warmer into the week and as high as 30 Celsius – not bad considering a week ago it was still snowing back home.

April 7, 2009
It’s now Tuesday, or Monday, or… well, doesn’t matter anymore since days of the week don’t really mean much anymore. We now tell time based on the destination and the days we spend with good people. We’ve left behind some new friends, our wonderful hosts in Noordhoek, Ingrid and Thomas Altmann and their 3 children Luke, Hannah and Cloe. Cianna and Anisa both loved it there (including us) and I know they didn’t want to leave (nor did their children either). We really hope they do come visit us in the US next summer. They have a very splendid home with a wonderful view and could probably rent it out for a handsome amount during the 2010 World Cup which will be hosted in South Africa next July with games in a new stadium being built in Cape Town. Regardless, it was time to move on and explore more than just the South cape and so we’ve headed up north to a little town called Langebaan about 2 hours out of Cape Town and have visited the West Coast National Park with many birds, including ostriches. We also have seen our first zebras on the side of the road.

Over the past week we’ve seen penguins, baboons, ostrich and lizards around the various attractions that the cape offers. But what I’ll remember the most about this area is the obvious gap in economic status between the Whites and the Blacks. Even though it’s been 15 years since Nelson Mandela ended Apartheid there is still a “rawness” resulting from a disparity in social and economic status that isn’t spoken about but still accepted. For example, the household staff make roughly R2000 to R3000 per month (or about $200-$300) depending if they receive room and board or not. That is about 10% of the average “White” worker income. Until this “economic prejudice” can be narrowed, Blacks in South Africa will continue to live in the poorer townships and shanty towns that are sprawling all around the outskirts of cities and less desirable locations. Every day I’d drive down and up the hills of the gated upper class White residential neighborhoods, Blacks would be walking the sidewalks and streets to and from these same houses they work at since most don’t make enough to afford a car to drive to work. Carola remarked on the fact that the Black workers may have more insight and understanding of both cultures because they encounter both everyday but that Whites do not really experience the Black culture and family life. We asked our hosts about staying one night in a township or possibly a tour but they considered an overnight stay a bad idea. However, they have never toured a township, much less stayed overnight in one. I believe it’s human nature to fear the unknown but so far I haven’t seen anything to fear - but we didn’t stay in or tour a township either.
On April 23rd South Africa will hold a general election (once every 5 years) and the ANC (African National Congress) is expected to win and hold a majority, as before, but not the current 75% majority. I asked a couple of Black men who were sitting beside me at the beach the other day if and who they planned to vote for. I was surprised to hear them both say they were not going to vote. When asked why they said that since they don’t have anything to offer the ANC leaders they won’t do anything for them. They are both skilled welders and have their certifications but can’t get a job. To put food on the table they were selling lobster to locals and tourists instead. They believe their government and leaders help their close friends and those friends help their friends and so on. That you need to buy your way up and have something to offer to get something back in return, sounds like corruption to me, or very similar to our US congressmen who vote for or against bills that favor their constituents and businesses that provide the largest campaign contributions. But the main difference, at least how they explained it to me, is that the tradesmen and common laborer with a certification, such as a brick layer, plumber, welder, carpenter, etc. makes significantly less than the engineer and architects that have the education and degrees. There is apparently a huge gap in earnings (similar to the housekeeper) that causes an economic divide and hence a social divide between blacks and whites. Until this economic divide is narrowed or closed I believe Blacks in South Africa will continue to struggle.

Today we will move on to Paternoster, a small community with white-washed houses, where we will stay a couple of nights and spend some time playing on the beaches.

 


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