Monday, April 18, 2011

Compassion can be put into practice if one recognizes the fact that every human being is a member of humanity and the human family regardless of differences in religion, culture, color and creed. Deep down there is no difference. -Dalai Lama

This weekend was all about discovering the little parts and communities of Cape Town that we haven’t had time to visit because of all our crazy adventures and trips.  It was a weekend of discovering the cultures that we haven't experienced and learning more about them.  This weekend was also a nice temporary break for the piggy bank to recover.  After our two classes on Friday, we went into Cape Town to check out the Book Lounge- a fancy, 2-story bookstore that had tons of books on the history and culture of South Africa and Cape Town.  I resisted buying quite a few because I know for a fact that I am already out of room in my suitcases.  After that we went to Camp’s Bay for a sundowner and returned home later to get ready for a night out in Claremont with our housemates.

On Saturday we walked to the Old Biscuit Mill Farmer’s Market and got a delicious brunch meal that would fuel our walk into Cape Town.  The walk took about an hour and we made stops at all the quirky shops that we had been wanting to stop into but have never had the chance.  Once we got into the city we visited the Castle of Good Hope-a huge castle right in downtown Cape Town that was built between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company.  We hopped on a tour and walked to a few of the dungeons, one of them being a torture chamber that was used to punish slaves and workers who misbehaved or were caught stealing.  After our tour we were allowed to walk around the castle and we walked up to the roof, getting a cool view of the building and the rest of the city.  We visited the castle’s three museums, one of which has a table built to seat 100.  It was HUGE and we decided we just need to find 80 other people and we can rent out the room and have a fancy dinner party (or a huge game of 50 on 50 flip cup!)

Me, Dan and Alena at the Castle of Good Hope

Inside the castle with Table Mountain in the background

View of the courtyard from the roof

After the castle we visited Bo-Kaap, the area of Cape Town known for its vibrant, colourful houses and cobblestone streets.  It was a predominantly Muslim area during apartheid, but has gained popularity in recent years because its beauty attracts people from various races and backgrounds.  We visited the Bo-Kaap museum, which was so small and unimposing that we were standing across the street from it and still couldn’t find it, but eventually realized it was right in front of us.  As we were leaving the museum we heard the Islamic call to prayer ringing throughout the neighbourhood, and for a moment I was seriously confused where I was.  I felt like I had been pulled out of Cape Town and transported to a completely different continent, it was incredible.  The many cultures and colors of the people who make up Cape Town are truly remarkable.

House in Bo-Kaap

Cobblestone Roads in Bo-Kaap

I was again reminded of the diversity of Cape Town on Sunday when the majority of our house piled into kombi minibuses to go into the townships to go to the critically acclaimed Mzoli’s Meat.  We had all been told that we MUST visit Mzoli’s while we were in Cape Town and finally got around to going.  We drove through Gugulethu, past the tin shacks and run-down storefronts to a bustling area of the township with tons of white people milling around.  Seeing groups of white people in a township is a strange experience in and of itself because I have been in the townships twice a week for the past few months and I can count on my two hands the white people I’ve seen during my time there.  We knew Mzoli’s was a popular spot and didn’t know if it was going to be worth the hype but we figured we had to find out.  We piled into the butchery and each picked out our raw meat (kind of gross) and paid for it.  Then we brought it into the “kitchen” in the back.  The kitchen is a huge room with 8 wood burning grills that is smoky and smells like you have just stepped into a bonfire.  We dropped off the meat and they told us to come back for it in about 45 minutes, so we left and got a table and spent some time socializing and browsing the products that the local vendors had come to sell to the tourists who flooded the area every Sunday.  When it was finally time to get our food we picked it up and set about eating it with no forks, knives, or napkins and it was delicious.  Probably some of the best lamb and chicken I’ve ever had in my life- it was totally worth the wait.  After we ate we hung around for a bit and then went to another bar in a different township with some friends of our housemates before taking a kombi back to the house.  I had a ton of really great talks with people my age, little kids around six, and their grandparents and learned a lot about their lives and stories.  It was awesome to get out and interact with people off all ages and backgrounds in the townships while also enjoying some amazing food.  Needless to say, Mzoli’s exceeded all of the high expectations I had- it was another amazing experience of Cape Town culture at its best.

Part of our Mzoli's Group

Big Container of Raw Meat... (thanks Kristen for the picture)

Heading to Namibia on Thursday morning for a 5-day rafting trip down the Orange River during break.  More adventures to follow! Happy Easter!

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