Monday, January 17, 2011

Arriving in Cape Town

So beginning a run down of the first three days in Cape Town from my sun addled, jetlagged memory. Already got my first minor sunburn - even with applying sunscreen, I missed just the right spots to get singlet strap lines on each shoulder.

Anyway, our first day found us arriving at early in the morning (though it felt like it should be night time) and being taken to our host family accommodation. Our driver who picked us up from the airport gave a lot of good advice and information, of which I remember none. Other than him saying, don't keep your camera out all the time looking like a tourist. And he always gets someone to sit in the front of the van, so we look less touristy, which had me wondering if I should be worried about people coming up to the car. And consequently I was too nervous to take pictures for the half the day.

We safely reached our accommodation, and right away we met many people, our host mother and other volunteers staying here too, and right away we forgot who everyone was.

But we got our rooms, and as the privileged "teacher" I have a room to myself, while the girls are sharing in and group of three and a pair.

Our host mother is extremely welcoming and has hosted volunteers almost non-stop for years, and as the owner of a catering business, is very generous with food!

We are sure she is from Hansel and Gretel and fattening us up. Her husband is Ghandi - not just kind of resembles him, but in a picture you would, and we did, actually mistake him for Ghandi.

We all had very welcome showers, and our second and third breakfasts for the day. (One on the plane, one when we arrived at the host family's house, and a third we other volunteers got out of bed so that they didnt have to eat alone!)

I think we all would have liked to sleep at this stage, but we were picked up a little later by a guy from Projects Abroad - picked up on foot that is, to be taken on a tour of the public transport, a few shopping areas, and the Projects Abroad office.

But this is not your standard public transport - the first leg consisted of piling into a minibus taxi which holds fifteen passengers at a time and has a loosely set route but few set pick up zones. It just drives and honks at people, and a guy leans out the window and asks if people want a ride. These people then in turn indicate how many of them they are - say by holding up three fingers. Then we either stop wherever we happen to be at the time on the side of the road and they pile in. Or if there's no room we keep on driving. All the while with music pumping. Adherence to the road rules seems to be of secondary concern, but everyone knows this and watches out for the minibus taxis, as they won't be watching out for you.

This was an iteresting experience for the minibus itself, and for the streets and view of Cape Town it took us through - parts you would probably never see as a regular tourist unless you perhaps made a wrong turn somewhere. The set up of the streets reminded of me of the type of houses on the street that Billy Elliot lived on in the movie. Except relpace the brick houses with ramshackle tin and iron. Replace the footpaths with dirt. The white British people with black South Africans. And add a bit more rubbish.

Then was the train leg of our trip. Not dissimilar to trains anywhere, but a little more graffittied than trains at home. All of this was run through and paid for by our Projects Abroad guide, but at a pace that didn't have time to sink in to our sleep deprived brains. We've yet to attempt that journey on our own.

We met the staff at Projects Abroad office, who were friendly and welcoming, and again went through information that wasn't retained, but gave us an orientation pack, and basically we know we just have to be ready for pick up at 8.30 Monday morning to be taken to the building site where we begin our project.

Lunch was also provided for us, and we were dropped back home by the same train and minibus route, although the mini bus taxi was much more sedate this time.

Though we'd already eaten three breakfasts and a big lunch, we had another generous amount of food for tea. We had considered the idea of going to the soccer at the big stadium that was built here in Cape Town for the World Cup. But weren't sure where to get tickets, and decided that two days without proper sleep was long enough and went to bed fairly early instead.

It was an insightful start to our time here, and though some of the girls felt a bit nervous initially at their first impressions, have come to realise that it is not a place to be afraid of, but a place that can be appreciated for it's diversity and contrast. It is easy to quickly fall in love with South Africa.

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