Saturday, January 15, 2011

Even the Dogs Have Street Smarts

The main word that comes to mind for Cape Town is 'Contrast'. From the mountains dominating the sky line, to the houses and people in the streets.

Lining the highway from the airport, townships stretch for kilometres, mish-mashes of corrugated iron put together to form rough housing. It's free for them to live there . So much of the new housing that has been built right next door to the township stands empty, because those they would have to pay to live in.

On the roads side by side with regular new cars you would see in any city, drives a ute with five people piled into the tray. Walking down the street of our host family, several old rattly cars drive by, rusted and with patches and replaced panels in different colours. Then just seconds later, a shiny BMW convertible passes us.

From the outside it looks like any other city, but on the outskirts, in the back streets, and even just across the road we see the evidence of very different ways of life.  Weaving through some backstreets crammed into a minibus taxi with our Projects Abroad guide, the six of us, and then whoever else waived down the taxi, I suppressed tears watching the way people were living in some parts - rough corrugated housing, rubbish dumped on the side of the road, right next to a sign that says "No Dumping", and this is not even in the townships. But I wasn't moved by feelings of pity, but just at watching children playing on the side of the road, women gossiping over their back fences. They weren't pitiful. They were living their lives they way they know them. And I was saddened by the fact that nobody knows about them. I don't think most people outside of South Africa, or even outside of the Western Cape, know what Cape Town is like beyond the tourist destinations. I definitely didn't.

There are definitely problems of generations of unemployment and the history of these areas, and all the issues that go with that. And while we come here intending to help, I think the biggest thing we'll leave with is inspiration and with a new appreciation and perspective on humanity.

Driving along the street on our way to be dropped at our host family, one of many stay dogs crossed the busy road in front of us. Rather than blindly crossing and dodging cars, he waited before crossing. Then he stopped in the middle and waited for the traffic coming the other way before continuing his journey safely  to the other side.  They know what they're doing.

Minibus Taxi


  1. Hello Jess,

    I just wanted to say thanks again for submitting this article to the 6th Byteful Travel Blog Carnival. Be sure to spread the word in any way that appeals to you (retweeting is one of the easiest ways). And I hope to see your submissions again next time!

  2. Your intriguing title sucked me right into this post. Thanks for joining in on the Traveler's Show & Tell blog carnival. I hope you will join in again soon. ~Tui