Lions, Elephants & Ostriches

The past week and a half has been crazy! Everyday was a new adventure. I’ll try to do a little recap.

I had class registration a week and a half ago. THE MOST STRESSFUL THING EVER. The University of Cape Town DOESN’T have online registration. Which means to add, drop or change classes you have to walk to different buildings and have different signatures. Holy mess. The campus has about 26,000 students, and 600 of those students are study abroad. So picture 600 study abroad students + the incoming freshmen students running around campus (mind you this campus is so large it has bus’s to get you from lower to middle to upper campus) going from department to department to sign up for courses they want. It was insane. I had to take a placement test for the next level of Italian and was notified 18 hours prior to my test. Thank goodness I tested into the correct level of Italian. All I  have to say is after this experience I am never complaining about online registration- EVER AGAIN!

Fingers crossed I did my registration correct, because classes start tomorrow.

After registration last Monday morning many of us departed via bus on a Garden Route tour of the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape! *South Africa has 9 regions, and Cape Town is situated in the Western Cape* South Africa is HUGE. To give you an idea it is about a 13 hour drive from Cape Town to the edge of the Eastern Cape! This was a four day intensely packed itinerary! We went canoeing in the Wilderness National Park, walked with lions, bungy jumped off the biggest bridge in the world ( I chickened out and could not do it, way to high for me ), went to J’bay and surfed in the Indian Ocean where Billabong surf competitions are held every year ( more like I was swallowed by the waves, but surfing sounds cooler), went to Tsitsikamma National Park which was so beautiful, rode and fed ELEPHANTS, rode ostriches ( I did not do this, I thought it was too mean), and finally crawled yes literally crawled through the Cango Caves. Parts of the caves were so small that people in the past have actually gotten stuck INSIDE of the cave for many hours! I wanted to make a note, petting lions, riding ostriches and elephants is not a NORMAL thing to do in Africa. Many locals who I told would laugh and say they have grown up in Africa and have never done any of these things.

A side note. I wrote a paper last spring quarter on the relationship between China and Africa. The question I explored was: Is the China-Africa relationship mutually beneficial? I then asked if African’s welcomed the Chinese and liked their involvement in Africa, and felt their relationship was furthering their continent. At the end of my research my paper I concluded it was in fact a beneficial relationship and the African’s welcomed them. During the Garden Route, my tour guide was from Cape Town, and she told us we could ask her any questions regardless if they were political or not. So I asked her opinion. For the most part she wanted nothing to do with the Chinese, and she felt they extracted the natural resources and left Africa with little. She acknowledged they built infrastructures, but made the point that these infrastructures they built were not meant to last, and many of the roads they have recently built are already falling apart. The Chinese also take their large boats and hang these huge nets off of them sweeping the floor of the ocean killing all and everything in their path including dolphins, wales and any coral. I met another man from Mozambique this summer in Portugal, and I asked him this same question. He replied to me that he has never seen so many Chinese in Africa before, and they are taking all of the African jobs because they can provide the labor and the resource for much cheaper than the African’s can. Therefore only contributing to the high rate of unemployment. He was also against the relationship. I just thought these two perspectives were interesting and some food for thought.

Before I left for Cape Town my professor at Seattle University made the comment, you shouldn’t go to Africa to help, but to listen. I LOVE THIS. Since I have been here my study abroad group has urged us to volunteer ( GREAT ), however the way in which you volunteer is important. My tour guide also made the comment if you want to help, teach someone a skill they don’t have, but don’t just feed them soup for a day. I think this is key. It is easy to volunteer and feed people for a day, but after that day tomorrow they will have to find food again. Therefore, if you instead teach them how to make a specific food, or how to grow a specific crop they will have this trade with them for life not a day. My tour guide further went on to say it is part of the African culture to beg, and we need to change this, or they will never be able to rise out of poverty. When we volunteer it is easy to get caught up in, what WE think they need, instead of listening to what THEY need. Last spring quarter I watched a video about Ethiopia and how the United Nations came in dropping food off, the people made the comment they didn’t need food and showed footage of all the fields of crops they had. Rather they needed to learn how to make this crop into food! As I sign up to volunteer around Cape Town I am going to take into these different perspectives on how to volunteer, because I think these points are so crucial.

I am off to try to go find out where my classes are tomorrow, so I don’t get completely lost. Hopefully since school has started I will be able to keep up with my blogs. I love Cape Town and couldn’t have made a better choice to spend a semester abroad.

Cheers,

Lo

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