A Travellerspoint blog

Table Mountain and Umfinya!

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We’ve reached the end of another week and can’t believe how quickly time is whizzing past.

We’re feeling more settled at Ikhaya, and getting to know the kids (and they seem to be getting used to having us around too). We took a lesson together yesterday which was a lot of fun. We had to teach the basic rules of food hygiene. Nick did the teaching and then Claire donned an orange wig and red nose to illustrate how not to do it – she fully embraced the role, picking her nose and wiping the table with her bottom! We named her alter ego ‘Umfinya’ which is the Xhosa word for ‘Snot’. The kids thought it was all hilarious (and most importantly, got the point) but unfortunately the name seems to have stuck, and Claire will have to endure walking through the township with children shouting ‘Snot’ at her for the next fortnight. She regrets not thinking that one through when she suggested it!! Anyway, we’re kind of getting into the groove, and really enjoying ourselves, even on the crazy, noisy days with 70 kids going wild!

We’ve hired a car again for a few days this weekend and are really enjoying the freedom that gives us to travel further afield. We watched a beautiful sunset over Camps Bay last night, a resort on the coastal road between Hout Bay and the City.

This morning, we finally made it up Table Mountain (third attempt). We didn’t get off to a great start when the cable car was closed, initially because of the wind, and then because of maintenance, but after waiting for an hour, we were on the first cable car up the mountain, and were the first people to get off it at the top. We spent a lovely few hours up there, getting away from the crowds to hike a few kilometres to Macleor’s Beacon, the highest point on the mountain.

Posted by Tinktravel 22:55 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

Weekend Highlights

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We hired a car this week-end (Hurray!). We’d hoped to go up Table Mountain but it’s been very windy and the cable car has been closed. Instead, on Saturday we drove with Sarah (an American who is volunteering at a local medical centre and staying at the hostel with us) along Chapman’s Peak again, because it’s SO stunning, to Boulder’s Beach where there’s a colony of penguins. The penguins were mainly sunbathing and didn’t really do too much - we thought some might be swimming or waddling around, or even dancing ‘Happy feet’ style - but it was fun to see them in the wild!

In the afternoon we went spent a good hour or so exploring Cape Point. They say that you can see where the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean meet, or maybe someone has been winding us up (?), they certainly seemed, to the untrained eye at least, to be different colours.

On Sunday, we drove up Signal Hill where there’s a fantastic view of Table Mountain and the city, including the new football stadium and the port. At noon there each day they fire a canon, The Noon Gun, although we haven’t heard it yet! Then we drove out to the north of the city to Sunset Beach which is part of 45 kilometre long stretch of white sandy beaches. Very beautiful and very windy with kite surfers flying quite high out of the water and windsurfers doing somersaults!

We drove back along the coast and stopped at Sandy Beach in Llandudno (Yes, it’s named after the place in Wales). We walked along the coastal path a bit but didn’t venture onto the beach there as it’s Cape Town’s only nudist beach!

We’re really enjoying getting to know Sarah, who’s from near to Chicago and Shelby, an Australian, who runs the hostel and hosts other volunteers for various community projects in the area which she’s also involved with. Shelby and her boyfriend, Zac, are really helping us to get to know how things work out here and have been very interesting to talk to about life in South Africa and the problems in the community here.

Posted by Tinktravel 22:09 Archived in South Africa Comments (4)

End of week one at Ikhaya

We survived!

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We feel pleased that we’ve survived our first week helping out at iKhaya le themba. It’s an incredible project; the children have masses of love to share - we’re normally greeted by several small children jumping on us to give us a hug! The permanent staff, led by Katherine, and long term volunteers are totally dedicated to caring for them.

All the children are affected by AIDS/HIV in some way. A parent may have died after suffering form the illness, or someone in their family is HIV. Their stories are heart wrenching, some children are living with their aunt or granny or being brought up by a big sister.
The poverty in the community is overwhelming. The settlement, Imizamu Yethu, started to develop about 20 years ago when people moved form the Eastern Cape to find work in Cape Town. Most people still have family back in the Eastern Cape so some of the children went back there over the Christmas break.

We quite enjoy walking up to the project now. We’re normally accosted by Lovers, a tour guide who’s usually looking out for tourists to show round. The ‘Hop on, Hop off’ bus stops just outside Imizamu Yethu and there’s an official township tour. One day this week Lovers introduced us to some English tourists and we seemed to become part of the tour! It’s quite a steep climb in the heat of the day though, so we’re pretty much exhausted by the time we get there!

iKhaya is on the mountainside and there are fabulous views of the mountains around Hout Bay. The kids are very noisy and often play quite roughly. There are 70 children on Wednesdays to Fridays and the atmosphere can feel quite chaotic. They’re keen to learn though and do quieten down a bit for teaching sessions which are in a mixture of Xhosa and English.

Yesterday Nick helped teach some Science lessons while Claire tried to encourage the kids to weed their gardens (they each have a small garden area to cultivate). Today the kids learned about life skills and making good choices. They made up some very entertaining role plays to act out what they’d learnt. One play featured some naughty children making a bad choice not to do their homework and being caned by their teacher! In another some children pretended to steal form the shops and were then chased by the police! All in all it’s been an eye-opening and challenging week.

Posted by Tinktravel 21:57 Archived in South Africa Comments (3)

Starting work at Ikhaya le Themba

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On Monday we started work at Ikhaya le Themba, a project in the township of Imizano Yethu on the outskirts of Hout Bay, a short walk from where we are staying. Children are already starting to recognise us as we walk to the project, and are launching themselves at us in the street for hugs and high fives!
On Mondays and Tuesdays there are just 30 of the most vulnerable children from families affected by AIDS and HIV who come to Ikhaya for the afternoon.
On the first day, we sat in a circle and the children each talked about the highlights of their Christmas holiday. One girl named her highlight as going to her Grandmother’s funeral because she ate Chicken, Sheep and Cow – it sounded like quite a party. Another little boy went to Kentucky Fried Chicken and was very excited about that. The children spoke mainly in Xhosa, the local dialect, interspersed with some English. One of the leaders was translating, but we would have loved to have understood what the children were saying in more detail.
Yesterday was another opportunity to get to know the children better, and today was our baptism of fire when 70 children arrived for the afternoon. It was noisy and unruly – very different to the classroom situations Nick is used to in the UK. We listened to each of the children read for 10 minutes. They were all very keen to have their turn, and operated a strict queuing system around each adult waiting patiently (but noisily) for their opportunity to read. A fight nearly broke out at Claire’s table when she accidentally heard two girls read in the wrong order!
A lot of the kids come across as quite tough, but seem to change and really flourish when you give them some individual attention so we quickly got the hang of blocking out all of the noise and disruption going on around us, and simply focussing on the one child who was reading.
The afternoon passed very quickly but it was exhausting!
We’re still a little uncertain how best we can be useful at Ikhaya, but we’re hoping that building relationship with the kids and giving them some individual time will go a long way. We hope it will be clearer once we’ve seen a full week, and know how the schedule works.
Thank you to everyone who has emailed or left comments. We love hearing from you, and are thinking of all of our friends back home as we swelter in the South African sunshine!

Posted by Tinktravel 22:07 Archived in South Africa Comments (3)

Robben Island and Snoek

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Yesterday we made the boat trip to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned from 1964 until 1982. We had heard that it would be a highlight of our stay in Cape Town and we weren't disappointed. We arrived on the island after an unusually calm crossing (boats had been cancelled because of the wind on the two previous days) and were ushered onto buses for a tour around the island. Our guide was a former inmate of the prison who was politically active during the 'struggle' as he referred to it, and over the course of his career had met Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, Barack Obama and Bill Cosby!! He entertained us with stories and gave us an insight into the history of the island which at various times has been a prison, leper colony and gun battery. Apparently, it is also the third largest penguin colony in the world, but we only saw 2 in the distance so that was a slight anticlimax!
A tour of the prison followed with another former prisoner. It was sobering to learn about conditions in the prison with censorship, and prisoners only permitted to send and receive 2 letters per month, but most shocking was the fact that during apartheid black prisoners were given less food than coloured or asiatic prisoners. It's taken a day to get our heads around some of the things that we heard about.
This morning, we got up early and got ourselves to church in a neighbouring suburb. We went to a Vineyard Church (the same 'denomination' we go to at home) so the format of the service was very similar to what we're used to, and it felt like home from home. We received a very warm welcome, so will try to make it back there on the weekends that we're in Cape Town.
Our South African friends in London told us about 'snoek' the local fish here, and for lunch today we headed off to Snoekies - a fish 'restaurant' by the harbour in Hout Bay. It was a long walk past the fish processing factories (with associated smells!) but eventually we rounded a bend and discovered what felt like most of the population of Cape Town enjoying their lunch. After a long queue, we were rewarded with our first taste of snoek and chips.

Posted by Tinktravel 20:34 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

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