South Africa, Day 5: Redressing the past.

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Here’s where it starts to get heavy. On Day 4 at the Solms-Delta winery, we began to delve deeper into the issues of race and culture in South Africa today. It’s definitely a country in transition, still reeling from its history of apartheid. But while I expected an unstable, even corrupt and crime-ridden society, instead I witnessed one full of hope, optimism and possibility, even while the future is very much unknown.

On Day 5, following our obligatory omelet and breakfast spread, we packed our emergency box of pastries and headed to Eerste River, a colored community on the outskirts of Cape Town. Our appointment was at the Eerste River Hospital, where we were to meet hospital CEO Dr. Visser. South Africa operates a state health system, and the country deals with many health issues, including AIDS and outbreaks of tuberculosis that have been exacerbated by the AIDS situation. South Africa’s previous president Thabo Mbeki was considered an AIDS denialist, and while he was in office his personal philosophy became government policy. During that time, necessary antiretrovirals were denied to hospitals trying to treat AIDS patients. Under current president Jacob Zuma, that policy has been reversed; though, after being accused of rape by an AIDS activist and declaring it to be consensual, Zuma stated that he did not take precautions since he “took a hot shower.” I’m sure that sort of misinformation isn’t helping the matter.

Eerste River Hospital.

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South Africa, Day 4: A visit to wine country.

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Day 4 in South Africa brought our first true disappointment. The weather was still rainy and overcast, but had deteriorated enough that the ferries to Robben Island were canceled for the day. Robben Island is the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years, and I was really looking forward to seeing what it was like. Bummer.

Instead, we drove around the city and saw more of Cape Town’s residential architecture and government buildings before driving out towards the wine country. On the highway we passed so many townships that we lost count — it’s just acres and acres of dilapidated housing, some decent enough but some nothing more than stacks of corrugated iron paneling. At a break in the drizzling rain we even saw a rainbow … which provided an interesting juxtaposition above the township slum.

Townships along the highway.

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South Africa, Day 3: An introduction to Cape Town.

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We awoke on the third day, our first actually in South Africa, to a cool, overcast day in Cape Town. I don’t think we ever adjusted to the time difference  — we basically just passed out every night and woke with the alarm every morning. So I never felt “jet lagged,” only constantly exhausted, yet exhilarated by all that I was seeing.

The Mount Nelson is an old, shabby, but still stately hotel, and first on our agenda that morning was the full breakfast buffet. For someone who almost never eats breakfast (I know, quelle horreur!), I quickly got used to the made-to-order omelets. Whenever I travel abroad, I’m fascinated by what they serve for breakfast. Cape Town clearly has a European influence, so the buffet included the requisite smoked meats and cheeses. The pastry spread was unbelievable, and we ended up eating a chocolate croissant every morning — it became tradition, whether we felt like it or not. I was also obsessed with the yogurt and exotic fruits, like fresh guava and passion fruit. [Which I ate in addition to my omelet and croissant, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Okay.]

The Mount Nelson Hotel.

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South Africa, Days 1-2: Just getting there.

[Sidebar: Today is September 5, which marks the first anniversary of this blog! My first official post was a recap of my trip to Australia, so it’s both surprising and apropos that one year later I’m talking about another big trip. If only my life were always that exciting!

I started this blog as a lark, because I was feeling bored and unchallenged. But along the way I’ve received love and encouragement from so many of you who read it regularly, and miss it when I don’t write. So, thank you to all of my readers, whether this is your first post or you’ve dutifully read all 79 of them. Your support (and eyeballs) really mean so much. Mwah, Whitney]

Oh, South Africa. Where to even begin. I knew this trip would be important and life-changing even before the flight took off, and it didn’t disappoint. I’ll attempt to recap here all that we did, saw, ate and felt over those jam-packed 10 days abroad. As you’ve seen, I’m a terrible photographer, so please know that I won’t do the country’s beauty one bit of justice. It’s such a special place, and it was a special trip. One that we’re still talking about and will for months and years to come.

To begin: we flew for days and days.
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