Posted by Amanda
We arrived in Cape Town this morning. I was desperate to love Cape Town and it did not disappoint. So far it is wonderful.
They told us the harbor is beautiful and well worth waking early to see our arrival. We did just that. We watched the beginnings of the sunrise while it illuminated Table Mountain. The deck was chilly so we didn't stay out long.
During the diplomatic briefing they discussed the very high murder rate and the high number of sexual assaults which are even scarier with the high HIV rate. Yet, will all of that, Cape Town didn't seem that scary. Of course there were also seals playing in the harbor so it was hard to concentrate on what they were saying.
We were able to get off the ship right away to head to our service project. We were working to build a house with Habitat for Humanity. We went out to Mfuleni, a township created for non-whites during Apartheid. The area was extremely poor. Many of the houses were shacks made of sheets of corrigated metal. The area was quite sandy with intense African sun. This somehow made it seem safer than it actually was. The houses did not have running water or bathrooms inside as far as I could tell. They seemed to have an outhouse in the front with a sink on the outside of it. Many of the people who lived there were single mothers. Our home owner was a single mother with 2 children. She had such a happy disposition about her.
The house was being made of cinder blocks. The masons were laying the blocks. We helped mix the cement, which we did in the middle of the floor of the house. That was hard work. There were African women there as well who were working on their sweat equity. They put all of us to shame with their hard work.
Shortly after we started we broke for tea and some sort of fried dough the homeowner had made for us. The tea was delicious! She brought out a large pot with boiled milk and water in it. We each dipped our mug into it and added our tea bag. Definitely something I will try in the future--putting the water and milk together and heating. The dough thing was very heavy but tasty when dipped into the tea.
Our work for the day was actually much less than what I have done on other Habitat builds. We moved cinder blocks closer to the house, cleaned the site, and we did this thing called bagging. I don't know if this is a construction term or a South African one, but it was basically smoothing out the wet cement joints and filling in any holes.
Our Habitat leader was a white woman who knew what she was doing. She would regularly give us a series of things to do that we didn't understand. Between her accent, which was lovely, construction terms, and the differences in her English from ours, we rarely understood all of it.
The homeowner also made us a simple and tasty lunch of chicken, rice and beans, and a sauerkraut type thing. After lunch we saw a home that was almost complete. It was just waiting for plumbing and electricity. It was nice but at 40 square meters it was a small two bedroom. It did have an indoor bathroom.
Throughout the day a number of small children were running around the construction site. We were told we could play with them if we didn't have anything else to do. They loved to wear sunglasses and look at pictures of themselves. They were very cute. When school got out, a group of older kids joined us. They loved having their photos taken. More and more of them would jump in the photo but as you would step back to get them all in the shot, they'd follow you.
Although I did not do that much work, it was nice to see what the township was like and interact with the kids without feeling like I was gawking. We were filthy when we got home, but it was a great experience.
After showers, we went to Table Mountain via cab. We discovered the cable car had just been shut down due to high winds. We enjoyed the views and were amazed by the "table cloth" of clouds that rolled over the top of the mountain.
We decided to do a Lonely Planet walking tour so hopped a cab to the Castle of Good Hope. We went from there to the Company's Gardens--interestingly, Cecil Rhodes imported squirrels to Cape Town from North America. The gardens were lovely.
We headed to Bo-Kaap which is the primary Muslim area. It had beautifully colored houses that looked so different from the other parts of Cape Town. We searched a good bit for dinner, hiking a great deal up Signal Hill to find a particular place. We never made it because we didn't want to walk back down when it was dark. We did find a small Muslim cemetary that had a terrific view.
We walked along Long Street back to the waterfront. We had a nice Cape Malay dinner and called it a night.