It’s already proven difficult to keep up with this blog, particularly because I have limited access to the internet at Dorothee’s house. However, I’m sneaking in some blog time at work. (Shhh don’t tell anyone!)
Wednesday was my one day to get settled in before I began my internship on Thursday. So Dorothee took me to the grocery store here which is called Woolworth’s. I was able to use my South African Rand for the first time. Here’s a picture of what the money looks like, I find it quite beautiful:
After our stop at the grocery, we took the dogs to the river for a walk and swim. The dogs’ names are Bella and Caro and they go everywhere with us. Dorothee does not leave them at home alone, and they eat and sleep on her bed. She treats them like her children and calls them “loves.” The river has a nice little park where we can walk the dogs and get a nice close up view of the Muizenberg Mountains which are part of Table Mountain National Park.
Thursday I began my first day interning at the Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN). I walked to work which was right around the corner, about a five minute walk. I met Andrew who is the managing director and co-founder of BEN. I will be working closely with him to advocate for better and safer bicycling in Cape Town. Right off the bat I was invited to accompany Andrew to a meeting with the editors of the Cape Town Times. They are doing a piece on promoting safer cycling because it is extremely dangerous to ride on the streets here. People are always getting knocked down, run over, or heckled by aggressive motorists. Even I’ve been sticking to the sidewalks on my beach bike because I’m too afraid to ride on the streets. Last week Burry Standers, the top mountain biker in the world, was struck and killed by a taxi driver. He was only 25 years old and was a two time winner of the Cape Epic, the most challenging mountain bike race in the world that takes place right here in Cape Town in the national park.On our way to the meeting, Andrew showed me what a Bicycling Empowerment Centre (BEC) looks like. BEC’s are shipping containers full of recycled and donated bicycles and parts that are sent to South Africa and distributed to the low-income communities. A person in each of these communities is trained on bicycle mechanics and repair and then runs the shipping container like a bike shop. These serve as a form of employment for the people in the communities. BEN has set up 17 BEC’s in areas just outside of Cape Town. Out of respect for the people in the area I didn’t take any pictures of what it looks like because they don’t like white tourists coming in and showing it off. The area is called Lavender Hill and is well known for the number of gangs there and the violence that takes place. I definitely felt uncomfortable and out of place driving through the community in Andrew’s shiny Mercedes-Benz. Not because I was afraid anyone would do something to us but because it just wasn’t right. The contrast between the rich and the poor living so close to one another is so stark here. It makes no sense to me how we can constantly talk about poverty and how to alleviate it but it continues to exist.
After an uneventful day at work on Friday, I headed down to Kalk Bay, a small bohemian fishing village just a few kilometers from my house, on the beach bike BEN provided for me. Following my nose, I discovered a sidewalk that goes right along the beach just below the railroad tracks.
It was quite a pleasant ride with views of the picturesque mountains in the distance and a close up view of the beautiful blue ocean water. Once in Kalk Bay, I parked my bike and walked along the sidewalk to check out the shops. And what do you think I found? An ice cream shop of course! I left the shop with a waffle cone full of Belgian chocolate ice cream. Not as good as Purity ice cream in Ithaca, but it will do.
As I was walking down the sidewalk I noticed some steps leading up the hill so I decided to investigate where they led to. When I reached the top of the stops, I plopped myself down on the ground, enjoyed my ice cream, and took in the beautiful views from a higher perspective. Feeling curious, I continued to follow the steps after they crossed a quiet cobblestone road. Up and up they went, crossing more cobblestone and passing quaint houses, until they reached a main road on the other side of which I saw a sign for the entrance to Table Mountain National Park. Since it was getting late and I didn’t want Dorothee to worry, I decided to head back home and explore the park another day. Below are some pictures of the view from my perch:
It’s summer here and not too hot actually. Apparently this weather is unseasonal but I’m enjoying the 75 degree (24 degrees Celsius) temperature. The weekend begins tomorrow so stay posted for an update on my adventures!