Ocean View Homestay

This weekend I had the opportunity to live in a homestay in a coloured community in Cape Town called Ocean View. It is located about 45 minutes from the UCT campus.

Ocean View is home to about 60,000 coloured Africans. Coloured is a race separate from black and white here in South Africa. It is made up of people who are of mixed white and black descent through many generations. Ocean View was created when their previous homes, such as Simon’s Town and Fish Hoek, were declared “Whites Only” settlements by the apartheid regime. All of the families and residents who were considered “coloured” were forcibly removed by the government and relocated to Ocean View. (A similar predicament as those from District 6 faced, which I mentioned in an earlier post.)

I stayed with a family of four: Carmen, Darrol, Tristan (11), and Hayley (7). They also have a dog named Alicia Keys. A fellow study abroad student also stayed with me in their home. Her name is Arianna and she studies International Development and Anthropology at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Carmen is a librarian at the local library in Ocean View, so the kids gave us a walking tour through the town and we visited her at work on Saturday. Membership at the library is free and also includes access to their computers, DVD’s and CD’s. However, Carmen said few of the residents of Ocean View take advantage of the library, mainly because there are high rates of adult illiteracy and many kids drop out of school after grade 8. These teenagers usually get involved with drugs, alcohol and gangsterism, furthering the cycle of poverty in Ocean View.

Carmen invited two kids, Chadwin (8) and Jason (5), who hang out at the library regularly over to the house to play for the afternoon. Their family is very poor and have to squeeze 12 people into a tiny 2-bedroom flat. It was difficult communicating with them because they only spoke Afrikaans. Chadwin could speak some English because he learned it in school, but Jason knew hardly any. But luckily, the language of children is universal. It’s amazing how you can have so much fun playing with kids without speaking the same tongue.

Tristan and I bonded a lot this weekend over our mutual love for sports. He is absolutely obsessed with the English Premier league and Liverpool is his favorite team (my bed had a Liverpool comforter!). He plays striker on his football team at school. But when we were watching sports on TV, Tristan had no desire to watch the South African football teams (the Pirates and the Chiefs) even though they were playing each other. When I asked him why he changed the channel, Tristan told me that the teams were “racist.” He said the teams only had black players. No white players, like me, or coloured players, like him. He said that doesn’t represent the “real South Africa,” so he doesn’t think of them as “his” team.

Carmen took us for Saturday night mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kommetjie, a town next to Ocean View. The chapel was very small (less than 30 people fit inside) but it was beautiful, and the view overlooking the ocean from the steps was incredible. Although neither Arianna nor I consider ourselves religious, the experience provided us with more insight to how our family lives. Religion is an integral part of life in Ocean View and you can find a different church everywhere you look.

That night, Darrol cooked us a potjiekos dinner. A potjie is an Afrikaans stew slow-cooked over hot coals in a three-legged cast-iron pot. The closest thing I can relate it to is using a crock pot, but it doesn’t take all day to cook. Darrol added all of the chicken, potatoes, vegetables and other delicious things all together and it was served over rice. They invited a lot of family members over to share the food and we played music, danced and drank the night away.

I spent a lot of time that night speaking to Uncle Joey, who works for the South African Navy. He was 5 years old when his family was forcibly relocated to Ocean View. It was really amazing to get a first-hand account of the events I have been learning so much about. Joey told me that he, like the majority of coloured South Africans, hold no hatred in their hearts anymore for the things that happened to them during apartheid. He said for him it is much better to be thankful for what they have now than to dwell on the past. However, he did tell me he believed that most black Africans were still very angry and wanted to seek reparations (Note: I have yet to speak about this with a black African).

On Sunday morning, the family took Arianna and me on a drive through the area. We took a beautiful and breathtaking drive through Cape Point to Simon’s Town, where we ate breakfast on the beach. Then we continued our drive to a beach in Fish Hoek and then to Sun Valley, where Tristan and Hayley attend private school. We ate lunch in a restaurant before the family had to drop us off and go home.

I can’t believe what an incredible weekend I had! It was great to get outside of the UCT grounds, be adopted into a new family, and see how South Africans live. I am really excited to go back and visit sometime soon!

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