Leaders of Past, Present and Future

Last night I went to a bookstore called “The Book Lounge” in downtown Cape Town with my boss Braam from PASSOP. The store was holding a launch party for the book The Unlikely Secret Agent by Ronnie Kasrils. Kasrils was one of the former leaders of the underground MK, the militant branch of the African National Congress that helped bring down apartheid, as well as the first Minister of Intelligence Services in South Africa. He wrote the book in honour of his late wife Eleanor, who died unexpectedly last year. This true story details Eleanor’s own efforts and struggles to bring down the apartheid regime as well as their own love story.

Also in attendance at the book launch was Archbishop Desmond Tutu himself! I was only 10 seats away from him. Unfortunately I was unable to meet him as he slipped out as soon as the event ended, but it was incredible seeing a man of such great influence in person.

The event was set up as an informal interview between Kasrils and Trevor Manuel, the current Minister of the Presidency (basically South Africa’s Rahm Emanuel) and former Minister of Finance under Presidents Mandela, Mbeki and Motlanthe. Also in attendance at the event was a big ANC supporter who was prosecuted in the Treason Trial (or Rivonia Trial), but of course I can’t remember his name. Kasrils and Manuel bantered back and forth about the book for about an hour and also took questions from the audience. It was fascinating to watch such famous giants of the ANC and anti-apartheid movement first hand.

After they wrapped up the talk, I purchased Kasrils’ book and he signed it for me. Inside he wrote, “For Abbey: Be inspired!” Braam introduced me to both Kasrils and Manuel and I was able to speak with them briefly. Braam’s father was a member of the MK and Kasrils was his commanding officer. Each day I go to PASSOP I am given tools and assignments that I know will help me further along down the line as I join the work force in International Development, but the added perks of attending events and meeting famous people with Braam is completely unexpected!

I now truly feel that I am pursuing exactly the line of work I want to be in for the rest of my life. It is far from glamorous and I will never be wealthy, but I will continue to live with great passion for life and others. Such commodities as affluence and stylish possessions have never been very attractive to me. Living in happiness and knowing that I can make a difference in communities will always be more than enough.

On a separate note, I just finished reading Nelson Mandela’s auto-biography Long Walk to Freedom. It is a magnificent story and has completely enriched my life and knowledge of South Africa. If I could only recommend one book for the rest of my life, I think this would be it.

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds there are many more hills to climb. -Nelson Mandela

Cheetahs and Catching Up

I realize that I have skipped a few recent events in my posts lately so here is a quick re-cap of things I have yet to mention:

I am no longer taking “Urban Politics and Administration.” The course was incredibly boring and my professor wasn’t very fond of Americans (he claimed the US had 51 states…), so deciding to drop the class wasn’t a difficult decision. Instead, I am taking “The Politics of International Economic Relations.” I enjoy this class much more and my professor has a fabulous dry sense of humor.

Last Saturday, I went wine tasting in Stellenbosch. We went to a beautiful winery called Neethlingshof Estate and were given a tour of their facilities and a history of their wines. The estate was absolutely gorgeous. After touring where the wine is made as well as the wine cellar, we had a wine tasting session. We were given five wines to sample: Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Pinotage, Malbec and The Caracal, all of which were (obviously) made on the estate. I bought a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc for R45 (not even $7) and am enjoying a glass while writing this post!

Afterwards, we travelled to another winery called Spier, which is also home to a Cheetah Conservation and Outreach center. There are less than 7,500 cheetahs left in the wild, so the Cheetah Outreach program works to hand-rear cheetahs to use as ambassadors around the world for education purposes. A woman named Kate told us she hand-reared a cheetah that was sent to Busch Gardens in the United States last year.

While at the Cheetah Outreach center we were given the opportunity to pet a cheetah!!! Cheetahs have very low immune systems, so we all had to liberally apply hand sanitizer on our hands and dip our feet into a bacteria-killing substance so we would not track germs into the cheetahs’ pens. We also had to remove any dangling objects (such as necklaces or the tie on my jacket) because the cheetahs are cats and would want to swipe at them.

My cheetah’s name was Phoenix and he is 3 years old. I was the first of my friends to pet him and he simply lay down and purred as I pet his soft fur. Then he fell asleep! It was incredible to see such a beautiful creature up close. Adult cheetahs have over 2,000 spots, and they really are perfect circles. We were instructed to pet Phoenix with a firm open palm starting near his neck and moving towards the tail. I could feel every one of his lean muscles! Even though I didn’t get to spend much time with Phoenix, it was amazing to interact with an animal that is one of every child’s favorite.

My new roommate just moved in tonight. She seems really nice! She said she immediately knew I was American because of the way I talk, but also because I’m pretty. She said people from Britain are not pretty, so I must be from America! There’s one generalization about America that I don’t mind :)

View from 3,558 feet

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a national holiday in South Africa, which means school was cancelled! (Take note America!) My friends and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous day and so began our journey to the top of Table Mountain.

We took a cab from Liesbeeck Gardens to the base of one of the trails, called Pletteklip Gorge. We then started our ascent up the mountain around noon. Even from the start of the trail we had an amazing view of the city, but as we got higher up the trail and the noises of the city subsided the view became even more incredible. The hike up was not incredibly difficult, but it was very steep. It was the most difficult hike I’ve ever been on, even though my guy friends with crazy long legs made it look easy! Everyone we met along the trail was super nice, and would encourage us on the way to the top – “You’re almost there! You can do it!”

The last bit of the trail was in the shade, so we literally could “see the light” at the top of the mountain. When we at last reached the top we decided to take Smuts Track to the highest point on Table Mountain, rather than go towards the Cable Car and tourist-y areas. Smuts Track was marked by periodical yellow footprints painted on rocks. It was an easy path to follow, especially because it was mostly flat.

The highest point on Table Mountain is called Maclear’s Beacon and is marked by a pile of rocks with a pole on it. We wondered if it was the highest point in general, or if the pole was the highest point… we’re still not sure. Either way, Wikipedia says it is 3,558 feet… I am so proud to have finally conquered the mountain! My friends and I then shared a picnic lunch sitting on the rocks looking over the entire city of Cape Town. We could even see Cape Point, Robben Island and Seal Island (where they shot all of the film for Shark Week with the Great Whites).

Each of my friends and I decided on a different type of shoe to wear on the hike! Dan wore hiking boots, Sally wore Vibrams (barefoot running shoes), I wore running sneakers, Josh wore Chaco’s, and Zach went barefoot (not the whole time, but a good chunk of it). We thought it was pretty funny. We weren’t the only hikers with a variety of shoes either. There were kids in jeans and stylish shoes definitely not made for hiking, intense men who went barefoot and shirtless… some families even brought their dogs with them!

Although we could have stayed at the top of the mountain forever, the sun started to fall in the sky and we knew we had to start making out way down. In Cape Town, the sun sets around 6:30pm and it becomes completely dark. None of us brought flashlights with us on the hike, so it was imperative to set a good pace down the mountain. We decided to go a different route and chose Skeleton Gorge.

Skeleton Gorge was very different from Platteklip Gorge. The majority of our trail was covered by trees, rivers and waterfalls. We barely had a view of the mountain. There were no markings on the trail either, we just had to go with our gut and look for the well-used path, rocks that looked like stairs, and wood reinforcing stairs made out of dirt. At one point we had absolutely no idea where the path led next. Dan thought he found it, but we had to hug a tree and carefully tip toe on tree roots on a very steep ledge to get there. But of course that was the wrong way! While clutching the tree, I looked down at the stream below us and saw that someone had scratched an arrow into one of the rocks. Although it was not a very convincing marker, we crossed back over the tree, down the steep ledge, and into the river. Thankfully it led us back to the correct path!

The descent down Skeleton Gorge took several hours, but it was beautiful and absolutely peaceful. We didn’t see any other people but ourselves for hours. My favorite part was finding the waterfalls, so untouched and naturally beautiful. The path eventually led us into the back of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. The gardens were already closed for the day due to the public holiday, so we had the place all to ourselves. I can’t wait to go back in a few weeks when they start their concert series.

I finally made it back to my room around 7:15pm and completely crashed. I woke up very sore this morning and had a little bit of difficulty going down stairs, but it was all completely worth it! I’m sure I will be making more hikes up the mountain during my time here and can’t wait to discover all of the trails. !

Robben Island

The legacy of Nelson Mandela can be found everywhere you look in South African society. Buildings and streets are named in his honor, my classes all reflect upon his impact, his picture is displayed proudly in homes, and we all joyously celebrated his birthday on 18 July. Yesterday I had the privilege to visit the place where he began to gain international recognition for his role in freeing South Africa from apartheid – Robben Island.

First and foremost, I would like to preface my thoughts on this experience by explaining that this is extremely difficult to write about. The emotions that poured out of me as I toured the island seem impossible to express. I can only hope that I convey my experience accurately.

We arrived at the V&A Waterfront at about 12:30pm and walked to the Robben Island Museum, which is located right on the harbour. A group of about 30 American students from my dorm and I boarded the 300-person ferry and began our journey to Robben Island. The boat ride took about half an hour to reach the island I spent my time looking out the window for Great White sharks, whales and seals. My first impression of the island was of surprise: it was much larger than I expected and there seemed to be quite a lot of buildings as well as a residential area (but I will explain that later).

As we departed the ship, my friends and I walked from the harbour to one of the maximum security prisons. There are actually 4 prisons located on Robben Island, but we only did a walking tour through one of them. I was taken aback by the architecture of the prison buildings. They were made of large pieces of limestone arranged together, not the typical drab cement I typically attribute to prisons. Huge fences with immense amounts of barbed wire fence surrounded the entire compound. However, the natural beauty of the landscape cannot be denied. Even though it is winter here in South Africa, green grasses, flowers and trees were growing everywhere.

In 1994, the former political prisoners who had been incarcerated in Robben Island formed a coalition to create a museum out of the island. In 1997, the museum first opened to the public. One of the most incredible things about the Robben Island Museum is that all of the tours are given by former inmates and guards. My tour of the prison was given by Benjamin, who was arrested in 1984 and convicted of High Treason. He was sentenced to 8 years in jail, but did not finish out his sentence because he was released with the last batch of political prisoners in 1991. Our group sat inside one of the larger rooms inside the prison as Benjamin spoke to us about his experiences on the island. Remarkably, he explained to us that many of the prisoners maintained good behaviour because Robben Island was one of the “better” prisons of the time and they did not want to be transferred.

But life on Robben Island was far from pleasant. Due to the inability for escape from the island, the government sent the most dangerous men in South Africa there. Only Asiatic, coloured and black men were sent to Robben Island, whites and women were sent to separate facilities. The jail also maintained apartheid practices: blacks were the lowest caste of society and given less food and privilege than the coloureds and Asiatics. All of the men were issued identification cards that they were required to carry at all times, their race was included on the card. The men worked in the limestone quarries every day from about 7 to 4 and were occasionally given free time to play football and rugby.

When the political prisoners were first sent to Robben Island, they were put in cells alongside South African convicts (rapists, murderers, etc.). But the South African government soon learned the hard way that this was a very bad idea. This is because the political prisoners were very clever and would teach the convicts about their causes and South African independence from apartheid. Then, when the convicts were released from the island they too became political activists. Because of this, the political prisoners had to be sent to a separate section of the prison where they had even more restricted lives and were not allowed to interact with other inmates. The political prisoners jailed on Robben Island were considered the biggest threats to South Africa, and were treated as such.

As Benjamin led us out of the main room and into a different part of the prison, he warned us to stay close to the group because it is very easy to get lost. My friends and I hung at the back of the group so we were able to have a quieter and more personal look at the prison. We did, in fact, lose the group only minutes after Benjamin’s warning. Those moments where we were searching around the prison to figure out where to go were actually pretty frightening. It literally felt at one point that there was no way out.

Thankfully, we found our group in the next section of the prison. We were led to a long hall with cells on either side. Inside each cell was a picture of the inmate who was jailed there and the years they served. Some cells also had stories about the men and had examples of the few items they were allowed to possess. My favorite story was about the prisoners’ constant thirst for knowledge. They were not allowed to have books, paper or pencils. The men would save pieces of the sacks that materials in the quarry came in and used them as paper. They would hide them on their person at all times, for if it was found by a guard it was burned immediately. The makeshift papers were taken to work at the quarry and laid in front of the men while they worked, and the men would teach each other. Though most were not formally trained teachers, the inmates would take the knowledge they already possessed and pass it on to someone else. In time, the inmates were able to petition the jail for stationary and pencils. The story said that the government realized the political prisoners were much cleverer than the guards and would always find a way, despite the restrictions. By the end the prisoners were also giving lessons to the guards.

Walking into the cells where these men were imprisoned for years on end was one of the worst feelings I have ever had. A lump formed in my throat when I simply walked into the prison itself, and that feeling only worsened when I was inside a cell. The lump got bigger and bigger and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt sick to my stomach as I stood there and closed the door, contemplating life in a cell the size of a tiny bathroom. The small window provided no solace, as the view was of a huge concrete wall and hooded by huge iron bars. My throat opened up slightly when I returned to the hallway, but I did not breathe properly again until I had completely left the confines of the prison.

Nelson Mandela’s cell was in yet another section of the prison, alongside the other more famous political prisoners of his time. During his time there, Mandela was able to start a garden in the small courtyard outside his section of the jail. It was there that he hid many of the pages for his later novel Long Walk to Freedom (which I am currently reading). His first transcript was found and burned, and he was forced to rewrite it. Mandela’s cell itself is maintained as it looked when he first arrived on Robben Island. There were no beds, only a blanket and small pillow on the floor. Beds were added to the prison later in 1977. They also had a small table with a plate, fork and knife as well as a small pot used as a toilet. My time at the cell was brief due to our large tour group, but the image is one I will never forget.

After exiting the prison, we were led onto a bus for a tour of the rest of the island. Our tour guide was about 27 years old and a coloured South African from Cape Town (not a former inmate). He was by far the best tour guide I have ever had, and an incredible orator. He often brought me to tears throughout the tour.

The man explained that Robben Island has served as a place of abandonment and isolation for over 350 years. Those affected by leprosy were banished to the island to die in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. We stopped at one of the grave sites for these people, although the majority of those that died on the island were buried without tombstone or proper burial. During World War II, Robben Island was used as a base to protect Cape Town in the event of an attack, which is why there is lots of infrastructure on the island. Robben Island was then utilized as a maximum security prison, inspired by Alcatraz, from 1961 until 1991.

In addition to the four prisons on Robben Island, there is a solitary cell separate that was made specifically to imprison Robert Sobukwe, the creator of the Pan Africanist Congress and a major anti-apartheid leader. Our tour guide explained that although he is not remembered as one of the most famous anti-apartheid leaders, it was his work that paved the way for Nelson Mandela and others to come after him. He believed that it was better to attack small parts of the apartheid regime and bring them down one by one, rather than attempt to bring it all down at once. While openly protesting and defying the “Black Pass” law, which required all black Africans to carry identification cards, Sobukwe (among many others) was arrested. This protest resulted in the Sharpeville Massacre, which ended in the deaths of 69 PAC supporters. He served three years in prison before he was transferred to solitary confinement on Robben Island. He was allowed no contact with other prisoners and was under constant watch by 2 guards. The guards were not allowed to speak to Sobukwe and operated under extreme suspicion, even of each other. This fear meant that the guards kept their jobs and Sobukwe was always alone. Sobukwe was seen as Public Enemy #1 by the South African government. Killing Sobukwe would have made him a martyr and letting him free would mean the continuation of his anti-apartheid actions, so the government kept him in solitary confinement, out of the public eye, until the day he died of lung cancer in 1977. His contraction of cancer led to the beginning of international attention and sanctions on South Africa and in turn allowed Sobukwe to be transferred to a hospital. No one has since occupied his cell, and that land is now used as dog kennels.

Our final stop on the tour was the limestone quarry where all of the prisoners worked while on Robben Island. The quarry later became known as “The University” because it is the place where the inmates taught each other lessons. Each of the political prisoners was a leader of a differing organization in South Africa, many of which did not cooperate with each other. They began to realize that they had nothing else to lose, and banded together. Work in the quarry was tough and caused long-term physical effects on the inmates. Dust from the limestone was inhaled and ingested, causing many lung and respiratory issues such as bronchitis and pneumonia. The intensity of the sun reflected off the stone severely damaged the tear ducts so that many former prisoners are unable to cry anymore. Nelson Mandela himself has such damage to his eyes that no one is allowed to take a photo of him using flash photography, and is also the reason why he often wears a hat. It is incredible that although the prisoners are now free, physical ailments remind them every day of Robben Island so they are never able to forget.

Only one man has ever successfully escaped from Robben Island. Professional swimmers and Olympians swim the distance from Robben Island to Cape Town in about 3 – 8 hours while wearing insulated wetsuits and accompanied by life boats. This means that any regular person wishing to escape would take more than twice the amount of time, without the wetsuit or lifeboat safeguard. The water of the Atlantic Ocean is freezing, not to mention the population of Great White Sharks. All cases (except the lone successful one) end in drowning, or life back imprisoned on Robben Island because the tide pulls you back.

Despite the extreme emotional rollercoaster I was on during my time on Robben Island, I will mention that the island itself is quite unexpectedly beautiful. It is also a penguin breeding colony and home to more than 4,000 Jackass Penguins. In addition, the view of Cape Town is exquisite. I was able to ride on one of the outside decks of the ferry ride back, and it was absolutely gorgeous. You have a clear view of all of the main mountain ranges, starting from the left – Devil’s Peak (where UCT is located), Table Mountain (the flat mountain), and the Twelve Apostles (all the way to the right). Lion’s Head Mountain (the one I climbed on my first day in Cape Town) is the peak in between Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles, and comes down to the left into what is referred to as the Lion’s Rump (or Signal Hill).

I am still in the process of digesting everything I saw and learned yesterday. The significance will only continue to grow with me as I continue reading Long Walk to Freedom and live in this country. I recommend the tour highly to all who visit Cape Town, but only if you take the time to learn about South African history, apartheid, and Robben Island before you go. It is only then that you will, as I have, begin to grasp the true importance of Robben Island.

Hope Is What Dies Last

Here is an example of some of the work I am working on, helping with, and am constantly exposed to during my internship with PASSOP.


Written by Junior Mayema, PASSOP Volunteer

Life in South Africa as a gay black foreigner is a horrendous nightmare. Well, many days I wish it were just a nightmare. But it is the reality for me. This reality is one full of intolerance, discrimination, and prejudice. I am a refugee and a gay activist – this is my story.

I fled my home after my mother tried to inject me with a syringe full of gasoline when she discovered that I was gay.  After leaving my mother’s house, I began living with my father and I attended Bandundu University.  I became friends with other gay students at the university and began to date and experiment.  During this time, my father saw a picture taken of me kissing another man.  After confronting me, my father and mother forced me into a “healing process” run by a pastor.  I was made to fast for days in order to expel the “devil spirit” out of my body.

When I did not change my behavior, my father spread the news of my homosexuality to the community.  Local boys began to beat me.  I was particularly weary of a notorious group that hunted homosexuals.  My friends and family shunned and banished me. My life was in danger and I had nowhere to go, so I came to South Africa.

I came full of hope that things would get better; that I would be able to live my life without fear of being persecuted for who I am. And in some ways I do feel safer here than I did in Congo. But after being here for a year, I can honestly say that this hope did not come true.

Life is tough here. Firstly, there is a lot of homophobia in the Congolese community in South Africa. When I first arrived, I lived with my cousin. When he found out from my family in Congo that I was gay, he kicked me out on the street. My mother ensured that no other family member in South Africa took me in after that. Since then I have moved around a lot, living with different Congolese people, but the story is always the same: once they detect that I am gay, they kick me out.

I also lived in some shelters and there I experienced xenophobia from South Africans. Even some members from the South African LGBTI community were not helpful. Their priority is to help South African LGBTI individuals, but other LGBTI refugees, like myself, have less access to support groups and assistance. It is tiring to be reminded every day that you are ‘not a South African’, and it hurts even more when it comes from other LGBTI people.

I wish I could just get to my feet and find a job. But finding a job in South Africa is tough enough as it is; trying to find a job as an openly gay foreigner is close to impossible. I have been looking for a job since I came here and I felt that most of the managers were judging me by my ‘gay’ physical appearance. Although the South African constitution protects LGBTI people from discrimination, homophobia is deeply rooted in South African society. The majority of South Africans, like in most other African countries, think homosexuality is a western culture emulated by some African youths who are being recruited by white sugar daddies into homosexuality.

What can be done to change the desperate situation that I and countless other LGBTI refugees in South Africa are facing?  Changing the culture of homophobia is difficult, but it has to be done, step by step. More people need to start campaigning against homophobia within our communities. We need to raise awareness and take action against xenophobia and racism in parts of the South African LGBTI community. We need to create a shelter or accommodation for LGBTI refugees in South Africa to help them get on their feet. We have to build up a job referral system for LGBTI people to tolerant or ‘gay-friendly’ businesses and managers.

It is unlikely that things will get better in the near future. Yesterday I got kicked out by yet another Congolese host, on my 24th birthday. But hope is what dies last.

First Day at PASSOP

Yesterday was my first day as an intern at PASSOP, and I am already in love!

PASSOP is a not-for-profit human rights organisation devoted to fighting for the rights of asylum-seekers, refugees, and immigrants in South Africa. “Passop” is an Afrikaans word that means “beware,” and they later added the acronym “People Against Suffering, Oppression, and Poverty.” The organisation was started by Braam Hanekom in his mother’s basement in 2007 and has since expanded to a full staff and office in Wynberg.

PASSOP is currently working on a variety of projects, which include LGBTI advocacy, disabled children support, solidarity education, monitoring the dispensation of Zimbabwean refugees, and more. My project right now is to write articles about members of the LGBTI community who have fled to South Africa in search of a place where they can safely express their sexuality. Through their stories, we hope to expose the reality that Cape Town (and South Africa) is not the haven it claims to be while pushing for better LGBTI rights for sexual refugees. We are planning to publish these stories into prominent magazines.

The refugees I am writing about have such unbelievable stories, it is a wonder that many of them are still alive and made it to South Africa. But my fascination with PASSOP doesn’t end with just my project. The PASSOP staff is unbelievable and many are immigrants themselves. I was only at work for two hours, but I feel like I have already learned so much just by listening to my new co-workers and absorbing everything around me. Braam drove me and two other interns home, and during the drive he did a radio interview over the phone! He spoke about the new policies the South African government announced a few days regarding Zimbabwean refugees. He is listed as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Leaders in South Africa, and after only spending such a little bit of time with him I can see why.

I work again tomorrow and I am really looking forward to what another day has in store for me. This definitely won’t be your typical internship! My work with PASSOP will help me connect so much deeper with my new home while at the same time giving me firsthand experience with the field I hope to work in after college.

For those of you who want to learn more about the organisation, here is their website: http://www.passop.co.za/



Side note: All four of the American University students studying here at UCT decided to intern with PASSOP. Is anyone surprised?

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!