It’s Heating Up in Cape Town

After a week of rain and clouds, the sun and blue skies have finally returned to Cape Town. It’s amazing how beautiful this city can be—when the weather is actually nice. This past weekend was very relaxing, and the break in the weather allowed us to enjoy the sights of the Cape. Saturday afternoon, I went on a wine tour with several of the other students living in my lodge. Although I have already traveled to the renowned winelands of the Western Cape, I got to visit some new wineries and see some different scenery. The highlights from the day include a winery that had unlimited wine and cheese for only 12 rand ($1.50) and another winery that uncorked a bottle with a saber! (I got a really cool action shot of it.) I have to admit that I still can’t tell what is “good” wine, but I enjoyed all of it nonetheless, especially the prices.

Sunday morning, the two other Duke students and I headed to the J.L. Zwane Church and Community Center (www.jlzwane.sun.ac.za) in the Gugulethu township to see Mel (the Duke Divinity Alum) preach. When I first walked into the Church, I was impressed by the building. Since it is located in the townships, I expected it to be a bit run down, but it instead was a large well-equipped and well-decorated brick building (we later learned from Mel that it was built in 2003 by the University of Stellenbosch, ironically the university where the concept of apartheid was first developed).

The church service itself was a bit interesting. Most of it was spoken in Xhosa, so I had absolutely no clue what was going on. It was especially frustrating when, at the end of the service, the head of the church gave a thirty minute speech about self-empowerment. Thankfully, he threw in a few words in English so at least I had some idea of what he was talking about. It was interesting, though, to see how the Church service became an opportunity not just for religious celebration but also for community gathering and improvement. For me, however, the most memorable part of the 2 hour long service was the music. Everyone in the Church was actively singing along, and it was by far the best Church music I have ever heard.

After Church, we went with Mel to visit one of the families that she has become close with over the past year. The mother has taken seven foster children, including one with disabilities. She has to care for them herself, since her husband left her. It was truly an eye-opening experience to meet these kids who have gone through so much yet still maintain a positive attitude and are excelling in school.

When we left their house, we headed to Mzoli’s Meats for lunch. Located in the township, Mzoli’s has quickly become a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. It is truly an experience. You go into the butcher’s room, and select how much meat you would like. They then weigh it and place it in a bowl, which you take outside to be grilled. When the food is cooked, it is placed in another bowl and ready to eat—without plates or silverware. The meats—steak, chicken and sausage—were incredible, and I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty and bringing out my inner carnivore.

Visiting the townships again was such a sobering reminder of the stark gap between rich and poor, black and white and just how deeply these inequalities are embedded in everyday life. It’s ironic how one day you can enjoy the beautiful, nicely manicured wine estates of Stellenbosch, and the next day drive through dirt roads past one room concrete houses and shacks. South Africa is truly a land of contrast.

Monday, I finally hammered down the details of my research plan for District Six. I have set a timeline for my work and have started the data collection phase. I will try to post my research template to give a better sense of what I will be up to.

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