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7 posts from August 2011


Jou Lekker Ding

There are three things Cape Townian's love: Table Mountain, Ajax Cape Town (the local soccer team) and the Stormers Rugby Team (also called the Western Province team when they play in local competitions).

On a cold and rainy night, the CIEE Cape Town Fall group took a trip down to the Newlands Rugby Stadium to see the Western Province take on the Sharks, one of their fiercest rivals from Durban.

For many of the students, this was the first time that they had seen a live rugby game or even seen the sport. As South Africa's most watched sport (and its most successful), it was imperative that the students get an outing and experience the local rugby culture. Boerie rolls (boerewors or sausage rolls) were sold at every stand, and  "WP Jou Lekker Ding*" posters were being displayed by all the Western Province fans and at every tackle, the crowd cheered. 

The rain tried its best to dampen the spirits of the supporters, but nothing can stop a Cape Town club when it is in the mood - especially if the rubgy is some end-to-end stuff. The Sharks had the lead from the onset although the WP boys managed to tie it.

Late in the game, the boys from Durban managed to seal it with a drop goal but that did nothing to silence the crowd. Rugby differs from football in certain respects: whereas football losses are taken personally, club rugby is more inclusive and as long as the other team played better, fans are content to go home with their heads held high. 

The latest CIEE Cape Town outing managed to expose the students to another aspect of life in RSA. Sport is integral to national identity and nothing runs deeper than rugby. With the Rugby World Cup fever soon to descend on RSA, the Western Province-Sharks game was just a taste of things to come. 

*"Jou lekker ding" is an Afrikaans term that means "You good/awesome thing".


Image courtese of

The Old Biscuit Mill: Another Cape Town Adventure

On sunny days in Cape Town, one has a number of options. The beach is always a firm favourite, especially Camps Bay and Muizenberg. A ride in Tokai Forest or a hike in Newlands Forest are also available for the more adventurous persons. If it is achievement that you are after, Table Mountain is must. Kirstenbosch is always on the cards if you want to laze amongst Mother Nature's beauty and if it is a Sunday, a trip down to Mzoli's in the Gugulethu township is a definite must. 

If what you are after is a slow Saturday with an old-school folk market feel to it, look no further than the Old Biscuit Mill located in downtown Observatory. 

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The Old Biscuit Mill is full of fresh produce and exotic food that will set your taste buds on fire. Open on Saturdays, it is a good place to purchase arts and crafts supplies, something tasty for supper and one of the trendiest places to socialise and soak in the relaxed Cape Town atmosphere. Breads, cheeses, wines, sandwiches, roasts, pies, ice-creams and a whole lot of other farmstyle and homemade dishes are on display. Gluttony comes easily here.

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The Old Biscuit Mill has become a firm favourite as a Saturday outing in Cape Town - hundreds of photographers parade the stalls looking for street photography shots, and people of all ages descend on it all manner of dress. It is a colourful and vibrant place, full of life and distinctly Cape Town.

Nursery House took a Saturday out of their month and took a trip to the OBM. As a place for relaxation, it is nearly unmatchable: good music, good food, friendly people and a surprising amount of sunshine in Cape Town's winter. 

For the students, the OBM offers a more relaxed side of Cape Town, somewhere where they can just hang out. From now on, you can be guaranteed that if the sun is shining, the OBM will have some more willing patrons.


Images by Remy Ngamije.

Winetasting at Neethlingshof

A popular highlight of the CIEE Cape Town calendar each and every semester is the winetasting tour in Stellenbosch. This year, the Fall group was taken to the Neethlingshof Wine Farm and given a tour of its facilities and allowed to sample some of the vintages that it makes.

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The tour began with a circuit around the farms crushing plant where raw grapes are sorted into their various colours. Then it was on to cold wine cellars where around R21 millions worth of wine east stored (above). The wine cellars are where the wine can be left to mature for up to two years. Stacked on end, in a giant cellar, the racks of barrels was an impressive collection of merlots, pinotages and cabernet sauvignons.

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After the tour of the wine cellars, it was time to taste the wine. The students were given basic wineasting etiquette (the wine swirl, letting the wine breathe, sipping through pursed lips and spitting instead of swallowing the tasting sips). Two merlots and a sauvignon cabernet were on offer, Neethlingsof's finest. 

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The wine industry of the South Africa is one of the most robust in the world and nowhere are in the country are wine tours more famous than the Cape. The winetasting tour allows the students to experience an old tradition in South Africa and to sample some of the best wines that each wine farm has to offer. For the CIEE Cape Town Fall Group, the winetasting tour was one of the many cultural experiences that they have had in their time here. 

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Images by Remy Ngamije. 

Mzoli's: Township Style

South Africa's social landscape changes from place to place: there are the extremely rich and affluent areas, small seaside towns that could be out of any postcard (and most often are), there middle to upper class neighbourhoods with kids riding bicycles up and down the street and there are of course, the poorer areas where the streets are made of broken concrete housing materials are scavenged from any available resources. 

These less affluent areas of Cape Town are reare explored or interacted with to a large extent. Their distance from the main city centres as well as the stereotype that accompanies them renders them inaccessible to tourists and most locals alike. All in all, there are very few opportunities for most people to get some experiece of township life. Enter Mzoli's.

Located in Gugulethu, Mzoli's is a restaurant (but not) that has gained the reputation of being the best braaihouse in the Western Cape (if not the country). From the sight of it, it is no more than a small brick house with six large fireplaces where meat is braaid. It is more than this though - it is one of the few places where the different cultures of Cape Town, whether affluent or not can mix freely. The combination of food, music and lively entertainment provide an environment that all Cape Townians descend upon on Sundays. Nursery House's excursion to Mzoli's proved to be an exciting affair, rich in experience and pleasantl heavy on the gluttony.

For many of the students, it was the first time that they had gone to Mzoli's - the bus ride there took them out of the comfortable and familiar surroundings of Rondebosch and took them to a place where the normal amenities of life (their quantity and quality) were luxuries. Walking around Mzoli's exposed many of the students to how other Cape Townians, who are not as privileged as them, live. Though there are numerous social commentaries that could be made about Mzoli's, it is the relaxed and perpetual party atmosphere of the place that makes it memorable despite its surroundings. 

Nursery House's outing to Mzoli's was just another adventure that the students on the Cape Town Fall Program will remember for the rest of their lives. 


Ocean View: Home Away From Home


View of the ocean and of Ocean View from my temporary home stay parents bedroom. 

As part of my study abroad program (CIEE) students are required to spend a weekend in Ocean View, an underprivileged colored neighborhood in Cape Town.  As I said in a previous blog post, the people who live there were moved from various neighborhoods around Cape Town during the 60s and 70s when white people decided they wanted to live in their neighborhoods.


Overlooking Ocean View.

Many host families took their students to show them the houses in which they grew up. These houses were in places like Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town, which are towns right on the coast that now host beautiful summer homes. It is crazy to see how close Ocean View is to these extravagant summer mansions on the coast. One man I spoke to, who was forcibly removed from Simon’s Town when he was ten, dated a white woman for three and a half years during the Apartheid, but her father forbid them to marry. Years later after he had separated from his white British wife, that same father married a colored woman.


I’ve seen many townships since I’ve been here, and I was honestly expecting to spend the weekend in a one or two room house with a family that had little plumbing and no electricity, but the families that we stayed with lived in small but cozy houses with running water and full electricity. The house I stayed in had three bedrooms and a bathroom. My roommate, another CIEE student and I had a room to ourselves. We unknowingly kicked their 19 year old son out of his room, but he didn’t seem to mind too much. The bathroom consisted of a toilet and a bathtub, so we did everything that you would usually do in a sink in the bathtub. It was surprising to realize that something as simple as a sink is a luxury, yet I had no problem going without one. A bathtub does everything a sink does, it’s just a little bit closer to the ground.


My bedroom for the weekend. 

My roomate Katy and I stayed with the Corker family: Veronica and Cedric, their three children Elreza (age 24), Elrenzo )age 19), and Elretha (age 12), and their granddaughter, Schyler (age 4).


Schyler in the Corker family’s living room. 

They are a deeply religious and close knit family. Veronica just quit her job because she said she had a calling from the Lord to do ministry work. Cedric is self-employed and does construction work and odd jobs. Veronica says because their house depends on a self-employed salary, their well-being is very closely tied to the ups and downs of the market, and they tend to fall on rough times every now and then. Elreza has a job in a factory that makes high end outdoor gear and is like the South African version of The North Face. Elrenzo, who graduated from high school last year, works at Pick n’ Pay, a popular chain of grocery stores.  


I wasn’t expecting to see such a close community in an area that is so wrought with crime. My host mom for the weekend explained to me that everyone here knows everyone else. This means that when her son was robbed of his cell phone a few weeks ago, it was probably by people that he knew.  When they held him at knifepoint they were wearing balaclavas, so he couldn’t tell who it was, but it’s very possible that he said hello to them on the street at some point the very next day. Even with poverty and crime the way it is, people still watch out for each other. A few doors down from where I stayed there was a family of fourteen living in the exact same 3 bedroom house I lived in. My host mom was joking that they must take shifts when they sleep. A few children of the house stopped by and we gave them food, and my host mom explained that one was a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome and the other was a child of a tik (crystal meth) addict. It’s common for the children of tik addicts to be neglected, and so the community will take care of these children. Several other students in my program mentioned that their families took care of “lost children” whether it was providing them with a meal on a Sunday afternoon, giving them pocket change, or taking them into their homes full time. 


Tik is what they call crystal meth here, and there is a major crystal meth addiction crisis in Ocean View. Everyone there knows multiple people addicted to it, and many have passed through phases of being addicted, including my host sister Elreza. This crystal meth addiction problem breeds crime and violence, even within families. My host mom explained that though she allowed her brother, a crystal meth addict, to live with them for a few months, they had to lock up everything of value that they owned because he had a habit of stealing from his family (including their mother) in order to feed his habit. He couldn’t explain or control this compulsiveness to steal because his only thought was on where he could get his next fix.

 Alcoholism is also an enormous problem in Ocean View, and many students got to see that first hand. We stopped by a neighbor’s house at two o’clock on Saturday afternoon, and about 8 women were sitting in the living room drinking whiskey, and had clearly been doing so for several hours. Many of the host families took their students to parties throughout the weekend lasting late into the night. It was so much fun for these students to see an Ocean View party for the weekend, but it’s clear that in some cases the drinking is excessive and cuts into their daily lives.


Ice, the family dog, smells meat cooking in the kitchen. 

It is overwhelming how many issues are present in this community, and this was a colored township. The African, or black, townships, have many, many more problems. It made me wonder what could possibly be done to change the living conditions there, and how much time it would take. It’s honestly hard not to get discouraged by the ongoing list of factors preventing the children in this community from having better lives than their parents. As I’m studying international development, my future job will have to do with improving the crippling situations present in marginalized communities. But where do you start when there’s so much to be solved?


Caleb, one of the neighborhood kids who stopped by to see the white people, playing hide and seek in front of the house I lived in for the weekend. 


My temporary homestay Dad, braaing (grilling). 

Even though there certainly are many issues within this neighborhood, I wouldn’t want you to pity this community. I spent the weekend getting to know the community as people. The people who live in Ocean View are hard working and honest. Although I didn’t find this surprising, I think I should mention it as well. Ocean View families are just like every other neighborhood in the world.  Kids are kids, no matter where you go. Students participate in after school activities: there’s a high school band, a net ball team, countless dance groups (a South African form of hip hop is extremely popular), vocal groups, training for bicycle races, church groups and ballet. As a whole the community is a happy one. They watch out for each other. The father of my host family did the laundry and washed the dishes: men and women aren’t confined to their stereotypes. They share their food and their blessings. They say hello to everyone they meet in the street. They laugh and joke constantly. They welcomed us to their community with open arms. My host mom happily answered my never ending stream of questions, even when they got personal.


Pot luck lunch after church… Such yummy food. This was after everyone had eaten their fill. 

My host family took us to church, which was Pentecostal and a total culture shock. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that here in South Africa I am in the minority as a Catholic for the first time. It’s the first time in my life being Catholic hasn’t been the norm for my community. People are intrigued by my religion, but I’ve also found myself having to justify it for the first time. It has forced me to think about why I chose to be Catholic. Before church on Sunday, my host Mom warned me that sometimes they were called the “happy clappers” and that it might not be like the church that I am used to. That was a major understatement.


One of Ocean View’s two primary schools, where church took place. 

Most of church was very long passionate songs, and the audience participated and yelled responses like “Amen” to the pastor as he preached. Two of the most unusual parts of the two hour service were at the end. First, the pastor called all the men up to the front of the church, and had the women of the community gather around them in a circle and pray for their commitment to their wives and families. It was nice to see such an emphasis on commitment, but when the women got up to pray for them they stood in a circle yelling their prayers. Some became so passionate that they began to cry. It wasn’t like any experience of prayer that I’ve ever experienced. Instead of being peaceful and consoling it was loud and chaotic. At the end of the service, the pastor called up a specific boy from the congregation. He was 19 ,just about my age, and had impregnated a girl without being married. The pastor explained this to the entire congregation as the boy was standing in the front. He said that the boy had been punished for 9 months, but now the baby was born and he had realized that he had done wrong, so he would no longer be “punished”.  By punished I think that meant in addition to being publicly humiliated regularly, he couldn’t play the drums in the church band. From what I gather playing the drums was his passion, so maybe this was a hefty punishment. I know I felt humiliated even watching his personal life shared with the entire church as well as about 10 American outsiders. He didn’t look particularly happy to be up there, but he wasn’t surprised either…Well. That’s one way to dissuade teen pregnancy.


Katy, Schyler, and I at the Sunday lunch with the church community

I’m really frustrated with this post because I don’t think that I can put my experience this weekend into words. I learned a great deal about problems prevalent in disadvantaged areas, but I also learned so much about the meaning of community. There was a lot that was discouraging to see, but so much of what I saw was positive and inspiring. These people haven’t had 5% of the opportunities that I have, yet they are still so optimistic about their futures. Every day that I’m here I appreciate everything I’ve been given more and more.


Family gathered by the fire after dinner Saturday night. 

There’s so much more I couldsay about my weekend, but this post is already almost three pages single spaced, so I think I’m going to stop here. If any of you have any specific questions about anything, I’m so so happy to talk more about this weekend. Living with a family in Ocean View was a completely different experience from driving through it. I learned so much and I am very thankful that I was able to participate.


Michaela Gaziano is a student from Villanova University.

The AMA-zing team dinner at the Africa Café

The first week of orientation at UCT holds a special event that fosters team bonding, friendship building, and most of all a hungry appetite. The AMA-zing race is a campus wide scavenger hunt that our team of ten conquered even while running up and down the mountain we like to call campus. The prize for first place was an all expenses paid team dinner at the Africa Café in downtown Cape Town, one that last Thursday night we all enjoyed greatly!

We arrived at the Africa Café in style with our team Leader Moyo Ngubula in pre-arranged transport to and from the restaurant. We were escorted to a private room upstairs and started the night off with a delicious selection of local wines and fresh juices.

We were excited to hear that our entire dinner would be a semi-blind tasting as we did not order from a menu but rather were served a variety of dishes the restaurant places on their prepared menu, which just so happens to be on the sails of the centerpieces. The restaurant is based on the idea that one should experience the flavors of Africa all at once and we definitely did! From Cairo to Cape Town and back again the food kept coming and our taste buds were fully impressed.

We sampled seafood, vegetables, and a variety of meat dishes prepared in a countries particular style while the server explained to us their differences and ingredients. One of our favorite dishes? The first course bread plate that included Vetkoek, a fried spongy bread that is slightly sweet, warm, and reminiscent of a delicious doughnut. For both vegetarians and meat lovers alike the meal was a great success.

The Winning Team
It pays to be a winner: The winning team of the AMA-zing Race at Africa Cafe. Photo by Helen Boyer.

Our faces were painted, the staff put on a marvelous show, and hospitality was at its best. This restaurant is truly about experience rather than eating, granted that part is amazing too. Our team had fun catching up and I think I can speak for all of us in saying that all that running really did pay off in the end!


Iona Musgung is a student from the University of Oregon.


A Return to Ocean View

Ocean View

Each semester, students in the CIEE Cape Town exchange program are sent on a three-day homestay in Ocean View, a Coloured township outside Cape Town. Nestled near the sea, Ocean View is distinctly different from the greater Cape Town metropolitan area and the middle class suburbia that the students would have gotten used to. It's smaller for one thing, and slightly less well off. But none of these things deter the Ocean View community from offering their own distinctive brand of hospitality.

Last semester, it was an adventure of note to have journeyed to Ocean View for the first time. Staying with my host mom was just like being at home. I was pampered and fed beyond gluttony, which is an absolute luxury when you're a student at university. I was given tours of the small community and even managed to do some volunteer services for the church in Ocean View. All in all, it was a truly enlightening experience. I am glad that for many of the students who went on the Fall program have the same positive views to report.

"It's so good that we were taken out of our comfort zone" a student in my house reported, "it is easy to slip into the mistake of thinking that all of Cape Town is one homogenous environment of clubs and high living - Ocean View exposed me and my housemates to a different way of living."

Though poor and underdeveloped, Ocean View is a bustling and vibrant community of Coloured people that were relocated there during South Africa's Apartheid era. The racial dynamics of the settlement are no secret and its history is rich with stories of forced removals. Just being in the place shows you how differently people were treated across the racial spectrum. "I've already been to Nyanga and Langa (Black townships in Cape Town) and they are very different from Ocean View," another student reported.

The way of life in Ocean View is slow and relaxed; any excuse for a good party is seized upon with delight. When the newest group of exchange students rolled into the small seaside town, the host families made sure that they were given a genuine Ocean View welcome: day-long braais and parties that last long into the night.

It's always good to experience something different from one's ordinary lifestyle when abroad. The favelas of Brazil are a popular tourist attraction, showing a different face to one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. Places like Ocean View offer the same insight into Cape Town and South Africa, places which are often shrouded in sometimes misleading commercial facades.

With all of the students having safely returned from their Ocean View homestays, the stories will start rolling in thick and fast. Be sure to catch all of them online.


Remy Ngamije is a student from the University of Cape Town.