I spent five months in Cape Town with eight other Gordon students. As a social work and sociology student at Gordon, I was very excited to spend a semester abroad in South Africa. Throughout the semester I learned more about myself than I ever imagined I would. In Cape Town we took classes at the University of Western Cape and also volunteered at local nonprofits in the area.
Here I'm sitting on the balcony off of my room. Behind me is Table Mountain, which was a pivotal landmark in my time spent in Cape Town. The mountain is clear in this photo, but sometimes there were so many clouds the mountain was hardly visible and other times there was a single cloud over the mountain, called "the tablecloth". We saw many sunsets over this mountain and even a few rainbows.
We lived in this building on the "main road." The main road spanned various miles throughout diverse neighborhoods and different social classes. At one end of main road was Camp's Bay and Clifton, where there are million dollar homes overlooking the magnificent view of the ocean. At the other you find small tin-roof houses in desperate need of repair. The large inequality present in Cape Town and in all of South Africa was something I noticed when I arrived. Seeing a mansion a few miles from a shack is alarming and reveals very starkly the growing inequality in South Africa. In the United States we distance ourselves from inequality, but it still remains.
I walked down Dublin Street when I went to my volunteer site. I volunteered at Haven Homes, a nursing home for the elderly who are homeless or have low income. I had the chance to speak with many residents and discuss what factors led them to become homeless and wind up there. I discovered that homelessness knows no race, religion or gender.
Through interviewing the clients I learned a lot about the large affect apartheid policies had on their lives. For example, many elderly women I spoke to worked as housecleaners and lived at their place of work. That meant when they were too old or sick to work they could no longer stay at the house. These women have no place to go if they cannot move in with their families and thus usually end up living on the street until they are connected with Haven Homes, which provides them a permanent residence.
During my time in Cape Town I was able to attend an Anglican church. In one of the classes I took, my professor and his wife were both priests. They invited us to attend their church, and the congregation welcomed us by inviting us for dinner. The people at Good Shepard were so kind to us, and I am thankful I got to know them. Through the relationship with the church we were able to have intriguing conversations about South Africa and The United States. I also appreciated the chance to attend an Anglican church regularly because I was able to learn more about this denomination.
This photo was taken at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, which is located around the base of Table Mountain. During our visit to Kirstenbosch I saw Cape Town in a new way. The garden encompassed so much beauty, of which this photo shows just a glimpse. The vast array of plants and wildlife was completely different from where we lived just miles away. It was amazing that this nature preserve was so close to the city center.
Visiting Kirstenbosch was just one part of my experience in Cape Town that made me realize I was living in such a unique city. Cape Town is a city that revolves around a mountain and is surrounded by the sea.
This was the first time I saw Table Mountain and its entirety from this view. I had seen the mountain from all different angles, but this was the first time I saw it face on. Being on Robben Island and seeing the mountain made me think even more about the beautiful view.
Nelson Mandela and so many other political prisoners during apartheid were imprisoned on this island. Every day prisoners saw this view of Table Mountain and Cape Town, which must have reminded them about what was going on outside the prison. Prisoners could only imagine what was actually happening in South Africa, though, because news traveled very slowly on the island. Prisoners wouldn't hear about events until months after they occurred.
When I saw the full view of Cape Town, with Table Mountain encompassing the city, I tried to imagine what the prisoners felt when they saw this magnificent view. I saw this postcard image with a different perspective after I left Robben Island.
During one of our long weekends, Hailey (a fellow student) and I were able to visit Victoria Falls. They were so amazingly beautiful and big! We visited the Zambia side of the falls in high water season, so there was a lot of steam from the water, making it impossible to see the whole span of the falls. At one view of the falls you get completely soaked. We also hiked down to the bottom of the falls, called the "boiling point." Not only was it amazing to see these gorgeous falls, it was also very interesting to travel outside South Africa, and it made me want to visit more countries in Africa.
During our spring break we had the opportunity to visit other parts of South Africa including Durban and Johannesburg. Seeing other parts of the country was very interesting and gave me a wider perspective of South Africa. This is a photo of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. This museum had extensive information about South Africa's history. It was very moving and helpful to see what we'd been reading about presented in such a manner.
This is a photo of the whole group on top of Table Mountain. We tried to climb the mountain for the entire five months of our trip, but because of rain, winds and clouds we were only able to get to the top as a group on the last day we were in Cape Town. It was great to finally look down upon the city we spent so much time in. The nine of us shared many memories together and really enjoyed each other's company. I can't imagine my time in South Africa without them.