Cape Town, Johannesburg, Stellenbosch and SoWeTo
This is a special post because I lived in Cape Town for four months and worked as a human rights advocate for the Legal Resources Centre. (See my "Causes" page for more info!). In addition to sightseeing and traveling extensively throughout the country, working in the three capitals, townships and informal settlements was just as much of an enriching adventure. My journey brought me through safaris, the townships of SoWeTo, wine country in Stellenbosch, whale watching at the southern tip of the continent, the prison on Robben Island, and so much more. I got to know the heart of South Africa in an intimate way and experience it on a deeper level than if I had just hit the highlights over a few weeks time.
Where do I begin?! Cape Town reminded me of home in Malibu, California with the beautiful beach and consistently warm weather even in winter. Most tourists quickly become familiar with the Nando's food chain because the Peri-Peri sauce is good enough to make a vegan want chicken. My apartment had an incredible view overlooking the famous Tabletop Mountain (known for its distinctly flat top) and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean coast. I quickly fell in love with the city.
Every morning I would take a commuter bus to work in downtown. That's when the false sense of security wore off, and I got to experience some of the more typical realities of living in a dense city. On my first day, I couldn't access our building, because the block was closed off due to a bomb threat. On my second day, I made it to my office, but was asked to come back in a week because they had just experienced a robbery and all the computers were stolen. Not easily discouraged, I finally started work in my second week. I learned a tremendous amount about South Africa's history and approach to tackling immigration issues, women's rights and sustainable housing development for the poor. I got to visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner for 27 years, the Human Rights Commission headquarters, and the SoWeTo (South West Township) neighborhoods in Johannesburg.
It wasn't all work however! On the evenings and weekends my coworkers and I made excursions to other cities and enjoyed everything South Africa has to offer. I became a rugby fan (Go Springboks!) and fell in love with the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of the continent. We also did a short 3-day safari tour and saw all the Big 5 animals in their natural habitat. We went on a wine tour at the Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch and, my personal favorite was visiting a Cheetah sanctuary where I actually got to pet the cheetahs (excited squeal). Thank You Cheetah Outreach, I'm a huge cat lady!