Archive 2008 - 2019

Semester in Cape Town: Part 2

by Bella Tobin

As part of the orientation to Cape Town prior to the start of the semester, we went on Thursday to Langa and Robben Island. They were really interesting, but Langa was something that is impossible to experience any other place. I was exposed to the extreme poverty of South Africa,


For miles and miles there were shacks made out of metal or any other material they found. Each shack, which is the size of an average bathroom, houses an entire family. Those who don’t live in shacks have houses or apartments and each bedroom fits two families. The adults share twin beds and the children sleep on the floor, which was made out of concrete. It was dirty, cramped, and falling apart. They cook the food in the bedrooms on tiny stoves. There were stores, coffee shops, and restaurants along the streets, also out of shacks or crates. The barber shop was in a place similar to a Pod (the things used for storage), and the bar had a bucket of beer.

We  spent some time at a daycare in the township playing with the kids. They were so much fun and were so excited to have us. They sang and danced for us and were really good.  One girl even played the drums and I was really impressed with the performance, considering their young age. I felt that they were more mature than most children in America. After they sang some songs in Xhosa (I think that was the language) we sang the Itsy Bitsy Spider. After we got to say hi to them, they immediately started crawling all over us, jumping on our backs and wanting to take pictures and try on our sunglasses. They didn’t speak much English but it was so much fun.


We left the waterfront on a ferry to go to Robben Island, which is right off the coast. It is named for being the island of seals but I only saw penguins. The island held a prison for years, and Nelson Mandela was there for political crimes. We got a tour from a previous inmate which was pretty neat. It was the first prison I’ve seen so I don't have much to compare it to, but learning about the history was really interesting. It’s amazing how recently it got shut down, the political criminals were released, and the apartheid ended. I can’t imagine any of this coming from the states and it's a priviledge  to witness an important part of South African history.
At night a bunch of us went to a club called Tiger Tiger that was mostly white South Africans. They didn’t like Americans as much, but the club was a great experience.

Yesterday I went to a beautiful beach called Camps Bay. The water was so blue and the city was really pretty.  There was a strip of shops, restaurants, and clubs right by the beach. The sun is intense sun here.  At night we went to explore Long Street, which I imagine is comparable to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It was very busy and the street was lined with bars and clubs. The dancing here is different, and everyone is really good at it. I just watched and enjoyed the good company.

(photos copied from internet sites)

Comments (3)

Hey Bella, happy you're enjoying South Africa and being safe. Seth Ader, the producer who oversaw all of ESPN's World Cup coverage, told me some great stories about how he decided to present South Africa, including the story of Robben Island. Here it is, with the film.

Lisa Eisenmenger | 2012-02-15 22:34:49

I did go swimming! The water is around the same temperature as the beaches on Cape Cod. The current comes up from Antarctica, which is also why there are penguins. Muizenburg, which a beach to the south, has warmer water since I guess there is a different current, but it is much windier. Camps Bay and the beaches on the northern shore of Cape Town are less windy, and the weather and scenery is comparable to a Carribean island.

Bella | 2012-02-04 13:13:55

What an amazing experience, Bella. Thanks for sharing it with us. Enjoy every minute of it. Did you go swimming? Is the water warm? Enjoy

Pat Duffey | 2012-02-03 08:34:27