A cultural insight

So, a lot more time has passed than normal as I get more and more busy – both with work and with having fun!

Last time I spoke to you, I promised some kind of cultural enlightenment/interesting aspect of life from this part of the Southern hemisphere, something that is different to me talking about floating coal or being a generic tourist in Cape Town, so here goes…

  1. A minibus called a Maxi Taxi (says it all in the name really) is crammed with people to well beyond capacity until there are at least 5 people sharing 3 seats and then a man leans out the window and whistles, shouts, yells and calls out to try and attract yet more people into the vehicle. Definitely wouldn’t pass English health and safety standards…but at around 50p a journey it is hard to say no.
  2. Township
    South African idioms for dummies:
    • Braii = barbeque
    • Howzit = how are you?
    • Cheers = bye (confusing…)
    • Just now = at some point in the future, yet to be determined
    • Yar/yip = yes
  3. On a slightly more serious note, there is a huge divide in wealth throughout the city and country. There are areas with great wealth and then there are shantytowns with corrugated iron roofs, limited electricity and poor sanitation. Beggars are everywhere you go and are clearly just a part of day-to-day life here. At each set of traffic lights (AKA robots) there is someone trying to sell you bin bags, newspapers, fruit and of course the Big Issue, but this is just a tiny part of the significant poverty that seems so peculiar in what must be a very affluent city in general terms. Whilst going on a tour to a township last weekend, it was clear how happy these people are despite their hardship. They are incredibly house proud and their houses are immaculate and they smile all the time, something which I think much of the Western world could take note of when we all moan (me included) about daily struggles that are just a drop in the ocean compared to having to share a toilet with 20 other people for example…

Lovely views on the beach at Langebaan
Lovely views on the beach at Langebaan
There you go! I have tried to portray a glimpse of some interesting aspects of life I have noticed since being here and I am sure more will pop up as I go along.

The research at UCT is still going well and the project is progressing well with still 4 weeks to go! Recently, we all attended a poster presentation at a Minerals Processing conference in the city to gain further exposure to this area of research.

Every spare opportunity is spent trying to explore as much as possible and this has included a long weekend (thanks to National Women’s Day) away to a place called Langebaan on the West Coast with my family. It included some fishing on the lagoon, unfortunately catching nothing, and cruising around on the motor boat (it’s a hard life here…).

Then this weekend, I have spent time catching up with my girlfriend, Maddy, who has come to visit me and volunteer at a children’s hospital! We have had an awesome time being tourists on a bus tour around the Atlantic coast seeing some breathtaking beaches, seals jumping out of the water for fish and sampling some tasty local seafood (such as fish called Kingklip!).

Gates at Robben Island
Gates at Robben Island

Big spider at Botanical Gardens
Big spider at Botanical Gardens
Last Sunday, we all went to Robben Island on a tour to see where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years, which was both interesting and heart wrenching, but the views back towards the city were amazing (see photo).

So I have blabbered on once again, but I hope that the slight change in topic has made for some interesting reading.

Catch up again soon where I can chat about some planned activities such as Great White Shark cage diving and a 3-day safari near Port Elizabeth.

Still envious of my time here?! Then keep in touch to hear all about it with hopefully some good photos!



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