Speaking and Listening

One of the greatest skills a person can possess is knowing when to speak and when to listen. Many conversations happened during my trip to South Africa. Some of them I agreed with and others, I had a difference in opinion. I found that all people every want to know is that someone is listening to them. Everyone has a story no matter their background and everyone deserves the opportunity to tell that story without interruption. There were many people who just wanted their story to be told so that maybe the rest of the world could understand them just a little bit better. Communication of how people are living their lives is being blocked between different parts of South Africa. Many people who are well off do not want to hear the sad stories of the people who are going hungry and are living in poor conditions. The poor also may not listen due to being uneducated and not being able to see the whole picture. They just see what effects them directly and they do not realize how the whole is impacted. I have kept this piece vague on purpose.

Problems of communication are not just affecting South Africa, these mistakes and misleads of communication affect every country in different ways. As stated byCarl Rogers in his writing, “Communication: It’s blocking and it’s facilitation”, he hits the nail on the head on what blocks most communication. He talks about how people judge and approve or disapprove of a person upon meeting them. When a person allows for this natural act to occur and gives no thought to their predispositions, then communication becomes effected. Communication is also affected when their is high emotional attachments to a topic and this does not allow for a person to understand the other point of view.

The one specific topic I will speak to, in terms of communication, is the topic of race. In South Africa everyone openly discusses what sets them apart and makes them unique but it all steams from pride. Everyone knows who they are and the embrace and celebrate their differences. There are emotional attachments when someone is talking about their culture but they do not allow for their emotions to cloud their communication with another person. This is very different from many countries, especially America, where it is almost tabu to talk about a persons race openly or without people becoming overly emotional. In America we want to see everyone as being equal and the “same” but we should be celebrating diversity more so then placing everyone into the same box. South Africa has a way of talking and understanding one another’s differences and it is beautiful to see. Perhaps one day my home country will be able to celebrate how melted together it is just like South Africa.


Wine Doesn’t just come from Grapes

When most people think of wine, they often think of the grapes that make up it or the beautiful view that surrounds the vines. Often the people that create that amazing bottle of wine are forgotten. This however is not the case at Solms Delta Wine Estate in Franschhoek South Africa. This winery is celebrating their past and educating people where their wine comes from. Their wine has been made for years by many families that have lived there. Many years back, the farm was worked on by slaves and over time they just became people who lived on the same land and worked it. The owner Mark is a professor and bought the land in 1994. When he realized that these families had not been given education or compensation, other then wine, for their labors; he decided to change how the farm would operate. He turned this once fruit farm, into a winery and vineyard. He also gave the children of the families access to education and after school care. Half of the wine profits go back to the people who tended to the land. Mark also has a small music museum on site to show case different instruments that the people played throughout the years. He had found these instruments throughout the farm and gave these them back to the people. Now there is a musical group of workers that preform from this vineyard.

After tasting the amazing wines sold here, we left for the Huguenot Monument located not far from the vineyard. This monument was built to commemorate the french protestants who fled their country for religious freedom. There is a museum that has artifacts from the people who journeyed to this part of South Africa. They journeyed to this part of South Africa in the 17 and 18th century. The monument stands for the religious freedom that they sought. monument The Huguenot’s where big on symbolism and some of the symbols that they would wear are seen in this monument, such as their cross and robes. Detailed information about the immigration of Huguenot’s to this part of South Africa and further ways of finding if your linage comes from this group of people can be found through their website http://www.hugenoot.org.za/begin-e.htm

Food Speaks Volumes

I had the pleasure of learning about the Cape Malay culture on the 14th. Many tourists recognize these people for there beautifully painted houses. However most people do not understand why they appear so brightly colored. As we toured through the town we learned that these vivid colors were selected as a way of celebration. Right before Christmas, Eid, or a wedding is to take place, the family will go out and buy paint to ready the house. All of the houses used to be just white but once colored painted was created, the Cape Malay people saw this as an opportunity to make their culture stand out to all of the rest. Families would save up their money to be able to paint their home in any color that they fancied. Right before the two holidays or a wedding, the men would go out and touch up their home with a fresh coat of paint or just touch up the trim. The entire tradition was most important when it came to weddings. In Cape Malay culture, the grooms home is to be made clean and have a brides room prepared inside of it, where the couple will live after getting married. This room is one of pride and all of the families and neighbors would come to see how it was decorated and displayed. To make it simple for finding whose home was preparing for a wedding, the outside would be freshly painted.

Bow Cap

After we had toured their town, we were invited to learn how to learn to cook their food. Food shares a lot about a persons culture by telling a story about who they are and what makes them unique. The Cape Malay people treat everyone in their community as family and every event and celebration is brought together with food. All of the women make the food and bond together while preparing it. Their food also tells a story of where they came from because most of these people, long ago, had been brought over from Indonesia, other parts of Africa, and Malaysia. Recipes and traditions came with these people and over time mixed into the culture that now lives there today. Through food, the women found a way to bound and get through hard times. If someone passed away, all of the women would get together and make food to be able to talk through all of the pain but also to celebrate their life. These women would also teach one another and allow for their children to learn from one another, despite their differences. The women of Bo-kaap have also used their skills of making food to sell out of their homes for extra money. Some women will sell rolls, others will sell chicken or sweets, and this all helps their families.

We learned how to prepare samosas, chicken curry, chili bites, falooda, flat bread, and tomato and onion sambal. All of the same spices are used throughout each of these dishes to make each one pair well with the other. This also allows for the palate to enjoy the seasons and not be overwhelmed by too many different flavors. We used masala, fennel, chili powder, cumin, and coriander.

I love cooking with my family at home and cooking with these amazing women made me think of that. This is a way of bounding that allows for people to also try new things and explore new flavors. I had a wonderful time getting to know the stories of Bo-Kaap and the flavors that are also associated with it.

Making the most of your Travels

Have you ever traveled somewhere and were eager for the experience? You were so excited and ready for the adventure and then when you finished your trip you left wanting more? You felt the the tour, trip, activity was just not what you planned or it was underwhelming? This is something that happens to many people who often travel. Whether traveling within your own country or traveling internationally, Authenticity can be difficult to find the entire experience. Authenticity takes many different forms when traveling. One of the first forms it can take is the location of where you are. If you travel internationally, the question is always, “Are the places that I will be visiting a good representation of the people that live their? Or am I just going to where all the other tourists go and missing out on the full cultural experience?” When you meet someone who has pride in where they come from and they want to tell and teach you all about it, you know you are talking to a local in the area. From the locals, you can learn more about their daily life, where the best locally grown and made food is, and you can learn what makes their country stand out from all others. Authentic people genuinely want others to understand and respect their culture.

While in South Africa I have seen authentic representations and non authentic representations of the country. Some of the most authentic experiences where when we walked through the Soweto and Alexandra townships. The gentlemen taking us around the townships were prideful in where they grew up and wanted nothing but to see their people happy. There was so much love and joy in those places that it was heartbreaking to see their living conditions. Other ways this trip has been authentic is through the tour guides and their knowledge. In all of the city tours and the guided museums, the guides have been knowledgeable and willing to answer any questions. They all have had vast knowledge on both sides of the arguments and have known a lot of details about their history. Some of the most inauthentic places have been the most tourist places. Robbin Island, Table Mountain, Cape Point, Yes these places are amazingly beautiful and defiantly worth going to, but at the end of the day they do not highlight the culture of the locals. Further unpacking this, Robbin Island is lead by an former inmate who tell his story of his experience while imprisoned on the island. This part is truly authentic and is emotional information that no one else can ever express. However, we you are touring the prison there is not as much detail given and your time spent looking around and reading is quite limited. Table Mountain and the other outdoor features that Cape Town has to offer, gives the most amazing views of the beauty of this country. However there are a lot of tourist at these places and it can be more difficult to enjoy the beauty with so many other people around. You also do not get much of a history behind these natural wonders and how they have changed over time. If you go to a country expecting to see how their culture is different and what makes them who they are, you must do more then just the tourist activities.

The Government that Differs

Today was an adventure around the parliament of South Africa. The government runs in three parts, the executive, parliament assembly, and judicial. The public votes on the national party that will run the country. Once the party has been decided, the party votes on who will be the president of the country. Each province also votes on which party will represent them in the parliament assembly. This is very different from the democracy in America. In America the people vote on who will become the president of the country, and there is one candidate from each party on the ballot. In South Africa there are also 17 political parties and in America there are 3; democratic, republican, and independent.

One of the most unique parts about the parliament is that each section of the parliament, which is 3 different spaces, has a different staff. When the room is in session, the staff is present. However, if the staff is not present and there are people meeting in the room, the session is not valid.

Below is the room you see when you first enter the building and it is where the president sits when he is in the parliament. The president can run up to 2 terms and each term is 5 years in length.

This term of leadership is longer then that of the United States. In the U.S. the president an be in office 2 terms as well but for 4 year each term.

The more I learn about their government, the more I want to know and the more questions I have. I find that my question center around the current president Zuma. He seems to have upset many people but everyone is excited and looking forward to the election coming up in 2019. He has been a controversial president just as ours has been in America. Politics however is not something I will be touching on or discussing further then what I have mentioned above.

Stories in the Middle of the Sea

Today was a new type of adventure. We boarded the ferry to Robbin Island this morning and the sea was calm as could be. Seals were swimming about and there were many birds flying around. It was a 30 minute ride to the island and the sun was shinning high. Once we got off of the boat we walked to the front of the prison, we met a former inmate. He gave a talk on his experience there in the prison and also background on the conditions that were faced. He, like many inmates, worked in the limestone mine that was located nearby. This caused him to have different health problems later on with his lungs and eyesight. In the prison they were given mats and a small table with a cup. The food was given out according to race and colored people got bread and the black people got what they called an “energy drink”. The inmates would share their rations with one another and make sure that everyone ate the same amount. The inmates were allowed to play sports and they would cut slits in tennis balls to place messages inside. Once the messages were inside, they would hit them over the wall of the yard and send them to inmates that they were otherwise separated from. The conditions improved throughout the years as the prison stayed open because of international help and as laws got better defined. Letters could be sent to the inmates but only from South African people, they would also be censored and could not exceed 500 words. The rest of the world sent letters to the people in prision, but they were never received because they did not want to give the prisoners hope. After listening to the prior inmate talk about his experience at Robbin Island, we got in a bus and toured around the island to see the island. 212 people still live in the village on the island today and they take the ferry to go to school and work everyday. Once that tour was finished we boarded the ferry once more to return to the main land.

In the evening we had a guest speaker who used to be an inmate at Robbin Island and his name is Lionel Davis. This man was imprisoned the same time the Nelson Mandela was there. He told us his story and the hardships that he faced. He was imprisoned at a much early time then the inmate that had spoken to us at Robbin Island. During his imprisonment, he was not allowed to receive letters or family visits. He lived in isolation and was housed in the same section as Mandela. They were never allowed to talk with each other and they were only allowed out for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. During this time they could walk in a circle in the yard and that was it. He lived on that island for 10 years and once he was released, be was under house arrest for 5 more years. This ment that he could only be outside from 6am to 7pm Monday’s through Friday’s. They were not to leave their house after hours or on the weekends. He could not have visitors and could only talk to one person at a time. He could also only go to places like th movies or grocery store but was not allowed to attend church. This time was one of the most difficult times in his life and once he was completely free from house arrest, he took up learning art. He now enjoys drawing in his free time and creating art for his own joy.

Both of these experiences were eye opening and filled in more of the timeline. It was amazing to see the contrast between Robbin Island and the prison in Johannesburg that we toured last week. I was expecting more from the tour however because the prison toured previously was an extremely in-depth experience. There were also many parts of the prison on Robbin Island that we did not have the opportunity of seeing and that would have been nice for comparison. The stories shared will continue to live on even as this generation continues to fade.

The Day of Travesty

The film Today was a day of learning about the miners massacre that occurred in 2012. We watched the film and had dinner with the director Rehad Desai. This film was entitled Minors Shot Down, and it was a rather eye opening selection of film clips. The film suggests how this massacre was not a mistake and that a decision was made 2 days prior that the police should shoot the miners even if they were walking peacefully. This attack took place on August 16, 2012 and killed 34 people and 270 miners were injured. The lady who spoke on behalf of the police force said that due to violence, shooting the miners involved was the only option in terms of defence. This however was a false statement because the miners who were protesting had few weapons and just used spears to beat together as beats for protest songs. They were not violent. These miners were also sitting on the side of a mountain for their protest and they were not blocking any road way or harming anyone. All they wanted was to speak to their management about higher their wages to improve their living conditions. The trails to come after this massacre asked the police officers “who started the shooting?” This led to no answers, and there are still no answers today. Since this massacre, the men that lost their lives, their wives were offered their jobs as an act of reconciliation and the mine pays for their children’s school while they are away working in the mine. The mine is actively running today and still has many years left of platinum to be mined. This mine is also valued as one of the most expensive. The director of the film felt strongly about this moment in history and was their during the event as it took place.

This tragic event brought light to the corruption of the government and the police force. This is a topic that I will continue to explore while visiting cape town. I will also be exploring the difference in diversity here and the cultural differences. This place feels like a version of southern California as opposed to Johannesburg that felt more like a version of New York City. More pieces are starting to come together and the timeline is starting to make more since in terms of the history here.