Posted on November 23rd, 2009
The excitement and array of things to do in Cape Town has kept the 27 of us busy exploring and enjoying every minute of these past few weeks in South Africa. We’ve ventured out into open air markets, traveled along the coastal peninsula to beaches and a penguin colony, hiked the overlooking Table Mountain, met Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and much more. The local rail line has been a great resource for us to explore so a few friends and I spent one of our days off soaking up the local beach in the town of Fishoek.
This past Friday morning our group traveled into downtown Cape Town to St. George’s Cathedral for a 7:15 am service where Archbishop Desmond Tutu presided over the service. It was an amazing opportunity to meet a man who took part in speaking out against apartheid and who is also a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. A few students and I had heard him speak at James Madison University 2 years ago but I think it is safe to say we have so much more interest and appreciation for his efforts now that we have our hearts in the country of South Africa.
Saturday morning a group of 15 of us students were led on a hike up Table Mountain by my host parents. We began our climb at 6 am to get a head start from the heat and appreciated those few hours when the sun began beating down. When we reached the top and captured the whole city of Cape Town, the 9 hour day of hiking was worth it. After a good night of rest, we had another fun filled day on Sunday. We spent the morning at our host family’s church service and followed with the South African tradition of a braai. It was a great time for us to spend outside in the beautiful weather and connect with our host family. In the evening we ventured out to the gardens of Kirstenbosch for an outdoor concert with a performance by South African native, Johnny Clegg. The amazing music and beautiful outdoor atmosphere put a great close to a fun filled weekend here in Cape Town.
Since arriving in Cape Town, we have had the privilege of taking lectures at the University of Cape Town. The lectures occur every Monday and Wednesday morning from about 10:00 until noon. So far, we have been taught on the topics of Apartheid, the history of Islam in the Western Cape, cape slavery, and the history and settlement of the cape by Shahid Mathee, Nigel Worden, and Zwelethu Jolobe. All of these speakers are professors at the university, but are also very involved in book writing and political speaking. In fact, earlier in the trip we studied a book written by Nigel Worden. As a result, we have found the lectures to be very detailed and quite informative. Personally, the most valuable part of these classes has been the question and answer periods that follow the lectures. The professors are very willing to take on any and all the questions that we have in order to clarify and give context to what they have just spoken about. It is also a good way to better grasp the complex issues and difficulties that South Africa has struggled with throughout its history. Believe it or not, it has been nice getting back into the classroom setting! After the lectures, our group stays to discuss the book we are studying, a bible passage that has been assigned by Harlan, or simply our schedule for the days ahead. Around 2:00 we hop on trains, buses, taxis, and cars and make our way back to our homes in the suburbs.
- Justin Reesor
We had to get up early this past Friday, that was if we were to take advantage of an opportunity to meet Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who played an important part in the ending of Apartheid. So we got up early finding our way to the Cathedral downtown in any way we could. Those of us who were lucky were given rides from our host parents while others took the trains and taxis. Now, we knew there was going to be a service of some kind and were pretty sure that he would be presiding over it, but nobody knew quite what to expect.
We filed into the cathedral arriving in small groups. The church appeared empty at first. Then we noticed some activity in the front and to the side in a smaller sanctuary. We learned that this was where the service would be held. There were only 20-30 people there besides our group of 27, but we didn’t see Desmond Tutu anywhere and began to wonder if we were in the right place after all. All these thoughts subsided when the service began at 7:15 and the man we were waiting for came striding to the front. It was a beautiful service, simple and intimate. Afterwards, he shook everyone’s hand and let people take pictures. Then, he changed his clothes and headed down the street to have coffee with his friends.
- Philip Tieszen