South Africa: Cape of Good Hope, Cape of Storms

Today the class went on a tour of some of the natural wonders of Cape Town. We saw the Cape of Good Hope and a penguin colony. Stunning plant life covered the rock faces and hills over hanging the cape. South Africa is home to what is geographically the smallest plant kingdom, but it is also one of the most diverse, comprised of 7,500 plant species in total! South Africa’s government is currently working to restore the fine brush native to the region, and is ridding the area of foreign and invasive species. In particular, the Australian Eucalyptus which, when fully matured, takes approximately 200 liters of water from the soil each day, far more than the ecosystem can afford. The government is not only removing certain species, but also all chemical treatments of plants. All the fruit and vegetables we have encountered were free of insecticides and pesticides. During the exploration of the natural areas we had a look at some of the disparities in housing that remain since Apartheid. Along the cape, the luxurious summer houses of the wealthy locals and vacationing Europeans are built right across from the shacks of those who attend them. During the drive, our tour guide pointed out an unfinished bridge in the banking sector of town. The bridge has stood unfinished for decades, because the Apartheid government, at the time the road was being built, had a more pressing need for the funds. The Apartheid government felt it had to demolish District 6, a residential area at the outskirts of town where the three designated racial groups were living together. After the fall of the Apartheid, the new government has decided to give all those whose homes were demolished the right to reclaim their land in District 6. The bridge still stands unfinished, not as an intentional monument by the current government, but because its own limited funds made housing their citizens a priority over finishing the bridge. As an accompanying note, all the locals we interacted with were always up for discussing their particular views on the current government and the transition. A remarkable number were involved with political organizations and various NGOs. The manager of a Kurdish restaurant we went to was a member of the human rights network that was involved in the human rights issues between Turkey and Iran.

~Ali Abid & Stephanie Lieberman

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