TRAVEL REFLECTIONS - SOUTH AFRICA
My time in South Africa is officially coming to a close. While there are many things I’m looking forward to getting back to in the States (i.e. friends + Starbucks), leaving Cape Town without knowing when I will return is not an easy thing. Life isn’t always the simplest or the most efficient here, but the people and culture are so beautiful. Here are my observations and reflections from these past four months in South Africa.
My Cape Town vs True Cape Town
It’s important to realize that the Cape Town I’ve shown you on my blog and in my instagram posts isn’t representative of the lives that the majority of the locals live here. On the drive from the Cape Town Airport to the city, you pass Khayelitsha - the city’s largest township. For tourists that haven’t travelled very far outside the Western world, the living conditions, even from afar can be shocking. But locals know that this poverty is just a reality of Cape Town and South Africa as a whole.
My photos of beachside restaurants, the V & A Waterfront, or Table Mountain views capture the opposite extreme of the wealth disparity in this city. The American dollar goes a long way in South Africa and I definitely took advantage of that these past months as well as during my study abroad term. And while I would encourage other tourists to do the same in order to maximize their enjoyment of this beautiful city, I would also caution them to remember their place as foreigners and to never lose sight of the reality most locals face day-to-day.
This does NOT mean that as a tourist you should visit an orphanage or a township to do one day of charity work. In fact, that can do more harm than good in many cases. It simply means you should treat all locals, especially those in service positions with respect. And do your best to politely decline beggars but don’t ignore them completely. You are a guest in their country.
Cape Town is full of amazing experiences that people from all walks of life should be able to enjoy. But the shadow of racism and socioeconomic disparities is something you must be aware of along the way.
Highlights vs Lowlights
My South African experience was primarily spent in Cape Town - Christmas at Cape Point and wine tasting in Stellenbosch being a few highlights. But I also had the pleasure of getting to see the beautiful, green Midlands and a diverse array of wildlife in a road trip across the country! But life in South Africa also came with some challenges. Random power outages due to loadshedding, road closures due to protests, and the extreme drought in Cape Town to name a few. While these things are annoying in the moment, they are just realities here and you have to embrace them with all the other amazing things you get in addition.
The lowest point this trip happened a few weeks ago when Anthony and I were robbed on our walk to the supermarket. Two men stopped us, took money from my purse, and ran. They were not armed as far as we could tell and we were lucky to not be hurt in any way physically. In Cape Town, this is about as “ideal” as a mugging can get. Most of my friends here have experienced something similar but often involving weapons. This type of experience could easily turn someone against Cape Town. But I can’t let one major low point damage all of the highs I’ve had in this city. It just serves as another reminder that wherever you travel, you are a guest and in that way you are somewhat vulnerable. Therefore, you just need to do your best to keep your guard up and when something does go wrong, don’t let it ruin your entire trip and definitely remember that you are not the one to blame.
Things Cape Town has Taught Me
Go with the flow.
People use A LOT of water on the daily.
I am very dependent on electricity.
The enrichment that a diversity of religions, cultures, and wealth bring to a city outweighs the resulting conflict.
Bonus Fun Facts
86% of South Africa’s population is Christian.
South Africa has over 10 official languages.
8% of the South African population is White. 16% of Cape Town’s population is White.
80% of the land is used for agricultural purposes.
For more quick facts about South Africa click here.
I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend such an extended length of time in Cape Town. I learned a lot and I’m happy to share more of my experiences. Comment any questions you have or additional Cape Town blog posts you would like to see!