Day two – ate a caterpillar…
We were up early this morning to meet Xolani our tour guide from Uthando at 9am. Morning nazi had some trouble getting the family moving but I got them out of bed eventually!
After a beautiful breakfast at the hotel served by our smiling friendly hostesses, we jumped into our minivan for a tour of some the township projects that Uthando helps to support.
Xolani gave us a rundown of South African racial history as we drove out through the suburbs of Cape Town and past the various townships. Jessica was a surprisingly attentive audience as we wound our way through the streets.
The first of the projects that we visited was a centre for women and girls that ran different types of educational and arts programs. We took a tour of the centre and then made the obligatory stop in the craft store where we bought some jewlery to support the program.
The second stop was an organic garden right in the heart of a township that grows food for some of the local luxury hotels. When we asked the woman if people ever broke in and stole vegetables she laughed and said: “people don’t see the value in vegetables – sometimes they come and steal our tools or the cooking pots.”
The third stop was at a daycare centre where groups of very adorable tiny children sang us some songs. We left our donation of crayons and books and clothes there with the administrator. Grant will be happy to get the soccer ball out of his bag!
The final stop on the tour was a dance studio. It was amazing to see a bunch of very enthusiastic young people receiving free dance classes – all funded and suppilied through the program. Some of the students have been able to use dance as an opportunity to travel outside South Africa and dance professionally or teach. At minimum, it gives the kids a safe and productive space to be while their parents are at work. something every parent wants- especially when there are few other options available.
The tour was a wonderful experience, though I did feel a bit awkward wandering through the different projects. I had thought we would be able to get out and walk through the township a bit more, however, after speaking with the owner of our hotel and witnessing the bits that we did see while driving through, I’m kinda glad we didn’t. Apparently the heavy rains last night would have destroyed many homes: a mini-catastrophe that happens often throughout every winter. We would have witnessed people trying to salvage things and put their homes back together. A bit much for Jessica.
As it was we got a very thorough oral history of the racial and political issues here, and saw the general scope of the logistical problems the townships are dealing with; along with enough detail to make it pretty real. Jess took it all in and, halfway through the trip, said: “Thanks for booking this Mom, I needed to see this. It’s important.”
Xolani dropped us off at our hotel and hugged us goodbye. We wandered back down to the waterfront to get lunch. On the way we stumbled across a sculpture studio and got an impromptu tour of the foundry – very cool! Couldn’t afford any of the bronze – never mind the shipping – so we moved on.
For lunch we decided to try the marketplace that has stalls full of all types of food. Jess got a pretzel and a bubble tea and Grant went upstairs for some noodles. I spotted a kebab shop that sold different types of meat and decided that was for me! I had a kebab with Impala, ostrich, crocodile, and warthog. While I was waiting for them to finish grilling it, the guys convinced be to try a Mopane caterpillar. Disgusting! I only ate half but barely managed to get it down without gagging. That sucker was CHEWY and I had a solid mouthful… And no drink in front of me to help wash it down. It tasted like dirt and what I’d imagine leaf mould would taste like. The two guys were watching me gleefully and taking pictures of my face with my phone.
The kebab was pretty good – I’m still not a huge fan of crocodile. The guys laughed at me for substituting Impala for zebra – couldn’t eat a zebra but would eat Mopane!
After lunch we headed to the aquarium. It is a wonderful aquarium! We saw penguins and sharks and turtles and frogs – you name it. It’s very well done and is definitely worth the couple hours to walk through. We hit the reptile park afterwards which wasn’t much to see – cost a couple bucks to see ten or twelve snakes in small cages.
Now we are sitting in the closed marketplace while two lovely women (one EXTREMELY personable) have stayed an hour past closing time to braid Jessica’s whole head – so she wouldn’t be “disappointed.” Very sweet of them! They are about to finish and we are going to head for dinner.