Many of us who had just finished our school program spent one evening at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens listening to the South African musician Johnny Clegg. Clegg’s sounds can probably best be described by imagining an ethnically South African Dave Matthews Band. We all brought snacks and local wine to this family-friendly concert with its unique backdrop.
The Penguins of Boulders Beach:
The Cheetahs of Spier Winery:
Hike to the top of Lion’s Head:
Cape of Good Hope:
Although I hiked to the top of Cape Town’s famous mountain only the other day, I could not resist returning to its summit to enjoy a clear sunset. Luckily, there is a shortcut to the top by means of a cable car.
Even on a clear day, the table cloth, an appropriately named layer of clouds that fly over Table Mountain every afternoon, appears as the rock of the mountain begins to cool. The clouds, the mountain, the ocean, and the city all make for an unforgettable sunset.
I didn’t get enough heights from my paragliding adventure and searched out that dizzying, gut-wrenching feeling caused by looking downwards from great heights the same afternoon after my Lion’s Head paragliding flight.
The recently built Cape Town Stadium is partially covered by a glass roof, from which we can see Table Mountain on one side, the Atlantic Ocean on the other, the sun above us, and the pitch below us. With the day being close to 40 degrees Celsius in combination with the reflection off the glass, we all feel like we are being slowly cooked. However, I do not come to this realization until retreating back down to a more natural height.
A fun fact about the stadium’s roof is that it is very flexible and ready for some of Cape Town’s windier conditions. The roof can flex both up and down as well as side to side to accommodate some of Cape Town’s harshest wind conditions.
Stefan says to me, “On the count of three, we will start running. And don’t forget to not sit down.”
“Right,” I reply. “I guess I’m ready.” I ineffectively try to wipe the sweat from my face on this scorcher of day.
I think of all the not-so-reassuring words that fellow flyer and classmate Matt has given me throughout the last couple days in preparation for this moment. “Even in the worst case scenario, at least there will be little pain.”
I’m waiting for Stefan’s count of three to begin any moment and it feels like I’m waiting forever. I find myself holding my breath in anticipation until I cannot hold my breath any longer because of my quicker heart rate. I tell myself that I get more than my money’s worth for these types of adventures assuming that the best measure to use is heart rate per dollar. My fear of heights causes my heart rate to scale quickly at such moments.
Paragliding Over Cape Town from Andrew Stein on Vimeo.
“One. Two. Three.” We start running and of course I begin to try to sit in my harness well before it is time. I receive a quick scolding and immediately stand up and resume running.
Before I know what has happened, we are seemingly weightless, Lion’s Head Peak is to our back and Cape Town’s coastline is ahead of us. We hit a small thermal updraft and climb a little higher before beginning our descent. Once I feel supported by the parachute above me, I begin to relax and couldn’t be happier that I was convinced to fly via paraglide over this great city.
In order to fully understand the many aspects of Cape Town culture, my classmates and I venture to Camps Bay Beach located just on the other side of Lion’s Head Mountain from our hotel to experience the city’s nightlife. Apparently, Camps Bay is a high-rent area where people go out to be seen, and although the drinks are still only about two dollars (20 rand), the atmosphere is young, loud and lively. Other hotspots in the city include the restaurants, bars, and clubs around Long Street.
Opposite of many other large cities, in the core of the Cape Town dwells the wealthy, and the “suburbs” are where the poor reside within townships. As part of the school’s immersion program, we spend an afternoon having lunch at and visiting one such township, the Langa Township.
Much of what we see there could be expected, but there are a couple surprises that I want to share. First, within the township, there are a variety of socioeconomic classes displayed. There are the large families who live in overcrowded, small tin houses juxtaposed to the smaller families enjoying fenced-in, cleaner-looking homes.
The second surprise for me is that regardless of where and how a family lived, many are in possession of seemingly luxurious goods such as nice televisions, stereos, phones, refrigerators, and even cars. Anything in need of electricity is powered with stolen electricity off the power lines.
Finally, the last idea that I struggle with while touring this township is the fact that these families are opening up their homes to let foreigners like us photograph their lives. They do receive monetary compensation for doing so; however, it still feels very intrusive and uncomfortable.
On the first day of our school-sponsored program here in Cape Town, each of the eleven teams is assigned to go out into the city and photography unmet needs that we find.
We all lather on the sunscreen, find our hats, sunglasses, and sandals, and head out to find what Cape Town is missing. All of us a little more tan and sunburnt than when we left, report our findings to each other over dinner. There are aspects of South Africa that qualify it as a “developing country”; however, Cape Town is missing many of those aspects. In other words, most of the obvious needs in the city have already been met. Consequently, most of us share photographs of areas desperate for shade and begging for more ice cream and lemonade stands. I am guessing that the photographs from other countries such as Ghana that were also visited by classmates might have a slightly different tone. Nonetheless, I am excited to be here, to explore this country, and to learn how business is done within its borders.
Being back in school has its many perks, one of which is the return of winter break. Not only does winter break mean that I can escape Boston for most of December and January to go enjoy much more reasonable climates, it also means that I can spend time with family, see old friends, and find a little time to travel. Break is filled with a quick post-exams trip to Vegas, followed by some Latka making and Chanukkah celebrating with the family, topped off with a trip over to Phoenix to cheer on Cardinal Football, and finally some time in the Bay Area to begin thinking about summer job prospects. Through school, I am then “required” to travel to Cape Town, South Africa. In teams of six, the whole first year business school class is sent to developing countries around the world to work with companies on weeklong consulting projects.
Because class does not start until the end of the month, I feeel that staying in South Africa for an extra two weeks beyond the program is more than logical. The choice is between below freezing Boston or hot, sunny South Africa. In Cape Town, on the scale of warm to very hot, the nights are occasionally cool, but nothing that a shirt and shorts can’t handle.