Posted by: Naima | January 19, 2009

Ain’t No Half Steppin

First, a supplementary track for your ears:

Okay, now hello from Cape Town!

After about a month of putting off packing and then realizing that I shouldn’t have put off packing and then rushing to get everything packed, I’ve arrived. I decided to leave early for Cape Town so that I would be able to wander the streets a little bit and soak up things before everyone in program gets here. I tend to get a little overwhelmed when I have to get take in new environments and people all at once. I’ve been staying with my uncle, aunt, and cousins for the time being and while I wandered the main boating pier with them, I was taken back by how beautiful this city is. From almost any spot, you can see Table Mountain – a large mountain that is named for the large white cloud that often covers it like an impressive table cloth.

best-view-of-table-mountain

I spent most of that day with my mouth agape, looking up as Table Mountain seemed to follow my every step. My uncle explained to me that trolleys suspended in the air with wire take passangers to the top of the mountain most days. These last couple of days have been beautiful. Its sunny and the only cloud in the sky has been the one that folds over Table Mountain. Unfortuately though, it has been very windy, so much so that the trolleys that tour the mountain top have not been running.

Cape Town has so far proved to be familiar at face value while very new when evaluating the social infrastructure. It is a very metropolitan place, perhaps the New York City of South Africa, but the inequities of apartheid still linger. While the city is about 95% black, there are many areas where one would be hard pressed to find faces of color. The reason for this, as explained to me by my family, is due to the fact that most black people in Cape Town have little to no expendible income. The minimum wage here is 6-8 rand/hour which is equal to about .60 – .80 cents in the U.S. Even more shocking, is that people can live off of that little. As I listen to my Aunt speak about the lack of opportunities for Blacks in Cape Town, the need for redistribution of wealth, and how there is not one organization that is comparable to the United States’ NAACP, I keep thinking about how different the timetable is when comparing the fights for equality in the U.S. and in S.A. The fact that our country is still trying to figure out an effective way to facilitate financial stability for all people doesn’t necessarily bode well for the South Africans seeing as apartheid has ended just 15 years ago. It has only been about two days and this city has already proved to be incredibly complex. I am excited to see what more there will be to learn from this trip.

The rest of the students on my program arrive tomorrow night and we will all meet for orientation in the morning. I have been getting more and more excited about the classes I will be taking and the explorations I will surely throw myself into. What’s equally exciting are all the adventures my friends are on around the world. And while I miss Bates, I will trade 70 degree weather for 3 feet of snow most days.

Something else that happens tomorrow: the inauguration. Like many other parts of the world, Barack Obama is more than an icon here. More than ever, I am proud to be an American. The oath to protect the constitution will occur on live television here and I am so excited. I was able to get some tickets from the republican Maine senator, Olympia Snowe, before I left for break. Obviously I can’t attend, but my parents will be going instead. And while I am definitely insanely jealous, I’m pumped that I was able to send them both to the inauguration of the first Black president of the United States of America – and I will be keeping an eye out for them in the crowd.

Peace and then some,

Naima

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