As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a six week internship here to do legal aid work in order to help women who are victims of domestic violence.
I had the first few days free to settle into my new home and learn my way around the area and oh boy is there a lot to learn.
I am here with my friend Maya and my flat mates are from all over the world and are also volunteering with various projects in Cape Town. I am very glad that I got the chance to speak to some of the girls that have already been here for longer than I have early on as they really taught me a lot.
Speaking to them I realised that I had completely underestimated the crime rate here in Cape Town. Having grown up in Scotland it felt almost strange to be told not to take a 60 second walk home in the dark, however I learnt that there have been interns in the area who had been threatened to hand over their belongings by gang members who had either been holding guns or knives. I felt extremely naive after hearing this and I am now sure to stay alert and aware at all times.
Otherwise, the city is breathtakingly beautiful and unique and I consider myself very lucky to be able to experience living here.
On the second day, Maya, Julie (our new friend from England) and I took a bus tour of the city (typical tourists... I know). During this we went wine tasting and were amazed to find that the most delicious and well made wines here are sold at the equivalent of £4!
We also discovered how amazing coffee tastes here and how many lovely coffee shops there are.
We were also taken on a tour of an informal settlement area which is where people who are struck hardest by the extreme poverty reside. Although we gave them money in return for us being shown around, there was something unsettling about going to look at their area as if it were a tourist attraction. For us that was not the intention at all. I had only ever seen photos and read online about the townships and I knew that whilst I was here I wanted to fully experience the city and all of its reality. I can see how it may be easy to take a holiday here and convince yourself that this is a luxury destination, which it can be, but there are definitely less fortunate people living in shocking and heart wrenching situations and I think it is very important to acknowledge that.
I can definitely say that seeing the conditions that these innocent people are living in with my own eyes was incomparable to seeing it through a screen. I was blown away and brought to tears by what I saw. When we told about how those living in wealthy mansions just across the road were complaining that the township residents were creating too much noise and were waking their horses in the night it really made me wonder what happened to humanity and compassion. At the church in the township a little girl had made a beautiful bracelet to sell to us which I warm heartedly bought.
Being there really made me realise that back home in the UK it is very easy to get caught up in society and advertisements of huge corporations and end up thinking that you need material things in order to look better or feel better or make some sort of impression and people often become addicted to material things due to believing that they will bring them joy or improve their lives and along the way they lose touch with humanity. I am not saying that I am not at all materialistic, however this experience was a huge eye opener for me and really proved to me how important it is to force yourself out of your comfort-zone in order to grow as a person and gain a wider perspective of the world.
As it is currently winter here the weather has not been great but I will post an update again next week about my work and everything else that I am experiencing. Until then I hope you have enjoyed reading and here are a few photos from my first few days.