Meet, Greet & Painting the Town Red

By Dane Glen, Ellee Chambers and Frank Navarrete 

Each day, at least two from our little gang of daring adventurers will put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or Vlog in order to give their thoughts on the transpired day; a reflection. Frank and Ellee (WT Staff member and Wellington High School student respectively) join us for Day #2 of the Cape Town study abroad trip. Jet lag and four hours of sleep hurts. All light hurts, a slight sting behind the retinas. Eyes puffy and swollen with travel, we slowly blinked and squeezed them shut multiple times to adjust. Our disorientated minds limply jogged behind, wheezing down the path of a morning to which we are unaccustomed. Welcome to the first full day abroad.

Little Scotia Guest House

Food. Water. Coffee. The latter was a priority, the middle a necessity, and the former a demand considering the snack of a dinner on the plane, that is if it was eaten at all. We were all asked to be ready by 8:00AM. Yes, in the same AM in which we went to bed. A full day ahead of us. Hence the coffee. We sat down, dined on the breakfast buffet, fueling up for the hours to come until bed. Take your run-of-the-mill, Motel 6 continental breakfast and throw it in the garbage (fitting, really). Our daily morning munch consisted of fresh fruit, breads, meats, cheeses, potatoes, and a hot meal menu. No bagels or Texas-shaped waffles for us. Many of us talked about the day ahead. Some reflected on the arduous plane ride. A few of us discussed what to expect, with returners hyping up the upcoming excursions. Sightseeing aside, we had a job to do, plain and simple, and despite a tank low on energy, we were eager to meet service organizations and their respective leaders for which we would be working.

Bellville Primary School/Building Bridges

The shuttle pulled up to Bellville Primary School, hallways silent as students were out for holiday. Sunlight soaked into the empty grounds, heating the dormant blacktop. All of us piled out of the vans and into an office for Building Bridges, a nonprofit “that provides psycho-social, educational, and skills-based support to children facing extreme poverty and a lack of community programming” (pulled from their website @ - check it out). Anthea Jansen (director) and Mickayla Smith (assistant director) gave us their version of the site’s mission statement, “unique in a way that they show passion and love they have for the students” (Frank). They told us what they would like from us. We agreed. it's go time... next week. For now, we strategize. What’s our strategy? Well, it involves [insert commercial break here]. Guess you gotta wait to find out.

Langa Quarter and Township 

Townships are costumed by society; drapery derelict with a sordid swagger. This negative connotation has spread among the ignorant and continues to encroach. For those in-the-know, such as the five of us who returned to Cape Town, we knew better. That societal jumpsuit stitched-n-sewn over the past several decades wasn’t by their doing - another conversation for another time (see *Apartheid). Point is, perception and reality vastly differ. Take Langa, the oldest township in Cape Town, a place we know #value lives. Social entrepreneur and resident of Langa, Tony Elvin, believes in the worth of the Langa community is overshadowed by ill-constructed shrouds. His plan? Show the world otherwise. But let’s start with the community, Cape Town, and the tourism scene first. Tony walked/introduced us around. The “people were ringing in the New Year with a smile and a warm welcome”, said Frank, who recalled the vibrant, hospitable faces around the Langa Quarter. And here we are, to help Tony, and more importantly, the Langa community, to show the value that’s been hidden underneath assumptions and stigmas. Stay tuned. There’s more to come.

Red Bus Premium Tour! 

After we met with Building Bridges and Tony, we made our way to the waterfront, Cape Town’s prime tourist real estate. From posh to globally recognized to local and unique, the waterfront has a store built for all tastes and wallet sizes. As for food, we found anything from fast and calorie-packed to "boogie" by the bay to grill-n-chill staples. We ate a quick lunch and climbed aboard a red double-decker bus, minus England and moved several thousand miles south. The bus tour is a nice synopsis of the tourist/historical/currently significant spots of the city. Plug in a pair of dollar store red-and-yellow headphones into a built-in jack on-board, and the abbreviated history of Cape Town comes alive; synchronous with passing buildings, unique landscapes, and monuments to man and woman. From downtown to beach-side, to vineyards, we witnessed the start and current state of Cape Town.

Ellee, still enthralled with the landscape, said “the views were breathtaking, it was something we had never seen before. The ocean was absolutely stunning with Table Mountain in the background perfecting the scenery.” And we witnessed a lot. Too much...well, too long, actually. Traffic during Cape Town’s summer is insane. Despite the unusually long time aboard the double decker bus, we found solace in selfies, groups shots, silly poses at sunset, and sleep. Okay, only one of us slept (evidence sadly erased), but regardless, we had a great time; “an amazing day filled with lasting memories” Ellee says, filing away snapshots into her mind’s photo album. Riding the coastline, sun-setting over the Atlantic, we vibed with the radiant waves, feeling life emanating from the sun as it slowly dunked into the ocean. Speaking of, please.

Fat Cactus and Lights Out!

All sixteen of us flooded into Fat Cactus, a local TexMex hotspot/franchise. To summarize: drinks - amazingly refreshing; food - tantalizingly satisfying; atmosphere - tastefully Spaghetti Western. Highly recommended. We got back to Little Scotia and parted ways. Full bellies, lack-of-sleep, and the promise of sleeping-in the next day lured us to our respective beds. We tucked ourselves under the covers, snug as a bug, scrolling through social media until our eyelids closed for business. At least for the day. Until tomorrow, Cape Town...

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