Saturday, Nov. 1
(Happy Birthday, Dad, my biggest supporter!)
Cape Town, South Africa

So why, I asked, are many of the people in South Africa wealthy, their lifestyles modern, while much of the rest of Africa is poor and primitive?

The South African man looked at me, taking a few seconds to respond. “I’d never thought of it,” he replied.

Indeed, South Africa is a brilliant anomaly on this continent. (Why? I wasn’t there long enough to understand it entirely, but it has to do with the way the country was colonized; Europeans stayed there, while colonizers took from other countries and left.) In Cape Town, I enjoyed hot showers, washing machines and all the European and American food I could eat in three days. I also added the city to my list of Places I’d Like to Live.

Cape Town is absolutely beautiful, with ocean on one side of the city, mountains on the other. It’s paradise for the active tourist, with cycling, diving, hiking… The list goes on and on.

But the city also is interesting for another reason, one completely unrelated to the normal tourist traps: its recent history of apartheid. I knew little about the problems the country has faced, so I soaked up all I could about the struggle for equality. The city still seems to be in transition.

And yet for everything I learned about the racial tension there, I actually found it refreshing to be in an African country and see people of all colors hitting the bars together. (My hostel was on the main bar strip, so that was my reference point.)

A few highlights of my short visit:

Nelson Mandelas prison cell.

Nelson Mandela's prison cell.

* I took a ferry to Robben Island, which holds the former prison where Nelson Mandela, who would go on to lead his country, was locked up for decades. Part of the reason the tour was so fascinating was because the tour guide was an ex-political prisoner, and he shared details about his experience there. We got to check out the cell that served as Mandela’s home.

 * Below, you’ll see a view of Table Mountain from the waterfront, where I caught the ferry. Beautiful, right? Two days after taking this photo, I climbed the mountain, visited the restaurant on the top, then caught a cable car for the descent. 

View of Table Mountain from near the waterfront.

View of Table Mountain from near the waterfront.

* I spent one morning exploring the city via a walking tour — I was the only client, so the guide happily indulged my questions. She focused on city history and transition from apartheid — the tour was called “Walk to Freedom” — and I kept getting her off track by inquiring about modern life. I wanted to know about the city’s newspapers (seem to be respected by readers), price of living (cheap by the dollar), transportation (they’re building a subway). Here I stand in front of South Africa’s “White House.”

Lexi in front of the South African White House.

Lexi in front of the South African "White House."

 My absolutely favorite part of the city, however, was its food. Maybe I would have thought differently had I visited directly from the States, but after eating fufu and rice for the last four months, my taste buds were overwhelmed — in a good way.

I ate Mexican food — twice. Ice cream. Grapes. Green salad. Cereal with milk. Orange juice. Cheese. Pizza. And chocolate cake!

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