Posted in africa, travel, Uncategorized

The Tourist Factor- South African Relationship

It’s been a long week at university and nearing the end of the semester. Along with most students, of all shapes and sizes, races, cultures and ages, Jamie agrees. The

adjective ‘long’ is given to the week thanks to tests and assignments due, robbing students of some of their precious eight hours of beauty sleep. This is a common agent causing stress among this community of students at the University of Cape Town in the city of… Cape Town, as the name may slightly hint. Although, when the test is written and the assignment is submitted, we go home to a bed for some much needed R&R. Having just been paid that monthly allowance, why not a night out to celebrate with friends. A lifestyle we take for granted!

The university is a boiling pot of cultures, boasting people from almost every nation. Jamie Rood, is a UCT student hailing from England, the land of opportunity. It is afforded this name for the multitudes of Africans who are Europe bound straight out of high school. So why would a British boy come to South Africa to study?

South Africa happens to be one of the major destinations for all foreigners wanting to experience the ‘motherland’ first hand. We boast all the characteristics of other African countries in terms of wildlife and village culture, even if it is staged in some aspects in order to appeal to the tourists. Dancers in traditional wear, performing for tourist landing straight out of Europe.  The tourists think ‘this is Africa’ and walk by the performers who also live real lives and try to make a living. Tourists can have the ‘real’ African experience whilst still enjoying the modern infrastructure. Most are oblivious to the semi-staged reality and even if they were aware, their main concern is to go back home with a good conversation starter about ‘what the real Africa is like’ and ‘by some miracle not having contracted Ebola’, what a story. Tourists are labelled with this selfish badge quite often, seen as rich snobs coming to have a good time with their dollars or pounds. However, others are drawn back and decide to stay or study, which is the case with Jamie. He is in his second year of university but has been here for four years. He is one of many who pay their fees in pounds, dollars or euros which then circulate in the country’s economy. Thinking about this I become tempted to say the label becomes invalid, if not unjust.

   Screen shots from my video about the relationship between tourists and immigrants. On YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXC0nev6vss

Because tourism plays a much bigger role in society than the lives of university students. It impacts the whole of South Africa, crossing borders leading to the rest of Africa. This is because there is another side to people who come into South Africa. Apart from tourists who come into the country for leisure purposes, others come here not because they want to but because they need to and are in search of a better life. These are the immigrants from all over Africa, hoping to escape the poor conditions brought about by colonisation and poor leadership by some current leaders. Who wouldn’t follow suit if they were in such a position. After all, this is actually evident at a global scale with the current European refugee crisis being a prime example of this. In South Africa however, this immigration in search for work conflicts with the already work scarce country. Xenophobia is the manifestation of this and is a clear issue. Is there a need for this? Maybe, but on a wider scale, this immigration may only be temporary and resolve the bigger problem. People are connected to their home countries and don’t leave by choice but necessity. The idea being that once they have improved their lives they will go back home, providing jobs there and preventing others from having to leave their countries in this way. Then there is also the contested notion that competition is beneficial for society.

I had the privilege of encountering both sides of the spectrum. I gained a basic insight into the lives of both tourist’s type people in Jamie and also the lives of immigrants. I spoke to various immigrants, mainly at curio stalls around Cape Town, selling handmade arts and crafts to the tourists. Two of these immigrants shared a deeper story with me. Gabriel from Congo and Philip from Zimbabwe. Both of their stories were much the same in that their countries were economically unstable. In Congo, a war and in Zimbabwe, the hyperinflation with which the whole world is familiar. Yet with a true African, never say die attitude, in an effort to provide for their families, they made the trek to the closest tourist hot spot which would be South Africa, specifically Cape Town. What was striking was that Gabriel and Philip didn’t know each other yet both told me how vital tourism is to their lives and thus their families. Gabriel even has a degree in economics with which he graduated in Congo, although not even this qualification allowed him to get work at home. What is one to do?

Just as the sun rises every morning over the Atlantic ocean’s endless horizon, so does everyone with the need to progress in life, however endless that horizon may be. Whether as a student, tourist, immigrant or humble citizen in South Africa. Everyone benefits from everyone in one way or another. As Jamie the tourist buys a curio from Phillip, he uses this to buy food from a local resident in Gugulethu, who then pays for her child to go to school and the circle goes around. Thus it’s not impossible to say that this relationship creates a powerful force driving the people towards their horizon. Therefore the tourist can figuratively transform from a snob into a saint.

 

 

 

Posted in africa, travel, Uncategorized

Where the stars come alive… (pt 1)

 

The dew soaks seeps into my sleeping bag. My feet are freezing and my body forces me out of slumber time. My one eye opens slowly, the second flies open to make sense of what I am seeing. The red tinge of the sandstone peaks turns orange in the early morning sun. The cool breeze on my face and nothing but the quiet sound of the egrets and weavers fill the air, paired with the distant tinkle of the bells hanging from goats’ necks across the river.

I find myself on the banks of the Orange River where wild  grass grows as though it has been planted by a skilled gardener and in a  camp site to rival those fit for a travel magazine. I am here for a short break from the hectic hustle and bustle of Cape Town and University. my adventure is not because I had an urge to escape the city but because of passport issues. Now anyone who travels would know how central travel documents are when it comes to enjoying or hating one’s stay in another country. Being a Botswana citizen, at 21 and wanting to keep it, I had to renounce my South African citizenship as is the law in Botswana. However, it turned out to take much longer than expected leading to my passport expiring. Traveling on a non-citizens travel document meant I was to get a visa to enter South Africa, taking more time. With the visa, I would be allowed to stay in the country for 3 months but I had to leave on a strictly monthly basis.

My adventure started not because I had an urge to escape the city but because of passport issues. Anyone who has traveled will know how much travel documents can affect one’s holiday. Being a Botswana citizen, at 21 and wanting to keep my citizenship, I had to renounce my South African citizenship as is the law in Botswana. However, it turned out to take much longer than expected leading to my passport expiring. Traveling on a non-citizens travel document meant I was to get a visa to enter South Africa, taking more time. With the visa, I would be allowed to stay in the country for 3 months but I had to leave on a strictly monthly basis.

My first month was up and I needed a plan to cross the border. A concern was where I would sleep, how I would get there and how I would explain crossing the border and  crossing back the other way immediately afterward. The answer came in Umkulu Safari and Canoe trails. The camp is on the South Africa – Namibia border near the border post of Vioolsdrift in the Eastern Cape. Being the nearest border to me, only 680km from Cape Town, the next story was to get there. The best option, taking into account the finances of a student, was to get on the Intercape bus, a bus company linking Southern Africa with their routes. The ticket was reasonably priced at around R850.00. The deal seemed good, with the only downside being the duration of the trip. In a car, the trip would take around 6 hours whereas the bus it takes around 10 hours.

I made my way to the bus early on that Friday, beyond happy I had stayed in the night before, boarding at 10 am. The adventure had begun, so I settled into my seat for the journey. What I didn’t expect was the scenery. From the wide, endless plains to the mountain passes and rustling Karoo flora along the whole way. This along with good company made the time fly by. The road forms the Cape-Namibia route which links Cape Town directly to Namibia all the way to their capital of Windhoek. A good option for self-drive holidays as well.

Arriving at the border post around 10 pm I was ready to relax. As anyone could imagine, my documents were new to the officials and thus my attempt to cross quickly went anything but smoothly. With a bit of smooth talk, I got through and was on my way to the camp, standing on the back of a rattling pickup, flying over the gravel road with the cold evening air on my face. The night was dark but it was possible to make out some of the features along the way like sheer cliff faces that the road hugs at the bottom.

Upon arriving at the camp I was impressed. Beautiful lawns, sloping down to the river only 15 meters from the bar. The building style is rustic, incorporating wood, metal and stone. The beer was cold, the music was good and the food was delicious. The camp grows its own vegetables, meaning vegetarians are well catered for. Above all the staff were all welcoming and made me feel at home. Maybe too much so, as the night flowed on so did the beer carry on flowing. The morning was fast approaching and each sip of beer was colder than the last, sweet nectar. Clearly the next day would not be my best. Scheduled to get up at 7 am sharp my head only found the pillow at 3. 45 am. The next two days on the river were going to be very long and instill respect in me.Umkulu Bar (2)

End of Part 1

 

Posted in africa, travel, Uncategorized

Living another language

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“DEEP DARK AFRICA”- How Africa is perceived.

If Africa was a country and had a population made up of naked women and men in war dress, getting ready to go hunting for the African delicacy which is nothing other than primate meat of some sort. Captivating at least it would be, but to visit would surely equal a near death experience at the hands of an indigenous tribe nestled away in the deep jungle. Enter the classic term “Deep Dark Africa” and your expectation would be something worthy of a Wilbur Smith novel.

Ignorance would be an apt description. Contrary to most of the western discourse of what Africa is, it’s mistaken and it is about time that a beautiful place called Africa and simultaneously home, is revealed. The focus of my blog is to open up this place I call home to others, focusing specifically on Southern Africa. Simply because I don’t know enough about what lies beyond the reach of Southern Africa to give my opinion. Therefore I wont pretend to know much about what goes on outside Southern Africa. However it is not primate eating tribes.

Living in Botswana and having been in Zimbabwe throughout school and now being in Cape Town, South Africa for university has been a true eye opener to the various cultures and dynamics at play in these countries. Not to mention having traveled across all countries in Southern Africa except Lesotho and Swaziland. I have seen a fair bit of Africa but what strikes me the most is the little knowledge South Africans have about what lies outside their borders. Cape Town is the closest to Europe, in terms of atmosphere, cultural diversity and climate, that one can get in Africa. Thus it seems that Cape Town residents seem to know the least of all South African’s and don’t seem to mind at all. Who would blame them? Knowledge is key however and it is worth knowing.

In an attempt to share my knowledge, which is not expert at any level, I will give opinion on what is worth doing and experiences in Cape Town and Botswana as well as other countries that I have visited and know anything about. This blog may be seen as a journal of experiences and opinions about them and adding a bit of current affairs to the mix and is from my point of view. This is important because each person will experience it in a different way.