Today marked our first official full day in Cape Town! Dr. Bredesen arranged for a guide, Ebrahim to take us around the city and show us some of Cape Town’s historic sites. Normally I’m not much of a “museumGOER”, but today was pretty interesting. We learned about how South Africa was colonized by the Dutch and English and some of the brutal conditions that African slaves had to endure. Today I learned that when the Dutch wanted to claim South Africa, they didn’t want to use the African natives (who were already living in the area) for their slaves. Instead, they utilized the Dutch East India Company to bring slaves over from those countries, which I found interesting. The Dutch didn’t want to use the African inhabitants because they were too familiar with the land. If you think about it, the Dutch were really smart because had they used the African settlers, the Africans could have easily planed an escape using constellations and other things because that was their home. It was more strategic to get slaves from other countries who had no understanding of the land.
After our excursions today, we were assigned to reflect on the importance of museums. In a place like South Africa where there is so much iconic history, museums are great for people around the world to learn about South Africa’s history and the nation. In museums you get a great idea of what life was like through photographs, statues, and other artifacts. Museums and exhibits allow tourists (like us) to get a first-hand look at history, rather than just learning about it through a textbook. Even though I’m not always a fan of museums, they truly give others the opportunity to learn a great deal from what others have experienced.
Besides the museums, I explored a local coffee shop this morning before we left! Sadly our flat (apartment!) isn’t equipped with a coffee maker, so I walked to a coffee shop called “Brew” and got a much needed caffeine kick. I was hurting. I got an Americano (they didn’t have plain old coffee which was kind of disappointing) from this cool South African guy named, Webster. It only cost 16 rand, aka $1.60. One thing that I’ve noticed/learned since being in SA for… a day, is that all South Africans can speak English! The main language spoken in Cape Town is Afrikaans and most people in Port Elizabeth speak Khosa, but all South Africans speak English. I learned that if English is a South African’s native language, than they have the option of learning Afrikaans or Khosa in school. But if Afrikaans or Khosa is their native language, than English is what they have to learn in school. According to Ebrahim, “If a South African says they don’t speak English, they’re lying”.
Another thing that I found interesting is that Dutch and English culture is more prominent than I thought here in South Africa. A lot of the buildings like the City Hall, parliament, and the Slave Lodge museum definitely have an English influence (especially after having just seen London). We saw where Nelson Mandela made his first speech on the balcony of City Hall as a free man on February 9th, 1990 (also, the European way to write out the date is using the day, month, then the year, so it would be 09/02/90 when Mr. Mandela [that’s what they call him here] made his speech). Since then, the president who served after Mandela passed a law stating that no one else can make a speech from the balcony because that was reserved for Nelson Mandela. But totally English and Dutch over here.