Before I go ahead into part 2, I just want to apologize for not blogging in over a week.
The SASA crew and I returned from our 10 day road-trip (still a teensy bit exhausted) and the sheer amount of colorful, emotional experiences we navigated continues to pound about in my head. I’m not even finished with Part 2 of my first week! With this in mind, I’m beginning to feel incredibly behind in my work to update each of you on this tail end of my 3rd week in South Africa.
However, I will do it. I will stubbornly finish this, even if I have to upload these posts when I get back home in the states.
Please, read on. I hope you enjoy yourself and let me know your thoughts when I come back!
Company Garden Visit
The squirrels in South Africa are fearless. This one did not hesitate to scuttle close enough to butt my big toe with his nose. Originally, it was amusing to watch my friends hand feed them chips (fries) from our lunch. The stark difference in their behavior (for an animal nerd like myself) compared to US squirrels, was fascinating. I was completely mesmerized.
Until one of them tried to touch me.
I didn’t request a rabies shot back home, which means I have no business trying to flirt with possible death.
The lighting from the time of day made incredible highlights and shadows, and it was pleasing to walk around.
Avoiding the squirrels.
To put this more into context the Company Garden is the one I alluded to in my earlier post. It fed the Dutch Europeans as they stored their goods, imprisoned their slaves, and rested from their voyages at the Castle of Good Hope. It needed to be expansive, for this garden not only supported those travelers, but the people that lived permanently within the castle.
It’s been made into an award winning national park and is very extensive, the walkways broad, the wildlife thick, and the paths stretching for a while in either direction. I know that we did not see its entirety.
The fountains and ponds were gorgeous, which isn’t surprising, considering the makers.
The garden was relaxing to walk through, and fun to goof around in.
Alright. Moving on!
Next up on our stop of pictures is Simon’s Town.
Passing dry, bright, and green scenery on the train. Reminds me a little bit of California. It was fun to watch it fly by as we got closer to the coast.
Boulders Beach. Home to the infamous penguins! Jackass Penguins, to be more exact.
I couldn’t tell you how they got that name (someone told me at some point, but I’ll have to research it) but they did. It cracks me up every time I say it. For the sake of cleanliness in respect to language, I’ll further refer to them as J Penguins. They certainly are an interesting icon!
Once we arrived we were all pretty hungry, so we stopped by this beach side restaurant (can’t remember the name) and I ordered this dish of creamy mango curry chicken. The presentation was surprising, much different than what I’m used to, but that didn’t put a damper on its taste.
It was delicious!
And the view wasn’t too shabby, either.
I couldn’t help but sketch it while waiting for my food. One of my per-departure goals was to capture unique moments like this in my little sketch pad. It’s a fun challenge, especially after the Drawing Class I took this summer at SCC. The varying techniques and mediums my teacher introduced me to has really reshaped my thinking of sketch, of line, and of an individual’s point of view. It changes you, as a new artist.
This only fuels me to take up the new skills I’ve been taught and put them to the test.
We’ll see how this turns out.
But! Enough of that. Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for!
The stars of the show!
Contrary to their name, the J penguins we came across did not carry a mean bone in their body. They were irresistible, for sure, but they didn’t charge at us with their beaks. Or flippers.
They also didn’t seem to care much about us, either.
I didn’t get these two shots, but I’m lucky to have them and include them in this post!
I keep thinking about Penguins of Madagascar, a movie so beloved to my family back home. So I’ve made an important deduction.
This handsome brute must be Skipper. Think about it. Who else would be so bold as to look at the camera straight in the lens?
Shoutout to my sister Natalie, who absolutely adores Skipper. One of my friends officially found him for ya!
And yes. I did go swimming.
A number of us did.
The water was freezing! My entire lower body quickly slid into numbness. Believe me when I say that I ardently miss my 7 year old self, who could dive into these frigid waters without reservation.
It took me a few tries to go completely under, and it was worth the dip. You definitely feel very awake after a solid dunk!
The rock formations were beautiful. J Penguins liked to swim in-between and underneath their folds and connections. I never did really get to swim with them, but, it was a trip to realize you both occupied the same body of water.
As the day came to a close, we all gathered together and took the train back to Obs.
I’m quickly learning that sketching, anywhere, anytime, really serves to clear my mind. Which is consistently bombarded with everything I experience! It’s a lot to take in. So it feels grounding to concentrate on a single page and meditatively think about the placement of pen strokes.
That night, my prof, my roomies, one of my roomie’s boyfriend, and I went to dinner in the only BBQ place in Observatory. I couldn’t believe South Africa carried this type of cuisine. I mean, really? Back in the states, I live right next to the Wingdome, a restaurant that specializes in BBQ wings. Could there really be something like that here?
It’s called Sticky Fingers and it certainly lives up to its name.
I couldn’t resist one of their Oreo Shakes. Too much sugar, too much goodness!
The very next day, we were scheduled to attend an important African Ceremony held by a local family in Parow. There is no specific name for this type of ceremony but it majorly consists of the Elders of the family calling respectfully upon their ancestors to visit them. This is usually done when the family seeks blessings, support, or guidance after experiencing something troubling. The fact that our onsite coordinator was able to communicate our interest to this family, and the fact that this family graciously agreed to allow us to attend, is mind blowing. I’m not sure how many tourists get a chance to connect to African culture in this way, but I know that I am unquestionably lucky to be given that chance.
The Elders of the family are sitting on chairs to the left. They, of course, are offered the seating areas out of respect, something I appreciated personally.
As the chosen Elder finished praying ( I believe? I need to ask my prof) and our onsite coordinate finished his speech (where he personally explained to us what was happening) the women and the men separated.
The men remained outside while the women sat in one of the bigger rooms inside. And this lovely Grandmother (we called them all Grandmothers also out of respect) was very kind to me. We both had a kick sitting next to each other.
I drew this picture in my time there and wanted to show it to her. Needless to say, before it got into her hands, the Grandmothers around me excitedly requested to see it and chattered among themselves, each pouring over the page.
After an impressed compliment uttered either by an esteemed professor or a close friend, it’s one thing to feel your back straighten, your head lift up high as the fire of pride is ignited within you. It’s quite another to witness marvel as raw as a recently cut facet of diamond, light up the faces of women who’d walked so far in life. There was no room for self consciousness. I could only sit watching with a goofy grin, ridiculously happy that I could garner such a reaction from these incredible souls; touch them in this way. There was no way I could keep this piece. I took a picture of it for my own memories and presented it to the woman I drew at the very end. The Grandmother immediately folded it in half and clasped her hand over it, an action that warmed me from head to toe.
It makes me wonder if being sheepish and hesitant to expose your gifts to others could actually cost you so many opportunities to make a connection, to cross bridges of difference. With everyone.
It makes me wonder.
Oh! Before I forget to mention, the blue bucket below holds a very special, homemade African beer. It’s a brew that’s kept in the family and is brought out for rare occasions.
It tasted very buttery and frothy and I had to give it a go!
I wish you could have been there. The women around me began to sing, an energy so fierce and soulful, it gave you goosebumps. It first began between a pair of women. After the initial intro, the chorus would taken up by all, and the song would roll on and on. These songs (which I believe were sung in Xhosa, but I could be wrong) compelled you to clap and sing along, and also brought everyone to their feet. An overturned bucket was used for a drum and this beat captured you in a feet stomping frenzy.
It was unbelievable. I couldn’t understand the words, but, their value to the women and men around me was palpable.
I’ll never forget this experience. Never.
It all passed on so fast that when the time came to leave, it felt like we had just gotten there. Everyone in the SASA Crew was coasting on this remarkable wave of energy. Spirits were high and so were vocal cords. You should have listened to us, singing at the top of our lungs.
Wasn’t necessarily pretty, but, it definitely held some power.
The twilight sky was graceful as its colors began to fade.
It was just a good, good night. A good day to experience.
Last, but certainly not the least, experience I had before the road trip was visiting the Slave Lodge.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
– Maya Angelou