Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cape Fusion tour and cooking class....

Yesterday recharged my batteries and forced the heavy history of apartheid on me. Pam, the wonderful woman behind Cape Fusion Tours, picked me up and started explaining the grim history of the people of Cape town. We headed for the District 6 Museum where she finished the history of what lead up to and happened during Apartheid. I was one of those people who was not educated around this issue and naively thought that this occurred many years ago. Perhaps even during America's history with Civil Rights. I was mistaken. This prejudice and discrimination was occurring from the 1960's clear through to 1990. The segregation and poverty this caused is something the country of South Africa is still fighting today. On the Winelands tour Chris and I took part in a couple days ago, we drove past the "townships" of Cape Town, as they call them. These townships are not towns at all, but simply shacks that people put up b/c their homes were taken away from them. Many of them further along the highway are migrants from neighboring S. African countries who have moved their families in the hopes of finding work in the big city of Cape Town. Their hopes are usually dashed almost immediately, as Cape Town is experiencing an unemployment rate of 50% for the Black and Colored population. The reason for this is that during apartheid, the government kept those populations uneducated so they would not rise up to overthrow, as they are the majority. Therefore, there is a huge number of uneducated who are then, in turn, unemployed. They simply wait on street corners for someone to drive by and give them work (ie: washing their car for 2o rand which equals roughly 2 euro, so they can buy bread to feed their family that day). With the World Cup fastly approaching the gov't is frantically trying to build gov't housing within these townships that replace the "eyesore" of the shacks and put the people in proper housing with electricity, flushing toilets and running water. There are simply too many townships for them to get this done before the tourists roll in.

Pam, being extremely knowledgeable in this history, wanted to make a difference through her tour company. She learned of a grassroots project in the oldest of the Cape Town Townships, called Langa. Victor and his student, Eugene, grew up and lived their whole lives in Langa. They found a love of food and cooking. Eugene went to school for it on a flook and went into Cape Town to learn how the culinary world worked. In the meantime, Victor started the Eziko Restaurant and Non-profit cooking school. Eziko, as Eugene explained to me, is an African word meaning place of gathering where friends and family eat together, almost like a feast. They built these places out of shipping containers (metal), to remain in the spirit of the shacks the gov't were tearing down, b/c it was a pat of their people's history. The cooking school, being non-profit, accepts up to 12 students from all over the world, but mostly African countries, who meet the criteria each term. I looked through the curriculum and was impressed at how similar the program was to mine at CSR. They are the only two teachers and once they have covered the theory and hands-on curriculum, they then do practical placements that ensure the students will have jobs at the end of it. This is making a difference at the heart of it. They are not only helping people find jobs, but also educating them to ensure they can keep those jobs, as well as move up in the ranks. Due to the recession and poor marketing schemes, Eziko School and Cape Fusion are struggling to stay afloat. They had to close their doors for the first time in November 2009. Luckily, they have been blessed with sponsors for the upcoming February term and are able to start up again, but they are still in desperate need for financial assistance and donations of materials and equipment.

Part of what Pam is doing is taking people (foodies) like me on these historical tours that end up in Langa, where Eugene then teaches you how to cook the traditional food of his people at Eziko Restaurant. Eugene is so passionate about cooking. Once he learned I had had formal training (half way through the lesson), he kept saying to me, "Keep spreading the gospel".

He walked me through Bredie (lamb stew), Pap (white corn porridge, similar to polenta but so much tastier), semp and beans (semp is white corn as a whole grain that is dried, then boiled with salt for many hours), stir fried cabbage & spinach, vegetables and blanched butternut squash. The final thing we made were cabbage wrapped dumplings, similar to their steam bread, but without yeast. It was a feast for 10 people, but the three of us sat down with some of the most delicious red wine I've ever tasted and feasted with our hands, sharing the food together. What an invigorating day. Though it started out heavy, it was wonderful to see that people are working hard, with no financial gain for themselves, to turn the circumstances of their people around. I want to become a part of this grassroots movement once I settle in America! If you are interested in learning more about it just e-mail me and I will pass along the links.

Once home, Chris and I realized it was our last night for experiencing traditional African cuisine in Cape Town, so we headed out to the Opulent African Gold Restaurant. Immediately we took part in the drumming session, then were escorted to our prime seats for experiencing the three rounds of Traditional African costumes, singing and dancing throughout our set meal. The people were friendly and in love with TX, it turned out. The food was decent (not quite the quality as the Africa Cafe), but the ambiance was superb. I loved the music and performances. It was a wonderful day, all around!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cape Malay Cooking...

So I finally had my first cooking class today. It was a 1:1 class with Gamidah in the extremely colorful and traditional neighborhood of Bo-Kaap. Gamidah was really very nice and showed me some really awesome things. We made Roti bread (Cape Malay style, not the same as the Indian style Roti bread Chris and I had in Fiji for our honeymoon). She also showed me chicken curry from scratch with oh-so-fresh spices! Finally, we made Cape Malay style samosas, which are also very different than Indian style Samosas. I actually like them better. So now I can make them at home. I was sent home with the recipes and step by step details of how to make everything, so when Chris and I visit or finally settle somewhere, guess what you'll be eating for supper. I have my second cooking class on Wednesday...

Our plan for the afternoon was to explore the Bo-Kaap neighborhood a bit, then walk to the train station, buy a ticket and take the train down to Simons town where we would venture up to the Penguin Colony. We ended up not hitting the train station till what appeared to be rush hour...everything was mass chaos and we didn't end up doing that. Instead we walked down to the Waterfront (the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront) and took pictures of sun-bathing seals, ventured through local shops and had a lovely dinner at a Belgian themed restaurant on the waterfront at sunset (umm romantic). Tomorrow it's a full day Wine tour! Such fun we are having.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Walking the Walk...

Our third day in Cape Town saw Chris and I doing our own things. Chris opted for super lame and unadventurous diving with Great White sharks (he's so boring and predictable!). I chose to get my beauty sleep and be a woman about town! After breakfast, I headed down to the Hop on/ Hop off bus and did exactly that on various spots along the route. The best spot was The Company Gardens which were like a botanical gardens except free! So many people spending time with their loved ones, the scenery so beautiful! It was an oasis in the middle of metopolis! I applied my sunscreen at least 6 times again. Definitely getting sun, but seemingly avoiding getting full-on sunburned! I loved the sites again, but this time listened to the commentary the bus provides and learned a bit of history too. I got off on stop #15 and walked the rest of the way home. It was quite beautiful, but I felt like I was a foosball ball being bounced back and forth between street vendors and people asking for money and selling this and that. I have said the phrases "no, sorry" and "no thank you, I'm not interested" about 100 times today. They don't approach as much when I'm with Chris, so I'm going to try to stick with him from now on! Plus I love him, so that won't be hard!

Today was the grand opening ceremonies at the new soccer stadium and first match ever in the stadium. They built the stadium for hosting the World Cup come June 2010. It's quite the energy in the street and all around. People blowing horns and whistles and shouting with pride and excitement! People who attended are so proud that they will be able to say to their children they were at the first game. This is a historical moment for Cape Town. It's a fun energy to be around!

Tomorrow...beach day!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bye-bye dub...

Bye-bye rain's caress, Hello happiness, I think I'm gonna smile! So I may have changed the words a bit, but considering the circumstances I think it's appropriate! So Chris and my time in Dublin came and went. It was a flurry of stressful packing and last minute this and that, but we made all our flights and have been spending that last two lovely days in Cape Town, in the height of summer! WOOHOO! Summer, sun, warmth, ocean beaches! It's magnificent! So far...well, do you have a minute? It's only been two days and we've done so much! We opted for the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour (red line) to take us up to Table Mountain in a cable car. The drive through the city was really great (we were sitting on the top, getting sunburned even though we applied sunscreen like 6 times), the wind blowing through our hair! Great views only to find out that the cable car was having technical difficulties, so we hopped right back on and had a lovely lunch at the Bungalow restaurant right on the beach at Camp's Bay. Mussels, Ostrich medallions, lovely salads and LOTS of water! After, we strolled for quite some time on the beach, only getting our feet wet. The water was so cold it was literally painful. Now we have both in the Pacific Ocean, which can hold it's own when it comes to being cold, but this know how if you put your feet in really cold water it takes your breath away right away, but then your feet just sort of go numb and it becomes bearable? Well, they just wouldn't go numb...they just kept being painful. Chris described it perfectly as being a dull ache of cold straight through to the bone, over and over again (because we kept stepping in and back out).

We finished yesterday with a trip to the grocery store (the Pick-n-Pay). It was hard to do the conversions in my head on whether or not 64rand was too much to pay for fresh blueberries. Turns out it was not. Even if the conversion says it is, they are the most delicious blueberries I've ever tasted. All the produce is from South Africa. They are a self-sustaining country for the most part. And, yes, we went to the grocery store on the first day! Of course we did, have you ever met me?

That brings us to today. We booked a full day Peninsula tour last minute for today and were picked up right on time. There were 11 of us total. We saw many beaches, got a lot of history (our tour guide was great), and had many stops that were perfectly planned. We took a boat ride out to Seal Island from Hout Bay and saw thousands of seals sun bathing and playing with each was very cool, though didn't smell great. We made it to an Ostrich Farm where I purchased Ostrich jerky (or biltong as they call is here). I'm saving it for our climb up Kili, but am excited to try it. Chris' first stop was to reception to pick up a bag of feed. We fed two adults (one male, one female) and got some great pictures! The baby ostrich were so cute and playful. We couldn't feed them though.

Next stop, Cape Point, where Chris and I took too long having lunch and didn't make it to the lighthouse, but got our pictures next to the sign anyway. That didn't matter though b/c we got to the Cape of Good Hope (the south-western most part of Africa) and got a picture of us toasting. It was suppose to be us toasting with our nalgenes, but I forgot to grab mine so it's his nalgene and my plastic water bottle. Very classy!

We finished up the tour with a stop to the Penguin Colony in Simons Town (which we will absolutely be returning to later this week) and the Kirsenbosch Botanical Gardens. We were ready to head back to the hotel, but had a grand day. We are both having a grand time and are glad we are spending so much time in Cape Town. On our list of things to do the rest of our time here: Cooking classes (of course), diving (of course), tour of the winelands, Table Mountain, the aquarium, Penguin Colony, the beach and who know what else...isn't that enough?

As for pictures...we will do our best to get some up, but it likely won't happen with any sort of consistency until we are in Europe, as the web cafe (though conveniently located) is a bit pricey for taking as long as it does to upload anything. So for now, the stories are what you get...this is your exercise in using your imaginations. I hope the pictures live up to your imaginations!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Full of Excuses...

As I sit here, eating my Chana Masala, I realize how long it's been since I have done a proper post, or any post at all for that matter, on my blog. I know I get extremely frustrated when a blog I check frequently doesn't update their posts. So, here it is...the best I can do at this moment in my life. Chris and I are preparing for our departure from Ireland. It is, as Kate Kapus described it, bittersweet, as we have learned a great deal, met wonderful and hopefully life-long friends and gone on some amazing adventures in our own backyard. We have also experienced the hardships of this recession, being so far away from friends and family and some of the less enjoyable, day-to-day things about living in a foreign country. So as we say goodbye to our friends, walk through Herbert Park one last time, eat at this restaurant and have lunch at that cafe, one more time, we will be saying hello to a new chapter in our lives. We will be saying hello to the adventures of Cape Town, South Africa (diving with sharks and seals, swimming with penguins, attending local cooking can guess who is doing what). We will be tackling a grand adventure on the highest free standing peak in the world followed by a sightseeing safari in the Serengeti. Then it's off to Europe...with no plans...just flying by the seat of our pants... Adventures await us, but in the planning and preparing I have not had time to post the pictures from the fabulous visit from Kate and Kyle... or Chris and my trip to VA for Christmas (or mine to NC). I haven't been able to post the pictures of the snow that just wouldn't leave Ireland alone (their snow flakes are hail pellets...) and all the snowmen that cheered me on as I walked across Herbert Park's frozen Duck pond. But, I assure you, we will have some down time during our travels, so I will do my best to get these and future pictures posted! That is my promise to you! Till then!