Monthly Archives: December 2006

A South African Christmas

23rd of December: Eating chocolate and rum-raisin ice cream in the sun. Temperature: 28°CChristmas feelings: None

24th of December: Getting up very late after a busy week, taking a shower. Making a fruit salad of apples, oranges, bananas, pineapples, and raisins. In my family fruit salad is one of the traditional desserts for Christmas Eve even if nobody knows why. Later in the afternoon: Making a Stollen (traditional German Christmas cake) adapted to South African shopping opportunities. For two Stollen take: 500 gr flour, instant yeast, 100 gr sugar, some salt – mix it. Add 20ir0 ml hand warm milk, one egg and 50 gr margarine (I couldn’t get unsalted butter) – stir very good and let the dough raise for something like 50 minutes. Cut the peeled skin of a lemon and an orange very fine, add finely cut candid cherries and raisins to the dough and, if you like it, some chopped almonds. Make two stretched cakes (can’t say this better) and spread margarine on them. Bake at 180°C for 40 minutes, let cool down before covering with icing sugar and decorating with candid cherries. Evening: Helping one of my neighbours, Xoliswa, preparing several salads for the following day. Coming home late.

25th of December: Having breakfast with Stollen and fruit salad. Slight Christmas feeling. Going to Xoliswa’s house for a traditional celebration her son is having. He wants to thank his ancestors for guiding him through the process of becoming a man, for being an adult now, and for having a good job. The whole family comes together to spend the day chatting, laughing, eating and drinking. The drinks: a lot of alcohol, among them the traditional African beer Umqombothi, which you can enjoy the fifth time you try it (acquired taste). The food: a lot of salads – bean salad, beetroot salad, rice salad, noodle salad, and, of course, meat. Very nice feeling to be with a family and other neighbours but getting tired of Xhosa after some hours. Spending the rest of the evening in front of the TV.

26th of December: Getting up late after waking up several times at night because one neighbour is playing music very loud throughout the night… Shower, eating the rest of the fruit salad… Ironing, cooking, writing these emails and posts I should have written last week, still some sewing to do… Nice day.



I prepared an interesting post for today and now the computer refuses to accept my USB… We had a party in the language school because it is a custom that the leaving students bring something to drink and to eat. One of them brought four bottles of wine – good white wine…

I will try tomorrow 😉

Hollywood is calling

Today’s exercise: Pitch your idea for a new film to Hollywood studio executives. Any genre you like.

Chosen title: To the moon

Settings: Nice house in one of this “clean”, unrecognisable suburbs. Family with two kids – a five year old girl and a mean 10 year old boy, a turtle and a cat. In the house lives also a mouse family with six little mice. In two weeks, the ‘human’ family will have a huge big party and so they buy a lot of groceries. Among others there bought a cheese wheel which is now standing on the highest kitchen board.

Action: The mouse father dreams to go to the cheese moon. But:
1st problem: The moon is far away, the mouse has to cross the launch, than go through the kitchen and to climb the highest kitchen board.
2nd problem: The mean little boy who puts traps for the mice and puts sometimes the turtle into a box so that it cannot escape.
3rd problem: Obviously, the cat.

Happening: Several unsuccessful tries with a lot of running, pursuing and escapes in the last second. The cat and the boy are on team, the girl, the turtle and the mice the other. The last evening before the party, the turtle is distracting the boy and the cat while the girl helps the mouse family to get to the moon using a fishing pole and a small plastic cube.

Last picture:A half moon shining through the kitchen window on a cheesy half moon.

Anybody an idea how much I could take for this script? Just in case…

Unnecessary item

One thing you do not need to bring with you when you come to Cape Town especially when you come in summer time (= European winter time): an umbrella.

Why not? – It does not rain this often and when it rains it is usually far to windy for an umbrella to be of use. That’s why.

Unnecessary knowledge

Did you know that in opera, arias are not only for soprano singers but for all voices, i.e. bass, tenor, alto etc.?


I learned this here in South Africa.

Practical application? – None.

Love it!

Courage and cowardice

Yesterday, I started my English classes. Since the center I am working in is closed for the Christmas/Summer holidays I needed something to do and to improve my English seemed a good choice. I am particularly eager to get a deeper knowledge of grammar and especially tenses… But that is not the topic.

New start. Yesterday: first day in the language school. One teacher got nearly robbed on his way to school. Result: discussing the security issue over an hour. Nearly everyone knows someone or heard about someone who was robbed in Cape Town.

When I told them (after having asked me what I am doing here, where I life and so on) that I am staying in a township where the nephew of a neighbour was shot and a young woman killed a few weeks ago, they told me that I am very courageous.

The truth is that I am a coward. I have always been a coward and I do not feel courageous at all. I know that a township is not the safest place on earth but as long as I am with somebody, I feel always safe.

Some people also ask me if I do not feel afraid to sleep there. The answer is no. I feel perfectly safe in the house. Perhaps I am not afraid because I try to think not toooo much about this. The vast majority of people living in the townships are honest, warm hearted and hard working people. And in my hosting family I am the 6th or 7th intern. Nothing ever happen to anyone of them. Why should something happen to me?

I do not want an answer to this question 😉 

Extremly frustrating

You know that you have comments and emails but you cannnot check them.

How did I know – Internet acces from a friends mobile phone.

Why can’t I check them – denying access to my email account.

Special dedication to my cycling friends

Did you know that Jens Voigt was Cape Town this week to present the CSC team for 2007? And, the CSC team also went to the Life Development Cycling Academy (LDCA) in Khayelitsha, the biggest township of Cape Town, which supports cycling in disadvantaged communities.

Normally (= if I were in Germany) I would not even notice such an event but when I saw the news on TV yesterday, I felt like “Hey, someone I know from home”. Even if I was never really interested in cycling sport at home.

This post could be also filed under ‘Miscellaneous’, I guess…

A short insight in township life

Many friends and also people I met here ask me what it is like to life in a township. It is difficult to answer this question because I do not really life here. I only stay in a township for four month and then, I will go back home. The people grown up and living in a township will probably have other stories to tell and a different point of view as “the white visitor” I am. I wanted to point this out.

Anyway, I can only write about the townships around Cape Town. The townships are located in the Cape Flats, the vast area between Table Mountain and the False Bay. By far the biggest part of Cape Town’s population life in these Cape Flats and not on this ‘famous view from the sea” site. The development of these settlements is related to the history of Apartheid and deserves a post on its own.

The Cape Flats

Original picture from: Wikipedia – Cape Flats

When it comes to the word “township, I think that it is hardly appropriate. Every township is a town on its own. 3 million people are believed to live in Khayelitsha, the biggest township in the Cape Flats. And 400.000 in Gugulethu, the township I stay in which makes it still a bigger town than Bonn and nearly as huge as Grenoble with its ‘agglomeration’. Like every other town the townships have different areas, wealthier and poorer ones, safer and dangerous ones. One thing they have in common is that the townships are all more or less shaken by poverty and violence although there are also signs of development, improvement and hope.


Original picture from: Wikipedia – Cape Flats

The unemployment rate in most of the townships is an average of 70%. It is not unusual that a whole family lives from the pension grant of one elderly family member. One shack build of wood or corrugated iron can be the home of 6 or 7 people. The townships around Cape Town have probably the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence among adults in the Western Cape. Violence and crime result out of a dangerous mixture of unemployment, frustration, hopelessness, and hundred years of discrimination and violent oppression.

However, many things have improved since 1994. Millions of houses and schools have been build nationwide. The government tries to provide free or low interest loans and land to those who want to build. Once the houses are build they can look like nice English cottage houses, at least this is what I would compare them to. Some areas have strong neighbourhoods. People help each other out, giving food and clothes to the feeblest members of the community like orphans, mentally disabled when they can afford it. Local business has been developed since the end of the Apartheid and economical initiatives started form the township population created jobs within the area.

Nevertheless, the positive development of the last years cannot hide that challenges are still enormous and that every initiative, every improvement, and every new building can appear as a drop in the bucket. New people arrive every day in the townships coming from the even poorer rural areas or the Northern neighbour countries. The most important things beside shelter and food to provide are education for the children and work for the adults. This would be empowering in its very first sense.

Gugulethu - overview

So what does it look and feel like to live in a township? I would say that it is impressive because of the people. There strength is amazing; they do not give up, and the will to improve, to advance is stirring. But what I found the most remarkable is the happiness and the joy of living despite the harshness. When you see the children playing, the young people enjoying a party and the elder ones sitting together chatting and laughing, then you can get a feeling for “the real township life”.

Learning by doing II

Nobody told me until today that it was necessary to have a log in and a password in order to comment my blog….

Fortunately, a good friend made me aware of this fact. Now, everybody should be able to comment my posts.

Life is wonderful, yeap!