Me and William arrived at the airport 3rd of April around midnight. The sky was clear and the weather warm. Exhausted from the long flight, we dragged ourselves and our luggage to the car rental company. First cultural difference encountered: despite the desk being open, no one seemed to be working at that hour anymore. After some waiting and someone finally showing up, we finally got to the car. Bad luck again, the car battery was dead. Go back, get another car, and we were on our way to the apartment in Cape Town.
We found the apartment through Airbnb. We both had no prior experience with the platform, so we were curious what it would be like. The apartment itself was modern and in decent state. But soon we discovered that a basic “need” of ours was missing: (unlimited/cheap) WiFi!
As we are on an internship for 2 months, of course we would need all the WiFi we can get! I was not prepared to go back to the Dark Ages! After some discussion with the owner of the apartment and some looking around ourselves, we got some good options on how to get the cheapest WiFi around. Ok, so that’s fixed.
In the meantime, we were also hanging around the city, learning more about it’s history and culture. For anyone with an open and global mind, Cape Town is a very interesting experience. You’ll learn about Cape Town’s history, Apartheid, Nelson Mandela and many others who fought for freedom not that long ago.
Freedom is a given where we come from. It’s one of the most fundamental human rights, recognized in the most important legal documents. Freedom of belief, freedom of speech, privacy, liberty, education, work, assembly, etc.
But it’s not that simple in South Africa. For years, there was a clear separation of black people and white people called Apartheid. While white people were a clear minority, they oppressed black people. They took their freedom away. Many people fought to get this freedom back and got locked up; the most famous of them being Nelson Mandela. And after years of imprisonment, Mandela was finally let free in January 1990.
At first sight the black people had every reason to take revenge for what had been done to them, but Mandela realized that they would never be free if they took revenge. If they did, then everything they worked for, all the freedom, peace and democracy, would be for nothing. It is by working together towards these goals and learning to accept one another that the South Africans, black and white, all got their freedom.
There’s still a lot to be done. You can clearly see the after-effects of Apartheid on the streets. You won’t see a white beggar, you won’t see a white construction worker, you won’t see a white person with a market stand. Fact is that the black population still didn’t get everything back they had and don’t got the same access to quality education and job opportunities that white people do. The factual situation still gives the impression of a difference between blacks and whites, even though on a legal level this difference doesn’t exist anymore.
Freedom and equality is something that has to be worked for constantly, especially in a country like South Africa. Getting rid of the stench of Apartheid means changing the mindset of entire generations and will still take some more years. But it is a cause worth fighting for.
I urge everyone visiting Cape Town to go to Robben Island and to take some time to learn about South Africa’s troubled history. It’s thought-provoking and will leave a lasting impression on you.
More on our South African experience to come!
Transcript of Mandela’s speech: http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/12/world/south-africa-s-new-era-transcript- mandela-s-speech-cape-town-city-hall-africa-it.html?pagewanted=all