Chapter 1: “The Big Welcome-Family Reunion”
Hello all! It’s your girl Dominique here again, so you left me at Pearson airport about to leave for Amsterdam and after a long, incredibly grueling journey, (we left on Fri Dec. 27th) and we finally arrived in Cape Town on Sun Dec 29th-yes it took almost two days to get there. The best part about the trip was the first leg; the flight to Amsterdam! My sister and I met a really cool (very good-looking) guy from Finland who kept us thoroughly entertained the whole time. We had a blast together; chatting, watching movies and causing such a ruckus with our laughter that we were told that “that people were complaining and to keep it down” by the flight attendants … but it was such fun! We stopped in for at Amsterdam airport for two hours and had time for breakfast…well…a liquid breakfast, don’t judge: It was 2am Toronto time and with an 8 hour flight under our belt and facing another 13 hour one, it was well deserved!
On landing at Cape Town International airport we had the distinct need to freshen up, because we just knew that there would be a HUGE crowd up our arrival…and we weren’t wrong! This is just a handful of our cousins that came to meet us; we were also greeted by our aunties and our Dad-who had flown down ahead. They had painted a sign; if you look closely it has Table Mountain on it (Cape Town’s most famous land mark) and hand drawn a South Africa flag…how cute is this?!
When we got back to our aunties’ house there was a massive reception meal, it was just after midnight on Sunday morning but the buzz of excitement in the air was palpable and contagious! Everyone couldn’t have been happier to see us. Thank goodness we freshened up! After 18 years of not seeing them, and meeting some for the first time, the initial impression was pretty important.
Here we are enjoying a delicious bite after the long flight. We were totally exhausted but had such fun reconnecting with everyone for a few hours. The very next day they had a BIG Family reunion planned! And that was something to see…60 or so members of the family all together to ‘Welcome us Home’, we felt like celebrities…jet-lagged and all.
So in the morning we awoke to a fury of activity and the next thing we knew there was a massive BBQ with most of our family from our Dad’s side…what a fun day! We were completely overwhelmed simply by the sheer numbers of family that we have, as we have grown up in North America with only our immediate 3 (after my mom died)…so it was quite the experience. This photo is of some of the cousins, (as not all of them jumped in) my sister and dad (in the white hat). We were all so happy!
Needless to say, the party continued well into the night… “Welcome to Cape Town, cheers!!!”and what a ‘Welcome’ is was…
Disclaimer: Hi everyone, it’s your girl Dominique in Cape Town, South Africa! I first of all need to apologise for this huge delay on my blog posts, as it has been very, very challenging getting a WiFi signal, and when I do and start posting my blog …the internet crashes! This has been happening for the past 6 weeks that I have been here, and all anybody ever tells me is: “well, this is Africa” and then they shrug and walk away…lol…I guess that says it all. Thank you for your patience as I endeavor to bring you my story from the southern-most country in Africa.
It all begins at Toronto Pearson airport on December 27th, 2013…no..no..not true!…It began months, actually, years before. I have been missing…aching to get back to my roots, my family, my ‘Motherland’, it is as if something is missing in my soul and has been missing for far, far too long.
OK, so maybe I should start at the beginning; I was born in Cape Town, South Africa to Neville and Elvira Jacobs. Both of my parents were born and raised in Cape Town, and when I was 3 years old, my little sister Claire was born. We had a wonderful young life, all of our cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents surrounding us with love and support during these early years in South Africa. We had a community of people that we could count on and: They are family. We had a beautiful life, I remember gardens with gardeners, and we had a big house with maids and a cook. I would chat with them all as a child; that’s how I became fluent in Afrikaans one of the 9 national languages and spoken (either as the first or second language) by my people the ‘Cape Coloured’, or mixed race people of the Western Cape(who are all bi-lingual –may I add).
Now to make a long story short, when I was 5 years old, (my sister was 2years) my parents decided that we would leave the country for the US; this decision was made due to two important reasons #1: the fact that at that time my father was a member of the ANC (African National Congress), and in those years of apartheid the ANC was considered to be a terrorist organization. He faced jail time, police brutality and torture, while fighting for democracy in a minority government… yeah, I know guys, it’s kinda heavy… so let’s move on to #2,this reason is right up our alley: Education. My dad wanted to complete his PHD studies, which he had started in the early 70’s in St. Louis, Missouri USA. So we made the move…ended up here in Canada, and years later, in 1995 my mother passed away from cancer, and we came home to bury her…as per her last wishes… and that was the last time I was in Cape Town, South Africa. That was 18 years ago.
You need to know my back ground to understand the depths to my story…I understand this is not the easiest read, but it is the truth; and also the reason why I so desperately needed to come back to Cape Town, South Africa. So I applied to GEO for the SA internship, specifically for Cape Town, and I am unbelievably grateful to have landed this opportunity, and I cannot wait to reconnect with my family! It’s been 18 years since I’ve seen my family, new members have been born and raised, the babies from last time are all young adults now, and my crew (the cousins closest to me) have all since been married and have kids of their own. It’s been 18 years since I’ve laid eyes on my mother’s grave and spoken to anyone in her family. It’s been 18 years afterall, since I’ve been home.
This picture is of me and my dad in Wynberg Park, before we left Cape Town, South Africa. I was a cute baby, eh?
This trip is a really big deal for me…I don’t know if this post even expresses the depth of my emotion being able to “go home” after so long. So I must give a HUGE thank you to Pearl, Yana the GEO department; and Centennial College for affording me this
incredible opportunity! Thank you ALL so very much, this means the world to me.
As I am getting ready to depart, I am thinking about my goals (as my motivations are quite clear if you read the above); I would hope to achieve a lasting professional relationship with the organization I will be placed in (as I hope to return to SA in 2-3 years as opposed to the dreadful long years that is has been), a glowing letter of reference due to work well done at my International placement that will propel me into a new level of my career, and perhaps a job offer in the future? My expectations are massive!
But mostly, I just can’t wait to see and embrace all of my family, watch the two oceans (Indian and Atlantic) crash into each other again, and smell that salty, fresh sea air. I can’t wait to feel the sand between my toes and the ocean waves washing away the years of longing. I am not afraid. I am ready.
AND; So here we are now…on Saturday, Dec 27th, my sister and I, at Toronto Pearson International, super excited and on our way to board the plane for the first leg of our long, long journey, we start with an 8 hour flight…#AmsterdamBound!
Today, I’ve been researching wire snares and poaching. I’ve been looking for materials to help teach children in a community next to a reserve why poaching is a problem. A common method used to catch animals is wire snares. The main problem with these is, they trap and often kill which ever animal gets caught in it. It’s a wire loop that tightens as the animal pulls on it. I’ve not enjoyed looking at the photos…
But, here I found a really cool video showing a man who was able to get a tiger cub out of a wire snare.
This week was filled with excitement, so I have lots of photos to share with you! It was one of those weeks where I felt like I experienced so much, that it could have been an entire month.
One day, it rained so hard I thought we were going to get some serious flooding. My flatmate sent me some photos to share with you. Somerset West is an interesting place, I don’t think you would get this type of “ferry” service back home. Check out the photos, and you will see what I mean..
There was a whale festival last weekend in a town called Hermanus, maybe about an hour from Somerset West. “..the only Enviro-Arts festival in South Africa, held annually to celebrate the return of the Southern Right whales to the waters of Walker Bay..”. According to the world wide web, Hermanus has one of the best land based whale watching in the world (http://www.sa-venues.com/events/westerncape/hermanus-whale-festival/). My original plan was the go to this festival but, there were no automatic transmission cars left at the car rental place that I called, so I didn’t go. I’m not too keen to drive on the “wrong” side of the road anyways. I will go whale watching another time.
I may not have seen any whales this past weekend, but I definitely didn’t miss out on an amazing weekend. On saturday I went to Muizenberg with my flatmate because he was meeting a friend to go surfing with. It was a surf festival, where the following day, surfers tried to break the Guiness World Record of having the most people riding the same wave. Apparently they were very close but didn’t quite get it. I don’t know how to surf, and didn’t care to try in waters known to be the home of so many great whites, so I went for a nice long walk along the water instead. At first I was a little unsure about walking on my own because, muggings do happen sometimes. It turned out to be fine, and while I walked, I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and a bag of Biltong (African dried meat).
After another half hour of driving, my flatmate dropped me off at the Long Street Backpacker in Cape Town. It’s on the most “happening” street in the city. Many tourists and locals come to this street for the restaurants, bars and shops. Not far from the backpacker is the Slave Lodge Museum (http://www.iziko.org.za/museums/slave-lodge) so I wandered through it to learn a bit of history.
The Long Street Backpacker is set up like a green house, with lots of plants, a clear roof and, cats and dogs to hang out with. Naturally, I liked this about the place. The rooms were pretty clean and the people were really nice. It wasn’t long before I met some nice girls to have dinner with (2 from France, 1 from the Netherlands). We went across the street together to “Mama Africa” for some more traditional African food and wine. I wondered what Warthog tastes like, but chose a nice lean ostrich steak instead. We shared a dessert platter that had flaming bananas. SO good.
After dinner, we went back to the backpacker for some drinks (price: R12. or $1.40/beer) before heading out to a bar called the Dubliner (A bit funny eh? Going to an Irish Pub in South Africa). I met some more people, including a couple guys from Austria, and we all went to the bar, which had a live band playing familiar rock music. We had a great time, and because the bars don’t close until after 4am, we stayed out very late. Even at 5am, we hung out on the balcony of the backpacker watching the complete and utter choas happening along Long Street. I wish I had a photo of that for you.. The street was jammed with cars and people, loud music coming from everywhere, shouting, laughing, people hanging out of their cars, dancing ON-TOP of their cars. I even saw a guy get hit by a car, which then drove away. He was alright, but a bit ticked off. I think I made it to bed just before the sun came up.
The next morning I went for brunch with my friend from the Netherlands. We also went to a market that reminded me of the jewelery booths you’d shop at in the Caribbean. I spent more time talking to the booth owners than I did shopping, and my friend spent her time bargaining. We had lunch at a patio restaurant in the sun, during which time a man playing the recorder, a man trying to sell a puppet, and a begger asked for money. We then took a cab to Table Mountain, so we could take the cable car up to the top and watch the sunset. Once at the top, it felt like I was standing on the top of the world or, at the door to heaven. Table Mountain is one of the 7 wonders of the world, and in about a week, I’m going to go back to climb it. So, be prepared for even more photos 🙂
As much as I am loving my awesome adventures, I still miss all of my lovely friends and family from home. I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and I will see you again before too long.
I’m writing to you during my first South African thunderstorm. I think it’s safe to say that thunder sounds the same, no matter where you are on earth. The tin roof tops here do however make the rain sound like angry hail. I wonder what it sounds like when it actually does hail.
Where to begin… I suppose I should start with this past weekend. My housemate returned from his conferences on Saturday, saying that the trip was a huge success for the company. I went to the mall on Sunday, andwe went for a drive through the wine farms region, followed by a Braai (I will explain what this is…) on Monday. It’s nice to have company around the apartment again, and it was fun tasting wine and snapping photos of the statues and scenery only about 20 minutes from home. We meant to go out for breakfast and then wine tasting, but since it was a public holiday here, the chosen restaurant was closed, so we skipped to the wine tasting instead. I was surprised at how low cost it was. We each tried 5 types of wines, and the total cost for us both was 80 RAND. Converted to CAN dollars, that is $9.60. A fine breakfast for a fine price 🙂
A Braai is a South African BBQ. If you refer to it as a bbq, you will be corrected (every time). A South African will argue that the difference is that a Braai is far better. The meal is cooked over wood burning, instead of a gas flame. I had my first Braai on “National Braai Day” or “South African Heritage Day” with my housemate, my coworker, his wife, and their new born baby boy. He’s adorable.
It’s been another productive week in the office. I finished going through some Bird data, and went through tree data for a conservation program at a nature reserve, converting all of the common names to scientific names, and creating a nice long species list for reference. I spent a lot of time with my nose stuck in a trees book, and making sure I had the spelling right for trees like, the Stink shepherd’s tree, which is Boscia foetida subsp. rehmanniana, and Black monkey thorn, which is Acacia burkei.
My housemate points out birds while we are out and about, and so I’ve been able to learn some of them. although, with all of the bird data names on my brain, I haven’t done very well at his quizzing. There is a common one that I think I can recognize now, mainly because I hear it’s annoying call every day from my apartment. It’s called the Hadeda Ibis, similar to the Sacred Ibis. Here is a youtube video of one, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rr2mrfYJAk .. I’m rooting for the Croc.
Today I was given a fairly large research project on conservation education programs. I wish I had some background in teaching conservation. I’m feeling a little bit like a fish out of water with this one, but perhaps the more I learn from my research, the more I will be able to contribute in terms of creative thinking and ideas. This is a great opportunity for me to help with the education of local communities living near a nature reserve.
I’d encourage you all you read this article, written by my housemate/boss. It’s about land claims in South Africa. It definitely got my brain wheels turning. After I read it, he asked me my thoughts. I wish I had the chance to have discussions about articles I’ve read with their authors more often. In addition, he took that photo of the lion!
Through the past few weeks, I’ve come to learn that I have quite a few followers. This makes me happy, so I will continue to make an effort to keep you guys up to date with what’s going on here on the other side of the planet. Thanks for reading!
Well, the week is almost over. It’s been quiet, but not boring, and quite productive. Most of my coworkers are away at conferences. I’ve been able to get to know the president and the accountant of the company. Both are very interesting and friendly.
I work under the direction of the Operations Manager, who has asked me to clean up excel sheets and build shapefiles (used to create layers in GIS mapping) to express the findings from National Park survey programs. The work load is enough to keep me busy, and I’m allowed the freedom to work on whichever project I choose at the time (so far). I got stumped pretty quickly when presented with a variety of different types of coordinates and was asked to map them. There are many types of coordinate systems, and if the wrong info. is used in arcGIS, the maps will be inaccurate.. SO, I researched a lot, to wrap my head around it. I spent the week on this, and building a spreadsheet to use as a conversion tool for my coordinates. I’ve tried to make it as comprehensive as possible, so it can still be used once I am back in Canada.
I have also learned that South Africa is home to Boubous, Barbets, and Drongos… Along with dozens of other bird species, I now know the proper spelling for. Next I will conquer trees, and their latin names. Oye.
So, I was wondering, do we have “full cream milk” in Canada? I drink 2%.. but here, the best tasting milk is called full cream. They don’t have coffee cream, they just put this milk and they put it in the coffee and the tea. It’s very good.
Oh, and there was a photo in my previous blog, where I asked you to take a guess at what it was. I gave the hint that it’s found in S.A. homes, but not in Canadian homes. Jamie was asking about it, so here is the answer. It’s actually the electricity unit, on the wall in my kitchen:) The buttons are to enter the code that you purchase at the corner store/gas station. You buy your electricity there. Completely foreign concept to me. It costs around $10 CAN for 2 weeks, unless you have the heaters running, then you get about a week and a half. Just an addition piece of info. – people living in townships are provided free electricity by the government here. Sometimes you see T.V. satellite dishes outside shacks. Interesting sight.
I went to a pub last night. It was grungy, and smelly, and filled with a very diverse crowd. There was a live band, that played the same classic rock music I hear on Q107 back in Toronto. The main singer was wearing orange spandex pants, and had a very nice skullet. They were good. I was there with about 8 German people, mostly girls who volunteer through WorkTravelSA. This company brings in the volunteers that do various programs, including social work, conservation, and the field surveying to collect the data I am managing right now. One girl has asked me to go paragliding with her. Perhaps I will.
There are pros and cons about everything in life, but I must say, I’m not impressed with the “Tomato Sauce”.. Where is the Ketchup?! and where are the Ketchup chips?!
If the weather is nice on Monday, I am going to hike up the Helderberg Mountain. This is the mountain I live next to.
I will leave it at that for now. I hope everyone back home is doing great! Miss you!
This week started out great at work. I did some data management with bird conservation data. I learned some bird names and with the help of a book, what the birds look like. I wont get to see them in real life unforuntately, but that’s ok with me. I still get to learn lots of interesting things.
Later in the week I had my first doctor’s visit. I caught a bug and needed some antibiotics, so I took a trip back to the 60’s.. Or, at least that’s what it felt like. The clinic had dated furnishings, the secretary had a curly mullet hair style going on, and the doctor reminded me of The Beatles. I suppose the secretary was more so 80’s… They were all very professional though, and I got the help I needed.
After some much needed rest, I went to a grocery store today and then for a drive around the coast to a place called Gordon’s Bay. Every time I get in the car with my housemate to go for a drive, I’m always surprised at how close I am living to such beautiful scenery. Less than 20 minutes to a few different beaches and towns. I tried to get some good photos for you! 🙂
Today it was finally hot out too, so I rolled up my pant legs and walked on the sandy beach. The water felt like ice, but the air was over 25 degrees C.
Tomorrow will be an adventure, because it’s supposed to be great weather and, I want to go to the beach. My housemate is gone for the week to a conference, so that means no rides for me. I still have to organize a safe way of getting there and home, but it shouldn’t be too hard, and I am looking forward to doing some exploring on my own.
Miss you Ma, hope you like the photos! And a great big hello and I miss you to all of my friends back home!
On friday evening, my coworkers/friends took me out in Cape Town for some drinks. We went to a bar that looked a lot like a trendy hang out in Toronto. The streets were narrow, and reminded me of old Quebec, but the buildings weren’t aged. The people were friendly, and the music was just like home. We also went to a Salsa club, but I don’t know how to dance, never mind Salsa, so I just watched. I now was to learn how to Salsa 🙂 I didn’t bring my camera this evening, so I don’t have any photos to share.
The next morning, my housemate drove me around Cape Town for a mini-tour. We drove to the top of “Signal Hill” which is connected to Table Mountain. The view from up there is fabulous to say the least. I thought the most amazing scenery I’d ever seen in my life would be in New Zealand. I was wrong.
Over breakfast today while watching Animal Planet, my housemate was telling me about swimming with Great White Sharks. They send you down in a cage of course. I think this will have to be added to my bucket list.
Slang and accents can create a bit of a language barrier, even though everyone is speaking English. I’d say it feels somewhat similar to Toronto compared to South U.S. .. not as different as Toronto compared with Newfoundland.
I am incredibly lucky to have grown up in Canada, where it is safe, and we don’t have bars on our windows, or big fences surrounding our entire properties.. The thing I wonder is, how do they meet their neighbours?
Going out alone past dark is a priviledge in Canada.
It’s cold in South Africa during the winter season, which is at the opposite time of the year to Canada. It even snows in some parts. I actually caught a cold.
Peanut butter and Banana sandwiches are not a normal thing to eat in Somerset West, S.A.
The public transit in Toronto is AMAZING. It is fairly non-existant here.
Food and clothing is slightly cheaper here in S.A., but not by much.
Afrikaans is the language I hear the most, other than English. It sounds sort of like dutch, and their accent when speaking English sounds like a cross between German and British (to me, anyways). An Clemintine Orange in Afrikaans is called Naartjie.
The chocolate here tastes a bit sweeter than it does at home. I had an Aero bar and wasn’t expecting the sweetness.
My housemate has two guitars at the apartment, so I’ve been trying to learn new songs to play.
A very friendly cat in the complex has been coming to visit. We try not to keep her too late because we expect her owners probably want her back. It turns out that she’s a bit of a houdini. We put her out the front door and she climbed in through the window. Not and easy task.
Men trying to make money will stand in a parking lot and help you back your car out, as well as prevent break ins. Cars get broken into very frequently here, and every parking lot I’ve been to has a “car gaurd”.
The Rhino poaching problem really isn’t a huge problem, because the death rate does not exceen the birth rate of the rhinos.
You can ride an ostrich here.. I might give that a try. You can also eat ostrich here, but it’s expensive.
The pidgeons here are just like the dirty pidgeons on the streets of Toronto. Other than that, the birds are very different. My housemate/Operations Manager at work is helping me to learn birds species in the area.