Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Where the action is

Emily spent the night with me, after a wonderful dinner prepared by Gail, her host mom.  Dinner was with Talia, her home sister, Gail and us.  Armien, the dad was away on business.  
We started the morning having breakfast in the hotel then asked the shuttle driver to take us to Green Market Square.

Crafts person at Green Market Square
Green Square Craft Market

After the market, we walked toward the Jewish Museum and on the way found the Slave Lodge.
The building which houses the museum now was originally a building where slaves lived.
It was enormous. Such a sad story.

When we walked out we saw this sea of humans on the street in front of us.  We started asking people what was going on but, what I discovered was the protest was just starting and no one really knew.  We walked closer and found some police man who said they were protesting over housing issues.

We hung out for 15-20 minutes so I could take photos and video (having a hard time posting video) and then went on our way to the Jewish Museum.  What we found out later was that this protest got completey out of control.  The people were protesting to get "proper" housing.  They are living in informal settlements without running water or electricity and they want the government to provide these bare essentials.  
Madiba is Mandela

To get to the Jewish Museum we had to walk through the "Company Gardens".  A lovely place to stroll or sit and have a picnic.

The building that houses the Jewish Museum was the original synagogue and when the congregation grew they needed to build another synagogue, which is across the courtyard and currently in use.

This is the bimah in the museum:

 Inside the museum is the story of how the Jews arrived in Cape Town and also that South Africa has the largest population of Jews in the Diaspora.  The Jewish community here is very strong and mostly observant.  There are 21 synagogues in Cape Town with only 3 being Reform and the rest modern Orthodox.  After the museum we went to the current synagogue where we were treated to a private tour by Jill. 

Jill was born in Cape Town and a member of this synagogue.  She told us the history of the building and how it was designed by a non-Jewish architect who fashioned it after visiting synagogues in Europe.  When Emily told her I was a photographer she said she would allow me to go upstairs, not normally allowed for tourists, to take photos.

When full, the synagogue holds over 1,000 people.  Jill invited us to come this Friday night to their once a month "Sushi and Scotch" shabbat.  Really.  What an interesting combo.
The stained glass windows on the bottom floor were just recently done by a local plastic surgeon who recently lost his wife.  

We were hungry by this time and Jill told us to eat at the restaurant in the courtyard.  I ate the local Baboodie, a veggie version made from lentils with cooked egg on top.  It was delicious.

Our travel back to the hotel was quite a nightmare.  We phoned to be picked up and due to misunderstanding, roads closed because of the protest it took the driver nearly an hour to collect us.  It was mostly a concern because Emily needed to be at her dance rehearsal at 6:00 p.m.  All was o.k. though.
Emily had a short rest and I went to the gym in the hotel for some exercise.  On her way to rehearsal she dropped me at her favorite restaurant, the one she took me took when I arrived, Coco Wah Wah, to sit and write.
Not that the day wasn't full already when Emily came back for me we went to one of her friends house for a party to raise money for a 12 year old girl who is battling cancer.  The kids decided to dress up for Halloween in honor of this little girl.
That's it for another full day of adventure here in Cape Town.


First night at the hotel

After a short rest at Emily's home stay, where I met her house sister and father, she drove me to the hotel, which was not such an easy place to find. 
Emily thought she knew where she was going but unfortunately we kept getting turned around.  Finally we discovered that we had made a wrong turn at the get go. When we did turn around we were able to find it.  The rental car was giving us some trouble so in the midst of being lost, and Emily now late for her dance rehearsal, Emily called the car company and told them they needed to come to the hotel to collect the car.  It's always something, no matter where in the world you are.

I was given a nice room in the back of the hotel with a great view of the mountain.  Here you can see my first sunset.  My windows are dirty and I couldn't open them to get my camera outside.

I was happy to be in my room and unpack my things.  It's a very long journey to get to Africa.
I had a small dinner and then to bed around 10 p.m.

This was my small dinner.  A salmon appetizer with potato croquettes, a small salad in the background, and a vodka martini--all for $10.00.  The service people are very nice and must have asked me 15 times if everything was o.k.  
 I was able to sleep very well and slept until 9:00 a.m.

A new day but not such nice weather.   After a lovely breakfast, I took the hotel shuttle to the waterfront.  This is the entrance to one of the malls where I was dropped off.
I was trying to walk through the mall to get to the city information booth when I was stopped by these overzealous Israeli's, who saw a customer in me after I, of course, complimented her (the one on the right) on her hamsa necklace. 

She was insistent on me buying her nail product box filled with a nail buffer, cuticle oil, and a nail file (which Emily insists she already bought me for Hannukkah one year from the Paseo Nuevo Israeli booth). I ended up being swindled into buying it, but ce' la vie I'll have nice cuticles for the rest of the trip! 
This is a celeb appearance from Emily, checking in from the hotel while the Digital Diva showers and pampers herself. We're going to dinner tonight at my house here and my host mom is cooking dinner (I think she wants to show off her cooking skills and prove she hasn't starved me). I'm staying in the hotel with my mom tonight to get a bit of a luxurious nights sleep whilst in the midst of final exams. Exams are really stressful in Africa, if any of you DD followers were wondering. My social justice and inequality exam today was worth 60% of my grade so if I fail that, I fail the class. Let's hope I didn't fail and knew enough about the changing economic and occupational structure in global cities from post-industrialization through the lens of professionalization and social polarization thesis. Sounds riveting huh... Okay we're off to dinner now! Enjoy following my mom for the rest of her trip.--Emily

The Cape Town waterfront is extremely touristy, which also means safe.  The above photo was taken with a new filter on my new Olympus OMD-5.  I was able to spend 3 hours walking around.  I saw these four men, who are from Kenya, perform acrobatics.  One of them asked if I spoke Spanish, and then proceeded to talk to me in Spanish.  I was able to answer him in Spanish.  That was funny.  

I asked if I could take their photo and there were more than happy to comply.

After my little photo shoot with the boys I ventured into the Craft Market and found this man trying to teach 3 boys how to use African sticks.
DD says, always be prepared with yours camera.

Still a bit groggy from the flight not much looked interesting to me except the products created from tea bags that are sent from around the world and repurposed as art.  This woman is one of 8 artists, from a close by township, who make and sell many different products made from teabags.  They love to receive bags so if you are a tea drinker start saving.

My last stop was to see if I could book a seat on the boat to Robben Island for later in the week.  I loved this sign that shows how far different places in the world are from Cape Town.

Enough for one day.  More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

LAX to Heathrow

October 26, 2013

A new journey, Digital Diva on The Road Again.  This time from LAX to London to Cape Town, arriving in Cape Town after 2 nights on an airplane.
This journey didn't start off so fabulously.  I have never done this before.  I had a small travel wallet that had my drivers license, atm card, and $300.00.  I went to pick up the one-way vehicle I ordered to drive to LA.  I made two other stops before going home and I was sure I used the house key that I had put in the wallet to get into the house.  At 2:00 p.m. when I was set to leave SB I couldn't find that wallet.  I tore up my house and my luggage but to no avail I couldn't find it.  Fortunately I had my passport, other credit cards and foreign currency in another wallet.  Oy, like I said in all my years of travel I have never done this.  I was not the happiest camper and at 3:00 p.m. I had to leave.  One of the consolations was that on my drive to LA, I received a phone call from Zoey in Australia telling me Emily and I could stay at her friends flat in London at the end of the trip.  That alone is way worth more than the $300. I lost or misplaced.  OY Oy Oy.

I arrived in LA and went to my great niece, Charlie's 2nd birthday, before heading to LAX.
Getting to the airport was flawless and I checked in at Virgin Atlantic International terminal.  There was a Nate n Al's restaurant so I bought a Lox and cream cheese sandwich to take on the plane.
I walked around a bit, this terminal does not have much, as I knew I'd be sitting for the next 11+ hours.

My seat was in a good location on the plane, right behind Premium Economy, aisle of a 2 seater and I had a nice seat mate.  I was quite tired both physically and emotionally so it wasn't difficult to fall asleep.  I took a trazadone (sleep medicine) and slept for 4 hours.  I woke, went to the bathroom and slept for another 4 hours.  Not bad on an 11 hour flights.  I missed all the meals but I had my lox and cream cheese so I was satisfied.  I slept so much I didn't read anything and barely watched  movie.  The one thing I saw was an episode of Curb your Enthusiasm.
The flight was extremely smooth and the flight attendants couldn't have been nicer.
I landed at 3:30 and my next flight wasn't until 9:00.  I got some misinformation when trying to get to where I needed to be for my flight to Cape Town and I was glad I was in a country that speaks English.  I got where I needed to go and was told there was a lounge for a fee where I could hang out and have food, drink and wifi.

I found Lounge No1 in terminal 3 and can tell you it was a find.  Great food, nice people and quiet.  If you ever have a long layover and don't have entry to an airline club, this is the ticket.  It was $50. and they had wonderful food, drinks (which I had none) and much comfort.  The shopping in the terminal was outrageous.  High end designer stores, caviar bars, etc. so I was fine to just sit in the lounge.  I was a bit nervous when I got off the plane, because the flight attendant said there was a hurricane coming, thinking my flight might be delayed.  Fortunately this didn't happen.  But a huge storm is coming this way later tonight and the city of London is preparing to shut down all the public transportation.  Oy.  Glad I hadn't planned to stay here now.

Sunday's flight
Flight number 2 was not as lovely as number 1.  There was good and bad.  The good was I was able to upgrade to an exit row and sat next to a handsome young man, unfortunately too young (35) from Cape Town, who thought I was 38.  How cute is that.  When I told him I have a 21 year old daughter he figured I wasn't as young as he thought.  Oh well.

The bad, there were three young children across the aisle and one of them was screeching, not just crying for over an hour.  Willy, my seat mate was so incensed that he said something to the parents and I thought he and the father were going to get into a major fight.  Oy.  About 2 hours later the child calmed down.  It was not as easy for me to get to sleep on this flight but I did finally.
The arrival into Cape Town was magnificent.  I was sitting at the window and had my camera ready.  I have no idea what I was looking at but it was beautiful at 20,000 feet.  What do you think?

The landing was perfect.  I was surprise to find that I didn't need to fill out a landing card.  But each step of the way they want to know that you have a ticket out of Africa.

I good my passport stamped and off I went to collect my baggage, which came within a few minutes. I walked out into the terminal and there was my baby girl.
She has learned to drive on "the wrong" side of the road and took me to one of her favorite restaurants near the University.
We had a nice meal and then we went to her home stay for a needed rest.

   I'm very happy to be here.