Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Robben Island--a moment of history

I only got lost twice on my drive to the waterfront to catch the ferry to Robben Island.  Yves from the B&B gave me directions on how to get on the highway (freeway) and that I should just follow it to the Waterfront, which was very well marked.  My first mistake was missing the turn to get on the highway.  Fortunately I've driven on the Main Road enough to realize that I had gone too far, turned around and got on.  So I was happy now driving on the highway and reading the signs to the Waterfront, easy enough, until I actually got to the waterfront and took the first right turn not the second one.  Now I was going back onto the highway and it split going in two different directions, both of which seemed to be wrong for where I was trying to go.  There was a road worker in the middle of the highway and I stopped the car and asked him which way I should go.  He said stay to the left and come back around, which I did and this time I knew to take the second right to get to the Waterfront.  Good thing I gave myself plenty of time to get down there.  I successfully parked the car and got myself to the ferry entrance.  The ferry was scheduled to leave at 11:00 and it left at 11:04.  
The ferry ride was only 25 minutes across the water and it was a beautiful.  After many days of rain I was glad to have the sun shining.

This is one of the billboards you see when arriving on the island.  

The tour lasts 2 1/2 hours which includes the boat ride there and back.  The tour, which incredibly interesting is a bit of a cattle call.  When you disembark from the ferry you are told to walk to the busses to be taken around the island before going into the actual prison.  There was a tour guide on the bus to explain the history of the island and the prison.
for those of you interested here's the link to Robben Island. Our first stop was at the Robert Sobukwe House.  He was held in this area and forced to live alone and forbidden to have any contact with the other prisoners. http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/robert-mangaliso-sobukwe
He was moved to another prison in Kimberly, South Africa and died in prison in 1978.

If you look to the left of this site you see this:
Quite the juxtapostion. 

Our next stop was at this incredible view point, where there were bathrooms and a snack station.  We were given 10 minutes but it really was about 20.  Enough to use the facilities and take a few shots. 

I was fortunate to have a window seat and when we continued the journey I snapped this shot of these rare birds, whose name I forget.  I think the tour guide said they are only found here.
Red beaks, check.
As we continued we saw these guns that were put here during WWII.  The only problem was they put them here too late and they were never used.

This is the Lime Quarry, where the prisoners were made to do hard labor for 8 hours a day.  The pile of rocks was made after the prison was closed by prisoners who worked here.  One of the prisoners picked up a rock and others followed ending with this pile as a recognition of what they had done.
We unfortunately did not get out of the bus here.  Pity, as I would have liked to walk around or just stand in the quarry to get the sense of what it was like to have been there.  
Taking this tour was rather surreal and emotional for me.  Imagining what life was like for those who were here just because they spoke their mind.  How Apartide existed is as unfathomable to me as the Holocaust.  But they both happened and the monuments and museums made to remind people these atrocities did happen are so very important.

Our next stop was the prison itself.  This is Zozo

He introduced himself and told us his prisoner number was 45077.  All the tour guides inside the prison were prisoners themselves.  Zozo Madolo served 5 years as a political prisoner.  He also told us that he really wants to go to America but he was labled a "terrorist" by the South African government so the U.S. government won't let him in.  
Here are some photos from around the prison including Mandela's cell.

If you saw Invictus, you may remember this yard.  I am standing in one corner so you can see that the yard is not very big.  The far right corner was named Mandela's corner.

On the bench under the vines, Mandela would hold court and teach other prisoners.  
  Mandela's cell  

After Mandela's cell Zolo walked us over to where his cell section was.  On the way he showed us the soccer field where the inmates were allowed to have games.


It was quite emotionally draining (and often difficult to understand his English) to listen to his story and what transpired at the prison.  I believe it is a must do when in Cape Town.
When I arrived back on the other side and got off the boat I felt the need to have quite and settle my soul.  I saw a juice kiosk and went and bought a wonderful green drink.  I saw that he was using the greens from a tower garden and found all these tower gardens.  How great is that!

 A shout out to #ChapalaGardens

After my juice I navigated my way to the Company Gardens to meet my cousin Esme (she's the one in the red).  She is my father's contemporary and related to my father's mother.  Also there was another cousin's wife, Henya.  Esme told me she comes to the Company Gardens every Saturday and Sunday.  Her boyfriend, Frank plays chess and feeds the birds.  
We visited for several hours and talked about family, politics and the world.  Henya is a Holocaust survivor and was filmed by Spielberg for the Shoah.  Esme was born in the same town as my grandmother Frances, Dordrecht.  I was interested to learn that the reason my great grandparents came here was because my great grandmother's sister was in South Africa and that is Esme's great grandmother.  Good to get the family tree connected.

  It had been Franks birthday and Esme had this chess cake made for him.  While quite the creative cake, the taste did not match.  Each chess piece was solid chocolate and those were good.

The end of another filled day of adventure and learning.  I drove over to Emily's homestay and then brought her into town to study.  I went back to the B&B and went to sleep.

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