Port Union

For our union amigos, Port Union, Newfoundland has the distinct honor of being “the only union-built town” in North America.  And from the look of things in the salt cod industry, they needed it!  The salt cod industry is no more, but back in the day, cod fisherman were paid pennies (literally) for hundreds of pounds of processed fish.  They could never get ahead and often owed the merchant at the end of the year.

For Dog Fans – The Newfoundland

We asked a few locals, but they didn’t seem to know off the top of their heads – what were Newfoundlands bred for?   So, to Wikipedia we went.  Answer:  they were supreme work and rescue dogs for fisherman.  Newfoundlands are phenomenal swimmers with webbed toes and an oily coat to protect them from icy oceans.  Our puppy friend below is simply too cute for words.  More details about the Newfoundland dog and pictures of how large these doggies can get.Newfie Dog

Autumn Snapshots

Langa Township

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Langa, Capetown’s oldest township.  Our guide and Langa resident was Nathie, a young college grad with entrepreneurial spirit and a quick sense of humor about South African politicians. He picked us up in the morning and we took a short drive toward the airport.  Along the way, he explained various Xhosa rituals and rites of passage and how Langa got started back in 1923.  Today the community supports the tours as a way to create opportunity where little exists and to combat negative press townships often receive.  We were impressed when he told us the popularity of his company’s tours rank them the #3 thing to do in Capetown.

Township tours could appear rather gauche to the American tourist. The voyeurism is unsavory – a bunch of well-heeled foreigners placing a community’s poverty on display.  But I suspect American discomfort with poverty in general makes it difficult to see the larger picture. Today’s township is not a lot unlike the larger city environs. On its own terms, it has its elite, its middle and its lower bars.  It has cultural features residents wish to showcase and share, and unlike other tours, they offer a socio-political discussion tourists can’t get in gift shops, wineries or art galleries.  The township community is just as interested in taking advantage of tourist dollars as their more mainstream kin.

When we stepped out of the van, I could just as easily have landed in my own southeast Seattle neighborhood, except the Langa homes were brick and the streets cleaner (at least in this part). We began our walk through the neighborhood at the community’s visitor center, where else? Inside we met artists eager to sell (but not at all pushy), potters working on their designs and children who dangled from Nathie’s legs. Residents can participate in pottery classes or use the space to sell hand-made crafts and jewelry.

From the center we began our walk through the neighborhood with Nathie explaining how residents set up their own businesses with whatever resources they could find.  We saw barbershops and fruit stands run out of shipping containers, hair salons on the front porch and sheep barbecues in what appeared to be burn rubble.  We visited the home of one family whose matriarch ran a roosterbrood (small grill roasted bread, served plain or filled with meat or cheese) bakery out the back side of the house.  She rose every morning at 2 a.m. and closed some 400 breads later, usually around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon.  Her son designed a popular T-shirt sporting the Langa name across the chest.  Yes, I bought one.

Throughout our walk, Nathie pointed out the differences between the upper, middle and lower sections of the township, and he even took us through the Beverly Hills of Langa, as they like to call it.  To the American eye, the homes are all quite modest and tidily kept.  But as Nathie explained, even when a Langa resident “makes it big,” like many soccer and cricket players, they often choose to stay in the township because of the tight knit community.  (Plus, he joked that non-township neighbors wouldn’t take kindly to ritual slaughters of sheep.) Other families remain in cramped quarters because they can save more money to afford better schools for their children.

The entire tour start to finish took just under three hours and we ended with a quick peek at a youth group project that Nathie leads – Happy Feet. Happy Feet is a troupe of neighbourhood kids who learn gumboot dancing, a tradition begun and made popular by South African miners.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to insert pictures of the great time we had.  Hope to get those up as soon as possible.  Again, contrary to what we had read in the guide books, we felt completely safe.  Children ran freely in the streets and played in their yards and playgrounds.  Clearly their parents weren’t worried.  But we took a day tour, which is what most would do.  At one point we had considered one of the B&B  opportunities, but even Nathie explained that his company deliberately chooses not to offer night tours because of security worries.  Well, maybe on our next visit.

District Six Museum

We took a guided tour of the District Six Museum with a former District resident, Tahir Levy. That’s right, a Muslim-Jew. Before 1966, a multi-faith, multi-ethnic, multi-racial populace called District Six home. Despite the enforced segregation of the Apartheid government, the neighborhood managed to maintain much of its mixed identity. District Six represented all of Capetown’s inhabitants – black, white, brown, Christian, Muslim and Jew.

But the white governing Apartheid government put an end to co-existence with the citation of its Group Areas Act of 1950. Forced removal of the neighborhood’s black (native) residents actually began much earlier, but it wasn’t until 1966 that District Six was officially declared “for whites only.” Its residents were forced out of the city and their homes bulldozed.

The District Six Museum commemorates the destruction of a community as well as issues of displacement and forced removal. It pieces together memories of the neighborhood through installations of family photographs, original furniture and possessions, and the despised apartheid era signs and benches.

The Slave Lodge

,First-time visitors to Capetown will immediately notice the multi-multi nature of the city. As a result of the Dutch’s particular approach to slavery, Capetown today boasts one of the richest blends of people.

The Slave Lodge Museum is part of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, a commemorative exhibit to the abolition of worldwide slavery. The project aims to build and strengthen a culture of human rights and increase awareness of contemporary issues around equality, peace and justuce. The building itself was the official slave stock house for the V.O.C., the Dutch East Indies Company.

It was the Dutch East Indies Company who introduced slavery to The Cape in 1658, some 39 years after America’s first batch of slaves. In 1652 they had set up a refreshment station for ships running the spice trade routes. The Dutch liked the area so much, they decided to establish a permanent colony, which of course meant they’d need a few more people to get the work done.

The Company did not allow the enslavement of local populations, the Khoe-San. The Khoe-San made important trading partners in the beginning, but eventually they, too, ended up virtual slaves through The Company’s indentured servant program.

Cape slaves were not part of the trans-Atlantic trade, meaning boats did not typically drop off West African slaves on their way to the Americas. The first two groups of slaves brought in 1658 did come from the western regions of Angola and Benin, and later African groups came from Madagascar and Mozambique. Along this east African route, a slave ship could lose up to 15% of its slave cargo. The trans-Atlantic slave ships lost 20% – 30%.

In fact, the majority of South Africa’s slaves were not African but Asian. India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the entire Indonesian archipeligo provided the largest proportion. Smaller numbers came from Thailand, Japan, Burma, the Phillipines and even the Middle East.

Unlike the American trade, slaves in South Africa were seldom raid acquisitions. Instead, The Company took advantage of famines, when families would sell other members into slavery. Or, they got slaves from war captives, shipped out by rival tribes. Others were acquired by an individual’s inability to pay a debt or a fine. Many were born into slavery.

I’ve already forgotten the exact numbers, but just like the American colonies, slaves quickly outnumbered white Europeans many, many times over. Combined with local populations and later immigration trends, ethnic diversity throughout South Africa will surprise those who aren’t aware of the country’s slave past.