Slow Travel – Zero Waste Tips

I love to travel, it might be to the next town or to the next country. I am based in
South Africa and often visiting another country requires air travel. At most I will
perhaps make a trip once a year and go to one place for a few weeks and
experience it to the point where I no longer use Google Maps to find my way
around. Slow travel, in my book, is the only authentic way of traveling and truly
discovering what a community in another country has to offer. I love finding
hidden cafes where no one speaks English, or smelling flowers in the early
morning church square markets. Where you can see local pensioners loading
fresh produce into wheeled grocery baskets and slowly dragging it behind them
as they move from stall to stall. It’s about witnessing a different way of life,
loving what is similar and the differences.

I like to travel light… really light. I travel with a 40L backpack and still find ways I
overpack. Whether you travel for a few days or a few months, everything you
need can fit into a carry-on. Why specifically a carry-on? Traveling with a carry-on
will not only make you more versatile on your trip and save you unnecessary
fees for larger luggage, it lowers your carbon footprint. The lighter you pack, the
better.

I did a lot of research and a lot of practise runs before various trips to try and
test out the most efficient way to travel with a 40L backpack that had to weigh
under 8kg. Keeping in mind that I still brought everything needed for low waste
travel. I thought I would share some of the things that I found beneficial in the
hopes it could help you.

Eagle Creek 40L backpack

Staples:

  • Food Container (I brought a collapsible silicone container and a Stasher Bag)
  • Water Bottle (double walled and insulated for more flexibility)
  • Cutlery (bamboo, because metal cutlery will be confiscated at the airport)
  • Produce bags
  • Reusable bags (folds into itself)

The staples are important, things like a few produce bags, reusable bag, water
bottle, cutlery and food container. A reusable coffee cup is optional. I have
traveled with one, but I hardly used it as we mainly did sit down coffees and
people watched when we went to local cafes. If you want the best of both
worlds I would suggest getting an insulated double walled coffee cup or bottle
and having the flexibility to use it as both. As I have mentioned this is my
personal list, take what you need from this and customize it to you.

  • Bamboo Toothbrush
  • Solid Lotion Bar
  • Solid body and face soap bar

You can see from the list I am trying to limit my liquids. You are allowed to bring liquids.
According to carry-on regulations you can bring liquids in containers up to 100ml each, but the total must not exceed 1L. Along with the above mentioned list, I add my skincare and make-up items (eyebrow pencil, lipstick and mascara) and pack them all in the same Stasher bag mentioned in “Staples” thus using space effectively and the Stasher bag automatically makes it waterproof and the perfect replacement for those single use ziplock bags. I recently came across Earthly Toothpaste Bits in a health store and had to try them. They don’t foam up as much as Lush’s Tooth Tabs, but they get the job done. At home I use my DIY toothpaste, but for travel tooth tabs are ideal because they are easier to portion to make sure you have enough for your travels. Fortunately these days you can find a Lush in most cities if you run out of anything. Shampoo and conditioner bars have become popular, but I have only found the two-in-one combo at Lush. For the face and body soap bar I would definitely suggest Castile soap. It’s multi-purpose use in cleaning your clothes and dishes come in handy too.

Useful Items:

  • Scrubba Bag
  • Laundry Line

The Scrubba Bag is one of the most useful items on the list. Not only can you use it to wash your clothes in almost anywhere from camping to hotels, but it doubles as a dry bag when you have to travel on days where you need to pack a wet towel or swimming costume. By using it you conserve your water use and it allows you to pack lighter. I do prefer a liquid soap to wash my clothes with in a Scrubba, but the Castile soap bar will do if you soap up the clothes before closing the Scrubba Bag for the deep wash. A twisted laundry line with adhesive cups and rings on each end is the perfect partner to your Scrubba Bag. It’s small and light, and because the nylon is twisted you don’t need pegs and can use the space on the line efficiently.

Everyone has different needs and packs accordingly, but I hope you have found these tips helpful in preparation for your next trip!

Know Your Plastics and Understand that Recycling isn’t the Final Answer

Through my zero-waste journey I have tried to research every aspect of a product before buying it. What I have realized is that we are being fed quite a bit of green-washing when it comes to recycling. My mom is a religious recycler and was quite shocked to find out that not all plastic was recyclable. One-use plastics have flooded the South African market, led by companies such as Woolworths who align themselves with having environmental ethics when it comes to packaging. There are many aspects of plastics you need to understand when you say you support recycling. These are the things you need to look at:

  1. The number within the recycle triangle
  2. Whether it’s recycled in your province or country
  3. Will I be able to clean this plastic? Recyclers send plastic to landfill if it’s not been cleaned.
  4. Are you buying recycled products to support the reason for recycling?

 

  1. KNOWING YOUR PLASTICS:

The following info was taken from treevolution.co.za and plasticsinfo.co.za

PET

PET EX

PET – POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE 

Clear, tough, solvent resistant, barrier to gas and moisture, softens at 80°

Uses: Soft drink and water bottles, salad domes, biscuit trays, salad dressing and containers

PET is a favourite of soft drink manufacturers. Most used PET ends up in landfill sites in this country. Collectors gather the PET from there because they can earn a small amount of money for it.

PET is recycled into …
Pillow and sleeping bag filling, clothing, soft drink bottles, carpeting, building insulation. PET is also recycled in geotextiles for road stabilisation and dam linings, and Plastiwood.

HDPE

HDPE EX

HIGH-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE

Hard to semi-flexible, resistant to chemicals and moisture, waxy surface, opaque, softens at 75°C, easily coloured, processed and formed

Uses: Shopping bags, freezer bags, milk bottles, ice cream containers, juice bottles, shampoo, chemical and detergent bottles, buckets, rigid agricultural pipe, crates, etc.

HDPE is recycled into …
Recycling bins, compost bins, buckets, detergent containers, posts, fencing, pipes, plastic timber, etc.

PVC

PVC Pipes

POLYVINYL CHLORIDE

PVC-U Strong, tough, can be clear, can be solvent welded, softens at 80°C

PVC -P Flexible, clear, elastic, can be solvent welded

Uses: Cosmetic containers, electrical conduit, plumbing pipes and fittings, blister packs, wall cladding, roof sheeting, bottles, garden hose, shoe soles, cable sheathing, blood bags and tubing

PVC has been described as a “difficult” plastic. Its use is being phased out – in many cases it is being replaced by PET. Try to avoid buying products with PVC packaging, but if you can’t avoid it, it is unlikely to be recycled so the Plastics Federation of SA’s advice is to just throw it away with ordinary rubbish.

LDPE

LOW-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE

Soft, flexible, waxy surface, translucent, softens at 70°C, scratches easily

Uses: Cling wrap, garbage bags, squeeze bottles, irrigation tubing, mulch film, refuse bags, frozen veggie bags, building film

LDPE is recycled into …
Bin liners, pallet sheets, irrigation piping, a variety of containers, and construction and building film.

PP

PP EX

POLYPROPYLENE

Hard but still flexible, waxy surface, softens at 140°C, translucent, withstands solvents, versatile.

Uses: Bottles and ice cream tubs, potato chip bags, straws, microwave dishes, kettles, garden furniture, lunch boxes, packaging tape and bottle caps.

PP is recycled into …
Pegs, bins, pipes, pallet sheets, oil funnels, car battery cases and trays.

Where to take it for recycling

Drop-off points at Pikitup’s garden centres.

PS

POLYSTYRENE
Clear, glassy, rigid, opaque, semi-tough, softens at 95°C. Affected by fat, acids and solvents, but resistant to alkalis, salt solutions. Low water absorption, when not pigmented is clear, is odour

and taste free. Special types of PS are available for special applications.

Uses: CD cases, plastic cutlery, imitation glassware, low cost brittle toys, video cases, foamed polystyrene cups, takeaway clamshells, foamed meat trays, protective packaging and building and food insulation.

There are two kinds of polystyrene: high-impact, from which products like coathangers and yoghurt cups are made, and expanded polystyrene, from which meat and vegetable trays are made.

PS is recycled into …
Coat hangers, coasters, white ware components, stationery trays and accessories, picture frames, seed trays, building products, curtain rails, finials, skirting boards, cornices and stationery (eg, rulers). Demand far outstrips supply in South Africa.

OTHER

VARIETY OF OTHER PLASTICS INCLUDING ENGINEERING PLASTICS

Includes all resins and multimaterials (e.g. laminates). Properties dependent on plastic or combination of plastics.

Uses: Automotive and appliance components, computers, electronics, cooler bottles, packaging, etc.

This is not the type of plastic you’re likely to recycle at home. And, according to the Plastic Federation of SA, it is not recycled in South Africa at the moment, so they advise to put it in the dustbin.

 

  1. PLASTICS RECYCLED IN SOUTH AFRICA

According to capetowngreenmap.co.za these are the plastics they are able to recycle so far:

1 PET: polyethylene terephthalate
2 HDPE: high-density polyethylene
4 LDPE: low-density polyethylene (Select places, I have not come across a place that recycles these)
5 PP: polypropylene (Also, have not come across a place that recycles this type of plastic)

Please keep in mind that not all bottles labelled PET are recyclable in the first place.

  1. PLASTIC PACKAGING THAT ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO CLEAN
  • Chip bags
  • Tubes (toothpaste, lotion, tomato paste, etc)
  • Clingwrap
  • Plastic bags (produce bags, carry bags, liners, etc)

 

  1. SUPPORT THE RECYCLING ECCONOMY

There are many social projects turned businesses that have created a market for recycled products such as bags, sunglasses, furniture, etc. Supporting them will not only stimulate our economy and the process of recycling or upcycling discarded items, but most of these businesses are run by locals who have no other means of supporting themselves if not through entrepreneurship. They are easy to find online. Here are a few links to get you started.

  • uzwelo.co.za
  • iamgreen.co.za
  • tbagdeigns.co.za
  • use-it.co.za
  • sealandgear.co.za
  • eyakogreen.co.za
  • recreatesa.com
  • growbag.co.za

Why Do I Say Recycling Isn’t the Answer?

In South Africa we definitely have a waste problem, especially when it comes to one-use plastics. Currently we do not recycle the majority of our plastics (even those that can be recycled) and send everything to landfill. Problem is the landfills are filling up, Cape Town is almost at capacity, and in the rural areas garbage fills and clogs the storm drains… with heavy rain all of this waste is washed out to the ocean.

In addition, recycling plastics require a lot of resources and if the industry of recycled material is not supported by the consumer (buying recycled/ upcycled products) financially the entire reason for recycling is redundant. Currently just over 20% of Cape Town plastics are being recycled, this definitely needs to be improved.

What Can You Do as a Consumer?

  • Avoid one-use plastics
  • Avoid unrecyclable plastics at all
  • Avoid plastics that can’t be cleaned
  • Look for alternative/ no packaging when shopping
  • Buy recycled/upcycled products
  • Use reusable bags, coffee cups, straws, etc.

I totally understand (as a consumer myself) that some plastics are unavoidable, such as plastic windows in carboard boxes of pasta (why? Really…) and I do have an answer for that…. Eco-bricks. For more info on that visit www.ecobricks.org

I believe we underestimate the power we have as a consumer, we create the demand after all? Why not create a demand for more environmental packaging options and steer the market to more sustainable and eco-conscious methods? The power is in your hands.

Saving More Than Money

As some of you may know, 2018 was the year I decided that we as a household would start our Zero Waste journey. For those who are unfamiliar with Zero Waste, in short it is a lifestyle in which you buy products (mainly package free) in such a way that you don’t send anything to land fill.

The 5 R’s of Zero Waste are: Refuse what you don’t need; Reduce what you do use; Reuse or upcycle; Recycle; Rot veggie scraps and such in a compost bin. In this order.

In Cape Town South Africa we are faced with two major problems:

  • We are experiencing one of the worst droughts recorded.
  • We are running out of space for our trash at landfills. We are literally going to be to capacity within a year. Have a look at The Argus’s articles a few weeks back if you are unsure what I am referring to.

Sustainable living has become our priority.

If environmental reasons alone won’t persuade you to look at Zero Waste, what if I told you Zero Waste is saving us money? I will entice you to live a little more sustainably, saving mother earth and gaining a few more bucks to spend on the things you love.

By following the 5 R’s of Zero Waste you can already reduce the waste you bring into the house and save a few bucks.

Refuse:

  • Pamphlets at traffic lights. They just pile up in your car and glossy paper isn’t recyclable.
  • Freebies at events.
  • Straws and disposable cutlery. I carry my own, but I have noticed you don’t really need a straw.
  • Bottled water. Not only does it take 15 times more water (that’s in the actual bottle) to produce the plastic bottle, but research has concluded that there is significantly more plastic in the bottled water than in our tap water. Rather have your own reusable bottle (ideally stainless steel or glass) and fill up at home. Our tap water is safe to drink. And if you are traveling overseas (I am in a few weeks), do your research beforehand. There are Zero Waste ways of purifying water.
  • Plastic bags. Bring your own. Plastic bags are not recyclable.

IMG_6033

Reduce:

  • Your food waste by purchasing fresh goods weekly. Meal planning helps as well.
  • Instead of buying shampoo’s, conditioner, shower gel and a million other items for the bathroom, buy sustainable options such as shampoo bars (most can be used for body as well), replace your razor with an old-fashioned safety razor… as so on. Not only will you be saving money and the environment, but most shampoo bars have natural ingredients.
  • Eat out less. And when you do, take your own container with in case you have leftovers.
  • Packaging by buying unpackage products or products packaged in recyclable or reusable material such as carboard, paper, tin or glass.

Reuse:

  • Buying processed food in jars means that you can reuse them. Either for storage, use it as a vase or pot, or even use it to make your DIY toothpaste in. You have tonnes of options!
  • Instead of throwing out your plastic containers (like an ice-cream container) see if you can’t use it.

Recycle:

  • Not all plastics are created equal. Some plastics are not recyclable yet in South Africa. Do your research. Unrecyclable plastics also creep into my home such as the plastic that covers cheese, the little plastic ties that attaches price tags to items such as clothes, Styrofoam that encases mushrooms, etc. What I do with these is simple. I wash and dry them and then stuff them into my eco-brick. An eco-brick is a 2l plastic bottle filled with unrecyclable. Organisations use this as cheap building material.
  • Tin, paper/cardboard and glass are 100% recyclable. But rather reuse them before considering recycling.

Rot:

  • Compositing is one of the easiest ways in dealing with food scraps. Make sure you do your research before purchasing a compositing bin. I currently have a double 45l tumbler from Yolo and they are almost at capacity. We are only two people, so our food scraps will be way less than a family larger than ours. The Western Cape government give out free compositing bins, contact them and ask them when they will be in your area. These are 200l composting bins, so make sure you have the garden and space to put them in. There are alternatives for apartment dwellers such as worm bins or even a 25l bucket.

IMG_6046

Our household consists of two adult and two dogs and we reside in the Western Cape. I realize not everyone will have the same shops or resources we do, but you will be surpirsed what you find when you ask around. There might be more available to you than what you expected. I am just trying to give you an idea of how we have managed to save a few Rands here and there.

What we typically spend our money on:

  • Buying our staples such as rice, oats, pasta and flour in bulk saves us time, money and of course wasteful packaging.
  • Local, seasonal, unpackage vegetables and fruit. We buy weekly in small amounts as not to waste food. Scraps are composted.
  • Processed food such as jams we buy in jars and reuse the jars for storage.
  • Vinegar and bicarbonate of Soda we buy in bulk, they are multipurpose cooking and cleaning products.
  • We buy less meat.

What we no longer buy:

  • Paper Towels
  • Body Lotion
  • Toothpaste
  • Plastic bags
  • Tin foil
  • Clingwrap
  • Cleaning Products

The list gets longer as the months progress. We save between R500-R1000 a month and we are not completely zero waste yet. We are still finishing up products purchased back in 2017 and slowly replacing them with more natural and sustainable alternatives. But our pockets are not the only ones benefiting from this lifestyle.

  • We produce at most ¼ of trash bag of trash a month, which is lowering our carbon footprint significantly.
  • We are eating healthier and cooking from scratch has given us a deeper appreciation in what goes into preparing a meal.
  • My toiletries have been reduced to 1/3 of what it used to be. Everything I use is simple, natural and often has multiple uses.

DIY's

We plan to further reduce our spending by growing a small veggie garden this rainy winter.

Sustainable living is hard work, you are inadvertently changing your entire lifestyle and way of thinking. But it is so rewarding when you see the small changes and the look back and see the progress you have made. And it’s even more rewarding when you have that extra in your pocket to afford your own adventure.

7 Basics of Zero Waste for Beginners

What is Zero Waste? In short Zero Waste is a life style in which you don’t send any trash to the landfill. It is a growing trend as consumers become more conscious of the environmental impact of trash (with emphasis on plastic) and the consequences that directly impact us. It’s realizing we need to change the way we are currently living. Walking into a shop you are bombarded with plastic packaging. Convenience has driven consumers to the market place… and what is more convenient than plastic?

I know you feel like you are being crushed with guilt, but don’t loose hope. Every little change you make will be the step in the right direction. I will start with the absolute basics of what it means to be on a journey towards Zero Waste.

The principles of Zero Waste is best described by Bea Johnson as the 5 R’s (and in THIS order only):

  • REFUSE what you don’t need
  • REDUCE what you do use
  • REUSE what you can
  • RECYCLE if you cannot reuse or upcycle
  • ROT scraps of fruits, vegetables, egg shells, etc. in a compost bin

Here is a beginner’s guide in ways to get started:

  1. Say NO to the straw

Straws are once-use plastic that is actually a waste. Just by asking for your drink without a straw can make a huge difference. If you really cannot live without a straw there are a few alternatives, namely straws made of glass, bamboo or stainless steel. I opt for a stainless steel one and I carry it with me where ever I go.

  1. Use re-usable bags

I know we all have them… but never with us. Make just a bit of an effort to pop a small foldable one in your handbag/ backpack and/or leave a few in the car. Plastic bags are probably one our biggest problems when it comes to pollution in South Africa. They block storm drains, fill our rivers and go straight into our oceans. Marine life often mistaken them for jelly fish and eat them or feed them to their young.

  1. Coffee cup for on the go

Invest in a bamboo, stainless steel or glass reusable coffee cup for those coffees on the go. An average South African coffee shop sells around 300 take-away coffee’s a day, all these cups are single use and go directly to landfill. I use mine for any treats on the go whether it’s smoothies, latte’s or ice cream. I have found this cup very handy.

  1. Water bottle

Who hasn’t been told they need to drink more water? I know plastic bottled water market themselves as plant-based and recyclable… it’s all a roos. It takes 10 times the amount of water in the bottle to make the bottle and tests done on a global scale has resulted that 95% of the bottles are contaminated with microplastics. The same plastics poisoning our oceans. If you are unsure of your water source (South Africa’s tap water is drinkable) there are filters, like charcoal filters (zero waste way to go), that can help with that if you do find yourself in a place that doesn’t have drinkable water source.

  1. Recycle

If you haven’t started, the time is now! Most areas do provide a pick-up service for recycling, however, if you are not as fortunate you can either find out where the closest drop off areas are or contract a recycling company to pick up your recycling. I would definitely suggest that you include your neighbourhood in a joined effort to get recycling service in your area.

  1. Compost

Recycling takes care of your paper, cardboard, glass, aluminium, steel and some plastics (not all plastics are recyclable). But now you are left with your food waste. Solution? Compost your veggie scraps, rinsed egg shells, bread crumbs, leaves, hair, etc. Compost bins come in various shapes and sizes, each designed for your lifestyle.

  1. Eco-Bricks

And what about those small unrecyclable plastic that sneak into our home? Tags, receipts, Styrofoam, clingwrap, wrappers, stickers… things we do try to avoid. Simple, in South African we have a need for cheap building material and plastic is any easy answer. An eco-brick is basically filling a 2L bottle with plastic to the point that it doesn’t dent under your weight. There are various charities that are always on the lookout for this. I have been filling mine for the past three months and it still isn’t full.

I know this is an information overload so this is my advice to you: start with one change at a time and be patient with yourself and the process. Zero Waste doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a gradual process. And Zero Waste doesn’t literally mean Zero Waste, to me it’s about living consciously with what you spend your money on, what you put in your body and what organisations you support. You do what you can and try your best. And the most rewarding part? Not only are you making a difference to our environment, but Zero Waste living is good to your health and your pocket. I wish you all the best as you take your first step towards a Zero Waste Lifestyle.

Indochine… An experience for the senses

 

Following the mountainous curves of the misty Helshoogte road you find one of the winelands’ best kept secrets, the Delaire Graff Estate. The estate is owned by Laurence Graff, an English jeweler. He was the founder of the internationally renowned Graff Diamonds in 1960 and has handled many rare precious gems and diamonds in his lifetime. He is known for his exquisite taste, philanthropy and love of contemporary and modern art. This reflects onto his estate that opened in 2009. Upon arrival one can see that no expense was spared and so much care went into creating what is known as the Delaire Graff Estate. On the estate are lodges, a spa, two restaurants, boutiques and vineyards. Delaire Graff makes its own award-winning wine and an afternoon of wine tasting can be arranged with breath-taking views of the Stellenbosch Valley. Passing the security boom, you follow the carefully pave road embellished with beautifully selected fauna and sculptures to create focal points along the pathway. September to December as especially grand when the Christmas Roses are in bloom. The Hydrangeas grow and stretch to the height of your car on both sides of the path leading to Indochine. The estate prides itself with the biodiversity of fauna in their beautiful tranquil gardens, growing over 350 indigenous and non-invasive imported plants. The reason for this is so that there are always flowers in bloom all year round.

You know you have arrived when you enter the gates guarded by two bronze leopards, exceptional work done by Dylan Lewis. Parking the car, you take your first step into the Indochine experience. The door opens to the lobby and you are met with the warmth and hospitality of 5 start luxury. Everything in the room indulges the senses, your eyes follow the beauty of each painting on the wall, to the sculptures and the tower of flowers in the middle of the room. The sweet scents of the flower arrangement fill your nostrils and the crackling of a lit fireplace adds to the welcoming aroma of the senses. You are welcomed and ushered to a seat next to the fireplace. Looking around, you recognize the works of Vladmir Tretchkoff, Maurice van Essche, Lionel Smit and other valued artists. Enjoy a drink by the fire while your table is being prepared. There is no rush. Take the time to feel your body settle as time stands still.

Moving to the restaurant, you pass a cabinet encasing brilliantly cut diamonds set in a signature Graff Diamond design. It seems everything is aglow as you glance around the restaurant, the bar and tables are encased in copper, glinting off the “Swallows in Flight” by Lionel Smit and Andre Stead. The spiral setting of the flock of birds draping from the ceiling become the focal point. On a clear day, outside seating would be favourable where you can amerce yourself in the beauty of the winelands and greet Dylan Lewis’ regiment of cheetahs. But on a cold or rainy evening the restaurant provides a cosy and elegant ambiance with the option of being seated at the booth close to the fireplace, creating a quiet, intimate atmosphere perfect for two.

The wine menu provides a wide selection of award-winning wines, liquors and spirits. The ever-changing food menu provides a selection of Asian-inspired cuisine, most of the ingredients taken from the estate’s very own greenhouse. Although Asian-inspired, the chef Virgil Kahn puts a South African twist and unique approach to all his dishes. The restaurant is highly accommodating and when making a booking you are asked for any dietary requirements. The menu provides further accommodation as there is something for everyone. The infusion of flavours and aromas can only be described in colours as your palate is made aware of every pleasurable taste bud you possess. Between courses the chef spoils the guests with samples of new dishes he wishes to explore. Small portioned dishes are not the issue here, with the constant tastings between courses you are filled to the brim with food that can only be described as art.

Indochine is an experience for the young and the old, the traveled and home-bodies. It caters on an international standard, if not surpassing it, making it perfect for that special occasion or that important business dinner. Indochine shows the best side of the Cape Winelands and the warm accommodating hospitality that South Africans are known for. Nestled between Stellenbosch and Franschoek with a view that can only be described as Eden, it is definitely a hidden gem of the Cape Winelands and an experience that should not be missed.

Fugard Theatre: A Beacon of Humanity

District Six, a cosmopolitan once booming with creative juices, attracting musicians, writers and politicians in the struggle against apartheid. The area was rich with culture, music, foods and art. It enriched and provided ample contribution to the distinguished history of South African jazz music. Basil Coetzee, a musician who lived in District Six wrote a song (“District Six”) describing his time there. He was better known as a saxophonist and jazzman. Many artists and writers also found their inspiration in their cultural roots. It was a neighbourhood where children still played outside after dark. A time and place where music filled their homes and streets. Aromas of Malayan spices filled the air. It was a cultural hub with ethnic diversity. Located close to the port and the inner city, it housed the middle working class.

Established as the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town in 1887, it was considered a mixed community consisting of free slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants. It was a controversy in the fact that such an ethnically mixed community existed, but not for long. Removals and marginalization started in 1901 when the Africans were forcibly taken from their homes in District Six. By 11 February 1966, District Six was declared a white area and over 60 000 non-white occupants were removed and displaced to the barren outlying areas we now know as the Cape Flats. By 1982 the life of the once energized neighbourhood came to an end. The impression left by District Six has embedded itself within today’s Captonian culture. It still serves as inspiration to artists, musicians and writers of then and now. Artists such as Kenneth Baker and Gregoire Boonzaier place District Six on their canvases. Novelist Richard Rive wrote “Buckingham Palace, District six”. David Kramer and Taliep Peterson wrote an internationally known musical in 1982 named “District Six”. The memory of District Six and what it stood for remains with us to this day.

Athol Fugard, a playwright, novelist, actor and director, displayed his disdain for apartheid in all his works and writings. It all started after he dropped out of university to travel and see the world for 2 years. He managed to find a job on a ship as a court clerk. From this he witnessed the social injustice of the apartheid regime, the destruction of humanity. He was fueled with new motivation and inspiration, his first theatrical work was The Rehearsal Room. He wrote, directed and acted alongside his multiracial cast. He blatantly rejected segregation and was soon targeted by the government. Most of his works were banned. This did not stop him, he managed to write and publish an array of plays and books showing insight to the suffering of the oppressed. Most of his plays were internationally known, many of his books became films (some he starred in himself) and from this he received various awards and recognition in the fight for social justice and truth. Master Herold and the Boys is one of my beloved books, a bittersweet story portraying the conflicting interracial relationship of a boy and a black man that works for his family. The Blood Knot, however, was the reason that Fugard’s passport was confiscated. It was his novel Tsoti that received the most attention when it became an Academy Award-winning film in 2005. Fugard’s popularity grew despite the obsticles.

fugard main theatre

He has had over 30 plays that supports his cause for universal truth and humanity. In 2011 he received a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre. He has had the opportunity to work with John Kani, Winston Ntshona and the late Zakes Mokae. Soon he needed to have a place of his own in which to grow and carry on with his plays. He purchased the historic Sacks Futeran building located in Cape Town’s old District Six and turned it into the Fugard Theatre.  It opened its doors early 2010 and to this day the theatre still honours and protects the memory and history of the vibrant community savagely uprooted during apartheid. Celebrating its memory with musicals and plays that either take place in the time of the district or carry the same message of compassion and equality for all.

The Fugard Theatre is a majestic gothic-style building that stands apart from the rest of its surroundings. It looks almost saintly with its church-like windows, as if inviting anyone that happened to pass by. My experience at the Fugard Theatre was a memorable one. Walking in you are met with a friendly face at the counter and the smell of ground coffee beans still warm in the espresso machine. The modern urban look complements the bare historic walls that surround you. One side of the room holds a clean vintage-looking bar with a bar stools and bartender to match. Standing in the center of the room are round tables, ideal for conversations over drinks. One the opposite side against the wall is the coffee bar and barista ready to whip up a creamy cappuccino. Next to it is a well-tuned black piano, free to anyone who wants to share a melody. Under protest I obliged in playing a short piece for a loved one, by the time I finished I had the ears of all the people in the room. Needless to say my embarrassment surpassed my wit in that moment when I heard an applause. Retreating to the corner of the room, we relaxed with a cup of cappuccino on a large leather sofa. When we were done, we were told to explore the view of Cape Town from on top of the roof of the theatre. Climbing, what seemed to be an endless staircase, we moved towards the light shining in from the glass door at the top. Breathless, we seized our reward and soaked in the view from the top. I could see the beautiful city of Cape Town stretching out before me. I could hear the people, the cars, and the desperate ambulance sirens calling the streets to clear. I could even view the cat stalking the pigeons of the neighbouring buildings. As the sun met the horizon, the actors were ready to present the musical… District Six Kanala.

Fugard Theatre Foyer

The theatre
is intimate and close to a small stage,allowing everyone to view it from every angle and making sure you don’t miss a thing. The musical captured the spirit of District Six, with animated characters, bright costumes and music that would infect anyone to get up and dance. It shared the District’s colourful lifestyle, bittersweet moments and sad endings. Words and phrases native to the Cape Flats were comical and authentic to how we know Cape Town to be. Memorable songs such as “Ek is n visterman” still plays through your mind as you bounce out of the theatre back into the real world. I am impressed and I respect the ethic code of the Theatre as a beacon of hope for South Africa. It’s a living representation of what Athol Fugard stood for. I cannot wait for my next visit!

Wormholes of Information

Dusty giants rise up to meet the sky, their dark shadows looming overhead. You feel the warmth of the sun leave your skin as one of the beast’s silhouette consumes you, stepping into the belly of the beast you are welcomed by the cool breath of relief.

Everything in America is larger, including the prestigious Smithsonian Museum Institute. It is located in the hot and humid home of Capitol Hill, Lincoln Memorial and the White House. Washington DC is a city of immigrants, diversity and one of the most iconic capitals of the USA. The Smithsonian Institute has left a lasting impression during my short visit to the States. The Smithsonian Institute is a triple threat being the largest research, education and museum complex. It consists of 19 museums, galleries, the National Zoological Park and research centre. I have decided to only reveal two of my favourites: The Air and Space Museum and The Natural History Museum.

Now, imagine all those books you read as a child. Books of discovery, unseen worlds, wars, stars and spaceships… now imagine them coming to life! As you enter the security gate of the Air and Space Museum, you are met with a copper foil-like covered space craft. This space craft isn’t a duplicate or fake version, it’s the authentic equipment used for space exploration! It’s a labyrinth of past discoveries, where decades of information are made available to you in the flesh. Displays of aircrafts, spacesuits, space equipment, airplanes, solar systems, science experiments and scientific explanations are only a few things to mention.

The museum is divided into Space and Air (Aeroplanes, missiles, etc.). There are informative shows held at the Planetarium and IMAX theatre, displaying everything in high-quality 3D to make sure you see the smallest detail. There are various shows available for viewing covering various subject matter explored in the Museum. Downstairs, across from the aeroplane exhibit are simulators where a team of two are responsible for flying and shooting down enemy planes. I made the mistake of putting my teenage brother in the pilot seat, it felt like I was on the inside of a tumble dryer! Using my ponytail as an indicator for gravity, I realised we were travelling upside-down for most of the simulation. This didn’t put me off, I hit every single target! There are more family friendly simulators available in the form of a 4D ride. The Air and Space Museum really does cater for the whole family and entrance is free! Only additional costs would be for the museum shop, shows, rides and food.

Stepping into the Natural History Museum your mind is stunned by awe and wonder as you swim through the ocean exhibit from display to display. Your eyes transfixed by the creatures encasing you from the ceiling to the floor. A model of a humpback whale stretching the arch of its back as if rising to take a breath of air; octopi and jellyfish spread their tentacles over the information written on display. There are even a pair of Great White Shark jaws large enough to engulf a human! It honestly feels like you are submerged under the sea along with these mysterious beings.

Making your way back to dry land you enter the evolution of man. This exhibit includes archaeological interactive and informative games helping you to discover hidden bones fused to rocks. You see the various branches of hominids and how they lived and died. You even have the opportunity to install your own image into a de-evolutionary photo of an extinct hominid. All these activities are free of charge and hilarious if you ever want to see an altered photo of your mother with a prehistoric beard! Dinosaur fossils are not to be missed. Life-size displays of dinosaur models and fossils give a realistic feel of their size and strength, making it quite evident why humanity could survive and evolve only after a time without these colossal animals.

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Moving from the largest to the smallest creatures to exist, we wriggle our way into the next exhibit. If you ‘A Bug’s Life’ fan, you’d be itching to visit this exhibit. Live insects, arachnids, worms and many more wait for you in their mini-ecosystem. There is a butterfly room where butterflies fly freely around you, many other enclosures allow visits to your favourite creepy-crawlies and staff members of the museum walk around with one or two on their shoulders or hands, offering a close-up view to this misunderstood underground animal kingdom.

Next we explore the better known animals of the modern world; each displayed in its natural habitat each in an individual pose most noted by its species. From bison to bears, flamingos to falcon, the animal kingdom in all its glory lays at your feet. Step by step you explore a new climate and new species, finally you reach familiar ground… a pride of lions looking over at a herd of gazelle, a hippo gazing next to a waterhole with an Oxpecker on its back and the clumsy-looking giraffe splitting its front legs (as well as any gymnast) to take a drink of water. A majestic African elephant guards the main entrance to the museum, trunk lifted as if to signal your arrival to the rest of the inhabitants.

The museum also has a small Ancient Egypt collection, a whole floor dedicated to minerals and precious gemstones, plant-life and a few others. As in the Air and Space museum, this museum is also fully equipped with an IMAX theatre, simulations, museum shops and a food court. If I was an educator I would take every chance to expose my students to the wonders of this world and perhaps even the world beyond that! Both museums bring childhood stories to life, feed inquisitive minds and ignite the dreams that have yet to be imagined. It reminds you of the magic that already exists in the world and magic in the world that is yet to be discovered.

3 Lessons in 9 Days

It was at the age of 20 that I learned some of the hard lessons of adulthood. This all happened a month before my 21st birthday in January 2011. It was the first solo trip I was about to take with my father. My father is a veteran when it came to travelling. He traveled to various continents in one week as a young doctor and even at his age, still regularly attends conferences and completes advanced courses unavailable in South Africa. And thus I was eager in my foolish preparations which didn’t entail much more than a few google searches, tourist guides and learning Spanish. Believing my father had everything under control. That was my first mistake. And so boys and girls I was packed and ready for the most memorable trip of a lifetime.

Today I am grateful that our first trip was in the United States of America, where they spoke English and didn’t take tourists too seriously. That definitely counted in our favour. Our first stop was Anaheim where we had a blast at Disney World and Universal Studios. Being a huge mermaid fan, I reached the peak of my obsession when my father took me to lunch at Ariel’s Grotto, I had my picture taken with this understated princess and received a long-awaited autograph. The little girl within welled-up with tears.

The Universal Studios had two highlights for me, the Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror. The Haunted Mansion was brilliantly done, within the house there is labyrinth, each room housing a terrifying monster featured in their movies. The Butcher, Wolfman, the Mummy, Norman Bates from Psycho, Frankenstein, IT and other unruly characters. The rooms were terrifying: splattered in blood, body parts wrapped in plastic and hanging on chains… Travelling in small groups of four to six, you cautiously walk through the darkened hallways where the walls move and creatures that stretch out from hidden passageways to touch you. A few of the guests were even chased by the Wolfman and the Butcher. What made my time so enjoyable was purely observing my father’s reaction. It started at the entrance, I could see his complexion paling, his muscles tensing and his face becoming more animated. I believe he was trying to pass it off as excitement… I knew better.

Our group consisted of a married couple, unaware of Wolfman’s intentions, two young students and then of course myself and my father. This was the order we stepped into the darkness, unknowingly about to be enlightened by the true nature of ourselves. With tensions heightened, everyone is a trigger away from activating their fight or flight response. Adjusting my eyes to the darkness I could already see shapes hiding and waiting for their prey, I could hear the whimpering giggles of the girls in front of me and heavy breathing behind me. Glancing back, my father was barely a step behind me. It was in this moment I saw the humour and all pretenses fell. My father was terrified of the idea build up in his head and was literally walking on egg shells. Every time the students jumped or scream, my father would scream the chorus unaware of what is waiting ahead. He was horrified by the glad-wrap body parts swinging passed us and even grossed out by the blood dripping down the walls. I was laughing at the lunacy of it all to the point where I was heaving for air. The so called monsters didn’t know what to do with me. And so my ignorant bliss was fueled by the carefree days past. Little did I know hard lessons were still to come.

My grandparents had stayed in the States for a few years before my parents were married and so my father had experience driving on the right side of the road. Believing that his experience was sufficient, he loaded my into a rental car and took on the Los Angeles highway and headed for San Diego. If I had to describe the Los Angeles highway I would say imagine 10 pairs of roller coasters crisscrossing in every direction. To make things worse, my father was fighting with the built-in Sat Nav. My mistake was repeating what it said. It was terrifying, seeing cars and huge container trucks coming towards you while your father is arguing with a woman’s voice about directions. At some point I closed my eyes and started praying. On entering San Diego with our hotel in sight, my father skipped a stop sign and was pulled over by the local police. Speaking with a strong accent with a lost expression on his face, my father asked for directions to the hotel. The officers shared an expression of confusion on their faces as soon as my father started speaking. They just let us go. Arriving at the hotel, I opened the car door and collapsed on the lawn. The doormen watch as my first lesson of adulthood sunk in. Lesson one: always use public transport when available, under no circumstance let my father drive in any foreign country.

la-highway

My dad was mostly busy with a medical conference during our stay in San Diego, which left me with time to explore to my heart’s content… that was, until my father received his next bright idea. He wanted to show me the beautiful shoreline of Mexico. Remembering lesson one I suggested we go with a tour group, where there was also safety in numbers. Getting into Mexico was a breeze and we enjoyed the shoreline where a few scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean were shot, some shopping and even a horseback ride on a beach, something I have always wanted to do. It was on our way back to the border where the problems started creeping up.  The bus stopped at Tijuana, it looked like the CBD of Pretoria with less people and gated shops. I walked into an antique shop and bought two rings for my collection, when I came out I found my father in a small shop arguing with a man twice his size and covered in tribal tattoos. In my father’s hand was a bar one and on his face the look of confusion mixed in with annoyance. The towering tattooed figure was also growing impatient and kept shouting in Spanish. In the corner of my eye I see a second figure in the back of the shop. I asked my dad what he was doing and he explained that he wanted to buy the bar one but the shopkeeper refused to tell him what it costs. With the little Spanish I knew I found out that the shopkeeper couldn’t speak English and was simply asking two dollars for the chocolate. I still wonder what would have happened had I not stepped in. My father can be pretty stubborn and oblivious, fortunately I took the time to learn the local tongue. So lesson two is simply to know and understand some of the local language that will help with basic navigation and negotiation.

Getting out of Mexico proved difficult. Our tour guide told us in a calm voice that if we happen to hear gunshots to lay down on the floor of the bus and remain calm. It has happened that civilians have been shot in the process of arresting a fugitive. I just looked at my father with a scold on my face and the question “What have you gotten me into?”. Our turn arrived. The bus and passengers had to be search separately for any smuggling items. We queued up, passports in hand and shopping bags in the other. That’s when my father’s forehead started showing beads of sweat, his complexion turning to pasty grayish colour. A few months before my father lost a tremendous amount of weight. The person in his passport photo looked like the son of Santa-Claus with dimples and all, but the person standing in front of the Mexican border police looked like the late Fred Mercury after a few encores in the hot spot light. The officer stood staring at my father for 15min, which is long enough for me to think of plan B and coming to my dad’s rescue without spending the night in a Mexican jail cell. He finally allowed my father to pass. Stepping out into the cool night on the other side, we all noticed our bus was missing. Too scared to ask law-enforcement for help we moved as a group and managed to relocate the bus to take us home. Lesson number three: always do your research beforehand. Not only the tourist version, but the latest news and social situation of the place you wish to visit. Personally, I don’t believe I will ever be visiting Mexico ever again.

border-of-mexico

The rest of the trip was more relaxed in comparison. Visiting the Balboa Centre where we watched a musical, visited a few museums and the San Diego Zoo. I refused to have my father drive us there, so we ended up walking through industrial areas, dodgy neighbourhoods and across two highways. I don’t think my dad had any idea that miles weren’t the same as kilometers.

We went to famous beaches and had lunches at famous hotels. One such an occasion was at Hotel del Coronado, where Marilyn Monroe loved to stay during her visits to the coast. After lunch we were walking on the large paved sidewalk along the beach when my dad spotted a pedal car. The mechanics of a pedal car is fairly the same as a bicycle and not the Flintstones version you are all envisioning right now. This wire pedal car brought a child-like glint to my father’s eyes and in confirmation he started pleading to take it for a ride. I couldn’t refuse, I pulled my gypsy skirt up between my legs and with my new diaper in hand I climbed into the passenger seat. I only had one request for my father, to help pedal so that I may also enjoy the scenery.

I started pedaling, focusing on keeping my skirt away from the teeth and chain of the car. A few moments later, still looking down, I felt my legs work harder from an increase in the incline. Looking over to my father’s feet I saw that he had given up pedaling all together. Looking up at my father I saw the all too familiar puzzled look on his face. I turned to look at my surroundings, only to discover a yellow taxi cab hooting as it passed, driving flipping us off with one hand on the steering wheel. We were once again on the highway! And in a wire car no less where the speed and petrol was me, myself and I. How on earth did we get here? Leave it to my dad to be the one to remind me of lesson number one.