On Feb. 27, after a fairly rough passage (Elizabeth had to pass out more of her sea-sick patches to others) we crossed the line where the Pacific meets the Atlantic (two different colors- you can really tell) and pulled into Cape Town, where we docked at the Victoria & Alfred Harbour. Yes, Alfred (not Albert). It was named after Prince Alfred, Victoria’s son, who was Governor of Cape Province when the Harbour was built (using convict labor) and who insisted that his mother’s name be added and should come first. This week in Cape Town turned out to be one of the busiest so far – in part because the Scholar Ship Research Institute scheduled two international conferences to be held on board while we were docked.
I (David) escorted the undergraduate International Business field program – which was one of our best – at least as good as India (and without the culture shock of the visible severe poverty one sees in India in the shadow of luxury buildings.) We toured downtown with the business group – Cape Town Partners – responsible for revitalizing the city center – and it is certainly vitalized. It’s one of the cleanest cities anywhere, in large part because they have contracted with churches to provide cleaning jobs for former homeless. The jobs provide a living wage; the churches provide supervision; and you see people with ‘Jesus Saves’ vests everywhere cleaning the streets. Cape Town had become overbuilt with offices and the financial centers were moving to Pretoria, so this city had become a desert at night, inhabited only by street gangs. The Partners helped persuade restaurants, theatres, and creative arts venues to move downtown, created market spaces, and – most important – got the owners to convert many of the office buildings to luxury condos for the young, single professionals who would patronize the restaurants, theatres and markets, so Cape Town is now a lively, bustling city 24 hrs. a day. Importantly, they got strict architectural preservation laws passed – relating to facades only. So street-level Cape Town still has all the interest of the old baroque and Art Nouveau buildings, with ultra modern buildings inside. The Partners also provided additional security, helped build housing and job-training centers for the homeless, and have attracted millions of $ of foreign investment (along with even more domestic investment) into the city, and it works!
We then met with one of the most articulate, passionate, well-organized and wrong-headed speakers so far on the voyage. He was the Organizer/Educator for COSATU – the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and an avowed communist-Socialist, anti-Capitalist agitator. He doesn’t believe in profit, in Globalization, in Free Trade, or in International Business, and he set out to convert my students into believers, and almost succeeded, until they asked him where the money would come from to provide every South African a universal basic income, free health care, free education, etc., and he replied he would take it from rich businessmen, who had no right to it. Since all these students intend to become rich businessmen, he lost them. In his brilliant lecture, he was kind enough to specifically attack all the companies and organizations we were meeting with later, which gave the students the background for good questions. Interestingly, he also voiced his personal belief that the ANC Government, with whom COSATU is intimately tied, had sold out to the capitalists, and the unions should break that alliance. This helped explain the firing of the COSATU President (who supports Pres. Mbeki) by the union, two days later. We went on, meeting with small business leaders, with the Petroleum Association General Secretary, with a small business organizer in the black townships, and with the largest brewery in the world ( South African Brewery – now SABMiller) who had been denounced by COSATU for investing abroad rather than spreading its money among South African workers. One of our meetings was held at the Univ. of Cape Town Grad. School of Business – interestingly enough housed in the former prison which had held the convict labor building the V & A Waterfront Harbour The School retains the façade and several elements of the prison (including cells which are now classrooms), My students said they preferred the Scholar Ship. We also participated in the conferences – on fighting AIDS and on converting IT Science into businesses.
Overall, we got a good picture of current South Africa – which is no longer worrying about surviving, but it concentrating on making a better place for themselves. There are still problems (inadequate power, etc. for all the growth, and an AIDS epidemic), but race, survival, and the past are no longer the primary issues.) That consumed my first three days. When I got back to the ship at night, I had to mostly hide in my cabin correcting mid-term exam papers (the computer generation’s handwriting is not one of their strengths) but I finally got them done. In between times, I was interviewed twice by SA television for features on the Scholar Ship, and Elizabeth and I got off the ship for a few great meals.
After the AFPs and exams, Elizabeth and I were both free, so we (surprise!) went shopping – at Green Market Square
and everywhere else, exploring the parts of the city we remembered from previous visits. As a part of the cost of prosperity, the funky, cheap South African places we remembered were largely gone, replaced by sharp, sophisticated and pricey new South African places. The great restaurant from which we took the idea of ostrich egg lamps is gone, replaced by a brash tourist restaurant called The African Café (and pierced ostrich eggs are in every shop for about $35 each). We never found a dressmaker to work up Elizabeth’s Indian silk, but had a great time walking up a loooong street asking & talking to everyone. Our wonderful B & B has become a luxury retreat – but the original owner now has two wonderful places in Little Karoo, on the Garden Route. (As we learned when the hotel phone in David’s Palm didn’t answer, so we called Charles’s cell – so now we have to come back and drive the Garden Route again). We found some really beautiful and elegant looking restaurants, and mostly ate elsewhere, but we did have one perfect steak and several lobster dinners (David). Our students were busy at sky-diving, abseiling off Table Mountain and shark-diving (what do we do to them on the ship that they think risking their lives is a welcome relief?) but we refrained. We did go bicycling in Wine country – a 20-km excursion with welcome breaks to taste wine.
(And to ride in the follow van (E) when the hills got to be too much.) Only problem is, South African wineries think a ‘taste’ is the same size glass we normally drink for dinner, so things were getting a bit wobbly by the end of the day. And we’ve concluded that the ship’s wine list is definitely deficient, so we’ve brought aboard enough to enliven our meals for a while, plus a small case of really wonderful wine to add to our cellar at home. The only thing we missed (again) was a visit to Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela & most SA political activists were imprisoned.) Our emailed reservation was somehow lost (and that ship was full), so we rescheduled for our final day. We woke this morning to find high winds and high waves, cancelling all trips to Robben Island, so we’ll just have to save it for a later visit. And we do plan a later visit. Cape Town is confirmed as one of our favorite cities.
Now we start the longest part of the Voyage. From Cape Town to Barcelona, three weeks at sea, broken only by a one-day stop in Cabo Verde. Seven days/week of classes. I’ll be a broken man before we arrive in Barcelona. I, (Elizabeth) on the other hand, will have it easy. The short trips at sea are very difficult for me because I have to get all the paperwork done before we arrive in the next port. But when we have a long time, I work hard for a few days and then only have to hop-to when new itineraries arrive. Can’t believe the voyage is half over—it stretched so long and now suddenly we’re on the down slope. Our net connection is weak again, so I’ll post this without photos—maybe they will follow if we get a better one later. And here we are in a last photo posted at last: