A memorable weekend

28 06 2011

From June 3rd  to 6th  SE Corps interns spent a long weekend with homestays in the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town.  Throughout the weekend interns interacted and worked side by side with local nonprofit organization, the Bo-Kaap Cultural and Heritage Gateway.  The weekend included a tour of the Bo-Kaap area, interviews with stall holders at the Bo-Kaap Cultural and Heritage Gateway Market, traditional Cape Malay cuisine, and survey analysis and recommendations with the Bo-Kaap Cultural and Heritage Gateway.  SE Corps intern Aimé Silfa shares her experience living and working in the Bo-Kaap area for a memorable weekend.

SEC in front of homestay in Bo Kaap

Bo-Kaap: a community filled with history and color. The bright houses were what mainly caught my eye. The houses remind me of the Dominican Republic with their balconies and their doors at the sidewalk. Bo-Kaap is a safe neighborhood where kids can run around and just hang around on the sidewalks. The neighbors go from house to house, and they all know each other. I missed being around such an environment.

When we took the tour of the Bo-Kaap area, it was interesting to learn that Bo-Kaap is 95% Muslim because Apartheid forced people to be segregated by religion and background.  During the arrival of slaves in Cape Town the person in charge of the data collection of slaves would name people after the month in which they arrived if he was not in a good mood that day. Thus, many people cannot trace their surnames back very far and are unable to learn about their ancestors. In addition, Christianity was not encouraged because if the slaves became Christians they would be entitled to more rights, such as days off and better treatment. Therefore, the Dutch did not want them to become Christians.

Aime enjoying the view from her homestay in Bo Kaap

Today Bo-Kaap resembles the culture from decades ago, which is what makes it so special. My host family and the people in the neighborhood are very aware of their history. In the first conversation I had with my host dad he told me his family descended from slaves. He was not ashamed of it.

I forgot what it was like to wake up in a house: dads chatting outside in the patio, and being able to yell my friend’s name across the street as soon as I walk out the door. My home stay family was amiable.

People around here are fully aware of the media that portrays part of the American culture. Even the mother was telling me about Snoop Dog. The kids listen to Biggie and Tupac. The children are well raised. They have goals. They are 19, 26 and 29 and still living in the house. The two oldest ones graduated from college while the youngest one is still studying. They all work and spend their money in things they want and need. I found that surprising given that in American culture kids cannot wait to leave the house and be independent.

SEC and Bo Kaap Cultural and Hertiage Gateway after SWOT and Survey Results

We went to Bo-Kaap to work at the Bo-Kaap Cultural and Heritage Gateway Market, which promotes small businesses of local women. In the market we interviewed the stallholders in order to see how the market could be improved. The Bo-Kaap Cultural and Heritage Gateway nonprofit who we conducted the surveys for could not wait for us to show them the results of the surveys. What amazed us was that many of the ideas we suggested they had already tried. These were simple women who recognized a need and started a business that would respond to it.

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