Sunday, February 06, 2005


Capetown was amazing - a city of contrasts. Close by, at Cape Point lies False Bay, where it is alleged by locals and disputed by geographers that the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic, and Capetown itself embodies this sentiment.

A city by the sea, decadence and luxury abound in resorts such as Camps Bay and the Waterfront. You can buy yourself the most delicious food, be treated like royalty by the top class friendly waiters and waitresses, try local fine wine and freshly caught Kingklip. Fool yourself that you're on the Riviera. Nearby, in Townships, living in conditions that defy our western standards of belief, are many of those that fall over backwards to ensure that you're enjoying your Pinotage or Windhoek.

You wonder to yourself why are people being so nice? Why are they willing to put up with this juxtaposition? I don't have any answers, but the friendliness and welcoming smiles would make me visit a hundred times over and hope to do my bit to make South Africa the country it deserves to be. My fingers are crossed for its future. Visiting 'Nelson Mandela Park' or Imizamo Yethu, a township situated in the beautiful area of Hout Bay, was such an eye-opener. For days we had been greeted with a special warmth when we announced our Irishness, 'Aw, Niall Mellon, the Irishman who builds houses' or 'why do all the Irish people come and build houses? We're so happy they do'. Time to investigate.

We were privileged to be able to arrange a visit to Imizamo Yethu, where our guide Africa brought us around and introduced us to his home. At times we felt like voyeurs, but this was our own neuroses, as all the locals greeted us and made us so welcome. In this tiny piece of land reclaimed from its former status as a piece of national forest, the South African government meant for 450 informal settlers from around the area to build a small model community. That was 1991, and the brick and morter homes are few and far between. In fact, and I'm sure I'm statistically underestimating, in the region of 20,000+ live there now sharing a few toilets and taps. Most of the brick homes are there thanks to Niall Mellon - a worthy cause if ever, see website:

Some of the houses Irish Builders have built in Nelson Mandela Park, Hout Bay, Capetown

I'm going to try to figure out how to lump a few images together so I don't bore utterly with our 248 photos of Capetown (yes, a simple mathematical sum was defined during our sejour, i.e. 4 girls + one bull (definition of alotron by one tour bus guide) + new digital camera + big memory card + amazing country = 248 photographs).

I'm fatigued, so anon my friends. alles liebe, aoife.
p.s. lesson learnt on hols = the world is not a dead ugly place... (I know that is an approximation of one of alotron's albums, I'll update next post, yawn & in cartoon tradition, zzzz)

An interesting article in the Guardian the other day discussed happiness and materialism. Seems that having nothing, or very little, does not cause one to be unhappy. The problem is not with how much one has - but with how muth worth one attaches to what one has relative to others in one's environment. In other words, i have X and you have X and we are both relatively content; i have X and you have 8X and i am starting to feel worthless. However, she has 14X and now you are starting to feel worthless, and i am in despair.

What i noticed upon returning to belovedireland was not the close sky or the liquid air, but the anxiety and insecurity on the faces of my accidental countryfolk. A sheer terror barely concealed behind magazinehaircutsandshoesandlearnedfromthemoviescorporatebravado that i didn't encounter even once in my admittedly brief visit to SA.

Don't live your life in misery.
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