Most of my blog has been about Ubuntu because that’s definitely where I’ve spent the majority of my time and energy. I’m here as an intern for the program, not a tourist. I’ll admit that I haven’t done a lot of the tourist things, but Alyssa has gone out of her way to show me Durban and the surrounding area. I would like to share some of these things with you.
On my first day in Durban, Alyssa took me to the Moses Mabhida stadium. It’s a huge soccer stadium named after Moses Mabhida, a former general secretary of the communist party. The stadium holds almost 63,000 people and was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The stadium looks like a traditional African basket and dominates the Durban skyline. It’s definitely one of the most architecturally fascinating and beautiful structures I’ve seen.
Alyssa, Siyanda, and I took Nelly, a girl who graduated from high school and Ubuntu last year, to check out some nursing schools. One was in downtown Durban so while we were there, Alyssa took us to a delicious shawarma restaurant called “La Pita”. Shawarma is basically a big pita bread piled high with either rotisserie chicken or beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, a sweet chili sauce, and a sour yogurt sauce. Each one weighs at least two pounds and is slightly bigger than a Chipotle burrito (plus they only cost $2.50 each). We took our shawarmas up to the top floor of the parking garage where the car was and enjoyed a fantastic view of downtown Durban.
Alyssa, Siyanda, and I went to Victoria Street market the other day. It’s a huge open-air market full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat; traditional medicine; clothing; and other goods. All the food is super fresh and costs mere cents. Seeing the traditional medicine booths was quite the cultural experience. There were spices and roots everywhere, all kinds of wood, and dried animals hanging from the ceilings. The animals ranged from bobcats to snakes to cranes to monkeys. Apparently it’s common practice to dry the animals, grind them into fine powder, and mix the powder with water to make medicine. According to Zulu practice, they believe that sprits are contained within the medicine and somehow if pictures are taken it reduces their usefulness. We headed over to the part of the market aimed more at tourists. The booths displayed an incredible array of goods from all over the African continent such as beadwork, tribal masks, ceremonial drums, intricate fabrics and tapestries, paintings, and wood and stone carvings of every kind. You can also see the Indian influence in Durban at the market with all the spices, curries, and clothing. I got some good deals on some souvenirs. My favorite being some maroon Indian pants with elephants on them. They look like pants from the movie Aladdin. They’re seriously so comfortable (and I’m shamelessly wearing them right now).
Two days ago we visited a beautiful baby blue Hindu temple in Verulam (VAIR-lum) that was commissioned by Gandhi right before he moved from South Africa to India. The temple has many intricate carvings and paintings; it is very clean and there is great attention to detail. It’s beauty and historical significance made the quick visit very worthwhile.
Yesterday, we went to the beach in front of the apartment. It was low tide so a bunch of really cool rock formations were visible. We climbed on top of the rocks and found a plethora of tidal pools teeming with colorful corrals, mussels, and tropical fish. Some of the tidal pools were small and shallow enough to wade in and some were wide and deep enough to swim in. We walked around, talked, and observed the beauty of the ocean until the waves began crashing over the rocks hiding the tidal pools from view and forcing us up onto the sandy beach.
This has been a wonderful eye-opening experience. I feel that I have gotten to experience some of the culture through observation, music, food, and conversations. You don’t need to see all the tourist attractions to learn a lot and experience South Africa, all you need to do is pay attentions to the little details and see the beauty in everything.