Three Days in South Africa

May 6, 2008 at 2:47 pm 4 comments

It’s our last night in South Africa. I have to say that I’ll be sad to leave tomorrow. This city is amazing – so much texture, culture, history and personality, not to mention that it’s absolutely beautiful. As a quick re-cap, here’s where we’ve been and where we’re going. We started in Austin 13 days ago, flew through Dallas before arriving in Tokyo. From Japan, we had a couple hours in Singapore on the way to Trivandrum. From India, we popped into Dubai for about an hour on our journey to Cape Town. Africa is huge. That flight was about nine hours, the majority getting from the top of the country to the bottom. Tomorrow, we have a stop in Athens, Greece before arriving Rome on Thursday morning. Night flight.  Ouch. 


I think there are something like 10 official languages in South Africa. Over the last few days, we’ve done interviews in three of them – English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. Very cool. We started on Sunday interviewing Drs. Denny and Mbatani. They are both doing amazing work in gynecology and women’s cancers at Groote Schuur Hospital, a public hospital, and set the stage for cancer in South Africa and the challenges that still face the country post-Apartheid. Their work also stretches into the townships outside of the city. More on that later. Interesting finding: Dr. Mbatani said that some people in the outlying townships and villages think cancer is caused by witchcraft.

We went back to the hospital on Monday where we spent time shadowing Drs. Denny and Mbatani seeing patients. We also interviewed two cancer survivors. They both had amazing attitudes. Wendel, our second interview, was actually waiting for his test results to come back from a recent scan. He had a really positive attitude and has been seeing excellent results from his treatment thus far. I’ve been thinking about him since we left. I so hope the good news kept coming for him. 

Today, we were all over the city and the outlying areas for our man-on-the-street interviews. We added some great folk to our team – Faghrie and Sizzy. Faghrie handled any interviews in Afrikaans and Sizzy covered Xhosa and Zulu. We started in the outskirts of Cape Town and worked our way back into the city. Our first stop was Khayelitsha. This is a huge township about 30 minutes outside of town. About one million people call it home, most moved or were pushed there as a result of Apartheid. The poverty was pretty extreme here. The majority of the homes are shacks, built from scrap materials – metal, wood, and cardboard. I noticed many of the roofs were held in place by tires or rocks. You can sort of see the structures from the photo I took of Wilson and Faghrie filming on the overpass. Faghrie told us that these shacks are often built overnight and can house entire families. They’re maybe 6′ x 6′ in size, most without running water or electricity.  

Before starting our MOS interviews, we visited a clinic that serves women in the area in hopes of providing early detection for cervical cancer. This is an extension of Dr. Denny’s work at Groote Schuur. She founded this clinic about 12 years ago and sees patients there two afternoons a week. The clinic is actually housed in several old shipping containers. They’ve made them very comfortable, complete with an inviting garden. A team of about 10 women makes their way into the township on a regular basis to recruit women for their program. After spending an hour or so at the clinic, we moved into the town center for some man-on-the-street interviews. 

After a quick stop in Mitchell’s Plain (another township outside of the city), we were back in the city center of Cape Town where we wrapped up our day. Since a lot of people speak English, I was out there approaching (read hustling/stalking) the lovely citizens of this town to give us five minutes. That was hard work, especially tough to get a “no” after explaining to someone for a block what we were doing and why it’s important. Nonetheless, people were very willing to talk to us overall and we got some great responses. Our South Africa tally for interviews is about 25 people – healthcare providers, cancer survivors, and man-on-the-street folks.

Here are some photos from our last few days in the city. We leave tomorrow for Italy, the last leg of our trip before heading back to Austin on Sunday. 


Entry filed under: South Africa.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Beth  |  May 6, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    But what did you have to eat?!? 🙂 Thanks for the update. It looks like a beautiful place.

  • 2. Suz  |  May 6, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    This is amazing! I love all of your pictures and can’t wait to hear more stories. Thanks for documenting all of this for us-it sounds like an exhausting and awesome trip!

  • 3. Jennifer  |  May 6, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    I can’t believe your trip is coming to a close at the end of this week. It has gone by fast and at the same time seems like you have been gone forever!

  • 4. Andy  |  May 7, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Amazing to see such beauty contrasted by such poverty. And good work Anne, hustling the locals.


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