Best International Experiences Part 3 - South Africa and Dominican Republic

Continuing the travels around the world will lead us to the Caribbean and the continent of Africa.

South Africa
Cape Town - Robben Island: You have to see Nelson Mandela's cell, you have to hear from the prisoners of apartheid, you have to hear and see the nearly inescapable island only a ferry ride from Cape Town. It's eerie now to think of Table Mountain and Cape Town being so relaxed when only about 30 years ago Robben Island was right across the ocean. As such, there is so much pain in the prison of Robben Island and as I think on it now it remains to be the only prison in the world I've actually been inside of and it is not something I wish on people.

Cape Town-District 6 Museum: This is a small but fascinating museum highlighting the gentrification of Cape Town (South Africa falls into several similarities with the US). What is distinct here is how detailed the problems apartheid has caused throughout all of South Africa to not only the Bantu people, but also so-called coloreds (my skin tone). In Cape Town, the removal of coloreds who were well to do were gentrified heavily similarly to Harlem, the Black Wall Street, Oakland, and other cities around the US. You owe yourself to take a break from lounging and check it out.

Cape Town-Food and Outdoor Adventures: Cape Town has a similar climate and landscape to Southern California and therefore I enjoyed its beaches and mountain hiking even more. I tried to go shark cage diving, but that was to no avail due to rough weather.  Besides outdoor trekking, the food in Cape Town is some of the best I've had in the world. Whether it is braii from Mzoli's and elsewhere, Amarula liquor, Stellenbosch wines, tiger shrimp (huge!), or any animal imaginable then you will have a feast of some of the best and cheapest good food on this planet.

Soweto-Nelson Mandela's House, Hector Pierson Memorial: Soweto is an intriguing concept as it is a huge shantytown with millions of people in poverty, a lot of tourism, varying degrees crime, and a beautiful history that shows the heart of South Africa. Nelson Mandela's house (which I visited when Rohililarou -sp?- was still alive) has tons of great relics from his years in South Africa and receives a ton of tourism. While many in Soweto don't have the means of tourism, it does help Soweto and Desmond Tutu is right down the street. The true first glimpse into the oppression of apartheid outside of Robben Island appeared at the Hector Pierson Memorial which details the Soweto riots and the levels to which racial discrimination can be taken in a modern setting. I don't want to give all the details as I think this research needs to be your own, but Soweto is a good heart of South Africa and has memorials, bungee jumping (I wish I had known!), and a bunch of signs that tell you how to get around Johannesburg.

Johannesburg - Sofiatown and The Apartheid Museum: A quick, but important aside to Sofiatown. This is basically another Maxwell street, Rosewood or proficient black area that whites took over. The lady giving the tour had so much heartache in her story that I felt the immense sadness in the of the region and the house as she explained the history. Note that, this being my first time in Africa I truly tried to observe my surroundings and grab the earth of our origins. Beyond this, The Apartheid Museum is extensive and has so much information about apartheid and another exhibit on Nelson Mandela (who some Africans don't support because he didn't do much, but that's what traveling will net you!). This museum is a top tier museum that joins my list as it has 3+ hours of information that you're going to want to experience from the white versus colored citizen lines, to the videos of the riots, to the essentially Jim Crow laws from the Dutch led by Verwoerd, to the replicas of riot relics. After all of this and even the tensions between Bantu and Afrikaners today (I got along with a Bantu lady in Cape Town, but a Afrikaner drove me in Jo'burg) will constantly keep your eyes open for the conflict, yet beautiful land of South Africa.

Dominican Republic -Zona Colonial/Santo Domingo: While I had a great tour guide (hah an older Dominican bartender know who I am by now if you read this blog) for checking bachata spots, locals, mopeds, and the Faro de Colon (pretty well-built lighthouse) the bizarre world to check out in the capital of the DR is yes where Cristobal Colon landed. The colonial region has museums, forts, and in particular, his mansion littered around the Colonial Zone which makes for an odd circumstance. The reason for this is that I'm surprised that Dominicans especially with the current tension with Haiti won't take down these relics of a monster who terrorized, raped, and killed their ancestors. It messes with your head slightly at the contrast between worship versus hate. Nevertheless it's not bad to walk around here if you keep your head on right as there are some cool random happenings in Calle de Conde, the main square, the bodegas (Brugal and Presidente!), and I even went to a little music jam. It's an enjoyable place, but again I cannot recommend it at this moment until tensions diffuse.

Dominican Republic - Sosua: While going through the Dominican countryside with slang heavy Spanish (language barriers aplenty here) I would arrive in Sosua where you can motorcycle, apartment rent and basically hang out in the DR for cheap. I went there for scuba diving which I learned was more dangerous than I thought (remember to breathe and be mindful of what's going on with your own breathing). Still it was beautiful to check out the clear blue waters and tropical fish. Afterwards, I hung out these guys I met on scuba trip which led to let's just say a diverse bar scene with Dominican and Haitian women. Overall, a radiant country with some wild times if you want them.

Next up we return to Europe...alone!