From Prisoners to Penguins: South Africa Day 6 Part 1

Unfortunately I had an FDP today.  I was excited about it though, it was a trip out to Robben Island, which I wanted to do anyway.  Although I could have done it way cheaper, I figured why not snag the opportunity to do it for a class.  I met Perri at breakfast, as she was also on the FDP, and we made our way to the bus.  It was a short ride to the ferry at the V&A Waterfront.  Our guide gave us all our tickets and we got in line.  Our guide then decided that it would be a good idea to lead our group to the front of the line, where we were then forcefully told that we would have to step aside and wait for everyone else to pass.  It was an extremely embarrassing situation, considering we were there to learn about apartheid and there we were, a bunch of spoiled college kids, mostly white, who thought that they had the right to push in front of everyone rather than wait.  I felt ashamed to be a part of it.

After that drama, we were able to get on a ferry.  The half-hour ferry ride was one of the bumpiest boat rides I had ever been on, but of course I had fun while other people tried not to get sick.  We got on another bus on the island and it transported us to the Robben Island prison.  Our guide there was a former prisoner on the island, and was very interesting and informative.  He told us about what life was like in the prison, what it was like to live with Nelson Mandela, and how they were treated during their time there as political prisoners.  I found it particularly interesting  that their mail was highly censored, so they devised ways to write in code through their letters without ever having arranged it with the people on the outside first.  I thought that was pretty ingenious.  We toured the grounds of the prison as the guide explained about this and that, and somehow I completely missed Nelson Mandela’s cell.  I wish they would have pointed it out to me, as that is one of the main reasons for visiting the prison in the first place.

Our tour ran 45 minutes over the time it was supposed to, meaning our time to see the rest of the island was extremely limited.  We were supposed to see how the island was used during the second World War as well as the infamous colony of jackass penguins, but we were too late to see any of that.  The only thing we were able to see was a restroom that had a nice view, and even then we only had five minutes to do our business and take a photo before we were rushed back to the ferry.  I really wanted to see the penguins, since I’ve never seen them in the wild before, but it didn’t happen.  I was lucky enough, however, to be looking out the window of the bus when we drove by a solitary penguin chilling under a tree.  So I guess I can say I saw a penguin in the wild, even though that doesn’t sound as cool.

A blown-up version of a former prisoner’s identification

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Posted on May 4, 2012, in Semester at Sea. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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