September is Heritage Month in South Africa

7 September 2016

019_IMG_0384As we shake off our winter blues and jump into spring down here in South Africa, we’re also jumping into heritage month.

This month recognises aspects of South African culture which are both tangible and intangible: creative expression like music, our historical inheritance, language, the food we eat as well as the popular memory, and it comes to a head on September 24, which is Heritage Day and a national public holiday.

When did it start?

Heritage Day was created by President Nelson Mandela in 1996 to encourage South Africans to celebrate their cultural traditions in the wider context of the great diversity of cultures, beliefs, and traditions that make up our nation.

From Cape Malay cooking and culture, to the legend of Shaka Zulu, South Africa is rich in culture and traditions and the 24th of September is the day we get to reflect on and celebrate these in style.

Here are 10 historic sites where you can celebrate South Africa’s heritage when you’re interning in Cape Town:

(h/t to SouthAfrica.net for this list)

Cape Town’s historic waterfront

A great harbour with a great history – that’s Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, South Africa’s top tourist destination – and a working port.
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St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town

Known as the ‘people’s cathedral’, St George’s has always been a haven for the oppressed. It is also the oldest Anglican cathedral in South Africa.

Houses of Parliament, Cape Town

The South African Houses of Parliament in Cape Town have been witness to a large number of the major changes, upheavals and historic turnabouts of this country.

Historic Robben Island, Cape Town

A trip out to Robben Island, famously once home to Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid heroes, might be the most memorable of all your South African experiences.

Historic Long Street

Walk up historic Long Street, where you’ll see Victorian architecture against a Table Mountain backdrop, and where you’ll be tempted into quirky shops and sidewalk cafés.

Castle of Good Hope

The Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town is the country’s oldest intact colonial building, and it speaks volumes about colonial days from the mid-1600s.

The Bo-Kaap Museum

The Bo-Kaap Museum lies at the heart of 1 of Cape Town’s most colourful communities. Take a walk through the brightly coloured Bo-Kaap area and meet its people.

District Six Museum

The displays and guides of the District Six Museum in central Cape Town tell the story of a vibrant community uprooted during the apartheid era.

Cape Town’s Iziko Museums

Dedicate a couple of days of your time to exploring the various fascinating Iziko Museums in Cape Town, from the Slave Lodge to Groot Constantia.

Historic Cape Town Gardens

The Company’s Garden in Cape Town is the prime park space in the centre of the Mother City, first established by Jan van Riebeeck, the 1st Dutch governor of the Cape.

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Or if you’re more exciting by the ‘Braai Day’ that’s also celebrated on 24 September, here are 7 ways to eat and drink your way around Cape Town.

Wherever you choose, a journey through a unique history lesson awaits.

Apply for an internship in Cape Town to come and celebrate this unique heritage with us.

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Your guide to using public transport in Cape Town

7 September 2016

Spending an extended period of time in a new country is often a daunting thought for many. One can expect to encounter many new experiences and challenges while you are settling in. With this in mind,  we thought it would be helpful to give you a quick introduction to travelling around the city in order to at least take care of some of the unknown. Cape Town’s public transport systems are certainly colorful and there are an abundance of options for getting around the city; all depending on your destination.

A quick overview of the methods of public transportation offers the following solutions:

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A Metrorail train en route to the C.B.D along the scenic southern suburbs line

Train

The Cape Town railway service is run by Metrorail and although it is the cheapest and most practical way for travelling long distances around Cape Town,  trains have built up a reputation for always running late and/or getting cancelled. You shouldn’t let this discourage you from trying it out though as recently Metrorail has received a massive injection of funding to help beef up its infrastructure and get its service up to scratch. This revamp of the railway system have seen trains become more reliable and efficient. Adding to this, is the fact that you can purchase weekly as well as monthly tickets at a discounted rate, making it the most economical form of transport.

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Passenger about to hop into a “taxi” at the Cape Town Station taxi rank

Mini Bus Taxis

Unlike the cab variety, minibus taxis are legally allowed to carry up to 14 – 15 passengers comfortably. They drive along pre-determined routes (e.g The Main Road from the city to the suburbs) and make their stops at any time you wish to get out. As it is the most informal mode of transportation, it has built up a bad reputation in some places where drivers overload their vehicles with more passengers than is allowed by law. Irrespective of this recklessness, they are still responsible for transporting millions of commuters around the country on a daily basis. There are many stations or points set out for you to catch a minibus taxi, but as long as you stand along the route you wish to travel and wave a signal to them as they approach, they will stop and let you in. It is one of the quickest ways to get from point A to point B.

Buses

There are two established forms of bus transportation available to commuters in the city: Golden Arrow Buses and the MyCiTi Buses. Golden Arrow is the largest bus operating company in the province and have routes that cover the majority of the city and its surrounding areas. To catch a Golden Arrow bus, all you need to do is find one of their yellow bus stop shelters along the route and wait under it until you see a bus heading your way. Signal them to stop and then hop on board. The MyCiTi buses were a recent addition to urban travel in Cape Town; and are easily identifiable as they are blue buses as opposed to the  bright yellow Golden Arrow buses. They operate on dedicated bus lanes in the city, allowing them to miss traffic in peak travelling hours. The MyCiTi buses were introduced to encourage Cape Town residents to use public transport to get to work instead of taking their cars. They function in a similar fashion to trams and have beautiful free standing stations in the middle of major roads all around the city.

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An iconic yellow Golden Arrow buses. These buses are so popular they can be seen all over the city

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The latest addition to public transport in Cape Town, the MyCiTi buses have their own dedicated lanes on local roads which means no traffic

Taxi Cabs

Cape Town has a host of taxi cab companies, all of whom have competitive rates and operate in exactly the same way as the ones you take back home. There aren’t any specific vehicle types associated with these taxis and most times the best way to distinguish a cab from a normal road going vehicle is to look for the yellow “taxi” sign on the roof. They operate 24 hours a day and will get you to virtually anywhere you want. Just remember that they are metered cabs so keep  in mind the distances you are going to travel to avoid any costly surprises at the end of your journey.

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Metered taxis or “cabs” are often used for late night transportation or for a quick ride home if you live near by the city bowl.

Uber

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If you don’t have Uber in your city yet, you’ve probably at least heard of the ride requesting app. If you use it already, then you’re all set — the same Uber you use at home can be used in Cape Town. Find a wifi network when you land at the airport, open the app and call a ride! Around Cape Town city, you won’t usually wait more than 10 minutes for an Uber cab, although if you go to places that are further out, like a wine farm, there likely won’t be as many cabs easily available.

Otherwise Cape Town is relatively safe as long as you remain alert at all times so feel free to walk, run, cycle, hop, skip or even jump your way around the city. There is so much to see and so many warm people to interact with, why limit yourself with the usual transport woes.

(images in this article are sourced from the internet)

Ganesh Chaturthi – All you need to know!

5 September 2016

India is one country that takes joy in celebrating all Hindu festivals on a grand scale. Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as ‘Vinayak Chaturthi’ is one among them. In fact, it is the largest traditional festival celebrated by the Hindu community, not only in India, but all over the world. Typically, the day falls between 20th August and 15th September each year and marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha.

GsbWho is Ganesha?

History has it that when Parvati, Lord Shiva’s wife needed a guard to protect her while she bathed, she created Lord Ganesha out of sandalwood paste and breathed life into him. Later that day, when Shiva returned home to his wife, he and Ganesha got into a tussle which resulted in Ganesha’s head being cut off by Shiva. Furious at this outcome, Parvati ordered Shiva to bring Ganesha back to life. Following his wife’s order, Shiva set out in to the forest to look for Ganesha’s head, but failed to find it. Instead, he chanced upon an elephant’s head and ultimately fixed it on Ganesha’s body and Lord Ganesha came back into existence.

How is Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated?

Idols of Lord Ganesha, made from clay and mud, take over the streets of India, especially in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Goa. Sculptors spends weeks and sometimes months to create life-sized idols, as well as, medium and small sized ‘murtis’ of Ganesha. These are then sold on street corners and markets to devotees in preparation of the big festival.

On the day of the festival, tents are set up outside temples and in residential colonies, giving every one a chance to worship and pay homage to Lord Ganesha. Idols of Ganesha are occasionally accompanied by those of Parvati’s. After the indoor celebrations, the idols are brought out on to the streets in large open vehicles. These vehicles are surrounded by masses of men and women praying and dancing to devotional songs. “Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most fun festivals for me. I get to see my otherwise solemn neighbors go all out and break into extremely entertaining dances on the day,” says Vidushi, who is our Communications and Programme Assistant from New Delhi.

When the procession from the streets reaches the river bank (or any other large water body), a small prayer is conducted by the ‘pandit’ and Ganesha is then immersed into the water. During the immersion, people are heard shouting “Ganapati Bappa Morya, Purcha Varshi Laukariya” which means “Come early next year, Lord Ganesha”.

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Why is worshipping Lord Ganesha important for Indians?

Lord Ganesha is one of the most popular Gods in India because of his unique half man-half elephant appearance. While growing up, every child is intrigued by his story and how he came into being. If one belongs to a Hindu family, worshipping Lord Ganesha is a matter of routine and is done with utmost devotion. The celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi was initiated by an Indian freedom fighter, Lokmanya Tilak, as a community event in order to gather public support and unite all Hindus.

However, during the last few years, idol immersions have reduced due to environmental reasons and many families now use water buckets at home to immerse Lord Ganesha.

Haven’t we always felt and said that India is amazing?! While we always entreat our interns who go to New Delhi on our programme to experience the rich culture and festivities of India, we also urge you to add witnessing such unique festivals to the top of your bucket list. Apply here for an internship in Delhi today.

Celebrating International Charity Day

2 September 2016

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Next week Monday will be International Charity Day. For our interns who work amazingly and tirelessly for education, advocacy, and development NGOs in Cape Town and New Delhi, every day is a charity day, but on September 5th, they’ll be a part of something special.

Mother TeresaIn 2012, the United Nations held the first annual International Day of Charity as an official day of recognition and celebration to honour the important work that these charities and many others do. September 5th was chosen because it is the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

This commemorates the tireless work that Mother Teresa did by devoting her whole life to charity work. In her honour, education and giving are the essence of this special day.

And indeed, some would say that now, more than ever is when we need to approach our daily lives with an essence of giving to our shared global community:

“At a time when the need for humanitarian assistance has never been higher and when there are more refugees and displaced people than at any time since the end of the Second World War, charities play an increasingly vital role in meeting human need.[…] I call on people everywhere to volunteer and act charitably in the face of human suffering.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for the International Day of Charity, 5 September 2015

Join us!

So if the legendary hearts of people like Mother Teresa inspires you to do some good today, share it with us! Post a pic on our Facebook wall or tweet it to us so we can celebrate you too today!

And if you’d like to give for more than a day, sign up here to come and do an internship for a good cause in Cape Town or New Delhi.

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An outing to Mzoli’s for a lekker shisa nyama!

22 August 2016

Wait, what does that heading even mean? You can brush up on your Cape Town lingo here, but it means some of the interns in Cape Town at the moment joined if i could… team members for a great afternoon at Mzoli’s Place on Friday.

Mzoli’s is in Gugulethu, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. Since it opened in early 2003, the restaurant has become a popular gathering spot for Cape Town residents and a tourist attraction. It’s a favourite of ours for its authentic vibe, especially on a Friday afternoon, and it’s great food! 

Here are a few pics from the intern outing:

Getting started

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Why don’t you join us?

Want to be in Cape Town for the next outing? Make sure to apply here for an internship that makes a difference today!

Contact us for more information