Finding spring’s world famous wild flowers in Cape Town

19 September 2016

An estimate 100 000 tourists visit Namaqualand, an inimitable natural area that crosses the Western and Northern Capes, every year to see the normally dry and desert-like countryside burst into colourful bloom So at a soft guess, that would mean there are at least 10 flowers for every tourist who goes to see them because the springtime wildflowers in Namaqualand are many in number, and truly amazing.

Where to go?

The West Coast National Park is just 1.5 hour’s drive from Cape Town city centre, and boasts a popular and colourful flower season annually between August and September. Depending on the amount of rainfall in the preceding winter months, here, Namaqualand daisies and more 3 500 floral species emerge in spring – from early August to the end of September – to offer one of the world’s greatest flower shows.

If you’ve got the time, drive even further up along the west coast to Namaqualand in the Northern Cape, where the flowers really start showing off.

One of the if i could… team members went in search of the beautiful blooms last weekend, and here are a few of the vibrant scenes she found:

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The West Coast spring flowers are justifiably world famous. In a good year this botanical masterpiece puts on a show that is unrivaled anywhere on Earth. If you experience this natural wonder you will remember it for the rest of your life.

You can hire a car if you want to do it yourself, or hop on a tour bus and get to the west coast flowers and back home to Cape Town in a day trip easily. So make sure you apply for an internship in Cape Town today to get here in time to see the flowers still blooming!

Getting inspired by Cape Town’s artistic culture

12 September 2016

Whether you are looking for a creative internship or just hoping to take in the culture of Cape Town, the city has something in store for everyone.

The city’s status as World Design Capital 2014 and the continual growth of inspiring initiatives like the Cape Town Art Fair and Art Week Cape Town has put the city on the map as one of the inspiring art centres of the world.

Some may even say that the city itself is a piece of artwork with its abundance of natural beauty!

Art is powerful universal language that allows us to break through cultural and communication barriers, and open our hearts and minds to the hopes and challenges that connect us all. It’s a way to listen to one another, and understand how to make the world better, together. With the if i could… Internship programme, you will not only get to grow your skills and abilities but you will also effect change and impact the communities here too.

Our current intern Camille de Vos from Australia has particularly been inspired by the Mother City. “There is definitely some great art capturing the majesty of the African wildlife and the energy of its people here in Cape Town. To me art is often a medium that is used as a platform for social commentary and to initiate social change and that can definitely be seen in the art from South Africa, particularly in relation to apartheid.”

While in Cape Town, Camille did the painting below. She tried to capture the strength and beauty of so many of the women you see around here.

“Women’s Day celebrates what many strong women have done for South Africa and was the inspiration behind the painting.”

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When you’re feeling arty or want to know more about what Cape Town has on offer, here are some events and vibrant venues to check out:

ART & CULTURAL EVENTS IN CAPE TOWN

Artscape

Situated in the heart of the mother city, the Artscape Theatre Centre brings you the highest level of artistic excellence in all aspects of performing arts. For more info: www.artscape.co.za

The Watershed, V & A Waterfront

Visit the Watershed at the V & A Waterfront beautifully crafted, and produced African art. The Watershed, your one-stop where you will find the best of local design and craft!

Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts

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Magnificent gardens provide the backdrop for these open-air gigs – the perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s also a fantastic picnic location, so bring along a blanket and a hamper of goodies! Find event updates here.

ftFirst Thursdays Cape Town

A free cultural experience where art galleries and other cultural attractions in the central and east city districts stay open late on the first Thursday of every month. This is a very popular social event.

“It is a great place for people with similar interests to come together and appreciate unique forms of art work that is shown.’ I visited many trendy bars, coffee shops and galleries. Overall very cool and must Cape Town experience” says intern, Jennifer Morris. Find out more at  www.first-thursdays.co.za.

Cape Town Street Murals

These are a vital part of the city art scene. The lively suburb of Woodstock is one of the oldest but hippest areas to visit when in Cape Town. Join an art tour with Anima Tours.

And don’t forget the galleries —

Art Galleries in Cape Town

The South African National Gallery at the heart of the Company’s Gardens is a fitting place to begin exploring Cape Town’s art galleries. It has over 1000 works in its collection and hosts a dynamic programme of high-quality exhibitions.

The Cape Gallery contains works that invoke Africa’s cultural identity, from classic landscape paintings to sculptures and modern street art.

To start exploring and get inspired today, apply for an NGO internship in Cape Town here.

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.

Contact us for more information