View at the top of table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. PHOTO | NATIONView at the top of table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. PHOTO | NATION
By NJOKI CHEGE

My early struggles as a budding scholar trying to find her way around academia finally paid off sometime this week when I found myself in Cape Town to present a research paper at my first ever academic conference.

Forgive my long sentences, readers, that is what tireless academic writing tends to corrupt a once creative mind.

I shall not bore my long suffering readers with details of the conference — it was just a bunch of scholars who couldn’t agree on the way future of the media in the age of the tech giants, and a few budding scholars like me trying to keep up with some of the big names in my area of interest.

Fun fact: I was not yet convinced of my future in academia — but there still remains considerable room for convincing — perhaps in a year’s time the vagaries of the industry would have finally gotten into my thick skin and I shall finally heed the advice of my critics to fold up.

Anyway, pardon my jumbled thoughts, I am trying to complete this column as my brotherly and gracious host seated across the table, hums to Whitney Houston’s My Love is Your Love, drumming his fingers on the table in this deserted bistro by seaside waiting to take me to the next scenery.

So I will keep this short and sweet and take just a few minutes and update you on my rather short stay here before we drive back from Fish Hoek down the winding Chapman’s peak drive — enjoying whatever is left of my awfully short trip and cut short this beautiful dream.

BEAUTY AND SERENITY

It is painfully difficult to do justice in describing Cape Town after the first visit because as an African from Nairobi, Kenya, you are floored by the utter cleanliness, orderliness and systems that actually work — which is quite a shocker for a country supposedly located in Africa.

You will definitely miss the matatu madness that characterises Nairobi, which is immediately replaced by methodical public transport.

The first day of my arrival, my great host couldn’t allow me to relax so we drove down the Groot Constantia wine farm which was a total surprise because I was certainly not prepared for the beauty and serenity of an 18th century wine farm.

After lunch at the V&A Waterfront, a couple of pictures by the clock tower we sat by the seats, soaking in the sun, wondering if we should stop by the Cecil Rhodes Memorial or just go for a walk down by the beach. We opted for both, and I also got to see the university cast upon the Table Mountains, University of Cape Town (UCT).

The conference happened on day three, four and five, and after the small matter of my presentation, I took the first boat to Robben Island — which I keep calling “Mandela Island” much to the chagrin of my friends, because it was there that Mandela spent a painful 18 years.

Robben Island brought tears to my eyes. To stand there, listening to Sipho — a former political prisoner and now a tour guide at the museum — telling of the five years he spent behind bars, the pain and torture those prisoners went through was heart wrenching to listen to.

PENGUIN COLONY

It was difficult to imagine, that political prisoners were allowed only 3-4 visits a year, and how families would travel more than 2,000 kilometres to see their kin for only 30 minutes.

By the way, did you know that prison warders would read the inmates’ letters, and carefully, using a pair of scissors, they would cut off the parts of the letters they thought were suspicious?

The Boulder’s Bay penguin colony was a brief, chilly and windy affair, but absolutely a delight to watch a raft and a waddle of penguins in their little world. Funny, penguins turned out to be much smaller than I had imagined.

After the penguin colony, we came up to the Fish Hoek for a glorious plate of Hake and chips and grapetiser, which I am already addicted, to which my great friend finally reminded me that I do have a job back in Kenya and that he wouldn’t leave until I had finished typing this column.

So here I am, in this empty eatery feeling awful that my readers who have never been to Cape Town will not know how wonderful the Cape Point and Table Mountains are — because that is how I will start my Friday with.

At the end of this column my good friend here says that the title of this column should be “City Girl in Cape Town.”

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