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12/21/16 - "Three Weeks in Cape Town" by Phylicia Bediako

Three Weeks in Cape Town


Phylicia Bediako received an ARC research grant in Fall 2014 for her project entitled "Using Mixed Methods to Understand Motivations behind Sexual Behaviors among South African High School Learners".

I loved the time I spent in Cape Town. The people, the sights, the food. My 21-day trip seemed to pass in the blink of an eye but has had long-lasting impacts on me. Certainly, I had traveled for research purposes but what I was fortunate enough to experience went way above and beyond the academic. Upon arriving to Cape Town International Airport, I had no idea what to expect. Everything that I knew about the city and South Africa as a whole had come primarily from academic journal articles and conversation with fellow HealthWise South Africa researchers. I met, Sam*, one of our contracted drivers after picking up my luggage at the airport. Sam was a bright, friendly, and energetic man who was very excited about sharing with me history and current events of Cape Town. One of the first things I remember seeing during our drive to the hotel was Table Mountain, which I had heard quite a bit about prior to my arrival in country. Although I had been encouraged to see it, Sam informed me that there was a possibility that I wouldn’t be able to ascend the mountain either way as it had experienced a series of fires over the previous weeks and was hazardous. In fact, there had been so many fires that there was a bit of an exodus of wildlife fleeing down from the peaks of the mountains and wreaking havoc for some of the households situated near the mountain. Regardless of whether I would be able to ascend the mountain, I found it breath taking and would consequently take at least a couple dozen pictures of it from various angles over the course of my stay. As Sam had explained to me during the first ride to the hotel, at certain points during the day, Table Mountain becomes even more beautiful as thick rolling clouds envelope it.

My first day at the University of the Western Cape was very pleasant. I met my primary contacts, Mr. G* and Kim*, who were both very welcoming. I had been matched with Kim to organize and carry out the study I had designed based on our shared interest in youth sexual risk. She was a program coordinator in the HIV/AIDS Programme who had considerable experience speaking to young people in the area about sensitive topics and had agreed to function as a co-facilitator for the discussion groups we had scheduled. She would turn out to be an indispensable companion, both in and outside of the office. A few days into the trip, we would start holding our discussion group sessions with young people from various walks of life and Kim would prove herself to be a master group discussion facilitator and event organizer. Working with her really got me thinking about how best to interact with young people and the traits that are most effective for connecting with people in order to get them talking about the types of private topics that I am most interested in. Visiting some of the local high schools to hold discussion groups with students gave me much more context to the literature I had been reading. By the end of the trip, we had held more discussion groups than I thought possible with twice as many participants as I had initially expected. The conversations we had with our study participants were extremely enlightening and also quite lively and enjoyable.

In my leisure time, I got several opportunities to do both touristy activities and get a glimpse into the hotspots for locals. I visited numerous restaurants, went on a night hike of Lions Head Mountain, rode a cable car up to the peak of Table Mountain, watched a couple of live rugby matches, and shopped at Century City Mall and Greenmarket Square. Overall, I spent quite a bit of time at the V&A Waterfront and on separate occasions, departed from there for a Robben Island tour and a helicopter tour of Cape Town. One of the most eventful days I had started off with a Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. This day-long trip included stops at multiple notable destinations in the metro area of Cape Town, a stop off at Camps Bay, and a visit to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Upon arriving back at the V & A Waterfront at the end of the bus tour, we were met with crowds of people who had begun gathering for a carnival complete with creative floats, lavish costumes, professional dancers, and numerous food and craft stands. I adored Cape Town for always having something interesting to experience.

In addition to being thankful to the ARC, the HealthWise South Africa team, and my advisor for helping me make this study possible, I am eternally grateful for the researchers at UWC for helping me carry out the field work component of my study. Finally, I really appreciate the young people who graciously agreed to share their thoughts on developing sexual identities and relationships in Cape Town.

*Note: Names have been changed


Bediako 1

V & A Waterfront 1

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V & A Waterfront 2

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Night hike at Lions Head Mountain 1

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Night hike at Lions Head Mountain 2

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Penn State Farewell Dinner at Kloof Street House

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Hop On Hop Off Tour 1

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Hop On Hop Off Tour 2

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Table Mountain Cable Car Ride 1

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Table Mountain Cable Car Ride 2

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Helicopter Tour 1

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Helicopter Tour 2

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Helicopter Tour 3