Cape Town Memories: Meeting Desmond Tutu in South Africa

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Last year when I was visiting my sister in Cape Town during her own Semester at Sea voyage, we didn’t stop sight-seeing the entire six days we were in the Western Cape. This time was different, as I had to work much of the four days there after my weekend away in Langebaan.

Each morning and afternoon, I’d dispatch trips, and in the in-between hours when nothing was leaving, I’d wander down to the V&A Waterfront.

South Africa was a nice change after being docked at the industrial ports of Morocco and Ghana, because unlike our previous two stops, here we actually were situated right in the midst of all the action. Aside from a massive high-end mall, the waterfront is filled with delicious restaurants, luxury yachts, lazy seals lounging on the piers, bustling bars, tour operators with scary advertisements of great white sharks, hotels and even an art installation or two.

Even since I was here in 2010, the waterfront has been further built up—like the addition of the Ferris wheel—thanks to last year’s World Cup games.

Plus, the views of Table Mountain from every which angle aren’t shabby either.

We haven’t been staying in too many hotels while at port as I half expected us to do, mainly because the ship occupies some of the most coveted real estate around in many of the ports we visit. Besides, the M/V Explorer lit up in all her glory isn’t a bad sight to return to each night.

On the last night in town, right before the ship set sail, we all reconvened in Glazer Lounge—the staff and faculty hangout—to catch up after a long week at port. The first night back is always the most fun, as everyone has ample stories to share over a bottle of wine.

But there was a reason that we were all cleaned up and getting together for this particular evening: We had a guest of honor joining us…

Desmond Tutu! The Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town (and Nobel Peace Laureate) is a beloved member of the Semester at Sea family and sailed as a guest lecturer in 2007 and 2010. We didn’t get the luxury of having him on board for any of the voyage, but at least we all got the opportunity to talk to the distinguished scholar for a spell. I wanted to share with him our common connection—the fact that his daughter lives in Nashville—but I felt a little too stalker-like to do so.

The sunset just beyond Glazer Lounge was magnificent that night, as if ignited by the light that radiated from the Archishop’s grin.

After his inspirational talk to the shipboard community, during which his infectious giggle managed to charm every member on board, he was swarmed by students and eventually ushered back off to his hometown, as the M/V Explorer set sail across a stormy Indian Ocean for the Asian leg of our adventures.

Meeting Desmond Tutu in South Africa
COMMENTS
  • November 4, 2011
    k

    Reading all the posts of your travels with SAS makes me want to figure out how my skills can get me aboard that boat!

    • November 4, 2011
      Kristin

      You almost have your PhD—thisclose—you TOTALLY qualify for a teaching position!

  • November 4, 2011

    really enjoying this part of your journwy through word and photo. and getting to mett Archbishop Tutu as well!

    • November 4, 2011
      Kristin

      Thank you, Kerry! It’s no secret that South Africa might very well be my favorite country in the world =)

  • November 4, 2011
    Ris

    i agree, you make this look like the best job on earth. How awesome to get to meet Desmond Tutu!

    • November 4, 2011
      Kristin

      Before you get really jealous, it is a whole lot of hours each day, seven days a week. I’m not complaining, though, as a) I really like to have jobs with a purpose and that require a lot of teamwork and attention to details and b) I’m loving every minute of everything on board the ship!

  • November 4, 2011

    Whoa, way to throw us off our game with that left hook! Lull us into a sense of calm with all the pretty pictures and then BAM! Desmond Tutu! So cool.

    Also. It totally looks like that red milk crate man is giving everyone the finger.

    • November 4, 2011
      Kristin

      I’m all about the element of surprise.

  • November 4, 2011

    Last night I had a dream I was on SAS. Seriously, it was awesome. And you and SVV were there and, for whatever reason, we were at a port in the Czech Republic. Now, I’m pretty darn sure that the Czech Republic is landlocked, so I’m not sure where my dream geography went wrong, but whatever.

    xox

    • November 4, 2011
      Kristin

      Well, I AM applying for the May 2013 voyage, which is to many of the European and Baltic cities—though, you’re right: no Czech Republic on that list!—so maybe that’s a sign that you, too, should apply to come with me? =)

  • November 4, 2011

    Great photos and lucky you to meet Desmond Tutu. Very cool!

  • November 4, 2011

    Meeting Archbishop Tutu must have been an incredible experience! I have been loving your stories and photos of South Africa. I always equated South Africa with safaris – I didn’t realize there was such a beautiful coastline. We have talked of taking our kids to Africa before the older one graduates highschool but keep getting stuck on which country to go to – it may well be South Africa.

    You will love the Baltics – so beautiful!!

    • November 5, 2011
      Kristin

      I have been to the Baltics before, so I REALLY hope I can get hired back as I think it would be a fun area to cover by ship.

      And you should most definitely take the kids to South Africa. With all the varied experiences, wildlife (not even on safari, but just on coastal walks) and outdoors adventures, it’s perfect for families.

  • November 4, 2011

    What an incredible opportunity! I love the picture where you’re shaking hands with Archbishop Tutu – you looked absolutely thrilled, and SVV looks like he’s trying to cut in on your moment 🙂

    • November 4, 2011
      Kristin

      HAAA! I like to think he’s saying, “ol’ Dessie boy, have you met my wife Kristin?” but you’re probably right 😉

  • November 4, 2011

    Oh no! I don’t want to hear about the theft and pick-pocketing! No! No! (I am assuming, though, that just taking the obvious precautions will keep us safe enough?)

    • November 4, 2011
      Kristin

      Holly, you’ll be fine with Sean with you. In many of the cases, it’s a girl or group of girls alone and they weren’t being so smart–e.g. walking around at 2am with their cameras in full sight. But yes: Use EXTRA precaution while in Cape Town, for sure!

  • November 4, 2011

    That’s so awesome that you met Desmond Tutu!!

    • November 6, 2011
      Kristin

      I almost feel like I shouldn’t admit this, but a few students got back on the ship for his talk and didn’t know the difference between Tutu and Mandela. (*gasp*)

  • November 4, 2011

    i am so very impressed by SAS. always happy to see the photos from these extraordinary life journeys!

    • November 6, 2011
      Kristin

      It definitely is an impressive program, and I only wish more people knew about it (which is why I’m trying to do my due diligence by spreading the word on the Interwebs!).

      • November 6, 2011

        if you or anyone wants to write about SAS on our site, wandering educators, we’d welcome guest posts!

        • November 6, 2011
          Kristin

          I’d be happy to post-holidays when I’m back on solid land and have a bit more time to spare. Maybe a Q&A-type format? Let’s chat then!

  • November 4, 2011

    Amazing to meet such an extraordinary man!

  • November 5, 2011

    Will be there Monday! So excited after all you’ve told me about it!

    • November 5, 2011
      Kristin

      Gah! Can’t believe we just missed each other! Give a girl a warning before you post any images that might give her nightmares, mmkay? =)

  • November 7, 2011

    Amazing!!! That is the photo of a lifetime, you guys got to meet Archbishop Tutu!!!!
    And I hope that 2013 voyage includes a stop off somewhere along the sunny coastline of Southern France 🙂

  • November 7, 2011

    That’s amazing that you got to meet Desmond Tutu and I love the picture of you meeting him – super cool!

  • November 8, 2011

    Every time I read one of these terrific posts it makes me want to send in my resume STAT!

    What an amazing treat to meet Desmond Tutu!

  • November 11, 2011
    Sid

    OMG! OMG! You met Tutu!

    I love Tutu. Loved his stance and outrage, when my government refused the Dalai Lama a visa.

  • November 19, 2011

    Wow, you got to meet Desmond Tutu – so very cool! Am currently in South Africa and just left Cape Town a few days ago, LOVE that city! 🙂

  • November 30, 2011

    wow so nice pics……of Cape town of South Africa Cape Town – a city with a diverse range of attractions, sights and activities to offer. I would like to visit there……….

  • July 7, 2017
    Thomas Schneider

    hi there, i just came across your travel page now. Thanks for uploading them and showing us what you expirienced. I m a huge south african lover and impressed with the african continent in general. happy to see other like minded people around here. Have been around Cape Town, KZN( mostly volunteering in game reserves) and the northern part of the country. Your posts make me immedeately want to go back. Thanks a lot Kristin! Look forward to see more of them in future!

  • July 7, 2017
    Thomas Schneider

    That said now i feel i have to leave some frust now as well. I m so happy to be here, because i dont have to read all the negative things people say so often about SA everywhere. Ok, some people may not have liked their stay there. Thats fine, we all have our opinions, likes and preferences. But what bothers me a lot is how some people bring it? As example when i was at some forums, included at the thread of yours which was about the most overrated places. Some people also stated Cape Town which is fine, but as soon as you mention that you found their city overrated they react shocked and immedeately asked “how can you find it overrated”. You are entitled for your likes and preferences and so is the rest of us i say to such people, bc do you think yours is the heaven that noone cant find it uninteresting but you others?? I think its a big atrocity to talk about and mention reasons why you find one place overrated but cant stand if someone doesnt like your favourites. Same goes for two commenter at your thread of the overrated places who stated that cape town and sa in general are overrated, the airports got nothing on us airports, sun city wouldnt have a chance or something like that against cecars palace in las vegas, the nature and wine garden of england are as them beautiful as the ones in SA. Thats a bit too much generalizing because that doesnt count for everyone. those people bring it like it would defenately be this way by saying it IS…… There are a lot of people who find Vegas very overrated, included me. i couldnt do anything with it. There are many other American Cities as well who didnt offer anything to me and i met a lot of people in SA, Munich etc who didnt like American Cities at all. For myself i found many airports in the USA especial from the service more uncomfortable than South African Airports. So People generalizing by saying it isnt and it cant compete with, you can only say for you its this way. Last but not least there is nothing wrong with when talking to people, recommending them to one time make another trip where they usually go to( i also do that when conviencing people of a south african holiday just that they see how it is and what expirience it could be for them) but than its also how you do. yesterday i read a comment of a person at another forum at the net, saying “yes cape town is overrated, robben island cant compete with alcatraz , people in america way more nicer than in south africa etc, dont waste your money for it, safe it and go to the usa” thats a really screwed way to say it this way, bc you people who put it this way should one time consider do you think what you feel counts for all other 7,346 999000 people? no it doesnt.you can only say to me and i wouldnt go back there anymore but rather spend my money for somewhere else. sorry i didnt want to sound negative, but had to leave this one time now. however like said travel posts are awesome Kristin! wish you a great continueing journey.

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