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Tara Goodrum   Stowaway  Magazine   Word  Count:  1,547   Feature  Article:  “The  Friendly  City”—Port  Elizabeth,  South  Africa   I  remember  vividly  the  moment  I  stepped  off  of  the  plane  onto  African  soil—the  humid  warmth   was  all  around  me  and  the  air  seemed  a  little  hazy.  My  brother,  three  sisters,  and  I  stiffly  stumbled  after   our  parents.  We  hadn’t  seen  our  grandparents  in  over  a  year  and  the  anticipation  of  seeing  them  again   after  so  long  was  palpable.  Additionally,  being  in  such  a  foreign  country  made  us  jittery  with  excitement.     Getting  to  Africa  was  no  small  feat.  The  journey  had  been  a  long  one  and  we  were  all  exhausted.   We  had  been  traveling  for  nearly  thirty  hours:  a  four  hour  drive  to  the  nearest  airport,  a  four  hour  flight   and  overnight  layover  in  New  York  City  (of  course  we  had  to  visit  Ground  Zero  and  catch  a  show  on   Broadway),    and  an  eight  hour  flight  to  Madrid  and  a  tour  of  Spain’s  Royal  Palace.  Nearing  the  end  of  our   air  time,  we  caught  a  flight  to  Johannesburg,  South  Africa,  and  tried  to  get  some  sleep  during  the  ten   hours  it  afforded  us.     The  two  hours  of  our  final  flight  into  Port  Elizabeth  seemed  like  an  eternity.  I  hoped  our  ten  day   vacation  would  be  sufficient  time  to  get  over  the  jetlag.  Luckily,  there  was  so  much  to  do  that  we  didn’t   have  a  minute  to  waste  thinking  about  how  tired  we  were.     After  lots  of  hugging,  talking,  and  happy  crying,  we  loaded  up  the  boot  with  our  luggage  and   were  on  our  way.  Everything  I  had  imagined  about  Africa  was  about  to  be  changed  or  confirmed.   The  Friendly  City    Still  in  the  city,  we  passed  skyscrapers,  gas  stations  selling  petrol,  and  gated  homes  with   carefully  manicured  lawns.  I  don’t  know  what  I  thought  I  would  see,  but  that  wasn’t  it.  However,  it   wouldn’t  be  long  until  I  saw  the  reality  of  where  we  were  and  got  a  taste  of  what  I  had  expected.  South  

Africa is  a  country  that  is  rebuilding  itself  after  years  of  apartheid.  Even  today,  the  devastation  of   extreme  segregation  is  still  there,  lurking  in  the  corners  of  many  people’s  minds.     Just  outside  the  city  limits  we  began  driving  by  miles  and  miles  of  townships  where  the  Xhosa   people  live.  Their  homes  were  made  from  wood,  concrete,  and  corrugated  tin.  Twenty  of  them  would   cram  together  in  a  tiny  van  to  get  from  place  to  place.  The  children  ran  through  the  dirt  chasing  a  worn-­‐ out  soccer  ball.  As  we  drove  down  one  dusty  street,  their  curious  faces  turned  to  see  who  we  were.   Never  had  I  met  such  lovely  and  warm  people;  people  who  danced,  and  touched,  and  loved,  and  lived   with  the  ultimate  fullness  of  joy  and  grief.  I  was  moved  beyond  words.     Port  Elizabeth,  often  called  PE  for  short,  boasts  all  kinds  of  people,  cultures,  and  languages   (including  Afrikaans,  Xhosa,  and  English).  It  is  nicknamed  “the  friendly  city”  for  its  people  and  “the  windy   city”  for  its  exposure  to  the  coastal  winds.  Not  only  diverse  in  its  population,  PE  is  varied  botanically  as   well.  The  area  conserves  five  of  South  Africa’s  seven  biomes:  the  thicket,  the  grassland,  Nama-­‐Karoo,   Fynbos,  and  the  forest  biomes.  Consequently,  multiple  forms  of  wildlife  can  be  found.  But  the  wildlife  is   only  the  beginning  of  what  the  friendly  city  has  to  offer.  There  is  so  much  to  do,  even  if  you  aren’t   visiting  your  grandparents.   Addo  Elephant  Park   One  of  our  first  adventures  was  to  the  third  largest  national  park  in  South  Africa.  Addo  Elephant   Park  was  established  in  1931  and  covers  444,700  acres  of  land!  Originally  there  were  only  sixteen   elephants  living  in  the  area,  but  now  over  550  of  them  call  it  home.  The  hotter  the  day,  the  more  likely   you  are  to  see  herds  of  elephants  bathing  and  playing  in  the  watering  holes.  We  were  lucky  enough  to  to   see  several  baby  elephants  splashing  in  the  water  as  though  they  were  enjoying  a  day  at  the  pool.  We   oohed  and  aahed  at  how  adorable  we  thought  they  were.   The  park  also  has  a  myriad  of  other  wildlife  including  the  Addo  flightless  dung  beetle,  unique  to   Addo  itself.  Two  loops  leave  the  main  road,  which  begins  at  the  entrance  to  the  park,  and  tourists  can  

drive their  own  cars  on  whichever  road  they  please.  There  are  strict  rules  about  staying  in  your  vehicle   as  to  avoid  any  interaction  with  the  wildlife.  We  only  saw  elephants  and  birds,  but  the  park  recommends   getting  there  at  dawn  or  dusk  to  see  the  black  rhinoceroses,  lions,  and  spotted  hyenas.   Lalibela  Safari     After  our  taste  of  wildlife  at  Addo,  we  decided  that  we  couldn’t  afford  to  miss  going  on  a  real   African  safari.  We  chose  Lalibela  Game  Reserve,  not  far  from  PE.  The  reserve  offers  visitors  the  chance   to  see  the  Big  5—lion,  elephant,  rhino,  buffalo,  and  leopard.  We  were  not  disappointed.  When  we  first   arrived  at  Lalibela,  we  were  greeted  at  the  entrance  by  huge  ostriches  who  tried  to  peck  holes  through   the  car  windows.  I  remember  thinking  they  seemed  almost  frightening—with  their  long  legs  and  necks,   scaly  clawed  feet,  and  bulging  eyes,  something  about  them  seemed  prehistoric  and  I  imagined  trying  to   outrun  one  of  them.    Shortly  after  our  arrival,  we  were  taken  out  on  a  day  safari.  The  animals  are  all  free  to  roam   where  they  please.  We  saw  grizzly  wildebeest  drinking  at  a  pond’s  edge,  agile  impala  bounding  away   through  the  grass,  tiny  warthogs  running  for  cover  with  their  tails  in  the  air,  and  stately  giraffes   wandering  gracefully  up  a  grassy  hill.  It  was  like  being  in  a  dream;  it  didn’t  seem  possible  to  be  seeing  all   of  those  majestic  creatures  in  their  natural  habitats.  Just  after  the  sun  went  down  we  drove  to  see  the   lions.  My  brother  was  threatened  with  being  fed  to  them  if  he  didn’t  behave.  Nobody  thought  of  doing   otherwise  with  the  king  of  the  jungle  so  close!  They  lay  there  in  the  grass,  enjoying  the  cool  of  dusk,   hardly  noticing  that  we  were  there.     We  drove  back  to  the  game  lodge  and  enjoyed  a  delicious  dinner  before  heading  out  on  a  night   safari  to  see  the  nocturnal  animals.  Our  driver  and  guide  had  a  filtered  light  so  he  could  shine  it  on  the   animals  without  startling  them.  As  we  paused  near  a  tree  that  sheltered  two  hippopotami  grazing  in  the  

dark, he  told  us  that  they  cause  more  deaths  in  Africa  than  the  lion  or  tiger!  Going  on  safari  was  one  of   the  most  exciting  parts  of  our  trip.   Rugby  and  Football:  Nelson  Mandela  Bay  Stadium   While  in  Port  Elizabeth,  we  couldn’t  miss  out  on  seeing  a  rugby  match.  Naturally  we  watched  the   Mighty  Elephants,  PE’s  own  team,  play  in  an  older  stadium.  The  game  was  exciting  and  my  very  first   rugby  match.  We  leaned  a  new  set  of  vocabulary  including  scrum,  ruck,  and  maul.  In  2010,  the  Mighty   Elephants  joined  the  Super  Rugby  Franchise  and  were  renamed  the  Eastern  Province  Kings.  Rugby  isn’t   the  only  sport  that  is  well-­‐loved;  football  (Americans  refer  to  this  sport  as  soccer)  is  also  zealously  played   and  observed.      Five  years  after  my  family  visited  PE,  the  Nelson  Mandela  Bay  Stadium  was  completed  in   anticipation  of  the  2010  FIFA  World  Cup.  Before  the  stadium  was  built,  Port  Elizabeth  didn’t  have  a   football  stadium  due  to  the  lack  of  government  funding  for  football  during  apartheid.  Nicknamed  the   Sunflower  for  the  petal-­‐like  metal  pieces  that  form  the  roof,  the  stadium  overlooks  the  nearby  North   End  Lake.  Within  the  stadium  there  is  a  public  park  that  is  perfect  for  enjoying  picnics.    The  stadium   hosted  a  total  of  eight  games  during  the  World  Cup,  including  a  quarterfinal  and  the  third  and  fourth   place  playoff.  Now,  the  Sunflower  accommodates  both  football  and  rugby  games.  It  is  home  to  the   Eastern  Province  Kings  and  tickets  and  season  information  can  be  obtained  at  the  stadium’s  official   website.   Eastern  Cape  Coast    

One afternoon  we  drove  to  the  coast  to  see  the  ocean.  We  ran  along  the  water’s  edge,  feeling  

the sand  beneath  our  bare  feet.  Every  once  in  a  while  I  stopped  to  let  the  waves  lick  my  toes.  With  the   blue  sky  above  me  and  no  ships  on  the  horizon,  it  seemed  as  though  I  was  standing  at  the  end  of  the   earth.  Farther  down  the  beach,  huge  craggy  cliffs  jutted  out  into  the  water.    Suddenly,  we  saw  the  silver  

glint of  dolphins.  A  pod  of  them  was  playfully  swimming  a  little  way  out  to  sea.  Every  so  often  one  would   jump  out  of  the  waves—a  graceful  arc,  free  as  the  wind—and  then  slip  back  beneath  the  surface.  We   were  enchanted.  We  didn’t  have  the  time,  but  several  companies  offer  whale-­‐watching  tours  and  scuba-­‐ diving  trips.    

With all  of  the  life  experiences  we  were  having,  our  time  in  South  Africa  passed  so  quickly.  It  

seemed like  only  a  moment  had  gone  by,  when  suddenly  we  were  packing  our  things  and  tearfully   heading  back  to  the  airport.  We  had  made  countless  friends  and  visited  so  many  beautiful  places.  My   heart  had  been  changed  forever  and  I  knew  that  I  would  always  long  to  return  to  Port  Elizabeth.  I  think  a   little  piece  of  me  is  still  in  the  Friendly  City—perhaps  I  will  have  to  go  back  for  it  someday.  I  can  only   hope.      

"The Friendly City"--Port Elizabeth, South Africa  

This article was written as a potential submission for a travel magazine.

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