Cape Town never ceases to surprise us
It's already been a month since we moved to Cape Town. We both fell in love with this unique place. The landscapes are breathtaking! From Llandudno beach to Kirstenbosch botanical garden, the city stretches between the ocean and the mountains like a village tucked away on the edge of the world.
Inequality is far worse than we thought
Subsequent insecurity urges us to be constantly vigilant (our car radio and battery were stolen while the car was parked off the street right in front of the house ...). Charlotte tells me that she sometimes feels desperate and helpless in the face of ever-present street misery. Yet, it reminds her that the choices she is able to make are a privilege, i.e., choosing what she eats, where she sleeps, when she works ... - the poorest have no choice. The city is very rich and complex because of the juxtaposition of different peoples and cultures, but the socio-economic challenges in post-apartheid are real and the living conditions of millions of households are still unacceptable. Sadly, these inequalities split Cape Town into two worlds which rarely mingle. On our way to the township of Khayelitsha, home to 2 million people in sprawling slum houses, we drive through luxurious Camps Bay - only a few miles away - where beautiful architectural villas are occupying the hillside.
We live between two worlds
The programs we are developing here are mostly aimed at youth from the townships, so we experience these two worlds. The contrast shakes us up and brings up questions: is it legit to help the poor while enjoying a higher standard of living? How to break racial prejudices without putting oneself in danger? Is being white an obstacle or an advantage in achieving this mission?
We are touched by the people we’ve met so far
Whether they are yoga teachers, social entrepreneurs or photographers, they inspire us with their values and nourish us with their experiences. They welcomed us, listened to us; and supported us in the realization of our project. Ilana (Gururamdas Yoga Studio) introduced us to Balu, with whom we developed a yoga and meditation program for the students of Indoni Academy. Tamsin (The Shala Yoga School) introduced us to Leela and Brian; with them we will train Seva Unite yoga teachers in trauma-informed yoga practices.
They all boosted our confidence and swiped away some lingering doubts about our legitimacy - doubts inherited from New York’s scarcity mindset of “never enough”. We feel that our work can have a real impact here. The kindness and wholeheartedness of this community got our heart.
Cape Town yoga community is a breeze of fresh air
They embody values that Charlotte and I consider to be at the heart of the yoga philosophy: humility, generosity, non-violence. The cohesiveness between studios and teachers amazes us. They know each other, take classes from each other, and support much-needed humanitarian and social initiatives. Such a rare and precious harmony! We attend classes led by Tamsin, Ilana, and Yvonne. These are powerful and memorable learning moments, both as a student and a teacher. Ilana has even changed my appreciation of Kundalini yoga: now, I get up early every Sunday to attend her 9am class :)
Our first students moved us so much!
Wednesday, January 30 was a very special day: it was our first class with the students of Indoni Academy. Together, we explored self-worth, empowerment, and the power of the breath. We gather every Wednesday for 90 minutes of meditation, conscious movement, visualization, chanting, creative writing, and sharing circle. We have a lot of fun with these students who are beyond curious and engaged. Last Wednesday, they invited us to join their daily morning pray. We held hands, formed a large circle, and they started singing ... Their song was poignant, like a moment suspended in time. We felt united, understanding each other without having to talk to each other. 💙
We realize that investing in education is key to reduce precarity.
"When a man is hungry, it is better to teach him to fish than to give him a fish". To be able to learn, one must be in good health. Suffering from domestic violence, growing up without parents, or experiencing other traumatic events can lead to depression, insomnia, chronic anxiety, and addiction. In order to maximize the impact of our work, we decided to collaborate mainly with organizations addressing youth development and education.
In 2013, Valentino founded Bridges for Music. His latest project: The Bridges Academy located in the township of Langa, will be a place of learning and a hub of creativity where the young talents of the area will be able to pursue their dreams and develop their skills. We are proud and excited to work with Valentino and his incredible team to build a mindfulness & wellness program for the students!