Norway Workshop and African Penguins

Work Week

This week started off with a two-day workshop based in Norway. The purpose of the workshop was to provide a collaborative space for everyone working on the Conflict-related Sexual Violence research project to come together and finalize big picture items as well as nail down the details. I was able to attend every session virtually, and many of my team members traveled to Norway to participate in person. It was great to meet people from multiple different countries and even continents that are working together to make this research project a reality. The workshop days were long, as we systematically went through each part of the project to identify which individuals were working on each task and explicitly plan out what the final product should be.

This process was incredibly helpful to me as it put a lot of different puzzle pieces together regarding the project. I now better understand where my work fits into the larger goal and how the research I do will be utilized later. This has made my research process much more streamlined and hopefully even more useful to the larger project as whole. The workshop also gave me the opportunity to learn from experts in the field of international law, especially from a comparative law and transitional justice perspective. I was able to contribute to discussions by offering a viewpoint from a newcomer to the project as well as provide context regarding a data input software I had utilized before. Post-workshop, my research is going well and I have a clear vision for how I need to be progressing as my internship continues.

Weekend Adventures

Wharf in Simon's Town.

After spending the past few weekends exploring around the CBD, V&A Waterfront, and Sea Point, I decided to make a day trip down to the Cape Peninsula this weekend. I was specifically excited to make my way to Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach to see the penguin colony. Simon’s Town is about an hour drive outside of the CBD, so I ordered an Uber and arrived around lunch time. I had planned to start with lunch on the wharf and then explore the seaside town. However, much to my surprise, I arrived at the beginning of the load shedding period. Around Cape Town load shedding is a response to the high electricity demand and involves turning off the power to sections of the city on a rotating schedule to reduce consumption. I clearly haven’t quite gotten the hang of the schedule.

Due to the temporary darkness and inability for restaurants to serve food, I decided to move my day around a bit and do some exploring before lunch.  Luckily, many vendors in Simon’s Town were selling locally made trinkets and art right on the street. I was also still able to look through many of the shops as picking gifts by candlelight made shopping a bit more exciting!  Eventually, the power was turned back on and I headed back to Bertha’s on the wharf for lunch. I was able to sit on the deck with an excellent view of the wharf and enjoy seafood and curry. The food was amazing, and the atmosphere was even better.

Penguin standing on boulder beside ocean.

After lunch, I attempted to Uber to the penguin colony but found that, unlike in Cape Town, Ubers are hard to come by in Simon’s Town. I didn’t want a lack of transportation to make me miss seeing the penguins, so I walked around a mile to the colony. The walk ended up being very enjoyable as I had the opportunity to see more of the coast, the town, and the beautiful architecture.

Once I arrived at the colony, I decided to start with the conservation area. This gave me a great opportunity to learn about African Penguins and the conservation efforts in the region. I walked along a wooden boardwalk where there was a viewfinder to see penguins on a boulder out at sea. I had read that in winter there are less penguins on shore, so I was glad to get to see them even if it was at a distance. Much to my delight, I only took a few steps past the viewfinder when I saw a penguin trying to sneak onto the boardwalk in front of me. I snapped a few photos and maintained my distance as I’d seen many “penguins will bite” signs. Once I reached the end of the boardwalk, I realized penguins were not as scarce in the winter as I had been told as there was a large colony nesting and playing on the beach. Some were playing in the water, others were taking naps, and there were even a few diligent penguins hovered over their eggs. After taking in the once in lifetime sight I headed back up the boardwalk where I saw the best of the sight of the day as an adult penguin was guiding two babies out of a nest only inches from my feet. On my way out I gave in to my typical tourist desire and bought a hat, luckily the money goes to conservation efforts.

Adult and baby penguin standing side by side in the sand.

I wanted to further explore the coastline along the peninsula, so I went a nearby beach where I was surprised to yet again be face to face with penguins. This time there was no barrier preventing the curious penguins from investigating the people. While I still had worries about penguins biting me, the penguins were not as afraid of me and seemed to want to introduce themselves. I struck up a conversation with some locals on the beach walk who told me that they come down in the summer and swim with the penguins. I tested the water and decided that the middle of winter was not the best time for a dip. However, since everyone else seemed so comfortable with the penguins and the penguins seemed so determined to be close to me, I settled on taking a stroll down the beach accompanied by my new feathered friends. I stayed at the beach until dusk set in and then I said goodbye to the penguins before I got in an Uber (luckily more had become available) and headed back to Cape Town to grab a late dinner with a friend.

 Me looking at a penguin on a beach.