Last weekend I decided to celebrate my 22nd birthday South African style! I started by attending a rugby match at Newlands Stadium with my housemates. Surrounded by cheering fans, the Cape Town Stormers defeated the Japanese Sunwolves (probably because they knew it was my birthday). I wasn’t really sure what was going on for most of the match, but the energy and excitement in the stadium was contagious. Everyone (including me) was waving Stormers flags, shouting at their favorite players, and having a grand time drinking beers for R30 ($2.30 USD).
On Sunday, the actual day of my birthday, we went to Mzoli’s, a well-known open-air restaurant in the Gugulethu township a few miles outside of Cape Town. Townships are poor, underdeveloped urban areas that were reserved for non-whites during apartheid. They are made up of small tin-roofed shacks, narrow pathways, and electrical lines strewn about. Mzoli’s is located at the edge of the Gugulethu township and offers tourists and locals alike an opportunity to get a taste of the rich culture in the townships.
At Mzoli’s, customers walk into the deli and pick out meats from the large refrigerator. The meats are weighed and priced accordingly. After paying for the meat and a ticket, customers carry their plate to the back where cooks are waiting to braai the meat over a huge open flame. While the meat is cooking, guests sit outside in the open-air shack listening to a man who calls himself ‘Joe and the Ganja Muffins’ walk around and drum to the beat of a DJ. The shack is filled with patio tables and chairs, and everyone brings their own beer and wine. There is hookah, dancing, smoking and lots of partying until its time to fetch the delicious braaied meat, salsa, and steamed bread. It was a truly fantastic South African birthday celebration that I won’t soon forget!