About Lizz

I am a fourth year student at the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. I am participating in the Students for Development Program this year and I will be going to work with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa for six months. I recently came back from Namibia where I lived for 11 weeks through the Namibia Scholarship Program at the University of Toronto. I worked with an organization called Physically Active Youth which is located in Katutura, Namibia near Windhoek. If you are a student interested in getting involved internationally or interested in doing a study abroad project, you should make sure to check out the CIE website: http://cie.utoronto.ca/ Also, if you are a student in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto make sure to check out the international exchanges available on the faculty website: http://www.physical.utoronto.ca/Undergraduate/Current_Students/International_Experience.aspx

Friday Photo: Bo-kaap



Bo-kaap is an area located underneath Lion’s Head. It’s full of beautiful colourful houses, and old mosques. You can see the entire city and Lion’s head was illuminated by the setting sun.


Bo-kaap is an area that was originally settled by freed slaves who’d been brought to Cape Town by the Dutch East Indian Trading Company. Most of these slaves had been brought over from Southeast Asia. The term Cape Malay refers in part to the fact that many of these slaves came from parts of Malaysia. The first South African mosque was built there in 1794.   The area is home to a large number of traditional Cape Malay restaurants, and still retains a strong Islamic culture. When we were there, you could hear the singing for the evening prayer.



Friday Photo: Periwinkles

Periwinkles = dinner. 

These guys can be found along the Atlantic Sea Coast in South Africa. They’re apparently fairly easy to harvest and I was lucky enough to be staying with someone who went out and collected some. You need permits to collect them, and they have to be a sufficient size. However, unlike crayfish or well..fish. They can’t really swim away.

How we cooked them: 

1)Boiled the entire shell
2) Take it out of the shell and cut off the unedible organ-y bits
3) Cut it into tiny tiny pieces
4) Cook it in white wine
5) Add it to rice + thousand dressings sauce

Maybe not the best way to eat it, but it worked out okay. They taste pretty rubbery regardless of what you add them too. However, they’re a great source of protein and apparently there’s a lot of recipes out there that might be better.

Cape Town Festival of Beer & Surfing

Beer festivals are quickly becoming one of my favourite parts of summer, and frankly are just a ton of fun. I got to go to the Cape Town Festival of Beer with a couple of my roommates and some friends. We had a great time and the festival was packed. It’s a two day event that goes over a whole weekend in November. There are over 150 different types of beer to try, many of which were South African breweries. They had food, free glasses, and every booth had free taste tests.

Trying 150 different beers in an afternoon? Challenge accepted.

Favourite South African Beer:  Darling Bone Crusher

Check out their beers at Darlingbrew. I love their bottles just about as much as I love the beer. It runs a little more expensive then Black Label or Castle which are a lot more common and generally run R7-9 at the beer store. However, Darling makes a great variety of beers and are worth trying if you get a chance.



The beerlympics involved beer pong, keg lift, tapping, and darts. I thought about playing, but lifting kegs and carrying them around? Not my strong suit. ( My smile is that big, because I’m trying really hard not to drop the keg and destroy my feet….soo heavy)








So I tried out surfing for the first time in Muizenberg! The beach there is basically lined with surf shops and so you can sort of have your pick of where to get lessons from. I headed out there without too many expectations. I wanted to get up on a wave, and hopefully not drown or get eaten by sharks. Muizenberg actually has quite a large number of sharks come through every year (note: I kinda feel like any sharks is too many or quite a large number so I might be biased)

Lesson went super well! Went to the surf shack for it, cost about R150 and luckily no one else showed up so it was just me and an instructor. However, disaster struck about an hour and a half in and I got stung by a blue bottle, these little devils are also called Portuguese man o’ war. They are poisonous but not lethal. They hurt a lot more than a bee bite, and less than breaking your arm. They recommend you leave it in salt water or warm water, and peeing on it apparently does help though I didn’t try it. The surf shack had medicated cream for it. The poison makes your armpits hurt as well because it causes your lymph nodes to swell. I don’t recommend you try it.


Friday Photo: Shipwreck

Arniston Shipwreck

We went on a trip to the southern most point of Africa and one of the things we were recommended to visit was to go see the shipwreck. We weren’t given much context to the ship, and it has a rather sad history. The ship was embayed on May 1815. Only 6 of 350 crew members made it to shore alive after the crash. When she sank she was carrying 100 wounded soldiers, some wealthy passengers, 22 iron cannon, two 12-pounder cannons and twenty 18 pounder carronades. The ship weighed 1498 tons was 53.8 meters long, and 13.2 meters wide, 3 decked, and 3 masted. It was built in 1794 an completed 8 trips to India and China before its crash.

Friday Photo: World AIDS Day & Zapiro


So this Friday, I’m not posting a picture, but some information about a South African cartoonist/satirist,  Zapiro. So to check out his work go to his site: Zapiro’s Website. Zapiro is actually Jonathan Shapiro and he’s from Cape Town. He was the guest speaker at a World AIDS day event the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation held in the Baxter Theater last Friday. He spoke about his work on and his comics looking at the politics of HIV and AIDS in South Africa, and how far South Africa has come in the past twenty years, and how much further they still need to come. His cartoons have been seen throughout the world, and are an amazing example of how art can make a difference.

World AIDS Day

The purpose of World AIDS Day is to give us a chance to generate awareness of the continued prevalence of HIV & AIDS in our communities. It is a chance to reflect on what has been done in the past, and what still need to be done in the future. Its a chance to give credit to countries and leaders who have worked hard to try and ease the burden of the epidemic at home and abroad, and to also look at what still needs to be done and hold our elected officials accountable –to hold ourselves accountable for how we affect the world around us.

(Just some background on the day.)

  • First World AIDS Day was held in 1989  and the theme was “Our Lives, Our World–Let’s Take Care of Each Other”
  • 1991 the Red Ribbon becomes the international symbol for HIV and it was introduced at the Tony Awards by Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS and Visual AIDS in the US. (10 million people worldwide are HIV positive) 
  • 1993 Female condoms approved by FDA!
  • 1994 Scientists develop the first treatment regime to reduce the transmission from mother-to-child. PMTCT!!! (19.5 million people worldwide are HIV positive)
  • 1995 FIRST combination therapy —HAART *highly active antiretroviral therapy* is approved for use in the US
  • 1996 the United Nations establishes UNAIDS.
  • 1997 Brazil becomes the first developing country to begin national ARV distribution. (22 million people worldwide are HIV positive). 
  • 1998 Treatment Action Campaign TAC, forms in South Africa, pushing for access to treatment
  • 2000 UNAIDS, WHO, and other global health groups announce joint initiative with five major pharma manufacturers to negotiate reduced prices for AIDS drugs in developing countries.
  • 2001 20th reunion of first documented case of AIDS. & Generic companies agree to produce discounted forms of HIV/AIDS Drugs.
  • 2002 Botswana becomes the first African nation to set up a National AIDS treatment programme. 
  • 2003  President Bush announces PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). –15 billion dollar initiative to address HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria.
  • 2004 SOUTH AFRICA begins to provide free antiretroviral treatment. 
  • 2005 1.3 million people in developing countries have access to treatment. 
  • 2007 nearly all countries have national policies on HIV. (33 million people are living with HIV) 
  • 2009 President Obama changes rules that prevented funding from PEPFAR to organizations that provide services linked with abortion, India repeals section 377 of the penal code which had banned homosexuality.

Devil’s Peak, Muizenberg Kite Festival, and Thanksgiving.

There’s a lot of things to do in Cape Town. Actually there’s kind of a ton of things to do in Cape Town, between working, finding an apartment, and trying to decipher and sift through the mess that was my ongoing visa application. Here’s some of the highlights from the past couple weeks.

Devil’s Peak

Cape Town is geographically unique. It’s a city located between two oceans and a mountain range. The mountain range is made up of a series of mountains: Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head, and the 12 apostles. They tower over the city and they’re one of my favourite aspects of Cape Town. They’re beautiful, they’re responsible for crazy weather patterns, and they leave you feeling like nature is always nearby. I’ve climbed up Devil’s Peak (1000 m) , Lion’s Head (669 m), and Table Mountain (1089 m) each several times. My favourite though is Devil’s Peak. I see it every day. I can see it out my window in the morning, when I go for a run I often use it as a reference to keep from getting lost, or head over to the trails around its base, and the University of Cape Town, where I work, is on it’s slopes.

A lot of people don’t realize it, but there’s over 200 trails going up these mountains. Most people stick to Platteklip Gorge trail which is actually one of my least favourites. Imagine a stair master met the sun on a 35 C day and had a love child. That’s what the trail feels like.  However, the route we took up at Devil’s Peak starts in the same place, but then you continue and head to the left. It branches off, crossing the middle of the Plateau and heads up onto Devil’s Peak where you then head straight up the mountain. The route takes a bit longer, but isn’t as much of a staircase and I think it’s a lot more gratifying. We left about 5 pm and got down to the ground around 8 pm. It was dark on the way down, and we’d brought torches with us. I love it though. The hike isn’t a giant staircase like Platteklip is, and there aren’t crowds of people going. Once we split off onto Devil’s Peak, we only saw two other people heading down. 

Things I would keep in mind, would be that it gets really hot up on the mountain. Even in the evening, you are almost always exposed in the sun, and I drank a ton of water on my way up. The second thing is that there’s a lot of different ways down the mountain, we cut back down to the road early because we were losing light. I could easily see how you could take the wrong trail on the way down and get lost. However, it was amazing. We got lucky and managed to get to the top and have enough up time to stay there for while. As we turned to leave, we got to watch the clouds rush in to fill the space between the mountains as the sun set behind Table Mountain. Lion’s Head at sunset is probably my second favourite. I’ve headed up that mountain, it only takes about an hour to get to the top with a lot of different people. You always find groups with picnics, beer, and wine at the top hanging out when the moon is full (or nearly).


Muizenberg Kite Festival

One of the great things about being here in the summer is that it’s festival season! There’s tons of them, frankly if that’s all I was interested in doing, I could probably find a different one every weekend. ( So far I’ve been to three and counting.) The Muizenberg Kite Festival is held annually and is the biggest kite festival in Africa. It’s held about a ten minute walk from the beach, and train station, and takes up a whole weekend every year. I went there with one of the other University of Toronto SFD students, Shivani, who also works at DTHF. Unfortunately, the wind wasn’t ideal for kite flying, but there were still a lot of people out and about and a lot of kites did make it off the ground. We even met the KFC chicken mascot. Which was kind of weird, since I always thought the Colonel was the mascot. We hung out and watched people try and fly kites and had a good time. For the record, McDonalds is kind of an underdog here as far as fast food franchises go. KFC has a pretty big monopoly here, and they’re everywhere.

Thanksgiving. (american)

A lot of people have asked me questions or expressed concern about what my plans are for the holidays while I’m here. No one wants to be alone for the holidays, and I’m no different. It was a little intimidating to sign up for a six month exchange where I knew I would miss my first Christmas at home. My mom goes all out for Christmas and it’s always been an important occasion for my family–even more so since I left for university. It’s one of the only times I get to see my family every year, and is sometimes the only time I see members of my extended family.

However, I think it’s going to be okay, and I’m getting more and more excited by the new experiences and opportunities it’s going to present. Surfing on Christmas eve? Going to the beach on new years day? Eating new foods, like ostrich for Christmas dinner? Who  knows. The fact is that Christmas comes every year, and that’s not about to stop happening anytime soon. However, getting to spend holidays abroad gives you a chance to share your traditions with other people, and more importantly to get a chance to appreciate and learn about other people’s holiday traditions.

I learned this a bit with Thanksgiving this year. My parents are American, so we’ve generally celebrated our Thanksgiving in November. I’ve been pretty lucky in the past, and have celebrated both Canadian and American thanksgiving, and I love both of them.

This year, I was in Cape Town for Thanksgiving and decided to cook dinner for some of my German friends who work at Cape Town Backpackers and who are working abroad here. They have never experienced a Thanksgiving before and I offered to make them a small Thanksgiving dinner—well, this quickly spiraled out of control.

A couple of Americans, and several more Germans got involved and we ended up having a pretty large feast complete with a Turkey and at least 3 different types of potatoes. It was tons of fun, and reminded me that there’s always a way to enjoy holidays and good company no matter where you are.
 The Germans had never had a Thanksgiving before, and it was really wonderful to get to share traditional Thanksgiving food with them and to get a chance to explain what we do for the holiday, and the concept of eating until you reached the point where you collapsed onto the couch with a food coma. Some grasped this concept better than others.

I know it’s going to be weird to be aware from home for Christmas, but I’m fairly certain that it’ll just give me an opportunity to create new traditions and meet new people.


Haarlem & Maastricht – Churches, Windmills and Bier

Leaving Haarlem ended up being a lot harder then leaving Amsterdam. The town is sort of a smaller less touristy version of Amsterdam, and the old churches, markets, and tiny streets make it feel a lot more intimate and less intimidating. It also makes it easier to meet people and the locals don’t seem quite as jaded towards tourists. Haarlem held a lot of firsts for me, I’d never ridden on the back of a motorcycle before, or on the back of a bicycle for that matter, and I’ve certainly never been served a beer in a church before, but all of those things sort of happened in Haarlem. I met some great people, and had a chance to see my first windmill in the Netherlands!

Jopen Brewery

Jopenkerk and Dutch Bar Food 

The Jopenkerk (Jopen Church) is a Dutch brewery in Haarlem. It’s inside an old church and their menu included a huge variety of different beers. I met some really cool couples from South Africa and Australia who helped me decode the entirely Dutch menu. I ended up trying a couple different beers, and also some traditional bar food.

Each one of the deep fried objects in this picture are a different type of Dutch appetizer or bar food. The round one nearest the top is Bitterballen, the next one is Garnalenkroketjes, then Jopenbier bitterballen, and lastly there’s Kaassoufflés.

Bitterballen & Jopenbier bitterballen – savoury meat, flour, and spiced filled balls that are then coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Usually the meat is beef or veal, though I was told it could also be oxtail. The Jopenbier bitterballen was made with beer as well. The mustard in the picture goes with these, and you’d dip them in before eating them.

Kaassoufflés – these are melted cheese-filled dough-based wraps. These are then breaded and deep-fried. You eat them with –surprise! Mayonnaise.

Garnalenkroketjes – shrimp filled deep-fried flour balls. You eat them with plum sauce. These are very similar to Bitterballen, but with a different filling.

This was the oldest beer recipe I tried:

This is a Jopen Koyt beer. It’s a dark fruity-beer with a recipe developed in 1407.

But this one was my favourite:

This is Jopen Hoppenbier and it’s a blonde beer, the recipe was developed in 1501.

“Filthy Rich”

I learned from a friend about the church that’s in the centre of town. I think it was called Saint Bavochurch. It’s by the market in the centre of town, and it’s a tall and imposing structure. It’s old. I don’t remember how old, to be honest, I don’t generally pay that much attention to church history. I just think that the buildings are beautiful, and the attention to detail is stunning. However, I learned a pretty cool fact about this one. The term ‘filthy rich’ refers to people who had enough money to pay to be buried in the floor of the church. I was told Haarlem was the oldest, but Maastricht also had churches with men in the floors. The floors were made out of giant slabs of stone with names and sometimes decorative elements and they were located throughout the church.


There is a central market in Haarlem called ‘Grote Markt’. It’s in a big open square in the centre of town near Grote Kerk. It happens every day and mostly it was just a lot of really awesome food. Here’s some pictures.


I didn’t get to spend much time in Maastricht, but the town was beautiful. Out of all the cities I went to in Holland, it was probably architecturally my favourite. The entire city feels surprisingly different from Amsterdam and Haarlem. It was a lot quieter, and the river that runs through the middle was breathtaking in the morning.