Visit to Cape Peninsula University of Technology

I’ve arrived and settled in Cape Town for my visit with Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) as part of an international outreach initiative between the University Libraries at Virginia Tech and CPUT Libraries.

Cape Town has been a wonderful place to visit. Ocean, mountains, and dense city are all within walking distance of one another. The city is multicultural.

In some ways, this makes things too easy for the American traveler. The multicultural residents of the city tend to be multilingual; there are eleven official languages in South Africa. Most people here are bilingual, and it is common in this city to find people who speak three, seven, or nine languages. Everyone that I have interacted with speaks English, which makes it easy to get around, but also removes much of the motivation to learn new words. At the present time, schools deliver most instruction in English. Signs at the university often have text in three languages:  Afrikaans, English, and isiXhosa.

Biblioteekingang. Library Entrance. Isango leThala

Food and necessities tend to be affordable because of the exchange rate. I’ve tried some local cuisine that I wouldn’t have tried at home, but if I wasn’t inclined, I would never need to do so. Every variety of food is available here because of the many cultures and tourists.

There are many tourists here, but I suspect that at least some of the daredevils that paraglide from mountains over towers to the beach are locals. The people add vibrancy to the area, and are always doing something interesting, like dancing on the beach at sunset.

Daredevil

Sea cliffs

dance_still.JPG

Saturday Salsa at the pavilion

Artists live here, and have painted murals on some of the buildings. This art is a tribute to the missing Nigerian schoolgirls, and features Bat Mary, Super Mary, and Super Jesus.

Mural honoring missing nigerian schoolgirls. Depicts young females in black and white on a red brick wall, with decorated ceramic plates along the side.

Close up of plates, with Super Mary and Super Jesus hidden in the corner.

Bat Mary and Super Mary are barely visible in the top right corner.

It is approaching winter here and the daylight hours are short, but the weather has been exceptionally pleasant. Late fall in Cape Town has felt like late spring in Blacksburg, but with much less rain. Afternoon skies have been clear blue nearly every day. This is problematic. Winter is normally the rainy season, but Cape Town is experiencing a three year drought. Reservoir levels are critically low, and residents of the city have become good at conserving water. I’m trying to do my part, and am now comfortable with a procedure I’ve named the Cape Shower, which uses more water than an astronaut shower but less than a Navy shower. This is a habit that I need to take home with me.

I’ve had new experiences and seen many new things since I’ve been in South Africa. I’ve seen some wildlife that I never think about in Virginia. The flowers here are vygie – ice plant and sea fig – and native to South Africa.

FlowerwowFlowerneon

A bird that is duck-like, but doesn't have webbed feet, and has a longer, curved and sharp bill.

This odd bird is called “hadeda”.

The people of CPUT Libraries and the CPUT Centre for Technology Services have been very busy, both in showing me the area and teaching me about their projects.

Here are Lula, Herbert, our friend Veliswa (who visited Virginia Tech last year), and Vuyo enjoying lunch in the cafeteria.

Veli lunch

Lunch with Veli and friends. It’s ostrich stew.

I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can, and to give occasional help when something is already within my experience. I’ll write more about some of these later, but for now I can give a summary:

  • Discussion with Debbie and Lovemore about two software platforms for collecting and presenting library statistics, including an operational, custom developed stats database, and a partially developed solution utilizing Splunk
  •  Discussions with the disability units on two campuses
  • Exploring techniques with Hillary for adding closed captions and subtitles for the deaf to videos
  • Lessons from Lovemore about the architecture of an award winning PhoneGap (now Apache Cordova) CPUT app for Android, Blackberry, and iOS
  • Working with Lulamile and Herbert on DSpace repositories, including brainstorming about ORCID, researcher profiles, and the REST API, and assistance resolving issues with PDF thumbnail generation and OAI-PMH harvesting.
  • Observing the pre-show setup for a video streaming event
  • Demonstration from Janine of an online information literacy course, and initial discussion about an information literacy app

I’ve visited the Bellville and Cape Town campuses; next week I’ll visit the Wellington campus to learn even more, and the Mobray campus to talk about some of the strengths of Virginia Tech.

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