My internet is very slow and will not let me upload pictures, I will have to upload them when I find better internet. Also, this blog is all over the place -so I apologize!
(Thoughts prior to my arrival in Cape Town)
I am currently on the airplane flying from Seattle to Amsterdam (9 1/2 hour flight) to make a quick 1 hour and 50 minute stop over in Amsterdam before I head onto my connecting flight to CAPE TOWN (12 hour flight)! Heading to the airport this morning I made the comment to my mom, that I will not be surprised if I miss my connecting flight. Everyone has a fear of something going terribly wrong during international travel- I used to; now I just assume something wrong will happen. It’s like when you make a mistake in life and people tell you it “builds character” thats how I like to think of all the “wrong” things that have gone wrong in my travels; “building character.” In my past travels I have already managed to miss two flights, have my luggage lost, and have booked a hotel for the wrong island ( long story ). In saying so, I have had my fair share of “problems.” However, in all of these past situations, some of my favorite stories have come out of them, it is all apart of the journey I guess.
After arriving in Cape Town at midnight on Tuesday (1/28) the study abroad students have been doing things NON stop. It’s intense but I love it. I live in a house that is divided into three different buildings with a total of 27 American students who share a court yard. It’s great, just a 10 minute walk from the University and we are in a neighborhood of nice houses, greenery, and many shops right around the block! Out my window I can see half of Table Mountain- so no complaints here!
A brief overview of the activities I have done…
Tour of campus- BECAUSE IT’S HUGE. You take a bus to get around lower, middle and upper campus! But it is the most gorgeous campus I have ever seen. It’s more of a piece of art with all of the greenery and vines climbing up the buildings. It’s very European looking. We register for classes this week so it is imperative we know our way around campus, and you don’t register online here though. You WALK to every department and wait in line apparently. I can’t imagine how stressful this is going to be and how lost I will get. Great.
Tour of the Cape Peninsula, which takes you to the very most southern tip of Africa ( WHICH! I found out is wrong, hence why False bay is next to it). The drive down the coast to the Cape of Good Hope was so beautiful. We saw a BABOON! Also stopped at a small community who struggles with crime, poverty, and high unemployment rates. There we ate lunch at the community center, sponsored by a local volunteer organization. Everyone was so sweet. It’s amazing how welcoming everyone is to American’s and tourists in general. As our huge charter buses were pulling in little kids came running out waving profusely at us, and even adults stopped what they were doing and came out of their houses and lined up on the road to wave hello. People from South Africa are always so happy and go out of their way to introduce themselves to you. Not to make a generalization, but to make one- I feel like in the USA people are much more standoffish and crabby. It’s interesting considering the majority of the USA has many more opportunities, resources, and infrastructures ect than in South Africa.
I went to a beach via train with a small group of study abroad students. The beach was of course so pretty, filled with surfers. Getting to and from the beach was an event in itself though. I have taken the train system throughout Europe and it works great and is “safe.” On the way back from the beach the train was packed, like little sardines. ZERO white people were on the train, besides the few study abroad students. My advisor told us stories of people reaching through the windows at stops to grab your purse or necklace, or as the train was leaving people will run along side the train to sneak onto it. Once we all made it off in one piece we all just watched the people running along side to jump onto the train! To get off the train you only have about 30 seconds to exit, because the doors don’t wait. I saw many people get stuck in the doors. WOAH. To hear about all of these as they say “dodgy” situations is one thing, but when you actually see it and experience it, it becomes so real.
I had a free day so a couple of my friends and I decided to go on a bike tour of Woodstock and the old Biscuit Mill, which is a famous outdoor market with handmade foods, drinks, artwork and gorgeous clothing and accessories. Our bike ride started off a little rough, as a good handful of the 15 person bike group’s bikes broke the second we began to ride them. It was a good laugh. As we began riding the bikes we had to get into a single file line because we were riding on the road. SO SCARY. South African drivers are so fast and fearless. Not only was it scary for us because of their driving behavior, but they drive on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD. This was so confusing when we were trying to make turns. Anyways we made it to Woodstock, ate lunch and shopped a little. We then headed to a modern shopping mall that was filled with more handmade items. South Africa just received the 2014 design capital of the world, so there are some amazing ideas for artwork. We then peddled over to this area which had graffiti, but it was artwork, and specific rules on who can do the graffiti, when they can do it and such. It was so neat.
After this we rode through one of the most “sketchiest” parts of Cape Town, where prostitution, drug use, and violence were most prevalent. Our guild stopped at the number 28 written on a building and asked if any of us knew what it meant. Most of us guessed something to do with Nelson Mandela or democracy. WRONG. 28 stands for the “best” or most “successful” gang in Cape Town. Apparently you start at 24 ( or 25 ) and you work your way up to 28 by killing people. Lovely.
We went to a dinner in Stellenbosh at Moyo, Spier. It was beautiful! It was out door seating in this gorgeous garden with lights all over and stones to walk on. It was magical. We had our faces painted like traditional African face painting and then some people did a traditional African dance for us. Dinner was so good- and for those of you who thought I was going to be eating MUSH, it’s not mush. They actually have some of the best food here. Many curries, sushi, thai, seafoods, & lots and lots of meats.
Another night we went to Satellite mountain to watch the sunset. It was amazing. We had a view of all of Cape Town. You could see Table Mountain and the main city, and then were even able to see Sea Point and Camps Bay from it! It was a panoramic view of Cape Town!
One night two of my friends and I caught a taxi and went down to the water front for dinner. We ate at Sevruge on the V&A waterfront. So gorgeous. We have learned very quickly to bargain with taxi drivers, if you don’t you get ripped off thats for sure.
Last night I went to my first rugby game. SO MUCH FUN. Everyone was dressed up in the Universities colors and had face painting. It was a home game. I’m not sure who won, because they don’t have a score board here so you have to pay close attention and I don’t even understand rugby so I have no idea. I didn’t realize how mean this sport is, so intense. Someone tackles one person and then the rest of the team has to jump on top of that ONE person. So scary.
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The first “reality” check for me was the amount of security. To get into my house there is a security guard, you swipe your card to get through the first gate into the court yard, then to get into your house there is a barred door you unlock, then the front door you unlock, then the specific door to your room. All the windows have bars over them and the fence that lines the property has live wire on top. It’s intense, but only a reminder that security is a serious issue.
As I mentioned in my first blog post, I love different cultures and learning about new ways of doing something. When we arrived in Cape Town one of the first days was a presentation of how people portray Americans. While most study abroad students were appalled by this impersonation of us done by local students, I thought it was brilliant. I don’t know why but it drives me crazy watching American tourists- the majority of us are so ignorant and so sure we’re right and better than everyone else. So this was a good way to start off our orientation, making everyone aware of our flaws. #1. WE ARE SO LOUD. #2 We abuse alcohol and act ridiculous #3 We are the most impatient people ( I know I am so so so so so impatient) #4 We feel entitled.
Couldn’t have said it better. I think this was important for many of us including myself to become aware of, because for us to make the most of our time in Cape Town we all need to be cautious of our actions and respect this new culture.
My resident assistant is from South Africa and he is black, and one day he was speaking to his other black friend and called him a nigger. I think all the study abroad students faces froze in awe. The next day he brought it up and asked us if it bothered us. No one really knew what to say, we tried to explain in our generation you just do not say that word. He seemed a little surprised and went on to tell us how for them it’s okay for a black person to call another black person a nigger. I thought that was interesting.
I am having the most amazing time and am enjoying every second of Cape Town, everyone is great and I am so lucky to be in this gorgeous city.