Lions, Elephants & Ostriches

The past week and a half has been crazy! Everyday was a new adventure. I’ll try to do a little recap.

I had class registration a week and a half ago. THE MOST STRESSFUL THING EVER. The University of Cape Town DOESN’T have online registration. Which means to add, drop or change classes you have to walk to different buildings and have different signatures. Holy mess. The campus has about 26,000 students, and 600 of those students are study abroad. So picture 600 study abroad students + the incoming freshmen students running around campus (mind you this campus is so large it has bus’s to get you from lower to middle to upper campus) going from department to department to sign up for courses they want. It was insane. I had to take a placement test for the next level of Italian and was notified 18 hours prior to my test. Thank goodness I tested into the correct level of Italian. All I  have to say is after this experience I am never complaining about online registration- EVER AGAIN!

Fingers crossed I did my registration correct, because classes start tomorrow.

After registration last Monday morning many of us departed via bus on a Garden Route tour of the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape! *South Africa has 9 regions, and Cape Town is situated in the Western Cape* South Africa is HUGE. To give you an idea it is about a 13 hour drive from Cape Town to the edge of the Eastern Cape! This was a four day intensely packed itinerary! We went canoeing in the Wilderness National Park, walked with lions, bungy jumped off the biggest bridge in the world ( I chickened out and could not do it, way to high for me ), went to J’bay and surfed in the Indian Ocean where Billabong surf competitions are held every year ( more like I was swallowed by the waves, but surfing sounds cooler), went to Tsitsikamma National Park which was so beautiful, rode and fed ELEPHANTS, rode ostriches ( I did not do this, I thought it was too mean), and finally crawled yes literally crawled through the Cango Caves. Parts of the caves were so small that people in the past have actually gotten stuck INSIDE of the cave for many hours! I wanted to make a note, petting lions, riding ostriches and elephants is not a NORMAL thing to do in Africa. Many locals who I told would laugh and say they have grown up in Africa and have never done any of these things.

A side note. I wrote a paper last spring quarter on the relationship between China and Africa. The question I explored was: Is the China-Africa relationship mutually beneficial? I then asked if African’s welcomed the Chinese and liked their involvement in Africa, and felt their relationship was furthering their continent. At the end of my research my paper I concluded it was in fact a beneficial relationship and the African’s welcomed them. During the Garden Route, my tour guide was from Cape Town, and she told us we could ask her any questions regardless if they were political or not. So I asked her opinion. For the most part she wanted nothing to do with the Chinese, and she felt they extracted the natural resources and left Africa with little. She acknowledged they built infrastructures, but made the point that these infrastructures they built were not meant to last, and many of the roads they have recently built are already falling apart. The Chinese also take their large boats and hang these huge nets off of them sweeping the floor of the ocean killing all and everything in their path including dolphins, wales and any coral. I met another man from Mozambique this summer in Portugal, and I asked him this same question. He replied to me that he has never seen so many Chinese in Africa before, and they are taking all of the African jobs because they can provide the labor and the resource for much cheaper than the African’s can. Therefore only contributing to the high rate of unemployment. He was also against the relationship. I just thought these two perspectives were interesting and some food for thought.

Before I left for Cape Town my professor at Seattle University made the comment, you shouldn’t go to Africa to help, but to listen. I LOVE THIS. Since I have been here my study abroad group has urged us to volunteer ( GREAT ), however the way in which you volunteer is important. My tour guide also made the comment if you want to help, teach someone a skill they don’t have, but don’t just feed them soup for a day. I think this is key. It is easy to volunteer and feed people for a day, but after that day tomorrow they will have to find food again. Therefore, if you instead teach them how to make a specific food, or how to grow a specific crop they will have this trade with them for life not a day. My tour guide further went on to say it is part of the African culture to beg, and we need to change this, or they will never be able to rise out of poverty. When we volunteer it is easy to get caught up in, what WE think they need, instead of listening to what THEY need. Last spring quarter I watched a video about Ethiopia and how the United Nations came in dropping food off, the people made the comment they didn’t need food and showed footage of all the fields of crops they had. Rather they needed to learn how to make this crop into food! As I sign up to volunteer around Cape Town I am going to take into these different perspectives on how to volunteer, because I think these points are so crucial.

I am off to try to go find out where my classes are tomorrow, so I don’t get completely lost. Hopefully since school has started I will be able to keep up with my blogs. I love Cape Town and couldn’t have made a better choice to spend a semester abroad.

Cheers,

Lo

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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.

ANYWAYS.

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.

Logan

Cape Town Bound!

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HELLO ALL!

In 3 days I will be calling Cape Town, South Africa my new home for the next semester!  For anyone who is reading this and knows me- It is safe to say I am happiest when I am traveling. The word love doesn’t even begin to describe my infatuation and passion with learning about different cultures, ways of life, and traveling. My brother made the remark to me that I should considering picking  a new hobby besides traveling, since traveling was expensive. He suggested fishing.

Anyways- I recently received my living arrangements and will be staying in a house with about 27 other CIEE students near the University of Cape Town where I will be studying. I am currently a Junior at Seattle University, majoring in International Studies.  I have spent the last quarter completing an independent study on South Africa, with a specific emphasis on the apartheid to help me have a foundation of knowledge to build on while abroad.

I continuously get asked “Why South Africa?” Usually this question is followed by a description of a poverty-stricken village, with no infrastructures. This type of description always makes me giggle a bit. It is for this type of common misconception of Africa’s continent I have chosen to call Cape Town my home. In addition to this misconception, I wanted to get away from the common “American Dream,” and find my dream.  Many of us (including myself) grow up in a life consumed by the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses.” We often find ourselves measuring our success by the amount of money we make a year, the number of cars we own, and our ten day vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico every couple years. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think these are “bad” things or is a “bad” way of living life. However,  this type of life isn’t the way I want to measure my success.

Here are a couple pictures of Cape Town…
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In saying this, me spending the next 4 1/2 moths abroad in Cape Town can only enable me to find my dream, learn about a completely new culture and reflect on my own life. I have spent the past couple minutes looking in the thesaurus for a different word than “excited” to explain my feelings for this journey. The word “excited” doesn’t even being to explain my feelings for embarking on this life changing experience. This is the perfect way for me to close one chapter in my life and open a new chapter.

CHEERS!

praat gou

Lo