Cape Town's Date & Time

Saturday, January 30, 2010

(1/29) Registration

(1/29)Registration officially began at 9, but by the time we had reached Upper Campus at 8:45 the cue (line) was already around Jamensen Hall. Essentially a giant representation of how that day would go. We had to hand write our classes into “forms” before meeting with an advisor, who merely checked to see if we entered the correct information. Of course, it wasn’t that simple, one had to wait in line in order to receive the forms and then proceed to a different line to meet with an advisor. Come 10:15 my forms were approved and I was off to another cue to have my classes formally registered online (why I couldn’t have proceeded immediately to this step on my own computer is beyond me). Last but not least, was the cue to receive our Student Cards. Three hours later, my student card picture was taken and printed and I was on my way. Procedures in Africa are simply more tedious. Although one should never expect a task to be overly complicated, they are certainly never efficient.

With half the day dedicated to cues, my flat mates were only left with a few hours to find dresses for the J&B Met. We headed to Victoria Wharf on the Waterfront for a few hours. Despite the price conversions being awesome here (the dollar is equivalent to 7 rand), shopping at the Wharf was a bit of reality check. Lots of things are extraordinarily cheap, such as food and alcohol; however, clothes are not. Although everyone needs food, it was made clear by the prices that not everyone needs to dress in European styled clothing.

We have been trying to eat “locally” and try out different places in the area that would be different then something we could find at home, but we absolutely cracked last night and ordered pizzas. Come on, two large pizzas for 50 rand, which is basically $7. Too good to pass up. Four pizzas later, our cravings moved to Oreos. Although we found some, they only came in vanilla. Sad day. But really, not that sad, they were delicious. We headed to bed early in preparation for the J&B Met. So excited. The event begins at 10, but the first race doesn’t begin until 2. Needless to say, I plan on mimosas starting my day off to the right start. Breakfast of champions.

Friday, January 29, 2010

(1/28) Fresher Braai

(1/28) There is a rumor in Cape Town that on a windy day one can be quite literally blown off Table Mountain, and in one day 3 people had been blown to their deaths. After today, I must say that I am sure it is true. Although no one was blown of the mountain today, the gusts were so severe on upper campus (1/4 up the mountain top) that I was being physically pushed. This wind unfortunately dampered the mood at the Fresher braai, UCT held for the over 5,000 (700 accounting for international students, the rest first years) students attending their first semester at UCT. The rugby field was packed with barbeque pits, a stage with local djs, and students, everywhere.

This morning; however, was not windy. Cape Town has proven to be a city with enchanting weather; however, it is not surprising for rain, intense sunshine, and mist all to occur in the same day. As long as I am escaping the 8 degree, -15 with wind chill weather back home, no complaints here.

Tiffany, my neighbor, and I headed out for an early run to avoid the heat. We managed to get back in time to run errands before most of our roommates woke up, including purchasing our J&B Met tickets. Despite having to make our way to an off-site betting house to purchase the horse race tickets, it was a part of town I hadn’t ventured through yet. There are some intense Afro Braiding shops in the area, depending how this semester goes I may come home with a weave or dreads (trust me I won’t, but it is hilarious to think about). The J&B Met is an all day horse race event, one of the must do’s of the end of summer season. Basically it sounds like another ridiculous party and I am pumped to attend.

We made our way to Cocoa Wah Wah for some smoothies and free Internet time. Everything in Cape Town is pre-paid; the phones, Internet, electricity, you name it. For Internet, one doesn’t pay for time, but instead the amount of mega bites one uses by uploading, downloading, and refreshing pages. I literally think in mega bites everything I am online. I never want to have more than one tab or web page going at the same time. I write my emails and blog in Word documents before uploading them. While it is nice that I am not wasting time surfing the web, I do miss CNN and Wikipedia way too much. In addition to my lack of Internet browsing, the television doesn’t work, so this is going to be an intensely technology reduced semester. Not surprisingly, I am almost done with book 2 of my stay in Cape Town.

After Cocoa Wah Wah and a slight breach in communication, I remained home alone while half of the group headed to the beach and the other to the mall to find dresses for the J&B Met. I set up our porch with a towel, boom box, and book, and was able to get some quality reading time in while getting a tan. Success. The alone time was desperately needed. Besides sleeping, I don’t think I have been alone for more than 10 minutes since being here, and sometimes it is nice to be able to just hear yourself think.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

(1/26) Tiger Tiger, (1/27) Canal Walk

(1/26) Being an early riser is a double-edged sword, I can wake up to run or do errands; however, I will ultimately be alone. Everyone else here can sleep until noon, yet I have not been woken by my alarm yet. The sun literally lights my room by 6, so there is no use of trying to fight it. But I do need to make sure my alarm will work once classes officially begin, it would be a shot to my ego if I sleep through my first class after proclaiming my ability to be an early riser.

It has become a daily orientation routine to grill us with information about safety, culture shock, and the distinctly different form of education we will receive. For example, in lectures at home, it is not uncommon for students to speak frequently throughout class, whether to ask questions or further a discussion point with the professors; however, it has been made clear here that students do not speak during lecture and it is not unheard of for a student to never interact with a professor throughout the entire term.

After orientation we made our way down through campus and to the train. It was a beautiful day and we decided that Muzenberg would be the best choice for the day. AND I made my virgin swim in the ocean there. Despite two shark spottings earlier that day, the black flag was exchanged for a red and I made my way in. The water on the Atlantic is freezing because the currents are bringing water from the Antarctic, yet it was incredibly refreshing. Apparently the water from the Indian Ocean is over 15 degrees warmer at all times. I am going to have to head east of the Cape to discover this for myself.

Muzenberg beach

During Monday’s orientation we received free entry to the “club” Tiger Tiger. Since all 800 international students received this entry, we decided we would have to go. Tiger Tiger is quite literally a club in the middle of a mall. Despite being absolutely ridiculous, the music was from this decade, which is always a plus. Who doesn’t love to rock out to “Party in the USA” while in South Africa with an Australian and Brit singing right next to you?

(1/27) Despite having an early orientation and being mildly sleep deprived from the nigh at Tiger Tiger, Juli and I proceeded to take a 4.5 mile run all the way to the local mall, Tiger Tiger’s home, and back. To be honest, I was shocked we managed to run the entire way, but being able to gossip about the previous night did manage to take up a good chunk of the run.

Orientation today covered SHACO, the student volunteer group on campus. The group works with 4 local townships in education, health, business, etc. and it is something I plan to get involved with. After orientation, we began the epic process of pre-registration. Since classes are to be registered by hand, one needs approval by the head of the department to enter into that class. These signatures are required prior to Friday when the 800 international students are registered all by hand. Thankfully, I was pre-approved for all my classes and was able to run to different departments with students and get a better feel for the campus.

The J&B Met is the Kentucky Derby of Cape Town. Lots of horses, betting, and big hats. It is this upcoming Saturday and we have managed to score tickets. Apparently girls get decked out in beautiful dresses and the guys were incredible suits, so we headed to Canal Walk to take a peak at the dresses and hat selection. Although I headed home empty handed, I am sure I will find something suitable for my day at the races.

We arrived home to our flat mates have a braai (barbeque). It was relaxing to hang out on our porches and listen to some music.

Monday, January 25, 2010

(1/24) Camps Bay, (1/25) International Orientation

(1/24) Finally found a running buddy. We ran from our flats through campus, which is pretty much all up mountain and then back. I was a sweaty mess by the end of the run, but it was nice to be sweating from exercise rather than extreme heat.

My flat mates and I headed to Cocoa Wah Wah for brunch and free internet time. I spent most of the time of CNN. I feel like I have missed out a lot on the whole news factor since being here, like Conan leaving NBC! And of course other things.

We headed to Camps Bay for some quality beach time. Unfortunately getting there was a bit of a disaster. The public transportation here is quite different. There is the train, mini buses, and cabs. Mini buses are super cheap but only run up and down streets, so it may require you to catch more than one. Also, you are guaranteed to be jammed in with as many people as the bus can hold, and in the heat that can be unfortunate. The trains are reliable, but only during day time hours. Cabs are the most expensive, but it is the most direct form of transportation. So each of them have their strengths and weaknesses. We had been pretty lame and had stuck to just the cabs and train, thus decided to try this whole mini-bus situation out. We caught a mini bus that agreed to take us all the to Camps Bay, unfortunately half way there they decided not enough people needed to get to that part of town and dropped us off at the Mecca of Mini Buses to catch another one. Immediately after we got out a cop pulled us aside and yelled at us for being here without a larger crowd (aka males) and quite literally escorted us to the single cab in sight. Of course this cab charged us up the wa-zoo, and where as normally we could bargain or just head to a different cab, the cop literally stood next to us until we got into the cab. Lesson learned, only take the mini bus if you’re sardined next to your comrades, not strangers.

Camps Bay is beautiful. There are the mountains in the backdrop, with a strip of cafes, bars, and boutiques lining the white sand beach. Skydivers were descending right over us and overall it was a great day to be at the beach. We (a group of 30 of us, I feel like such an annoying tourist when we walk together) split into a bunch of different groups to get cocktails and dinner right on the beachfront. I had my first mojito and I promise you it won’t be my last. I had an incredible seafood mix salad served with fresh avocado. Avocado is seriously served with every meal; I am in heaven. After dinner we made our way to the “hot spot” bar of the area called Club Caprice. There was a huge line, but being in a group of 25+ girls, we quickly made our way straight in.

Top: My seafood dinner

Middle: First mojito!

Bottom: Georgia, Alex, Juli, and myself at dinner

Club Caprice was ridiculous. I felt like I was in an upper Manhattan scene with a ton of rich yuppies that don’t know what to do with their money so they purchase outrageous things. Immediately walking in bottles of champagne were bought and passed around. Don’t get me wrong; it was incredible, but so bizarre. We honestly spent the night like queens and didn’t exactly make it home until late, late that night (basically morning). I had a great evening, but I could never maintain that sort of night lifestyle, just give me a damn beer and a bon fire.

(1/25) Woke up this morning way too early, with a mildly roaring headache. Juli, my running buddy, and I made the epic decision to run and sweat out some of our last night’s drinks. We managed to get pretty darn far for being hung over and completely sleep deprived. Go us. I really enjoy running, I feel like I am starting to learn the street names and different routes through campus.

Speaking of campus, we had our first seminar today. But before heading to the lecture halls, Lina, my roommate, and I dropped of our laundry. In Cape Town it is unheard to do your own laundry, let alone own a washer and dryer. You quite literally take it to a laundry shop and leave instructions of how you prefer your wash, the laundry person weighs your load, and you come back a few hours later to clean, folded laundry. To be honest, I love it. Life is good.

“School” today wasn’t exactly school. We are having an international orientation, which is a five-day prep for this upcoming school year covering everything from academic expectations to HIV. Tomorrow we have to turn in our high school diplomas and pre-register for class. Finally!

Lina and I made an incredible dinner (lemon chicken with potatoes and asparagus) while watching Egypt vs. Cameroon match in the semi-finals for the African Cup of Nations. I need to catch up on my futbol knowledge before the World Cup starts up! After last night, we decided to keep tonight low key (seriously, my liver wants to punch me in the face).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

(1/22)Lazy Day and (1/23) Kirstenbosch

(1/22) I woke up sore. It was a good sore. The kind you get after a long night of drinking, but rather mine was from a long day of drinking and biking. A recommended combination in appropriate settings (illegal in the Minneapolis, don’t do it!). We rose to a slow start and headed into upper campus to fill out some paper work for next week’s international student orientation. We have to register all our classes by hand, seriously throwing me back to the stone ages. I have been approved and pre-registered for three classes: A History of Anti-Semitism, Africa: the Making of a Continent to 1880, and Gender, Sexuality, and Politics. I am going to try to pick up a forth class, either the Media in South Africa or African Dance I. Hopefully, the by-hand registration will go smoothly and I will be able to get into all my classes. If not I guess I can continue studying culture in a non-academic setting, I think I am getting an A in that.

After campus we headed into town to run some errands, such as grocery shop and figure out how the Internet café Cocoa Woa Woa works. They serve the most amazing smoothies. So whether I am back there for the free Internet or refreshing drinks, I do know I will surly be back.

Once home we played cards outside with our flat mates and got ready for the night down town on Long Street. We rallied quite a few apartments together to make a super group and took cabs into the city. We first went to the Dubliner, an Irish pub, for a nice flash back to the 1990s. The music was ridiculous, but we sure had a good time. We met a bunch of British students also studying at the University of Cape Town. We followed them to Stones, a much more chill bar, and formed a super group of international students (I’m sure the locals wanted to kill us). I unfortunately went into Mom mode when a girl form our program began throwing up on herself (attractive, I know) and called it quits for the night. Besides getting some vomit on me, it was a really great night. Hopefully she has learned her lesson, two bottles of wine is no good before going out, stick to a bottle and a half.

(1/23) Today my roommate Lina, a flat mate Jon, and myself headed to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens for the afternoon. Imagine a mix of Jurassic Park and scenes from the Lost World. The gardens are complimented with the backdrop of Table Mountain on three sides. It seriously looks unreal. Kirstenbosch was the first botanical gardens and at one time was owned by Cecil Rhodes (the launcher of De Beers, the once outrageously dominant monopoly of diamonds in the world).

Top: Flowers at Kirstenbosch

Middle: Should be the scenery for the next Jurassic Park

Bottom: One giant tree

We headed home for a late lunch and to relax on our back porch. It was overwhelmingly hot out today and the beach, although sounding tempting, would have left me fried in the long run. Tomorrow we are heading to Camps Bay, the beach of all beaches, so I thought I would save my skin from charing for tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

(1/21) Wine lands in Stellenbosch

We awoke this morning to the thrill of adventure ahead: a biking wine tour. We took two different trains (one directly into downtown and the other out in to the wine lands) to Stellenbosch. We made our way to the Bikes’N Wine travel company to pick up our bikes and meet the guides. We biked through beautiful valleys with mountains in the backgrounds.

It may have been 40 C (104 F) at the hottest time of the day, but everyone had a blast. We biked 11 miles through the region stopping at 3 different wine estates, as well as the Van Ryn Brandy Cellar. I actually learned quite a bit about wine and brandy, and can officially taste the difference between a 10-year and 12-year brandy. Needless to say by 11:30 I may have been a bit drunk on a bike. Not the safest combination, but not complaining. Our last stop was to a dam, but it was defiantly just a small retention pond. Being a bit too rambunctious for my own good, I was amongst the first ones in and also one of the first one’s out after discovering we had leaches all over our bodies. They were tiny, but disgusting nonetheless. We all were rolling in the hard sand and rocks to get them off. I don’t think I have taken a more thorough shower in my entire life. The tour ended with a free bottle of wine and excellent advice for future trips around Cape Town. All in all, Stellenbosch is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my entire life. It may have been the wine, but there was something exhilarating stirring through my blood that day.

Today was a significantly contrasting view of South Africa then yesterday’s. Each day I spend here I realize the thousands of different faces to South Africa.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

(1/19 & 1/20) Waterfront and Freedom Tour

Yesterday (1/19) I explored downtown Cape Town. We spent time in Victoria Wharf, an enormous mall, as well as V & A Waterfront Marina. It was a major contrast to my day today.

Today (1/20) was intense. Our entire program, Interstudy, did the Inkululeko “freedom route” tour, which entailed the District 6 museum, visiting the Langa Township, and touring the infamous Robben Island. Our day started relatively early as we were already heading into down town Cape Town by 8:30 to the museum. We had tour guides who stayed with us throughout the day and were extremely informative.

At the District 6 museum we not only got a history lesson of the District 6 area, but also a history of the oppression within Cape Town (and South Africa). South Africans all had different internal passports used to define which race that person was. One would be identified as either white, Cape Malay, Indian, coloured, or black. In 1952 the Pass Laws were declared requiring all blacks to carry a form of the pass-book at all times, called a dompas (literally translating to stupid book in Afrikaans). Other laws were quickly passed, such as the mandatory living segregation by race, which became complicated because many families of mixed race were split up and many people were incorrectly labeled due to subjective rulings (for exampled the “pencil test” was used to distinguish blacks from coloured; if a pencil could be placed in one’s hair and it doesn’t fall out that person was black and if it did fall out they were coloured).

District 6 is an area that was occupied by mainly colours; however, on February 11, 1966, bulldozers began clearing (bulldozing) the area for the future inhabitance of whites only. Thousands protested for the right to stay, but everyone was eventually displaced. Thousands of families were moved to townships miles from the city and their homes were destroyed. It took over 15 years to completely excavate the area, leaving only government building or places of worship (churches and mosques). After the area had been completely wiped out, plots of land were supposed to be sold to whites, but few whites were willing to move into the area due to the protesting and destruction; therefore to this day the land remains desolate in the midst of a metropolitan city. The museum is built in a Methodist church that was not destroyed and houses photos and stories of the families displaced. Since the end of aparthied government, the new government has offered to move families back into the area, but many of the families are not willing to be relocated because they have a strong sense of community within their township.

After the museum, we headed out of the city to the Langa Township. We began at the town center and then proceeded to tour a 3-block radius of homes, hostels, a bar, market, and pre-school. I felt uncomfortable at first walking through this community taking pictures of their poverty, but our tour guide was from Langa and introduced us to his neighbors and really lightened the mood of the tour. The unemployment rate in Langa is 25% and the HIV/AIDS rate is even higher, but there is an interwoven sense of hope as new homes are being built and policies are changing for the better. Condoms are distributed for free throughout South Africa at clinics and in public bathrooms, but there is still a weird stigma about HIV and there are huge education efforts attempting to spread awareness about the seriousness of HIV/AIDS and destroy any myths (having sex with a virgin can cure you). The market had meat literally chilling in the heat; refrigeration is just not as used or really desired here. The homes were un-comprehensibly nicer than the hostels, which were used to house 15 families in 6 rooms and a living space. Each room houses 3 twin size beds that are shared among 3 families. The elders sleep in the bedrooms at night and all the children sleep in the living space. The hostels were built originally to house young single men, but as they grew older and had families the hostels’ populations swelled. There is no running water inside and the bathrooms are outside. It was overwhelming to see the living conditions. The pre-school was incredible. The kids sang for us the South African national anthem and danced for us. We were able to play with them for thirty minutes during their “recess.” Their school was just one room and lots of kids, but they were adorable. Again, it broke my heart to be holding a camera that was worth 2-3 months rent for their parents. The housing being built by the government was supposed to be done before the World Cup but they ran behind schedule. There are paintings on the doors for the number in line that family is for receiving a new home. The new plans have outlined for all the housing to be completed by 2014. We were able to see some of the new houses and they were nice; still very small, but using solar power and bathroom in doors. We stopped at a bar-like shop and our tour guide ordered us a traditional beer which sits out to be fermented for 7 days. It is literally served in a giant bucket and all 50 of us shared it. It tasted interesting, granted it was warm, so I bet it would go down nice with some ice cubes. Our last stop was with the local medicine man. He had herbs and animal bones and apparently a large part of the community still prefers his medicine to the western medicine (which is offered for free). The medicine man sort of freaked me out, it was nothing he did in particular, I just would prefer someone who has some sort of infection to go to a clinical doctor and receive treatment than a remedy, but that’s just me.

Above: Langa Township

Middle: Dalukhanyo Pre-school

Bottom: Medicine man

From the township we headed back to the waterfront to take a boat to Robben Island. It was a thirty-minute trip and I felt seasick for the first time ever. Thankfully, we were able to sit out on the top of the boat and overlook Cape Town and breathe some fresh salty air. Once at the island we took a bus tour to all the different areas of the island before heading into Section B of the prison, where Nelson Mandela served 18 of his years in prison. The island is pretty large and quite a few ex-prisoners and ex-wardens live on the island together still to this day. Ex-political prisoners run the tour of the island and many have chosen to remain on the island after the conversion of the prison into a memorial/museum. I read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography A Long Walk To Freedom right before coming to South Africa and it was incredible being able to see all the places he talked about while describing his experience on Robben Island. We were able to see his cell and our tour guide described his experience while in prison in the 80s before being released in 1991 (a year after Mandela (or he is often called Matiba)). While on the island we saw penguins running around, apparently there is also a sole ostrich that roams the island. Robben Island had many different purposes before becoming a political and criminal prison. Robben Island translates to “Seal Island” in Dutch and originally served as an exile for people sick with Leprosy, which was incurable at the time of the exile. There are hundred of graves and many people believe the island to be haunted at night by the ghosts of buried. Although huge populations of the blacks in South Africa are Christian there is a huge aspect of mysticism still remaining in their spiritual beliefs. The ride off the island was horrendous. We were riding against the wind and I thought I was going to vomit (I still feel like I am rocking on a boat and its been a few hours).

Below: Nelson Mandela's cell

Overall, an intensely powerful day. I feel like my education here has already begun and I am yet to step inside a class room. It’s truly unfortunate the oppression that has happened to these people, but just like other oppressed groups of people, those who arise prove to be reminders to the world that all humans are capable of overcoming the harshest of times, but at the same time, in this day of age, it’s almost unacceptable. Blacks in South Africa have only received the right to vote within the last two decades and weren’t even considered South African citizens until after the Pass Laws were destroyed.

Monday, January 18, 2010

(1/18) Ubuntu

This morning I woke up once again with the sun blazing through my window. Besides last night’s winds, I am yet to see a cloud in the sky. My roommates and a bunch of other girls in my flat had gone to the beach all day yesterday and wanted to go hiking, so I stretched my sore legs and headed back up.

Above: The group of girls from my flat.
Below: Lina, my roomate, and myself on Table Mountain

We once again started by hiking through campus to Rhodes Memorial. From there we took a different route, which wrapped around the mountain so that we were climbing with downtown Cape Town and the ocean below us. After reaching another monument we decided to head back to Rhodes Memorial for lunch. The restaurant we ate in was literally on the side of the mountain overlooking the mountainside. While we were at the restaurant an older woman (pretty old) fell out of her seat and the paramedics had to be called. It took them well over an hour to arrive, which makes me wonder how long it would take for the paramedics to arrive if something were to happen much higher on the mountain, considering the trails aren’t marked, it would be fairly difficult to give accurate directions and such. Also in the terms of danger, another group of hikers saw a huge snake, which I now kick myself because while hiking yesterday we literally waded through knee-deep grass without thinking anything about it. Yikes.

After lunch we made our way back down to Rondebosch and bought a few more groceries (toilet paper) and finally headed back home to get out of the sun (a shame I know, but the sun rays are pretty intense here and quite a few people have gotten awful burns, I have managed to get away with just some red on my shoulders). The girls proved to struggle a bit more than my group yesterday of mixed gender, but it was nice not having to charge up the mountain two days in a row. I was way too excited to shower and rub off all the dirt and sunscreen. Lina, Lindsay (my roommates), and I pretty much just relaxed the rest of the afternoon before making dinner, corn on the cob and lemon chicken. We hadn’t officially tried out our new kitchen, so it was fun to try to convert Celsius to adjust the oven to a proper cook time.

After dinner a group of boys from our program were having a barbeque so I was able to get to meet a lot more people from the program. There are A LOT of kids from the East Coast here. I have gotten way too many questions about cheese and Brett Farve.

We headed to Observatory, a local bar scene, for drinks after the barbeque. We met some locals and talked to them quite awhile about social change and the political climate in South Africa (of course this would happen at midnight at a bar). They were Indian and explained the history of Indians in Southern Africa. Indians were used as the initial service to the early Europeans through indentured servitude, so there is a pretty significant population in Cape Town.

I have been making a mental note of all the little differences in the English language here in comparison to home. For example school is spelled skool and college is referred to University or Varsity. If you say college, you are usually talking about high school. Also, university here is a three year process and you take the forth year if you plan to attend any form of graduate school as the prerequisite. Ketchup is called tomato sauce, and if you want the salty kind we have in the U.S. you need to buy Heinz, or else it will be sweet. One of the girls at lunch made the mistake of ordering lemonade and received sprite, so I still need to figure out how to ask for lemonade, because it would be so delicious after a day out in the sun. Diet Coke doesn’t exist here, only regular and Coke Light. Also, Kit Kat is a Nestle product here, not Hershey. The packaging is significantly different as well.

Ubuntu is officially one of my new favorite words/philosophies. It has origins in the Bantu languages, which are used throughout southern Africa. It literally translates to I am because you are, you are because I am. In a philosophical sense it refers to a community being tied to every member. If a traveler comes into a town, that person wouldn’t have to ask for food or water, the community would just offer it. In a sense by helping one another you are helping yourself because a community is equivalent to the weakest person. It is a founding principal of the new South African republic and is a classical principal of traditional African ideals. I sort of feel that Ubuntu is the polar opposite to the American mentality “pull yourself up from your bootstraps,” but I really like the sense of being tied to a person so much so that you feel interconnected within your very being (like the way I feel about Lee and my family).

Well I am done with the language/philosophy lesson for the day, in all another great day in the Mother City.

(1/17) Hiking & Beach: this is the life

Today was pretty awesome. I had actually gotten some decent rest last night because I was anti-social and stayed in to unpack and get to bed early while one of my roommates went out.

I was up again at 6:30 (which is weird because that is 10:30 CST and I am usually tired by that time). By 8, a group of us set off to climb the Table Mountain. We had plans to climb Devil's Peak, but quickly figured that was unlikely because none of the trails were marked and we had no adequate map. We started by hiking through Upper Campus to Rhodes Memorial. It is beautiful.

After 4 hours of hiking different trails we met some locals who insisted we head to a local British pub for lunch and a beer. We made our way down the mountain into a super nice part of town and found the pub, Foresters Arms. We ordered a round of British beers and an app plate from our waiter, who is a student at UCT and insists we got out with him and his buds this Wednesday. The Afrikaners have been really nice and inviting. After lunch we caught a mini bus back to our flats because we were hella far away from where we started (I will figure out a good trail to do for when you and mom are here).

Once home we grabbed out suits and headed to the train station a block from our flats to head to the beach. It was a 30 minute ride but I was really tired from the hike/heat and may have dozed off for a minute or two. The beach was actually a bit chillier than I expected. The wind coming off the ocean was pretty intense, so it was an excellent contrast to the heat radiating from the sun. There was a black flag which meant that sharks couldn't be spotted because of the waves, but a shit ton of people were still in the water. Considering a man was straight up eaten less than 4 days ago while swimming chest deep on a beach with a black flag, I was not just about to jump in the water and risk having his fate. A horn went of

f later that day, which meant a shark had been spotted and it literally was close to shore for like 30 minutes, reaffirming my fear of them. We explored the beach and found an awesome soft serve ice cream shop and grabbed R8 twists cones! Excellent. By 6 we headed back to the train because we were told time and time again to NOT use the train or mini-buses after 7.

While we were heading back we stopped at Pick n Pay to grab some food to use in a barbeque we were planning later than night (it ended up being super windy so we post-poned for tonight) and I grocery shopped for the first time since getting here. Interstudy had a box of cereal, loaf of bread, peanut butter, bananas, and apples waiting for us when we got here. But, I was excited to have some food of my own picking.

Since the barbeque got cancelled, my roommates and I decided to stay in and watch Stardust on my laptop. It was nice to be able to shower and through on some pjs after the long day. I passed out within a few minutes of it starting; the sun and hiking really took it out of me.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sweet, sweet relief

Most exciting news first: my luggage has arrived from Johannesburg.

Uoma, our residence director, took me to the airport straight after our braai (barbeque) so I would be able to write another missing baggage claim, boy was I presently surprised to find out that my baggage had not only been found but was being sent to Cape Town within the hour. Finally, I feel like I can lean back and enjoy Cape Town for the first time (and wear my own clothes and upload pictures!!!!).

A rewind to earlier today was anything but carefree. After my rough night of sleep and my 6AM panic blog, I watched some Jericho before finally falling to sleep when my alarm for the morning went off. By 9 my flat mates and myself had headed back to the bank to deposit money into the South African bank accounts we had opened the night before. I deposited traveler’s checks, which proved to be extremely convenient and not outdated (at least here) to my surprise. Good job Papa Hersh on the mula strategy.

Immediately from the bank we headed to Upper Campus, which was a long walk up the side of Table Mountain. This up hill walk brought us onto campus where we spent the next 5, yes 5, hours discussing administrative stuff, for example do not do drugs while in Cape Town (while they are probably laced and may kill you, it is also illegal, Duh). After discussing living guidelines, academics (UCT runs as a form of the British academic system, a lecture in silence and then a tutorial later in the week to discuss the week’s lectures), UCT campus life, a chit-chat with the local Cape Town PD (who told us if we absolutely got the itch to do drugs, stick to the reefer, it has the least likely chance of being laced with something that can kill us OR land us in prison, great), and lastly a presentation on volunteer opportunities (this woman presenter was a total downer, she basically suggested international volunteers had it all wrong and should be working with their neighbors, while I agree with this statement to a point, we (her audience) were all international students and now the Cape Town community was our neighbors). We had a muffin break at noon while we were all discussing class registration options, so by 3 we were starving. We hiked a little further up the mountain and had an excellent barbeque in an indoor-outdoor banquet hall. We had lamb, potatoes, and garlic bread, a traditional barbeque meal in South Africa.

After I had gotten back from the airport it was already 7. I was able to skype the good ol’ parents (and Clay) for the first time. It was great to physically see them, and I was able to give them a pseudo tour of my flat by taking my Mac around to each room. I decided to be lame tonight and stay in; I really wanted to finish up un-packing and head to bed early (and honestly, I wouldn’t mind another episode of Jericho to end my day). Tomorrow is going to be awesome! I have plans to climb Devil’s Peak, a 7 hour climb round trip on Table Mountain. I am guessing it won’t take the full 7 hours, but if it does I don’t mind. We have the first day off since arriving, I have my luggage, life is good.

Good night from Cape Town.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Struggling (Just a bit)

Ugh, after 3 hours of sleep I am awake. I tossed and turned all night, and am officially at a loss. At one point I literally was balled up in the fetal position rocking myself to sleep... South African Airlines 1, Michelle 0. I really did try to stay calm and collective about my baggage situation. I understand that things are a bit slower here and tha

t it is reasonable that I still haven’t heard anything back, but that has not stopped me from obsessing over it last night (awake and during the little sleep I was able to get, anxiety dreams are a bitch). We were so active yesterday that I didn’t really have the time or energy to think about it until I was alone in my bed. But I am going to try to start off today on a good note with some positive thinking. Today is a new day, and since I have personally seen my baggage in Johannesburg, it may just take some more nudging at the lost baggage people. Well, since I am awake (at 6AM), here is what I did last night during my first official night out on the town.

After our long day touring UCT campus and the Rondebosch area, I finally arrived home around 6 and hit up the internet for quite some time. Instead of taking a nap, I watched some more Jericho, a tv series I had brought from home. By 9PM we (my roomies and myself) decided to shower and have a glass of South African wine before heading down to Long Street (wikipedia describes Long Street as a major street located in the City Bowl section of Cape Town, South Africa. It is famous as a bohemian hang out, as the street is lined by many bookstores, various ethnic restaurants and bars) to have dinner around 11 with the girls living in the flat next door and meet up with some girls from our program at a near by bar. We hailed a taxi to drive us the 10 minutes towards the ocean where the area was located. We went to Cape to Cuba, a Cuban themed (obviously) restaurant where we ordered a round of cocktails and tapaz (dinner/appetizers). I had a Cuban Revolution, basically a dacari, with Paella Piccolo (Steaming bowl of seafood and chorizo, in white wine and saffron served with crusty bread) for dinner.

During dinner two boys our age quite literally pulled chairs up to our table and decided to join our dinner party. They filled us in on the local bar scene and took us to The Waiting Room, the bar we were meeting other girls.

While at the Waiting Room I decided Cape Town is composed of two types of people: the Townies and everyone else (travelers from other countries or just other cities). Although everyone speaks English, the lingo is drastically different. For example, attending a hen party is the same as a bachlorette party. And it is custom for the bachlorette to bear wings and a halo for her entire night out. Besides the lingo, we still need to figure out whether or not it is custom to tip taxis and if so how much (and how much to tip waiters and waitresses). ALSO apparent- I have no clue how dance. While at the bar an array of music from reggae to hip hop to techno was played and while no one was grinding (thank god), in general no one was touching. Basically, it was a weird mix between a rave dance and yet still the pairing of individuals. We stuck out like a sore thumb, we grooved to a different beat, that’s for sure. While we were at the bar we had shots of the “Springbok” named after the South Africans beloved Rugby team (the one in the movie Invictus). This green bottomed and light brown topped shot was sweet like peppermint; it tasted of Christmas. We ended up leaving the bar around 1:45, since we have to be up and ready to head into town by 9AM (to go to the bank before heading onto campus at 10:45 for more informative meetings about registering and other administrative details), which obviously was not an issue for me as I was up before 6.

Well, I am sure hoping the next time I post I will have good news of my baggage (and that way I can start uploading photos!). Until then, I will try not to burst into uncontrollable tears and make an ass of myself.

In Cape Town!

So where do I even begin? I am currently in Cape Town! Hurray. But it took 20+ hours of flying time and even more so of plain travel time, but as of now it was worth it.

On Wednesday morning, my mom, Lee, and myself woke up early to make sure we would be at the gym by 5:30 in hopes that a work out would help with the plane ride. By 8:00AM we were on our way to the airport for my 10:00 flight to St. Louis. I flew American Airlines in a tiny 3 seat across

plane, and it was an excellent hour ride. Once in St. Louis I quickly made my way to my next gate for my flight to Washington D.C. (at this point I had been able to carry on my large hiking bag). This flight was just as quick and effortless as the last and I landed in D.C. by 3PM. While rechecking my suitcase I ran into Ben, a boy from my school also heading to Cape Town, and we went through security together. Once again, I was able to carry on my hiking bag.

Our plane began boarding an hour early. The plane departed for Senegal, where after a 7-hour flight, we would refuel. We were served dinner (chicken with carrots and potatoes, and lemon cake) shortly after take off. With a full stomach I was hoping I would sleep part of this leg, but after watching 500 Days of Summer, Little Manhattan, and part of X-Men 3 I was still unable to sleep. I was able to finish ‘Are You There, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea,’ by Chelsea Handler, which I had started on the plane to St. Louis. I was tired at this point, but still in reasonable spirits.

We landed in Senegal (2AM CST) and were on the ground for an hour. At this point I was literally dizzy with exhaustion. I never really understood that phrase until then and I was struggling. Immediately after take off we were served breakfast, some sort of scrambled eggs with sausage bacon (I knew there was sausage and I knew there was bacon, but still to this moment I am still confused to what sausage bacon is). With my meal I popped 2 Advil PMs and was quickly sedated … for the entire 8-hour second leg. Glorious.

We (by this point all the kids in my study abroad group had met up) landed in Johannesburg and had to go through customs and retrieve our bags and then re-check them. This is where my trouble (singular) began. I handed the ticketing counter just my suitcase but was told that my hiking backpack was too big to be carried on our next plane. So both of my luggage pieces were taken and I was hurried aside for the next person in line. Not until I boarded the plane did I immediately realize I had just made a huge error. I did not have them print a baggage ticket for my hiking bag. My error was confirmed when in Cape Town only my suitcase arrived. At this point it was midnight Cape Town time and I had literally been traveling for 30+ hours, but it was crystal clear that the damage was done; my bag was tag-less hundreds of miles away from me. All together 5 of us were missing baggage, but all the other girls had their luggage located, I on the other hand had to place a request for a blue hiking bag… FML.

At the airport waiting for us were our “mentors” for the semester. They took us to our new homes, 4 sets of flats. I have a three bedroom flat, which I am sharing with two girls, Lindsay from New York City and Lina from Los Angeles. We were all given tiny cell phones (straight up old school ones) and I was able to call home. Unfortunately the connection wasn’t great, but I was able to tell both my mom and Lee that I was in Cape Town. I was able to unpack my one suitcase fairly quickly since it is lacking clothes and relaxed outside on our neighbor’s balcony until 2AM when I decided I must try to sleep and avoid jet lag. Even through we are in Cape Town, Table Mountain must block our flats from the downtown lights because the stars were amazing.

Avoid jet lag I did! I was up by 8AM (midnight CST) and by 9:30 our group had all congregated outside in the sun and we were off to begin our day. We were split up into smaller groups and my group headed to the campus to get a tour. The University of Cape Town is probably the most beautiful campus in the world. The buildings have vines growing up the sides and the campus is literally surrounded on every side by Table Mountain. I have to admit there was a quite large amount of stairs, but if that is my only qualm, life is good at UCT. We took the Jammie shuttle (basically their form of free campus transportation) to Rondebosch, an area close to both our flats and campus that had restaurants, a mall, and some all-purpose type stores. There we were shown were the laundry mats, grocery stores, all purpose store, good restaurants, bad restaurants, good bars, etc… We also were able to set up bank accounts to receive debit cards and avoid all the international charges from our American debit cards.

The American dollar is relatively strong here. I am able to receive 7 Rand for every $1. And food has proven to be rather inexpensive. I had an incredible wrap for 36R, so essentially $5. My most exciting purchase has been a bottle of South African white wine called OBiKWA for R22. It won “Best Value 2010” from WINE magazine. I am going to have some tonight with dinner, so I will test that award!!

I would upload pictures, but I am without my camera connector (in my blue hiking bag, along with my underwear, shorts, dresses, basically all my clothes)… So, bare with me for a while.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Last Night in the US (for 5 months!)

I am all packed and about as ready as I am going to be for my semester abroad. I have one large suit case, a hiking back pack, and my school back pack! I guess its a lot easier to pack for 5 months of warm weather than this Midwest weather.

Hopefully the airport will let me carry on both my hiking and school back pack, so I would only have to check my suit case (and if for some reason my checked baggage would be seperated from me, I would have my more important valuables (underwear and swim suit) with me no matter what on arrival).

I was sure to pack my travel charms; they will bring me any luck I may need (sleep and patience).

I am dreading tomorrow's travel. As of now, my flight schedule should be as follows:
10AM flight out of Milwaukee into St. Louis
11:50AM flight out of St. Louis into Washington Dulles
5:40PM flight out of Washington Dulles into Johannesburg (arriving 1/14 at 6:20PM)
8:10 PM flight out of Johannesburg into Cape Town
So I should officially be at my final destination at 10:20PM.... LONGEST DAY EVER.

I am going to try my best to stay awake until my international flight in hopes that I will be able to sleep through some of the night (doubtful). I have some nifty sleep meds and have the full intentions of abusing their medical purposes.

In Washington Dulles, I will be meeting other students also heading to Cape Town, so I will only be flying solo during my domestic flights. Tomorrow morning will officially mark my independence from my cellular device, which is the most nerve wracking part of the trip. Moments like this make me feel too strapped to technology, since people all over the world don't have cell phones, let alone rely on them.

Good night from New Berlin, hopefully my next post will be from CAPE TOWN!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I guess it would be most appropriate for me to start at the beginning. I am heading to South Africa for the next five months, where I will be attending the University of Cape Town. I have always wanted to study abroad and never had an inkling of where it was I should go, that was until my first winter in Minneapolis. Now, I have lived in the Midwest for quite a while now, but nothing is as dreadful as waking up in the morning to the indisputable fact that I have to get out of bed and cross the Mississippi River in mind-numbingly awful temperatures. If I could feel my limbs by the time I got to class, it was truly a good start to the day. So with this in mind (and many other factors of course), the University of Cape Town became the ideal place for me to finish up my minors, as well as avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder (which I am convinced all midwesterners suffer from, and I sure don't blame us).
Well, I guess the time has officially come. I have put off packing long enough and it is time to begin my adventure in South Africa. Sadly, I have spent triple the time figuring out a name for this blog, then actually packing.This pre-departure week has been great, as it has been filled by my mission to enjoy all my favorite past times before leaving (work out, watch movies, make pizzas from scratch with Mom and Lee, essentially I have cooked and ate like I may never see food again). Monday and Tuesday have been set aside to run any last minute errands and, more importantly, pack.
Good Night from Wisconsin (only 3 more left).