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.