Cape Town's Date & Time

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Friday, March 19 – Tuesday, March 23
Who doesn’t love a 4AM wake up to start a 10-day adventure? We (I went through a travel student group who arranged our trip) headed to the airport to fly to JoBurg before a full day and a half of driving to Botswana. Although a full day of travel would normally bore and irritate the shit out of me, I was unconscious for most of the traveling. Apparently my week of family time and school hiatus took a bit out of me. So I used the driving time to recharge. I had a lot of time to think during the travel time as well. Although I would consider my experience in Cape Town an international one rather than “African”, my travels to Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe proved to engulf my being with all-that-is Africa. And let me tell you, Africa has yet to cease to amaze me.
Below: Our truck, Harrison, who carried us through our epic adventure

Botswana is an interesting place. Even driving on the highways offered a new and exciting experience as both cows and elephants would just chill on the side of the road… How cool! Random fact: Botswana gained its independence in 1966 as one of the first to be liberated in Southern Africa. And their currency is the pula, which is stronger than the South African rand. Actually, Botswana is considered a wealthier country that South Africa because of their discovery of both gold and diamonds following independence. But to me it seemed like the wealth was not evenly distributed (go figure). But nonetheless, I like Botswana.

We traveled to Maun before arriving at the Okavango Delta (the world's largest inland delta) for a two-night stay on an island pretty much in the middle of a swamp (killer mosquitoes). We were met at the base of the river/swamp/delta by 20 polers who took us by mokoro (hallowed out trees) to our camp base, which ended up being a beautiful 2 hour ride through the delta. These twenty individuals became our daily guides as we woke up to the rising sun and ventured through a bush to search for animals.

Mokoro Ride through the Okavango Delta

The polers were literally able to track the animals and were great guides. At night we would venture out for sunset safaris, watching the animals come out of the shade to the watering holes. During the day, we would swim in the delta, which had both crocodiles and hippos in it… Ekk. The water was so clear and drinkable! Hurray for fresh resources. (Don't worry Mom, I tried to drink boiled water, but sometimes I just couldn't help myself). We were informed to be more afraid of the hippos, because they were more dangerous; however, if you had to choose death by one, it would be hippo because they would just charge you, whereas the crocodile will pull you under the water and wait until you drowned. Both seemed like an unpleasant death to me. To be honest, I was most scared of the mosquitos. I was eaten alive. At one point I counted over 50 bites on just one leg. After the first night of waking up non-stop with blood under my fingers from scratching, I began taking Advil PM before dozing off.

Above: Vincent and I holding a water buffalo skull
Our early morning/late night safari walks were incredible. We would literally just hike around for 4 hour increments in silence taking in the surroundings and trying to spot animals. My favorite time out in the bush was when we realized that behind a bunch of trees was a herd of 100 zebras just feet from us. I was also able to spot water buffalo, hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and lots of incredible birds. Although I loved spotting the animals, I really enjoyed the "reflection time." Eventually I am going to have to wake up from this ridiculous dream and realize that I don't have a job for the summer (shit), I am graduating in a year (ekkk) and may be needing to apply to law school (does the application process in life ever end?) OR (even more scary) I may not being continuing school (which I have become so comfortable doing) and may need to enter the "real world" (don don donnnnn). So basically my walk abouts began turning into some serious soul searching, in which I have (maybe) decided that if I do decided to go to law school (which I still plan to do), I want to defer classes for a year and either work or do a year volunteer program before thrusting back into the academic world. I don't want to get burned out of school, because I love it so much, but I also am too young to be grounded for the next 3 years straight. I need to be active while I still have the freedom to do so, ya know!

Below: Mokoro's in the sunset

The last night in the Delta, our polers took us on a sunset ride through the delta to a giant opening among the reeds. It was beautiful. We sat there for a few hours just sharing stories about our lives (and the differences). A poler, nicknamed Zero, was telling me how it was his dream to have two wives, because any more than that would be overwhelming. It was wild to here about how different their dreams were from mine. This may sound weird, but polygomy doesn't seem that incredibly odd anymore. I guess what ever makes you happy, right. (It's defiantly not for me though...) That night beside the fire, we had a bit of a sing-a-long. The polers sang and danced, as well as told us stories about Botswana. We had been trying to think of songs to sing all week that represented the "American way," which ended up being ironic as we sang "Let it Be" by the Beatles. Hurray for British music. Our finale song was the Hokey Pokey, which was probably the funniest thing to see (20 Botswanians and 25 Americans dancing the Hokey Pokey around a fire in the middle of a Delta).

Being in the Delta was truly exhilarating. Never had I felt so not at home (and so bug bitten).

Hello, I'm Back!!!

Friday, March 12 - Friday, March 19

So the past 2 ½ weeks have been absolutely insane. Not only was I able to spend a week with my family experiencing the very best of Cape Town (the Waterfront, Cape of Good Hope, Shark diving, winery tours, hiking, and eating!!), but I have also been fortunate enough to travel to Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe over my semester break. AND I TURNED 21! I have been going non-stop and my body and mind are starting to feel the consequences of having a ridiculously awesome life. How does Anthony Bourdaine keep this up? I am quite envious. Whereas he would have already rebounded from his trip and on the way to another exhilarating country, I have been wrapped in a fetal position comatose for the past two days. Hopefully by today (day 3 of recovery), I can get my act together and start living like a human again.

Top: Cape of Good Hope!! (Lee, me, Diane, and Mama Hersh)
Below: Cape of Good Hope behind us!

So where to begin? Having Lee and my mom here was incredible. I have been living, breathing Cape Town for the past 3 months and finally they were able to do the same. I think they were surprised to see how “un-African” Cape Town proved to be. Cape Town (to me) is sort of like a Mecca of international cultures. It is not unexpected to have an Indian (Cape Malay) restaurant next to a sushi next to an Irish pub. Granted Cape Town is the pivotal point on the globe that the West used to travel East; therefore, this fusion of culture would represent a much more international feeling than just that of an African one.

Top: Shark bait, hooo ha ha
Bottom: Legally drinking wine, hurray

ANYWAYS, while they were here, we truly tried to get the most out of Cape Town. We managed to hit up the beach for a day, hike throughout Kirstenbosch (the original botanical gardens), go to Stellenbosch for a full day of biking from winery to winery. Life was great. I loved being reunited with Lee and sharing glasses of wine with my mom. And don't forget about Diane, she proved to be an incredible travel companion. Four women adventuring Cape Town like it was our job, it should be a t.v. show. By the time they dropped me back at my flat at 10pm I was pooped. That is until I realized I had to pack for a 10-day trip leaving at 4AM the next morning. Needless to say, I didn’t truly know what I had packed until the first day out.

Kirstenbosch a.k.a. Jurassic Park

Overall, I wouldn't trade the week my family was here for anything. Cape Town offers a truly surreal version of life that everyone should experience. Time is truly pretty much irrelevant and at the end of the day all that matters is that you are enjoying yourself. I will be the first to admit that I am a bit too up-tight (all the time), but here its like I am on Provac all the time, only better. And having my family here just made that high -on-life feeling I have been having exponentially better. I only wish my dad and brother also were able to experience South Africa.... But maybe there is a chance for a family return trip?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Friday, March 12

FAST FORWARD. No one really wants to hear about my school week WHEN they know my family is here! Right?!
AhhhH!! Did I mention, my family is here… My family is here!! I woke up way too early and had a quick run before packing up for the week. Even though I had over 5 hours to prepare before meeting them at the hotel, the time flew by before I even knew it. I made sure to pack some fresh fruit and personal hygiene goodies so when they arrived hungry and dirty, there would be no need to run around town to grab any needed stuff. I took a cab from my flat to the hotel and only had to wait twenty minutes before a taxi with my mom, sister, and Diane (a family friend) pulled up! I felt like it was Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the 4th of July all rolled up into one moment. We quickly checked in, showered, and were on our way out to the waterfront for an afternoon on the Wharf.
Above: Mom found a beaded lion... Enough said
Below: Mom and Diane looking lovely on the Water Front

The Water Front was hopping with musicians creating quite a pleasant atmosphere as we walked around for the afternoon, looking at incoming boats and looking through different shops. For lunch we stopped at a cute Belgian restaurant right on a pier. We ordered seafood and Lee was adventurous and ordered my beloved springbok. After lunch we continued walking around the waterfront, heading to a craft and wellness tent. By the late afternoon, Lee was pretty dead (and I don’t blame her), so her and I headed back to the hotel for a quick nap while Mom and Diane continued enjoying the afternoon.
V&A Waterfront!
We met up with them for dinner at Wang Thai, a restaurant literally overlooking the ocean and Table Mountain. While I very much so enjoyed the sushi, Lee was able to enjoy her first legal drink in Cape Town! Hurray for legal drinking. After my mom and Diane headed in for the night, Lee and I bar hopped while waiting to meet up with my friends for the night. We were both extremely drained but I had promised that I would introduce Lee to everyone that night. We ended up heading to Long Street, a great first introduction to Cape Town nightlife.
Lindsey, Lee, myself, and Ben on Long Street

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday (3/6) and Sunday (3/7) Interstudy Overnight Excursion!

All right, I am super behind on keeping up to date with my life. It has been an intense week of school with me needing to prepare for my week hiatus from the academic world while my family is here meanwhile I have been preparing for my spring break in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe (I leave the same day my family leaves for home). So I have been busy. Trust me, I am not complaining, my life is extraordinary and I have so much to look forward to in the upcoming weeks.

So where did I leave off… Saturday (3/6)

Interstudy set us up for an awesome weekend!!! We started our day off super early so we could make a 3-hour drive to the Aquila Game Reserve, where we would be spending Saturday night and part of the day Sunday. We had an evening game drive arranged for that night, so we spent the entire day doing community service in the town. I was assigned to work with the program “Caring and Sharing, a school for the disabled.” The program worked with disabled children (mainly orphans) in the local area. The program ran out of a one class room school house, so while half of us played with the children, the other half cleaned and painted the inside of the building (the bottom with black chalk board paint and the top purple). It was ridiculously hot out, like 111 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn’t even know places really got that hot. So, while the day was extremely fun and emotionally rewarding, I was physically spent by the time we loaded the buses and headed back to the reserve for a nighttime safari.
I was pretty drained, but jumping into a 16-person land rover and heading into the savannah does something to a person… Also, the bottles of champagne being passed around also may have pumped some life into my blood. The park has all the Big 5: leapords, elephants, lions, rhinos, and water buffalo. I saw a variety of the Big 4 (no elephants for me) and a plethora of other animals, like springbok (my new favorite animal in the entire world), zebras, giraffes, ostriches (seriously, Dr. Seuss must have gotten his inspiration from the bizarre creatures), and hippos. The game ride was beautiful, especially with the sun setting in the backdrop.
When we arrived back to our hotel, they had prepared a giant braii for us. We had been quite active in the heat all day, so I was ready to veg out, DID I mention there was a dessert bar! The night ended with a drum session around the fire and a few drinks. It was a great re-bonding moment for the members of Interstudy. We were all able to relax in the outdoors and really enjoy each other (and ourselves).

Sunday (3/7)
We were once again loading the giant land rovers by 6AM to do a sunrise game drive. It was a little rough of a wake up, but once the first animal citing began, I was excited to be awake (regardless of the lack of sleep from the night before). The drive ended by 9 and we immediately made our way to the breakfast bar for some food and coffee! By ten I had scrambled back to my suite for a mid morning nap.
Once rejuvenated, I made my way for a day at the pool. The sun was really intense but I was able to get a great chunk of the book “The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes’ maker) while making frequent dips into the pool.
Our drive home was miserable. The air-conditioning had broken and a 3-hour bus ride in such extreme heats is mentally unbearable. I tried my best to listen to some John Mayer and relax, but I became obsessive with how unbearable the heat was. Needless to say, the weekend was great, but I happily arrived home.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sunday (2/28) - Friday (3/5)

Sunday, February 28 – Friday, March 5
Man, has time been flying. Schoolwork has picked up exponentially as our spring break creeps nearer. On top of that, Interstudy had planned an overnight excursion at the Aquila Game Reserve for the weekend AND my family comes the following weekend… AHHH hectic.

Sunday, February 28
The last day of the month appropriately became a ‘get stuff done day.’ After spending most the early afternoon at Cocoa Wah Wah, I made my way through town to get any last minute errands completed before the week began.
I did manage to go out to Pig and Swivel to try and catch the Olympic Gold Medal game between the US and Canada for hockey, but cricket was on… Ugh. No one really cares about the winter Olympics here considering it is summer and I am not sure too many South African athletes compete in ‘winter activities.’ Nonetheless, we bar hopped to Café Sofia down the street to catch re-caps on the local sports network from the games. GO USA!

Monday, March 1
Class, class, class. I am receiving my first grades back from the semester and so far all well. The grading system is pretty drastically different then the US. Whereas the US marks down from 100, the South African educational institutions mark up from 0; therefore scoring a 51-60 is within the C range, 60-70 in the B range, and 70+ is in the A range. I need to seriously keep my head in the game as I plan to take an entire week off when Lee and my mom arrive. Conveniently, two of my three tuts were cancelled for the week they are here, so technically I only have one 45-minute period I “should” attend (we shall see about that one).

Tuesday, March 2
In my gender and politics course, we began screening the film “Dakan,” essentially the West African version of Broke Back Mountain. To be honest, I was completely caught off guard by the reaction to the class when several African students actually got up to leave because they were so uncomfortable and nervous laughter and booing filled the room when the two male characters kissed. Despite gay marriage being legal in South Africa, homosexuality is extremely taboo and not as present in African pop culture as it is within the U.S. To many Africans, homosexuality is considered a “Western” act and that it was brought to the subcontinent during colonial rule. I guess going to a “liberal university” in Africa is a lot different then going to one in the States. I am not too sure what “liberal” even means here… I will have to get back to you for that one.
My afternoon was filled with more English tutoring with SHAWCO. The kids are really growing on me, but a lot of my colleagues are beginning to get frustrated by the lack of supplies and, consequently, concentration on behalf of the students. I am trying to take each new lesson for what it is and just try to capitalize on learning not necessarily being done through booklets and spelling bee’s, but also through conversation and cultural exchanges. I was wearing a cameo necklace and one of my boy students asked me if the lady on my necklace was my queen. I almost peed myself from laughter. At least I can always count on a laugh from my students.
After SHAWCO, I am pretty much wiped. However, I made my way to Café Sofia with Kara (tutors with me), Lindsey (roommate), and Tiffany (neighbor) for some sangria and tapas. After a few hours tutoring, Café Sofia may become the go-to spot.

Wednesday, March 3
School has pretty consumed my life. I had three papers due this week and a crazy, busy weekend scheduled, so I made my way to the UCT library for some serious scholarly time. There is only one main library on campus and it is huge. I found a great nook for the semester in the farthest corner of the library. Hopefully, my seclusion will help me concentrate!

Thursday, March 4
My gender and politics tutorial was a discussion over Dakan. It was so weird for me to openly hear people discuss their homophobia. It was sad to hear a lot of their comments.
I found myself in the library again, as I had to finish up a paper for my online course through the University of Minnesota. I had to compare two aspects of South African culture and American culture. I wrote about the role of politics and political leaders within the media. President Zuma would have no chance of being elected as a leader in the U.S.; and quite frankly, Obama would have a slim chance in South Africa.
We had our ‘Spring Break’ preparation meeting in the afternoon to go over our 10-day trip through Botswana and Zambia. My mom is bringing my mummy sleeping bag, so all I really need to do is get a malaria pills and apparently I don’t need a prescription (interesting, eh). I will be in Victoria Falls for my 21st birthday. What an awesome way to celebrate the big 2-1!
We headed downtown to the ABSA building, the tallest in Cape Town, to the 31st floor where the bar/lounge Hemisphere is located. It is a bit of a swanky place, but we were able to get in fo’ free because one of my friends knew the bouncer. SCORE! No cover! The night was extremely fun, especially because they had pillow seats lining the glass windows over looking the city and waterfront. Needless to say, I plan to return.

Friday, March 5
To no surprise I woke with a bit of a hangover. But I managed to attend all my classes and make my way to Interstudy for Pastry and Coffee Friday.
In the afternoon, an Interstudy student from the University of Stellenbosch arrived at our flat to spend the night before joining us on our overnight excursion. Lindsey, Lina, Tiffany and myself took her to Cocoa Wah Wah for a true experience as a UCT student. Apparently on Fridays, half price pasta is served past 7pm! I was asleep early because our bus for the excursion was leaving at 7am sharp… Which really means nothing, because time runs on a different clock in Africa.

Look forward for my next post, I SAW LIONS!