I am taking this entry from an Email that I wrote to a friend of mine…It is sometimes hard to sound like myself when I am ‘blogging’ because I get stuck and don’t know what to write when I don’t know who I’m actually writing to…Therefore I found that if I make a post out of emails I send to people it might bring my voice out a little bit more .I’m sorry if there are many spelling errors- it’s never been my thing. Also, please excuse the “likes”- it’s something to work on Also, this entry is extremely long, so I’ll break it up into pieces because I know I would never read something with this much text!
Overall- Going Out / Location
Things here are very interesting and I really haven’t been able to like sit down and think about any of it yet. I have been having a really nice time so far and I’m slowly adjusting but of course there are some things that will take a little while to get used to. Surprisingly there are many things here that remind me of America- they play American music everywhere, which is odd and whenever we go to bars/clubs it feels like America…kind of…except you never know when you will be mugged and you have to be in large groups, and they allow smoking in doors so I smell terrible whenever I come home… etc. (but as we say here in the program, “TIA” (who cares…this is Africa!- there is no reason to be bothered by those sorts of things… its just something to get used to- I’m just happy to be here!) As for location – I live in a house off campus with some other American students from Ciee. We are in a great location because we are only a 10-20 min walk from campus (depending on if you walk up the huge hill or take the shuttle, which is a 10 min walk away) and literally a 30 second walk to main road which has grocery stores and food places and the gym (which is amazing because I love grocery stores and the gym!)… It is “safe” for me to walk on main road alone which is great because it means I can eat and do work and go grocery shopping without having to ask someone to come with me- who’d have thought that would be a luxury? I still have to be cautious of course, but it’s better than nothing. I have a really nice room- I get a double bed! The room is a little big for me, so I put up a clothes line with multi-colored clothes hooks and made a random picture to put above my bed. It makes the room feel a little homier which is nice.
The food here is interesting- the first week we were here we like ate with the program every day and they gave us a lot of red meats like Ox and duck and lamb which I’m not the biggest fan of, but it was ok! My friends from home thought I was going to die when I came here because I am such a picky eater—the first week I was thinking the same thing, but alas- I have found more food now! I have been eating many meals at this (i’m sorry to say) chain place that’s called Kuai which is like a healthy fast food restaurant. I’m obsessed with it and it’s right across the street from my house! They have a lot of organic foods as well as items that are dairy free and gluten free. I get a wrap with chicken, beans, rice and salsa. It’s the best. Of course, I am hoping to branch out soon- i’ve started to make some food for myself but so far that has been mostly cereal or turkey wraps :P. Yesterday, however, I did contribute to a guacamole making party as well as some mac cheese making for our house dinner! (I can’t actually eat mac cheese, but I enjoyed shredding cheese and bread for the recipe). The House dinner ended up being a good time.
The House and Rondebosch
There are 7 other Americans living in my house with me, 3 other girls and 4 boys as well as our “sol-mate” Hilary, who is from Zimbabwe. Hilary is like our Customs Person here (that is like an RA who is your friend and hangs out with you, for non-Haverford people). He is really great! He took us to a market called “old biscuit mill” the other day (next time I go I will take pictures and write more about it) and a Braai (which I wrote about) on Sunday. It has been nice to have someone here who can help us to get acclimated to the different nuances Cape Town. While it sometimes seems to be European, there are many aspects of it which are completely foreign to me.
The streets here are crazy- of course people drive on the opposite road so for the first few days I was nearly run over many times b/c I looked the wrong way….Also there are these “mini-buses” which can drive like 9 people around the city (kind of like Taxis that make many stops and people just hop on and off for a few rand (dollars)- they are everywhere and always honking at you and yelling “Cape town!” to see if you want to go into the city- We tried to get on one the other day and literally the two different mini-bus drivers started fighting with each other over whose car we would go in- it was insane…but I guess that’s something you get used to. I’ve been told not to go in the buses alone because you could get mugged…we’ll see I guess (there is a lot of stuff you can’t do alone here which kind of sucks, but what can you do?)… Speaking of being mugged and the “crime scene here”… the other day I saw a “security guard” (I put that in parentheses because I’ve recently learned that some people who wear the neon jackets are not security guards, so now I don’t know what to anticipate) literally on top of this one guy across the street from me. I looked out the window of the internet café/ laundry store and saw this guy strangling a rugged looking man on the ground in the middle of the side walk. Once the “security guard” had pinned the other man to the ground he got up and literally kicked him in the head three times! That was within my first 6 days here so it shook me up a little just because it happened on a main road in our town-area and it’s not something you would ever see in America. I haven’t seen anything like that since then, but it’s things like that which kind of shake you out of your comfort zone and make you realize that despite a few similarities, you are definitely not back home.
On a lighter note, the weather has been absolutely amazing here- we have been so lucky! Usually I think around this time (winter) it is really rainy and sort of cold…The day we got here it was really gross and I was like oh god…here we go…However, every single day since then has been like 55-70 degrees in the day time and pretty sunny! It gets kind of chilly at night but it’s nothing compared to phili- more like a moderate dallas winter. I think the air here feels thinner because I keep getting out of breath but maybe that’s because I eat too much and until this week haven’t been doing my normal work out routine :P… The first day we moved into our house we had to walk up a big hill with our luggage and I was like.. “is the air thinner here? are we at a higher altitude or something?!” (because I was so out of breath) and the guys were like “uh..we’re at sea level…” enough said.
Classes and UCT (University of Cape Town)
We started classes on Monday and I really don’t know what to expect from them! I am taking Memory, Identity and History which is like my favorite subject (thanks to Toni Morrison), so hopefully that will be good, as well as Religion, Ethics and Human Rights and Geology. The classes seem a little odd so far- kind of all over the place, but I think after intro week things will start molding together. The campus is crazy and I literally feel like I am at one of those huge California High Schools that you see in the movies! I’ve never been to a school this big in my life (Greenhill =110 kids pergrade, Haverford= 330ish) so my first day I was stunned! There are kids all over the “jammie” (spelling?) steps hanging out…i’ll take a picture one day (later, so I won’t seem as much like a tourist)… It’s really cool. Also, classes are only 45 mins which is crazy! Though some meet every day, and others 3-4 times per week. I typically will have class from 10-1 except on Wednesdays when I only have a 12-12:45 Geo class and Mondays when I have only Geo and Religion. Not bad ☺.
Sometimes I worry because I don’t know many actual South Africans yet and it feels like it will be hard to meet them- Most of my classes are actually filled with American students and not too big (25-40 kids…maybe 50 in one of them)… Hopefully I can gather up the courage here to talk to some locals…its just intimidating because I’m still unclear about how people perceive Americans. Hopefully once clubs start up things will get easier or I’ll at least have more interaction with people. I do enjoy my friends from my program here though! They are really nice and fun people- I’m very glad to know them.
I definitely feel more comfortable here as each day goes by. I feel like I have been here for a month already- This past weekend when I thought back on like how long I had been here i couldn’t believe that it had only been one week. The difference I felt as far as comfort and orientation from last Saturday to the one before it was incredible (if that makes sense?)…it felt like I had been here for so long but it was only a little over a week! ( I got here Wednesday, which would have been like 9 days before Saturday?) It was weird to recall how unfamiliar I felt. Of course I still feel disoriented- I haven’t really been into the city of cape town that much… I live right near campus (UCT) in Rondebosh which is like 15 mins? from town (maybe…i don’t actually know) but its a bit of a drive… Hopefully on Sunday I’ll go in for a bit (Saturday we are doing a wine tasting and going to a festival in Stellenbosch!)
…Anyways, aside from sometimes not being able to sleep because I’m scared a robber is going to bust down my door- all is well :). I get paranoid but I don’t think I have a reason to really…there are bars on all of the windows and we have a security guard outside our door. Plus, it would not be the end of the world if my laptop was stolen. I have to keep reminding myself of that. There are much worse things! (Not that I want it to happen of course… I just can’t stay awake all night!)
I’m very glad to be here so far. I have made some really nice friends and it is really cool to be in such a different environment. I miss my friends from home a lot but I’ve tried my best to just stay in the present here and go along with the flow (otherwise I know I’ll get homesick). I try not to think about the fact that I have 4 more months here- I don’t even know what that means at this point. I’m just taking it day by day and seeing how things go!
Anyway, I hope you didn’t read this whole entire entry because it was really long and I wouldn’t even expect my parents to read this much