Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I wrote this on the plane:

My first view of Africa came on the plane, of course. For the first time it struck me that where I was going was like nothing I have ever seen before. Flying over Namibia, a country bordering South Africa to the northwest, I was overwhelmed by the view. The earthy is parched and cracked, like the sun has been baking it ceaselessly. It’s a vast expanse of nothingness, except for an occasional mountain or hill in the distance. I have not seen a single body of water since crossing over the Atlantic into the continent. There are very few roads, and the only ones I have seen look like dirt lanes. Obviously it’s hard to tell exactly what the land looks like from up here, but there is no question that we are in Africa. For the first time, I understand and feel how incredibly novel this experience will be.

The plane ride has been surprisingly comfortable, considering it is 15 hours to Johannesburg. I slept a surprising amount, which is awesome. The people in my group are great so far… it’s interesting because many of the people I’ve talked to are here for the same reasons as me. Most are political science/ econ majors who simply wanted to do something different. I have been happy to hear that… it has been a sort of validation of how I have been feeling and the real reason why I decided on South Africa. I am trying my best to just experience this; usually I would stress about meeting everyone and planning exactly what as going to happen the moment I got off the plane. But I don’t want to fall into that. I am going to just let this experience happen, which will be new and better.

During one of my few waking moments on the plane I decided to watch a documentary on art in Cape Town, even though I have failed to understand art my entire life. I was actually incredibly interesting… a lot of the artists really try to portray the struggles and misery of the apartheid era, something that is obviously difficult to do. Other more modern artists focus on expressing the conflict of black identity in a society that, while improving, still faces significant racial tension. It will be so intriguing to see how Cape Town has adopted to this modern era.

Something else that has started to hit me is the fact that we, our group, seem to be largely on our own. This is NOTHING like Bowdoin. We aren’t even sure of what we are supposed to do when we get to Johannesburg! In a way, though, that excites me. We aren’t kids anymore…we are twenty and twenty-one year olds and although we are all traveling to a completely new place together, this is going to be an independent experience for all of us. I am going to have to find out for myself what this experience will be, and although that scares me, it also entices me.

Here is more, actually from an email to Emily, but I need to ration Internet time!

so... the plane was actually not that bad.. it was 15 hours to Africa (apparently the longest nonstop flight in the world) but I slept most of the time so it was fine. We all flew together, which was good. My group is really awesome. They are all from different schools and most of them are government majors like me! When we got to Johannesburg it as so so so hot.. like 80 degrees! and we were all sweating like crazy. It was wicked hectic because right when you get off the plane these African dudes swarm you trying to help you with your luggage. Me and will just decided to ignore them but it was really crazy. Then we flew to Cape Town, and it was fun because they gave us free wine! The views from the plane were cool.. at first it looked like desert, really really dry and barren. But South Africa was really green and beautiful. When we got to Cape Town, our group leaders were there and they brought us to our apartments. We are all on our own road, which is cool, but it kind of sucks because me and Will and this other kid Robbie don't really have a good apartment. Its ok but we don't have a shower.. its just a bath tub with one of those shower handle things that you have to hold. Annoying! But we do have a terrace, which is really nice especially since its SO DAMN HOT here. So last night we were all tired but the group people essentially forced us to go out. So we all went to this European style club. Drinks were pretty cheap, and they were 2 for 1! It was actually a really good time and we got to know each other a bit. I am so so tired today though!

So we back and passed out. Today we talked abount internet and stuff. I have a prepaid service which isn't that expensive, so skyping will probably work! Calling is actually quite expensive, but I am still going to try and call you today! Then we walked around the town a bit. We are in Rondebosch which is a suburb of Cape Town, and its really nice. It's pretty European looking, but its cool because there is a cool mix of races. The accent is really cool and everyone is really really relaxed. It is a nice change! It's cool because you can actually see the mountains that enclose Cape Town from our town. Its so so so gorgeous! Tonight they are literally dropping us off at this bar street (Long Street) in Cape Town and letting us experience the night life. I am so tired though! It's also cool because everyone here like loves Obama. They are posters everywhere! Tomorrow we have meetings and stuff and then Friday we are climbing Table Mountain!


  1. Hahaha! How cool Jamie!!! Cant wait to hear more! P.S. you're a very eloquent writer :-)


    Love you Jamie, can't wait to see/hear more!!!

  3. Sounds amazing! Have a great time.

  4. Hi Jamie--I told you that I would visit your blog. Very nicely done! You will treasure your written observations in the future, trust me. Keep on seizing all those great opportunities!
    As for me, I have to go plan a hearty meal for the fam!