Thursday, January 22, 2009


Right now I am sitting on my terrace/porch overlooking our little street. At the top, there is an incredible view of Devil’s Peak, which is one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. The weather is literally perfect… it’s perfectly sunny with a slight breeze. Finally, after three days of craziness I actually have some time to relax. I just unpacked and it is amazing how much better I feel. The apartment is looking better, and like with most things, we are just going to have to learn to adjust. As one our lecturers said: “This isn’t home. This is Africa.”

So there is a lot to say…on Tuesday me, Will and a couple other people took a cab down to the city to see the waterfront. It was really beautiful, and there were a ton of pretty modern looking shops along the boardwalk. We got dinner at a restaurant overlooking the harbor, then rode back. I was very surprised at how European and wealthy looking the area was. Since I’ve been here, I don’t feel like I have seen much of the real South Africa, which is understandable considering it’s been less than a week. That night, the mentors (who are actually University of Cape Town students) literally dropped us off on Long Street, the busiest bar and club street in the city. We were all pretty exhausted, but we bounced around from place to place and had a pretty good time. It was a Tuesday so there wasn’t too much going on, but it was still good to get a taste of the Cape Town night life.

What struck me about the city, and a lot of people agreed with me, were the homeless. There are children… no more than 10 or 11 years old, begging and harassing people for money. As soon as we got off the bus, one of them yelled out “These people have money!” which made us pretty nervous. The kids literally follow down the street, and if you make the mistake of talking to them (like Moran did) they and all of their friends will follow you and poke you and pull your arm the entire night. It was really sad to see this, and I couldn’t help but think where these kids’ parents were. The answer is pretty obvious, and although it kind of put a damper on the night, I was glad to at least experience some part of the realities of this country. It was kind a shock, but I know that there are much worse areas than the city.

On Wednesday we had a really busy day of orientation. Interstudy is kind of unorganized, but I think we will be able to find our way around pretty easily. We have five months here, so I really am not worried. The University of Cape Town is absolutely incredible. You have to take a shuttle called the Jammie up to where classes are because it is literarily built into the side of the mountain. It is completely uphill, and the backdrop of Devil’s Peak along with gorgeous Ivy-covered stone buildings is absolutely stunning. The class process though is going to be really really stressful, but as I am learning, this is still a third world country, and the university, although stellar, still reflects that.

We learned a lot about what the university has to offer, and I am starting to envision my time here better. I want to get involved with SHAWCO, apparently the largest student NGO in the world. I can’t wait to actually get into the townships, and one thing that is great about Interstudy is that it allows you to do 2 or 3 day homestays in different regions of South Africa. We are going to a church on Sunday, and I am so incredibly excited for it.

A couple things really stuck out from one of the lectures we listened to.

-50 % of South Africans live on under a dollar a day

-4% of South Africans actually go to university, and only 2% actually graduate

The lecturer also described how sociology courses might be heard for Americans, because there is nobody in the world that can understand the complexities of race better than the South Africans. Something else he encouraged was for us to raise our hands and ask questions in class, even though South Africans tend to get annoyed, because, as he said, “You are here for us.” He told us that having Americans in the classroom is sometimes the only opportunity for most South Africans to experience American life.

After orientation, a bunch of us decided to take a trip to Camp’s Bay, which is in all honesty the most incredible thing I have ever scene. It’s a really wealthy area about 20 minutes from Cape Town, with really cool restaurants and cafes. It looks like Malibu or Miami, except it’s build into the side of stunning African cliffs. I couldn’t believe that I was actually seeing what I was seeing. The water was really really cold, but it was good to finally cool off from this ridiculous heat. Afterwards we went to at a really nice restaurant overlooking the sea, and we got cocktails and dinner. The entire trip cost literally 10 bucks, which is just insane. Everything here is SO SO SO cheap, and it’s really difficult not to say that ever single time you buy something. That night we went out in Observatory, another suburb of Cape Town. It was really cool; this one bar, Roots, was enormous and was partially outside. There was a huge beach/sand part with fire throwers, and in one of the other rooms there was like a crazy rave room. It’s really funny because everyone here dances facing the DJ, and everyone has there own little zone where they just go crazy. Nobody really even dances together. What was also great about last night was that we met some actual people from South Africa. So far our interaction have been limited to avoiding sketchy looking people, so it was a nice change. They were really really eager to show us around and they told us a bunch of really awesome places to check out. The South African accent is really different… sometimes people struggle to understand us. But its hilarious to argue over how to pronounce things. One phrase that stands out: having a “jolle” (spelling?) apparently means have a good time. Oh, and all laundry detergent is called Fabric Softener. And tip off or tip up is to fill something. Hopefully I’ll learn more soon. Tonight we are making dinner, so I have to go, and then tomorrow we climb Table Mountain! Wow. Bye!


  1. wow, the bit you wrote about sociology and the things your lecturers said was really interesting and shocking. It sounds so lovely there, I bet it will be cool when you get a more complete view of the place when you check out the homestays and the volunteer groups. I hope you're taking photos! I'm dying to see the things you're talking about! Have a jolle :-)