Sunday, February 1, 2009

I wanted to update tonight because orientation is going to be incredibly busy for the next week or so. So today we went on a bus tour around Cape Town and down the peninsula. We went with all the other ‘international’ students (which means 90 % Americans) and basically were an enormous mass of white people moving around together. It was pretty bizarre. The tour was informative… our guide knew a ton about the area, and it was interesting to hear about history, geography, culture, etc in greater detail. One of the few good things about Interstudy is that we have been here for two weeks, so we all feel pretty comfortable. The other students just got here a couple days ago, and I can imagine how overwhelming that is.

After leaving Cape Town we drove along the peninsula, cruising along windy, scenic roads along the coast. The country just gets more and more beautiful the more I see of it; literally all along the coast are beautiful beaches, majestic mountain ranges, and vibrant green colors. It is just gorgeous, and there is no way to really convey how beautiful it is. You really just have to see it. We stopped in Simons Town quickly where there is a colony of Jackass penguins (small African penguins). Apparently the penguins actually found the area themselves and it is now obviously preserved. But they were literally everywhere, lounging out on the rocks, waddling around. It was really funny, and I was so intrigued that I bought a penguin statue for 10 rand.

We drove along and suddenly found ourselves in Oceans View, which actually does not have anything close to a view of the ocean. This was my first true experience with a poor African township. The contrast is just incredible… this town literally borders wealthy suburbs occupied by mostly whites. Oceans View was actually established as a place for blacks to live when they were forced to move out of Simons Town during the beginning of apartheid legislation. The people are still very poor, but they have a lot of pride and a vibrant culture. We had a really delicious lunch and watched a group of young kids singing and break dancing. They really did seem proud of their town and of their people, and it was truly humbling.

Our last destination was the Cape of Good Hope, part of a huge nature reserve that stretches all the way to Table Mountain. The area is actually preserved rather well, and is in most ways exactly how it was before the area was colonized. The Cape was first named the “Cape of Storms” by initial settlers because of its gusty winds, but in order to make it a more frequented trade route, it was renamed the Cape of Good Hope. Here I saw some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. The water is a perfect blue-green, and the rocks and mountains jut out into the sea all around you. Baboons are supposed to run around all over the place there (they are pests in South Africa) but sadly we didn’t see any up close. Anyway it was an amazing trip, and it was good to talk to some of the other students in other programs. I am looking forward to getting to know the university a little better this week… hopefully it won’t be too stressful.

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