I’m just like,
Honestly, I’m not doing too well with the transition home, which is something I sort of feared that would happen. I miss African sunsets and Chinese food. I am desperately awaiting my next indication to start my visa, program email, or opportunity to get on a plane and go anywhere but here.
This is what they don’t really warn you about, it’s briefly mentioned but not delved into. I think it may be worse for those of us that caught the wanderlust bug. All of a sudden not knowing the next time you will leave or get to have that wonderful new experience is absolutely heart breaking.
And it’s almost time to say goodbye to this entire year. I am just not ready yet.
So it’s coming up on the next few weeks and I’m in awe of my list of things I still need to do… or want to do again. Hiking Devil’s Peak is going to be necessary, as well as a list of museums I haven’t been even near yet. I am done with two finals already, with one more to go, and all my final papers (which are totally irrelevant in terms of percentage) are handed in. This week is going to be a week of doing everything that Cape Town has to offer that I haven’t yet done (if I can even attempt to fit them all in!).
This week there have been some magnificent sunsets over the mountain, which I can thankfully see from my dorm room. It’s like the city is saying goodbye to all of us, sappy I know, but it reminds me about the beautiful parts of this country. It’s going to be weird to wake up every morning and not see a huge mountain outside my window (instead it will be the National Cathedral when I walk to school, not really complaining).
Other than that, I’m also appreciating the cultural and political side of the city. My advanced SA politics class has made my hyper aware of somethings, such as opinions of the ANC and Zuma, as well as the affirmative action here. This is especially relavent at UCT, where there have been race debates on whether or not race should be a proxy for acceptance. A South African friend of mine once said that Americans know what’s going on in Africa more than the Africans (not true at all), but I think that’s only reflective of the interest in the similarities and differences between our politics. Our affirmative actions are similar, yet different, since in the United States it’s regarding minority groups, and in South Africa it’s the majority that has been oppressed. Here’s a demonstration by SASCO, a student organization, to keep race a proxy at UCT.
My favorite debacle to follow at the moment is the Zuma painting scandal. Here’s a link to an article that shows the original painting before it was vandalized “to prevent a civil war.”
The painting, called “The Spear,” showed Zuma in a business suit with a certain appendage hanging out of his pants. It was then vandalized, paint smeared over the offensive area. Zuma is a controversial figure already and fighting to protect his dignity versus freedom of expression has been an interesting debate, especially considering Zuma’s history.
Other than that, I’ve really been doing a food and drink tour of Cape Town. Sushi, Ethiopian Food, Hout Bay Market, and of course Old Biscuit Mill. We also did high tea at Mt. Nelson Hotel! Well, we really just did the breakfast version, which was still lovely (and so filling!).
I am now in freak out mode for leaving. I am not sure if it’s leaving Cape Town or going back to America. Until then, I am going to keep smiling and enjoy my last two weeks… and hopefully survive my last exam!
What I thought I looked like,
What I actually looked like,
Yet again, South African internet and Chinese internet battle for the hardest thing for my American self to deal with. I tend to just feel super disconnected from the rest of the world without it, which I know is a dreadful thing in retrospect, but alas. I now waste most of my money at Coco Cha Chi for internet, since I hit my internet cap in a record 7 days this month. :) But anyways, that would explain the lack of blog posts. Last I was talking about Victoria Falls, but I’m going to mix this up and just make it “That Time Caitlin Jumped Off Some High Things.”
So for all those who know me personally, I have been dying to bungee jump since… well since I could articulate to my mother that I had no survival instincts. South Africa is home to the world’s highest bridge bungee jump and Victoria Falls was in the news last year for when a girl’s chord snapped on her second bounce. Now, I didn’t do the bungee at Vic Falls, but I did do the gorge swing, which I’ve been told is better than the bungee there and definitely has a longer free fall.
The girls that went before Ashley and I were crying, but I’m not sure I ever really stopped smiling. This was my first experience with free fall, I was a little worried I would hate it. False. Finally being able to jump off something was a huge sense of fulfillment.
So, I knew I was going to love the Bloukrans jump. HOWEVER, Bloukrans is so much higher. It is 216m above the river (it looks nothing like a river). I have been dying to this since I signed up for the Cape Town program. We did it during our Garden Route weekend. Thankfully, my friend Gina was freaking out, which kept me from freaking out as well. You get to watch the jumps from a pub across from the bridge before you go- I’m not sure if that helps the nerves at all. Anyways, Gina did hers and came up with a smile on her face right before mine. Everyone who works there is so great… although they told me to stop dancing and listen to their safety issues. I’m excited to try and go back (the second time you can go backwards!)
This may be my favorite tourist thing I have done in South Africa so far. However, it’s back to the grindstone. I told myself I wanted an academic semester in Cape Town, and I am at the point where research papers are happening. American University just graduated, and I don’t even have my last final until June 5th! I miss US academics though, it’s a weird thing to want at the moment. Advanced South African Politics still has proven to be my most difficult class. I definitely think of the world in international relations terms; I am horrible at domestic politics.
So back to the every day life in Cape Town: trying to deal with racism, sexism, poverty, and crime, while loving the friendliness of the people here, the beauty of the scenery, and the chance to have a new adventure.
On the outside I’m like,
But on the inside I’m like,
Last mentioned we had been given an expensive car and were about to embark on a trip into the bush. Ben took first leg, having to be the registered driver leaving. It’s surprisingly easy to pick up driving on the other side of the road. That was definitely not the problem driving.
The problems began when I took the wheel and our GPS took us through the strangest detour after Polokwane in South Africa. Potholes and cattle everywhere, and this was during the day time. I killed a bird at one point… or it was suicidal, it flew into my windshield.
The Botswana border provided plenty of difficulties, because none of us had really negotiated traveling over a border by car previously. The border was also packed, which was a little strange since it was dark out. We had to fill out customs forms because we had at least one camera. They took our bananas! Thankfully I ate my mango, not too subtly either.
Ashley, Ben, and I took shifts driving through the night. Ashley took the majority of the drive. This involved avoiding massive potholes, almost running over herds of cattle, running over a baby impala, and watching out for kamikaze mules.
In the morning we had to leave the Audi at a game lodge because apparently the potholes in Botswana are fine, but Zimbabwe is a huge no-no for Hertz. Oh well. So we walked across the Botswana-Zimbabwe border and then took a cab to Victoria Falls.
Soon I will post a Vic Falls appreciation picture post! Such an amazing place!
Ok, so it’s actually heading into Autumn here in Cape Town (which apparently just means unpredictable weather and some major downpours) but it still felt like Spring Break to me. These will be some long posts so they’ll probably be split up into a few!
This was the most eventful trip I’ve ever been on. As I mentioned, we decided to do this independently instead of with a tour. As we went to get a rental car in Johannesburg, Ben, the “registered driver” informed us we got an upgrade. We’re 5 kids under 26 driving through Botswana to Zimbabwe. What does the rental company give us?
Yes. That is an Audi. I am in love with this car. However, this car is not meant to be driven through pot-hole ridden roads that are inhabited by cattle and mules throughout Botswana. This car is also not meant to be left at a game lodge in Botswana and almost stepped on by an elephant (yes this happened, the owners shot at the elephant with an air gun to get it away).
So thus begins, Audi in the Bush.
And 1 car that was way too expensive for this trip.
Many more posts will be put up in the next few days.
Because I just finished packing for my Spring Break trip! And guess what? I’m actually using my multiple entry visa this time :) Life is good.
Anyways! The plan. Yet again, I have chosen to not go with a tour group… so yet again there will be a lot of winging it (I can only hope this will not be like when we ran around 天水 for a half hour comparing hotel prices around midnight). I like doing it this way, it helps you see more of the country and feel like less of a tourist. However, we’re driving this time. I have just invested in a GPS… we have maps, we have google maps. WE WILL MAKE IT TO PLACES.
Victoria Falls! Yes!
Kruger! Safari! Yes!
Can you tell I am excited?
So I realized I haven’t really posted about… well anything recently, but that’s mostly because I am at that point of the abroad experience where everything has become kind of normal. It happened with China too, when you start just walking out into the street and stop being like, “GUYS… we’re in China” every five minutes.
This semester is a lot more academically rigorous than the last. Advanced South African Politics is kicking my ass, mostly because I don’t have a complete grasp on basic South African Politics. My internship/volunteering set up is coming along as well, although I wish I had more time for them.
We have been doing a lot more activities here, which is definitely weighing down my wallet.. but somehow I can’t resist swimming with seals or horseback riding on a beach.
There are still plenty of *face palm* moments here. Like this picture
I would like to point out that this is NOT an ANC sponsored image, my understanding is that a person posted it on ANC’s Facebook page wall. Here’s the response to it http://mype.co.za/new/2011/05/who-would-have-thought-that-playing-horsey-was-offensive/
But the point being is that images like this are taken very seriously here, and this image sparked a lot of debate. Racial violence still occurs, and I keep reminding myself Apartheid was not that long ago. The Grabouw protests are the most recent example of race violence, specifically between coloureds and blacks in South Africa
But anyways. This is South Africa. I live here for now. As a quote from one of my favorite high school teachers, “South Africa is both the most beautiful and most ugly place in the world”. I love it here, and there’s so much hope, but there are somethings that just get you down some days, and being immersed is sometimes stressful.
I’ll post some pictures soon :) Love to all.
So sometimes when you’re waiting for your friends to meet you, you dance around your room instead of doing something productive… or watch a lot of My Drunk Kitchen.
Welcome to my friday nights before 10.
Travelling around Southern Africa. BUT check out this super sweet camper van company!!!
Probably not doing that, but I’m super interested in the naked special!
Going into my home stay at Ocean View, a colored township near Simon’s Town, I was feeling a little rough about South Africa. There were a lot of feelings of white guilt and anger about racism and language politics. The home stay made me feel a lot better about things, although I have yet to wrap my head around everything. For example, my home stay dad said we really only do this home stay in Ocean View because it’s safe. Gang related activity doesn’t happen because the area is surrounded by white communities, so there’s not a close other township
Friday night we were brought to one of the community centers for dinner and meeting our families. I stayed with a husband and wife, Henry and Tasha, as well as another American, Kelly.Henry and Tasha have three children, Kyle (21), Chante (16), and Cheslyn (13). I never met Kyle, but Chante and Cheslyn were around for most of the weekend. We were brought home in a “buckie” (a truck) and sat in the back seat.
Once settled we were brought up to another house. We did not spend much time with relatives of the family, but we did spend a lot of time with their community from the Catholic Church. They all seemed so close and their religion framed a lot about politics and every day life. Since it’s lent, most of the men and women have given up drinking. We ate fish cakes.
I’ve discovered parenting is almost universal. Tasha and Henry are amazing parents. They give their kids a lot of independence, but seemed a lot like my own parents in knowing the realities of teenage life and trying to put everything in perspective. For example, teenage pregnancy seems to be a big problem in Ocean View, and Tasha constantly tells their kids that now they can go out and hang out with their friends freely, letting them know with a baby they could not do that.
On Saturday we went back up to the house that my friend Emilee was staying at. Her home stay dad, Jeremy, and Henry brought us hiking up the hill with some of the little ones and told us the history of Ocean View.
Ocean View was one of the first townships established from displacement. Jeremy called it the pilot project. The colored families from Simon’s Town were moved to Ocean View, because Simon’s Town was declared an all white area (this occurred largely in the early sixties). The house I stayed at was one of the first houses built in Ocean View. To this day there is a lot of contestation over the ownership of the property. Jeremy said the government has given some people the property rights to their homes in Ocean View (they weren’t given them during Apartheid) but many have been offered money instead. This angers most families because all they really want is property. This seems to be a common theme in South Africa.
There is an interesting conflict between environmentalism and the need for affordable housing in South Africa. Near Ocean View a lot of the land is protected as a nature reserve area of sort, so they cannot build the housing most families desperately need. This is the case in a lot of communities.
My family was a bit more affluent than some of the others. Out of their own pocket they provide a miniature soup kitchen out of the back of the buckie on Saturdays.
My family spoke A LOT of Afrikaans. I often didn’t realize they were speaking it they so fluidly transferred over to it.
We went to the beach with two other families and played with the children in the evening. The beach was beautiful (although you are always aware of the huge luxurious homes surrounding you) and the kids had so much energy. They like to compare their handstand skills and dance (mostly they “shuffle”).
There was a huge braii (BBQ) in the evening. I learned how to play dominos, which is the prevalent game played. The men are amazing at it, most knowing what move you were going to make before you made it. Everyone smokes a lot, mostly the men. I have never eaten so much meat in my life. Everyone was so friendly and open, super willing to talk about politics and the differences between South Africa and America.
Sunday we went to Church. I have not done this in a long time. I was definitely nostalgic toward my childhood this weekend. I also learned a lot about the “small town” politics regarding the Church. Ocean View is such a small close-knit community. Everyone knows everyone’s business. We left our front door open for most of the weekend, where the little boy across the street would often wander in. We got a lot of gossip about the Church and other aspects of every day life.
Chante took us to the farm with the little boy across the street. When I say farm, I do not mean cows and horses, I mean camels and snakes, expensive restaurants, and touristy stores. It was the strangest thing to see this across the street from a township. The people shopping or eating there were almost all white.
Henry took Kelly and I on a tour of Cape Point around Ocean View. Ocean View was previously named Slangkop (Snake’s Head, Afrikaans). The Slangkop lighthouse is on the other side of the hill. The area by the water is completely built up by luxurious homes, much like what has happened to coastal communities in the States. Henry says foreigners mostly own them, since South Africans cannot afford it. There are beautiful places to camp and braii, and Henry says he used to do it as a kid, but many people don’t utilize what is in their backyard.
While we were taking this tour, Tasha was making the most amazing Sunday afternoon meal. Chicken curry with rhoti, rice, baked chicken, roasted potatoes, squash and carrots, and pudding for dessert. I have never eaten so much food. I got leftovers as well, which was lovely.
I have been abroad for a while now, and when I am home I no longer really live with my parents. This weekend I really missed my family for the first time this entire year. Living with a family and hearing about their parenting… being considered their daughter for a weekend, made me miss my parents, and yes, even my little brother. Henry and Tasha will definitely be getting a visit from me soon.
Probably the best and worst part about traveling for long periods of time is that feeling of being a tourist. On the one hand, you get to shamelessly experience all those wonderful things that a country or city holds representative of themselves. For Beijing, this was the Bird’s Nest, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and just about every temple in the metro area. For Cape Town, I have hiked (for 8 hours) Table Mountain, gone to the aquarium, and visited Robben Island. While, as always in South Africa, these things come with the awareness that all the tourists (for the most part) are white, but nevertheless, everything has added to the beauty that is this country’s landscape and the depth that is its national history.
Robben Island in particular was something I had been waiting to do with my res. While the tour itself seemed rushed, it was still an experience I am not likely to forget. Mandela is everywhere in this country, but his presence is definitely more apparent at Robben Island, especially when every question asked to the tour guide pertained to him. My favorite part, however, was not Mandela’s cell, but the A block they have turned into a testimonial museum. Every cell you went to told a brief story about the person that stayed there and their experience on the island. It reminded me briefly of the Holocaust Museum in DC, when they give you the name card before you enter the museum telling someone’s story.
I still struggle with the downside of being a tourist: not knowing this city well enough at all. I have felt a lack of independence due to safety precautions, and that also impedes my ability to grasp everything this place has to offer. In China, I often had the excuse of a language barrier- and that’s just not possible here.
I am trying to wrap my head around a lot of things here. Racism, sexism, and language politics being some of the biggest problems for me at the moment. Getting into a routine with my classes and hopefully my internship soon will help. I have so much to write lately, but little organization to my thoughts: as is largely apparent from this post.
I’ll post soon about our second trip to Mitchells Plain, an ongoing connection to a community in limbo.
Hope all is well wherever you are :)
I probably should be out right now, but the past few days have been exhausting, so a night in should be fine. Today we did a volunteer night at Mitchell’s Plain on the Cape Flats. It’s a largely colored area. The area we volunteered in was a small shack lane created by a group of people that had all recently been evicted from their homes in the township. almost just as they had created homes out of spare wood, street signs, and metal sheets, they have been formed that they must leave the area in less than a month. Everyone I talked to had no idea where they would go after that.
I was able to talk to a lot of families with a lot of heart wrenching stories, but I became close to one women named Paola (she said her father liked Italian names, it’s an uncommon name for Cape Town). She was 21 years old, and had moved out of a similar shack settlement she lived in with her mother in order to try and find permanent housing for her and her daughter, who is now three years old. Mitchell’s Plain is next to a train station, and when the trains stop she runs through them picking up cans and bottles to get extra money from them. Her foot was cut up, she wrapped it up, and was running around barefoot. I ended up giving her my flip flops at the end, because there was tons of glass on the ground.
She emphasized that all anyone wanted there was a permanent home that they could return to at the end of the day and know that it was still there. This was reiterated by many people living there. One man said he couldn’t work because of a case of epilepsy but also couldn’t get any government support because he could not afford an ID. Many had small children or were pregnant. Others were enthusiastic to start families, and very critical of situations when children were taken from their parents to live in homes off the street. Everyone was enthusiastic to show us their homes, meet their children, and inform us that they did all of this themselves, and would likely be doing it again in a month.
Paola said that if she could go anywhere on earth it would be Italy.
I’ll write a longer post the second I have internet (hopefully soon) but for now some little tidbits about how women definitely DO NOT play rugby in this country.
Man: Oh you’re more into American Football huh?
Me: To watch, but I play rugby back home.
Man: Oh… touch?
Mostly the response to me playing is “that’s odd…”
So starts another semester. I was not sure that finding internet could be much worse than in Beijing, but so far, South Africa is definitely in the running. That’s not a problem though, since this may be the most beautiful place I have ever been.
For the past few days I have felt slightly trapped, since I am not yet comfortable with the public transportation system, and UCT is a bit out in the suburb. We have been doing a lot of orientation stuff on campus, but thankfully yesterday they split us up into groups and took us into the center of the city.
Anywhere you go, you can see the beautiful Table Mountain, something we got the opportunity to go up to in the evening yesterday for sunset. There isn’t much anyone can say to describe that; it was simply amazing.
I cannot help but compare everything to Beijing, although there is little to no comparison to be made. When not in a huge mass of obvious Americans, we blend in here, which is a different experience as a foreigner thus far.
My first experience on the cab ride from the airport was interesting. I had an enthusiastic cab driver named Joey, who is now sincerely worried about me, thinking I’m some sort of crazy daredevil. Driving into Cape Town from the airport you immediately encounter a huge shantytown that seems to go on forever. This is a huge contrast to the gorgeous suburb I am residing in at the base of a mountain.
Today we find out more about our res and volunteer opportunities.
The updates might be frequent once I move into the dorms, but until then thinking of everyone back in DC and in Beijing, but more than enjoying 80+ degree weather every day.
Yes, I’m excited to get on that plane in the morning. However, I’m also incredibly nervous this go round. If anything, I’m more nervous than I was going to China. Why? It’s not going to be China.
This sounds ridiculous, but my only long term experience abroad was China, where there was virtually no restriction on anything I did, and being white was like being a celebrity (sounds conceited and racist, but sadly it’s true. It was unnerving most of the time).
I chose to go to South Africa after China because the two countries are radically different. I expect a much more academic semester, independent from my study abroad program. After talking to people who have been in the program, I’m just nervous as to the amount of culture-shock reverse culture-shock I am about to experience.
Hopefully a lot of the anxiety is in my head. We’ll see soon. So little time :)
Calling my bank to inform them I am going abroad:
“So is Africa the only country you are going to?”
Now for more packing.
Ok a slight exaggeration, but coming home to the middle of nowhere is always a bit of a struggle after home cooked food and some family/friend time. With some home friends already back in school (or in Kyrgyzstan or Hong Kong) boredom is reaching new highs, for example I’m actually watching my little brother play FIFA at the moment.
Anyway! I got my visa today for South Africa, cue huge sigh of relief. Now this thing is real, and my year abroad can actually happen. Two other kids from my high school are going to Cape Town in a separate program, which is exciting, and talking to one of them today got me even more excited for all the touristy type things I am going to get the opportunity to do (I’m really excited to go bungee jumping; the highest commercial jump in the world is in South Africa).
I need to keep reminding myself this is going to be nothing like China, which seems completely idiotic, but true. Being aware of surroundings will be much more necessary, and while China definitely had it’s own race-related cultural elements, they were much more behind closed doors than the extremes in South Africa. I am really interested in the reception as an American, since I was so used to a celebrity-like status last semester.
I need to start packing, I’ll be heading down to DC next week for a quick visit, and I am running out of time to get things done. I have the bad habit of procrastinating and winging it, which travelling is kind of helping me fix.
I’m going to try to keep this blog going the best I can.
Love to everyone.
It’s been a really strange week being at home, but I also feel like I am experiencing reverse culture shock ten times worse than the culture shock I experienced the first few weeks in Beijing. I cannot do anything without thinking of how it would have been in China.
The grocery store… I was so happy to see cheese and milk everywhere (meat and fish without bones too)! HOWEVER, my god Americans are fat. After spending three and a half months around people that constantly made me feel obese, seeing actual obesity in the junk food aisle was interesting.
I keep wanting to say 谢谢, 你好 and 再见. I still have not grown out of the habit of saying 什么 almost once every five minutes. The worst has been prices. I’ve been converting everything into kuai in my head, and it’s breaking my heart. I spend more in a day here than I would have spent in a week in Beijing.
Anyways, I’m really missing China. Everyone keeps asking me if I’m happy to be home, and there’s always an awkward pause with me finally answering no.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see my family and friends, especially since one of my friends had spent the summer in Tibet so I can China freak out with her, but I just really miss it.
I’m not stared at here! Ok, that may be a good thing. Still weird to walk around and not feel like you’re this strange attraction to be taken pictures of.
Even missing the Shao…
Sorry I have inundated my facebook and tumblr with these posts, but I feel the need to get them out while I am still in China. The last few days have been extremely emotional, and I have been completely unable to function in many situations. There has been a lot of sitting there, not knowing what to do with myself. I have met to many wonderful people, and it breaks my heart to say goodbye to them and this beautiful, messed up, wonderfully contradictory country.
If anything, this semester has allowed me to realize this is what I want to do with my life. I want to wander, travel, and meet new people… call new places home. My only problem is leaving, yet I know the next adventure is going to be just as wonderful as the last.
The next month I’ll be preparing for the next adventure, and reflecting on my times in China, the people I’ve met, and the things I’ve done. I am now a completely new person, while still being exactly the same. I am more independent, and much more comfortable with myself.
There’s a reason study abroad is an experience that is largely encouraged. It’s not just something that allows you to view another culture, it’s a way to put yourself in new situations and discover things about yourself.
Next to South Africa.
But first a quick stop over in USA. Time to be a local instead of a 外国人, just for a little bit.