One More Sleep

This journey started with one last sleep at my home in Southern California. It now ends with one last sleep in what has become my second home. The Mother City has given me the opportunity to live an entirely new way of life in the most beautiful and breath-taking place. She has awakened my love of travel and spontaneity. She allowed me to become a better leader with an open mind, and presented me with challenges that I would not give up for the world. From the countless laughs and escapades with friends, I realized how important it was to make connections with people that are drastically different from myself. Like the boys from The Buried Life always say, “Everyone has an incredible story to tell”. It was these candid and genuine stories that gave me a true understanding of what it is to be South African.
This will be the first time in my life that I do not want to go to the airport. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I LOVE airports. They’re exciting, and the feeling of change and adventure runs through them. However, this visit will be the toughest of them all. Of course I am stoked to see my family and friends, eat my favorite foods, and visit my favorite places. I feel myself being pulled back home. On the other hand, Cape Town has just as tight of a grip. Over the 4.5 months I’ve been here, I have become part of a family, gained brilliant friendships, and discovered favorite foods and places.
There is no doubt in my mind that I will be back as soon as it is financially and diplomatically possible. There is something about living in this country that is impossible to explain, but it brings an energy that we have only just tapped into. I wish I had more time, but I know that I have to get on that plane.
I want to thank everyone that has made this semester an experience that will truly affect the rest of my life. No matter how short our contact, it happened for a reason. I would not change anything.
If I could give one piece of advice for anyone planning to study abroad, I would tell them to choose Cape Town. South Africa is portrayed by the media as a dangerous and corrupted country, but I have never found more pride, joy, energy, love and beauty in any other place. It is the most life changing city on the planet, and you will be surprised at how attached you become to the rainbow nation. Just as I felt numerous conflicting emotions hours before my initial flight, all those feelings are rushing back. Having to say goodbyes this past week was heart-breaking. But it was never really a goodbye. It was always a see you later. As I left the Bloukrans Bungy Bridge for my second time, our main instructor Johan looked at me and said “Don’t be a stranger now.” Here’s to you Cape Town, we will never be strangers again.

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10 Days 10 Things

What.

When did we get to the 10 day countdown? This is ridiculous. It’s hard to come to terms with leaving this beautiful place, but I am excited to see my family and friends (and chipotle). Although I have been here for over 4 months, there are still elements of South African life that I haven’t gotten used to. Some are negative, some positive, but they are all responsible for leaving me with some of the best laughs and memories. Without further ado, here is my list of 10 Things I’m Still Not Used To: South Africa Edition

1) Jammie Steps

The infamous Jammie Steps. While it may have looked majestic walking up to Jameson Hall and the center of Upper Campus every day for class, it was no task for the faint of heart. Those colossal steps were quite the mission. The first ascent was hard, but we confidently told ourselves that we’d be “masters of the steps” by the end of the term, practically running up without breaking a sweat. False. So very false. We are still feeling the burn, still usually out of breath by the time we reach the top. Although they may have been a deciding factor in going (or not going, rather) to some of my optional lectures, I’ve never laughed so hard going up those stairs on late night adventures with friends or morning struggles. I’ll also be prepared for my entirely flat walk to school that awaits me next semester. (p.s. the picture only shows half of the struggle.IMG_0491

2) Eskom

Oh Eskom. As the largest producer of electricity in South Africa, they are dealing with an electricity crisis. This results in lovely episodes of “load-shedding” or complete power outages in certain areas of the country at different times of the day. Fun fact, you never really know when it will actually happen. The schedule could say 4-6:30. Will it happen or not? Guessing games of life in SA. It could even happen out of the blue. Yay. While this can cause several inconveniences in the cooking or wi-fi arena, it has also created a space for us students to detach ourselves from most technology and have fun together. My favorite memory associated with load shedding had to be the load shedding parties that included face masks and music, and sometimes previously loaded movies. Amazing laughs here too.

3) Just now, now now, and now

The South African slang is incredibly easy to pick up, but the concept of time frames has yet to settle with me. Having asked around, this was the general consensus: “just now” could be in the next few minutes, 20 minutes or immediately. “Now now” could mean immediately or in the next several minutes to half an hour. And “now” essentially means someone might get around to it eventually or never. But then again I was given answers that contradict all previous data. So this is still a mystery. Ambiguity all over the place.

4)The right side of the road

Coming from the states, this still messes with my head. Even after so long, I’ll still have small heart attacks when I’m in any vehicle because for a split second, it feels like we’re driving in to oncoming traffic. I can’t say anything particularly fabulous has come of this, but it has been the source of some laughs, mainly at my irrational fears.

5) The 180

This is something I have already addressed in a previous post, so if you’re interested in reading more about it, check that out. This is simply the shocking difference between certain areas of the city that are not far apart. South Africa has one of the biggest gaps between the rich and poor, and it makes absolutely zero sense when you see it directly. How can I go from Camps Bay or UCT campus, both beautifully maintained and full of wealth, and drive 15-30 minutes to end up in the Khayelitsha or Nyanga townships where people are struggling to pay for food and water? While I might be used to seeing the differences, I am most certainly not used to the way it makes me feel. It can make someone feel anger, sadness, and confusion. It blows my mind to see how different the lives of two Capetonians can really be.

6) The Mountain(s)

I do spend a lot of time outside, and I love being in nature. One would think you’d get used to the beauty of the country. Again, false. Every time I look at the trio of mountains (Devil’s Peak, Table Mountains, Lion’s Head), it’s as if I’m seeing them for the first time. Like a kid in a candy shop who forgets what the shop looks like every time they leave, and they get to come back every day. It’s just so majestic. If I could pick them up and bring them home with me I would, because they keep a sense of wonder, awe, and adventure in everyone here. IMG_0113IMG_0341

7) Rand to Dollar

The exchange rate as I’m writing this is currently 12.29 SA rand to 1 US dollar. Comparing prices here to prices at home is unbelievable. For a tall hot coffee at home, I’d be paying $1.75 or 22 rand. I can get the same thing here for 9 rand, which is only 73 cents. A dollar off coffee might not seem like much, but for a coffee addict like me, this is crucial. Everything is cheaper here, and it still shocks me everyday. I bought a decent watch for $3. Three whole dollars. I had to ask the cashier to repeat the price twice because I didn’t believe what I was hearing. Planning an all-inclusive 3 day road trip with several activities comes to around $150. That’s with everything including car rental, gas, hostels, activities, and food. At home, $150 might get you a hotel room for 3 nights and some snacks. Paying for life at home won’t be super fun.

8) Born with the Groove

As a dancer, it can be frustrating when your jam is on and no one else wants to dance. However, almost everyone in the country that I have come across in any musical setting has a natural talent for dance. It’s like they were all born with an innate sense of rhythm and musicality. This being said, it comes as the best surprise when a song drops and everyone on the dance floor jumps into a groove so flawless it could have been choreographed. There is a sense of togetherness and natural energy in dance here. It’s one of my favorite parts about living in Cape Town, and something I will miss immensely. It still surprises me that I can find this feeling, as well as a dance circle almost anywhere I go, as long as the beats are bumpin.

9) Public Transport

While I may have gotten used to not driving myself everywhere I go, I still have not gotten used to the public transport of the city. Each minibus brings a new style or tactic, and the train stations can be slightly confusing. No minibus experience is the same, and the train schedule can be right or wrong, with unannounced transfers or changes. Not many people from my program attempted to figure out how the city buses were used, most likely due to the convenience of the minibus. Another mystery that falls under the ambiguity umbrella of SA life.

10) Laissez-faire

While it has been spectacular enjoying the laissez-faire attitude of the country (a nice change from the tight schedule obsession in the states), I’m not entirely acquainted with the ambiguity that comes with it. When certain tasks need to be done by a certain time, it can be slightly unnerving to just have everything up in the air. Plans can be cancelled as quickly as they are made and vice versa. However, going with the flow has lead to the most unforgettable escapades around town, with the memories and stories to match.

My last 9 days will be full of adventure and emotion, rain or shine (I underestimated the power of the Mother City’s winter rains). And hopefully more posts.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Last Time Best Time

We officially have less than a month until we have to leave our dear Mother City. It feels like last week that I was talking about having several months to go, and somehow I ended up only having weeks left. The past two weeks have been full of “lasts”. My last class with my program, my last lecture at the University of Cape Town, my last time dancing for my African Dance class, and my last day with SHAWCO Education.

My program class, taught by our director Dr. Alan Jansen, gave us a deeper understanding of the history, politics, and culture of the country. We came to realize how complicated and multifaceted each issue or conflict was, and how intersectionality usually plays the “lead role” in the “show” that South Africa puts on. I loved this class, and loved hearing the stories and experiences that Alan shared with us revolving around his life and involvement in the struggle against apartheid. Special guests and speakers were also a highlight for me. It made the learning experience so much more genuine, because we were not simply reading about the stories of others, but we were able to hear them in person. While we may not have always wanted to do the various assignments such as reflections and essays, I always found that analyzing my experiences allowed me to process my thoughts and make connections that I would not have made otherwise. This class also served as a time to see everyone from the program and catch up with those I hadn’t seen that week. It also provided us with a broad spectrum of opinions, which led to heated discussions and debates. While I did disagree with certain opinions on different topics, it was a chance to see multiple sides to stories and try to understand where another person was coming from. I hope that future students on this program will try to get the most out of this class, because there really is no other class like it.

My last lecture at UCT was this past Tuesday the 19th, and it was only 15 minutes long. We discussed the format and content of the final exam that will taking place next week. While I tried my hardest to pay attention, I sat in disbelief that we were already talking about the final exam. The classroom culture and general “way things work” at UCT is opposite to Chapman. The small number of assignments and large (mostly optional) lectures has left me wondering how much learning I’ve actually done in the classroom. Coming from Chapman, I was used to weekly assignments, essays, quizzes, and tests for each class, along with mandatory attendance and participation. But I’ve realized that the most important “learning” that I am here to do is really taking place outside of the classroom, and it’s happening through experiences in and around the city with all different types of people. While I was sad to be leaving my last lecture (because any type of “last” just makes me sad about my limited amount of time), I will not miss the daily trek up the Jammie Steps (campus is still quite gorgeous, I will miss that).

African Dance. Hands down one of my favorite classes I have taken in my undergraduate career so far. Not only did I get to do what I love twice a week, but we also had the privilege of a lecture once a week with “Teach” our instructor. We got to know him and he got to know us. One of my favorite things he would say was “If you want to learn about a group of people, learn their dance. If you know the dance, you will come to know the people.” You can only understand so much about someone and their culture by reading a book or an article. Taking this understanding to a deeper level requires a physical connection, which is exactly what this class gave me. There are ideas and concepts about the South African history and culture that are heavily connected to dance, and having the opportunity to be taught not only with word but with the motion of the body was something that I will miss most of all about my time here. Teach gave us tough love and humor every Tuesday and Thursday night, and I always looked forward to class. My final exam was a practical (physical) performance of all the dances we had learned over the semester. We performed the dances for an external examiner and it was so much fun. We put all of our energy into it and “left it all on the dance floor” so to speak. While we performed in small groups for the duration of the exam, we all came together to perform the last dance one more time as a whole group. This was a movie moment for me, and the best way my time in that class could have ended. I am pretty positive that I won’t be able to stop talking about this class as long as I live. For any future Arcadia students that are interested in the class, I highly, and I mean highly, recommend that you get it pre-approved because it fills up quickly.

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Me and Teach after the final exam

My last day with SHAWCO Education in the Nyanga township was emotional to say the least. I had created such strong bonds with the kids in my grade 2 class at Walter Teka Primary School, and it was tough to explain to them that I would not be back for a few years (I will be coming back and visiting the school). One little boy almost brought me to tears after an activity I had them do. Giving them each a piece of paper, they were to draw something (a profession, goal, activity) they wanted to do or accomplish as they get older. Lutho, one of my favorites (I hate to say I have favorites but this kid was special), drew himself and came up to show me his drawing. I asked him what he was doing in the picture and he said “teacher”. I responded by asking him if he wanted to be a teacher. He said “yes, just like you”. While I tried not to cry, I told him how phenomenal his dream was, and that he should never give up. This was such an emotional moment for me because at the beginning of semester, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. My only goal during the SHAWCO experience was to have fun with the kids and light a fire in them that will motivate them and let them develop a love for learning. Seeing that goal come full circle was unbelievable. It reinforced my love of working with kids (and in the field of education in general), looking for tangible ways to improve the educational experience for all students.

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Last day of class with grade 2

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Me and Lutho

This portion of a poem written by an anonymous author sums up my feelings at the current moment:

“So while you are living in these times, remember that there are only so many of them, and when they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them, for one last time.”

So while I keep coming to these “lasts”, as sad as they may be, each one reminds me how full of life the experiences behind them made me. While I am excited to see my family and friends (and finally stuff a Chipotle burrito in my face along with copious amounts of In-N-Out), it breaks my heart to think about leaving Cape Town. Via Pinterest, per usual, this picture will be the motto of sorts for my 23 (WHAT) remaining days here in this breathtaking country. There will be several more “last times” but I will be making them the best times.

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The Chronicles of Cape Town Coffee: Episode Two

Oh look it’s coffee o’clock!

Cape Town Coffee is back after quite the hiatus. Life in the Mother City has been exciting but busy, and I have regrettably not tried as many coffee shops I would have liked to. It will definitely be one of my “last month goals”. Holy crap. Last month. Did I really just type that? Where has 3 months gone? Time is actually slipping through my fingers like sand at this point, but it’s fine I have coffee to make me feel better right?

Over the past few weeks, I got to try two very different types of coffee joints. The first was Origin Coffee, a pretty fancy place with an espresso menu and everything, but surprisingly great prices, and coffee from all over the world. It felt like the elite place to go coffee tasting. The next was an Ethiopian restaurant on Long Street called Madam Taitou. What looked like a souvenir shop was actually a hidden gem. My friend Deena and I were just exploring the street when we saw that they had coffee so we decided to go in. We got to sit in one of the elevated loft areas and it quickly became one of my favorites places in the city, as well as a favorite coffee spot. Here go the general reviews:

Origin Coffee Roasting: located in De Waterkant, between the city centre and Green Point. One of the coolest coffee shops I’ve ever seen.

  • Drink: Iced Coffee
  • Price: R24 ($1.99)
  • Taste: Perfect medium roast, not too sweet and not too bitter
  • Service: Refreshing and educational, they told us about the origin and roasting process of several menu items.
  • Overall Score: 10/10 – Finally coffee over ice. This is one of the only places I’ve been able to find it on the menu.

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Madam Taitou: located on Long Street in the business district, near Greenmarket Square. It came with your own pot to pour and the most adorable mini cup.

  • Drink: Ethiopian Coffee
  • Price: R15 ($1.24)
  • Taste: This coffee is made with ginger, which is surprisingly delicious and results in fantastic energy. Also clears your sinuses and is just a general mood booster 🙂
  • Service: Really genuine and friendly. Our waitress told us 10-12 minutes, which allows for the coffee to brew correctly, and she was spot on.
  • Overall Score: 9/10 – I just wish there was more!

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My last 6 weeks in the Mother City will definitely be filled with more (and new) coffee, I promise. I must stop talking about how much time I have left, or lack thereof. Time for another cup of coffee.

Putting on a Show: South Africa Needs Therapy

Last week while talking with a friend on campus, she said something that has been stuck in my head. Within the few months that I have been here, the push to change South Africa has manifested in several events and daily happenings around the country. The country is so dynamic, which is exciting coming from the states. However, this can be overwhelming. The country is facing an endless list of social issues and contemporary challenges such as a failing education system, high unemployment rates, the electricity crisis, and lack of healthcare for poor communities. There has been electrical load shedding, clear institutional racism, the #RhodesMustFall movement (and subsequent statue removal) xenophobic attacks in Durban, and a recent bus violence incident in the township of Nyanga in Cape Town.

My friend referred to this immense cocktail of social turbulence by saying that “South Africa is putting on a great show”. This got me thinking about the different reactions and responses people are having to this “show”, within the country and internationally.

I was present for the removal of the Rhodes Statue. About a month after the initial protest, the date and time for removal had come. Standing a mere 15 or 20 ft from the statue itself, the emotion was as high as possible, with students singing, dancing, and celebrating. The moment the statue began to rise, the most genuine energy rose from the crowds and I realized how historical and important the event was to a large majority of the people in this country. I say large majority because there is a portion of the population that believes the recent efforts for change are excessive or unnecessary. To put it bluntly, it seems to be (mostly) the older, white generations. I believe it is crucial to include race in this post because race is so crucial to this country’s history. No one can say that it is better to be “colorblind” because that overlooks such a critical aspect of identity in this country. The effects of racism, and racism itself, are still extremely prevalent in South Africa. The ideals and policies of the apartheid regime created the foundation for a multitude of contemporary challenges. For more information about the campaign visit http://rhodesmustfall.co.za/

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Moments after the statue’s removal

Internationally, the movement received support from Oxford University and several other groups. I never thought this would happen, but the #RhodesMustFall campaign actually inspired a movement at my home school back in the states (Chapman University). A group called The Student Review placed caution tape and signs on several busts on campus to bring awareness to and start a discussion about diversity, race, and inequality.

Another interesting statement came about this week, this time from my African Dance instructor. He was describing what it was like to grow up in the township of Nyanga, recently dubbed one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world. He told us that while walking around at night, hearing gunshots was a regular occurrence. He noted that conversations would pause, and once the shots had finished, they would continue as if nothing happened. This reaction, or lack of reaction, he said was a clear sign that something was psychologically “messed up” in the minds of many South Africans. He believes that the desensitization of violence in the townships is a serious issue in terms of safety and the general success and well-being of the community. In a television interview he said that “South Africa needs therapy”, and that the mindsets of different populations are hindering their ability to progress and create change in the post-apartheid society. People around him laughed when he made the comment about therapy, but he was completely serious.

It has been such a learning experience living and studying here. It feels as if the country is still so young and working to get on its feet. It is mind-blowing to think that only 21 years ago the country became a democratic nation. The apartheid dug a lot of deep holes, and the country has had a hard time even beginning to climb out of them. We are usually only made aware of the physical challenges the country faces. However, my dance instructor, who we call “Teach” gave us more insight into the psychological issues that are deeply connected to those challenges. He made it clear that the damaging mentalities have been passed down from generation to generation, in all racial and ethnic groups.

I have been lucky enough to witness a historical event in this country, and I could not believe the timing. What are the chances that this movement would happen this specific semester? I have had the privilege of being in South Africa during a time of energy and change, and it has been so refreshing. I have been able to meet so many different people and hear about their life experiences. I could not have picked a more exciting place to study abroad. It has officially been over 3 months since I landed in Cape Town. Where does the time go? I only have 41 days left, which makes me want to cry, honestly. The Mother City has been so phenomenal. I know that I will be back, and I continue to look for options to make that happen. I constantly wonder what it will be like when I return.

Some food for though as I end this post (via Pinterest of course), relating back to what Teach had told us about the future of the country and the potential for progress.

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Spring Break: Cape Town Edition

This one has to be full of pictures, as there is no adequate way to describe the adventure, exploration, laughter, and memory making that occurred over spring break in and around Cape Town.

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Top of Table Mountain

The “vac” as it’s called here began with an entirely unprecedented hike up the famous Table Mountain last Saturday. What was supposed to be a walk around the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and a “short and easy” hike with a friend turned into the most gorgeous, terrifying, but epic adventure here in Cape Town. From Skeleton’s Gorge, we just kept going. As we reached the top of the mountain, the sun was on it’s way out. This made for the most beautiful scene I had ever witnessed. We frolicked on the rocks like we were on top of the moon, and it was out of a fairytale for a few minutes. The only problem was that the cable car was on the opposite side of the mountaintop, so we ran like Olympians and somehow found our way to the cable car station just in time to take the last car down with the Table Mountain staff. Unreal.

On Monday I left early in the morning to begin a 4 day adventure tour along the Garden Route with Southern Ambition Africa (travel company). I decided to join a random group for the tour and got to meet new people from all over the world (Germany, Colombia, South Africa, and the US). Day 1: Started with a tour of the Spier Winery in Stellenbosch and driving through the winelands.

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Spier Winery in Stellenbosch

We then drove to the town of Wilderness where we stayed the night at the Beach House backpackers, and got to watch the sun set over the beach, which was glorious. The backpackers had the most relaxing, chill vibe and I could have stayed there forever talking to travelers from all over.

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Sunset from Beach House backpackers in Wilderness

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Beach House backpackers in Wilderness

Day 2: In the morning we woke up to watch the sunrise, and then took a walk along an abandoned railroad track to reach this cave pictured below. This cave used to be a restaurant, and when it was closed, all of the tables, chairs, as well as the structures/kitchen were left behind. A man named Clifford (who was experiencing homelessness) decided to move in several years ago, and he now takes in other people in homeless situations and gives them responsibilities around the cave. It’s completely decorated with shells and different crafts, and we had the chance to walk through the intricate layout of rooms inside. It was the most whimsical place I have ever seen.

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Inhabited cave along abandoned railroad tracks

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After touring the cave, we went canoeing along the Black River (water wars ensued no doubt) and stopped at a trail head on the side of the river.  We hiked barefoot through the lush mountains and ended up at a beautiful waterfall with large area to swim underneath it. We headed back to get ready for our visit to the elephant sanctuary.

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Elephants are my favorite animal to ever exist, so I was living my dream in this picture. This elephants name was Jabulina, or “Jabu” for short 🙂 She was phenomenal. Next we went to Monkeyland, a sanctuary that takes in all kinds of monkeys. We found this little one (a baby squirrel monkey) eating behind a tree, which was arguably the cutest event I have ever witnessed.

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We ended the day at our next backpacker lodge African Array, and were treated to one of the most delicious homemade authentic South African dinners. We relaxed by the fire and mentally prepared for the next morning: bungy jumping from the world’s highest bungy bridge!

Day 3: We woke up early to head out to the Bloukrans Bridge in near Plettenberg Bay, and had the best time leaping into the beautiful scenery below the bridge. This was easily the most amazing activity of the trip.

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After the jump, we headed to Tsitsikamma National Park to have lunch, relax on the beach, and hike to a suspension bridge that crosses the mouth of the Storms River. This place was paradise. DCIM100GOPROGOPR3398.

After lunch in Tsitsikamma, we headed to the largest Rastafarian community in South Africa, known as Judah Square. We took a walking tour of the community with Brother Zeb, who explained and demonstrated several aspects of life in the community.

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After the visit to Judah Square, we drove to our last (and best) backpackers called Afrovibe, located right on the beach. We got there just in time to watch the sunset over the mountains down by the water. We had another delicious authentic South African dinner, and then danced for hours and jumped in the ocean around 4am to finish off the night.

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Day 4: We headed out around 8am to make our way to the first stop of the day, which was an ostrich farm. We got to feed, hug, and ride the ostriches and learn about their history and importance in South Africa. Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 11.19.13 PM

After this visit, we headed to the Cango Caves, and complex system of tunnels and chambers that was discovered in the mountains. This was also one of my favorite stops on the trip, and it was incredibly mind-blowing to walk through. Go nature.

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After exploring the caves, we headed to the Cango Wildlife Ranch to see a ton of animals and get the chance to interact with some of them. I choose to do the lemur encounter, which is exactly what it sounds like. They climb all over you and play with you for a few minutes, which is like living in Madagascar for a brief moment.

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After our time at the wildlife ranch, we settled in for the ride back to Cape Town. This trip solidified the fact that I will be back, and this is not the only time I will be living in the Mother City.

Choice Chance Change

Cape Town has been on fire both literally and figuratively in the past few weeks. While the record high heat sparked a fire that covered the mountain ranges, a fire was lit in the hearts of the UCT community and the population of Cape Town in general. On Monday the 9th, the “one man protest” occurred at the Cecil Rhodes statue on UCT upper campus. A student threw human feces onto the statue and got the attention of the entire student body, faculty, staff, and media. Everyday since then, there have been students protesting at the statue, and security guards constantly monitoring. The Rhodes Must Fall campaign is fighting to have the statue removed, as it symbolizes and glorifies the ideals of colonialism and racism and creates an unsafe space for students whose families struggled through the apartheid and continue to struggle now. I chose to attended a large open discussion on the steps of Jameson Hall to watch students voice their opinions and get a better idea of the arguments from both sides. It was incredible to watch and listen, to hear the stories students had to share. Please do some research on this current event!

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(Open discussion on Jameson steps)

While this event sparked a huge debate on institutionalized racism, white supremacy, and white privilege, Cape Town was also preparing for two major cultural events: the Infecting the City Festival and the Cape Town Carnival, both of which I got to attend. Infecting the City is a public arts festival that ran all of last week at different times and places in the city centre. Ranging from dance performances to acting, films and visual art, each presentation or exhibit raised issues that are currently affecting the people of Cape Town as well as people globally.

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A performance titled Trapped, surrounding issues on disabilities, was one of the most moving and emotional 30 minute experiences of my life. Here is the description from the program: “The soloists appear simultaneously, each story intersecting and interacting with the others. Through their stories, the dancers use their disabilities as a catalyst to open dialogue around questions of belonging, especially for people living with disabilities in a non-integrated society.” One soloist was missing both of his legs, and his set was all hanging shoes around him plus two leg-shaped wire statues. Watching him perform brought me and my friend Twyla to tears. After the performance ended and everyone was leaving, we chose to go up to the artists on the side to say thank you and hug them. We were some of the only people to do so, and looking into their eyes and witnessing the pure emotion within them was something out of this world.

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The next day (Saturday) I went to the Cape Town Carnival with my friend Deena. The Cape Town Carnival was a huge event with a spectacular parade as well as food, crafts, and other activities. We walked up and down the parade route, and ended up buying feather headdresses from a cool group of twenty somethings. They were talking about how they had traveled all over the world, just living their lives doing random things they wanted (I stood there like yes how do I do that please tell me your secret). We found a spot for the parade and watched the amazing floats and dancers go by. The theme for the carnival this year was Elemental: Celebrating Earth, Water, Fire, and Air – The Unstoppable Forces That Shape Us and Our Environment. The parade also honored the fire fighters and other emergency response team involved in fighting the fires all around Cape Town. There was such a sense of pride for the mother city amongst the crowd as well as the performers. The floats and costumes were bright, colorful, and handmade by the performers. We got delicious food afterwards and then spontaneously decided to go hang out on the balcony at the Carnival Court backpackers on Long St. to people watch.

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Sunday morning we met up with the second half of our program group in the Gugulethu township, where they had just finished their homestays. We headed to Mizoli’s, the most famous and delicious meat/braai place in Gugulethu and Cape Town as a whole in my opinion. It was full of visiting foreigners as well as locals from Gugs and Cape Town. The music was loud and food was plenty. It was another genuine glimpse into the South African way of life.

I’ve noticed that in so many aspects of life here, you need spontaneity. It is easy to get into a slump of going to class and coming back to your room and simply sitting on the computer.  You have to explore and go on random adventures if you really want to experience Cape Town in its prime. Just like the “one man” who started the protest, you have to make the choice to take the chance if you want anything to change.

The Chronicles of Cape Town Coffee: Episode One

“Coffee is the best thing to douse the sunrise with.”

“I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee.”

“Everybody should believe in something. I believe I’ll have another coffee.”

These are only a few of the quotes that are beautifully draped all around the Java Junction, a popular spot to grab coffee before lectures here at UCT. You could say that Cape Town does recommend coffee for those feeling less than energetic.

If you have ever met me in person, there is a good chance I was holding a cup of coffee. If not, I was probably about to go acquire one. For a coffee connoisseur, the small town of Orange, California does not exactly provide one with a multitude of options. Having done my coffee research before arriving in Cape Town, I found lists upon lists of “top 10s” and “best values” regarding caffeine in the Mother City. I made it my mission to try all of the above before I return home. This may sound expensive, but you’d be surprised how much coffee you can get here for the price of one Starbucks frappuccino. I have been comparing price, taste, and service, then giving an overall score out of 10. It has been a little over a month, and here are my findings so far (in attempted chronological order):

Col’Cacchio: (A special shout out is needed here because this was my first taste of South African coffee)

  • Drink: Cappuccino
  • Price: R20 ($1.66)
  • Taste: phenomenal (granted I was experiencing the most disorientating jet lag in the world)
  • Service: As fast as it could be when 45 American invade a restaurant
  • Overall Score: 9/10 – minus one point because it was smaller than others in terms of volume

Vida e Caffe: conveniently located right on the main road, Vida e Caffe is one of the only places where “iced” actually means over ice. At almost all other locations, iced means ice blended.

  • Drink: Iced Mocha
  • Price: R34 ($2.82)
  • Taste: Very chocolatey but also very good
  • Service: It was busy when I went, so it took a little longer, but everyone was warm and welcoming!
  • Overall Score: 7/10 – on the pricey side compared to others

Cocoa Wah Wah: also on main road, a popular spot for food and coffee (they also have a loyalty/rewards card)

  • Drink: Cappuccino
  • Price: R17 (small) ($1.41) R22 (large) ($1.83)
  • Taste: One of my favorites, perfect combo of espresso and sweetness
  • Service: Usually pretty fast, but can be longer on busier days
  • Overall Score: 9/10 (also comes with a cookie)

Mug&Bean: One of the famous brands on those lists, located at several malls

  • Drink: Frozen Mocha Coffee
  • Price: R32 ($2.65)
  • Taste: This one was incredible, I won’t lie
  • Service: Very fast!
  • Overall Score: 9/10 – again on the pricey side

On Campus: There are several places to get coffee on campus (stands, cafes and machines) ranging from R9 (75 cents) to R15 ($1.25) and all are pretty decent and fast! I usually go for the R9 before lectures 🙂

Giovanni’s Deli World: Located in Green Point, this popular foodie destination also has a brilliant cappuccino.

  • Drink: Cappuccino
  • Price: R20 ($1.66)
  • Taste: very similar to Cocoa Wah Wah and Col’Cacchio, but stronger in terms of espresso.
  • Service: Very quick and friendly
  • Overall Score: 10/10 – also came with cocoa powder sprinkled on top, which was unique and also delicious

Truth: Probably the most famous or well known brand, also known as the Truth Coffee Cult. This was from the stand in the Market on the Warf at the V&A Waterfront.

  • Drink: Cappuccino
  • Price: R20 ($1.66)
  • Taste: Definitely different from the rest, but still pretty good.
  • Service: Fast but also slightly rushed
  • Overall Score: 8/10

Europa: located in the beach town of Hermanus (about an hour and a half away), we stopped for lunch here while on a kayaking excursion on my birthday!

  • Drink: Cappuccino
  • Price: R22 ($1.83)
  • Taste: Pretty good, nice balance of milk, foam, and espresso
  • Service: took longer than usual, but the 40 person invasion explains that
  • Overall: 7/10

JC Brasserie & Pub: Located in the City Bowl, this restaurant has the perfect cup of coffee for Sunday mornings.

  • Drink: Cappuccino
  • Price: R18 ($1.49)
  • Taste: One of my favorites, not too sweet and strong enough to wake me up
  • Service: Not as fast as others, but our waitress was great
  • Overall Score: 10/10 – for price and taste

I’ll upload pictures of these beauties when my email decides to work 🙂

As I continue this coffee connoisseur adventure, I’ll be sure to update with another episode!

The Mountain Never Looks the Same

It only took 15 minutes.

Only 15 minutes to solidify a complete 180 in terms of quality of life. The bus ride from the lush and architecturally impeccable Upper Campus to the Walter Teka Primary School of the Nyanga township and back provided me with time to think about a question that I have a burning desire to answer. UCT’s campus is modern, large, and looks like a dream. I have a hard time walking to class without wanting to take pictures of every building I pass. Now flip to Nyanga. Small sheet metal and wooden shacks practically on top of each other that resemble a patchwork quilt, several piles of trash, and destroyed structures. No one who grew up in my hometown could even imagine living in these conditions, yet there is a school where children come excited to learn and ask us questions. They seem happy and curious with smiles all around. From Nyanga, Table Mountain stands as a symbol of hope and pride. Flip back to UCT. There are still 5 whole minutes left in my Sociology lecture, yet everyone begins to pack up their belongings and ignore the final remarks that the lecturer makes. No one around me seems engaged, and someone even rolled their eyes when they asked me if I thought the material was interesting and I responded with a strong yes. The curiosity is gone. They don’t stop to look at the mountain, because it has become a constant of daily life they now ignore due to its close proximity. The excitement to expand knowledge has disappeared somewhere between the two age groups.  Yet the students sitting in a small classroom deficient in several resources have more passion than those sitting in a modern lecture hall on that lush and beautiful Upper Campus.  Why does this happen? I have yet to come up with a viable reason, but hopefully I’ll be able to bridge the gap somehow as I create stronger friendships with students in both spheres.

This disparity in quality of life in the Mother City also poses this question: why do we let this happen?

This past Friday I walked from Clifton Beach to Sea Point, passing exquisite multimillion dollar homes and beachfront properties. The following Saturday I ate brunch at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, a place I cannot attempt to capture in words because it is paradise. From these two vantage points, the mountain is the subject of tourist photos or the view from someone’s balcony. It’s breathtaking to look at, yet I stand in the middle of the bustling tourist destination in disbelief that it even exists, because my mind travels back to the townships of Nyanga, Manenberg, and Gugulethu. These are extreme realities and there is almost nothing in between, no gradual decline. If the richest of the rich exist in places like Camps Bay and Clifton, and there are people living with next to nothing in townships only 30 minutes away from them, why is there not more of an effort to help? How did we let this gap grow larger and larger? It does not make any sense to me. I feel as if I’ve been visiting two different countries when I go back and forth between these extremes. There is idea of a “new” South Africa that is united under the new democracy, but the tensions caused by the apartheid era are still very present. If there was more of an effort made to empower those who have less than others, in terms of educational opportunities, resources, and social mobility, the “new” South Africa will grow strong roots that cannot be unearthed.

As I spoke with one of the project leaders on the bus home, we talked about how beautiful the mountains were, and as I my mind was bombarded with observations, thoughts about the session (we are teaching English skills in an after school program), and the aforementioned disparity, she noted that “the mountain never looks the same” for her. She has lived in Cape Town for two years and is still fascinated by the mountain. Each time she’s sees it, it means something different. Maybe that’s the answer to my question. For a UCT student, the mountain sits there each day as simply a geological wonder and nothing more. For the student in Nyanga, Manenberg, or any other township school in the Cape Flats, it could mean a new dream or goal with each new day.

The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. ~Sydney J. Harris”

If the primary school students are looking through a window, when and why did UCT students go back to the mirrors?

You tell me.

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Dancing in the Rain

“It doesn’t suck, it’s just different.”

The mantra given to us by our fearless leader, Dr. Alan Jansen. We all laughed at first, but this golden nugget has been surprisingly useful over the past few weeks as we all deal with the transition that is moving to a different continent and living in a completely new world. Change has been amazing, frustrating, and exciting. But it has also been somewhat effortless. I already have stories for the books and it’s only been 15 days. Almost everything is different. From the security precautions to the price of a cappuccino.

I have to say that while this transition has been positive and negative, several of my past experiences prepared me for many of the differences that we have encountered. Living in France for 6 months, going to summer camp in the mountains for 10 years, and visiting my sister in Peru all contributed to the effortlessness previously mentioned. Getting up one day and moving my life to the other side of the globe was something I had done at the impressionable age of 11. The day after arrival in Cape Town, our program took that camping trip packed with activities and sleeping conditions that I have loved and cherished for years. The shocking difference a ten minute drive (or even a walk) can make regarding poverty and wealth was a daily sight when visiting my sister. I realized how lucky I was to have had all of these experiences prior to my adventures in Cape Town. For several people, these events created stress and shock. Many people have never experienced a language barrier, a culture different from their own, or simply being thrown into a new environment without the knowledge of how daily life works. While it has been an adjustment, and an epic one at that, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to experiences different slices of life.

One of the striking differences between the U.S. and South Africa is the energy crisis. Think in terms of this: water is to California as electricity is to South Africa. The country has implemented “load shedding” and once or twice a day, the power is shut off for around two and a half hours in an attempt to conserve energy. This means no lights, no stove, no wi-fi. Yes no wi-fi. So if I don’t respond to you on social media in a timely manner that is why 🙂 There is a schedule for the 20 some different regions, but in true South African fashion, you really never know if it’s going to go according to plan. That is something about living here that I love. The whole country is spontaneous, and you never know what your day is going to look like. You can try to make a finite plan, but chances are you will end up doing something else and having the best time anyways. For example, last week I was going to unpack and go shopping for some household items. I was asked by a few girls in my program if I wanted to go to lunch on Bree St., a popular street for eating and exploring. Obviously I chose Bree St. We ended up walking to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, exploring the food market and the artisan workshops, and meeting some really amazing artists. I climbed a mountain on Tuesday, a decision made about an hour before we left for the famous Lion’s Head hike. 10888530_10153061649987370_308847753251825832_n 10995862_10153061655022370_4493013539154209563_n

Spontaneity is key if you are going to make it here. While some people want to know what is going on, I find the way of life here relaxing and exhilarating. My African Dance class starts on Monday. Or does it? Where is it? What days do we meet? Who knows, it’s TBA according to PeopleSoft (equivalent of WebAdvisor or Blackboard). Everything is laissez-faire and I love it. The people are warm and welcoming, and things eventually get done, but they don’t stress.

The second difference that really made use of the mantra was the registration process at UCT. The University of Cape Town has the most gorgeous campus I have ever seen, looking straight up at the backside of Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak. The famous Upper Campus buildings have ivy leaves growing all over and it looks like paradise walking up to Jameson Hall. I cannot complain one bit about where I am currently expanding my knowledge. However, registering for classes is not as simple as clicking a button on a computer when your registration time slot opens. We first waited in a long line to pre-register, which meant having our passports, study visas, and proof of medical insurance checked and our student accounts cleared for actual registration. Registration happens by department, so those in the Humanities department registered first, Commerce second, and so on. Another long line to get inside the building, several forms to fill out, and then another long line to sit down with an academic advisor or faculty member to approve your course choices on said forms. Phew. Oh but wait we are not done yet. You then follow the masses of lost freshman to the Data Capture. Another line, then someone manually inputs your courses into the system. Ok now you are free. While this was definitely different that my normal registration process, I was grateful to have that quick sit down with the faculty member. UCT has over 26,000 students. They make sure each student gets individual attention. Now that’s incredible in my book, and if it isn’t in your book, then read a different book.

Although these processes may be different, they definitely don’t suck. Saving power and connecting face to face with each student. While they may cause some inconvenience during the day and many long lines, a different perspective changes the way they appear to affect myself and those around me.

It also rained heavily, and unexpectedly, today. I was woefully unprepared and terribly excited. My California is showing. But instead of worrying about sitting in my Intro to Sociology lecture looking like I had very recently showered in my clothes, I danced and frolicked in the downpour on my way to Upper Campus and loved every second of it.

While the differences can sometimes feel like unexpected rain, and I am tempted to wait for them to pass, I’m learning to dance in that rain. And every dance circle I stumble upon.

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