After a delay at LAX, a Love Actually moment in the London Heathrow airport, and finally landing at Cape Town International, I’ve made it to the Mother City of Cape Town, South Africa. Today marks day 5 in this breathtaking country. It’s definitely been the longest 5 days of my life, in the best way possible. Here’s a run down of each day so far:
Day 1, Arrival:
I landed in Cape Town around 7am on Thursday morning and after finding some people from my program at customs and baggage claim, we were met by our RAs from the Arcadia program. Students in the program are living in either the two houses owned by Arcadia (Penrose and Bollihope), or in the Woolsack Residence at UCT’s middle campus (there is upper, middle, and lower campus, it’s huge). I’m living in Woolsack, but we were told that it did not open until 11am that day, so we were brought to Penrose to hang out until it opened. They then told us later that Woolsack did not open until Saturday, so we would be in another dorm called Kopano for one night. Too bad I was placed on the third floor for my temporary stay, because my suitcase had an embarrassing tag on it labeled “HEAVY BAG” and had to be lugged up the stairs. yay overpacking. Before we could move in to Kopano, we ate lunch at Penrose, and our program manager took us on a tour of the city centre and close beaches. Although I have never been more tired or disoriented in my life, we walked through the city centre and saw just a small sample of the incredible history the city has to show. Our bus then drove us to the famous Camps Bay beach, were we dipped our toes in the Atlantic and stared at the immense mountains surrounding the white sands and crystal clear water. We went to a really cute restaurant overlooking the beach, and we were told that we had budget of 120 rand (about $10.50) that they would pay for (Arcadia is really good at feeding us for free). I got a huge bowl of delicious pasta and a cappuccino that was to die for, all for only 80 rand (just under $7). God bless the exchange rate. When we got back, the Woolsack crew (12 of our 45) moved in Kopano, which was interesting to say the least. My view was absolutely stunning though, so one night was completely fine with me. We were going camping the next day, so I packed my backpack and went to pass out until our departure at 9:45am the next day.
Day 2/3, Camping at High Africa and then somehow going out:
We ate breakfast in the dining hall at Kopano (instant coffee is everywhere!), and one of our RAs came to walk us from Kopano to Penrose to get on the bus and leave for the camping trip. We drove about and hour and a half through the most amazing mountain range, and the bus got off the main road and drove down an impossibly small path to the High Africa Adventure Center and Rafters Club, which was not actually visible from the main road. The camp sits next to the Wide River which is also not visible from the main road. It’s basically a secret super awesome place to go. We placed our bags in our cabins and spent the next two days doing everything from climbing rock walls, eating delicious traditional Cape Malay food (look this up, it’s bomb), and building our own rafts for a raft race in the river. I was also in charge of spider patrol for my cabin (the usual). We left on Saturday at 5pm and once we returned to the city around 7, the Woolsack crew was able to move out of Kopano and into Woolsack. Our RAs took us to the ATM and the closest market so we could buy real people things necessary for living (yay adapters). By the time we got back to our rooms in Woolsack, it was around 9pm. Everyone wanted to go out and experience the nightlife close by, so we had roughly 45 minutes to slightly unpack and get ready. We met up at 9:45 and headed down to the main road in the student filled town of Rondebosch. The only problem was that almost all 45 of us showed up on the same street corner, so any attempt to enter an establishment was a hilarious and clearly American invasion. We split up and headed to different places to dance the night away, jet lag and all. We got back around 1am, after our cab driver paid off the cops (yes, actually) because we put one extra person in the backseat. Sleeping occurred soon after.
Day 4, Peninsula Tour and the Cape of Good Hope:
It was an early morning, and we had to be ready to go at 7:20am to depart for the start of UCT Orientation, which took us down and up the peninsula with about 200 other international students. We stopped at Sea Point and Camps Bay to take pictures, and then continued on to the township community of Ocean View. We were hosted in the recreational building and got to watch several singing and dancing performances and had more Cape Malay style food (also delicious). At the end of the meal and performances, they told us that before we left, we would all have a dance party. I was almost dead on the bus ride there, so at the moment, dancing felt slightly impossible. Once the music started, the freestyle hip hop and break dancers from the performance created a dance circle and naturally I gravitated towards it. My friend Ian got pulled in by one adorable young boy who was part of the performance, so Ian pulled me in too. Then my body just decided to dance like I normally would in a dance circle. It was out of a movie as the song dropped and the energy and people surrounding me exploded into an unbelievable life moment. Definitely the highlight of the week. People asked me where the dancing came from, and I honestly couldn’t answer that because I don’t even know. We left Ocean View and headed to Cape Point to explore and climb many stairs to the top of a hill and look out over the ocean and mountains. And I bought postcards. After Cape Point we headed to the Cape of Good Hope, which was just surreal. Standing at the sign I had seen so many pictures of was like a dream, and then you have to stand there and try to process the fact that you are standing at the southern most point of the entire African continent. wow. We got back to UCT around 5pm, and saw some antelope, baboons, and ostriches on the drive back. We all went to relax for a little while (we got wifi holla) and then I met up with some friends for dinner in Rondebosch at a burger place called Cocoa Wah Wah. Probably the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. We got back from dinner around 9:30 and I went to bed around midnight after some needed facetimes
Day 5, UCT Orientation:
UCT orientation started today at 10am, and we got to here some professors and other important people talk about culture shock, safety, and academics. One of the professors showed us a slideshow of incredible pictures from Cape Town’s archives and history. We got lunch around 1pm at a really good (and cheap) Indian restaurant and then hung out at Woolsack for a little while figuring out the classes we wanted to take and how they would transfer over. The professor who showed the pictures also told us about a class he was teaching that sounds amazing, and now we all want to take it but don’t have it approved. We’ll make it happen somehow. Around 5pm we walked up to upper campus (aka the most beautiful part of the school) for the Vice Chancellor’s welcome, the drum circle event, and a reception with food catered by Cocoa Wah Wah (yes please). Walking up to the famous steps of Jameson Hall with Table Mountain in the background was one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever laid eyes on. Then I attempt to process the fact that yes I go to school here. The drum circle was probably one of the coolest things we’ve done, I can’t even describe the sound and energy. Sitting on the steps of Jameson looking out over the campus and mountains in the distance had me thinking I could sit there for days. We walked back to Woolsack around 7:45 and hung out in the center courtyard looking up at the sun setting behind Table Mountain and met some more international students that had moved in recently. I still haven’t legitimately unpacked but then again it’s been a non-stop life since I got here. I’m already in love with this city. Tomorrow we’re going to explore the hipster area of Observatory, known as Obs to the locals. The lingo is also hard to understand, but the accents are phenomenal. The picture below is the center courtyard of Woolsack and it’s stunning view of the mountain.
Even though I’ve only been here for less than a week, I already know that saying goodbye to the Mother City will be rough.