Last Weekend in Cape Town

Currently, I am winding down my last full 24 hours in Kapa (we’re going to some riverside town, Swellendam, until Wednesday, and I leave Thursday). They have been too much fun, and I am not happy that the end is here. It’s funny, because I REALLY thought I would be for awhile–when I moved out of Obs, where I lived for ISP, I was kind of not looking forward to this week. I really do miss my family and friends and home. Still, I’ve had such a wonderful time since classes ended yesterday that I just want to stay for awhile longer.

Class ended at 5:30 PM yesterday, and all of us went to this great little Mexican restaurant called Panchos in Obs.  I know, I know…good Mexican food all the way in South Africa? Must be a joke. Nope, it was genuinely pretty delicious–not California good, and DEFINITELY not as good as my new roommate’s mom’s cooking but wayyyy better than I expected. After months of no Mexican food, I was impressed. It was a fun atmosphere too. Definitely a good start to an awesome night.

Then we came back to our favorite backpackers, near Long Street, and got ready to go out. Last night was definitely in my top 3 nights out in Cape Town…I don’t even know why it was so fun! We went mostly to our usual spots, although we added in this super corny but fun place called Dubliners, where they played ridiculous music like “All the Small Things” and “Proud Mary.” Still, and maybe I’m just getting nostalgic for a semester that hasn’t even ended yet, but I just had so much fun.

This morning, I woke up and went to the top of Table Mountain! We didn’t hike–we had a ton we wanted to do and there just wasn’t time–but we took the cable cars up. I really wanted to hike it this semester, but I did hike it the last time I was here, so at least I don’t feel as though I missed out. I planned it a few times, but either the rain was bad, or I was sick…hopefully, I’ll hike it again some time in my life! It is now officially one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. Also, it’s super touristy but the views are just breathtakingly beautiful. Lion’s Head looked so small from the top. I remember hiking that just three and a half months ago…it really made the semester seem to come full circle.

After Table Mountain, my friend and I made it to the Old Biscuit Mill JUST in time to grab some food. I bought myself this kind of expensive necklace I’ve been eyeing all semester–I figure if I’ve literally wanted to buy it almost every Saturday for three months, I probably deserve it. You’ll all see it the next time you see me–since my great-grandma’s old necklace that I used to wear all the time broke, I plan on replacing it with this. The Old Biscuit Mill is probably the yuppiest thing ever, but it was definitely one of my favorite parts of Cape Town, without a doubt…delicious food, awesome clothes and jewelry and home decor…I hated leaving for the last time today.

When I came back from the Biscuit Mill, we went to the beach! Clifton is one of my favorites, and it was so nice. The water was FREEZING though, but I read a bit, and napped, and chatted…and generally freaked out about going home. Honestly, I am anticipating so many questions that I just don’t have answers to (“How was Africa?” “What was your favorite part?”). Africa is a diverse place, yo, but South Africa was excellent, although it is a complicated place with so much possibility and hope but also a lot of problems. My favorite part? I don’t know, do you want to hear about my favorite nerdy thing, my favorite homestay or experience, my favorite tourist memory? I should honestly just type up a form answer, the length of a novel, for the questions and hand them out…that isn’t to say I don’t want people to ask me! I do! I want to share my experiences, but they were just so multifaceted and intense…it would take me days and days and days to explain it all! And even then, I’m not sure you can understand ZA (or probably any place) without really experiencing it…do  even understand ZA? I’ve been here for 3 1/2 months, a total of 4 months in my life, and I’ve seen such a wide range of people and places and things…but I have always been able to place myself in a context of not living here, and being transient. Also, a month or so ago someone asked me if I could live here, and I answered with an emphatic no. I think I’ve since changed my mind…I absolutely could live here. I really do love it, for all of its faults and complexities.

Week of Freedom Numero Uno

I can already tell I’m going to love ISP time. Even while keeping myself busy with work, I’m still finding so much time to relax and enjoy myself! I feel like I’m finally seeing the city I’ve technically been in for two months and I’m loving it (with two exceptions: it’s not quite safe, and I miss DC/NY/Boston public transportation)!

 

Let’s see, what have I done…

 

Well Wednesday was my birthday! And the election! And Obama won! So it was the best birthday ever! Exclamation points galore!!!! But really, Obama winning was the best 21st birthday present a girl could ask for…and spending it in Cape Town was a close second. The girl I’m living with and I went to the V&A Waterfront in the morning. The Waterfront is essentially a beautiful area on the water (obviously). It has a mall, an aquarium, a craft barn, a clock tower, another mall, another mall, restaurants, boats, more boats, another craft barn, a scratch patch, and more. On Wednesday we really only went to the mall and then wandered outside. It was beautifuuuuul outside. After the Waterfront, we went to the Frat House—aka the house with 12 people from our program currently living in it—for a little fiesta. It was, of course, a blast.

Thursday was also wonderful. I just kind of hung around in the morning, and in the afternoon I went to see some old friends from the last time I was here! It amazes me how much the kids have grown. Not all of them remembered me—some were about 2 years old the last time I was here—but it was still nice to catch up and see how things have changed. Their new home is awesome. It’s a beautiful space. I’m looking forward to going back this week.

Friday I had my first interview for my ISP! I think it went well—she was so nice and helpful. It was nice to see someone who totally gets the 5Cs too (I feel like even if you’ve heard of them, you don’t totally get them…). Sadly, afterwards, I got a bit sick—a bug was going around our program—and I stayed in bed until Sunday morning. No me gusta.

Sunday was absolutely lovely. I woke up and the girl I’m living with and I went to the Waterfront again. She was meeting her host mother, and I really, really wanted to see the aquarium. It was so cool! I thought the ATL aquarium would spoil me, but it hasn’t. Every aquarium is awesome, and this one had a ton of cool information. As I was leaving V&A, I saw the scratch patch—I hadn’t noticed it before—so I went in, because if I was going to act like a 5 year old all morning (why yes I was the only non-parent-or-child in the aquarium), I was going to act like a 5 year old all morning. It was also pretty awesome, because who doesn’t love getting 10 beautiful minerals for R15 (less than $2)? After I finished at V&A, I went to meet some girls on the beach. The weather was not so great when I got there, but it cleared up, and I got a lot of ISP reading done.

 

Buccaneer’s

I spent the last weekend at a beachside resort in the Eastern Cape. It was absolutely gorgeous. I went to the Indian Ocean for the first time! Other than that, we unwinded, hiked, and went out a bit. It was peaceful.

 

Friday morning, I woke up to watch the end of the sunrise over the ocean. Then I slept a few more hours and ran along the beach. I could tell I hadn’t run in Tshabo—running in sand was rough. But it was still so peaceful and relaxing. The waves were calming, and the sky was clear. I sound like a complete cliché machine right now, but it’s all entirely true. In the afternoon, I went on a nature walk over hills, farmland, and the beach.

 

Saturday, we went on safari! We saw some cool animals—lions, zebra, wildebeest, elan, impala, nyala, giraffes, monkeys etc. The highlight though was PETTING A CHEETAH. Yep, I pet a cheetah!!! It was so awesome. Their fur is kind of rough and their claws don’t contract so you have to watch out if they want to roll over. Otherwise, they were really tame and adorable. Cheetahs have always been my second favorite animal so this was very, very exciting. Sunday morning, we got to play with the elephants—which was pretty much just as exciting!

 

The only thing to mar paradise was a tour of an NGO/tour company. They do incredible work in a village nearby, with schools, sports, microfinance businesses, and clinics. What made me so uncomfortable—and other people too—was their rhetoric and attitude towards the people of the village. All I could think, the entire time, was “white man’s burden.” They didn’t overtly belittle the villagers, but they also don’t listen to them when deciding what projects to make, they don’t have their offices in the village, and they would occasionally say small slights. Then again, how do you do it better? They are doing good things. They just aren’t perfect. I was pretty conflicted the entire time.

 

Tomorrow, I’m moving into homestay #3, Stellenbosch. It’s our Afrikaner homestay, and I know it will be very different from the last two. Thus far, the program just keeps getting better and better—I hope the pattern continues!