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.


Is this real life?

I was going to try to only write every few days, but the last 24 hours have been so incredible, I had to write again. Cape Town is the most incredible place, and I can barely leave this is real life.


First, Wednesday night we went to this awesome bar near UCT. We finally met South Africans our own age! Everyone was ridiculously friendly and interesting. UCT students come from all over—CT, Jo’burg, Berlin, Thailand…it seems pretty neat.


Yesterday, they gave us a destination and several ways to get to and from there, and has us navigate our way through Cape Town! My group and I had to go to Green Point Stadium. We took a minibus first. It was such a cool experience! Everyone here is so nice. We clearly look American (whoops) and confused, so a minibus worker called out to us to ask fi we wanted one. Then, they were nice enough to tell us that we were on the wrong side of the street to go to Cape Town…another minibus saw us trying to cross the street and stopped traffic so we could get in! Obviously, they wanted our money, but it was still nice of them. The minibus had an awesome vibe too. It was hot and crowded, but they had music blasting. It just seemed really cool.


We got out on a pretty major street and grabbed some lunch. It was near a market, but we didn’t have time to check it out. We did go to this great food bazaar, with all sorts of food like Indian, Chinese, and Mediterranean. It was delicious.


After that, we took a citibus (big bus) to Green Point. We could smell the ocean, so we headed in that direction. The view was absolutely breathtaking. It wasn’t a beach, but more of a rocky cove. The weather was great, the sky was blue, and you could see Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. Everyone there was so friendly too. We were tasked with finding out about the night life (love it) and everyone was very helpful. They gave us a wide variety of options, too, from salsa clubs to fancy bars. We also needed directions to the train station, and everyone was so helpful. People are just so nice.


The highlight of the day, however, was after dinner. The program arranged for a special event. We had a former prisoner and his producer come and perform music and tell their stories. The performer, Larry Joe, was absolutely incredible. He grew up in one of the lower-income areas of the Northern Cape. He started stealing to help his sister, but then he moved on to gangs and drugs. He did, however, have his music. He loved playing guitar, and he made money that way. He was on the run from law enforcement, moving every few days.  One night, he had a dream that he was playing guitar at Madison Square Gardens. He woke up happier than every before, and decided to turn himself into the police. While in prison, he wrote and performed music. They occasionally even let him out to perform a concerts! He and his producer told the story through song, video, and story. It would have made for a really cheesy movie, but since it was entirely true, it was so uplifting.


I think Larry Joe would be a great teacher in the states. He currently travels to schools, prisons, etc. (he’s out of jail) telling his story, and he still wants to perform in NYC. He demonstrates two fundamental ideas I think Americans don’t understand: not all prisoners are bad, and somewhat lenient prisons can be great. If Larry Joe had been sequestered, he would not have been able to tell his story. He would not have been able to perform. He would not have filmed a documentary or recorded a CD before being released. He would be far behind his “post-prison rehabilitation.”


I’m going to post the links to his website, because his story is incredible. It would be great if he became famous in the US and performed in Madison Square Gardens!  His website is here.


I’ve also been learning a lot of Xhosa. For instance, Ndithetha isiXhosa kancici. I only speak a little Xhosa.


A new phase of my semester is about to begin. On Saturday, I move into my first homestay. My internet access will be more limited from now on…I suggest emailing me if you need me.


Langa, here I come!