Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I need to start growing lemon bushes!

School is FINISHED! Okay, so I may be jumping the gun there, so let me revise that to Classes are FINISHED!!! But I realized I hadn't taken a lot of pictures of campus, so I took a few on my last day!

View from campus

Walking to class

We finished up last Friday, lucky me doesn’t have any finals until June 6th. That leaves me with almost 2 weeks of complete relaxation right?

Well not exactly, but not too far off. Although last weekend was a great start to the end of classes. Friday, Steph, Cari, Kelsey, and I went to Kirstenbosch Gardens. While I had been there before, I didn’t really get to explore the gardens the first time, since we went to have a picnic and listen to a concert.

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Exploring the gardens was so fun though. Since the weather has been getting colder, we’ve really be appreciating the beautiful days, and Friday was definitely one of them. The gardens were absolutely gorgeous, and we all had fun looking at (and usually touching) the different plants, trying to get as close as possible to the guinea fowl, and taking copious amounts of pictures. I even found a plant that protects against attack from dog and crocodile bites. No joke, it’s a real plant. And while it may be illegal, I picked some of it, just to be safe.

I will be decorating our apartment with Lemon Bushes Corinne.

Saturday we went to the World Cup stadium to watch Cape Town’s soccer team play. I think I may have gotten a little too caught up in the spirit and bought a flag as well as a scarf, all bright red and sporting the Ajax’s name and mascot. I hope you like bright red Corinne, because I will be decorating our apartment with all my fun souvenirs! When I came to South Africa, I had no idea how soccer worked, having never played it due to my lack of eye-foot coordination. However, with the help of my European, Zambian, and American housemates, I’d like to think I’ve learned at least a bit about this sport. Like, at the Ajax’s game, they tied the game, but their aggregate was lower than another team’s in the lead so they lost the championship (sad). Now don’t I sound smart? The soccer game was super fun!!! Everyone was full of spirit, with face painting and vuvuzelas ringing out. I definitely now understand why they wanted to ban vuvuzelas at the World Cup, while they’re fun, they get obnoxious really quickly.

The rest of the weekend/week has been full of movie watching, food making, and cookie baking. I have shared my love of all things Bridget Jones with Steph, Cari, and Kelsey, and have asked all of them to never mention it to me if they secretly hate the movies (not possible). I have been doing some work though. I have quite a few novels to read before my finals, so I’ve been working on reading those, as well as studying for the GRE which I’m taking at the end of June. It’s probably not my best life choice, but I wanted to take it before they change the test. I’ll make it though! I also finished my initial Peace Corps application last week. I’m really excited to be going through the process, but I’m also freaking out a bit, because this means I actually have to start thinking about my future, and the fact that next year is senior year (thanks for pointing that out Mom!).

But before I decide (read: freak out about) the rest of my life, I am going to finish enjoying South Africa. Thursday I’m heading to Kruger National Park with Steph and Kelsey for a 3 day safari!!!!!! To say I’m excited would be a vast understatement. It’s true I’ve already walked with elephants, but I’m SO excited to see the entire cast of The Lion King!!

I have 18 days left in Cape Town. It’s completely unbelievable in my mind. I still have so much to do and see here. But honestly, I think I could stay here another 5 months and still not see and do everything I’ve wanted to. While my time in Cape Town has been filled with ups and downs, it seems so unreal that I’ll be leaving and heading back to the States soon. What am I going to do when I no longer am surrounded by mountains on all sides, and I can’t take a quick mini bus ride to the ocean whenever I want? Friends at home, but forewarned, I will be expecting A LOT of dinner parties since I’ve gotten used to them here!

I hope all of you are well and enjoying summer. I’ve got to say, it’ll be nice to get back to 75 degrees and hotter, since Cape Town is starting to get chilly and rainy. But there is no downside to me getting 7 months of summer this year!

Love you all! And see (most) of you soon!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Roadtrip to Namibia!

I admit my blog post leading up to my Namibian roadtrip was definitely lacking, so I promise to make up for it now.

The theme for this roadtrip was definitely: It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Our original plan was to leave Friday morning at 8am, the earliest time we could pick up our car.

Well that didn’t happen
First of all, after setting my alarm for 6:00am, I was woken up by a phone call from Kelsey at 7:40am asking whether I was on my way to come get her yet. Ooops. 20 minutes later, after the quickest packing I’ve done in my life, I was on my way to get Kaushal and Kelsey. We finally get to the car company and we’re excited to get our car and hit the road.

Well that didn’t happen either…
The travel company that helped set up our car rental failed to inform us that since I was the only 21 year old in our car I had to pay for EVERYTHING with my credit card, which I couldn’t do because I had just maxed it out to pay for my Kruger trip in May (so excited!). After about 3 hours of trying to figure the whole mess out, the amazing Kangarunar stepped up and put our security deposit on his credit card so we could finally get our car!

So after our slow start it was time to drive. It was about an 11 hour drive from Cape Town to our first camping spot, Ai-Ais, Namibia. The drive up South Africa was absolutely gorgeous. We all kept trying to get pictures and randomly yelling “It’s so beautiful!” Crossing the border was no problem at all and after about 30 minutes we were now driving through Namibia. Sadly, we didn’t get to see any scenery for the last 2 hours of the drive since it was completely dark out.

Sidenote: For some reason both South Africa and Namibia don’t believe in street lights. It’s very unfortunate when you’re supposed to be looking out for giant deer and even larger bugs.

Anyway, by the time we got to our first camp site, we were all exhausted and just ready to stop driving. Jessica, Ash, and Runar didn’t have a tent so they decided they would just sleep in their car. Well, after 2 seconds of deliberation, my car decided to follow suit, considering we didn’t feel like setting up our tent in the dark. Three of us sleeping in one car was a bit squished, but honestly, I was so exhausted I fell right asleep.

The next morning I couldn’t believe my eyes when I woke up. We were surrounded by the most beautiful red cliffs, with a river rushing by. We decided to make a detour to Fish River Canyon on our way to our next stop, Sesriem, and it was definitely worth it. After you get into Namibia, the roads are either B,C, or D roads. B means the road is paved, C means the road is gravel, and D means the road is dirt.

Guess how many B roads Namibia has?

So needless to say, a lot of our trip was spent on C and D roads, which luckily our non-4-wheel-drive car didn’t get stuck in. While it was a dusty ride, it was absolutely gorgeous. On our way to the Canyon we stopped for a bunch of photo opportunities, because as unbelievable as it sounds, Namibia just kept getting more and more beautiful.

After our pit stop, we decided to head out to Sesriem, which was another 6 or so hours of driving. Thankfully, Kaushal, Kelsey and I all took turns driving. Of course, the biggest help were the 20 CDs Kelsey and I burned the night before. We had the greats: The Beatles, Glee, Ingrid , Mr. A-Z, along with random mixes. However, by the end I was perfectly happy not to hear “Just Can’t Get Enough” or “Sweet Caroline” (Glee version, of course) for at least two weeks.
Anyway, the drive to Sesriem was once again BEAUTIFUL. As many of you may remember, I used to have a slight obsession with clouds and how cool they look. Well look at these clouds!!!! I probably took WAY too many pictures, but I was just so excited. They looked painted on just like in Toy Story. Actually, Kaushal said the landscape reminded him a lot of the opening scene of Toy Story 3 (so true).
Painted on clouds

By the time we got to Sesriem we were all tired though and looking forward to getting to a campsite. Sesriem was actually the only place we hadn’t prebooked a campsite or hostel at, but we figured campsites couldn’t really fill up. I mean all we really needed were two spots to park our cars and we were good to go.

Well that didn’t happen…
We got into Sesriem and stopped at the first campsite our lovely GPS (Tamera for short) led us to. It was there that the lovely receptionist informed us that there not only was no room at their campsite, but every campsite in Sesriem was booked. Apparently the combination of Easter weekend being a very popular travel weekend and the fact that there were two weddings that weekend on the dunes/mountain, all available camping accommodations were booked. We debated for a while about just driving straight through to Swakopmund, our next destination where we knew we had beds and activities to do. Throughout this discussion the receptionist at the campsite was calling around to different sites looking for any place that would just let us park our cars in a lot for the night.

Just as we were deciding it wouldn’t be too bad to continue driving for another 6 hours in pitch black darkness on dirt/sand roads (lie) the amazing receptionist came to our rescue and told us a Lodge about 40 km away would let us park our cars there for the night for only 80 Rand (translation: not too far away and cheaper than most campsites). Our destination turned out to be a Christian Retreat, where they so nicely let us park our cars next to two trees behind their lodge. Yeah, we laughed too. I know I shouldn’t make fun of these nice, generous people, but it was a little weird. When we got to the lodge, we went right to reception, and one of the ladies in charge kept trying to separate the girls from the boys. She had Kelsey, Jess, and I follow her to where the room was they were letting us use for showers (but not to sleep in, although it was so tempting), while the boys went and moved our cars to our sleeping spots.

This may be a good time to mention the bugs. Now I know I’m not a big outdoorsy girl, and I’ve had my share of screaming “SPIDERRRRR” while running out of the room and waiting for someone bigger, stronger, and tougher to kill the killer insect. The last time this happened, my bigger, stronger, and tougher hero was my petite roommate Rachel. Whatever, it was a HUGE spider. Anyway, I have NEVER seen such giant bugs as I saw in Namibia. I know you won’t believe me so I’m going to show you this picture. The bugs are on the wooden rails, and the donkey (while cute) is there so you can see how big these bugs are to scale.

Feel free to cringe/scream

So the point is, these bugs were EVERYWHERE in Sesriem. And while Jessica, Kelsey, and I were high stepping around these giant, disgusting bugs, the lady working at the Christian Retreat was just walking casually by them. One reason while Namibia is a great place to visit, but not to live: I never want to get used to HUGE, DISGUSTING CREATURES that are everywhere. That night we went to the bar and talked to a couple of older Namibians who were traveling for Easter. One of the guys was a complete jerk. Before coming to South Africa, I had never even heard of Namibia, so it makes sense that I also hadn’t realized that there was also apartheid in Namibia. This guy was definitely pro-apartheid, which was very uncomfortable. At one point he used the words “pure blood” when talking about being white. Very very creepy (and very reminiscent of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named). He even tried to convince us that America was where slavery began. Uh-huh, yeah. That night we decided to sleep in the car again, since no one was keen on waking up to an infestation of those giant bugs.

The next morning we were up bright and early and headed to Sossusvlei, the famous oasis in the sand dunes in Sesriem. While it was a little foggy when we first got there, it cleared up and was breath taking. We had to take a 4x4 to get there, as our little cars would not have made it 2 feet in the loose sand. We walked around the dunes for a while, taking in the amazing views and then headed back on the road to our next stop, Swakopmund.

Swakopmund was another 10 hours or so, but it was the most beautiful drive of them all. We went from
the dunes of Sesriem

rolling green hills (basically the Shire from Lord of the Rings)

the savanna

to the desert and back to dunes in our 10 hour drive (blogspot wouldn't let me add anymore pictures). It was the most gorgeous drive I’ve ever seen, since it was basically all national parks. Namibia only has about 3 million people, and it’s quite a big country, so most of the land we drove through were just giant national parks, which made for a beautiful drive.

By the time we got to Swakopmund, we were all ready to sleep in beds. Swakopmund is a cute, touristy town right on the ocean. However, after a while it started to feel like ghost town. All of the shops were cute, and nothing looked run down, but it never seemed like there were enough people to fill out the town. Our first night was Easter, so we had dinner at a great establishment, Ocean Basket (basically the Red Lobster of Africa) and called it a night. The next morning we signed up for an hour quad-biking tour of dunes which was SO much fun!! We sped around the dunes on our 4x4s and got to take breathtaking pictures during our pit stops. Sadly, this is when my camera decided to die, so the rest of the pictures (which are already on facebook) are courtesy of Kelsey . After the quad-bike tour, we decided to spend a few hours at the beach, taking in the nice weather. While in Namibia it was probably around 70 degrees, back in Cape Town it was in the low 60s and raining all week. It was so nice to be back in nice warm weather ago.

That night, Kelsey, Jessica, Kaushal, and I decided to try our hand at the casino. This was my first time ever gambling at a casino. After Kelsey taught me how to play the more complicated slot machines, I decided to try my hand at them, mostly by just pressing random buttons and getting excited when it said I made matches and won credits! Although there was one little misunderstanding. At one point, I got a “Butterfly Bonus” on one of the machines and all of a sudden 1,000 credits were deposited on my card. At the time, however, I didn’t realize there was a difference between credits and Rand. That led me to basically run up to Kelsey and Jessica at the cashier’s counter saying “Guys, I think I just won 1,000 Rand!!!!” In order for you to understand this excitement, 1,000 Rand =$142.85. That can buy a lot of roasted red pepper hummus and pita. This was the point when Kelsey chimed in, alerting me to the difference between credits and rand. Nevertheless, I ended up cashing out with 100 extra Rand! So, basically the I was paid to go gamble.

Runar, Jessica, and Ash originally needed to get their cars back on Wednesday by noon. At first they were just going to extend their rental, but our car decided that we might as well all just drive straight through, since if we would have stayed at our campsite in Keetmanshoop we would have just ended up sleeping in our cars again. So instead, we left Swakopmund at 3:00am the next morning. The first 4 hour leg to the capital, Windhoek, was done by Kaushal (thank God).
To be honest, we didn’t see a lot of Windhoek, considering it was just past 7:00am and we only just stopped there for gas and for Red Bulls, but it seemed like a pretty, decent sized city for Namibia.

Our drive back was definitely intense. We stopped at gas stations every chance we could, even if we didn’t need gas, just to be able to stretch our legs and get out of the car. We got back across the border to South Africa with no trouble and in just under 20 hours; after rain, frustration with slow cars (on my part), no street lights, winding mountain roads, and radio stations where we couldn't recognize 9 out of 10 songs (I feel so out of the loop here) we were home. I can’t say how amazing it was to spend the night in my own bed.

Since the trip, I’ve been back to the grind, as we only have two weeks of school left. I’ve also been working on my Peace Corps application for after I graduate, and studying for the GRE. Yeah, I think I probably picked a bad time to try to figure out the rest of my life. Oh well, there’s no time like the present. In less than 20 days I’ll be at Kruger National Park with Kelsey for a 3 day safari in which we’ll see Simba, Timon, Pumba, and hopefully all of the other animals in the kingdom, (hopefully zebras!!). I’m super excited for my last African trip and I really cannot believe that I have just over a month left here. Sadly, Cape Town is starting to get a bit colder, and I’m dreading the day when Alpena weather trumps Cape Town weather. Hopefully, it’s not until after I get home.

But I should go and call my mom to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day! I hope you all are doing well, I love you all and cannot wait to see you again!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Burning CDs at 1:00 am? Sounds like Roadtrip!

I should currently be doing one of the kajillion things I have left to do before leaving the country TOMORROW. Instead…I’m burning cds for our roadtrip and writing this blog.

First of all, I owe you a description of Cirque du Soleil.


Okay, I won’t lie, it took a little while to get used to. I mean everyone was in crazy costumes, speaking a language I at first thought was French, and then found out was actually gibberish (oops), doing crazy/creepy stunts with their bodies all the while extremely loud and disconcerting music was playing in the background.

I now understand how they were completely terrified in Knocked Up when watching Cirque du Soleil while on shrooms.

But after a while, I absolutely loved it. It was such a cool performance, especially when you realize these are real people who are doing crazy things with their bodies. It really made me want to join the circus. Sadly, I’ve never been able to fold myself in half, so I don’t think they’ll take me. Maybe I could just be a stage spotter. As in the person who stands at the end of the stage and makes sure people don’t fall off and get hurt. Yes that’s a real job and yes, that could totally be me one day!

Anyway, the rest of Fall Break was amazingly uneventful. I got over my sickness and spent the last few days hanging out with friends, sleeping until the middle of the afternoon multiple days in a row, and enjoying the quiet, peacefulness of my house when it wasn’t full.

But break had to end eventually, and school has been kicking me in the butt. Of course, it’s no one’s fault but my own. I still refuse to admit that I need to do homework in Cape Town. So therefore, I spend the weekends relaxing and having fun with friends, I’m lucky if I crack open a book or type a single word. Consequently, I spend the next week barely sleeping while writing papers and reading books. And yes, while I know that I should have learned by now to balance my work, I think the mental block has already set in. And honestly, I enjoy my weekends too much to change them now. Anyway, as my roommates like to say, we can sleep when we’re dead.

Other than school, the past few weeks have been pretty chill. For the past two Saturdays I’ve gone with some friends to Old Biscuit Mill. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned OBM before, if not, shame on me. OBM is open every Saturday and has the BEST FOOD EVER! You may think I’m kidding, trust me, I’m not. They have every kind of food you can imagine. Some delicious dishes I’ve tried include a Belgium waffle (complete with chocolate, maple syrup, whipped crème, caramel, and bananas), butter chicken, a flat bread pizza and the best pomegranate smoothie I’ve ever had. I plan on going to OBM every weekend I’m here until I leave Cape Town. Along with the (AMAZING) food, there’s a great vibe at the Mill, and while it’s usually ridiculously packed, it’s fun to see real Cape Townians out and about.

While I’m on the topic of news, I have some extremely exciting news: I am learning to cook!

I know, I know, a little unbelievable, but I promise it’s true.

Over Fall Break I discovered my friends are amazing cooks. While my roasted-red pepper hummus and pita are always a hit at our dinner parties, I’ve been pretty jealous of how great they are in the kitchen, so I decided that I would attempt to cook with them for our next dinner party. We started with quiche, which I helped Cari make, and surprise it was super yummy (although I give Cari most of the credit there). Then, after being inspired by the flat bread pizza at OBM, my friend Tomke taught us how to make it.

And guess what??

I basically made a whole pizza by myself. Well, there was a lot of instruction from Tomke, and I was a little afraid of messing up because she already mentioned multiple times I was moving a little too slow for her. But I still basically made a whole pizza by myself, and I’m even going to attempt it while home. Look out Corinne, I’m going to be the new chef of the apartment!

All of these “family dinners”— as we like to adorably call them—have really made me start to like cooking. Although the great company, along with the fact they let me blast “Bootylicious” and dance around the kitchen with a native Zulu-hat (used for a wall decoration) on my head might have something to do with that. But really guys, when we’re back in Ann Arbor, I’m definitely planning a few dinner parties.

Over the next two weeks, we have a total of 4 days off of school for Easter and some public holidays, so a couple of friends and I have decided to head to Namibia for 6 days! In case you guys don't know, (and no judgments here, I knew nothing about Namibia before coming here, and until planning for this trip, I only knew one of my roommates lives there and she saw Bradd and Angelina in a grocery store once) Namibia is on the Northwest of South Africa and apparently has some of the most beautiful scenery possible. Some friends who went over Fall Break told me it goes from lush green hills, to the desert, to mountains, to sand dunes in ever direction and back.

To say I’m ridiculously excited is a HUGE understatement!

There will be two cars, three people to a car, and unlike the Garden Route rentals, these cars are supposed to be pretty new, so hopefully we won't get a flat this time. We'll even have a CD player and GPS (fancy I know). We’ll be leaving tomorrow, and driving our rented car around Namibia, where we’ll be staying at campsites, enjoying the scenery and hopefully taking in some local sports…like sandboarding. I’m mostly just excited to see a new African country, and of course to roadtrip (since you all know how much I love roadtrips).

Well I should get back to the homework I’m trying to finish before Namibia, as well as last minute trip planning. The next time you here from me, I will be a camping expert, who will be completely sick of Ramen noodles (we bought over 20 packs for our trip), but who will hopefully have mastered the art of sandboarding and be a master navigator.

Love and miss you all!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The name Kanga-runar is...grammatically incorrect.

Ahhh so much to tell you, which makes sense since I haven’t posted in a while. While I blame the sickness that is currently plaguing me and keeping me up at 1:11am writing a blog post (along with the miniature lizard on my wall that I haven’t decided whether or not to touch in case it decides to attack), it’s probably due to my laziness and the fact I’d rather sleep/read/watch Arrested Development than blog.

But here I am, long overdue.

So what’s been new with me? Quite a lot, thanks for asking.

I am currently on “autumn break”. If you call it “spring break” the South African students in your Shakespeare seminar will make fun of you and start asking if you’ve ever been to Cancun and been on “Girls Gone Wild”. Of course I have, I mean, since Michigan is right next to Mexico. (Some actually believe this, but it’s not like I can make fun of them since if you ask me a Geography question, I am almost certain to get it wrong). It’s funny here how if you use the wrong phrase people get completely confused. For example, I had a test in my African Literature class the other day, and I was wondering if a specific book would be on the test. So I obviously asked my fabulous gay South African friend, Myles, (love love LOVE him) whether this book would be on the “exam on Tuesday”. He said “Of course”, which then led me to panic because I hadn’t even read the book yet thinking it wasn’t on this test and to send neurotic text messages to all of my American friends in the class checking and double checking Myles’ story. When a bunch of my American friends told me the book wasn’t going to be on the exam, I triumphantly went to brag to Myles about how he was wrong, because let’s face it, when it comes to Myles vs. Liz in a battle of who’s right about South African things, I have never won. So when I went to confront him about him finally being wrong, he simply looked at me like I was an idiot and said in his super chillaxed South African way, “Oh, you meant on the test on Tuesday. Of course it’s not on the test, but it is on the exam, you know, at the end of the year.”

South Africa =1 Liz = 0

Like seriously? Because I used the word “exam” instead of “test” I was forced into a panic for two days? Of course, I still hadn’t read the book and wasn’t planning on it, but still those were hours I could have spent watching “Kings” or “Friday Night Lights” or “Arrested Development”. Or spent with my friends…

So my “autumn break” has been going swimmingly. Well except for the fact that I’m sick, as in quite a bad cold sick. But I’ve mostly been trying to ignore my sickness (except for excessive sleeping) and have been going out and having fun with friends in spite of it.

At first I was really bummed I was just staying in Cape Town and wouldn’t be jetting off like a bunch of my friends to places like Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia to do cool things like white water raft and see Victoria Falls. But, considering 1). The sickness currently plaguing me, and 2). How much fun I’ve been having, I’m no longer sad. Also, as my parents and Lily constantly point out to me, I’m in Africa. I’m in Cape Town. This is a vacation.

There’s a great group of friends who are also staying in Cape Town for autumn break and we’ve been having a blast together. First of all, it’s nice just to be able to hang out on our own schedule without having school dominating our lives. On Friday night, we went to my friend Steph’s house for an autumn-(spring)-break-is-finally-here celebration dinner, in which it was her first time ever making lasagna. Definitely the most delicious lasagna I’ve ever tasted. Of course, my contribution to the dinner was pita and roasted-red pepper hummus (I think I might have mentioned how much I love that combination a few too many times in the blog post before this), and just to be spontaneous, I also bought an apple pie. I’ve made Steph and Cari promise to attempt to teach me how to cook yummy food, since they’re complete pros at it. The next dinner we have, I’ll start with reading the recipe to them, baby steps.

UPDATE: The lizard has now turned from facing downwards to being in a ball on my wall. I’m keeping a sharp eye on it. It will NOT attack unnoticed.

That night we went out to Zula bar and had a great time just dancing and acting like total idiots. It’s a little surprising how many times I’ve been told by people “Oh, you’re definitely American. Only Americans dance like that”. And yes, they might ben referring to my Tae-Bo-esque moves (which I think are doubly useful as 1). Great dance moves and, 2). It’s easy to “accidentally” punch creepy men with them).

Saturday I continued to nurse my sickness. You know all those great medicines we have in America, like Sudafed, Mucinex, Tylenol, Tylenol Cold, and Tylenol Cold Extra Strength? Yeah, none of those brands exists here. Apparently we really like our pharmaceuticals in America. My cab driver advised me last night that in order to get rid of my cold, I just need to take these tablets that are either drugs or medicine (I couldn’t gather which) and then put a ton of blankets on me and sleep. He said I would sweat, and sweat, and sweat and then in the morning, poof, I’d feel all better. You all know how big of a fan I am of sweating (not), so instead I decided to search high and low Saturday for some kind of recognizable medicine to make my cold disappear. After admitting defeat to the 3rd store I had tried, I decided to ask the pharmacist near my house if they have any over the counter medicine to battle colds. Of course the pharmacist looked at me like I was an idiot and said “Of course we do.”, in which she pulled out 9 different types of medication and told me I should take all of them. Yeah right. The two I chose 1). Seemed the most relevant to my sickness, and 2). Had the best names. Medicine number one Cold-b-gun (I think “gun” is pronounced “gone”). Medicine number two, Mucinux, but don’t get that confused with Mucinex because it definitely is not an off-brand. Even though they both do the same thing…

NOTE: The lizard has now turned from facing downwards to upwards on my wall. I’m keeping a sharp eye on it. It will NOT attack unnoticed.

Anyway, that night, after highly medicating myself, Cari, Steph, and I attempted to have a movie night where our movie of choice was (obviously) Aladdin. We ended up getting sleepy/talking too much though so we just skipped through to all of the songs, which are the best part anyways.

UPDATE: Lizard has now straightened out from a ball and is completely facing upwards on my wall now. Hoping it will soon scuttle back into large vent near ceiling.

Sunday we spent a lovely day at the beach, because believe it or not, it’s actually starting to get cold in Cape Town. They aren’t kidding when they call it “Autumn Break”, I noticed last week on campus that the leaves are starting to change color. Who knew the leaves changed colors in Africa too???? (I learn so much every day). It’s actually been pretty chilly here, at least in the low 60s, with rain. And none of the buildings have central heating (surprise!!) therefore prompting horror stories of people wearing coats (or in my case, multiple sweaters and my fleece) to class.

Except it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL Sunday.

UPDATE: Lizard is now turning sideways. I think it’s eyeing up my curtains. I don’t like the look of this…

Anyway, the beach was absolutely lovely. It was hot, but not too hot and I actually got some reading done for a paper that’s due next week. Of course, after reading about 10 pages, I felt way too productive, so we instead decided to play a card game Steph taught us, which I will refer to as Poop Head…although the first word is actually not poop. (You get the hint). GREAT great game. And very addicting, I’ll have to teach it to you all when I get home. Steph, I will spread the game throughout America!

UPDATE: The Lizard is now spread-eagle on my wall as if it’s about to lose its suction-skills. I sincerely hope not since I would then have to sleep on my (extremely comfortable) couch as it’s too difficult to keep tract of a (possibly evil) lizard when under my bed.

After the beach, Cari, Runar (friend from Norway), Rita (also a Michigander) and I went to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. I had heard about these gardens from friends, but I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful they were. We brought a picnic and cards and listened to the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra play while the sun set and we admired the view of the mountains in the distance. After the concert finished, we went back to Runar and Rita’s place for a fun filled night of Poop Head (it really doesn’t sound as cool when censored) and a dorky but great camp game Cari learned, which is what the title of this blog is from.

Slight backstory: We decided Runar’s new nickname is Kanga-runar. You’ve got to admit, it’s a great nickname.

So so so pretty!!!

Also, Runar introduced Cari, Rita and I to WestLife, a boy band who was apparently more famous than the Backstreet Boys (not possible) worldwide. While, contrary to popular Norwegian belief, it didn’t make Cari and I lay in our beds screaming with joy, it was super catchy and would be very fun road trip music. Westlife will be added to my Liz-takes-Canada-this-fall/winter road trip playlist)

UPDATE: Now completely facing my curtains. VERY WORRIED.


Yesterday, Rita, Steph, and I went to the Two Oceans Cape Town Aquarium. This aquarium is supposed to be one of the best in the world, so I was a little surprised by its lack of dolphins and whales (although I guess it’s very unlikely for an aquarium to ever have a whale). But I absolutely loved it!!!! We got to see ALL the characters of Finding Nemo (well all the major characters, except maybe the people and pelican). I fit right in with the 3 and 4 year olds, as I ran from exhibit to exhibit squealing with excitement as I saw jellyfish, and sting rays, and penguins, and sharks, and a giant sea turtle!!!!!


UPDATE: Has stopped climbing and seems subdued. Can’t trust it though.

After the aquarium, we had a lovely dinner on the Waterfront, which is a super touristy part of Cape Town but so pretty!!! The weather got pretty cruddy though, so we didn’t get to walk around as much as we wanted, so I definitely want to go back soon! Oooo, and guess what??? (EXCITING) When we got out of the aquarium we saw seals sunbathing on the docks. They are HUGE!!!! And so adorable. And while I really wanted to hug/scare them so I could see them waddle of the docks and swim away, the signs screaming “DO NOT PET SEALS. THEY BITE” deterred me. So instead I just starred and made the embarrassing cooing noises people make at babies at them.

Today was a pretty chill day, I went with Cari, and her friend to dinner on Long Street and then we saw her friend’s comedy show. Okay, I won’t lie, part of the reason I decided to go was because the club the comedy show was at is called “The Purple Turtle”, and what exactly is cooler than my favorite color mixed with an animal that’s on my top 100 list of cute animals? Sadly though, the club only disappointed. First of all, the performance area inside was covered with red curtains. Really? You name a club “The Purple Turtle” and you don’t decorate the inside in purple? Bad life choice. Secondly, while it was cold outside, the club had about 50 different fans on, making it almost impossible to sit anywhere without freezing. And lastly, the host of the comedy show decided it would be a good idea to wear a microphone and shout, which did not help the headache I was already nursing.

But you haven’t even heard the most exciting part yet.
Guess what I’m doing Thursday night at 8:00pm????

Seeing Cirque du Soleil!!!!!!

It’s their first time EVER in South Africa and some friends and I got decent tickets for just over $30. To say I’m SOOOOOO excited would be a vast understatement. So Thursday night I’ll get to see for myself, what my friends and I could only describe as “stretchy, blue, bendy people”.

Okay, so the lizard hasn’t moved in about 20 minutes, so my new plan of action is to go to bed and pretend like it wasn’t there and hope it has found a new home outside of my room by morning.

As always, I love and miss you all. And if ANY of you would like to visit me (hint hint) I would be more than happy to show you around the lovely Cape Town and South Africa!!!!!

UPDATE: Experienced a moment of temporary braveness and tried to touch lizard on wall, thinking I could just pick it up and take it outside. Lizard let go of wall and jumped to floor, causing me to scream. Lizard now on the floor by bed and Liz is a stupid idiot as at least before I could see where the lizard was at.

Lizard = 1
Liz =0

After watching the lizard for another sleepless 20 minutes, I discovered how the lizard got into my room. Apparently there is a lizard-sized crack between the floor and the molding. Will be using my duct tape for the second time in Africa tomorrow morning.

UPDATE ON UPDATE: Green duct tape now covers the crack between my floor and the molding. I hope the landlord likes the added color!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wait, did I mention the pita and roasted red pepper hummus?

Title explanation: Guess how many times I mention food in this post? Hint: Too many to be proud of.

Hey all!

So since my last blog post my life has dramatically changed FOREVER.

Just kidding, but I thought it would be a nice lead in…

Anyway, to be truthful, last week was a really hard time for me. I hit what we call “the second apple” and I hit it hard. For those of you who don’t read Study Abroad manuals for fun let me explain this “second apple”.

Second Apple = the second stage in your abroad experience when you get really homesick and get annoyed with all the things that are different about Cape Town (or wherever you are) and want to start punching people for walking too slow (although the last part might just be me).

Many of you might know this already however, from the tearful phone calls made to you. I made more than I’m proud to admit. But I must say that I’m pulling out of this week quite spectacularly! And you all should feel delighted that there is no one in Cape Town like any of you, which is why I miss all of you so much. But after a few days of “What am I doing here? Why does everyone walk so slowly? Why aren’t my friends here? Why the hell doesn’t Cape Town sell Macaroni and Cheese? Seriously Africa, no Starbucks??” I was able to pull myself together and start enjoying my life here again.

Well except for the homework portion. I don’t think they should allow beautiful vacation spots like Cape Town to have schools. Because last weekend more time was spent at the beach than anywhere near the 100s of pages I was supposed to be reading and the presentation I was supposed to prepare for and the papers I was supposed to write. Which then led to almost no sleep Sunday through Wednesday as I prepared for a presentation and wrote two papers. I’d like to pretend that I learned from my mistake last week and started my homework before today, but then I would be lying to you. However, this week I don’t have a big paper due until Friday, so I have more time to waste.

Sidenote: Except for the fact that Thursday is St. Patrick’s Day, as in my roommate Denise’s favorite holiday. Therefore we will be spending that night at the only Irish pub we’ve found so far in Cape Town, Dubliners. YAY for green beer!!

Anyway, this week has been much better, especially after all my assignments were turned in on Wednesday. Wednesday night some friends and I climbed Lion’s Head, which is one of the mountains here, with bottles of wine and (amazing) pita and roasted red pepper humus to watch the sunset. The view from the top of Lion’s Head, and even the climb up was absolutely stunning. On one side you could see the sun setting over the ocean, while on the other side Cape Town was lit up like a Christmas tree. Of course, me being the smart person I am decided on Wednesday that I didn’t need to take my asthma medicine because I’ve been feeling completely fine for the last couple of weeks. Which inevitably led to me almost passing out halfway up the mountain. My roommates would laugh reading this as they hiked up Devil’s Peak, a super intense hike which terrifies me to even think about. But considering all the mountains we have in Alpena (read: none) this is probably my first mountain hike since I visited Colorado 10 years ago, and even then I’m pretty sure the only mountain climbing I did was on horseback. Anyway, I made it to the top and man was it worth it. If I wasn't so tired and half dead I would have burst into song, and there were so many options "Climb Every Mountain", "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain", but instead I just sat down took out the food and wine and finished off half a bottle of a friend's water. I took some pictures, but I couldn’t keep them from turning out blurry, so I’ll find some from friends and post them later.

After maybe 20 minutes at the top, we decided to head down. No biggie, right? I mean going down is always easier than going up. Except in the dark. With two flashlights (one of which only works every now and then) and “torch lights” in the form of a little light on the top of our cell phones.

Now I don’t need to remind you of my clumsiness, and therefore my terror of tripping and tumbling off the side of a cliff to my untimely death (I can’t die yet, I still haven’t pet a polar bear!). So while my friends were casually chatting and barely using the flashlights as they basically ran down the mountain, I was going down the mountain at a brisk 2 feet per hour mostly on my butt, because we all know how graceful I am on my feet. Yes, looking back this is a hilarious picture. At the time however, complete TERROR was coursing through my mind. But I will allow you to laugh since I (luckily) survived the treacherous climb down.

After making it to level ground again (HALLELUIAH!) we decided to stop at Camps Bay because it looked so beautiful from the top of Lion’s Head. The beach completely deserted and absolutely gorgeous. However, not only was the water freezing, but it was pretty chilly (read 60 degrees-ish) so we didn’t stay long. After I got home 8 of the 10 (most housemates in the same room until today) people in my house were watching the Tottenham verses Milano soccer match so I decided to join. One of our former OLs was over and he and my roommates answered all my stupid questions, like “Why is he being so dramatic?” (It’s called diving and apparently it’s an art), “Which team is which color?”, “Who should win?”, “Why did they miss that goal?”, “Where are they playing?”, “What are the songs the fans are singing?” and the most obvious and important question “Who’s the cutest player on each team?” Overall, I think my knowledge of soccer grew exponentially. For example, even though the two teams tied, Tottenham technically won because they beat Milano when they played them in Spain. Yup, I bet most of you readers out there didn’t know that. Now all I have to do is learn to actually play soccer and I’ll basically be an expert.

This weekend was also a success. Thursday night a big group of friends and I went to Stardust, which is a restaurant/bar where the servers perform for you. While the food was a little pricy for the quality, the drinks were amazing, the company wonderful, and the performances were so great! Lily, you would have loved it as Michael Bublé’s songs were popular choices. And of course, we ended the night by making the DJ play all the Disney songs he had while we sang along.

Sidenote: He only had 1 Lion King song. Seriously? We’re in Africa!

Friday after class my friend Kelsey and I headed to the beach, because who knows how many beach days we have left here. It’s actually starting to get a little bit chilly, like in the 60s some days, although no worries, Wednesday it’s supposed to get up to a nice toasty 104 degrees. Hello sweat. While we were at the beach, a big group of students showed up who were obviously tourists. It was funny because since I’ve been here for just over a month, I no longer feel like a tourist, but I also don’t feel like I fit in. It was such déjà vu seeing how excited the students were and thinking that was me less than a month ago. Does this mean I’m actually starting to fit in?? I think until I stop wearing my Old Navy flip flops in public, the answer will always be a resounding “No!” And you’re crazy if you think I’m going to stop wearing those flip flops. Most. Comfortable. Shoes. EVER.

Friday night we had a braai for Cari (fellow Wolverine) because it was her 22nd birthday! While Cari’s whole house made great food, like mushrooms with melted cheese, Greek salad, Tri-fold, apple crisp and much more, I discovered that as long as I show up anywhere with Woolworth’s pita and roasted red pepper humus, the world loves me. The pita and humus almost makes up for the fact that South Africa doesn’t believe in Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese or Dino Chicken Nuggets (Sidenote: Kender, are there dino chicken nuggets in Spain? Please tell me they’re not only an American wonder) Therefore, none of my cooking skills learned this summer are coming into use. But you all should be proud to know that I have graduated from just buying frozen vegetables to buying a bag of fresh vegetables on Saturday, which I plan to make a stir fry with. Believe it mom! Before you know it I’ll be buying fresh meat too, and maybe even using recipes. Well…we’ll see about the recipe bit, I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

So that’s been my past few weeks. Sorry they haven’t been too exciting, I’m also a bit disappointed by the lack of safari animals hanging out in my backyard on a daily basis. But I am in Africa, which I surprisingly forget quite often. I’ll be walking home from class and see a mini-bus speed by with the door wide open and a guy hanging out by one hand yelling “Cape Town! Cape Town!” (as in that’s where the bus is headed) and then turn my head and see Table Mountain in the distance and remember, “Oh yeah, I’m in AFRICA!” I also admit that I’ve been a huge fail when it comes to taking pictures, so I’ll try to do better, scouts honor!

Anyway, I should probably get back to the homework I have left to do and stop procrastinating (Fun fact: The word “procrastinate” doesn’t exist in Swedish). I miss and love you all!!

Liz – Your tan for Michigan, but ghostly white for South African, friend.

Oh yeah, exciting sidenote: My friend Kelsey found a karaoke bar downtown. SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And so the school year starts...

Classes have officially started at UCT!!
Okay, so that was a week ago, but I’ve been busy…

Class at UCT is definitely different from U of M. For one, lectures are only 45 minutes long (score!). But, I have class more often. From 9-1 Monday-Wednesday, 10-1 Thursday and 9-11 Friday to be exact. (You would never survive this schedule Sarah). Also discussion sections here are called tutorials (tuts for short). And instead of having tuts for my English classes, I have seminars, which are completely separate from my lectures. So now that I have you properly confused, I’ll explain by sharing with you ALL of my classes.
I know you’re waiting on the edge of your seat…

Sex, Love and Taboo – So this class is just as awesome as it sounds. It’s in the African Languages department so we focus on how Sex, Love and Taboo are talked about in African languages. The professor is absolutely amazing, and there’s a lot of native Xhosa and Zulu speakers in the class, so we get to hear their perspectives and us Americans can share our perspectives. The class, like most of my classes, has a lot of international (read American) students in it, but it’s fascinating learning about how the African languages work .For example: In Xhosa, there is no word for hermaphrodite. Does that mean hermaphrodites don’t exist in that culture? (And yes, I did just give you a homework question, but you’ve got to admit it’s really interesting)

Shakespeare and Company- So in each of my two English courses at UCT, multiple professors teach the course. For Shakespeare, I have 2 professors, one who teaches about medieval drama and one who teaches Shakespeare and Chaucer. I will admit that I have slept through one (you would too Mom and Dad) medieval drama lecture. The professor speaks in a monotone and is just so boring. But today our second professor came in to start us off with Chaucer. He is absolutely amazing. He’s an older British man who cracks jokes every 10 minutes, offers throat lozenges to students and then tells them if they’re lucky they can get a little high off it (If you don’t think this is hilarious, then it might have been a “You had to be there” moment.) And he makes me actually want to read the Canterbury Tales. Thankfully, he’s teaching most of the rest of the lectures, so I am really excited!!!

Global Shakespeare- This is my Shakespeare and Co seminar. So I haven’t actually had this seminar yet (it starts tomorrow) but our course syllabus says we’ll be “exploring twentieth and twenty first-century interpretations of Shakespeare’s texts across the lines of the former “first”, “second”, and “third” world” countries. So I’m basically really excited for this class. But I’ll update on this one when I’ve actually had the class.

African Literature- Pretty self-explanatory. We’ll be studying different African novels. We already did our first 4 poetry lectures, which were really interesting (Sarah, I think you would absolutely love the poetry professor, think Ray with a South African accent and less biting humor). But we’ll see how this one goes.

South Africa HIV/AIDS Literary Narratives- As you might have guessed, this is my African Literature seminar. Tomorrow is my first day for this one too, and I don’t have a syllabus yet so your guess is as good as mine. But the seminar filled up fast and it seems really interesting, so I’ll hope for the best.

Medical Anthropology- I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this class. Our professors are these great hippie-esque women who are all about critically looking at medical anthropology. And we learn the coolest stuff (I was just about to give you an example, but I don’t want to bore you to death if medical anthropology isn’t your thing). The gist of this class is we explore the relationship between physical and social reasons for illness along with a kajillion other amazingly interesting things. Later in the semester we are going to do fieldwork on the HIV/AIDS situation in South Africa. SO COOL.

Okay, so those are my classes. I probably could have done better at explaining the actual classes, but if you care that much let me know and I’ll email you my syllabuses (and then make fun of you for wanting my syllabus).

Now that I’ve told you about the actual “school” portion of UCT (I know, I know, that’s the whole reason I’m here, but let’s be real, UCT grades don’t factor into my U of M GPA so…) let’s get on to the social aspects.

UCT is like a prettier version of AHS.

For those of you who didn’t have the good fortune to grow up in Alpena, AHS = Alpena High School.

Reason #1

While UCT is a big school, for some reason the architects decided the best way to design walkways would be to make them narrow and to make sure there are only a few possible ways to get to class. Therefore UCT = crowded. According to some native UCTers, after a few weeks it should quiet down once freshmen learn to stop clogging the damn walkways.

Sidenote: This isn’t helped by the fact that everyone here walks so slow. Kendra and Corinne, I am considered a very fast walker here (I can almost see you shudder reading that statement). I’ve actually been told I’m a fast walker, although that was by a Norwegian, not a South African, and I think my walking speed had more to do with the fact our guide had just told us to look out for snakes (Black Mambas, no big deal) in the forest we were walking through at the elephant reserve.
Anyway, we know the slow walking is bad when I am one more freshman-stopping-in-front-of-me-with-no-prior-warning-to-high-five-his-freshman-friend-with-a-mullet-and-tank-top (hair and fashion choice are another story altogether) away from either a) shoving him down the mountain or b) screaming “walk faster you idiots”.
Neither would probably help in proving the ignorant, rude, loud American stereotype wrong.

Reason #2

You know how at U of M you run out the door to class wearing some version of the leggings/sweatpants/athletic shorts, random shirt combination with your hair in a quick ponytail and the rest of the world lucky if you attempt make-up?

Yeah, not here.

I’ve heard Cape Town is like the New York City of Africa. Apparently you can spot an American from the above clothing description, which is completely unacceptable (wouldn’t that have been nice to know beforehand…)

But how to describe the UCT dress code…
Here are some possible (read acceptable) UCT outfits:

I could dress like I’m…
1). Going to church – This would include my cute dresses that I would either wear to church or work, but not anywhere else because they scream “work/church dress”. Or really anything fancy that makes me look like the angelic Pastor’s daughter I was raised to be (love you Mom!).
2). Going out- Except that my going out clothes seem homely and shabby compared to ones I’ve seen here. For example, I have seen many a girls wearing short, skin-tight dresses to class. That just seems like it would be uncomfortable.
3). Going to some other special event- You know, like weddings, graduations, the occasional garden party. You know, my normal venues to hang out at. It’s a little dressier than church clothes, but still modest enough not to go out in.
4). Wearing all of thee above mixed together- This is my personal favorite, and I think the preference of most girls here. For example, first day of school I witnessed a girl wearing a skanky, skin tight, short white skirt, paired with black tights, black boots, and an Ikey Tiger (our mascot) Rugby t-shirt. True story.

I think I’m just going to stick with obviously being American. Although the extreme heat has made me wear more dresses, making me fit in a little more.

Oh, and if you’re a boy here, you most likely have a mullet and prefer to wear tank tops.
I am so tempted to offer to do the Rugby team’s hair. The mullets actually make me cringe.

Reason #3

No one walks alone here!

It’s actually a little annoying. Everyone has friends with them at all times. It’s like they all conspired to have the same classes (which they probably did). And when sitting in the food court to eat lunch, or just chill for a bit, if you’re sitting alone there’s something wrong with you and two random girls come up and sit with you but completely ignore you while you awkwardly sit there playing Bejeweled on your phone waiting for your friend to bring you your food so you two can then find another table…
Yeah, that might be a true story.

But as much as I complain, I still absolutely love it here for SO many reasons, (which I’m not going to list for you because, really, how long do we want this post to actually be?)

Although I want to give a shout out to my new favorite thing about UCT: The Jammie

As I’ve mentioned before, the Jammie is the equivalent of Blue Buses. Although I’ve been in school for over a week, today is the first day I’ve taken the Jammie. I figured that since I’m only a 15 minute walk from Upper Campus, I could just suck it up and walk up the mountain every morning.
Yeah, that would have been great, except for the fact that I’m walking up a mountain. And it’s already 70+ degrees while I’m walking which means I’m sweating profusely by the time I make it to class, which makes me oh so attractive. So I decided to give in and take the Jammie (much to my classmates joy, I’m sure) today.


I reached the Jammie stop, was on the Jammie within 2 minutes and at Upper Campus within 5 minutes. Of course this meant I was on campus 30 minutes early, but whatever, at least I wasn’t sweating. A friend told me this isn’t normal and sometimes she has to wait 50 minutes for the Jammie, but I don’t care. I will wait an hour if it means not scaring off classmates and having friends tell me I look sick and “a little red” when I run into them after my trek up the mountain.

I know this post is getting long, but I’m just going to keep going, so bear with me.
Or not, but I promise it’s interesting!

So last night some roommates and I went to a UCT rugby game. Rachel (roomie) and I Youtubed rugby rules before, which helped a little, but before long we got side tracked as I introduced Rachel to the wonder and profound greatness of the flash mob (she had never heard of a flash mob before!!). Luckily, roomie Lulu (from Namibia) understands rugby, so she explained the game to me.

Our team won!!!! YAY!

And that’s about all that I remember about the game itself. I’m still fuzzy on the rules, I know you can only pass the ball backwards, a try is worth 5 points, if you kick the ball (a field goal?) through the goal it’s worth 2 points, and I understand the circle of boys pushing each other, but I know no technical terms to explain it. And of course it was way more fun to talk to everyone around us than to actually try to watch the game. At most, Lulu would clue me in to when I should look because we were about to score a goal. I bought my token UCT rugby shirt and got a massage from the mascot (it was as weird as it sounds).

But have no fear sports lovers who are shaking their heads at me right now, I’m going to a Stormers (Cape Town’s team) game on Saturday where there will be people around to explain the game to us. I will understand rugby before I leave!!!!

And last but not least I’ll leave you with SHAWCO.

SHAWCO is a volunteer organization a bunch of friends and I joined here at UCT where we go to the townships and tutor kids. Today was our first day and it was absolutely amazing! We’re working at St. James, which is a children’s home, but we also tutor kids from a nearby elementary school. We’re supposed to be teaching math and life skills, but today was more of an introduction so we just played games.
The kids are GREAT.

When we got there, we were split up in groups to do ice breakers with the kids. A little boy grabbed my hand (my heart melted a bit) and when I asked his name it just so happened to be a Xhosa name. I can do the Xhosa clicks about as well as South Africans can walk fast, so after trying repeatedly we decided we would figure out a nickname.

We did some icebreakers, played some hula hoops games, got a game of soccer going, started a riveting game of duck, duck, goose, and pretty much did whatever the kids wanted to do. The group I was with decided to play all these singing games which included a lot of repeat-after-me lines and bootie shaking.

Sidenote: 8 year old South African girls have much better dance skills than I could ever aspire to have.

There’s definitely a song asking how big your bootie is and then you’re supposed to bring your bootie to the floor.
Kids after my own heart.

The cutest part though was when we left. The kids kept hugging us and saying goodbye, even the ones I hadn’t spoken to. I’ve got to admit, I’ve really missed 826Michigan and working with all the adorable little kids there, so SHAWCO is just what I needed. I’m so excited to go back next Tuesday, although it’s going to be a bummer to actually have to do work instead of playing around.

And I’m done!
Congratulations for making it through the longest blog post yet. I’ll try to update more often when I actually have things to talk about instead of waiting for one huge post. I still miss you all immensely, and I think you all should come visit me (like the lovely Sarah Hanson is: SO EXCITED).

Love your tan (for me) friend living it up in Cape Town.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Guess who did the world's highest bungee???

A bunch of my friends.
And not me.

(Yeah, I know I might have told a few of you that I was planning on doing it, but it’s a long story, so let’s backtrack)

So first of all, sorry for not blogging for a while. I could pretend I’ve been super busy but the truth is I’ve just been super lazy. But after threats from friends and family if I don’t blog soon, I’ve decided I can procrastinate on sleeping before the first day of real class (WOOO!!! Not) and catch you all up.

This week was a free week before classes started, so some friends and I (17 of us to be exact) decided to drive the Garden Route. I already told you to Wikipedia it, so if you still don’t know what it is, shame on you. I think my friend Alicia said it best by yelling “IT’S SO PRETTY!!!” as we drove through the South African country side. I have to completely agree with her. However, the view was marred a bit by the lovely horrible car we were given to drive.

This week was the week parliament opened in South Africa, which apparently means that almost all of the rental cars are unavailable. Lucky for us, our group was able to get the 4 cars necessary, our car being an automatic because we’re the silly Americans who aren’t taught how to drive stick shift in drivers ed.

Our car sucked.

It probably went from 0 to 100 km per hour in about 5 minutes. Which really was not helpful while we were driving through the constant hills and mountains of the Garden Route.

By the way, I totally drove the car. It took a bit to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road, and to get used to the fact that there really are no rules of the road in South Africa. For example, you pass cars anytime you want, no matter if you’re climbing a hill with no end in sight and no way to see if cars are coming. I think South African drivers are taught offensive driving in drivers ed.

So the trip to our hostel took about 7 hours of driving the first day. I must say my first hostel experience was pretty terrific. It was clean, the showers were nice, and the people running it were so helpful and friendly.
Definitely not like the movie.

So Day 2 was bungee day!!!!
It didn’t help that the whole night before I dreamed of different ways the bungee jump could go wrong. In one dream, the rope broke, in another I was told if I bungeed in shorts my legs would fall off, and I’m pretty sure in another one they just didn’t give me a rope at all.

So yeah, it would be an understatement to say I was already freaking out a bit by the time we left for bungee. Then our car decided to make the decision for me.

About ¾ of the way to the jump, our car got a flat tire. No biggie right? Well our car was full of 5 American girls who had no idea how to change a tire. And even if we did, none of us were comfortable getting out of the car to do it, considering all the warnings we got about safety first while in Africa. So walking around on the side of a highway in who-knows-where South Africa didn’t seem like the best idea. Luckily enough for us, one of our Norwegian roommates came back to change our tire.

Of course that was only after he registered and checked in for bungee jumping.
Leaving us stranded for about 30 minutes on the side of the highway.
Where any number of horrible things could have happened to us.
But no hard feelings…
(He still gets bonus points since he actually came back)

Needless to say, by the time we actually got to the bungee jump, I was stressed beyond belief and in no mood to jump off a bridge. Actually, I think I could have still done it if I had gone straight to registration and not to the viewing-area where I watched a couple of people jump off of the highest bungee bridge in the world.
Big mistake.

So, sorry to let all of you down who thought I was actually going to do something really cool, but the bungee didn’t happen. They had a TV inside which showed the people right before they were about to jump and then the jump itself and I’ve got to say, I got stressed enough watching my friends get ready to jump.

So I may have lost a few cool points in your book, but I’m still in Africa and you (sadly) aren’t, so I still win.

Anyways, after bungee we got to go to an elephant sanctuary.

So fricken cool.

We got to walk with an elephant hand-in-trunk and pet them and feed them and pose with them. I know you’re all dying for pictures (especially you dad), but I forgot my camera at the hostel that day.
But no fear, friends took pictures of me with the elephants, so when they’re able to get free internet they’ve promised to upload them.

Also, the elephant sanctuary gave us a little biology lesson about elephants. Surprisingly enough, I still remember a lot of what they told us, so if you ever need to know a random fact about elephants, there’s a very good chance I’ll know it.
I'm hoping it will come in handy during Charley's Trivia one day.

After the elephant sanctuary, we headed back to the hostel and spent the night hanging out. Some friends showed up at the hostel unexpectedly, so we ended up basically taking up the entire hostel. It was a great time, and I learned of a new drink that all of you must come visit me and try.

It is called the Springbok and it is absolutely delicious.

They next day we headed back to Cape Town, and since then I've had syllabus day (which apparently only exchange students and freshman go to, yay for me!), spent a day at the beach (amazing) and today we went to a flea market where I tried my hand at bargaining.

Sidenote: Bargaining is way harder than it sounds. Especially when the vendors start bargaining prices down before you’ve even decided if you like what they’re offering, so you end up almost buying it anyways just because it’s such a good price. Sneaky.

I successfully bargained down a canvas painting of Africa and a friend and I bargained down cute bags. I probably still overpaid, but hey, for my first time I’m proud I didn’t just agree to the original price.

I’m sure I’ll be visiting more markets like this closer to when I’m leaving to get presents for all you lovely people. The one thing I need to remember to get is a vuvuzela. Because, really, who can leave South Africa without an obnoxiously wonderful vuvuzela?

So that has been my last week. I’m going to try to go back on the Garden Route again, since there were so many things we still want to do, such as going to Monkey World, or a Cheetah Reserve, or a Game Reserve.

And who knows, maybe the second time’s the charm when it comes to bungee jumping??

Or maybe I should just sign up for sky diving, much less scary.

It’s crazy to think that I’m starting classes tomorrow. Cape Town is such a vacation. I can’t imagine being here and actually having to go to class and do work. But I guess that is the reason I’m here, so I’ll just have to suck it up. Plus, all of my classes seem really cool, so I’m excited to actually get into the content (nerd, I know).

So I’m going to head to bed, or at least attempt to. I really need to learn to stop taking naps in the middle of the day so I can actually sleep at night. But I’d like to wish an early (well not for me) Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!!!

I know you all are probably dying to be my Valentine, but sadly for you, Corinne got there first. And I’m convinced that if I keep telling people she’s going to buy me a singing stuffed-animal it will actually happen.
It would be awesome to have a singing-stuffed Valentine's Day stuffed animal from London (hint hint)

But good bye for now, and I’ll try to update more often, since I know how thrilling it is to hear my commentary of South Africa!