Monday, January 31, 2011

"Hold on to your goods gurl, you're in the Cape Flats!"'

The above quote was one of the many made during the last two days that was memorably hilarious.

But I'll start at the beginning for your benefit.

So yesterday we did a tour of the Cape Peninsula, which included the long-awaited for penguins (I know, squealllll!), along with a stop at Camps Bay, Ocean View township and the Cape of Good Hope!

Our lovely tour started at 8:00am aboard a charter bus with a guide named Steve Martin (fyi: not related to actor Steve Martin - he informed us of that) who spent the day telling awkwardly funny bad jokes. But was really informative nonetheless.

We traveled right through the city and got to see where Parliament is and the President's house, along with cool historical places like District 6 (look it up, it'll be good for you!), and different beaches and hang-outs to go to.

Side note: I'm pretty sure the Cape Peninsula has more beaches than all of Michigan combined. And these beaches are sooooo much cooler.

Our first stop was Camps Bay:

Our OLs described Camps Bay to us as "the OC of Cape Town", and now I believe them. It's definitely the ritzy part of Cape Town. It's supposed to be a great place to go out at night, although a little pricey, but considering the last time I went out, I ended up spending $20 in US currency on a full night of drinks and bar/club admissions, I think I can splurge every once and awhile (Don't worry Mom and Dad, I'm not crazy spending). Camps Beach is the one you see celebrities lounging/swimming or obviously posing on in People Magazine or Us Weekly. Yeah, I'm definitely going to be stalking that beach a lot!

Anyways, the beach is absolutely gorgeous! We have some time off later this week, and spending a day there is high on the checklist! Also, the sundowners (aka sunsets) are supposed to be amazing there, so my roommates and I have already started planning a picnic there.

Alright, so then we drive further down the Peninsula. I didn't take any pictures from inside the bus, but let's just say that it doesn't get any less beautiful than previously described. Everything is lush and green, and you're either looking at mountains or the ocean. A perfect mixture, if you ask me.


So I forget the name of the actual place we stopped, but it was a national park where African Penguins live. They were sooooooo adorable! Although they did smell a bit. They waddled everywhere and were the laziest/most laid back (depends which way you look at it, I pick most laid back) animals I've ever seen. They barely moved, and when they did they took their sweet time, which makes sense because that's how everyone and everything acts in Africa. All the locals like to explain the chillness and slowness by saying: "We're African." I now explain my spazziness by saying: "I'm American"

Stop #3: Ocean View Township

This was by far my favorite stop! I didn't take any pictures here, but if my friends did I'll make sure to steal some. I'll give you some background for this one. Ocean View Township is made up of people who were forced out of their homes in the 1960s during the apartheid because they were not white. While there's a lot of poverty and crime in the township, there's a lot of amazing things going on there. They made us lunch, which was delicious, although I wasn't able to eat all of it because my appetite still hadn't adjusted to the time difference (Horrible right?? Don't worry, it's back to normal now). My blog title quote is from the lady who MC-ed the event. She had a lot of great quotes that day. Then their youth put on a performance for us. It started with man in drag lip-syncing to "Last Dance" (all I could think was "Welcome....Welcome to Studio Phiiiiiiii." Damn you recruitment!). There was a comedy act, some girls dancing, and a brass band. My two favorites though were both dancers. One was a guy who danced, but was AMAZING. He was wayyyy better than the acts we say on SA's Got Talent. But the winner had to be the little boy who danced to a medley of Michael Jackson. Damn that boy had moves. I have never laughed so much than during those few hours.

After our refreshing show we were back on the bus heading to the Cape of Good Hope.

Yup, that's right. I went to the Cape of Good Hope.

On the way we saw baboons, which I was so excited for! They're all over South Africa, but they're not the cute, medicine-man-wise creatures The Lion King fooled us into believing. Instead they're mean, hungry criminals. Apparently they'll come right up to you if you have food and steal it. If you have a bag, they're more they're more than likely to steal it to see if there's food inside. And in case you ever have a baboon tugging on one end of your bag: LET GO. We've been told they're rather nasty creatures and will claw you to death (or something like that). Apparently they throw your bag away once they find there's no food, but I highly doubt a baboon would be gentle with my camera and phone. Now it's a running joke in our group of friends that if we don't get mugged by a person in Africa, we'll probably get mugged by a monkey.

Okay, on to the Cape.
Not to be completely repetitive, but it was AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL and FANTASTIC.
There really aren't words to describe it.

We ended up hiking up a mountain (it's a common occurance here in Africa) to get an amazing view of where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

Sidenote: There's a lot of controversy over where the two oceans meet, some maps say Cape of Good Hope, some don't. Humor me here, it's Cape of Good Hope.

Then we were told that we just needed to walk down to where the buses are. No big deal.

This easy little hike down included steep drops to my death down uneven rock stairs with no railing. When there was railing, it was the side of the mountain. When there were stairs, they moved and had huge gaps between them. You guys know me. To know me is to know I'm am a tad bit clumsy. You can now understand my terror. It didn't help that one of the OLs was behind me joking about falling to our deaths. Oh, and since there were about 400 of us on this here trip, there was a huge line going down the mountain, so me falling would have meant me starting a huge domino effect of people falling and dying. Bad legacy.

As you may have guessed, I made it down safe and sound, if not in need of a shot to calm my nerves (which I didn't get by the way, but I guess water was a better choice in the long run). The Cape was definitely the most beautiful place I've ever been. I used to always say that I loved the mountains and the ocean and I wanted to live somewhere with both. Yeah, Cape Town is that place.

So that concluded our tour. A few of us decided to check out the nightlife in our neighborhood (Rondebosch, in case you feel like Google Mapping it in order to better stalk me) so we went to dinner at a bar Cafe Sofia, which was delicious and had live music (Score!). Of course the "few" of us turned into 30 of us. We are the most obvious international students ever. Hopefully once the UCT kids start heading back for classes, we'll be a little less obvious, but right now we stick out like a sore thumb.

Sidenote: Random change of subject: I still can't believe how cheap everything in Cape Town is! An OL was telling us that people would only spend $10.00 on dinner for a date. A couple of nights ago I had seafood linguine for a total of $8.00. Yeah, and my groceries tonight cost like $16.00, in AA they would have cost at least $30.00. And once I learn how to not get ripped off by people knowing I'm American, all this saving will mean I'll get to do more exciting things while here. (Once again, don't worry Mom and Dad, I'll clear them with you first).

Oh, and just to make all of you the more jealous, we don't start school until February 14th.
This week we have different orientation events going on and registration, but all of next week is free. A travel agency here has all these events planned for next week, like free chocolate and wine tasting (Yes please), Kayaking with penguins (Duh), and wait for it....

Cage-diving with sharks!!!!

I completely plan on cage-diving, although someone said it's better to do in the winter because the water is clearer, so I'll have to ask around.

Also some friends and I are thinking of renting a car and driving the Garden Route (You'll have to look this one up too, I don't remember much about it and I don't want to explain it wrong) which is supposed to be amazing! Along the way is wine tasting, a cheetah reserve (where you get to pet cheetahs!!!! SQUEAL!) and the highest bungee jump from a bridge in the world!!! For spring break we're planning on renting a car and heading to Krueger National Park and Namibia.

To say I'm excited would be the understatement of the century.

Oh also, apparently the week before classes start is O week (or something like that) which is the equivalent to U of M's Welcome Week. We've been told this means massive parties and events all over campus. I'm excited to meet more local South Africans so I can work on my accent (which is sounding less and less Swedish-Indian every time I do it).

Today wasn't too exciting. We had orientation speeches from about 20 people all about UCT and safety and clubs and yada yada. But to make up for the boring day, we got to do an African Drumming workshop, which was THE BEST. (I could give you a run for your money Sarah!) I've decided I want to join an African drumming group, but I think a white, American girl will really stand out in the midst of all the black, African men drumming. Maybe I could be their towel girl...

But now is bedtime. We have more orientation tomorrow and then the beach and then hopefully a brei! Oh, one last sidenote: So there's this thing where I have to pay for internet for megabyte or some computer term like that, so skyping is very expensive. I think my friend said that she video skyped with her mom for 5 minutes today and it cost $8.00. Have no fear though, we have options! Gmail lets me call the US free!!! And I can always skype without the video. Although I did meet a guy today who's house has free unlimited internet. I'll get right on becoming his new best friend!

However, I think most of you will like option #3. Apparently there's free wifi on campus, which means I could skype on campus, but that won't be until school starts on the 14th. But there's the added bonus that you might get to see some of the amazing scenery and even the mountain in the background. Nice trade off, right?

No pictures this time because they're on my facebook!!!! Check them out!

Alright, I started the blog with a quote, so I'll end it with one from the same woman.

"You've got places to go, people to see, and baboons to do."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'm here! I'm here!

I'm actually super tired and about to take a nap, but I figured that if my friends saw I was on the internet (damn you facebook!!!) they would kill me if I didn't post.

So here goes!

Now, there's really only 1 important thing to remember:

1). Cape Town > everything

But I'll start with the flight, or to be specific flights.

Flight #1 Detroit to Amsterdam: Very nice actually, almost a completely empty plane so I had five whole seats to myself! But 6 hours on a plane is 6 hours on a plane no matter how you look at it.

Flight #1 dropped me off in Amsterdam at 5:55am, with a 4 hour wait until my Cape Town flight.

(Note about Amsterdam airport: Everyone is really nice, but somehow I found every single person in that airport who didn't speak English, which made for a lot of pointing and smiling.)

Lucky enough about 30 kids from the Study Abroad program in Cape Town were on the same flight as me. And since we're pretty easy to spot (young adult, lots of luggage, alone, and looking hopefully at every new young adult that comes to sit down), we all started chatting. Everyone but 1 of us was from America, the other girl was from Norway and I even found another girl from U of M that I was told wasn't going to Cape Town (SCORE!).

So, the 4 hour layover was great bonding time (Sarah you'll be excited, I made a friend from South Carolina! Don't worry, he represents the South well) but then came the 12 hour plane ride.

Flight #2 Amsterdam to Cape Town: Now a 12 hour plane ride isn't fun to start with, but we were jam packed in that plane. I was luckily not sitting next to a lady puking the entire ride like one of my friends, but I was sardined in for 12 hours, so I believe I have room for complaint. I think in the course of the 32 total hours I was traveling I watched 7 movies and 8 TV shows. Yeah, I'm done with TV for awhile. (Lie, I just finished watching S.A.'s Got Talent with my house mates. AMAZING)

Alright, so Flight #2 finally ends. As the corny Americans, we cheer a little when we touch down (or at least the girl next to me and I did) because we're finally in AFRICA.
At this point, it's 11:55pm, we are slap happy because we're so exhausted and we still have to go through customs, immigration (Corinne, they're two different things in South Africa! And apparently it's really funny that I didn't know that) and then fit all of our luggage (which for most was two 50 lb bags and two carry-ons) onto a bus with all of us crammed in for a 20 minute bus ride to the UCT dorms where we were staying for a few days, and where we had to lug all these suitcases up three flights of stairs.

Needless to say, we survived. I think a lot of this had to do with our slap happy moods and the fact that we were all so excited to be in AFRICA.

Note: Since we arrived at night, we didn't get to see a lot of Cape Town. If we could have, we would have noticed the huge mountain right behind where we're staying. Yeah, imagine opening your curtains in the morning to that!
Beats the view of a tree I had from my window in AA

Okay, so the next day was a "free day" which actually meant we had tours planned all day with our OLs (orientation leaders which just means local UCT students showing us around). And of course some friends and I decided to go to Kalk Bay.

Kalk Bay = gorgeous!

The shops and a view of the mountain from Kalk Bay. (Yeah, I know, I'll get an actual picture of the bay soon)

I didn't take many pictures because I forgot I had a camera, but I promise to steal some from a friend soon so you can see it. We took about a 45 minute train ride there, and the train was so close to the ocean that in some parts it looked like the train was in the water. And yes, we Americans all Ooooo-ed and Ahhhh-ed, just like tourists. But I think we're allowed to be tourists for the next two weeks until classes start.

So we spent a few hours at Kalk Bay eating delicious food and having cocktails.
Okay, so it may have only been 11am in Cape Town, but
1). It was one of our friend's birthdays, so we had to celebrate!
2). Most of the people I was with can't drink in the States, so it was really exciting
3). We were in the coolest beach restaurant/bar ever! It had a beautiful view of the ocean and was all tiki torches and the like (and I can't pass up tiki torches)
4). One of our OLs was drinking so we figured it was only right for us to immerse ourselves in local culture.

After Kalk Bay we went on a campus tour.

I think that the University of Cape Town has to be one of the most beautiful campuses I've ever seen! There's lower, middle and upper campus, and as you may have guessed, each one is just a little higher up the mountain. So I will obviously have amazing legs by the time I return to the States considering all the steps and mountain I'll be climbing.

View from the top of Upper Campus (where most of my classes will be)

View from a memorial above Upper Campus

Upper campus (Yes, there's a rugby field in the center of upper least I think it's rugby)

And to finish off the day, we all went to Long Street for dinner and nightlife. Long Street is a really popular tourist destination, and in the words of one of our OLs "It's called Long Street because it's really long."

We had to take a Jammie (kind of like a Blue Bus for you U of Mers, for everyone else, it's a shuttle bus that circles campus and goes downtown), which should only seat 50. But there were 100 of us. So, we obviously just all crammed in together. I want to check out the record of the most people fit in a Jammie, because I think we came close to breaking that record. By the time we got to Long Street, we were quite the spectacle, 100 young adults walking in a huge group.

We had a delicious dinner and then started enjoying the nightlife. Nightlife in Cape Town is wayyyyy different than in the States (as you might expect). Most clubs are upstairs with a balcony where people talk and dance. Most of them also have DJs. Last night our DJ decided the best music to play would be 90s Dance music from America. When we asked him if he could play anything more recent from America he played Beat It by Michael Jackson. Yeah.

Today we moved into our houses. You are all going to be so jealous of where I'm living. I'm too lazy right now to get up and take pictures, but it is the most beautiful house I've ever seen.
I have 8 roommates, 5 from America and 3 from Germany, and two of the OLs live right down the street.

We have an amazing front porch with patio furniture and everything, along with a brei (which is what they call BBQ in our front yard. See, I'm learning the lingo already!!!) so we're really excited to have friends over. We're literally a 5 minute walk from a lot of shops and to the Jammie if we want to take it to campus.

So that has been my past 4 days of travel and the amazingness that is Cape Town. Something I'm definitely going to have to get used to is how chill everyone is here. Everyone is so laid back and in no hurry. Like when we were supposed to leave for our house this morning at 9 am...yeah, how about 9:45. Or last night, we were told to meet at a club "at a concrete time between 10:00-10:30". Yeah, us Americans had a field day with that one. But as we were all discussing over dinner, laid back is exactly what we need. I know I'm excited to be distracted by Cape Town this semester. I know school is important, but considering the semester from hell I just finished at U of M, I am ready for a new place that is 1/4 as spazzy and anxious as I am.

Who knows, maybe I'll come home completely relaxed and chill.
Okay...probably not but hopefully much less spazzy.

Okay, so now I really am about to fall asleep, so if I have grammar issues, blame my sleep deprivation. Oh, and surprisingly, the jet lag wasn't too bad. I took a 30 minute nap yesterday and I'll probably take one today, but otherwise, I've been good to go. I guess a good thing about a 12 hour plane flight is it's almost impossible not to sleep on it.

Okay, signing off for now, but I promise to update again soon, and hopefully that post will make more sense!

Monday, January 24, 2011

39 hours and counting...

Or, to be more exact, exactly 31 hours and 42 minutes until I am Detroit Metro Airport bound, so therefore about...

31 hours and 12 minutes until I have to be finished packing.

That's definitely enough time.
So now I don't feel as bad for spending the last hour and a half playing Bejeweled instead of figuring out what to pack in my carry-on bag.

Not the carry-on that is my backpack, which I have already decided will be chock-full of trashy magazines that I secretly obviously love, all of the important documents that I spent months putting together just so I'm not turned right back around at immigration, candy- most likely Twizzlers- which, while will only increase the nervous jitters flying ensues, is a necessity. And at least three very diverse books:

Book 1: A deep and insightful literary treasure I've had on my shelf for years and will finally have a lovely 32 hours of traveling to read.
Book 2: A well-worn favorite from my book shelf, something like The Monsters of Templeton or any of Jen Lancaster's memoirs.
Book 3: This unabashed best-seller will be showing off on a shelf in a small shop in the airport. It will tempt me with its shiny cover and promise of light easy-reading until I buy it. I'll then pretend that I'm obviously going to read Book 1 on the flight and this is just a fun back-up for when I finish the literary treasure. (Yeah right)

When it comes to 32 hours of travel time, 28 of that being on an airplane, literary treasures rarely win.

I'm sure I'll have other odds and ends in my backpack that I stuffed in at the last minute, overruling an earlier goal to "pack light". No, my backpack will be no problem.

The real issue is my carry-on bag.

While I'll obviously stuff it full of things my 50 pound suitcase had to reject, what else will I bring? Clothes, shoes, toiletries. They're easy because they're essential. But what about my non-essentials? What's important there?

Is it more books?
Random tidbits from my room in Ann Arbor that bring back fond memories?
Or should I bring possible decorations, like scarves or bolts of cloth to hang on the walls?
I might have watched HGTV a time or two over the last 3 weeks.
Or maybe I should brave the possibility of killing my appliances and let my hair dryer and straightener tag-along?

I think it's more than obvious that I'm over-thinking this. I have no idea what to bring because I have no idea what to expect.
So I expect everything.
Therefore, I'm more stressed about what decorative accessories and touching memorabilia to bring to Cape Town than I am about the fact that I'm going to be spending the next 5 months 8,374 miles from my home.

Although after these last three weeks at home, I'm ready to go.
It's not that I don't love my family and little Alpena.
But 3 weeks of no friends in Alpena which therefore meant three weeks of solely hanging out with bothering my parents means that all three of us are ready for a change.

However, unlike my mother who has gone through and prepared for every worst case scenario, best case scenario, and scenario in general, I haven't exactly done my homework on Cape Town.

True, I have my student handbook, which details what will happen the first week I'm there (Sneak Preview: 8 am orientation yuck, tour of the Cape Coast fun, African drumming lesson way fun, and visiting the penguins on Boulder Beach squeal!)

Be jealous of the gorgeous blue skies

True, I watched Invictus.
Although I'm no closer to understanding rugby.

True, I have read one of my two guidebooks so far, and have learned (hopefully not out-dated) South African slang, such as:
Robot=Traffic Light
Eish!= No way!
Babbelas= hangover
And my personal favorite to say:
Ja-well-no-fine= Fine, yes, but not really

However it's also true that:
1). While chatting with a best friend who's spending the semester in London, she informed me that she "was just reading about the racial categories" of Cape Town and that "it was developed by the Dutch East India Company (which explains the dutchness)."
Sidenote: I already knew that. Thank you Guide Book #1

2). While chatting with another best friend, she informed me that the animals on the rand represent the 5 Big Game animals in South Africa: the lion, the leopard, the elephant, the buffalo, and the rhinoceros.
Sidenote: I was the one who had to convince her it was
a buffalo

and not

a wildebeest.

Considering the fact that two of my best friends, who have much more interesting and important things to do than Wikipedia the city and country I'll be spending the next 5 months in, know more about said city and country than me is a problem.

Needless to say, after this blog post is finished, I'll be visiting Wikipedia and my second guide book so that I'll know at least the same amount of information as my over-achieving friends.

And so on that note, I think I've procrastinated enough. Funny, even when I'm not in school and have absolutely no work to do, I'm still a faithful and loyal procrastinator. So I'll get to the point. This blog will be chronicling my 5 months spent in Cape Town, South Africa. I am ridiculously excited to not only skip Michigan winter
Oh how I shall miss this...

but that I'll also get to spend 5 months in AFRICA! So stay tuned and I'll try to update a lot. Once I'm there, I'll no longer have to get pictures of this gorgeous city off of Google, and will be able to show you Cape Town from my viewpoint.

But for now, back to Wikipedia, avoiding packing, and most likely no sleep for the next 30 hours and 16 minutes.

(Which is good-bye in Afrikaans, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa. Wikipedia is already paying off!)