State of the Blog.

September 2, 2012

It’s time for a blog update. I’ve decided to suspend my blog for the near and indefinite future (I know, you’re asking haven’t I already done that by not posting for 3 months?) I’m back in Cape Town after a lovely month at home and my time here has begun to feel more like real life and less like a cultural exchange. I’m also applying to grad school which has all but eliminated any free time for blogging.

Anyways, while I won’t be updating the blog regularly, I will be continuing to embrace life as an official Capetonian – hiking, eating lots of spinach/feta/butternut combinations, drinking americanos and flat whites, and riding the minibus every morning. I knew I had reached a new level of assimilation when I told my neighbor I’d see him “just now” last week (and no, I still don’t know what timeframe that’s referring to). While there are things I still miss desperately about the States such as my family and almond butter, life in Cape Town is pretty great. Stay turned for facebook picture updates and email digests. 

Hope all is well with you in the northern hemisphere and until next time, cheers! 

 

Birthdays.

June 6, 2012

I have celebrated my 21st and 25th birthdays in South Africa, two pretty big milestones in the life of someone only a quarter-century old. I have to say – when celebrating my 21st here, never in a million years did I think I’d be doing the same thing 4 years later. I definitely never thought that I’d be doing the same thing 5 years later as well. Yes, I will also be celebrating my 26th birthday in Cape Town as I have decided to stay for another year! 

After much thought, deliberation, trusting my instincts, and some tears (more my mom than me), I’ve decided that the right place for me to be for the next year is in Cape Town. I will stay on with my current organization, will work towards some personal goals (the biggest one being grad school), and will continue to explore this great country and continent. The biggest takeaway from this announcement is that you all have another 12 months to come visit!

In other news, I was lucky to have the company of my cousin Neil for a week at the end of May, conveniently timed to help me celebrate my birthday! Neil is living in Senegal and I had the chance to visit him in March so it was a great opportunity to compare and contrast our very different African experiences. 

I tried to show Neil the best of what Cape Town has to offer:

Wine-tasting with my buds in Constantia

 


Post birthday brunch hike up Lions Head 

A few mating penguins on the way down to the Cape of Good Hope 

 

After Neil’s visit, I’ve been winding down my first year in South Africa, getting ready for the next, and most importantly getting ready to go home! In less than one short month (thank goodness June only has 30 days), I will be in the great state of Rhode Island. Can’t wait to get my fill of New England summer! 

 

*totally aware that these photos are mini. will try to replace them soon

Fun.

May 6, 2012

The time has come to post again. The last three months have been spent having fun. Fun, busy, exciting, adventurous, hectic. All good things. In the last three months, I’ve been to West Africa, Johannesburg, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and to the middle of the Karoo Desert. I’ve eaten several fish with their heads and eyes still in tact, learned how to carry water on my head, seen Nelson Mandela’s home in Soweto, and have probably had an impromtu dance party in each different place. Here is the cliff notes version:


Goldfish concert, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town
A Sunday afternoon institution in Cape Town. Music, picnics, and beautiful scenery. Enough said.


Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa
I had two days en route to Senegal to finally explore Jo’burg a little. I went to the apartheid museum and saw a little bit of Soweto, one of the largest townships in Jo’burg and home at one point to several key players in the anti-apartheid movement including Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu (this is outside Nelson’s house).


Popenguine, Senegal
In March, I spent an incredible week visiting my cousin Neil who is a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal. His family flew in from the US and we spent a few days at the beach, a few days at his village, and a few days in Dakar.


Mar Lodj, Senegal
We spent an afternoon with Neil’s host family, getting to know each other and exchanging gifts. It was so special getting an inside view of such a different part of Africa and an understanding of Neil’s day-to-day life.


Bulungula, Wild Coast, South Africa
I spent Easter weekend with four friends a the Bulungula Lodge in the Wild Coast of South Africa. It may have taken us almost 24 hours to get there (including a 17 hour overnight bus ride), but it was worth every minute of the journey. Bulungula is in one of the most remote and beautiful parts of the country.


We took a Woman’s Empowerment tour and spent the morning at the home of one of the women from the local village. With much patience, she showed us how to carry water and sticks on our head, make bricks out of cow dung, and grind our own pap for lunch.


Afrika Burn, Karoo Desert, South Africa
I spent last weekend at Afrika Burn and getting in touch with my inner hippy. Afrika Burn is a smaller version of Burning Man in the US and I’m not sure I can capture the experience in a few words and pictures. Essentially, people built massive art structures and “stands” in the middle of the desert. The art was slowly burned over the course of the weekend and at the stands you could get everything from a cupcake to an energy healing session, all done completely on the barter system.

Needless to say it was been a great couple of months as all of this travel was combined with busy and invigorating work and general fun with friends. I hope all of you in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying the spring flowers and not too many May showers!

Where the World Began

February 15, 2012

Camping/hiking/bouldering in the Cederbergs.

Enough said?

Up the Creek

February 6, 2012

I spent the weekend road-tripping, floating on a river, camping, and listening to live music. It doesn’t get much better than that. My friends and I went to Up the Creek, a music festival about 3 hours from Cape Town. It may have been my first music festival, but I can’t think of a better premise. The stage was set up on an embankment over-looking a river (more river than creek), there was a different live band about every 2 hours, and you didn’t have to do anything but float (which was a little touch and go on the second day due to some air loss in our raft but we managed).

Other highlights from the weekend include christening our two-person Explorer 200 model raft as “Dora the Explorer,” blowing up, deflating and then blowing up our rafts again (best pre-trip purchase: foot pump), and lots and lots of peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Unfortunately, I took out my camera in the car only to realize the battery was completely dead. Check out Mel’s blog for pictures: http://megustastublog.blogspot.com/2012/02/up-creek.html.

Well hello Cape Town.

January 30, 2012

I may not have mentioned this in my previous posts about New Year’s Resolutions, but one of my other resolutions is to live in the moment (almost as important as blogging more). Specifically, to make sure these next 6 months (now 5?!) months in Cape Town don’t go by too quickly and I don’t wish them away because I miss the people I love or am day-dreaming about my new, soon-to-be-had studio in NYC.

And then I walked into my drive way tonight and I had to live in the moment. The sunset was breath-taking.

I know this blog is often light-hearted and I’ve shared more experiences than reflections, however in the past week I’ve found 2 articles on the homepage of my beloved nytimes.com that I feel compelled to share.

By my calculations, I’ve lived in South Africa for 10 1/2 months over the past 4 years. Granted that time doesn’t make me an expert or qualify me for residency, but its also not an insignificant period. I am embarrassed to admitt that in the those 10 1/2 months, I was not aware of the higher education crunch South Africa has been experiencing until it hit the homepage of the NYT last week. Here in the Western Cape, most of the young people I know and work with went to the University of Cape Town and the University of the Western Cape and there’s not much more to that story. However, in the rest of the country, young people and their families are battling for a spot at a public university. This is also compounding unemployment amongst young people as they can’t get the skills and degree that will make them more valuable to employers.

This situation also serves as a reminder that higher education is not a right or an assumption universally. I’ve linked to the full article and paraphrased below:

Fatal Stampede in South Africa Points Up University Crisis
JOHANNESBURG — They lined up well before dawn, some driving from the deep countryside with bags of fluffy blankets and neatly packed sandwiches, to wait for the gates to a new life to open. They hoped for a shot at a coveted spot at one of South Africa’s public universities, and with it a chance to escape the indignity of joblessness that afflicts more than a third of the nation. By morning, the line was more than a mile long.
Related in Opinion

As the gates were about to open at 7:45 Tuesday morning, thousands of students, many accompanied by their anxious parents, surged forward, desperate to win one of several hundred last-chance places still open at the University of Johannesburg. Amid shoving and screams, one woman, the mother of a prospective student, was trampled to death and several others were badly injured in a frantic scrum.

The stampede embodied the broad crisis in South Africa’s overstretched higher education system as it struggles to extend opportunities once reserved for whites to all South Africans. It is a problem of grade school mathematics: Too many students are seeking too few seats at the country’s public universities, which turn away more than half of their applicants, leaving few options for most high school graduates.

Not only that, the squeeze plays into a wider problem of unemployment among young people.

The jobless rate among youths is nearly 70 percent, a staggering problem that even a college degree does not promise to solve. Adcorp, a temporary staffing firm, said in a recent report that there were 600,000 unemployed college graduates in South Africa.

“There just aren’t enough places for everybody,” said Karabo Dihba, a 22-year-old would-be applicant who hoped to earn an engineering degree, standing amid the abandoned shoes, blankets and rubbish that littered the area outside the university’s gates. “What are we supposed to do?”

About 85,000 students had applied for the roughly 11,000 seats available at the University of Johannesburg, university officials told reporters, almost 20,000 more applicants than there were last year. The students at the university gates on Tuesday were hoping to compete for a relative handful of last-minute seats; the main application deadline passed in June.

Secondly, if you’re like me, you might have assumed that the establishment of South Sudan and subsequent elections this summer meant that genocide and civil war was over. Again, thank you to the New York Times for shaking me out of my complacency:

Born in Unity, South Sudan Is Torn Again
PIBOR, South Sudan — The trail of corpses begins about 300 yards from the corrugated metal gate of the United Nations compound and stretches for miles into the bush.

There is an old man on his back, a young woman with her legs splayed and skirt bunched up around her hips, and a whole family — man, woman, two children — all facedown in the swamp grass, executed together. How many hundreds are scattered across the savannah, nobody really knows.

South Sudan, born six months ago in great jubilation, is plunging into a vortex of violence. Bitter ethnic tensions that had largely been shelved for the sake of achieving independence have ruptured into a cycle of massacre and revenge that neither the American-backed government nor the United Nations has been able to stop.

The United States and other Western countries have invested billions of dollars in South Sudan, hoping it will overcome its deeply etched history of poverty, violence and ethnic fault lines to emerge as a stable, Western-friendly nation in a volatile region. Instead, heavily armed militias the size of small armies are now marching on villages and towns with impunity, sometimes with blatantly genocidal intent.

Eight thousand fighters just besieged this small town in the middle of a vast expanse, razing huts, burning granaries, stealing tens of thousands of cows and methodically killing hundreds, possibly thousands, of men, women and children hiding in the bush.

Resolutions and a Re-cap

January 7, 2012

My resolution to post more was short lived (see post on Oct. 27). Alas, as I’ve been reading lately, most New Year’s resolutions are short lived as well. Apparently, it didn’t make a big difference for me that mine was made in October, not January. However, I am generally pretty good at keeping my New Year’s resolutions if I write them them down. So here it is in writing: I will post more. 

Anyways, on to the good stuff! There are several wonderful reasons I’ve been such a negligent blogger – my family came to visit, work have been busy, and I went home for the holidays! I’ll give you more detail about the first and last points, and try not to bore you with the second. 

My family came for a week and a half in November which coincided with Thanksgiving, my absolute favorite holiday. We spent the first half of the time in Cape Town and hit all of the main tourist sites, Robben Island, the V&A Waterfront, Stellenbosch, Long Street, etc. They were even inspired to hike Table Mountain one day while I was at work, despite my warnings that its a rather arduous climb (and I haven’t stopped hearing about it since). This is how big my smile was the entire time they were here:

We spent the second half of the week on a safari in the Eastern Cape, about an 8 hour drive from Cape Town. The game reserve was replete with its own Mufasa and the game drives were like being in the middle of both The Lion King and Jurassic Park at once. Sometimes terrifying, but mostly awe-inspiring:

and my personal favorite, the zebras:

We took the long scenic route back through the Little Karoo to check out the desert. Route 62, the only way from one of end of the Little Karoo to the other, is a bit like Route 66 in the US, and no cross-country highway would be complete without its own legendary truck stop. Route 62 certainly did not disappoint with Ronnie’s Sex Shop:


(Use your imagination, but don’t go too crazy. It’s more bar, than sex shop.)

Finally, we were back in Cape Town for a belated Thanksgiving potluck with my fellow expat friends and then they were off to America. For those of you wondering what a South African Thanksgiving entails – yes, there was a lot of butternut squash, and an imported, frozen turkey from Brazil. Different from our usual Rhode Island Thanksgivings, but still equally successful and fun.

Three busy weeks later and I was homeward bound. I spent two wonderful weeks in Rhode Island, piggy-backed by time in New York City and an day trip to Boston. My trip was action packed and I spent a lot less time sitting on the couch and catching up on Top Chef episodes than I expected, but in those two weeks, I got to see so many of the people I had missed – family, Church Lane family, high school buddies, college buddies, and DC friends. I also did everything from attend our high school friends’ 10th Annual Secret Santa Party to walk the Cliff Walk in Newport (who knew it was 7 miles start to finish?). Oh and did I mention? I went to a rave on New Year’s Eve. Despite the fact that my neighborhood now feels eerily quiet after 4 days in NYC, I’m happy to report that I didn’t experience culture shock in either direction and do still like America.

Now I’m back in Cape Town, have passed my 6-month mark and am looking forward to spending the next 6 months at the beach. Just kidding, there are lots of things I’m looking forward to in the next 6 months, but my hands are getting tired from typing and the sun is calling my name, so those will come in later posts.

Hope you all had a great holiday season and good luck with those New Year’s resolutions!

The View

November 9, 2011

This weekend, in honor of my good friend Nellie’s birthday, my friends and I took a mini road trip up the western coast in search of THE View. You know the view, the view of Cape Town that is used in most promotional material for the city and is printed on infinite post cards. This view:


(I forgot my camera and sadly my camera phone can’t quite capture the majestic beauty.)

We packed a picnic, drove a mere 25 minutes outside of the city, and were blown away by what we found. The afternoon was spent eating this:

(Not sure if it looks as appealing as it tasted.)

And looking at this:

And smiling:

We had a lazy, beautiful afternoon until we were graced by a few Guy Fawkes Night revelers. For those of you unfamiliar with the holiday, the traditions apparently include lighting pyrotechnics and staging informal fireworks shows. Needless to say, we soon felt like we were under attack, a sure sign that it was time to head back to the city.

A great day all the way around and I hope you enjoy the view as much as I did.

Here are a few more pictures taken in the last month or so. Enjoy!


Whale watching in Hermanus, South Africa.


A penguin, one of South Africa’s finest.


The Cape of Good Hope, Africa’s most southwestern point.


Rafiki, South Africa’s real finest.


With friends in Hout Bay.


Sunday brunch!

There will be more words to elaborate on all of these pictures in the next post, I promise! I had a busy weekend of lunching at a vineyard, celebrating Halloween (complete with a leopard print cowboy hat – possibly my best purchase in Cape Town yet), and bidding farewell to my one of my favorite Capetonian expats Byron. Hope you all had a wonderful weekend battling the snow and trick or treating!

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