Today was a day of mixed emotions.
I was up around 9 am to register for this semester’s classes, which proved to also follow the usual “Africa” time. Unlike in the United States, classes are not scheduled online, but instead through stacks of paperwork. There was line after line, or queue after queue, to fill in your classes, meet with advisors, type this, scan that….what a nightmare. Luckily, I got there early and didn’t have to wait all that long.
I guess even in “Africa time” it pays to be early.
That night, Celia, Jill, Gretchen and I decided to have a night out on Long Street, which has most of the safe clubs and bars. Now you would think that a night out would be wonderful, especially before we were to start classes today (on Monday). However, our trip downtown started on an extremely terrifying note.
As we were just entering the city, our cab suddenly started to slow down. We weren’t at a light, but up ahead there were about 6 homeless men in the middle of the street directing traffic into the far left lane. Our first impression was annoyance….that they were begging for money, or work. But as we passed the group, our attitude changed and within seconds all of us girls were in tears, covering our eyes.
On the street lay another homeless man, still. He had very clearly been hit by a car and was no longer living. His body rested in a pool of blood that stretched almost another 2 feet down the road. The worst part was that the car that hit him was nowhere to be found. It has just occurred to me now that he had been hit and left to die.
And there were his friends, who had lived with him, and begged with him for petty change, making sure that another car didn’t come and hit him again. I cannot imagine having to direct traffic around my friend’s dead body.
Although the remainder of the night was fun, each of us would stop and fall silent at intervals throughout the night. The British guys that we were with didn’t understand, but just one look between the four of us and we all recognized that our sleep that night would be filled with nightmares of what we witnessed.
Of course, life moves on.
During that night, as I mentioned, we ended up going “pub crawling” with 3 new friends, 1 from the UK and 2 from Cape Town. They were absolutely hilarious! At one point, after being joined by 2 more from the UK, I remember getting into a heated debate about the differences between the UK and the States.
First, please let me point out one interesting fact about the atmosphere before I describe the discussion. We were sitting in a bar in South Africa called the Dubliner…obviously an Irish themed place. We had snagged a hidden table in the far back corner, which basically had its own room with a curved booth surrounding the table. And the best part…there was a painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the wall. America much? When I was the first to notice the picture…I probably would have been the only one to notice considering I was the only sober person of the bunch…I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. And, it only got better when we started to debate. How could they say America wasn’t awesome when the signing of our Declaration of Independence was posted right there?!
Henry, one of the funny “chaps” from the UK brought up his frustration with Microsoft Word, and how he didn’t think it was fair that it was designed for American English. Now, Henry, being from the UK, and very drunk, was extremely passionate about this problem. He went on and on about how the British created the language, and how we (Americans) were so stupid because we dropped the “u” in words, and made them change the setting in Word. Of course, after he was done with his rant I said “Henry, we invented the computer, created the Internet,and invented Microsoft Word. I think its only fair that we have it in our version of English!”
Meanwhile, Celia and Jill are chanting, “Bill Gates is an American! Bill Gates is an American!”
On Saturday we headed down to the Camps Bay area, which is located right on the beach. It was a beautiful day, with the sun shining and a slight breeze. I usually have a bad habit of misjudging the weather from my small dorm room window, so I ended up wearing jeans and boots to the beach….oops. Once I got my boots and socks off though, it was so refreshing to walk through the sand. The water reminded me of skiing on Memorial day…FREEZING. I tried to explain to our friend Omarie, who drove us to the beach, that I had skied in water that was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I am terrible at converting to Celsius, but I told him that was barely above freezing. His eyes just buldged! “That sounds terrible! Why would you do that?” “It’s tradition,” I explained.
He didn’t really seem to get it. However, he then proceeded to encourage me to walk into the ocean water, which must have been a few degrees colder. Hmm…
After the beach, we walked up and down the street, and looked through the small carts of handmade jewelry and other trinkets. I know my mom will love them when she comes to visit. We also drove along the coast until we reached the waterfront. It looks very similar to the waterfront at San Francisco, filled with hundreds of beautiful sailboats.
I wanted nothing more than to have my camera with me. As the sun was setting on the boats all of the colors just became brighter and even more beautiful. With their reflection off the water, splashing seals, and flocks of seagulls soaring above our heads, it really made for an enjoyable evening with friends.
Sunday was a day of errands. I thoroughly enjoyed my first morning of sleeping in. As I like to say, a truly “good morning” is one that you sleep through. I slept until 1pm that day, so it was a wonderful morning.
Once everyone was awake, we got a group together and headed to upper campus to find our classrooms for Monday. Because it was the day before classes, almost all of campus was empty…making it the perfect opportunity to take pictures.
Monday was the typical first day of school. Except it didn’t really feel like the first day, considering I didn’t pick out my outfit the night before or worry about whether or not I should ask a question in the first lecture. Instead, I just sat back and took in the South African way of teaching.
My first class of the day, “History of Photography in South Africa: 1860-Present” is incredibly interesting. The professor sounds and looks like a young Sean Connery (everything he says sounds so beautiful) making it much easier to listen. Plus, the subject matter of the class, photography, is something that has recently become a passion of mine, so learning about how it has changed through the history of South Africa is perfect. Every week we also have guest photographers that come to class and teach us about their photography, as well as the things they’ve witnessed through their work.
My second class, “Third Word Politics” seemed interesting, however it only lasted about 10 minutes. Actually, probably more like 8 considering the Professor walked in late. She simply introduced herself, told us to pick up our readings at the department, and left. Huh. I guess I’ll get a better impression of that today at 2pm.
I just went to my first “Ethics” lecture, where the professor was wonderful. Even after just a few minutes, I was impressed with his ability to teach over 600 students as well as answer questions and stay on track. He even was able to throw in a sense humor while explaining the definition of ethics….always impressive.
Keywords: Culture Shock, South Africa
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