The University of Cape Town
Yesterday we got the chance to see the UCT campus. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. There is the main part of campus, where the view (in every single direction) is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. From the steps of the main building, I sat, looking down into the valley of Cape Town, surrounded by mountains. Behind me, I peer over the old, vine covered buildings, up at another mountain peak. I have never been so overwhelmed with beauty in my life. All I could think was how I wanted everyone in my life to witness the extravagance. Also, because I knew that was impossible, I worried about how I could possibly explain the beauty to those who haven’t seen it. I can’t. Without actually seeing it, it is unimaginable.
After sitting to appreciate the view, I experienced the biggest culture shock possible. As we went to lunch, we walked in to the cafe (indoors, with the doors propped open) there were multiple birds that were walking/flying around the tables. I could not believe it. All of the Americans I was with were SHOCKED to see the birds, and whispered about how unsanitary it was. Meanwhile, the native African and local students, didn’t even flinch as the birds flew over their table, and picked at the garbage on the floor. Again, I could not believe it. I guess different parts of the world have different norms. Even now, sitting with my South African friend Vongs, he says “that’s nothing to be concerned about”. Wow.
Then, for dinner we went to a native African restaurant and witness native african music, with drums and all. It was easily one of the happiest moments of my life. There are no words to describe the experience.
Today was another day that really showed me the differenced in cultures around the world.
We checked out of the hotel around 9am, and moved in our dorms, where we’ll be staying for the remainder of the visit. I am living with an American from Georgetown named Kevin, as well as two african students: Caroline (from Zimbabwe, which she simply calls “Zi”) as well as Oko. I havn’t met Oko yet, but apparently he is very quiet and isn’t home very often.
When I had my first introduction to Caroline, she told me that was her middle name. Her first name of course was very complicated, with multiple vowels. Lets just say, I’m very happy she goes by her middle name! That seems to be the case here with most of the Africans. Their names are very complicated, and it takes me at least 3 times asking for me to understand. I suppose that’s typical of different cultures, although Vongs did remark that the English names were “super easy to remember. They are all so typical”.
My two friends, Jill and Celia, seemed to have much more terrible experiences with their flats. They are both living with 3 guys, and both seem to be shocked at how old and filthy the dorms are. Of course, they are not very modern. I’ll be the first to admit that. But I guess I lucked out because mine is very clean, thanks to Caroline who is basically the only one who lives here. Also, I’ve gotten to know Kevin pretty well, and he seems like he’ll be a great flatmate.
The one shocking thing about my flat is that it doesn’t have a shower. Instead it only has a bath with a broken shower hose thing. I hate baths more than anything. I haven’t actually used it, but Kevin said it is terrible. Either scalding hot, or freezing cold, with barely any water pressure. Hmmm considering I’ve got a ton of hair, it should be quite the task to get it clean at least once in a while. I’ll keep you updated, but for now I figure after a few tries, I’ll get a process down.
After moving our stuff in, we went with our orientation leaders to a nearby “town” to get stuff and groceries. Now the interesting thing about Cape Town is that there is a difference between Cabs and Taxis. Now Cabs are the typical mode of transport, where you tell them a destination, and they take you there. However, Taxis are completely different. They are 15 passenger vans that travel up and down 1 road, honking and yelling for passengers. Because of this, all the major streets are constantly filled with the sound of “beeps” and “whistles” as the men inside try to gather customers.
So today, with our groceries, we climbed into one of these taxis and traveled to the end of the street (again, they just go up and down one street, for the cost of 5 Rands — less than $1). We fit a total of 18 people into the van with all of our groceries. It was quite the experience, and one I’ll never forget. Of course I’ll be taking another taxi, and many cabs while I’m here.
The wireless is expensive, and pay-as-you-go, and I’m currently talking to Will as I write this via Skype. In short, that means I have to go
We’re going to see the penguins tomorrow! So expect pictures!
Keywords: Culture Shock, South Africa, University of Cape Town
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