Discovering the unfamiliar

These past two weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of adventure, new experiences, and falling deeper in love with Cape Town. This week marks my second week of classes and its safe to say the reading is piling up quicker than ever. This semester I’m really trying to take courses that culturally enhance and educate my experience here. So, I am taking Social Race, Class, and Gender; Individual and Society; African Dance; and Introducing Africa: History, Politics, and Culture. Although the sociology courses are somewhat similar to courses I have taken back in the States, the context of South Africa completely transforms the material and offers an extremely interesting insight into the root of societal issues here. Thus I am discovering a country very unfamiliar to my own.  So far I’ve attended bigger lectures than I’ve ever experienced back home at Chapman, but along with those lectures are mandatory weekly tutorial groups. Here we are in a much smaller space with much less people and we are able to actually discuss and ask questions about the material covered in classes and readings. One of the themes that continues to pop up in lectures is the intersectionality of race, class, and gender and the lasting affect the Apartheid era still has on many South African citizens. The history and culture of this country is truly fascinating and I am looking forward to learning more and living more of it during the rest of the semester. 

Aside from a schedule filled with lectures and tutorials I can assure you that I fill every other moment of free time with activities and most importantly fun! These include attending UCT sport games, both football (soccer) and rugby, trying out and making the UCT varsity volleyball team, volunteering for an organization called SHAWCO, going clubbing and bar hopping, and attending a music fest called Cold Turkey. If there is one thing you should know about Cape Town, there is ALWAYS something going on. First I’ll start with the sports.

So far, I’ve attended 2 football games and the school spirit far surpasses that of my home university which is a VERY nice change of pace. At the first game, we made some real South African friends which as silly as it sounds is quite exciting. (Their accents never get old). At half time they pull people out to the field to kick soccer balls for a 2000 rand prize as well as have a little dance competition. So far no one from the Arcadia group has gone up, but I can assure you by the end of the season someone will be brave enough to go try, and we all know the bar tab will be on them for that weekend 😛 As fun as the the soccer games are, I wanted to discover a new sport very unfamiliar to me. So I attended my first ever rugby game. It was a rather rainy weekend, so the field was pretty muddy and upon arrival, we noticed the boys were too haha! I can’t say rugby has won me over from American football quite yet, but it was definitely a very entertaining sport to watch. Especially because UCT Rugby team has just won the Varsity Cup, which I guess makes them the best team in South Africa! My last sport experience involves trying out for the UCT women’s volleyball team. Not only is this a way to stay active while playing a sport I love, but it also gives me a great opportunity to create strong friendships within the team. We’ve had one tryout/practice so far and to say I’m sore is an understatement. The balls they use here are slightly different than the ones at home, so my forearms are not very happy with me. But, I’m extremely excited to start competing again and be part of a team here at UCT!

Next I’d like to share my experience with this organization called SHAWCO. SHAWCO is a volunteer organization that helps tutor, teach, and play with kids in the townships throughout South Africa. There are all different age groups and locations that you can choose to do. I’ve chosen to work with a project titled Little Moon, which works with kids grades 1-3 in a township called Nyanga. This past Monday was our very first day and I am already so thrilled and humbled with the experience I’ve had. The kids in this village speak the language Xhosa, and for those of you don’t know, this language involves several different clicking noises and is EXTREMELY hard to pick up on. As I tried to help them with english, math, and reading, they tried to help me understand them and their language. Finally we settled on dancing and games, something we both could understand. As you can see in the photo above, they were absolutely fascinated by my GoPro and we had a lot of fun filming and dancing around. The boy that tutored was named Balinezo. (He is pictured on the far left). I’m looking forward to seeing him every Monday for the rest of the semester! 

Lastly, but not least is the music scene and night life in South Africa. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, there is never a dull moment in Cape Town, and the night life here backs up that statement 100%. There are three main areas that people go out: Claremont, Observatory, and Longstreet. As I’m sure you can assume, we have been to all three. Several times. People here don’t go to sleep I swear. But it’s been a great experience bonding with my house mates and a fun opportunity to meet some locals. One particular event I attended was called Cold Turkey. It was a rather “underground” music fest located at the train lodge, which is basically two abandoned trains that have been transformed into a hostel. In the middle of the two trains was space for lounging, dancing, a bar, and most importantly the DJ booth. After spending an entire day walking around the city, my house mate Zach and I finally found this event. We told ourselves we would spend a max of 4 hours there considering it was a Sunday. If this is any indication of how much we had, we ended up staying for 8 hours! 

Cape Town continues to thrill, humble, and educate me through all of these experiences. Looking forward to sharing more next week! This weekend we will be doing an overnight in a township! As always thank you for reading. 

And this is my life: South Africa

“Its the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday, and then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today, and that someday is yesterday and this is your life.” -Nathan Scott

It’s still very hard to believe that every morning for the past three weeks now, I’ve been waking up in Africa. But what’s even more surreal is that these three weeks will continue on for five months. After years of dreaming of this experience, my time has finally come. I am here. I am in Africa. This is my life. 

To catch you all up to speed on my activities, my mom and I had an amazing last week together exploring Victoria Falls and the beautiful city of Cape Town. While in Zambia we stayed in a very charming place called the Munga Eco Lodge. There we went on micro-lite flights, sunset cruises, and got absolutely drenched by the “mist that thunders” at Victoria Falls. Once we finally arrived in Cape Town, my mom and I both had our first realization that although this was our final destination, this would be the point where we would be parting ways for a while. So we really took advantage of few days we had left together. We explored Cape Town by car the first day and driving on the left side of the road proved to be an adventure in itself. We went to see the stunning landscape of theCape of Good Hope and Cape Point and all the cities we passed along the way (Noordhoek, Camps Bay, Clifton, etc). We stayed in a marvelous boutique hotel called Rouge on Rose, located in the BoKaap area. There we were able to walk along Long Street, Kloof, & Adderly, explore the V & A Waterfront, take a ferry out to Robben Island, enjoy delicious meals, drink one glass too many on Wine Wednesday, and make precious memories together that I will cherish for the rest of my life. This was by far the most amazing trip I have ever been on and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else by my side. Love you infinitely mom! And thank you for enriching my life in immeasurable ways. 

But just as one adventure ended, a new one began! And although I had to say a tearful goodbye to mom, I gained a new family here in Cape Town; my roommates at Roxburgh and Bolihope. In one short week we’ve explored the peninsula together, discovered the ridiculous affordability of alcohol, and created friendships that feel like family. 

Machaba Camp: Our home in the African Bush

It’s an incredibly challenging task to properly summate one of the best experiences of your life, but for the sake of my friends and family anxiously awaiting an update from “Off to Africa: Pam & Mia’s Excellent Adventure”, I will try my very best. I think the last most of you heard involved our troublesome flight situations. Yet, despite the numerous mechanical errors, several delays, 2 lost bags, rearranging of our entire itinerary, 26 hours spent flying and the additional 15 hours spent living out of an airport, the utter exhaustion and sense of defeat suddenly disappeared upon arrival at Machaba Camp. First let me set the scene for Machaba so you can have a better understanding of where we were, but to be honest, I don’t even entirely know.

After arriving in Maun, Botswana (from JoBurg, South Africa), we touched down in the smallest airport I have ever been too. We walked through customs???? Which was more like filling out a simple info sheet and acquiring another stamp for our collection. We then were greeted by our pilot and told to go through security, which was definitely more to show that they had security than to really be security. We were driven out to our “bush plane” with another couple. The plane had one propeller on the front and 6 seats including the pilot and copilot seats. We were slightly disconcerted that the pilot said we were a little heavy (due to the other couple’s overpacking), but off we went. The couple with us was dropped off at another camp site aka a landing strip in the middle of the African Bush and I got to move up to the co-pilot seat for the duration of the flight!

Bush PlaneDCIM100GOPRO

We were officially in Africa. We could see our shadow flying across the Bush and noticed a few elephants walking about! The twists and turns of the Okavango Delta were beautiful glistening reflections of the sky and the elation my mother and I felt was through the roof. As we touched down on our isolated strip of dirt, we noticed a safari car was waiting; to retrieve us but also as the pilot informed us, to make sure there weren’t any animals on the runway.

We had finally made it.

At this point I am going to apologize for the length of this post, but I fear that if I skip and over generalize I will not capture the true essence of Machaba Camp.

Machaba was comfortable. The staff was incredibly nice and more importantly personal (Elka, C, Sean, Leopard, Mr. T, Masale, Butata, & Carter are just a few). The tents were incredible (minus the big hairy spiders) and took glamping to a whole new level. But after all our traveling we finally had found a place to call home that felt like home too. There was a “living room” and “dining room” tent that was central and connected that opened up to part of the delta. Here we sat to chat, relax, eat, sit by the fire, and watch for any wildlife. But before I get into all of that we had to quickly set down our stuff and jump in the car to meet up with our safari group for the evening game drive.

Our TentThe car

For those of you who have never been on a safari, the feeling of being driven around bumpy trails with open sides, wind licking your skin and flipping your hair is quite exhilarating. I would equate it to the feeling on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, but in real life and in the African Bush. We met up with our group and jumped in their car and off we went! Our guide’s name was Leopard and we were joined with 2 older couples that were extremely friendly, wanting to show us the ropes of proper safari-ing.

I could go into the many and exciting details of the animals we encountered over the next few days but I will try to sum them up into one paragraph. Within the first 2 days we saw things that some common safari goers hadn’t seen in 40 years, that being a pack of Wild Dogs. Our safari experience will always be tainted because we saw some of the most rare animals within the first two days: We saw 2 female lions (walked within 5 feet of our vehicle), 1 male lion, a pack of wild dogs eating an Impala, a leopard eating an Impala up in a tree (stolen from the wild dogs), and another leopard up in the same tree who stole the impala carcass from the first leopard! We saw plenty of zebras, impalas, kudu, letre (I think that’s how you spell it), warthogs, hyenas and their pups, elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, vultures, eagles, hawks, and beautifully colored birds.

The moments that particularly stood out on the game drives were the following:

1. Seeing a magnificent leopard practically posing in the tree with his dead impala in front of him and his big paws dangling off the tree. He had a full belly and we watched him for quite some time. This was a rare sighting and one of the first things we saw during our stay at Machaba! He was absolutely stunning.

Leopard

2. Seeing the wild dogs chase and kill a letre and then return to their den to feed their pups. This instance was especially powerful. We watched these animals acquire their food strategically, just as we watched another animal’s life quickly disappear. The wild dogs ripped and ate this animal alive while we watched no more than 10 feet away. It was horrifying to watch but it really helped conceptualize the circle of life. As humans, we are so removed from the source of our food. We see meat as meat and not as animal or another life. This concept came full circle when we saw the wild dogs return to their den to feed their hungry little pups.

Wild dog

3. On the last day we saw a good number of elephants and giraffes. This was very special for my mom and I because we love these animals and to be quite honest, they weren’t as plentiful as we had anticipated. We saw elephants walk right in front of our car and go to drink water. It was spectacular to see them walk so close to us. The giraffes had also proved to be quite elusive but we ended up coming across a little family of them which was absolutely precious.

Show off Giraffe

4. Hippos seemed to be pretty common but on the last game drive we saw quite a bunch of them. While we were there one of them emerged out of the water and started showing off, opening his mouth and yelling a little bit. Then that same hippo got into a little fight with another hippo and eventually presented the submissive behavior by sticking his rump in the air and swinging his tail around.

5. Lastly, on our way out to the landing strip to leave we came across one last animal when we hadn’t expected to see any! We had found another leopard! We took this as a good omen for the rest of our trip.

Machaba camp had exceeded all of our expectations. It was truly magical and I was very sad to say goodbye. Fortunately, we shared unforgettable memories with each other and the families also staying at the camp. We became close to a family from Cape Town that is absolutely lovely and I now have a sense of comfort and family during my time abroad.

Currently I am finishing this post from Cape Town. I will update my next post with our travels in Zambia(which have already happened). PS we found my bags!

will try to post pictures!

Zebra RumpsCanoeing

My Personal Favorite Shot

My Personal Favorite Shot