Saturday, January 29, 2011

"There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it." -Charles Dudley Warner

This quote could not be more true.  These past few days have been incredible.  This country literally gets better by the day.  After spending a few days at the waterfront, Chris and I moved into a new hotel down the coast in Hermanus, an area known for its near shore whale watching.  Unfortunately it’s not currently whale season, but we did see some common dolphins off the coast.  We stayed at Arabella hotel, which is known for its golf course…I wouldn’t know after staying there- but I can tell you that the pool area is fantastic!   While in the area we went wine tasting through the valley and the views were incredible- the vast vineyards framed by the steep rock faces were fascinating. 
We also went to a game reserve, which was essentially a zoo without walls between you and the animals.  It was awesome to see the animals up close though, especially when the woman in the safari truck with us dropped her bag right in front of the lions and the ranger had to get out and get it, after parking the truck between the bag and the lions to ensure safety.  After the lions, we went to a separate enclosure to see the lion “cubs” which were not cubs at all but pretty large lions that had been raised at the reserve.  It was funny because our ranger had no problem jumping in the pen with them and scratching their stomachs and playing with them as if they were big dogs.
After that we drove back to Cape Town to explore more of the downtown area.  We did a lot of walking around, eating out, and sightseeing in the area.  Chris insisted that we walk through the Cape Town equivalent of Central Park so we could feed the pigeons and squirrels.  The pigeons flocked all around him the second he opened the bag of chips—it was crazy. 
We spent a lot of time in Camp’s Bay, the wealthy area of the city right on the beach.  It was reminiscent of La Jolla, California or something like that.  It was one of those places where you could easily have been in America based on the shops and people around.   We had a few really amazing meals in the area though, and the views of the white beach in front were amazing.  It was also really windy and the movement of the water over the big boulders was a spectacular dinner show. 
We also attempted to ride the cable car up Table Mountain but failed every time because it was too windy.  Summer is the windy season around here, so it’s going to be tough to get up there until the winds settle down.  We were able to take a drive up to Signal Hill to get a great view of the city and the soccer stadium. 
The day before Chris left he moved me into the Kimberley House where we met the landlord and I got to pick my room first because I was the awkward first person at the house, and the ONLY one not arriving on the group flight.  Anyway, this wholw post was written one week after moving into the house, so I’m no longer the awkward housemate.  And I’m a week behind.  More to come soon.  Stay tuned.

Baby Zebra At The Game Reserve

Lion Where The Bag Was Dropped

Chris Feeding Pigeons In The Park

Clouds Keeping Us From Going Up Table Mountain

View Of The Stadium From Signal Hill

Sunday, January 16, 2011

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

In this case, the single step to begin the journey was followed by an 8 hour plane ride to Frankfurt, Germany, a 10 hour layover, and a 12 hour flight to Cape Town.  Despite this seemingly endless travel adventure, we are finally here! South Africa is already more amazing than I could have ever imagined and we have only been here for 3 days.  I got a potential babysitting job before we even landed in Cape Town (go figure) while we were talking to a woman on the plane and she said her family was just moving from Germany to Cape Town because of her husband's job.  They don't know anyone there and so she asked if I would be interested in babysitting during the semester there, little does she know I'm a seasoned babysitting professional.  

The first day we walked to the waterfront from the hotel and explored the area, taking a ride on the "Wheel of Excellence," a giant ferris wheel that is a bit touristy but gives great views of the area.  We also saw some seals in  the harbor, showing off to boaters and giving us our first view of South African wildlife.  The exposure to wildlife really began the following day when we drove to Cape Point lighthouse and the Cape of Good Hope.  On the way we stopped at Boulder's Beach, famous for the penguins that gather on the beach and dunes there.  Seeing penguins in the warm weather was counter intuitive, since I have always associated them with cold areas, and although Cape Town is not cold, it has cold water due to the currents.  The Benguela Current brings the cold water north from Antarctica, causing water on the coast west of Cape Agulhas to be freezing cold.  The coast east of Cape Agulhas has warm water, due to the warm Cape Agulhas currents, making the eastern Cape the preferred swimming area.  

After seeing the penguins we drove into the park by the Cape of Good Hope.  While we were driving we saw a pack of baboons on the side of the road, then Chris saw something off in the distance and we stopped to look and figured out they were ostriches! We thought it was so cool and took out the big zoom lens to get a few pictures of them and then continued driving to the lighthouse.  Cape Point is incorrectly thought to be the locations where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Oceans meet, however that designation is more correctly attributed to Cape Agulhas.  Regardless, Cape Point is stunning and surprisingly not as crowded as I would have imagined it to be.  Next, we drove to the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern point in Africa, framed by blinding white beaches with no one in sight.  On the way we saw ostriches again, but this time they were so close we could almost touch them.  It was so bizarre to see ostriches on the beach, a habitat I would have never expected to see them in. 

When we returned to the waterfront that evening we were walking around the area after dinner and heard an awful rendition of "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi.  As a matter of fact it was so terrible that we debated whether it was karaoke or a really bad cover band across the harbor.  While we were listening to the song to try to figure it out, I recognized that the badly sung chorus was quoting my life at that very moment.  I had just had a beautifully amazing day in Cape Town and realized that "it's my life" for the next five months. From the lyrics of the poorly sung song of the day "I ain't gonna live forever, I just wanna live while I'm alive."

 You might be thinking..."This doesn't look like Africa." That's because it's not. It's Frankfurt, Germany.
View of the Harbor from the Wheel of Excellence

Penguins at Boulder Beach

Ostrich on the Beach

Cape of Good Hope

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Waka Waka

Guess I should get started on this whole blog thing.  I've never kept a blog (or a journal for that matter) so I'm kindve winging this whole thing.  The title of my blog, "This Time for South Africa", actually has quite a bit of meaning for me.  It's a play on lyrics from the World Cup anthem, Waka Waka by Shakira, which sounds like a pretty shallow title, however I've realized that watching the World Cup exposed me to a bunch of South African culture, eventually solidifying my desire to study abroad there.  Upon looking at translations of the song online, I have learned that the song has roots in African culture-- "Tsamina" or "Zangalewa" was originally sung by a group called the Golden Sounds from Cameroon in 1986.  In fact, the song became so popular that the group changed their name to Zangalewa later on.  The song was a tribute to the battles in World War II, and is still sung by people all over Africa as a training or rallying song for policemen, military, athletes and their supporters.  It is also used throughout Cameroon as a marching song, as the majority of the population know the chorus by heart.  Music historians have also said the song is a criticism of black military officials who joined with whites to oppress their own people. WHOA. Who knew this seemingly simple World Cup song would have such deep meaning?

Here's a link to the original song, in case you were interested:

Waka Waka (time for Africa) Original

The literal translation of Waka Waka is "do it" as in perform a task.  And that's what I'm planning to do during my five month stay in South Africa- my task is to learn about the country and culture and use it to better those around me.  I will be spending 2 days a week volunteering at a grassroots organization (TBD) and 3 days taking classes at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town.  The program is through Marquette University so I don't know anyone else in the program, which is so exciting, and is definitely one of my favorite aspects of the program.  I will be thrown out of my comfort zone, living in a house with 19 people I have never met, in a country I have never been to, with a culture that is unlike any I have ever seen.  Bring it on South Africa. I'm ready.

I leave in six days for a little traveling around the country with my uncle before I move into the Kimberley House on January 22nd.

This time is for South Africa.

Katie B.