Cape Town (week of orientation)

Trip Start Jul 14, 2007
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6
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Trip End Jun 23, 2008


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Flag of South Africa  ,
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I made it! The trip went well, but it was full of crazy experiences. Not only did I have to pick up my luggage at every stop and recheck it, but I also was delayed in Dakar, Senegal and forced to switch planes. Unfortunately, they hadn't thought the whole process out so we were all packed into a bus and locked in it without air conditioning while they made a plan to make the transfer. After 3 hours of chaos, we were finally loaded onto the plane and took off. On the runway I was able to watch my first African sunrise and it was beautiful! The delay in Dakar made me miss my plane in Jo'burg, so when I finally landed in Cape Town it was 11 pm and I had missed my transportation. Luckily, I had met a nice man and his daughter on the previous two flights and he gave me a ride to the bed and breakfast I had booked (in the back of my mind I could hear my mom telling me not to ride with strangers, but I didn't know what else to do cause some taxis here aren't safe).

I spent two nights at the bed and breakfast (my hosts Sandy and Nic were great and have offered to be stand in parents) before catching a taxi to the orientation hotel. We have had to sit through many meetings telling us about how to be safe, how to register, etc. At night we all have gone out to various clubs and bars in the area with our orientation leaders and have met the locals and other students.The first night of orientation we went to Nelson Mandela's birthday party soccer match. There was at least 35,000 people in attendance and the environment was wild! On Sunday we went on a tour of the entire area and saw the Cape of Good Hope and other surrounding cities. We made a stop for lunch in a township where we got to meet the people and watch them dance, sing, etc and hear their story. This is the place where we are going to be doing our homestays and I am really excited. The people are very friendly but I know there is a lot I can learn from their story and historical struggle. A township is lower class living and you would be surprised how talented these people are and how much they have overcome to get to where they are today. Children here are beautiful and I am looking into volunteering in a township to tutor young children or something.

At times I feel like I am in America, but at other times I feel like I am either in a National Geographic magazine or a dramatic movie that deals with issues like race. Although South Africa has more white people than most places in Africa, we still do stand out in public and people talk about us and don't like us because of the color of our skin. It is weird being on the other side of racism, but I am glad I am getting this experience. Don't get me wrong, the people in South Africa on a whole are some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. They just have a history that effects the way some people here see different races and I understand that. Also, I knew I should expect to be aware of my surroundings, but there are serious issues with crime in this country. I feel like I have to work on not being that Idaho girl that trusts everyone! We took a mini bus taxi last week and it was swarmed by other drivers. Unfortunately, our leaders had loaded us in but had to take another bus because of issues with the available room. These men opened the door of the bus (luckily for me, I was the person closest to the door) and started asking me a million questions about where we were going etc (which was hard to understand first of all because of the accents) and then proceeded to try and pull me out of the bus. I had no idea where I was and was trying to resist them pulling me out. So instead, I distracted them for a second and when they had turned their heads I shut the door and locked it in their faces. It didn't stay shut and locked for long before someone reached through the window in the front and unlocked it. We ended up having to switch buses(because our driver had cut the line, I guess they don't like that here), but it was a crazy experience to have in my first few days and it hasn't been the last.

Currently, I have moved into the residence hall and am living with another girl exchange student from Mexico and a girl and guy from Zimbabwe. We haven't met the guy yet, but the girl seems really nice. The residence hall is set up so that everyone has their own room (which is huge) and then we share two bathrooms and a kitchen. It isn't amazing, but we will be living with about 800 other Africans and I think I will get a lot more out of this experience. I register for classes on Friday, and if everything works out I will be taking 2 biology classes, an african dance class, and a xhosa class. I know I am forgetting to write about a million different things, but it is overwhelming to sit down and try to tell everyone back home everything that is going on here! Sorry for taking to long to write, but I will try to do a better job as my life settles down and bit and I have a regular schedule.

Anyway, I hope you are all doing well and I would love to hear what is going on in your life. I might not be able to reply back to everyone, but know that I appreciate the updates! Love you all!

Katie
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