One month already?
Trip Start Jul 14, 2007
11Trip End Jun 23, 2008
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So, I have realized that I am not doing the best job keeping
in touch with everyone or keeping things up to date since coming here. For all
of you who have emailed me and I have yet to respond, this is addressing you. I
have found that days fly by faster than I can imagine and internet access can
be a rare occurrence.
This past week marked one month of living in Cape Town. In reality, it
doesn't seem like I have been living in this country for that long. I have
completed three weeks of school already and witnessed the weather improving
here in Cape Town.
The funny thing is, we are still in the heart of winter, but I found myself
getting a tan the other day while walking around in a t-shirt and shorts. I can't
even imagine how great things here will be when the weather 'gets better'
according to my classmates.
As for school, things are going really well. My classes are
challenging me greatly, and I already have presentations, papers, and tests to
study for. I am becoming more confident in my ability to succeed in this
academic environment and love interacting with the professors here. As I said
earlier, my classes at UCT are small for the number of students attending the
university. One really cool thing about the Biology classes I am in
(Entomology-study of insects and Aquatic Biodiversity) is that they are both
fields of biology where there is still a lot unknown as far as species, etc.
This is especially true for African nations where biological research hasn't
been done for countless decades. Because of this, most of my professors have
discovered new species or have been involved with some of the top research in
the country. UCT is the best university on the African continent (or so I've
been told) and my professors truly impress me. During practicals (or labs) they
take the time to come over and talk to us and teach us even more than we need
to know. I have found myself really interested in everything I'm learning.
On the friend scene, things have also been very interesting.
I feel really lucky to be living in the residence hall first of all. I was put
in the most run down building with some of the lowest income students, which
some people would think would be a horrible experience. Instead, I have
interacted with people on the shuttles that are willing to open up a whole new
world to me and give me a glimpse at what life is like as a true African. I am
getting to the point that I can be hanging out in the building and see faces
that I recognize and I'm able to say hi to people. Also, the other students in
my classes have opened up and I am starting to know more about them. I find my
friends here in Cape Town
are a diverse and divided as the country. I have American friends from the
various programs, and then I have made friends with both rich and poor blacks,
whites, and coloreds. Some of my experiences have been in houses that I can't
even describe in elite neighborhoods where the property is on the ocean and
more than I could ever imagine being able to pay for. Other times, I have found
myself in grungy rooms where the paint is peeling and the windows are small and
covered with bars. One thing that generally holds true is that these people are
genuinely nice and accepting and want to teach me about their life experience
as well as hear my opinions on life.
One of my classmates was telling me the other day about his
adventures in Botswana
with his cousin. He talked about the hundreds of elephants that he watched from
a boat as the sun was setting. Apparently, there were so many of them that the
line was three deep and extended up and over a nearby hill. They were coming to
the river for a drink and he said it was an amazing site. He also told me about
this road that stretches from one end of the country to the other (or pretty
much). He said that this is a generally really small road, but at a random
point in it, the road becomes extremely wide, very smooth, and lasts this way
for about 5-10 km or so before it goes back to normal. What he said is that it
is like the 3rd landing site for the space shuttle if something goes
wrong with the weather or something and they need to land. I thought that was a
random tidbit of knowledge. He mentioned how odd a picture of that would look
like, because this part of Botswana
doesn't really have automobiles so most of the people get places via a small
cart pulled by donkeys.
Anyway, aside from my rambling, I have had some pretty
amazing experiences since my last post. There is a national holiday here is South Africa on
August 9th called Women's Day. To honor all the women, we had that Thursday
off from school, so we decided to do some traveling. Five of us girls rented a
car for the weekend and drove to a small town called Hermanus where we stayed
in this amazing condo on the beach (for seemingly no money). The area is one of
the best places in the world to go whale watching and this is the season to see
them. It was amazing, our condo had great views of the ocean and we were able
to see countless whales jump out of the water from the land. They actually come
very close to shore, so we were able to get impressive views of them.
On our way to Hermanus, we actually stopped at this place
called Monkey Town. I wouldn't call the place a zoo... because
it was nothing like a zoo. Essentially, to protect the various monkeys, chimps,
etc from harm they have opened this place where the animals can pretty much
roam free throughout the entire huge enclosed space. We, as visitors, were in a
cage so to speak. The neat thing was that the only thing separating me from
these monkeys was a small wired fence (that was pretty strong/reinforced). The
fun doesn't stop there though, we took the opportunity to go into one of the
enclosures and I was allowed to feed and play with Lemurs and Squirrel Monkeys.
Pretty much, I had monkeys on my arms and crawling on my shoulder and sitting
on my arm picking up food out of my hand. It was super sweet. Yesterday, I had
another really cool opportunity. We went on a trip with our program to go wine
tasting and have a cellar tour. Afterwards, we had a picnic in this beautiful
park and went and saw cheetahs. I'm not lying when I say that I was three steps
away from several of these animals. They are beautiful, and apparently these
ones are 'harmless.' I am planning on going back one of these weekends because
people are allowed to go and pet/ interact with these animals. When else will I
get to play with cheetahs, right? I would have yesterday, but ran out of time
before I could get in to see them.
My third flat mate moved in on Friday. She is from Tanzania and
this is her first semester at UCT. She seems really nice and I am excited to
get to know her, as well as my other two flat mates, a little better over the
next few months. It is kinda interesting, however, that all four of us are international
students in a sense; one American, one Tanzanian, and two people from Zimbabwe!
I know that there is so much more to tell everyone, but I
can't think of everything right now and don't have a ton of time to sit and
ponder. I hope that everyone is doing well. Life here is amazing and I have so
many more stories to tell when I get home. Right now, however, I am spending
more time trying to live out this experience than write about it all of the
time. Thinking of you all and sending my love from Cape Town!