Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Last few weeks in Cape Town: its gonna be lekker

Cape Point redo

Well with my studies finally coming to an end I am able to embrace more of the abroad part of Cape Town and less of the study part! In light of this, a few friends and I decided that last weekend we should rent a car and redo the Cape Point tour because last time the weather was horrible (it was the middle of winter which apparently was one of the worst winters in like 50 years here) and there were also 400+ other international students on the same trip as me. I don't believe that I can accurately report the beauty of Cape Town through words so instead I will employee some pictures to do the job. 

Despite the semi-sketchy car and driving on the other side of the road, this road trip was sucessful!! Now I just have to cross off the other few things off my Cape Town todo list before I leave. Some of them I have already crossed off thought like high tea at the Mount Nelson hotel, visiting the beautiful Kirstenbosch gardens, and also also going back to the charming little town of Stellenbosch. Hopefully many more adventures to come while still in Cape Town because the clock in ticking (and not in a good way). Despite not wanting to leave Cape Town I am getting more and more excited to come home (not for the flight) and see the family and friends that I have missed while abroad, plus eat some real Mexican food.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Papers on Papers on Papers in South Africa…

It is my last week of class, finally. However, I still have 2 more papers I need to write and 2 finals to study for. So class is over but the schoolwork has yet to stop building. Last weekend I finally got to check one of the ‘touristy’ things of my list and go to the neighborhood in downtown Cape Town called Bo-Kaap. This neighborhood is famous because during the apartheid, the residence painted their houses bright colors in rebellion against the forced removals that were being implemented on black and colored South Africans. I also got to walk down Long Street during the day and shop around at many of cool boutiques and stuff. Long Street is somewhere in between Bourbon Street and 6th Street but is probably way more sketchy than both of them. 

Some other updates in my abroad adventure. 
I don’t believe I ever talked about Rocking the Daises, the ACL (Austin City Limits) of Cape Town except for better because music patrons get to camp at the festival and it is on a beautiful wine estate. My favorite artists from Rocking the Daises were Goldfish and KOAN sound. Goldfish is a South African grown electric artist, but seriously youtube it because it’s pretty awesome and all of the people here go nuts over it. KOAN sound is more of a dubstep sound, which I have come to really appreciate in South Africa.

Fast forwards back to the present, which means it time for some reflection as I am sitting at a cafe in University of Cape Town sipping on an Americano. 
When I found out that I would be overseas during the 2012 presidential election I was super bummed. Now, what I have realized is that not being in the US during election season is phenomenal because not only do I still get to vote I don’t have to listen to the stupid TV and radio adds. The only information about the presidential election that I get is information I seek out or what news stations here say about it.

Today I had a major I am going to miss Africa moment when I got on campus, albiet at a very early hour, and when I came up to the main plaza in front of the library all of the workers (which are all black women) were standing around in circles singing and clapping. This is something that would probably never happen in the US but it happens all the time here and pretty much everyone always knows the songs and dances. Its like real life African High School Musical, for lack of a better comparison, but really one of the many things I am going to miss about this crazy place. I guess in order to fill the void I am going to have to take a history class on Africa next semester or obsessively watch movies on Africa. 

The picture below is me and 3 friends watching the sunset from the top of Lions Head

Friday, October 5, 2012

So basically the last few weeks since my last blog post have been pretty routine, consisting of going to class and working on homework. The workload post spring break increased a significant amount, which unfortunately means that instead of spending my last month in Cape Town doing fun things I am going to have to study a lot. But hey I guess it isn’t called study abroad for nothing right.  On a similar notes, as if I didn’t have enough work to do already in my last month of classes, the program that I am in IES (International Education of Students) gave us another surprise for the last month. Apparently as part of my IES Social and Economic Development in South Africa class, we have to participate in a community project in an informal settlement called Egoli. Last semester the IES students started a project where they helped to rebuild the community center, which also doubles as a church, library and kitchen. However we are only now finding out about this project, which is unfortunate because there is so much that needs to be improved in this community and my time in South Africa is rapidly coming to close.  Despite this, I am excited to get a jump on this project and attempt to make a difference or even implement a project that could have a lasting effect in the community. Egoli is called an “informal settlement” because the people living in it are living on private property that is owned by someone else. The government can’t really do anything about these settlers because of the squatter’s laws in South Africa. Many of these informal settlements are a legacy of the apartheid when the government tried to get many of the workers who came from rural areas to move into township, but because these townships were far away from their places of work many people just settled on open land. This means that there is no running water in the community, no electricity (people use generators for power), and there is also no organized trash collection because the person who owns the land does not want to pay for the government to collect trash. All of this culminates in different heath, social and economic problems within this informal settlement. Some of which my IES program hopes to elevate and maybe even fix.

On a more positive note Monday October 5th was a full moon, which in Cape Town means hiking lions head and watching the sun go down, waiting for the moon and then hiking back down the Mountain using the moonlight as a guide. So in order to “do as the Capetonians do” a group of people and I hiked to the top of Lions Head.  Not gonna lie, at times I was a little concerned that I was going to fall off the Mountain, but regardless it was really fun and breathtaking to see the sun set over the ocean on top of a mountain. The view of the city was amazing! Now this weekend I am going to have another adventure at the South African version of Austin City Limits called Rocking the Daisies! Except for this music festival in on a wine estate about an hour outside of the city. Should be pretty exciting!! Some of the headliners seem pretty cool from what I have looked up, they include Bloc Party (which I’m pretty sure is well known in the US) and this awesome South African electric group called Goldfish. Seriously y’all should look up Goldfish because they have some really cool stuff. Anyhow I will report back after the festival to see how it compares to music festivals in the US!  

Me picture above in action)
This semester I am taking a class called African Dance and last wednesday my class (which is made up of all international students) got to perform in the showcase of the African Dance department at UCT. This was really fun because all of my friends came to watch and I also got to perform a "traditional" Zulu Dance, which involves drums and lots of stopping.  Unfortunately, I don't have a video of it but if I remember it when I get home I will gladly reenact this performance (I even has the skirt from the performance). 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Spring Break and Thoughts on South Africa

A status report on my feelings about South Africa now that I have been here for two months:

Facts: South Africa is single-handedly keeping Blackberry’s in business, people dress up for class which means no more rolling out of bed and going to class, no one really goes to class on Friday except for American exchange students, people love Obama (along with loving America every person has their own idea on how the US should be run and what we should do about current policies), if someone says they are going to do something “just now” it means that it will get done eventually, public bathrooms are surprisingly really nice, people go to bars every night of the week, considering how far away we are from Mexico there is a large number of things that are “Mexican Chili” flavored, and finally people in the United States complain about the disparity between different social groups need to come to South Africa because in the US there is no where near the same amount of disparity that there is in South Africa.  A fact that has stuck me the hardest was when our IES seminar professor explained that kids whose parents have died from HIV/AIDS in South Africa get 250 Rand a month to live on from the government. That is the equivalent of 35 USD a month to live on.  Coincidentally, everyone in my house just contributed 250 Rand for a TV and cable in our house. That amount that we throw around casually for a TV, an appliance that is purely for unnecessary entertainment, is the amount of money families get to live on from the government each month.

One a different note. 

August 9th was a holiday here called Women’s Day, (glad that I found a country who has decided to properly celebrate the importance of women) which is a way to overcompensate for the fact that South Africa is still extremely patriarchal!! Anyways we had that day off of class so a few friends and I decided to go to Stellenbosch for a night and wine tour in order to gain a genuine appreciation for one of South Africa’s favorite beverages. We arrived in Stellenbosch, after an hour-long train ride on the metro-rail, around 10 o’clock and headed to straight to our hostel to catch the wine tour. In total we travel to 4 wineries in the Stellenbosch/Franschoek area and supposedly consumed a totally of a bottle and a half of wine. Needless to say I have gained a new appreciation for wine (not that I didn’t like it before), but it is nice to see where it comes from, how it is made, as well as how to “properly” enjoy it. Stellenbosch was a nice break from the hussel and bussel of Cape Town; people actually gave pedestrians the right-of-way. There was also a large amount of nice Dutch architecture that gave the town a nice European feel. It was almost like stepping into a little European town for the day. After a long day of enjoying wine we headed back to our hostel and took a well-deserved nap, got up and explored the city at night. The next morning we got a nice breakfast and shopped around the little town for the first half of the day then caught the next train back home to Cape Town. It was my first African adventure outside of Cape Town and I am safe to say that it was a pretty successful one considering I have never planned a trip outside of the USA by myself.

Spring Break 2012

This spring break I went to the two other biggest cities in South Africa, Johannesburg (because I’m a local now I will be referring to it as “Jo’burg") and Durban. The first trip to Jo’burg was an IES planned trip, it consisted of a 2-day safari in Kruger national park (which is Northeast of Jo’burg) and a one-night stay in Soweto, the biggest township in South Africa. The trip started off with a lovely plane flight at 8 that morning, meaning we had to get up at the crack of dawn to catch our flight; fortunately for me this is a common occurrence in the Jamison household. The rest of the day followed the same transportation and ended with an early night at a very nice backpackers outside of Kruger by one of the World Cup stadiums. The second morning was another Jamison style morning of getting up early (this is a theme throughout the trip). But the second day was more exciting because I fulfilled my African dream of going on a real life safari. Even better I saw all of the big five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, rhino) the first day! Seeing the same animal in the zoo pails in comparison to seeing them in their natural habitats exhibiting natural behaviors. The highlight of the safari was when my group got to see a pack of female lions stalking and attacking a heard of buffalo. I was experiencing the “circle of life”, if you will, in person. Something I will never forget. After the 2-day safari we headed back to Jo’burg, specifically to Soweto, the largest township in South Africa which has anywhere from 3.5 to 5 million people living in it at a time. The reason for the variation is because many of the people that are living in Soweto are living in shanty houses that are not recognized by the government so they are not counted in the census. Soweto is also famous for its activism during the Apartheid; it was the scene of the Soweto student uprisings. These uprisings were in response to the government passing a law that all schools children would be taught in Afrikaans, which was not many peoples first language.

The first thing that we did after arriving in Soweto was a bike tour, being the clumsy person that I am, I was the only person to fall of my bike. Despite my unfortunate accident, the bike tour was a really good way to explore the township because it allowed us to cover more ground than walking but also allowed us to get up close and personal.  After the bike tour we headed back to our backpackers, across from the backpackers was a playground built for kids in the townships to have a safe place to play. Meaning that for about 2 hours all of the people in my program and I gave piggy back rides, learning some cool new dances, and played soccer with the kids at the playground. This was one of the highlights of my trip to Jo’burg/Kruger.


Five friends my program and I decided a few weeks ago that we wanted to visit the city of Durban after Kruger. This was an attempt at a more traditional beach spring break that most Americans enjoy. Durban, in my opinion, was the South African version of Gulf Shores, Alabama but weirder. One of the biggest attractions in Durban was a place called UShaka Marine World, basically Sea World on the beach with a weird Durban twist. It was also nice to be able to go to the beach without freezing because Durban is a lot warmer than Cape Town this time of the year. Overall Durban was really fun because it allowed me to see a different city in South Africa on my own without IES’ guidance and allowed me to test my Keith given travel skills in action. Thanks Dad! I even got to attend a music festival while in Durban, despite not knowing any of the bands that were playing it was nice to do something very American specifically very much like home.

…In conclusion of my blog post (sorry it has been a while since my last post) it is weird to think that I only have two months left in South Africa because it is just now starting to feel like home. Especially after visiting two other cities in South Africa, I realize how much I have gotten use to life in Cape Town as well as how much I am going to miss this crazy city after my departure in November.

PS: Shout out to University of Cape Town for getting 3rd most beautiful campus around the world!


 Durban gang

 Lions hunting a pack of Buffalo

 Yep im a princess



Vamos a la playa!!! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

First Few Weeks of Class, Township Homestay and MY BIRTHDAY!

 World Cup Stadium!

 Manchester United vs. Cape Town AJAX

 Mama Noks and some of my fellow IES peeps!

 Gugulethu Township 

University of Cape Town probably has the most beautiful campus; it is literally on a mountain. When I say this I am also implying that to get to class I literally have to climb up a mountain everyday. The reason that University of Cape Town is on a mountain is because it is suppose to be a temple of learning that student have to make a pilgrimage to. Good thing they started the Jammie shuttle system up the mountain or I would never go to class. The first week of school was so crazy because it was like the first week of freshman year all over again; I didn’t know anyone and I was running around like a crazy person trying to make it to class on time not knowing where any of the buildings were. I was one of those people that had to ask a million times where each building was. It was so much different than the small Southwestern bubble that I am use to. Luckily as I go into my third week of class this week I feel like I have finally figured out my schedule it just took a little while. This week we even have a public holiday on Thursday, which means that no one will go to class on Friday so I basically have a 4-day weekend and will get to have fun adventures this weekend!!!  Also I forgot to mention that I got to see Manchester United play the Cape Town AJAX at the world cup stadium!!


Last weekend we had a homestay in the Gugulethu township, an eye-opening experience to say the least. Everyone in my program was put into groups and we were matched with a mama, my mom’s name was mama Noks. She had lived in Gugulethu for 14 years. When we got there we walked around Gugulethu a little and it is safe to say that this community was one of the most tightly knit communities I had been too. There was a big soccer game going on that same night and every time the team that everyone was routing for scored a goal there was a chorus of vuvuzelas followed by kids running into peoples houses and through the streets cheering. One house had a party going on for a little girl turning one and the party started before we arrived that night and ended when we left for church Sunday morning. The church service that I attended on Sunday morning was like no other church service I had ever been to But really there was no sermon only singing and dancing, it was called a “thanksgiving service”; which consisted of people giving thanks the whole time and concluded with a slideshow of everyone in the congregation. After church our guide took us to a famous restaurant called Mzoli’s, which is in Gugulethu as well. Mzoli’s is famous for its Braai BBQ, basically from my non-eating meat point of view it was a bucket full of meat. It was however despite the large quantities of meat a really fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon observing a traditional Braai and going to one of the most famous spots in Cape Town.  Now I understand why all of the tourism books that I have read on Cape Town rave about this place! Another culinary experience that I had last weekend was Mexican food in South Africa. For my birthday a bunch of my friends from my program and I went to this “really good” Mexican place in the nearby neighborhood of observatory. It was an attempt at Mexican food to say the least, basically what I expected of Mexican food in a country that is so far away from Mexico.  All in all my 20th birthday in Cape Town was pretty fun!!!!


Friday, July 20, 2012

First few weeks in Cape Town!

Lets start with my Garden Route field trip last week. If I could sum up that field trip in one word it would be rainy because it was raining the whole time.  Despite the constant rain it was really fun and a good chance for me to bond with my fellow IES peeps. On Thursday morning we left Cape Town at 5 in the morning to start our journey. Basically the Garden Route is a scenic drive that goes along the route 2 highway outside of Cape Town. The first place that we stopped was this Ostrich Farm outside of Cape Town. Apparently ostriches like semi-arid dry climates because they are from the dessert but it seemed to me like they had the wrong idea because it was raining the whole time. During the tour of the farm we got to meet some of the birds and also had a chance to ride them. Unfortunately it was two slippery for the birds so we could ride them but we go to sit on top of them.
DAY 2 of the Garden Route was also really cool because I got to ride an elephant!  But first the day started with a canoeing Safari through one of the country parks in the Garden Route. After that I got to ride the elephant/ learn a bunch about the elephants and get to see them do tricks. As soon as I get a picture of me riding the elephant I will post it on the blog no worries. Also along the Garden Route we visited the tallest bungee jumping spot in the world. However there was no space available for my group to be able to bungee (not like I would have done it anyway because it looks like one of the scariest things in the world).
DAY 3 I woke up to basically a downpour going on outside so needless to say our activities for that day were canceled and we headed back to Cape Town with a few stops along the way.

As soon as we got back to Cape Town, the next day was our International Student orientation at University of Cape Town. Yay for basically going through freshman orientation all over again. Sunday started with a tour of the Cape peninsula and I got to see the Cape of Good Hope.  I really enjoyed this part because I haven’t really gotten to explore the city that I have been living in at all because we have been so busy. On Monday the fun part started, just kidding. We had to sit through hours of lectures on stuff like culture shock and safety to this horrible process they call pre-registration. I will never complain about registering for classes in the states EVER again because it is 10 times worse in South Africa. They don’t register for classes online you have to physically wait in line to get the person to put your classes into the computer. For now I am signed up for 3 classes at UCT: South African Political Thought, African Dance (for international students), and Origins of the Contemporary World. I also have this IES seminar class called Social and Economic Development in South Africa.  I’m actually kinda excited for classes to start on Monday because hopefully I will get to meet some actual South African students in my classes.  I also have wifi on campus which hopefully will be more reliable then the wifi at my house (even though I only get up to 3g of internet a month on campus) so I can keep up better with my blog. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finally made it! 

After what seemed like a million hours of travel time I finally made it safe and sound to Cape Town. For the most part, I was in airplanes/ in airports for two days straight. Sorry I wasn't able to let anyone know that I got here safely but I really haven't had a strong internet connection till recently. So far in Cape Town it has been rainy and cold which actually for me is a nice change from the 100+ weather in Austin right before I left. IES (the program provider that has taken me to Cape Town) has kept us really really busy with orientation talks and other actiivities. It still feels like I am just visiting Cape Town and not actually living here for 4 months. 

Today was my first cultural experience because we got to go on a tour of the Langa township which is the oldest and most famous township in Cape Town. Townships are the shanty towns that were created during apartheid era South Africa to host black and coloured South Africa labour workers. However since the apartheid era policies ended in 1994 with the first democratic elections there has been a lot of controversy about how to help and or rebuild many of the areas of the townships. The thing that I found the most interesting about the township was that whenever we were walking down the streets kids would just come up to us and want to play with us or our cameras and have us pick them up. Way different then American children who are not as outgoing.

Tomorrow we are leaving for the Garden Route which is a well-known scenic drive/ adventure outside of Cape Town!!! I am really excited because hopefully I will get to ride an elephant so keep an eye out for a new profile picture! 

Cheers from South Africa!