Thursday, April 30, 2015

Salfrican Family Vacation

      Last week, my wonderful family made the long, long trek to Cape Town to visit me! They actually had a similar journey to mine, where their flight was delayed and they got to spend a day in London! They were very tired when they arrived. They stayed in the Carmichael Guesthouse very close to where I live in Forest Hill, and it was very cute and comfortable. I hugged them all, and recognized truly how great it was to see someone from home in South Africa, my family, no less. We headed to Camp's Bay beach so they could relax, but not before eating, where we talked and laughed, and I loved. They told me funny stories about my dad traveling: he accidentally got knocked into some annoyed girl's lap, and him saying "but I hardly know you!" and her glaring. I enjoyed telling my family what everything means and how South Africa is, and how they had questions and I had answers. I am so happy that when I go home, someone will understand South Africa, at least a little bit. 

Table Mountain, why are you so beautiful? 

      They slept on the beach while I read my Anthropology course reader and watched the ocean. Kevin wanted to go after about 3 hours, so I took them to the cable car to go up to Table Mountain, which I thought would be congruent to what I did on my first day here. I failed to see my mom's nervousness, but it became apparent when we were up there. The family was tired. We enjoyed the view, and my dad enjoyed how the cable car's floor rotated. The first night, I took them to my FAVORITE restaurant: Beluga. They were so impressed. I was loving how impressed they were. We talked about movies for a long time. I got sushi, mushroom gnocchi (my favorite dish probably ever, not even exaggerating), and this lemon pudding thing for desert. Jack and my mom also got the gnocchi due to my heavy recommendation, and they loved it, as well as the cheapness, which they could not get over. 

      The next day, Monday, I had class. After, I meandered over to the guesthouse and we took a taxi to meet some cheetahs at Cheetah Outreach. The money goes towards giving dogs to farms in South Africa - the dogs keep cheetahs away, and thus out of gunshot range. I loved the idea, mostly because I love dogs, and these Anatolian dogs were so loyal, that one time one of them fought off a lion, won, had to get stitched 12 miles away, but ran the whole way back to the farm to protect. Such beautiful loyalty. I loved the cheetahs - Rafiki and Sara. That night, we went to the V & A Waterfront, where we ate at this Dutch place called Der Anker. It was so delicious. I had duck and I have no idea what the appetizers were, but they were delicious. More talking and laughing. My family and I spent a lot of time in an African souvenir shop - good times. We then walked around the Victoria Wharf, and my family was tired, so we headed back to get an early turn-in for shark cage diving the next morning. 


      Tuesday: Shark Cage Diving. Ryan, our driver, was very nice. We piled into the van and got comfortable with pillows. We drove along the beautiful amazing coast, through Lowry's Pass, and my parents and I could not peal our eyes away. It was so beautiful. The foliage went from vibrant green to completely red, with even the chopped tree's trunk literally being completely red in the middle. Ryan talked about South Africa and his life the whole way, pointing out the apple farms, pine tree farms (who would have thought), wineries, and olive oil farms along the way. We got to Gansbaai two hours later. We got onto the small boat with 2 other families. Kevin, Jack, and I went on the top of the boat, basically bare except for a rail and two benches. I was getting my camera out when they decided to go full-speed. I had to let go of my raincoat, I had to let my hair fly out of its bun all because I had to hold on for dear life and for my dear camera! My hand feels cramped just thinking about it. It was so bumpy and I swear I almost flew off 4 times, Kevin had to hold on to me. Also I think a droplet of water touched my brain. However, my brothers and I could not stop laughing, especially at the beautiful brown seagulls flying directly next to our heads, swooping to catch things flying outside of the water. My brothers compared it to the Legend of Zelda. 

      When we got there, we had to put on our wetsuits while the boat rocked vigorously, and I realized my lack of sea legs (I think we all did). Before I could even think, I was in the cage with my family and a random German boy. It wasn't cold because of the wetsuit. I felt safe. The way it worked was we were above water, but when a shark came by or was lured in by the chum, the racially ambiguous Mitch would shown "DOWN DOWN DOWN" in whatever accent he had, and we would use the cage to propel ourselves down and stare into the eyes of a Great White Shark. It was calming being next to my family and in line with the water's surface. We spent 20 minutes in the cage, and Mitch stopped counting the sharks after 12. There were a few times when its open jaws were in my face, one when it was chewing on the tuna head directly in front of me! I grabbed on to Kevin, and I only screamed once. I was pretty scared in those moments, but I felt safe directly after them in the cage. We laughed above water. Jack stayed in for a second time, and it was cool to see the sharks come in and out of the water, and my mom was scared when it started thrashing right in front of Jack-o, but it was safe!  My dad could NOT STOP SAYING "We are gonna need a bigger boat". We got changed after a bumpy ride back, and were served lasagna as we watched the experience. My mom commented “It looks so much scarier now than it did in the cage!” and then 2 days later, “I cannot believe all of us did that.” So true, ma. 

Jack in cage 

         On the way back, Ryan stopped at so many beautiful places. In Hermanus, a whale watching destination, we made a stop at De Kelders, a spot where whales come to give birth. It was so beautiful, I did not want to leave, and my family and I probably spend 15 minutes just looking at it. That night, we were all tired, so we ate at the ever-popular Cocoa Wah Wah in Rondebosch. Mediocre food, but cute and convenient. Plus, I thought my family should experience it, as it is the place we foreign exchange students probably eat out the most at. Early night again for safari in the AM (my family getting me on a semi-regular sleep schedule?)

De Kelders 

Sniffing the Ocean

      We got up super early for safari, and slept most of the ride there. It was in the beautiful Aquila Game Reserve. We were served champagne, and enjoyed breakfast and the peacocks roamin’ around. Our guide, Carlo, was very nice and laughed a lot. We saw the scary hippos (will always creep me out), the buffalos (was told we were lucky we caught them eating – usually ram into the vehicle), springbok (a small dainty type of antelope – South Africa’s national antelope), the ever-hideous wildebeest, the ZEEBZ (fatter than I thought, have weak back – why lions pounce on their back and why HUMANS CANT RIDE THEM LYING RACING STRIPES. Donkeys in pajamas), rhinos (fighting with each other #classic), ostrich (I just love ostriches so much more than I could have imagined), the lions (actually scared – at one point they all stood up and just stared at us, in positions of pounce – the creepiest thing ever), THE ELEPHANTS! (teenage boy one who was named an African dialect word meaning “irritated” – irritated he was. He held his ears back, looked like he was going to charge, and threw dust at us. His bro was “chill” –Carlo) (I love elephants) (I want to formally meet an elephant), and the giraffes (eatin’). We also saw a leopard, it was so scary looking, but it was in a cage. You have to go to Kruger to see a leopard loping around. Also, Jack made fun of me for the amount of times I said "majestic". 

Livin' in a gangsta's paradise 



Say "Ah!" -Baha Men ("Who Let the Dogs Out" or as I like to call it "Who Let the Lions Out")

Why do you hate me? 


      After, we ate lunch, and horsebacked through the reserve – uncomfortable, beautiful, amazing, felt like the West, I hate hippos, why are they so creepy, I was scared of the hippos. Like every single horseback riding experience I have ever had, I got the unruly horse that chose to gallop all over the place. I ain’t complaining – my family made fun of my laugh, I love galloping. That night, we ate at The Wild Fig in Obz. We had the fancy place to ourselves, and it was delicious and great conversation, as usual. My favorite parts of the week were the dinners. 

"Blurry Horse Selfie" 

            The next day, I went to school again. After, we walked around green market square. My family shopped around, buying this and that. My mom bought a "Zebra on Wheels" and was thinking about going back for the Giraffe. They were unnerved by how pushy everyone was there, as I always am. You gotta act uninterested.  We ate at an Irish pub of all places. Then we took a taxi to signal hill, where I had contacted a guy for three paragliders, for me, K & J. However, he said only two were available for today, so I let my bros take it, because I have more time to paraglide than they do! We watched the lift-off, making fun of their runs. Turns out Jack's tandem guy is the second best squash player in all of Africa. Wow. He was really quiet. My parents and I took pictures and talked and walked. When the boys got back, we talked at this table as they smoked their Cuban cigars. The sunset from signal hill I was always told to experience, and I can understand now why so many people recommended it to me: it is spectacular. So many colors, a great view of the city and table mountain, as well as the sparkling water! We were all stunned. We ate at Cafe Paradiso on Kloof street, which was spectacular. We all had too much wine, the discussions were lively. 

Ma & Pa 

"I want ice cream" 


If only this was the sunrise - than I could sing the Lion King 

      The next day, after school, we had a peninsula tour scheduled. It was a beautiful and hot day, and our driver loved to talk. He told us proudly about Table Mountain, one of the oldest mountains in the world, and how it is really amazing because you can get all the seasons on the mountain at any one time, depending on where you are on the mountain, and of the mountain's complex natural water system, and how the water is dusty with iron, better for you than regular water. We had spectacular views and stopping points. Boulder Beach with the penguins was fun - I just love penguins! Kevin, Jack and I cracked up when one penguin obliviously fell in a hole (my parents missed it). My mom and I also stopped to observe what we thought was a penguin, only to find basically a groundhog or a giant rat on the beach. Random South Africa, classic. 


     We could only spend a little time at Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, the latter of which is one of my favorite spots in Cape Town, if not my favorite. We saw wild ostriches, and was walking next to our car! They are so beautiful, the way they walk, and so funny when they look at you! I love ostriches so much. Also, I felt like I was witnessing a dinosaur when I looked at its feet walking: you can really tell how dinosaurs are related to birds with the ostrich. It was amazing. My brothers and I collected shells and stones and sea glass. I talked to the guide the whole way back about his life and his brother's life (lives in Australia but native to SA), and how he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro 26 times. That night we went to Harbor House in the water front, and our eyes were bigger than our stomach. Fresh seafood - lobster, shrimp (prawns, as they call them here), calamari, much! Wine. 


Chapman's Peak Drive - my favorite road in Cape Town 



      The next day, Saturday, my parents took their leave. However, not before discovering Old Biscuit Mill, which impressed even the melancholiest of Jack-os. My dad asked why we hadn't come here before, and the answer is, it only is open on Saturday mornings! I got this giant samosa filled with chicken that was amazing, as well as this peanut butter thing that was to die for. My family was majorly impressed, but as my brothers aren't big shoppers, we only stayed for the food, and then made our way to the Two Oceans Aquarium. I was impressed by the giant eel, and as an animal-loving family, we had a good time pointing and observing the animals. We walked through one of my favs on the Water Front: the Water Shed, and heard this amazing band playing, which we listened to for a while. Kevin bought their CD. 

^giant samosa filled with chicken 

I guess this is what they call clownfish here! I LIKE IT BETTER

      I had to say goodbye to my family then, which was very sad. I missed them more than I thought upon seeing them, as people warned me about, and I feel like now I miss them more than before. However, I saw no use in being sad and sitting around, so I went to a rugby match, which was a lot of fun! So much cheering, so much more than any Phillies or Eagles game I had been to! Plus it was interesting to watch, and South Africans don't have such different chants as us, besides the Cape Townian DHF Stormers chant which I nonetheless got stuck in my head. Grace kept singing her North Eastern song, so I also had La Salle's fight song stuck in my head. We ate chocolate then went to bed, and I was happy to not be totally sad that my family was gone. At least South Africa is fun! 

     By the way, BIG BIG BIG shout out to Cape Town for being so amazing. I feel like my family coming FURTHER (if possible) renewed my love of Cape Town. My family was so impressed, and my dad joked about moving here (joked? IDK!!!) and Jack said to me multiple times "you made the right choice". #PROUD of such a beautiful place, and #HAPPY that people that I love enjoyed it so much! Cannot express my gratitude that they came, I will have to think of something to return the favor....

Climbed Table Mountain on Freedom Day #HappyBirthdayNewSouthAfrica 


Saturday, April 18, 2015

People Watching & the Waterfront

This whole week, I have been more obsessed with Cape Town than usual. I wanted to use this blog to express my love of not only South Africa, but also my host university: UCT! So, usually I sit on the Jammie steps (Jameson Hall) and people watch for a little bit, because the diversity and the fashion choices are so fun to just observe. Plus, let's face it, people watching is a great pastime. 

I observed for 15 minutes, and even took notes. I didn't take any pictures, though, which I thought would be crossing the line. Notes: 

  • 4 Beanies 
  • Guy walking with purpose - leather jacket, leather shoes, long ponytail, hands in pocket 
  • Lost count of the number of guys with tight, knee-length shorts, often flowered or patterned
  • Girl eating cupcake, getting it on face - wearing winter jacket (as the 78 degree weather is bearing upon my soul) 
  • All satchels, all the time 
  • Really cannot impress how big the satchel life is over here 
  • Guy with afro and jorts (jean shorts) 
  • 70's girl - baggy jeans that are rolled up at ankles, colorful sneakers
  • Lots of hijabs and religious garments 
  • 6 people dressed to the nines  
  • 3 people running aggressively to turn in a paper 
  • Guy with adidas backpack, knee socks with green stripes, huge beard, backwards hat, skateboard
  • Girl smiling hugely with bright red backpack 
  • Guy with woolen scarf wrapped very tightly around his neck, also very tall 
  • 2 trench coats 
  • 3 berets 
To sum it all up, all of these people were beautiful! There are so many different styles, and some things I would never consider wearing, but they look good! Even if some people are wearing things that strike me as a little goofy, they look very confident and comfortable. Also, this was only 15 minutes - all semester, I have been seeing fashion choices that make me laugh, think, envy, and want to observe more. 


Jammie steps I sit on 


Purple jeep 

Very popular snack here in Cape Town - also my nickname at home 

Anyway, Sam and I went to the Waterfront yesterday, and it was something! It struck me as very touristy and unlike how Cape Town actually is, but it sure was beautiful and magnificent! Also, touristy things are touristy for a reason! She showed me where she stayed when her Aunt was here for Easter Break and knew her way around, which I was grateful for. We went through the Water Shed, which housed a lot of more high-end vendors. I got an "N" keychain that is pretty. We ate in the V&A market - I copied Sam in getting mango passionfruit bubble tea from the Bubble Tea Company (I love Bubble Tea) and this very different but delicious pizza with the crust made from maybe flaxseed or granola? It was really good, especially since it had avocados on it (or "avo" as they call it here). 

In Bo'Kaap, the woman on the corner made these for us! SO GOOD! Coconut donuts 


We walked along and observed the ferris wheel and the boats and looked at the beautiful sea for a little - it was my favorite shade of blue. A band was playing African music and I loved it so much! I feel like everyone couldn't help but dance at least a little to it! We got coffee at Mugg & Bean (great coffee shop here - Cape Town does coffee really well). I got this caramel mocha espresso that was delicious, and Sam helped me plan out some fun events to do with my family, who was supposed to come the next morning! It got me excited - safaris, paragliding, seeing the PENGUINS, shark cage diving, petting some cheetahs, riding some ostriches, taking them to see the beaches and to climb some mountains and to my favorite restaurants. Talking about all there is to do here really made me fall even more in love with Cape Town and it's beauty, especially on such a beautiful day. Sam, and most of my friends, are going on their home stay this weekend, so she expressed how she would be traveling from the waterfront to such a different world within Cape Town, one of the townships of Ocean View. Different. I am loving all these discussions and debates I am having with friends from South Africa and from the US - comparing opinions and observations on silly cultural differences as well as the political and social structure. "Deep," as one of my tutors would say (and often does). 




Alas, we took off, and grabbed a cab home. I tried not to spill my coffee as we listened to MORE African music and the cab driver, who had a huge smile, sing along. The views from the cab were so beautiful,  I could not look away and could not stop smiling. Although my family's flight got delayed and they are going to be a day late, I am glad they are experiencing a day in London like I did on my way to Cape Town. I can't wait to see them, so I can hug them and show them a wonderful week!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bo'Kaap Homestay Weekend!

     So, this week was pretty HECTIC. I know what you're thinking: "IS IT?" Well, I'm sure you are KEEN to hear all about my weekend preceding the busy week I had, because I was on homestay in a Muslim community well-known in Cape Town called Bo'Kaap. They are known for their colorful houses and delicious food! (Did you enjoy my South African lingo? It's in CAPS) 

Pretty picture on campus

Walking home

     Well, on Friday at 6pm, I left in a minibus full of duffle bags and flowers to journey all the way to Bo'Kaap. It was a LONG LONG LONG twenty minute drive (sarcasm), and I was anxiously awaiting my host family. I was paired with a girl named Aubrey from Verona (an apartment housing only CIEE students), who was very nice and friendly! We went into the community center, and sat down, as ground rules were laid. No wifi, only halal foods (no alcohol or pork), and remain respectfully dressed. Easy-peesy. We met Maimoona (pronounced my-moon-a), a sweet elderly Muslim woman who is very kind and very talkative. She spoke highly of her 10 kids (2 adopted) and especially of Taiwan, where one of her daughters lives now. 

     She told us about her daughter who lives with her, along with her two children, one a teenage girl and the other a young boy, as well as her son, who helps the community out. She taught us how to say "Bismellah" before your first bite at a meal. We ate and chatted, and I especially enjoyed the samosas. We walked to her vibrant green house and were shown our quarters, a nice room with two double beds. We put down our stuff, chatted, and went downstairs. We watched two halves of terrifying movies with Maimoona and her daughter, who was very kind and brought us juice. The TV was in the kitchen. Halfway through the Medieval movie we were watching, we decided to retire to bed. Aubrey and I talked until we fell asleep. OH, and I broke their window by accident by trying to push it open...Aubrey thought it was so hilarious, but I felt really bad! Also, Aubrey is a boy's name in South Africa, so a ton of people comment on how it's a boy's name ALL THE TIME. Poor Aubrey. That night, the call to prayer scared me, because I was awakened by an echo-y singing that sounded like an alarm in the middle of the night. The next day I realized what it was, and felt silly! 

     The next day, we went to the civic center, where the Bo'Kaap market is held. There, we started on community service work. 6 of us volunteered to stay in the market and help advertise it. I teamed up with a girl named Tamzen to take pictures of the merchandise vendors were selling at the market. I talked to a lot of the women selling their goods, and they all were so nice and friendly! Tamzen set up the merchandise, and I took the pictures. It was so much fun, and I especially enjoyed taking pictures of the dresses, because a Muslim girl, who was the daughter of one of the vendors, modeled the dresses for us against the colorful houses! It was nice getting to know her, too. 


     After, Aubrey and I walked around Cape Town, conveniently located next to Bo'Kaap, with her two friends Mckenzie and Liz. We got pizza and ice cream and enjoyed wifi at a cafe. We got back to Maimoona's house, and her daughter immediately prepared dinner for us, and we ate alone. Maimoona was at a birthday party for one of her great-grandchildren (she has 51 grandchildren), and we thought we were not invited, but when she got back she told us she would have brought us! We felt bad and like we missed out due to the miscommunication. Maimoona showed us pictures of her journey to Mecca and of her deceased husband and told us of her interesting life. She is so kind, and smiles and displays such a great attitude towards life. One of my favorite things she said was that she loves to go to the Waterfront and look at all the ships. Sometimes, when she is stressed, she puts all her stress onto the boats and lets them take her stress away. I thought that was so beautiful! 

This was in the Turkish Baths of Long Street 

Company Gardens 

     We watched Zoolander (so hilarious to Aubrey and me) and once again retired early, talking until sleep befell us! The next morning, Maimoona joined us for breakfast and talked as we ate. I tried these famous donuts that the lady on the corner makes, which I was wary about because I dislike coconut. They were delicious! Aubrey and I took a long walk through beautiful Bo'Kaap, taking pictures and climbing up the hilly landscape. Bo'Kaap was formerly known as the Malay Quarter, and is distinctive and sought-after due to it's proximity to the city and excellent view of Table Mountain. It is right by Signal Hill, and it is facing problems within the close-knit community because wealthy people come in and buy their property instead of the sons and daughters of these Cape-Malay people. They have previously retained the area because of the segregation of apartheid, but now with emancipation, the property is free-for-all. Not that apartheid is good, they are glad it is over, but it is just an after-effect. 

A beautifully colored Mosque (Not Nurul) 

My Maimoona

Pic taken while walking about 

     We walked back Maimoona's house, and then had a tour of the Nurul Mosque. It is the third oldest in South Africa, and a man was nice enough to take us around and give us the area's history, some insight into the Islam religion, as well as the history of the mosque. I had to wear a hijab, which Maimoona wrapped for me, and took off my shoes when entering. I learned about the five pillars of Islam, how the carpeting of the mosque faced Mecca, and witnessed a chant/Islam song that was both beautiful to me and terrifying. No instruments allowed, just voices! It was cool, though. The upstairs is for women, because they believed that the devil can enter your mind if women and men sit next to each other. "Just like magnets," he said, "opposites attract and distract from religion." It was interesting to hear! 

Hijab selfie 

    Lunch with Maimoona and two of her daughters and two of her granddaughters was rather quiet, but Maimoona talked to us until 3pm rolled around and we had to go. She spoke of how she used to dance, but doesn't anymore, saying it is a sacrifice she must make. It seems that is a theme within their culture, no dancing but singing instead. She talked more of Taiwan and Mecca and her family. She likes to stay fit, which she said a lot, and loves the community around her because the elderly are interested in moving around and helping out, instead of just retiring and doing nothing. She believes that idle minds and idle bodies make you grow fat and bored and lonely. Maimoona hugged us goodbye and welcomed us back anytime, giving us a parting gift of scarves! What a lovely woman! 

     Hearing everyone talk of their experience on the van ride back was interesting. Some were attending their families' weddings in the coming weeks, some helped bake and prepare food, and some spoke highly of all the games they played and people they met. Not a single person was disappointed, and it was an eye-opening, informative, fun weekend! Also free. I will definitely be visiting Bo'Kaap again! 

About Me

My photo

Just a girl who loves dogs, traveling, laughter, and being a goof.