Saturday was the day we had all been waiting for, when we could finally settle into our houses for the semester. I was assigned to the Penrose house, which in my completely objective opinion is the best house you can get on this program. It’s a huge Victorian close to campus with a church on one side and a grocery store on the other. I live with 19 other people including my roommate Esther from Belgium, and my RA named Shalom from Kenya.
HOWZIT! It’s been four days into the program, and this is the first time I’ve had a chance to get on my computer, which says a lot about how busy they’ve been keeping us during this orientation week. I arrived on Tuesday, flying on South African Air from DC to Senegal to Johannesburg and finally to Cape Town which took about 20 hours in total. The most significant part of the trip over had to be the enormous victory of my bags not being overweight! For that I would like to thank my cousin Renee who made me leave behind half of everything I wanted to take, and my friend Kerry even more for letting me put some of it back in.
When we arrived in Cape Town, we were greeted by all of our RA’s for the program, who were singing and dancing at baggage claim and made us feel immediately welcome and comfortable. For the first few nights, we stayed in the dorms at University of Cape Town where all 200 of the program participants could be together for the orientation lectures. On the first full day, we got to walk around Cape Town in our orientation groups, and get a sense of the popular areas to hang out and the sometimes frightening public transportation the locals use to get to these areas.
Every place we went to was beautiful. Every view in Cape Town seems to be defined by Table Mountain, as if there is a postcard hanging behind every building. You can see it from the dorms, from the waterfront, and from everywhere we walked downtown. That evening we took the cable car up Table Mountain to see the whole city at sunset, but not before our bus stalled out and started slowly rolling backwards down the road to the mountain. It reminded me of when our van would lose traction on the icy hills in Vermont, except that there were no snowbanks to break our fall. All was well in the end, as we jumped off the bus and did a little bit more hiking than expected but finally made it to the cable cars. The view from the top was incredible, and we got to enjoy the lights of the city at night on our way down.
The next day we had a scavenger hunt around the UCT campus, which turned out to be just as beautiful as the rest of the city, although we didn’t have much time to take it all in because our team was determined to win the first place prize of a fancy dinner. As it turned out, we got fifth place, but my teammates complained enough that the RA’s awarded us the “Adversity Prize” and gave us those annoying blow horns that caused everyone to mute their TVs during the latest World Cup in South Africa. We finished our day with a traditional South African barbeque called a “braai” and then checked out the bar scene on the famous Long Street in downtown Cape Town.1/